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Opinion
11:46 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Fact checking David Sedaris: Does comedy need a disclaimer?

WBUR

In my large Irish family, our stories get better with age. It’s not that we lie about what’s happened to us, but when we get together for holidays or family events, we usually tell the same stories and they get better every time.

They start out as true of course, and the people, places and events all stay the same, but over time the funny parts get a little more funny, the dialogue a little more snappy and clever, and the reactions from onlookers a little more outrageous.

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Commentary
11:03 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Commentary: Falling unemployement rates

There are people who lose their jobs during the best of times, and those who are wildly successful even during a depression.

But what really matters is the overall trend. When you look at that, and at a flurry of new numbers that came out yesterday, it seems clear that Michigan is in fact doing better than a year ago.

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Economy
9:06 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Banks turn to "short sales" in Michigan as home foreclosure rates continue to decline in April

The number of foreclosure filings dropped 28 percent in April compared to a year ago.

Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac said a big reason for the decline of homes being repossessed is that banks are turning more and more to "short sales."  A short sale is where a mortgage lender allows a property to be sold for less than the amount owed on a mortgage and takes a loss.

“Based on other data we’re looking at that’s a trend that’s going to continue this year. Short sales are going to become a much more attractive alternative to more lenders," said Bloomquist.

The nation’s five largest mortgage lenders Ally Bank, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase have significantly stepped up their use of  "short sales."

Earlier this year the five mortgage lenders agreed to pay $25 billion as part of a national settlement of claims of abuse in the mortgage and foreclosure process.

Michigan is getting about $800 million from the settlement.

Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Neighbors feel pressured by Enbridge's new pipeline plans

Beth Duman with one of her four dogs.
Logan Chadde/Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy operates the pipeline that ruptured in Marshall almost two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of thick tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.  The oil spill is still being cleaned up.

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline. It’s known as Line 6B.

Now, the company plans to replace the entire pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan. 

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News Roundup
8:52 am
Thu May 17, 2012

In this morning's Michigan headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Economic Outlook

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped by two-tenths of a percentage point in April to 8.3 percent. Rick Pluta reports:

That news came amid predictions that Michigan’s economic recovery will continue, but at a slower pace than it has. George Fulton is a University of Michigan economist.  He says Michigan’s jobless rate remains high, but the state has been outpacing the nation in creating new jobs. “The largest job gains have been the higher wage sector and we see job growth continuing for the next few years, but not quite at the pace we saw last year,” Fulton says. Fulton says that’s largely because of an expected slowdown in car and truck sales, plus overall slow growth in the national economy. Still the mostly good economic news was enough to convince state budget officials to up their revenue projections based on expected income improvements and more consumer spending.

Balancing the State’s Checkbook

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January. “That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services. The news came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing. State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs. Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1,” reporters in the Michigan Radio Newsroom explain.

MI More Optimistic

Michiganders are becoming more optimistic about the economy, according to new results out today from Michigan State University's State of the State Survey.Michigan Radio's John Wilson reports:

The survey says state residents haven't been this positive about the economy since 2005, with 54 percent of survey participants characterizing their financial situation as "good" or "excellent" and 61 percent expecting things to get even better in the year to come. MSU notes, “In the fall 2011 survey, conducted from mid-September through early November, only 46.2 percent of those answering the survey called their financial situation "excellent" or “good.”

Health
9:38 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

System allows doctors to send immunization records electronically to the state

Doctors are already required to send immunization records to the State of Michigan. With the new system, the data will arrive in real time with no extra steps for the doctors or hospitals.

The system was launched by a non-profit called Michigan Health Connect. Executive Director Doug Dietzman says eventually the data could travel both ways – so doctors could avoid giving patients shots they don’t need. He outline tetanus as a common example. 

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Lansing
9:19 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Lansing's mayor changes his mind on a new police headquarters

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.
Michigan Municipal League

Lansing’s mayor is scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, at least for now.

