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Science/Medicine
6:41 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan community health centers get federal grants

wikimedia commons

10 community health centers in Michigan will get $19.6 million in federal funds.

Those health centers are key primary care providers for uninsured and underinsured people in many communities.

The money is part of about $11 billion provided to community health clinics through the national health care reform law.

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Politics
6:12 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan lawmakers push to hold down student loan interest rate

Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters talks with Wayne State University student Norman Dotson about student loan interest rates.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Troy) says tens of thousands of people in Michigan face the prospect of higher student loan costs, unless Congress acts soon.

The interest rate on government-backed Stafford student loans is set to double July 1, to 6.8 percent.

"Just here in the state of Michigan 330,000 students will be faced with a large increase in that interest, which will add $1,000 to the debt of the average student. So on average $4,000 if you get out in four years," Peters said

MaVida Burrus is a student at Walsh College in Oakland County. She says the interest rate hike would make it difficult to balance her household checkbook.

"I am the mother of three, and we have bills to pay, we have mortgages, we have car notes, and I am raising these children on my own," Burrus said at a press conference called by Peters. "So this interest rate would mean a lot to me." 

The U.S. House passed a Republican-sponsored bill last week that would maintain the lower rate, and pay for it with cuts to public health programs.

Reps. Peters and Hansen Clarke are co-sponsors of a bill that would instead end $6 billion worth of subsidies to the oil and gas industries. That's the cost to the federal government of keeping the lower interest rate.

Auto/Economy
5:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

April car sales up, but not for all

U-S car sales rose about two percent in April from the same month last year.

That's better news than it sounds, according to Michelle Krebs of Edmunds dot com. She says there were three fewer selling days this April than there were last year.

Krebs says small car sales remained brisk in April, because of high gas prices. But she says sales of midsize cars like the Honda Accord and Chevy Malibu are also increasing.

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Offbeat
5:12 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Bee Sting's identity revealed, shunned by peer, others raising cash

Bee Sting talking to Lansing 6 News.
YouTube

Last week, the identity of "real-life superhero Bee Sting" was revealed at an arraignment.

Now we know that "Bee Sting" is actually Adam Besso of Sterling Heights. 

Besso was arrested after pulling a shotgun on a motorcyclist in a trailer park in Burton, Michigan.

Besso approached the man saying the man's motorcycle was too loud. A struggle ensued and Besso's shotgun discharged. Thankfully, no one was injured.

MLive spoke with Tom Carter, the man who was approached by Besso. Carter told MLive he was surprised when the masked man confronted him in the trailer park:

"I couldn't hear him, so I started to approach him and that's when the gun came out," said Carter, 38, about the incident with Bee Sting.
"As soon as I saw the gun I was thinking I didn't want my kids to get shot."

The use of a gun has not only offended law enforcement, it offended another real-life superhero.

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Auto/Economy
3:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan is home to the Motor City, but what if young people stop driving?

user (Buchanan-Hermit) wikimedia commons

In a state like Michigan, with a history that's virtually inseparable from that of the automobile, it might be hard to imagine a life without cars. But according to  a recent report, an increasing number of the nation's young people are choosing to drive less or not to drive at all.

The report found that:

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Crime
3:18 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan State University study claims stun guns cause more injuries

(courtesy of Guyism.com)

There’s a new study from Michigan State University that finds stun guns, when used by police officers, are more likely to cause injuries to civilians than previously believed.

Its becoming more common for police officers to carry stun guns. The weapons deliver a high voltage electric charge subduing combative individuals. The weapons are marketed as being ‘non-harmful’.    

But MSU criminologist Bill Terrill disagrees.

"It’s clearly not the case in our studies," says Terrill, "In fact, they have significant greater percentage of injuries when officers use a Taser as opposed to using other types of force.”

Steve Tuttle is a spokesman for Taser, the largest manufacturer of stun guns.  Pointing to other studies, he says the MSU study’s numbers are inflated. Tuttle says the type of minor puncture wounds and burns caused by most stun guns are hardly significant injuries.

