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5:23 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Detroit Homeland Security agencies, first responders press for funds

Metro Detroit’s Homeland Security agencies say they’ve made progress on border security and disaster preparedness in the past 10 years. But they warn federal budget cuts and a new way of allocating Homeland Security grants could jeopardize that.

A U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee held a hearing called “The State of Northern Border Preparedness: A Review of Federal, State and Local Coordination” at Wayne State University Friday.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke sits on the committee.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

State roads chief: "We're already at work" on governor's plan

user ardee4 Flickr

The director of the Michigan Department of Transportation said he’s already at work on Governor Rick Snyder’s proposals to fix and maintain the state’s bridges and roads.

Snyder’s plans include generating more than $1 billion in additional revenue each year for road maintenance, and using advanced technology to strengthen bridges.

Transportation Director Kirk Stuedel said he discussed the governor’s proposals yesterday with his bosses at the state Transportation Commission.

“They set the policies for the department, and we’re going to be following up with the committee chairs saying ‘It’s about time to be putting our budget together, and our budget is going to be focused a lot around the things that are in this message,’” Steudel said.

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Economy
4:56 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Flood of welfare appeals hit state

Hundreds of people have appealed to the state to keep their cash assistance benefits. More than 11,000 families are set to lose those benefits next week.

Sheryl Thompson is with the state Department of Human Services. She says people who file appeals within 10 days of receiving a cut-off notice can have their benefits continue while the case is decided, although "if the department’s decision is upheld then they will need to repay those benefit amounts."

The department is required to make a decision within 65 days of when an appeal request is filed.

New state rules strictly enforce a four-year limit on cash assistance benefits.

Commentary
4:32 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Snyder's Infrastructure Plan: Paved with Good Intentions

Governor Snyder put forth a bold new message on infrastructure a couple days ago. What he said immediately won praise from columnists and editorial pages across the state.

As a matter of fact, the governor’s plan is being enthusiastically supported by nearly everybody who understands how desperate a shape Michigan’s roads and bridges are in.

I looked at the details of the governor’s proposal when it was unveiled, but deliberately decided to refrain from saying anything about it until it was clear what the reaction would be.

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Michigan Court of Appeals update
4:26 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Michigan court rules on Miranda rights for inmates

Joe Gratz Flickr

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that inmates are not necessarily entitled to Miranda warnings when they’re investigated for alleged law-breaking in prison. Typically, warnings that a suspect has the right to remain silent and have an attorney present have to be given once a person is detained and no longer free to leave.

We have more from Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta:

“In this case, suspected gang member Burton Cortez was handcuffed and questioned after guards found two metal shanks in his cell during a lockdown search of the state prison in Carson City.

With a recorder running, Cortez acknowledged the blades were his, and admitted he sold a third shank to another inmate. Prison officials say the main purpose of their interrogation was to gain information to help restore order following a string of gang-related fights, and to root out a plot to murder a guard.

That was enough for the trial court – and the Court of Appeals – to deny Cortez’s motion to suppress his confession and the tape. The courts say Miranda warnings are not necessary when prison officials’ top focus is to keep the peace, and not to determine whether a crime has been committed, or who is responsible.”

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Crime
4:09 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Trying to discourage arson this Halloween weekend in Flint and Detroit

Flint firefighters at work
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Officials in Detroit and Flint will turn to volunteers this weekend to help discourage Halloween-related arson fires.   

Dozens of volunteers are expected to patrol their neighborhoods and man police mini-stations during the weekend.   

Tanya Meeks is the Flint Police Department’s community liaison officer.  She says having extra eyes on the street help.    

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Science
3:15 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Student-made satellites launch into space

A NASA rocket launched this morning carrying two satellites built by University of Michigan students.
Ben Cooper Spaceflight Now

Students at the University of Michigan got to see two satellites they built blast into space today.

Engineering Professor James Cutler said it was an exciting moment for his students to be able to watch the NASA rocket that carried the satellites fire up and launch.

"They see all their theoretical knowledge come to life," said Cutler. "They get to apply everything they’ve been learning to a real-world problem. They get to see things that are real-world and unscripted."

RAX is the name of one of the satellites. It will do atmospheric experiments and measurements for the National Science Foundation.

Noah Klugman is a junior who worked on the second satellite, called M-Cubed. It's flying a technology demonstration mission for NASA. He’ll help operate the satellite from Ann Arbor, and take pictures of Earth.

"I plan on having a lot of fun with that, and getting better with that," Klugman said. "I can’t wait for my first picture to come down."

Video of the launch was provided by NASA:

 

Your Story
2:54 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Your Story: can grassroots small business support work?

