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Sports
7:00 am
Fri November 18, 2011

The most powerful people in sports: Joe Paterno and the cult of the college coach

A statue of Joe Paterno stands on the Penn State campus
user audreyjm529 Flickr

College football coaches are far from the richest people in sports, but they could be the most powerful.  That might seem far-fetched, but not to the disciples of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Tom Osborne, among others, who rose to become almost spiritual leaders at their schools.   

At University of Michigan President James Duderstadt’s retirement banquet in 1996, he said being president wasn’t easy, but it came with some nice perks.  He even got to meet the man thousands of people considered God.  “No,” he said, “not Bo Schembechler, but the Dalai Lama.”

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Culture of Class
6:52 am
Fri November 18, 2011

The myth of "Upward Mobility"

It's not that easy to climb the class ladder in the U.S.
plastanka Flickr

Upward mobility: the idea that, if you work hard enough, you can climb the class ladder. It's part of the American Dream, right? That you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that you can make a better life for yourself, that your children and grandchildren will have a better life than you do.

But, the fact is, upward mobility in the U.S. is just not that easy. And, it doesn't happen nearly as much as many American believe.

As part of our The Culture of Class series, we spoke to Economics Professor Steven Haider, of Michigan State University, about why the myth of upward mobility exists and why Americans, in particular, are so apt to believe in it.

Inform our coverage: Do you believe in upward mobility?

Politics
10:23 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Detroit Mayor's plea for payment gets cool reception in Lansing

Critics and allies alike say Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's proposal to get the state to pay the city more than $200 million faces an uphill battle.

It’s one of the ideas the Mayor has outlined to keep the city from going broke.

In 1998, Detroit lowered its city income tax in exchange for guaranteed levels of state revenue sharing. But city officials say the state reneged, and shorted Detroit about $220 million it was promised.

Bing says that would be enough to erase the city’s structural deficit, and the $45-million shortfall the city expects this year.

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Politics
7:25 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. Census: Michigan among states receiving most food assistance

Liz West Flickr

Michigan ranks third highest in the nation for the percent of households that receive food stamps. That’s according to U.S. Census data. Oregon and Tennessee top the list.

The data show nearly 17 percent of Michigan households have at least one person who receives food assistance from the federal government.

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, with the Michigan League for Human Services, said about two million people receive aid to buy food.

“That’s a really huge number when you consider that the population of the state is under 10 million,” said Holdcomb-Merrill.

But she said that number has gone down since the beginning of the year.

“One of the reasons for that is that the Department of Human Services changed their rules and their polices with regards to college students receiving food assistance,” said Holcomb-Merrill. “And as a result of that, about 30,000 college students were dropped from food assistance earlier this year.”

Holcomb-Merrill said some college food pantries are now struggling to meet the need of low-income college students.

She expects the number will go down with new eligibility rules for food aid. The rules disqualify people with too many assets from getting assistance.

Holcomb-Merrill says several states have scrapped similar rules because they prevent many people who need help from getting it.

Education
6:57 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

State takes a step in potential takeover of Benton Harbor Schools

The State of Michigan will conduct a preliminary review of the "critical and alarming financial situation" at Benton Harbor Area Schools. This is the first step in a process that would determine if the school district needs a state-appointed emergency manager. It doesn’t mean one would be appointed for certain.

Leonard Seawood has been superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools for a little more than a year. “When you are in a deficit like I inherited…there are no easy answers in terms to digging yourself out of this hole as a district,” Seawood said.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Ann Arbor students petition Michigan legislature for strong anti-bullying bill

A petition calling on state lawmakers to approve a strong anti-bullying bill has received more than 50,000 signatures.

The petition was started by an 11th grader and an 8th grader in Ann Arbor, on the website change.org.

Mark Anthony Dingbaum, with change.org, said the two students – Katy and Carson – want the bill to list characteristics that should be protected from bullying.

He said the students who started the petition have first-hand experience with bullying.

“They identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, across the board,” said Dingbaum. “And I know that they’ve spoken out on this issue before, and I know that they were very interested in having their voice injected into the conversation this time.”

