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Environment & Science
10:49 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Michigan Senate scraps DEQ permit for beach grooming

Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Let’s say you own a beach house. You might want to pull out some plants or mow them or smooth out the sand to make it look nice.

At the moment, if you want to do any of these things, you need a permit from both the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Maggie Cox is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She says her department has to make sure everyone can walk on the beaches, and she says sensitive wetlands need to be protected.

"Your property line is down to the water’s edge – but the state also holds in trust for the public the land up to ordinary high water mark."

Last week, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would eliminate the state permit for beach maintenance.

Several environmental groups are opposed to that.  (You can check out this Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council brochure on beach grooming.)

The DEQ’s Maggie Cox says her agency will still have oversight of beach maintenance in wetland areas.

"In areas that are mostly sand or mostly rock, you no longer have to get a permit from the department. But in areas that are wet or coastal wetlands, made up mostly of bulrush or other vegetation, you’re going to have to still come to the department and the Army Corps for a permit."

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Environment & Science
10:29 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Fungus attacks spruce trees in Michigan

A seedling with dead terminal buds due to a Phomopsis canker on the main stem below the dying buds.
MSU Extension

The landscape of Michigan's Lower Peninsula has been changing over the decades. Some of the changes are intentional... some accidental...and some are simply a mystery.

In the 1960's and 70's, Dutch elm disease left tree-lined streets naked.

These last few years saw the Emerald Ash borer leave its trail of destruction across the state. And now Michigan's spruce and pine trees are in decline.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor of horticulture and forestry at Michigan State University.

He says one culprit is called Phomopsis. It's a fungus that has been around for a long time. It used to affect just seedlings and smaller trees. But now it's killing larger trees, too. And scientists don't know why.

"Is this an environmental set of conditions? Is there something going on with the pathogen itself? So there's really lots more questions than answers at this point, other than we're seeing a lot of trees starting to decline."

Cregg says the Phomopsis fungus is primarily affecting blue, white and Norway spruce used for landscaping. Those trees are not native to Michigan.

He says it progressively kills branches... and eventually the whole tree.

Cregg says a couple of things can be done. He says if you spot dead branches, you should prune them ... and get rid of lower limbs to help with air circulation.

He also says if you're planting spruce trees... don't group them closely together, because that makes them more vulnerable to fungus.

And if you're not sure what's going on with your tree: call an expert.

"So if you can get a sample into our diagnostics lab, or another tree care provider that knows what they're looking at. If it can be identified as Phomopsis, then there is a possibility of treating with a fungicide."

You might also be noticing branch dieback on pine trees along roadways and in state forests. Cregg says any number of things could be causing that... including a type of blight or insects... or maybe just normal variations in weather affecting tree growth. They just don't know yet.

Politics
10:20 am
Tue May 29, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

Commentary
10:09 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Commentary: Mackinac Conference

If you were going to stage a revolution and wanted to arrest the entire political and business leadership of our state, you might want to start by seizing Mackinac Island this week.

That’s because the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It will feature speeches by national headliners, such as public intellectuals Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

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Politics
6:30 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Debate on moving up a state income tax cut begins today

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House plans to begin consideration of measures moving up an income tax cut from January to October and increasing how much income someone can earn before taxes kick in.

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Politics
6:26 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Annual Mackinac Island conference starts today

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to make opening remarks as the Detroit Regional Chamber begins its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The conference regularly draws more than 1,000 business and government leaders for three days of discussions about the Michigan economy, education and other issues. It starts Tuesday.

This year's program will focus on how Michigan can improve its global competitiveness through innovation and collaboration.

Politics
3:45 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

On Memorial Day in Detroit, a "funeral for democracy"

A coffin representing democracy at the Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Some voting rights advocates say Michigan’s emergency manager law represents “the death of democracy” in the state.

So they symbolically laid democracy to rest at mock a funeral service in Detroit Monday.

The “funeral” included music and eulogies of sorts--all delivered from behind an American flag-draped coffin. A real hearse waited outside to take the coffin away.

Some might see this kind of display as a bit much. But organizers insist it’s totally appropriate, given what they see as a relentless assault on voting rights in Michigan.

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Economy
2:20 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Michigan's economy showing signs of improvement, but there are "headwinds" coming

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A Comerica Bank economist says Michigan's economy is making a comeback.   But clouds could be on the horizon.

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Politics
12:57 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Benton Township alleges Benton Harbor emergency manager defaulted on debt

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris at a town hall meeting last summer.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris took over the City of Benton Harbor two years ago, the city owed money to a bunch of different agencies; the library, the public schools, and the IRS, for example. Harris has made huge progress in paying off that old debt.