"We would be seeing challenges in court if there were significant injuries from these and we’re not," says Tuttle.

MSU researchers also found police officers who use a stun gun to subdue an individual are half as likely to be injured as an officer who uses a different non-lethal method. 

People
2:59 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Ex-Detroit, Wayne County finance chief Marshall dies

DETROIT (AP) - Ex-Detroit and Wayne County financial chief Bella Marshall has died. She was 62.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says that Marshall died Tuesday morning at her home but didn't give the cause.

Marshall served as Detroit's finance director under longtime Mayor Coleman Young. She later served as Wayne County's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Marshall was married to the late casino promoter Don Barden but was in the midst of a contentious divorce when he died in May 2011.

Barden made millions with cable TV franchises in Detroit and the suburbs and later owned casinos in Indiana, Las Vegas, Colorado and Mississippi.

He and Marshall had feuded in recent years over Barden's ability to manage his assets.

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Politics
1:18 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Occupy protesters rally in Detroit, "slow start" in New York

From an Occupy Detroit rally last year.
Occupy Detroit

The Occupy movement promised more action this spring. "May Day" - today - is supposed to be one of those days.

The Detroit Free Press reports Occupy Detroit protestors are planning rallies in the city today:

They planned to begin at noon at Clark Park in southwest Detroit and then walk to schools, a bus station, and the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit before ending at Grand Circus Park, the site of the group's encampment last year, at about 3:45 p.m., organizers said.

David Sands of the Detroit Huffington Post is live updating today's events. At 12:34 he reported:

A mixed crowd of about 150 people have gathered around the stage in Clark Park, where a huge banner hangs reading, "It's Not One Thing, It's Everything."

Martha Gervatt, 54 and a UAW Local 869 member, said she was there to support workers' rights.

"I'm here because it's important that we revive the spirit of May Day," she said.

Occupy Detroit protestors plan to hold events in Grand Circus Park through tomorrow.

On Saturday, May 5, they're planning an event at Eastern Market in Detroit.

Reuters reports Occupy Wall Street's protest in New York is off to a "slow start" with small gatherings at a handful of spots around the city:

At Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, about 100 activists gathered where the group had promised a "pop-up encampment" emblematic of the movement's early days in lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park near the Wall Street financial district.

The crowd soon dispersed to other locations to demonstrate, including directly across the street from Bryant Park at the Bank of America tower. About two dozen activists picketed in front of the building's main entrance. One person was arrested in the middle of 6th Avenue in front of the building.

The group said it expected greater participation in events planned for later in the day as it tries to breathe fresh life into the movement that sparked a wave of nationwide protests against economic injustice eight months ago.

But why take Reuters word for it?

You can watch a livestream of the Occupy Wall Street protest in NY. The "Guitarmy" is currently marching toward Union Square.

Politics
12:10 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Organizers hope to make Michigan fifth "Constitutional Carry" state

user Joshuashearn wikimedia commons

The Citizens League for Self-Defense plans to hold a "Constitutional Carry" rally in Lansing on May 19.

Their goal is to strip the laws in Michigan that limit a person's ability to carry a concealed handgun.

They're also organizing a petition drive.

The rally comes as Michigan lawmakers debate legislation that would allow permit holders to carry concealed handguns in places where concealed guns are currently off-limits under the law, such as sports stadiums, churches, and schools, so long as they get extra training.

MLive's John Barnes reports, "organizers of the rally would like to take that a step further":

 “We feel that the political climate is getting right for being able to recognize constitutional carry in Michigan,” said John Roshek, president of the Citizens League for Self Defense.

“The goal of the rally is to get Michigan to be the fifth constitutional carry state in the country.”

Currently Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming allow the carrying of concealed firearms without restrictions.

The Citizens League for Self-Defense says the constitution is clear:

The 2nd Amendment is clear, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It does not state "Unless you have a license or permission". Until our 2A rights are restored nationwide we support CPL's for the purpose of reciprocity with other states, but they should not be a requirement to carry a concealed pistol.

