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Economy
4:01 pm
Sun May 13, 2012

Is the world ready for Pure Michigan?

Is this view worth the trip from Europe or Asia?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Obama Administration wants to step up efforts to promote the U.S. as an international tourism destination. That’s welcome news to the folks who run the “Pure Michigan” campaign.

Michigan tourism officials know people from foreign countries come here to vacation, but they don’t know how many, and that’s important to know when they’re planning how to spend the “Pure Michigan” campaign’s $25 million advertising budget.  

This year, only about one percent,  or about $250,000, is being spent to promote Michigan as a tourism destination in Europe, mainly in England and Germany. Nothing is being spent in Asia.

George Zimmerman oversees the “Pure Michigan” campaign for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He says the Obama Administration’s tourism strategy includes determining where foreign visitors want to go.

“For about half the states, including Michigan, there just isn’t enough sample size to really have good data. So, that’s been a challenge for us, says Zimmerman. 

Right now, the “Pure Michigan” campaign is focusing on regional promotions with some national ads, and “a modest effort” in Canada.

Environment
4:00 pm
Sun May 13, 2012

Final season for the S.S. Badger?

snowangel_1967 flickr

 This could be the last season for the S.S. Badger.

The coal-fired car ferry has plied Lake Michigan since the 1950s. But federal regulators say the coal ash the ship dumps into Lake Michigan is bad for the environment. And they've ordered the ship's owners to stop the practice by mid-December.

Brandy Henderson is marketing director for the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She says the Badger brings about $21 million into the local economy each year. But she says there's sentimental attachment to the ship too.

"It's kind of a tradition for people to head downtown and grab an ice cream cone and head over and watch the sunset and wave off the Badger as they head across the lake. So it does have more meaning than just the hard numbers and the jobs and things like that."

Legislation in the U.S. House would allow the Badger to continue to dump coal ash because it's been nominated as a national historic landmark. Environmental groups are fighting that designation.

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Politics
1:23 pm
Sun May 13, 2012

Union rally Monday for Rep. John Conyers

Union supporters of veteran Congressman John Conyers are holding a re-election rally Monday for the Detroit Democrat. The 82-year-old is seeking a 24th term in the House and faces several challengers in the Aug. 7 party primary.

The group Working Families for Southeast Michigan says its rally is set for 5-8 p.m. at the Michigan Conference-Teamsters hall in Detroit.

Others in the Democratic race in the 13th District include state Sens. Glenn Anderson of Westland and Bert Johnson of Highland Park, and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit.

Conyers is the second-most senior member of the House, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

President Barack Obama endorsed Conyers in February.

Health
4:01 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

MSU study finds 16 year olds at peak risk for abusing prescription drugs

What's in you medicine cabinet? And does your 16 year old know too?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new Michigan State University study finds the peak of teen misuse of prescription drugs comes earlier than previously believed.

MSU researchers say teen misuse of prescription drugs peaks at age 16, not the later teens as previously believed.   Many children start using pain killers and other prescription drugs to get high in their tweens.   

The MSU study shows about 1 in 60 young people between 12 and 21 years old starts abusing prescription pain relievers each year.    That ratio rises to roughly 1 in 30 at age 16.  

Jim Anthony is a professor of Epidemiology at MSU.    He says the study shows it’s important to get the public health message against misusing prescription drugs to children when they are in middle school.

“We don’t want to delay public health programs…until the high school years or college years," says Anthony,   "We want to begin to think about them as early as 12 and 13.”

Anthony says it may also be a good idea for doctors to write some pain killer prescriptions for just a few day supply instead of the more common one or two week supply.   He says that might reduce the number of prescription drugs that sit unused in the family medicine cabinet.  

Anthony says parents need to pay close attention to their teenager and their medicine cabinet and properly dispose of unneeded painkillers and other prescription drugs.

The MSU study appears in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

 

It's Just Politics: Extended Edition
6:01 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Senate passes PPT; a MI Supreme Court justice's real estate woes; and a state Rep. calls it quits

Every Friday Rick Pluta and I take a look at state politics in It's Just Politics (you can check out this week's edition here.) But, it can be pretty darn hard to fit all of the week's political stories into just five minutes.

So, if you're as much of a political junkie as we both are, take a listen to an extended version of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this afternoon: the politics behind the state Senate's vote to rollback Michigan's personal property tax, the controversy surrounding Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway's sketchy-looking real estate deals, and allegations that state Representative Lisa Brown fired an employee for being pregnant.

Health
5:55 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

A new HBO series addresses the nation's obesity problem

Sylvar / flickr

Michigan ranks tenth in the country, when it comes to the number of people who are overweight or obese. It's an issue that affects many of us personally, and it affects society as a whole.