Mayor Virg Bernero included more than $400,000 in his budget proposal for next year to pay for design and engineering plans for a new consolidated police headquarters.

But Wednesday,  the mayor announced he wants to redirect that money to a fund to pay for 11 police officer positions currently supported by a federal grant that expires in 2015.

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Politics
8:46 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Detroit budget process churns on with Law, Health Department talks

Another Detroit city department says it simply can’t function if proposed budget cuts go through.

The law department says “there is no way” the unit can run on what’s allotted in Mayor Dave Bing’s budget proposal.

Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittenden told the Detroit City Council the city’s new charter gives the law department new responsibilities.

Bing proposes slashing their budget by more than half. But the Council moved to restore most of that funding.

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Education
5:29 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Debt collectors pursue more unpaid student loans in Michigan

hmm360 MorgueFile

Michigan students who default on their college loans are more likely to be sued in federal court.

That's according to a Syracuse University study, which shows the eastern half Michigan has the second highest rate per-capita of suits against students who don't pay their loans.

Dorothy Barrick is with GreenPath Debt Solutions of Farmington Hills.  She says ignoring the debt just makes things worse.

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Education
5:22 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager send out 158 pink slips

Three members of the Muskegon Heights’ school board have resigned, the same day the district’s emergency manager also announced he’s laying off more than 150 employees.

This is the second week on the job for the emergency manager of Muskegon Heights schools. On Wednesday, Don Weatherspoon made two announcements; that he’s delivered pink slips to 158 employees – including teachers, administrators and support staff. And two, that he’s accepted the resignations of three members of the school board.

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Auto
5:11 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Electronic stability control proposed for big rigs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may soon require big rigs and other large trucks to have electronic stability control systems.

The technology could prevent a lot of accidents and rollovers. 

NHTSA already requires electronic stability control systems on passenger cars. The systems are able to automatically apply the brake on individual wheels. 

It's estimated electronic stability control reduces accidents where the driver loses control of the car by at least 40%.  There could be a similar benefit for big rigs, busses and other large trucks.

Russ Rader is with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The technology is available, it's not expensive, and we should get it on large trucks."

NHTSA says a rule could become final within two to four years. 

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute estimates at least 4,600 truck accidents could be prevented if electronic stability control were required, and at least 126 lives saved per year.

Economy
5:02 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Michigan residents more upbeat about Gov. and economy

Michiganders are becoming more optimistic about the economy and that positive thinking is adding a bit of extra shine to Gov. Rick Snyder's image.

That's according to new results out today from Michigan State University's State of the State Survey.

An MSU press release says state residents haven't been this positive about the economy since 2005, with 54 percent of survey participants  characterizing their financial situation as "good" or "excellent" and 61 percent expecting things to get even better in the year to come.

More from MSU:

"The Michigan economy has added 150,000 jobs since the job market bottomed out at the end of 2009," said Charles Ballard, MSU economics professor and director of the State of the State Survey. "The improvement in the economy is reflected in the brighter mood in our latest survey."

The findings are based on the latest quarterly phone survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 15. A total of 963 Michigan adults were questioned in the survey which has an error rating of +3.16 percent.

In the fall 2011 survey, conducted from mid-September through early November, only 46.2 percent of those answering the survey called their financial situation "excellent" or "good."

Gov. Snyder's approval ratings also improved amongst those surveyed, rising to 33 percent compared with 19.3 percent last fall.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Economy
4:35 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Michigan court district ranks No. 1 in lawsuits filed against student loan defaulters

wikimedia commons

Federal data show that a federal court district in Michigan ranks number one in the country for the number of federal lawsuits filed against individuals who default on their student loans.

Relative to population size, defaulters in the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) were prosecuted at a rate about 10 times the national average during March 2012.

The Central District of California (Los Angeles) came in second, and the Northern District of New York came in third.

Out of the 279 suits filed in March, 57 were filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, 140 in the Central District of California and 13 in the Northern District of New York.

