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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.

Politics
10:17 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Bing outlines dire financial picture for Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is on the verge of a financial calamity. But he insists that with tough choices all around, it can still avoid a state takeover.

Bing’s televised speech on city finances Wednesday night had a blunt message: “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.

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Politics
6:14 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing: I don't want emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is addressing residents tonight about the city's financial troubles. And he answered one looming question right off the bat:

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I don’t want an emergency manager making decisions for my city,” Bing said.

He said his administration has eliminated 2,000 positions since he took office, but more needs to be done to keep the city out of receivership.

“I refuse to sugar-coat the situation or kick the can down the road, expecting someone else to fix our problems,” the mayor said.

Bing also said he won't allow the city's police and fire departments to be gutted. "I will not allow criminals free reign over our city," Bing said - but in the next breath added that officers and firefighters need to accept the same 10 percent pay cut other city employees have had to swallow.

Here's a link to the report the mayor's office commissioned that shows the city could run out of cash by spring.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more details on Bing's speech tomorrow on Morning Edition.

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Auto/Economy
5:59 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Toledo Jeep plant gets big investment as Jeep goes global

2011 Jeep Liberty
Chrysler Group Flickr

Chrysler plans to invest $1.7 billion dollars in a new Jeep program, that will first roll out a replacement for the current Jeep Liberty. 

The new Jeep is intended for a global market.    

The investment includes a $500 million re-tooling of the Jeep Liberty Assembly plant in Toledo. 

The investment means 1,100 new jobs at the Jeep Assembly Plant starting in 2013.  

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the new Jeep should help tap growing overseas markets, like China, the world’s largest car market.  He says the Jeep brand is already taking off in Europe.

"I have similar expectations for Jeep especially in the eastern part of Europe – Russia," Marchionne told a group of reporters after a press conference at the plant.   "It  (Jeep) is best brand that Chrysler owns, by far."

The new SUV could still bear the Liberty name.  Marchionne says there could be at least one other "top-hat" built onto the new platform, and eventually, the plant could build up to four different models of Jeeps.  

The new Jeep will combine a Fiat chassis, or underlying platform with a Chrysler design and engine.

Economy
5:48 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court OKs foreclosure practice that lower court found violated state law

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Consumer advocates are disappointed by a Michigan Supreme Court decision.   

The high court today reversed an appeals court decision which found the mortgage industry violated state law by using a national group to file foreclosure notices in Michigan.  

The lower court found the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, didn't have an interest in the mortgage and thus was not allowed to file the foreclosure paperwork.   

Lorray Brown is with the Michigan Poverty Law Program. Brown said the Supreme Court used "tortured" legal analysis to avoid following the strict wording of the law.   

“I think this is a clear case of strict statutory construction and the statute says what it says," said Brown.   

An attorney for the Michigan Bankers Association praised the  court’s decision. Attorney James Breay said it prevents the voiding of thousands of home foreclosures in Michigan.  

This decision will avoid…the possibility of a ruling that could otherwise have created chaos in Michigan’s residential mortgage market," said Breay.    

MERS is facing other legal challenges, including a potential class action suit involving Michigan counties that accuse MERS of not paying taxes on property transfers.

Politics
5:21 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Advocates: Michigan Legislature should act before people left cold

Federal home heating assistance levels are being cut. Advocates say the state needs to step in.
user dominic's pics Flickr

The federal government has proposed dramatic cuts to home-heating assistance.

Susan Sherer, CEO of the Heat and Warmth Fund, said that cut for Michigan could be as much as $120 million.

“By removing $120 million that was available last year to serve customers, most certainly people are literally going to be left out in the cold,” said Sherer.

Advocates for the poor say the state Legislature needs to make sure people in low-income households do not have their heat turned off this winter.

Scott Dzurka is with the Michigan Association of United Ways, which is part of a coalition of groups pushing for heating assistance funding.

“Our interest is making sure that the residents and families in the state of Michigan are warm this winter season,” said Dzurka.

Dzurka said the state Legislature needs to ensure home-heating assistance will be available before lawmakers leave for a winter break in December.

The state fund for home heating assistance is also caught up in a court fight and cannot be touched. State lawmakers are trying to come up with a plan.

Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Thousands in poverty come to “Project Connect” in Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo resident Vicki Sayman (left) gets her hair cut at Project Connect Wednesday. Sayman is on disability. In addition to the new hairdo, she also got help finding a way to get her dentures and a broken pair of glasses fixed.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Hundreds of volunteers in neon yellow t-shirts handed out winter coats and hats, helped answer specific questions and enroll people in dozens of assistance programs that already exist.

48-year old George McCree lives in Kalamazoo, but he doesn’t have a permanent job or home right now. He got help finding temporary shelter at the Project Connect event last May. That inspired him to start volunteering at a soup kitchen in town.

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Environment
4:40 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

EPA revises estimate for oil collected in Enbridge pipeline break

Enbridge's broken pipeline. When this part of oil pipeline 6b burst near Talmadge Creek in July 2010, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of gallons of diluted bitumen oil spilled into the creek and into the Kalamazoo River.
NTSB

There’s a new estimate of the amount of oil that’s been sucked out of the  Kalamazoo River.  And it’s higher than the amount of oil Enbridge Energy claims leaked from its pipeline 16 months ago.  

Enbridge Energy claims a little more than 843 thousand gallons of crude oil leaked from its pipeline near Marshall in July, 2010. But the Environmental Protection Agency says it has recovered more than 1.1 million gallons of oil from the Kalamazoo River during the 16 month cleanup. The EPA says it’s still investigating how much oil leaked from Enbridge’s pipeline.  

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Auto/Economy
4:22 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Obama calls for 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency by 2025

user a.saliga Flickr

The Obama Administration plans to nearly double the fuel efficiency requirements for light-duty vehicles by 2025. 

The administration says requiring an average of 54.5 mpg will help drivers save money, reduce U.S. dependence on oil and keep the environment cleaner.

Sean McAlinden is chief economist with the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

He says the plan calls for too much, too soon and could be bad for the still-recovering auto industry.

"The same government that did so much to save our domestic industry is laying the groundwork for destroying the industry again, destroying its market, by forcing it to build cars that  people can't afford and may not even want."

McAlinden expects the new standards will increase the cost of a vehicle by so much that people will simply keep their old cars longer. He says drivers already keep their cars for an average of 11 years.

He says it would make more sense to aim for around 42 mpg by 2025.

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