Dingbaum said the current proposal leaves gay students out of the conversation and unprotected.

“In the process I think these students voices are getting lost, and I think what’s been really inspiring for me in hearing Katy and Carson’s story is that those groups, those enumerated groups, those enumerated protections in the bill are essential because they are the groups that are most likely to be bullied in school,” said Dingbaum.

The petition also calls on lawmakers to require schools to report bullying incidents to the state.

Democratic leaders in the state Senate say the anti-bullying measure approved by the state House last week is not perfect, but it’s a good start. They say they hope to approve that bill in a couple weeks, and will continue to push for listing and reporting requirements in the future.

Politics
4:59 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

A look ahead at the state legislative agenda

Michigan State Capitol
user: mattileo/flickr

With the legislature on their "hunting break" right now and the holidays quickly approaching, there’s not much time to get legislative agenda items pushed through before the end of the year.

In this week's political roundup we take a look at what we might expect between now and the end of the year.

Economy
3:31 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

U-M economic forecast: sluggish job growth

The nation's road to economic recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint. That's according to an economic forecast released today from the University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics.

The economists write the U.S. economy has been battered by an oil price spike this past spring, the Japanese earthquake, and the European debt crisis.

Despite that, they say the chances of a double-dip recession are lessening:

From the report:

Economic news has improved a bit this fall, lessening the chances of a double dip. Output growth rebounded in the third quarter to register a 2.5 percent pace. Job gains have picked up a notch, averaging 117,000 since midyear. Consumer sentiment has reclaimed part of the ground lost since May. The economy remains vulnerable, however, as the main problems that have plagued this recovery persist.

The Detroit Free Press quoted U-M economist Joan Crary about the slow addition of jobs to the U.S. economy:

On the positive side, the U.S. economy added 700,000 jobs last year and 1.5 million this year, and the U-M economists predicted that the nation will add nearly 4 million jobs over the next two years.

But that will be enough to bring the unemployment rate down only moderately, from its current national rate around 9% to 8.8% in late 2012 and 8.5% in late 2013.

"The unemployment rate begins to creep down but remains uncomfortably high even at the end of 2013— 4½ years after the official end of the recession," Crary said.

In their report, the U-M economists noted the potential impact of a political stalemate in Washington D.C.:

In the current political environment, it also seems unlikely that Congress will pass any new stimulus measures. We have assumed the payroll tax holiday and investment tax incentives will be held over for another year, but neither of those extensions is a sure thing. We may well end up with a fiscal policy that doesn’t address either our short- or long-term problems.

The group is expected to put out a report on Michigan's economy tomorrow.

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Culture of Class
2:00 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Essay: Class Warfare, Codified

Michigan Radio

When I was growing up, I knew a lot of kids whose fathers didn't earn a living working in the bowels of a factory like my dad.

Their dads were businessmen, doctors and bankers, but our families lived blocks away, not suburbs apart. So all of us kids attended the same schools. We cheered together at football games, discoed at the same dances and had the same teacher for algebra. Our parents didn't mingle much, but most of them voted for school levies and showed up for the junior class plays.

This is not to suggest I never felt the sting of inferiority. A working-class kid is always aware of other kids' economic advantages, but most of the time they were irrelevant. We were in the thick of it — together. Plodding side by side through life at a young age teaches us that people have more in common than they sometimes want to believe.

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Crime
1:32 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Flint to use high tech tool to target gun crime

SST inc.

The city of Flint is turning to a new high tech tool to crack down on gun crime in the city.    

The "Shot Spotter” system uses more than a dozen sonic sensors to pinpoint the location of where gun shots are fired in a square mile area. The SST system is already being used in more than 60 cities around the country, including Saginaw. 

Company president Ralph Clark said the Shot Spotter system should help Flint police officers respond to reports of gunfire in the city.  

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Politics
1:21 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Day of Action for Occupy groups

A protester carries two signs during 'Day of Action' protest in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

In cities across Michigan, Occupy groups are holding protests.

It's part of a national "Day of Action," called following clashes in some cities between Occupy protesters and police ordered to evict them from city parks. Occupy encampments in Michigan have either been allowed to continue or are breaking up for the winter with little or no police intervention.