Michelle Koles makes lunches at the Can Do Kitchen, one of the smaller organizations getting into business "incubating."
Lucy Bland

Business incubators are a trumpeted, but yet unproven way to give entrepreneurs and their projects a higher chance of success.  Foundations and governments are lining up dollars to support incubators in their communities.

Some of the larger incubators around the region were profiled by Niala Boodhoo earlier this week. But there are also more grassroots efforts springing up, incubators that seem themselves to be small enough to be supported.

Marcy Kates lives and works in Holt, Michigan. Two months ago she left her job as a program officer for the state’s AmeriCorps program and opened IncuBake, an incubator kitchen and commercial kitchen space. Kates used her savings and her credit cards to open the kitchen, inspired by being unable to find low-cost commercial space for her own catering.

“I started this project to be a job creator, " said Kates.

Even so, she intentionally stayed away from a nonprofit model, wanting more flexibility and not really wanting to fundraise. That meant using her savings and her credit card to start the business, which is now about 15 percent full but, Kates says, growing steadily.

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Auto/Economy
1:27 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Chrysler CEO says two-class pay system is not viable

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he wants to eventually do away with the two-tier pay system.
user socialisbetter Flickr

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the two-class pay system currently in place will have to be replaced with a single wage system in the next round of contract talks with the United Auto Workers.

The UAW and Chrysler just approved a 4-year contract with the two-class pay system in place, so the next opportunity to revise the system won't come until the next round of contract negotiations.

More from the Associated Press:

Negotiations for that contract start in 2015.

He says the current system creates two classes of workers. New workers in the bottom tier make about half as much money as longtime UAW members.

Marchionne didn't say how he would come up with one wage. But it's likely he'll try to reduce the pay of top-tier workers. General Motors and Ford could follow and pay could be cut for most of the UAW's 112,000 members.

UAW workers approved a four-year contract with Chrysler on Wednesday. It includes raises for bottom-tier workers.

More on what Marchionne said comes from Changing Gears reporter, Pete Bigelow:

The structure is, “not something that can go on for a long period of time,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings. Marchionne continued, saying, two-tiers is “not a viable structure on which to build our industrial footprint.”

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson provided some insights into the two-class pay system in a piece she produced last year for Changing Gears.

At the time, the starting rate for a "two-tier" worker was $14 an hour. The new contracts have pushed the starting rate for "two-tier" workers above $19 an hour.

Economy
12:45 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Whirlpool to cut 5,000 jobs to reduce costs

Whirlpool

Update 12:45 p.m.

Jeff Noel, a Whirlpool company spokesman, would not give Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith a number. When pressed further about the job losses expected in Michigan, Noel said it would be “a commensurate amount."

10:06 a.m.

In a cost cutting measure, the Benton Harbor-based company Whirlpool says it will cut 5,000 jobs. There's no word yet on how many of those job cuts will be in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith is following the story and will have more for us later.

From the Associated Press:

Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. says it will cut 5,000 jobs in an effort as it faces soft demand and higher costs for materials.

The jobs to be cut are mostly in North America and Europe. They include 1,200 salaried positions and the closing of the company's Fort Smith, Ark., plant.

The company expects the moves will save $400 million by the end of 2013.

Whirlpool also says its third-quarter net income more than doubled to $177 million, or $2.27 per share, from $79 million, or $1.02 per share. Adjusted earnings of $2.35 per share fell short of analyst expectations for $2.75 per share.

The company, whose brands include Maytag and KitchenAid, has been squeezed by higher costs for materials such as steel and copper.

Bloomberg News reports that Whirlpool employs 71,000 people around the world "at 66 manufacturing and research sites.":

Whirlpool follows European rival Electrolux AB (ELUXB) with a more muted outlook for the year. The Swedish company said today that it will deepen cost cuts after lowering a forecast for growth in Europe and North America this year. Whirlpool said reductions in Europe and North America account for about 10 percent of all employees in those regions. The company has a global workforce of 71,000 at 66 manufacturing and research sites.

Politics
11:59 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Michigan lawmaker wants to increase amount of time legislators can serve

Lawmakers are limited in the number of terms they can serve in Lansing by the state Constitution. Some say these limits lead to ineffective governing.
user aunt owwee Flickr

In 1992, Michigan voters amended the state Constitution and put limits on the number of terms legislators in Lansing can serve.

State representatives in Michigan are limited to three terms.

State senators are limited to two terms.

Last year, the state had a massive influx of new legislators in Lansing because of term limits. More than half of them were replaced.

Now, one representative in Lansing wants to extend how much time a legislator can serve.