The amendment states:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

And here's how that amendment has been interpreted over time from FindLaw.com.

*Correction - an earlier post was titled "Organizers hope to make Michigan sixth 'Constitutional Carry' state." We changed it to "fifth" to reflect states that have no restrictions. Depending on how you count, some count Montana in the group. We also clarified language pertaining to "gun free zones" in Michigan.

Commentary
11:51 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Commentary: More companies betting on Detroit

There’s an old Russian saying that, even, if you covered the world with asphalt, eventually a crack would form.

And in that crack, grass would grow. I was reminded of that yesterday by an Italian businessman my age, a man who is betting on green shoots coming through a town caked with many layers of asphalt. His name is Sergio Marchionne, and he is the CEO of a company called Fiat. Three years ago, he did something many at the time thought stupid. He took over a dying bankrupt company.

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Environment
10:57 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan DNR wants to resolve encroachment conflicts on public land

The Department of Natural Resources has started a program to help people resolve issues of encroachment on public land.

MDNR officials say they want to work with people who are trespassing, by having either a permanent-structure or historical-encroachment.

They say they're writing to property owners with known encroachments on public land, telling them they're eligible to resolve their cases without penalty.

Applications will be accepted through December 31.

Environment
9:00 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Report: Pipeline laws inadequate to protect Great Lakes

The pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy that ruptured in July 2010.
NTSB

A new report argues that our current laws are not strong enough to protect the Great Lakes from major oil spills. 

The National Wildlife Federation wanted to look at pipeline oversight after the massive tar sands oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.  The spill was the result of a ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy.  (The official cause of the spill is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board)

Sara Gosman is an attorney who wrote the report for the National Wildlife Federation.

"Federal laws are inadequate and states have not passed their own laws to fill in the gaps."

We’ve previously reported the spill ran through some of the highest quality wetlands in Michigan.

Sara Gosman says federal laws on oil pipelines do not protect all environmentally sensitive areas.  Instead, the laws cover something called high consequence areas.

"It’s a term of art used by the federal pipeline agency.  It’s a bunch of different areas.  For environmental purposes, it’s commercially navigable waterways, areas with threatened and endangered species and drinking water sources."

Gosman says federal government data show 44% of hazardous liquid pipelines in the country run through places that could affect high consequence areas.  She says that means companies have to do special inspections on those segments of pipelines... but not necessarily on the rest of the pipelines.

"This means 56% of hazardous liquid pipeline miles do not have to be continually assessed, have leak detection systems or be repaired on set timelines."

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News Roundup
8:13 am
Tue May 1, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Chrysler sales rise in April

Based on strong demand for Jeep and Chrysler brand cars and trucks, Chrysler says its U.S. auto sales rose in April by 20 percent. The Associated Press reports:

The company said it sold more than 141,000 vehicles, its best April in four years. It was the 25th straight month that Chrysler posted year-over-year sales gains. Chrysler says its sales were led by the 200 midsize sedan with a 61 percent increase over April of last year. Jeep Wrangler SUV sales were up 35 percent. All major automakers are scheduled to report April sales figures on Tuesday. Sales are expected to slow a bit from the blistering pace of February and March. Auto research site Edmunds.com expects sales to rise 2 percent over April of 2011 to nearly 1.2 million cars and trucks.

Review team to Pontiac school district

Pontiac’s Interim Superintendent Walter Burt says a state review team is coming to his school district to review the district’s finances, The Oakland Press reports. From the Press:

The state is expected to send a review team to the Pontiac school district as school officials struggle to meet the mandatory plan to eliminate a $24.5 million deficit. This step by the state brings the district closer to having a state emergency manager put in place to run district operations. The Michigan Department of Education has been withholding the April 20 state aid of $1.25 million because district officials have not so far been able to satisfy the first year’s part of the three-year deficit reduction plan… Once it reviews district books, the team would make recommendations to the Pontiac Board of Education, which would be expected to give a stamp of approval to carrying out those proposals.