A new HBO, documentary series called  The Weight of the Nation takes an in-depth look at this epidemic. It's in partnership with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

John Hoffman is an HBO producer who worked on the documentary. The documentary recently screened in Detroit. He says, "We’ve got to engage the entire nation in addressing obesity. Almost 70% of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, and the costs are just going to bankrupt our health care system. Our national security is threatened when one quarter of recruits can’t qualify for our military service because they are overweight or obese…so, we are trying to sound the loudest possibly alarm in every community that this has got to become a priority."

Obesity seems to hit minorities and poor people especially hard. Hoffman says it's a matter of economics and not race. 

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Government
5:38 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan Gov. declares "state of emergency" after storms and flooding

user tanakawho Flickr

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a "state of emergency" in Genesee County following the severe flooding near Flint, Michigan on May 3 and 4.

The declaration makes state resources available to help with damage resulting from the storms and flooding.

Federal resources could follow.

More from the Governor's office:

The declaration, outlined in a proclamation, was requested by local officials and will ensure that all possible resources, in accordance with the Michigan Emergency Management Plan, are provided to assist local response efforts.

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Economy
4:49 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

India-based IT company bringing jobs to Jackson

Rajeev Sawhney, V.P. with HCL Technologies LLC
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Jackson’s economy is getting a big boost.

An India-based IT company announced today it will expand its operation in the mid-Michigan city.

HCL Technologies LLC is a global IT services company with 90 thousand employees.    The training and development hub its opening in Jackson will create several hundred jobs during the next few years.

Rajeev Sawhney is a vice president with HCL.   He says the training center should employ 300 people within the next two years.

"And possibly 500 people given that most of our Midwest clients have shown a lot of interest in wanting to avail of the facilities that will come out of this center in Jackson," says Sawhney.

HCL is partnering with Jackson-based Consumer Energy, which will allow the utility’s employees to receive advanced technology training. 

The hundreds of new jobs will be welcome in Jackson, which like many Michigan cities has seen a long decline in job opportunities.

 

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Politics
4:40 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Snyder wants e-retailers to collect Michigan sales tax

user Kcdtsg wikimedia commons

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is appealing to lawmakers in Washington to make online retailers collect state sales tax.

Melissa Anders from MLive.com reports that Gov. Snyder sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders this week expressing his support for the Marketplace Fairness Act. The law would require companies doing business online to calculate sales tax based on customer location and collect the taxes on behalf of states.

Governor Snyder reportedly sees the law as "a way to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar shops and online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com," Anders writes.

In the letter, Snyder also sights fiscal concerns:

"The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates that total revenue lost to e-commerce and mail-order purchases will amount to $872 million during fiscal years 2012 and 2013...it is crucial that the state has the tools to fairly collect the revenue that it is owed. The Marketplace Fairness act would provide states with the authority to do just that."

Michigan residents are already required to pay a "use tax" of 6 percent on their income tax returns for purchases made online. But it's difficult to enforce and few taxpayers heed the rule.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Transportation
4:26 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Gov. Snyder says recent bridge discussion with Canadian officials "a good meeting"

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder talks to reporters after an announcement in Jackson
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Rick Snyder declined to say a lot about his recent meeting with Canadian officials about the proposed new Detroit-Windsor bridge.

The high level, closed door meeting took place in Windsor on Thursday. 

Snyder would only say it was a “good meeting”.

"We continue to have dialogue…and as I’ve said from day one…I’m continuing to work on getting a bridge built," says Snyder,  "Because it is in the interest of more and better jobs in Michigan.  It’s about more and better trade.   And so we’re going to continue working on getting the new international trade crossing done.”

The governor says he hopes to make progress on the bridge project in “the near term.”

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have been funding a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign against the proposed new bridge.

Last year, the Michigan legislature rejected a proposal that would have had Canada loan Michigan a half billion dollars for its share of the construction costs.

Arts & Culture
4:17 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

A Mother's Day story

During the past year, Michigan-based writer Wade Rouse has been sharing personal stories about the holidays.

Mother’s Day is Sunday May 13, and today Wade shares a story about an especially memorable Mother’s Day for him.

Wade Rouse is a Michigan-based writer and the author of It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir).

It's Just Politics
4:02 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Governor Snyder thinks Michigan's economy is improving; Mitt Romney: Not so much

It's Just Politics, May 11th, 2012
Gage Skidmore Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I take a look at the politics of taking credit for a good economy. Governor Snyder says Michigan's economy is improving but that's not the story that Mitt Romney wants to tell.

Zoe Clark: Rick, I have a great idea for this week's show!

Rick Pluta: Actually, Zoe, I think maybe it was someone else’s idea first.

Mitt Romney: “So, I’ll take a lot of credit...”

RP: That’s our cheap setup for the fact that Mitt Romney paid a visit to Michigan this week.