The report, published by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, compared the total number of civil filings per month since March 2007. The number remained relatively stable (between 200 and 250) until Spring 2009, when it dipped slightly, bottoming out at 168 in December of that year.

The number then rose substantially to 598 in April 2011 before declining again towards the early 2009 average.   

The Eastern District of Michigan’s leadership in per capita student debt lawsuits is nothing new. The court topped the ranks five years ago and came in second last year, according to the TRAC report.

The Institute for College Access & Success, a non-profit research and policy organization, reported that 60 percent of 2010 Michigan graduates carried student debt, owing an average of $25,675 — the 11th highest average in the nation.

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
4:34 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Survey measures how Michigan residents feel about the economy, Gov. Snyder and Pres. Obama

The findings are based on the latest quarterly phone survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 15. A total of 963 Michigan adults were questioned in the survey which has an error rating of +3.16 percent.

Every quarter, Michigan State University releases its State of the State survey. The survey questioned 963 Michigan adults about issues such as the economy, taxes, and Michigan’s financial future.

Charles Ballard is Michigan State University Professor of Economics. He said Michigan residents are more optimistic about the economy.

Those responding to the survey, 54% said their current financial situation was excellent or good. And, 61% of  said they believe they will better off a year from now.

When people are feeling better about the future, Ballard said “they are more likely to make an investment, they’re more likely to spend money and that can have a positive effect on the economy.”

But according to Ballard, trust in government is not so good.

“State government – 16% said that they think they can trust the state government all of most of the time. Twelve percent said they could trust the federal government all or most of the time. It’s a little better for local governments, it’s up in the 30’s, but still those numbers for all levels of government have trended downward, which I think is a reflection of some dissatisfaction at grid lock in Lansing and in Washington.”

Learn more about the approval rating for Governor Snyder and President Obama here.

The findings are based on the latest quarterly phone survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 15. A total of 963 Michigan adults were questioned in the survey which has an error rating of +3.16 percent.

Transportation
4:33 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Drivers should look out for lots of bicyclists tonight

KTesh Creative Commons

Hundreds, if not thousands of bicyclists in Michigan are expected to take part in a ride of silence tonight. The international ride of silence honors those who’ve been injured or killed riding their bikes. The rides all start at 7p local time.

The event is in memory of a cyclist who died in 2003 in Texas when he was clipped by the side mirror of a moving bus. 

Rides of silence begin at seven tonight in Detroit, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Holland, Ann Arbor and at least two dozen other cities in Michigan.

Tom Tilma heads the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition… which is organizing one of the rides. He says cyclists and drivers are making progress, but both need to be better at sharing the road to make it safer for everyone.

"I think cyclists are learning to follow the rules of the road more. I’m seeing more cyclists waiting for the red light to turn green before we go through the intersection. That’s very important we think. And we’re seeing more drivers chill out and not follow cyclists so close,” Tilma said.

The ride of silence coincides with national ride your bike to work week.

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Politics
4:07 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

More revenue than expected for Michigan's next fiscal year

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January.

That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services.

That came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing.

State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs.

“What we’ll do is with the one-time money, we’ll look for one-time expenditures," said Nixon. Budget Stabilization Fund is obviously a piece, a good place to put one-time money, as well some of the other spending pressures we have in the budget.”

Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

Nixon says he doesn't think that will mean radical shifts in the budget bills lawmakers hope to finish by month's end.

The budget news accompanies forecasts that Michigan’s economy will continue to grow at a slow pace – with many of the new jobs coming from higher-paying fields. Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped again in April, hitting 8.3 percent.

When people who have quit looking for work are counted, as well as ­part-time workers who’d like to be full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 17.8  percent.

Environment & Science
1:54 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Spring brings more bear sightings in West Michigan

Ken Thomas wikimedia commons

There's been a spate of black bear sightings in West Michigan over the past few days with at least one birdfeeder as a casualty.

