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Environment
6:51 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Health concerns lingering after Kalamazoo River oil spill

It’s been more than a year since a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured... spilling more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup continues. And people who live near the river say they’re worried about what they might have been exposed to when the spill happened... and what they might still be getting exposed to.

The majority of the oil has been cleaned up, but there are still significant amounts of submerged oil on the bottom of the river.

The Michigan Department of Community Health recently put out a report on the risks of contact with that submerged oil.

Jennifer Gray is with the MDCH.

“We concluded that in terms of long term health issues, so health issues that would stay with you after the contact was done, or things like developing cancer, that contact with the chemicals in the submerged oil wouldn’t really cause these kinds of effects.”

She says people could have short term health effects from contact with the oil - things such as skin irritation.

The assessment did not include any health risks from breathing in chemicals from the remaining oil. Jennifer Gray says her agency is currently evaluating air monitoring data from the early days of the spill... and says they’re continuing to look at other ways people might be exposed to the oil that remains.

The areas of the Kalamazoo River that were affected by the spill are still closed for recreation.

People who live near the spill site want local officials to conduct a long-term health study.

Riki Ott is a marine toxicologist from Alaska. She’s spent the past two decades charting health problems from people who live near the site of the Exxon Valdez spill and last year’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She’s in Battle Creek this week to talk with people affected by the Kalamazoo River spill.

“I could have zipped back in time and it would be the same things as Exxon Valdez residents and workers, the same thing I’ve heard in the Gulf for a full year and here now. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, rashes, these things are not going away. People want answers.”

Ott says it’s too early to rule out the potential of long term health effects from the Kalamazoo River oil spill.

“If the state is acknowledging there could be short term health effects, then that means there could also be long term health effects.”

The Calhoun County Health Department has petitioned the federal government for a long term health study on residents.

Environment
6:13 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Foes make final try to block UP mine

Opponents of a planned nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are making a final legal appeal to halt initial blasting at the site.

Four organizations have filed a motion in Ingham County Circuit Court for a stay of mining permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality. A judge with the court is considering an appeal of the DEQ's decision to grant the permits.

The Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve say the mine jeopardizes water and air quality in the forestland of western Marquette County. They say extracting minerals at the site could pollute ground and surface waters with sulfuric acid.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals says the project can be carried out while safeguarding the environment.

Politics
5:45 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

More Medicare fraud charges announced in Detroit

Federal prosecutors in Detroit have charged another 28 people in three alleged Medicare fraud schemes.

The allegations outline typical Medicare fraud schemes totaling over 28-million dollars.

One scheme involved 14 people operating out of the Detroit suburb of Livonia, who allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for home health care services.

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Environment
5:41 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Dingell hosts panel on "vanishing" hunting and fishing opportunities

John Dingell

Michigan Congressman John Dingell hosted a panel about the shrinking hunting and fishing opportunities in the state.

Dingell says conserving places to hunt and fish are keys to Michigan’s quality of life.

And he says hunters and anglers are good people to ask about how those places are impacted by climate change and other threats to the Great Lakes, because, “Sportsmen are really one of the first lines of defense for the protection of our environment.”

Dingell says he’s also working on building up protected natural areas in southeast Michigan.

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Politics
5:10 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Limit on cash assistance and welfare reform in Michigan

Michigan State Capitol
Matt Katzenberger Flickr

The legislature recently approved a bill that would impose a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare cash assistance. The new limits could affect 12,000 families in Michigan. Governor Snyder has yet to sign the bill into law.

In this week's political roundup we talk about the bill with Debbie Dingell, a Democratic Political Analyst and member of the Democratic National Committee and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Dingell says:

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Environment
4:37 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Coal regulations could reshape Midwest energy

The W.C. Beckjord Station along the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Duke Energy says it plans to close the coal burning power plant in 2015 because updating the plant to meet new environmental regulations would be too costly.
courtesy of Duke Energy

The Midwest relies so heavily on one source of power that some call us the "coal belt."