ZC: Indeed, he campaigned this week at Lansing Community College.

RP: Prior to hitting the ground here in Lansing, Romney gave an interview with an Ohio TV station, where he said President Obama really followed his plan - the Romney plan - for the bailout of the auto industry.

ZC: And, so, there’s this disconnect. Was the bailout bad? Or, wasn’t it? Governor Rick Snyder – a Romney supporter -- says it’s time to just stop talking about it.

Rick Snyder: “I think too much time is spent on the whole bailout question. It worked, it's done, it's over with. There's  other ways it probably could have been done. But, the point is it was successful."

RP: So, move on, folks. There’s nothing more to see here. Let’s change the subject. And this speaks to the sometimes awkward dance between governors and presidential candidates -- when they are from the same political party.  Rick Snyder is telling people things are looking up.

Snyder: “Now, if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

RP: The “comeback state,” outpacing the nation in job creation, manufacturing on the rise. And Mitt Romney?

Romney: “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing and frankly they've been hard on the people of America. “

ZC: Not hearing that relentless positivity there.

RP: This guy’s harshin’ my mellow. 

ZC: Rick Snyder does say there’s more work to be done. That Washington needs a healthy dose of what’s working in Michigan. But that’s not Romney’s message.

RP: Right. Where Rick Snyder says life is good and getting better, Mitt Romney says you’re worse off than you might have been. It’s not good, and whatever might be good is going to head south without some change.  

ZC: This dichotomy is not new. In the 1990s, the economy was booming John Engler was the Republican governor of Michigan, Bill Clinton, the Democratic president. When it came to that success…

RP: Credit for a good economy wasn’t a problem for Governor Jennifer Granholm. With George W.Bush in the White House, the economy was bad and it was a battle of blame. And it became mutually assured political destruction - we saw that by the time the time both of them office - Bush in 2009, Granholm on January first of 2011 - they were both pretty unpopular.  

ZC: That speaks to a few things, but one of them is people seeking office will cast a lot of blame for the bad, lay claim to the good, but there are really a lot of things outside their control that will decide the state of the economy and the state of their popularity.

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Arts & Culture
3:19 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

DSO hosts Kid Rock Saturday

Maia C Flickr

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will accompany Kid Rock in a benefit concert. The orchestra is carrying a 54-million dollar debt. The goal of the event is to raise 1-million dollars for the orchestra. That money will be used for community outreach and education efforts. The concert will be at the Fox Theater Saturday night. Paul Hogle is the Executive Vice President of the DSO. He says while the DSO has faced struggles, he's optimistic of the orchestra's future.

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Environment & Science
3:00 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Pet food contamination discovered by Michigan agency

14 brands of dog food are under a recall
user rudyspetsupply MySpace

The CDC issued a dog food recall last month after they found Salmonella contamination in some packages of Diamond Naturals Lamb and Rice Formula for Adult Dogs. The recall has since been expanded to 14 dog food brands.

The contamination has led to human illnesses, according to the CDC.

From the Associated Press:

"People who became ill, the thing that was common among them was that they had fed their pets Diamond Pet Foods," said CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell.

Three people each were infected in Missouri and North Carolina; two people in Ohio; and one person each in Alabama, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the CDC said.

"Our folks are really wanting people to be aware of it. They want to be aware that this is causing people to get sick because they may have product in their homes. For every one that is reported, there may be 29 others," Russell

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says their Pesticide and Plant Pest Management division first discovered the problem on April 2.

They say as part of their "routine retail animal feed surveillance" they discovered Salmonella Infantis in a sample of the Diamond brand dog food.

From MDARD's press release:

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and other public health agencies have partnered to identify human illnesses that are related to this outbreak using genetic "fingerprints" of Salmonella bacteria obtained through laboratory testing. MDARD and MDCH continue to work closely with other states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the investigation.

“Safe animal feed is a vital component of the food chain and has a direct impact on food safety. This is an important case study on how animal feed safety and human health are connected,” said Keith Creagh, MDARD Director “MDARD's participation in the Food and Drug Administration’s Rapid Response Team and animal feed safety programs has provided significant  assistance in helping identify and reduce food  and feed safety hazards.”

MDARD officials say Salmonella infections can be spread between animals and people, and that people should follow these tips when handling pet food:

  • clean pet dishes with soap and warm water
  • wash hands after feeding pets and cleaning up their waste
  • use designated feeding utensils
  • keep pet food in original containers and at the proper temperatures (keep dry food dry)
  • canned food should be refrigerated after opening
  • keep infants and small children away from pet feeding areas
  • do not allow infants and small children to touch or eat animal food

Your pet could have a Salmonella infection if it shows the following signs:

  • lethargy
  • diarrhea or bloody diarrhea
  • fever
  • vomiting

Officials say some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever, and abdominal pain.