In Flint, a small group of sign waving protesters stood outside city hall at noon.

A man who identified himself as Shadee said the movement is still coming together. 

"And that’s what we need is for people to come together…from all walks of life…from different factions…and make our voices heard," said Shadee. "Hopefully we can change the system around to one that benefits the people…and not just corporations, you know."  

The Occupy Wall Street movement started two months ago in New York.

Education
12:52 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Michigan universities among the top for international students

University of Michigan student union
Wikimedia Commons

According to Open Doors 2011, an annual report put out by the Institute of International Education with support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, two Michigan universities placed in the top 10 in terms of international student enrollment.

The University of Michigan came in at number eight with 5,995 enrolled international students in the 2010/11 academic year, while Michigan State was ninth on the list with 5,784.

The report shows a total number of 723,277 international students attending U.S. colleges and universities during the 2010/11 school year, a five percent increase over the previous year.

A press release form the IIE says:

This is the fifth consecutive year that Open Doors figures show growth in the total number of international students, and there are now 32 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than there were a decade ago. The 2010/11 rate of growth is stronger than the three percent increase in total international enrollment reported the previous year, and the six percent increase in new international student enrollment this past year shows more robust new growth than the one percent increase the prior year.

Increased numbers of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level, largely accounts for the growth this past year.

Included in the report is an assessment of possible positive economic results created by the increase in foriegn students:

International students contribute over $21 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher education is among the United States' top service sector exports, as international students provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying family members, and other miscellaneous items.

Open Doors reports that more than 60% of all international students receive the majority of their funds from personal and family sources. When other sources of foreign funding are included, such as assistance from their home country governments or universities, over 70% of all international students' primary funding comes from sources outside of the United States.

As part of our Changing Gears series, Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez considers some impacts more international students could have on the Midwest as a whole.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Commentary
12:18 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Education for Michigan kids: Their future, and ours

The other day I was on a panel with Nolan Finley, the editorial page editor of the Detroit News, talking about Michigan’s future.

We’ve done this a couple of times recently. I think some of the people who show up are looking for some sort of liberal-conservative food fight, and go away surprised that we are in as much agreement as we are over a lot of issues. Oh, there is a lot we disagree on.

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Culture of Class
11:49 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Bridging the Gap Between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph

Bridge between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in southwest Michigan.
Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

We've been talking a lot about class, what it means, and how we define it.

We took a trip to St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. They’re called the Twin Cities, but they're different.

In Benton Harbor forty-three percent of families live below the poverty line.

In St. Joseph it’s six percent.

And, families in St. Joseph earn more than twice as much as their neighbors across the river.

Here's a video produced by Meg Cramer and Mercedes Mejia who spoke to residents on both sides of the river.

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Culture of Class
11:45 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Neighborhood schools vs. "choice" debate about money, culture, and local control

American public education has a strong tradition of neighborhood schools within locally-controlled school districts. But that’s changed in recent years.

The vast majority of Michigan school districts participate to some degree in what’s known as schools of choice—meaning they’ll accept some students from outside their district’s borders.

Now Governor Snyder wants to make schools of choice mandatory. But many people are against that—including many in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe.

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Culture of Class
10:17 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Detroit residents consider Marathon buyout offers (part 2)

Linda Chernowas says she has health problems related to living in her polluted industrial neighborhood. But she says Marathon's offer isn't enough for her to get a comparable house elsewhere.
Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s only oil refinery is in the middle of a $2 billion dollar expansion project. Marathon Petroleum is expanding its refinery in southwest Detroit to process more heavy crude oil from Canada.

That expansion project is moving the footprint of Marathon’s refinery closer to people’s homes, especially the Oakwood Heights neighborhood in Southwest Detroit. A couple weeks ago, the company made a big announcement. Marathon is offering to buy about 350 homes in Oakwood Heights. The company is offering a minimum of $40,000 dollars plus half of what the home appraises for. There’s also money to help people relocate.

“We think it’s a very generous program. We think the neighborhood is going to be very happy with it.”