Coal is cheap and plentiful, but that’s about to change.

A wave of government regulations is about to hit the electric industry.

Ed Malley, a Vice President at industry consulting firm, TRC Corporation has a name for all the new rules coming down the track: “The train wreck.”

That "train wreck" is the list of environmental regulations expected to be in place within the next few years.

Electric utilities say this will mean the shutting of power plants, leading to higher prices and less peak capacity for hot summer days. Environmentalists say: about time.

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Environment
3:50 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Help wanted: Great Lakes cleanup

The federal government says it will spend six million dollars to hire jobless workers for Great Lakes cleanup projects.

Conservation groups often make the claim that environmental cleanup and restoration efforts are good for the economy.

Andy Buchsbaum works for one of those groups. He heads the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation, which lobbied aggressively for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The federal government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the initiative. It includes projects like toxic pollution cleanup, restoring wildlife habitat, and fighting invasive species.

Buchsbaum says projects like those will need lots of engineers, landscapers and construction workers.

“They’re the people who actually move the dirt, move things around, constructing sewage facilities, cleaning up contaminated sediment. All those activities have a variety of direct jobs associated with them.”

Buchsbaum says there are also indirect jobs created when those people start spending money on things like groceries and rent.

The Environmental Protection Agency is likening the hiring initiative to the Civilian Conservation Corps – the New Deal program that put single, unemployed men to work doing manual labor.

Arts/Culture
3:32 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Aretha Franklin plans to sing during Obama's Detroit visit

Aretha Franklin will perform during President Barack Obama's visit to Detroit on Labor Day.
fotopedia

President Obama will be in Detroit Monday, September 5 to speak at the city's annual Labor Day festivities.

Aretha Franklin will sing at the event which will be free and open to the public.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The event will be held at General Motor’s parking lot adjacent to the Renaissance Center on Atwater Street.

The gates will open at 10 a.m. for Obama’s speech, which is expected to begin at 1:15 p.m. The public should expect to go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible. No bags, sharp objects, chairs, umbrellas, liquids or signs will be allowed inside the speech area.

Politics
2:58 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

No layoff notices for Michigan's state employees

Update 3:12 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has decided not to send out 30-day layoff notices to thousands of state workers while contract bargaining continues.

Allowing today’s deadline to pass means no workers can be laid off with the start of the state’s new fiscal year on October 1.

The governor’s spokeswoman says he wants to send a signal that he’s confident a deal can be reached without resorting to layoffs and other temporary solutions to keep the state budget balanced.

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, the largest state employee union. He says the decision not to send layoff notices was the right one.

 "We agree with Governor Snyder that we need to make structural changes and what we need to do is look at the private contracts and then also invest in frontline staff, invest in the foot soldiers - the people actually doing the work."

Holman says that means managers should be first in line to lose their jobs to budget cuts.

The Snyder administration is trying to convince state employees to pick up a bigger share of their health and retirement costs.

The administration is looking for a total of $265 million dollars in employee savings.

2:58 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder's administration will not send layoff notices to state employees as contract talks continue.

Snyder's spokeswoman says he wants to send a signal to state employees that he believes a deal can be struck before the state's new fiscal year begins on October 1.

State contracts require 30-day notice before layoffs can occur.

Business
2:10 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Stores in Michigan no longer need individual price tags as of today

No more individual price tags in Michigan stores as of today.
user walmart stores Flickr

Governor Snyder called for it last January during his first State of the State address, the law passed the legislature, and now it's in effect.

Individual price tags on each item are no longer in Michigan stores as of today.

From the Associated Press:

For the first time in decades, price tags no longer are required on most retail items in Michigan stores.

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Arts/Culture
1:16 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Flint program teaches kids to write & produce music (audio slideshow)

Studio on the Go helps kids in Flint, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids express themselves through song writing and production.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

When something big happens in your life, sometimes you just have to get it out.