Residents in Greenville, about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, saw a bear wandering around a residential neighborhood and sightings have also been reported in nearby Lowell and Vergennes Township this week.

Wildlife authorities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources don't know if it's the same bear being spotted, or more than one.

Bear sightings in general in many parts of the Lower Peninsula have become more common over the past few years.

Last year, the Environment Report's Rebecca Williams took a look at these southward-drifting bears and spoke to Adam Bump, a bear specialist with the MDNR:

[Bump] said a lot of the time, the bears are young males that get pushed out during the breeding season. They’ll head down looking for new territory.

“It’s not that we’re completely full up in the north – it can’t take one more bear – it’s just that we’re getting more taking the chance and moving south.”

He said bears like to travel along rivers and forested corridors and they appear to be finding good routes to travel...

Bump said some female bears appear to be moving south too. And some might be setting up camp... and having babies.

“We think we have an established population now as far down as Grand Rapids, possibly into Ionia County. We're getting more and more reports of bears in southern Michigan, even bears that are too young to have moved, so they had to have been produced in southern Michigan.”

This past February, Williams and producer Mark Brush got the chance to tag along with MDNR biologists in Oceana County as they tranquilized a black bear to replace a radio tracking collar.

Now that the warm weather is here, the collared bear is likely loping around in search of food.

You can see the bear in a deep sleep in the video below.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Health
12:48 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Goal: Cure Alzheimer's disease by 2050

Ann Gordon Flickr

The National Institutes of Health has set a goal to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease by 2050.

Henry Paulson is the director of the University of Michigan's Alzheimer's Disease Center.

"I'm a 100-percent supporter of this," he says. "This is a huge medical problem. We have over 5-million people who have Alzheimer's now in this country and as we get older, the number is increasing rapidly. So this is a crisis and although we understand a lot about the mechanisms of the disease, we still don't have effective therapies. So this push, this additional support I think will drive toward those therapies that we so desperately need."

16-million Americans are expected to have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia by 2050.

The Obama Administration has allocated $50-million for Alzheimer's Research. N-I-H will spend an additional 30 million on two national studies.

"One of the things I like about the announcement yesterday is there are two major studies that they emphasize that are going to be funded right away," Paulson says. "One is a symptomatic study, that is the intranasal insulin, is looking to see if that can improve symptoms in people who have cognitive impairment. The other study is a preventative study from families who actually have inherited caused dimentia which is not what most people have."

Paulson says many investigators with the U of M's Alzheimer's Disease Center will be applying for additional funding for Alzheimer's research.

- Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
12:09 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Moderate economic growth forecast in Michigan

The Michigan State Capitol.
Jimmy Emerson Flickr

A UM economic forecaster is predicting moderate economic growth for the state until 2014.

The Detroit Free Press reports that George Fulton, director of the Research Center on Quantitative Economics at the University of Michigan, gave the forecast at today's revenue estimating conference at the state Capitol.

From the Freep:

Private sector job growth will continue in 2013 and 2014 but at a more moderate pace than the rapid growth seen in 2011 and the early part of 2012, Fulton said.

"We see a sustained but moderately paced recovery from now until 2014," he said.

The revenue estimating conference is part of finalizing the state's 2013 budget.

Officials try to reach consensus on how much revenue the state can expect in the coming years.

MPRN's Rick Pluta is covering the conference and will have more for us later.

Politics
11:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Will Gov. Snyder turn back his salary this year too?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder turned back all but $1 of his pay last year, but he's not sure what he'll do this year.

Since there's no mechanism for the state to withhold his paychecks, the governor still receives his $159,300 salary.

He told reporters Wednesday that he's "going to do something different this year" but doesn't yet have a figure in mind.

Snyder quipped that he plans to "check with my wife" before settling on one.

The Republican governor announced in his 2011 budget address that he'd work for $1 during his first year in office as part of the "shared sacrifice" needed to balance the books.

State workers are scheduled to get a 1 percent raise in October, but also will start paying 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.

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