Personal Property Tax rolls on in state Legislature

The effort to phase out Michigan’s tax on industrial equipment is expected to clear a major hurdle this week as a state Senate committee wraps up hearings on the plan. “A vote in the full Senate could come as soon as this week. Manufacturers say Michigan’s tax on industrial equipment, also known as the Personal Property Tax, is a drag on the state’s economic recovery. The Senate plan would eliminate the tax on industrial equipment by 2022. But local governments rely on that revenue to pay for everything from police and fire to parks and libraries. Communities with a lot of factories would be hit hardest by the loss of tax revenue. Local officials complain the phase-out plan does not guarantee they’ll recover all the lost revenue, which would force cuts to services or force local tax hikes to make up the difference,” Rick Pluta reports.

Flint
12:24 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Critics lash out at Flint's emergency manager

One of the many angry Flint residents who turned out for last night's public meeting on the budget plan the city's emergency manager imposed last week
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint’s emergency manager got an earful during a public meeting last night on the budget he imposed on the city last week.

Emergency manager Michael Brown had planned to take the first half hour of a 90 minute public meeting to review his budget plan and then allow an hour for questions.

But the budget presentation had barely started, when several people in the nearly full auditorium jumped to their feet to shout down the emergency manager.

After the outburst, a parade of people took turns at the podium denouncing emergency manager Michael Brown, the law that put him in charge of Flint and the budget he introduced and imposed last week. That budget cuts the city’s workforce by about 20 percent and imposes hundreds of dollars in new fees for city water, street light and other city services.

Flint resident Carolyn Shannon questioned the expertise behind the decision to make deep cuts to the city’s police and fire departments.  

“Even a person off the street…can cut somebody’s throat," scolded Shannon.

One man, identified only as Maurice, glared at Brown as he talked about how he can’t afford to pay any more taxes.

"You want to take more from me and my daughter?" the man asked, "You ain’t no different than these people that are out here murdering our own children."  

Brown insists the budget cuts and fee increases are needed to address Flint’s  projected $25 million gap next year. That's not Flint's only financial problem. The city is also seeking the state's OK to sell more than $18 million in loans to pay off the city debts from the past few budget years.

Lansing
12:06 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Lansing city budget review entering final weeks

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero seen here delivering his FY2013 budget address earlier this year
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council may soon face a critical test to see if it might be able to override the mayor’s plans for how to spend property tax money earmarked for public safety.

The Lansing city council is expected to vote in two weeks on the city’s budget for next year. But one major point of contention between the council and mayor Virg Bernero remains.

Voters last year approved a special public safety property tax. The mayor wants to spend part of the revenue next year on hiring back more than a half dozen laid off police officers and renovate a city owned building for police operations.

But Council President Brian Jeffries and other council members would rather all the money be spent on hiring laid off police officers. But in the end, he says it’s a question of numbers.

"It takes five votes to amend the budget on the floor," says Jeffries, "and once its passed it takes six votes to override a veto."

Jeffries says he hasn’t polled his fellow council members on how they will vote on the mayor’s public safety budget.

The council has until the middle of this month to act on the mayor’s budget plan.

Auto/Economy
6:07 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Chrysler factory to stay open this summer to make more Jeep Grand Cherokees

Chrysler says its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit will forgo the traditional two-week shutdown this summer.

The unusual move will help the company keep up with strong demand for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. 

Sales of the new Durango are up 33% from last year, and sales of the new Grand Cherokee are up 44%.  

The factory's employees are already working nine hour shifts plus two Saturdays a month, but Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson thinks they don't mind.

"Considering where we have been over the last couple of years, I think there is a very positive feeling that these vehicles are being so well received," says Tinson.   "And they (workers) are reaping the benefits by being able to work some overtime."

Chrysler had been planning to hire 1,100 new workers at the plant next January but will move that ahead to this November.