Talk to a friend. Share it with your family, or just shout it out loud.

You know, express yourself a little.

Expression through song writing and production are skills that the organizers of Studio on the Go hope to teach kids in Michigan.

Kyle Norris reports the program "travels to schools and community centers in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo":

Kids use computers and keyboards to make music and beats and then they write lyrics about their lives, and finally record the songs. Kids are given a topic to write about, like "education," “making it” and "family"... The results are songs about their personal struggles along with heartfelt tributes. Some kids sing about what it’s like to have someone they love die or to have a family member in jail. Instructors say the kids learn a combination of technical skills along with life skills.

Michigan Radio's Multimedia Producer Mercedes Mejia and Reporter Kyle Norris put this video together about the program:

 

  

 

If Studio on the Go came to your town, what would your "making it" or "family" song be about?

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Commentary
1:10 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

A Conversation with Rick Snyder

So, who is Rick Snyder, really? I spent a half hour talking to the governor yesterday, the first long conversation I’ve had with him since he took office exactly eight months ago.

Since then, he’s gotten more through the legislature than the last governor did in eight years. He’s also been the subject of nasty criticism and a recall attempt.

I was curious about a lot of things, one of which being whether he still likes this job he worked so hard at winning a year ago.

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Sports
12:34 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Magic urges no prison for Jay Vincent

DETROIT (AP) - Former NBA star Magic Johnson is asking a Michigan judge for "mercy" and no prison for former college teammate Jay Vincent.

Vincent will be sentenced Friday for fraud. He and Johnson grew up in Lansing and were stars on the 1979 Michigan State national championship team.

In a letter to a federal judge in Grand Rapids, Johnson says Vincent is a "really good guy" with a "tremendous heart." Johnson believes Vincent got involved with the wrong people and "made some really bad decisions."

Like Johnson, the 52-year-old Vincent also played in the NBA. He pleaded guilty in a fraud case involving thousands of people who paid to become certified home inspectors. Prosecutors are recommending nine years in prison. Vincent has been in jail since late July for a bond violation.

News Roundup
9:09 am
Thu September 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, September 1st, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Deadline Comes and Goes for Enbridge

Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline that leaked some 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River last summer, has failed to meet a deadline to clean up some of the submerged oil that remains from the spill. From the Associated Press:

The Kalamazoo Gazette and WWMT-TV say Enbridge Energy notified federal regulators that it would not meet the Wednesday deadline. Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum tells the Gazette there are many reasons. He says the scope of the cleanup grew over the summer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is investigating.

Report: MI Setting (Bad) Unemployment Record

An annual report by the Michigan League for Human Services says more than half of unemployed workers between the ages of 26 and 54 looked for work for six months or longer last year. “Even in the 1980's recession when unemployment overall was higher, the long-term unemployment rate was much lower than it is now,” says Karen Holcomb-Merrill who works for the league.

So Long, Price Tags

The state requirement that almost everything sold in Michigan have a price-tag ends today, as a result, the Detroit Free Press explains, “of legislation passed early this year at the urging of Gov. Rick Snyder.” The Free reports:

Snyder and other advocates for repeal said Michigan's item-pricing law, the strictest in the nation, was a relic of an era that was slowing innovation and adding more than $2 billion a year in costs to consumers. Defenders of the old law said repeal would sow frustration and anger among shoppers, result in layoffs for store clerks, and doubted that consumer savings would follow… In the absence of individual stickers, the new law requires that prices be displayed conspicuously and in close proximity to the item on sale.

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Arts/Culture
8:24 am
Thu September 1, 2011

Kids make music about their lives & struggles

Kids compose music and write their own lyrics at Studio on the Go
Mercedes Mejia

A program based out of Flint teaches kids the fundamentals of songwriting and music production. But the songs kids write are not your typical bubble-gum pop. The program is a professional music studio that travels to schools and community centers in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo. It's called Studio on the Go.

