News

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Flint residents are being urged to run water in tubs and kitchens each day to flush any lead and coat the pipes with chemical protection.

  The announcement was made Saturday at a forum attended by state and federal officials. The state of Michigan says it will pay for the extra water use, which starts May 1 and lasts for two weeks.

  The cost is expected to be $300,000.

  Flint still is recovering from using the Flint River for 18 months without corrosion control. The water leached lead from old plumbing.

Sgt. Anthony Gazvoda in Afghanistan
Sgt. Anthony Gazvoda

Anyone who goes to fight for the U.S. military in Afghanistan is putting themselves in harm’s way. However, few had a more dangerous job than Grayling, Mich. native Army Sgt. Anthony Gazvoda.

Gazvoda’s job was to clear the roads for his fellow soldiers. This meant he was on the lookout for Improvised Explosive Devices and potential ambushes. By the time Gazvoda left the service with an honorable discharge and a commendation for valor, he had been involved in 34 firefights and dealt with 32 IED incidents.

7,100 bodies are buried at the former Eloise mental hospital in Westland, near Detroit. But you'd never guess that from walking around the property.

That’s because the cemetery, which was never meant to be a traditional cemetery, looks more like an empty field. But look down, and you'll discover rows and rows of cement markers the size of large bricks with numbers stamped into them.

“This person buried here is number 5,632,” says Felicia Sills, as she gets on her knees and gently traces her finger over each number.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In 1964, when legislators in Michigan created a state minimum wage, the idea was to create a system where no worker would be paid less than minimum wage.

But in a departure from previous practice, the state agency that enforces the law ruled in a pay dispute case that agricultural workers are not protected under the minimum wage law.

Zoe Powers

A couple of weeks ago, my stepdaughter was excited to show me an article in the local quarterly magazine, Homefront in Tecumseh. One of her classmates started her own business and it was featured.

Zoe Powers is 14 years old, and not only works at a catering business, but runs her own cakes and confection business with a memorable name.

"I kept trying to figure out what to call it, so I kept asking [my mom,]" Powers says.  "She decided to tell met to call it ‘Bite Me,’ just joking with me - and I decided it was a great idea!”

Freighter on the Detroit River with GM headquarters in background
James Marvin Phelps

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is no longer placing door notices on homes of customers who haven't paid their bills.

Instead, the department is encouraging customers to look for the notices on their bills in the mail, or check them online. 

Bryan Peckinpaugh, spokesman for DWSD, said bills have a clearly labeled "account status" box on them, with bold font to let people know if they are behind or in danger of being shut off. 

He said the department cut the door tags to save money. But, he said DWSD uses additional means to reach people.

Sub Committee chair Mike Zimmer (lower left) delivers a report on new lead/copper testing as members of the governor's special Flint water team listen, including Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan would have the toughest lead testing standard in the nation under a sweeping proposal unveiled today in Flint, where the drinking water is still contaminated with lead and residents remain dependent on bottled water donations.

To make sure other Michigan cities don’t suffer the same fate, Gov. Rick Snyder and a team of experts have unveiled a plan to tighten water testing regulations and lower the threshold for action.   

The Ann Arbor-based Indian fusion band Sumkali performs at the Michigan Radio studios.
Michigan Radio

The Ann Arbor-based fusion band Sumkali brands themselves as “Indian music made in America.” Everyone in the band calls Michigan home, but according to the band’s founder John Churchville, half of them have family ties to India.

All the different band members bring their own skill sets, instruments, and influences that make the group the very definition of a fusion band. In the end, they create a sound intended to reach many different people.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Tourism has exploded in Cuba since the Obama administration announced a resumption of diplomatic relations with the country in 2014.

Danilo Gomez is a law professor and, as is very common in Havana, is also employed in the tourist industry. He moonlights as a tour guide. Gomez says tourism has nearly doubled since the thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations, because Westerners want to see Cuba “before the Americans ruin it.”  A million people a year used to visit Cuba, he says.  Now it’s close to two million.

The Prison Blues

Apr 15, 2016

What’s being called a major battle over the state’s prison budget is taking shape in Lansing. To save money, John Proos, the chair of the relevant state senate subcommittee, wants to close two prisons, and lease and operate a now-private prison in Baldwin.

However, those who run the Department of Corrections don’t want to close any of the state’s 35 prisons, and say they need them in case the state prison population ever rises again.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint residents will not be a water bill next week. But instead, they’ll get a statement showing a state credit.

The state gave Flint $30 million to help city residents who’ve been unable to drink the water since April 2014. 

Flint CFO Jody Lundquist expects some confusion when people open what they expect is a bill, but instead will show the state credit. 

“Please do bear with our customers service staff as they work to address any questions we anticipate you may have,” says Lundquist.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate’s rejection of a quarter billion dollars in aid to Flint has the city’s mayor looking to Lansing for help.

Flint backers in Washington were unable to convince a Republican senator from Utah to end his opposition to the Flint appropriation. 

It was stripped from a funding bill this week.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says she’ll “press on” and ask state lawmakers for more help.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

 

Cuba’s heralded health care system has been mobilized to stop the Zika virus from gaining a foothold in the country, and so far, the campaign appears to be a success.

The virus is spread by Aedes Aegypti,  the same species of mosquito that spreads dengue, a painful and often debilitating illness.

Cuban officials have ordered mandatory fumigation of every apartment and house to kill the mosquitos.  Our own apartment in Havana was fumigated today.

Jim Harbaugh didn't like the call.
MGoBlog / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Mens sana in corpore sano.

Sound mind in sound body.