Transportation
6:06 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

New program, more promised improvements for Detroit buses

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit leaders are promising better service for the city’s more than 100,000 regular bus riders.

Officials phased in what they’re calling the "415 plan" this past weekend.

It promises service every fifteen minutes along the city’s four busiest bus routes during peak riding hours (6 am-6 pm).

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing turned bus management over to a private firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, earlier this year. He credits them with improving service.

“I think the outside management team has worked very, very well with our employees," said Bing, speaking Monday during his first day back from more than a month-long battle with health problems. "They’re listening to each other, they’re good ideas being brought to the table, and the implementation plan is moving forward.”

But the four-fifteen initiative comes on the heels of cutbacks to other city bus routes, and the elimination of overnight service.

And while timely service has improved, city officials admit it’s still a long way from where it needs to be.

“It should be 90-95% [on-time]," said Detroit Department of Transportation CEO Ron Freeland. "Especially when you consider that most of our customers are going to use more than one bus line.”

In a report released just last week, the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United gave Detroit’s bus system a “D-minus” grade—with only 63% of buses arriving on-time.

Science/Medicine
3:13 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Report: Percentage of low-birthweight babies on the rise in Michigan

user anitapatterson morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan has made some progress in improving maternal and infant well-being.

The Michigan League for Human Services' Kids Count in Michigan project found a drop in the percentage of teen births over the past decade. Repeat births to teens and pre-term births have also decreased.

But it’s not all good news. Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Mchigan project director, says the state saw worsening trends over the decade in babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds, or low-birthweight babies.

"One of indicators that is of most concern is the 7 percent increase in low-birthweight, because that is what drives infant mortality particularly in the African American community."

African Americans babies had double the risk of being born too small, compared to white and Hispanic babies.

The report calls for more state investment in programs and policies to improve the well-being of mothers, and provide a stronger safety net for low-income families and their children.

Zehnder-Merrell says these data are not only indicators of how successful the next generation will be, but also "how successful our state will be."

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Politics
2:56 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Industrial tax roll back headed to Michigan Senate

Andrew Jameson Wikimedia commons

A plan to roll back taxes...that some criticize, but others rely on...is expected to clear a major hurdle this week. A legislative committee is expected to wrap up hearings on the plan, and send it to the floor of the state Senate.

Maufacturers say there would be more hiring and investment in factories if not for Michigan’s unique tax on industrial equipment. The Senate plan would phase out the tax – starting next year -- by 2022.

But the Republican proposal would not replace all the revenue lost to local governments that rely on the tax as a source of funding for services. Communities with a big industrial presence would be hit the hardest.

They say with no guarantee that all the revenue will be replaced, they could be forced to cut services more than they have already, or increase other taxes to make up the difference.

Politics
2:03 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Flint protestors gather to oppose emergency manager

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Protesters gathered in Flint to voice their opposition to the emergency manager in their city.

Since last December, Michael Brown, Flint's emergency manager, has been making decisions normally reserved for city council and the mayor. He's expected to present his budget plan for the city during a public meeting with Flint City Council tonight.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports the protestors gathered outside Flint City Hall before moving inside.

The group of more than 25 Flint residents and community members braved the rain to protest what they consider "taxation without representation" under the emergency manager in Flint.

Brown adopted a budget plan last week that includes fee increases for Flint residents as well as a possible reduction of 19 police officers and 31 firefighters through layoffs and attrition. Overall, city personnel would be reduced by about 150 positions.

Longley reports lifelong Flint resident Ralph Arellano would be willing to pay more taxes for better public safety in Flint - Arello said the emergency manager system "is undemocratic and undermines voters."

"It's all about public safety. There's not one person who lives in Flint who doesn't have some story about public safety," said Arellano, who said his home has been broken into twice. "The decisions they're making are short-term and they're short-sighted."

Protestors put up garage sale signs with the names of some of Flint's assets (ex. Brennan Park and Hurley Hospital) that could be sold off by Michael Brown should he decide to do so.

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