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Offbeat
7:55 am
Thu September 1, 2011

Five high school students, along with an expedition leader, find two shipwrecks in Lake Huron

Five high school students from Saginaw were lucky enough to spend part of their summer looking for shipwrecks in Lake Huron. And, they found, not just one shipwreck... but two: the M.F. Merrick and the Etruria. Both ships are over 100 years old. The students found the ships through the program, "Project Shiphunt" along with their team leader Dr. James Delgado, a marine archeologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

We spoke with Dr. Delgado and high school student Cody Frost, one of the five students who found the shipwrecks, this morning.

Politics
7:05 am
Thu September 1, 2011

Decision expected today on state employee layoff notices

It’s expected that the Snyder administration will announce today whether the state will issue layoff notices to some 50,000 state employees, the Detroit News reports. The administration wants $265 million worth of concessions from state employees but state employee unions say there are other ways for the state to save money.

Negotiations have been under way between the Snyder administration and state employees since July but a deal has not been reached. From the Detroit News:

Gov. Rick Snyder met Wednesday with his top budget officials, just ahead of today's deadline for sending out notices if the state opts to lay off employees Oct. 1.

Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said internal discussions were continuing…

State officials have been told to prepare contingency plans for layoffs in case concessions can't be negotiated.

Because a 30-day layoff notice is required, the state would have to send out notices today if it wanted to achieve a full year of savings by making any layoffs effective Oct. 1.

Talks have been under way, but no progress has been made, Weiss said.

"State employee unions say state government is top heavy with managers and has too many contracts – and the Snyder administration should look those first before looking to squeeze more from frontline workers or lay them off," Lansing reporter Rick Pluta explains.

Election 2012
6:47 am
Thu September 1, 2011

McCotter complains of exclusion from debate

Michigan Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right)
Republican Conference Flickr

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter is complaining about his exclusion from next week's MSNBC Republican presidential debate because of his standing in the polls.

Booth Newspapers says MSNBC required candidates to get at least 4 percent support in one of eight polls. McCotter is a recent entrant to the race, officially declaring July 4.

Speaking Wednesday on "The Dennis Miller Show," the Livonia congressman said some of the eight candidates who'll be on stage Sept. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library are tied with him in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. That's because they did better in earlier polls.

That poll shows McCotter, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum all at 1 percent.

The Associated Press left phone and email messages with MSNBC seeking comment after business hours Wednesday.

Politics
5:28 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Michigan court strikes down medical marijuana legal defense

The Michigan Court of Appeals struck down Brian Reed's medical marijuana legal defense today.
Garretttaggs55 wikipedia commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected the legal defense of a man who got a medical marijuana card after he was busted for possession.

This the second time in two weeks the appeals court has narrowed the scope of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Last week, the appeals court ruled shops where money is exchanged for medical marijuana are illegal.

Now the court has ruled people who grow marijuana better have their state-issued medical marijuana cards in hand – getting one after a police raid is no defense against prosecution.

The court struck down the defense against marijuana charges that has been tried in several Michigan counties.

Brian Reed’s home was raided after a police drug team spotted six marijuana plants growing in his backyard.

Reed says he never got a medical marijuana card because his regular doctors work for a clinic that would lose its federal funding if they prescribed marijuana to patients.

Between the raid and when he was formally arrested and charged, Reed got a different doctor’s approval and a state-issued medical marijuana card as a treatment for chronic back pain.

Reed said that should be enough to protect from prosecution under Michigan’s medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 2008.

The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling and agreed a person busted for marijuana possession cannot use getting a doctor’s permission after the fact as a legal defense.

The ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which already has two other medical marijuana cases on its docket.

Education
4:01 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Security takes center stage as Detroit schools prepare to open

Detroit Public Schools, the city of Detroit, and several public safety agencies are launching what they call an “unprecedented, multi-agency” school safety initiative.

The initiative includes updated monitoring equipment; designated safe routes and patrols around three schools deemed “hot spots”; and monitoring social media sites for potential problems.

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