Contact your veterinarian if your pet has consumed one of the recalled products and shows these symptoms.

Health
1:33 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Lawmakers target production, sales of synthetic marijuana

Varieties of synthetic marijuana
N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs

Michigan lawmakers are making another attempt to outlaw sales of over-the-counter synthetic marijuana.

The drug is sometimes labeled as incense or potpourri  and is sold under a variety of names at convenience stores and other small shops.

The distributors often change the chemical contents or packaging to skirt current laws.

A sweeping Senate bill targets the artificial pot  and a host of other possible additives, including opiates and amphetamines.

Dr. Norb Kaminski is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

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Environment & Science
12:37 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan DEQ clarifies comments on drilling accidents

On The Environment Report yesterday, we heard from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Communications Director Brad Wurfel about his agency's views on the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

In the interview, he said drillers have been using hydraulic fracturing since the 1960's to drill vertical wells. 

We pointed out there are important differences between traditional vertical drilling and a newer method called horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The new method allows drillers to get natural gas that's much deeper underground.

One of the things to note:

With the more traditional, vertical hydraulic fracturing we’re talking about tens of thousands of gallons of water – horizontal hydraulic fracturing uses millions of gallons.

This is water that’s contaminated and cannot be used again.

In the interview, Brad Wurfel said:

"In 50 years and 12,000 wells around the state, we’ve never had to respond to an environmental emergency with hydraulic fracturing."

I followed up with him on this point today, to ask about this leak that my colleague Lester Graham reported on in February 2011:

The Associated Press reports a leak has shut down a drilling operation not too far from Traverse City.

It's not yet clear whether it will damage underground water sources.  It does raise questions as to whether Michigan regulations are adequate to protect the environment while exploiting the gas reserves in the state.

Here is Wurfel's response:

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Crime
11:54 am
Fri May 11, 2012

West Michigan man admits fraud in disability program

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Rapids man has agreed to plead guilty to fraud after the government says he collected nearly $400,000 in disability payments despite working at a family business.

A document filed Friday in federal court say Donald Freybler collected the money for 16 years, although he may not be on the hook for the entire $400,000. His plea deal allows him to argue to a judge that some payments were legitimate.

The 53-year-old Freybler admits he worked at a family trophy business and put it in his wife's name and Social Security number to conceal income. He says he greeted customers, took orders and occasionally made trophies and plaques.

Commentary
10:54 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Commentary: Grass-roots health care

Nobody would dispute that health care is one of the biggest issues facing this nation. And virtually everyone, regardless of their politics, is waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next month, the nation’s highest court will announce its decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Congress passed two years ago.

Their decision will have a major impact on this nation. But in Ferndale, a small, charming, quirky, and largely working class Detroit suburb, a tiny group hasn’t been waiting.

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Sports Commentary
9:28 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Women in sports: Title IX and the "Battle of the Sexes"

Billie Jean King playing Bobbie Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes"

This week, the University of Michigan celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX, with a host of speakers and panels discussing the historic legislation and its impact on girls, women and the United States itself. 

Before Title IX, only one in 30 girls played high school sports. 

Today, more than half do. 

After a single paragraph, and an unforgettable tennis match, that changed our nation forever.

It all started pretty quietly. 

Just a sentence buried in the back of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

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News Roundup
8:23 am
Fri May 11, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 11th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Senate Passes Industrial Tax Phase Out

The state Senate voted yesterday to phase out a tax on most industrial and business property in Michigan. "The tax is a big revenue generator for school districts and local governments. Senate Republicans amended their original plan so it now provides some assurances it won’t force big cuts to education and other services. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the tax on industrial equipment, in particular, is so unique it drives investment elsewhere. Democrats say the rollback is part of a pattern in Lansing of shifting the tax burden from businesses to individuals," Rick Pluta reports.

Bing Appoints a Detroit CFO

Jack Martin has been appointed chief financial officer in Detroit. Sarah Hulett reports:

The CFO is one of two key positions in the effort to turnaround the city's troubled finances. Martin served as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education several years ago, and in January he was picked to be the state-appointed emergency manager of Highland Park schools. The Detroit native says he also helped turn around Washington D.C.'s municipal finances. Martin will work alongside a still-unnamed program management director, and a financial advisory board. He starts the job on Monday with a yearly salary of $220,000.

Snyder Talks Bridge in Canada

Governor Snyder visited Windsor, Ontario yesterday to discuss plans with Canadian officials for another bridge across the Detroit River. Ken Silfven, a spokesman for the Governor says the administration, “remains committed to a Canadian-U.S. collaboration to build a span to supplement the privately owned Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The Windsor Star reports that U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson also attended the meeting. Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fiercely battling the proposal with ads and lobbying. He seeks to add a span to his own bridge instead,” the Associated Press reports.

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