Tracy Case is with Marathon. He says the company is planning to demolish the homes it buys and create about a hundred acres of green space next to its refinery.

“You know, I think if you asked anybody in industry, or if you asked anybody that lives next to industry, they’d say yeah, that’s a good thing to have, to have the green space.”

He says the program is voluntary and no one will be forced to move.

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Detroit
7:39 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Mayor Bing: City government is broken

Bernt Rostad Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing addressed his city’s dire financial straits last night in a televised speech in which he said, “simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

“To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once. They include increased health care and pension contributions for everyone, including retirees; and 10-percent wage cuts rather than furlough days for current employees. Bing says that needs to include the city’s public safety officers. Those departments eat up about 60% of Detroit’s budget. He adds the city needs to privatize some services—including public lighting, and to some extent its dysfunctional bus system,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Cwiek was at the mayor’s address and says, “many think it’s only a matter of time before Detroit gets an emergency manager—and some, including Detroit City Council members, think the lack of specifics and deadlines in Bing’s speech made that even more likely.”

This morning, The Detroit Free Press had headlines that included an editorial titled, "Not good enough, Mr. Mayor," and a column by Stephen Henderson, "Numbers don't add up anywhere near city's needs."

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Culture of class
7:30 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Investing in early childhood education

2-year-old Ashley Belbot sits on her mom's lap during a weekly Early Head Start home visit. Early Head Start at Michigan Family Resources (the Head Start agency in Kent County, MI) is a home-based program; not all are.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When Governor Rick Snyder talks about education in the state, he doesn’t talk in terms of K-12 but rather P-20 education. He describes it as pre-natal through post-graduate.

Early education increasingly considered key to future success

Susan Neuman is a Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Michigan. She served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education from 2001-2003. (You can read more about her work in early childhood development here.)

Neuman says she can measure an achievement gap between children as early as 9 months. She says birth through age three turns out to be pretty crucial for a child’s future. “This is when brain development is increasing at an enormous rate,” Nueman said. “This is when language development is spurting this is when cognitive development and this is when our belief in ourselves is developing.”

Nueman says the best early childhood education programs are those that strengthen a parent’s ability to become their child’s best teacher in those first years of life.

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Environment
5:00 am
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. House bill would weaken Michigan's invasive species law

The invasive sea lamprey preys on all species of Great Lakes fish.
USFWS

Michigan’s fight to control invasive species in the Great Lakes could be weakened by a bill passed by the U.S. House this week.

Michigan put a ballast water law into effect in 2007 to keep ships from releasing new invasive species into the Great Lakes.

But the standard would be lowered by a Coast Guard funding bill that’s on its way to the U.S. Senate.

Patty Birkholz is director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. She says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard had plenty of time to come up with recommendations, but failed to do so.

Now, Birkholz  says, Michigan has the most to lose.

"We know the dangers that we're under with invasive species, both from water and land, and we have to protect ourselves even if the federal government won't standup to the invasive threat out there," Birkholz says.

Birkholz says no new invasive species have been found since Michigan tightened its ballast water standards.

The U.S. House bill also allows the SS Badger car ferry in Ludington to continue dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan. The operator says it can’t yet afford to convert to natural gas.

Auto/Economy
12:01 am
Thu November 17, 2011

If you want safest car, choose the hybrid version of it

A highway safety group says people are 25% less likely to be injured in a crash in a hybrid car, than in the non-hybrid version of that car.

Matt Moore is with the Highway Loss Data Institute.  He says it’s possible  people in the hybrid cars might be driving slower, to maximize their gas mileage.

But he thinks the explanation more likely involves simple physics, because the smaller and lighter vehicle in a crash will absorb most of the impact.  

"Hybrids tend to be heavier," says Moore.  "On average, they’re about 10% heavier than their non-hybrid counterparts, and we believe that extra weight gives them an advantage when they’re in crashes."

On the other hand, hybrids are not safer for pedestrians.  Moore says hybrid cars are more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents than non-hybrid cars.  That’s probably because hybrids that run in electric-only mode are very quiet, and people are more likely to walk out in front of them.

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