It’s a simple philosophy, which states that exercise is good for your brain. What was revolutionary a century ago is common sense to us. It’s also the best reason to support school sports, something Americans believe in more than any other culture.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint residents continue to deal with unsafe lead levels in their water. Another group is paying very close attention. Lawyers. Lots of lawyers.

Turn the TV on in Flint and you’ll likely hear a commercial with a very specific question. 

user GPDII / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM


It began with a concern raised by some Michigan companies: Some foreign visitors can’t drive with their foreign driver’s licenses, particularly those from China.

Could something be done in Lansing to clear the way for a Chinese executive visiting, say, Dow Chemical, to drive on his or her own?

The result was Senate Bill 501.

Alton / Creative Commons

Bills heading to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk would make it a misdemeanor, with possible jail time, for posting sexually explicit photos or videos of someone in order to threaten or intimidate them.

“I’ve had numerous complaints from mothers that their daughters had to leave high school because an ex-boyfriend put their nude image all over the high school,” says Republican State Sen. Rick Jones, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Two prisons would close under a plan adopted today by a state Senate budget subcommittee.

The budget proposal does not specify which prisons would be closed. That would be up to the Department of Corrections.

The proposal also calls for the state to lease a privately owned prison in the northern Michigan town of Baldwin that’s currently used to house out-of-state inmates. The move is a response to a decline in the number of prison inmates.

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

A budget proposal now in the state house would cut funding for free SAT testing.

The proposed $10 million cut comes from the House Appropriations Committee. If passed, schools would no longer provide each student with a college admissions test – students would have to pay to take the test elsewhere.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, chairs the School Aid Subcommittee, and said while eliminating the SAT got the most attention, his real goal is to start a discussion about replacing the M-STEP standardized testing – which the bill also removes. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Resourceful does not even begin to describe Cubans.  There is not enough of anything in Cuba – food, money, freedom.  So they make the most of what they have.  They call it “luchando,” which means fighting the good fight, managing despite long odds.

Individual Cubans can sell you just about anything more cheaply than the Cuban government can.

Wikimedia user Brian Ammon / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

When looking at the modern world of innovation or business, you really can’t ignore China.

The country’s influence is huge, but interacting with Chinese companies, educators or officials can present a tough challenge for native English speakers: Mandarin Chinese is so fundamentally different from English, especially in tonal inflections.

Catherine Ryu is a Michigan State University researcher who is working with a team of students to develop a new game that could help English speakers learn Mandarin.

Drinking fountains continue to be tested in Detroit's public schools
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

Elevated levels of lead and copper have been found in the water at 17 more schools in the Detroit Public School district. Two schools of the have already announced high levels of the substances.  

Detroit Public Schools began collecting and testing water samples from over 60 schools in the district the week of March 28.

Mercedes Mejia

Gardenia Valdes Navarro greets visitors as they stroll through the streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana).

She's wearing a colorful 18th century style dress and head piece and she let me take a picture of her, but usually people who work in this field appreciate a tip if you snap a photo of them.

“The dress represents a mix of African and Spanish culture, which is what we have here in Cuba," she said.

Valdes works for a division of the Cuban government called La Oficina del Historiador  (Office of the Historian).

Cuba, Pure Cuba, cars
Mercedes Mejia

All around Cuba, vintage American cars from the 40s and 50s are still in use, mainly because newer ones are hard to come by. The majority today are used as taxis.

Locals and visitors get around in the almendrones (almonds), as they are called because of their shape, and ride sharing is common.

I assume there are probably some real issues facing the voters in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which is anchored by Lansing in the bottom middle of the state.

After all, a lot of folks here used to work for Oldsmobile, which was, you may remember, a mighty division of General Motors before going extinct a dozen years ago.

Only about 10% of the population is black or Latino, which puts Democrats at a disadvantage, but there are a lot of government workers and suburbanites trying to put their kids through school.

Courtesy of Warren Taylor

When you walk through the supermarket, you might see food labeled organic or fair trade. Now, some food companies are also starting to identify genetically modified ingredients. A law is set to take effect this summer in Vermont that would mandate GMO labels. Large food manufacturers have been lobbying Congress to stop it. But one milk producer in our region doesn’t think the Vermont law goes far enough.

Cynthia Canty with Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton from BuzzFeed's "Another Round" podcast.
Stateside Staff

One of the internet's biggest podcasts is coming to Ann Arbor to do a live show.

At the invitation of the School of Social Work People of Color Collective at the University of Michigan, Buzzfeed's hit podcast Another Round will hold its first live show at the Michigan Union on Thursday, April 14.

State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Right now it's lawful to carry firearms into state buildings in Michigan. But it's illegal to bring a political sign into the state Capitol.  

A package of bills introduced today in the Michigan House would reverse that.

The legislation would prohibit people from carrying open or concealed firearms in state buildings -  while lifting the ban on carrying signs into the state Capitol. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A major push to strengthen neighborhoods in north Flint is getting underway.

On Wednesday, the Ruth Mott Foundation awarded $1.3 million in grants to 10 neighborhood projects. The programs are selected with input from north side residents.

Handy Lindsey is the foundation president.  He says over the next five years, the foundation plans to give $25 to 30 million for similar projects.

“It sounds like an awful lot of money,” says Lindsey. "But in the scheme of things, this community needs far, far more investment than that.”

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A long-empty north Flint apartment complex is being demolished.

The Genesee County Land Bank is spending $1.7 million to raze the 13-building complex.

Shawn Harris is the president of the local neighborhood association. He hopes the demolition will clear the way for a much-needed grocery store on Flint’s north side.

“We lost our Kroger’s and our Meijer’s. So I think this would be a good place to put another grocery store,” says Harris.

Land bank officials say they are reviewing several proposals for the eight-acre site. 

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