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Memorial Day
12:00 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

A great day for a parade

Young parade goers watch as Dearborn's Memorial day parade passes by.
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Many communities across Michigan celebrated Memorial Day with a parade.

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Health
11:32 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Young children should be supervised around water

Jesus Solana Flickr

Drowning is the leading cause of injury related death among children less than 4 years of age.  That's according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control.

Angela Minicuci is with the Michigan Department of Community Health.  She says young children should be supervised around all sources of water both inside and outside of the house:

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Memorial Day
9:49 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War

Tony Gramer and other Vietnam War vets take turns walking around the war memorial at Dearborn city hall
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The federal government this year will observe the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War.

Many Vietnam veterans feel they have been overlooked or disrespected.

A group of Vietnam veterans took part in Memorial Day observances today in Dearborn.   Tony Gramer served in Vietnam in 1968.    He’s glad to see the recognition.

“Better late than never,” says Gramer,  “I think it’s the right thing to do.  I feel that all the veterans deserve it.”

The federal government is asking businesses and other groups to organize events commemorating the Vietnam War for the next 13 years, culminating with the 50th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. 

Commentary
9:00 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Commentary: Live well and validate the sacrifice our veterans made

My guess is that a lot of  people these days are a little shaky about what Memorial Day is all about,  except perhaps in families that have military service in their background.   I think most of us know that it has something to do with honoring the nation’s  war dead. Though I imagine that the numbers of people visiting  cemeteries is probably a pretty small minority. More people decorated veterans’  graves when I was a child.

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Investigative
7:30 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Money Talks: Political spending hiding in the file cabinet

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Broadcasters are fighting a new rule to disclose more about who’s buying political ads. The Federal Communications Commission wants TV stations to post information about the political ads they air on a government website.

That will make it a lot easier to find out what groups are spending money to influence voters.

Recently, I met Rich Robinson in the parking lot of his office in Lansing. He was taking me on a little trip.

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Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Ann Arbor goes mainstream, debuts "Cinetopia International Film Festival"

The Michigan Theater
user andypiper Flickr

Ann Arbor will be hosting its first-ever Cinetopia International Film Festival this week.

Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater, says festival organizers expect about 5,000 attendees this weekend.

Over the four-day festival, 35 mainstream films will be screened primarily in the Michigan and State Theaters.

Collins notes that this festival is different from the longstanding Ann Arbor Film Festival because that event's focus is on experimental films.

"The Cinetopia International Film Festival is a festival that celebrates the feature length, story-based films that you're going to see at festivals like Toronto and Sundance," Collins says.

The festival opens Thursday night with a party and screening of Tod Louiso's "Hello I Must Be Going" and continues with Sundance-acclaimed films like "I Am Not a Hipster."

"It seems like our ambient interest in cinema and the ability of our town to host festivals and special events would make Ann Arbor an exceptionally good place to do a film festival of a large scale," says Collins,

There are high hopes for this pilot event. Festival organizers plan to expand the event into an 11-day festival for Ann Arbor and Detroit.

- Julia Alix Smith-Eppsteiner, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
5:12 pm
Sun May 27, 2012

Detroit's Financial Advisory Board, still missing some members, might start meeting anyway

A financial advisory board that will help guide Detroit’s budget process is expected to start meeting “soon”—but it will apparently be missing some of its members.

That Board is a key part of Detroit’s consent agreement with the state, and is supposed to have a prominent role in the city’s ongoing budget process.

Its nine members were to be appointed by state officials, Mayor Dave Bing—and the Detroit City Council.

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Health
2:05 pm
Sun May 27, 2012

Michigan OKs medical marijuana for 44 children

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan has issued medical marijuana cards covering 44 children. Most are teenagers, but three of them are under 10 years old.

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Environment & Science
1:32 pm
Sun May 27, 2012

Rain helping firefighters control a wildfire in the U.P.

NEWBERRY, Mich. (AP) - Rain is lending a hand to crew members who are battling a wildfire that has consumed 31.6 square miles of forest in the eastern port of Michigan's sparsely populated Upper Peninsula.

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Environment & Science
11:57 am
Sun May 27, 2012

A warning for Michigan fishermen

A fish with viral hemorrhagic septicemia
(photo courtesy of Dr. Mohamed Faisal)

Michigan officials are reminding fishermen -- and women --  that bait restrictions apply in some waters as a way to slow the spread of a viral fish disease.

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Environment & Science
11:49 am
Sun May 27, 2012

Michigan environmentalists to discuss new pollution rules

A representation of a Carbon Dioxide molecule
(courtesy of the Carbonaccount.com)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Environmental groups that a favor new federal rules regulating carbon emissions are holding a forum to discuss them.

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