More from the Associated Press:

Rep. Rick Olson plans to offer a resolution next month allowing lawmakers to serve a total of 14 years in either the House or Senate while letting each year's session run only from January through June.

The Saline Republican told reporters Friday after taping public television's "Off the Record" program that he doesn't think the current term limits allowing just three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate are giving lawmakers enough time to learn the job.

The former Adrian Public Schools business manager wants lawmakers to serve up to 14 years in just one chamber if they choose. His proposal would take effect after 2014 so most current lawmakers couldn't extend their stays.

It also would let the governor call special sessions if needed.

Science/Medicine
11:49 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Fatal bacterial disease claiming pet dogs in metro Detroit

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread by rats that can be fatal to dogs. A strain of the disease that hasn't been since since the 1960s is resurging among pet dogs in metro Detroit.
taylorschlades Morguefile

A disease that can quickly kill dogs has resurfaced in metro Detroit after almost 40 years.

It’s called leptospirosis.

The bacterial disease is spread by rats, and from dog to dog. It can also infect humans.

Dr. Carole Bolin is a professor at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

She said the onset of symptoms in dogs can be very sudden.

“The inside of their mouth may be yellow-tinged, and they may be severely vomiting, and obviously very, very ill," Bolin said. "And those animals, when taken to the veterinarian, have very severe abnormalities which are consistent with liver and kidney failure.”

Bolin said more than 20 cases of leptospirosis have been reported in Detroit-area dogs in the past three weeks. Most were pets and most had to be euthanized.

A vaccine is available to prevent the disease.

GM, Nexteer invest in Saginaw
11:38 am
Fri October 28, 2011

GM, Nexteer to invest in Saginaw operations

General Motors officials say the company will invest $215 million in the GM Saginaw Metal Casting Operation to tool the plant to build components for future GM vehicles. 

The plant makes engine blocks and cylinder heads for GM vehicles, including the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Malibu.

GM says the investment will create or maintain 275 jobs at the plant, which currently employs 630 people.

Later today, Nexteer is expected to announce a large capital investment in its Saginaw operations. 

Governor Rick Snyder will attend both events today.

Politics
6:39 am
Fri October 28, 2011

How state lawmakers are making sure you can’t repeal their laws

Michigan lawmakers are using a political maneuver to ensure that it's more difficult for Michigan voters to repeal unpopular, controversial bills.
Matthileo Flickr

In Michigan, voters are allowed to overturn laws they don't like. This is how it works: you try and get enough signatures to get a referendum to repeal the law on a ballot. If a majority of voters vote against the law... it's repealed. But there's a catch: laws that have appropriations attached to them cannot be repealed by voters.

Just this week, Michigan Radio reported on a proposal that would drastically alter the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. The House proposal includes a $50,000 appropriation that protects the measure from a voter-led ballot initiative.

This is the fourth time this year Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have added appropriations to a controversial bill to keep it referendum-proof.

I spoke with Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, about this cunning, political maneuver. He’s been keeping an eye on this story for months.

Why We Should Care

For some, the words, “referendum,” “appropriation,” and “voter-led ballot” aren’t that important; in fact, maybe they just sound like more of the same insider politics. But, Pluta explains it this way:

If you’re a voter who does not think that anything the legislature does should ever be challenged, I guess you would consider [this] not too terribly important. But, if you do think that [the right to vote against a law in a referendum] should be preserved… then you might find the whole thing to be a little devious.

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Sports Commentary
6:00 am
Fri October 28, 2011

"Three and Out": Rich Rodriguez's tenure at the University of Michigan

Rich Rodriguez

In the summer of 2008, Rich Rodriguez granted me unfettered access to the Michigan football program so I could write a book.

Three years later the book is finished, and not with a happy ending.

Similar to just about everybody else connected to Michigan football these past three years, I had no idea what I was getting into. 

During my three years following the Michigan football team, the working title of the book changed from “All or Nothing,” to “All In,” to “Third and Long,” before Rodriguez’s last season, and after he was fired, to “Three and Out.”

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Occupy Movement
4:43 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Protesters briefly shut down Ambassador Bridge

Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge was backed up briefly coming into Detroit Thursday evening. That’s because protesters targeting bridge owner Matty Moroun blocked traffic.

The demonstrators included a State Representative, members of the ongoing Occupy Detroit movement, union members and southwest Detroit residents. They’re all angry at Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun—who they say has illegally seized land, ignored court orders, and bought political influence in Lansing and elsewhere.

Detroit resident Maya Williamson said the neighborhood is noisy and polluted because bridge traffic is forced onto residential streets—and she’s tired of it.

“The noise, and the traffic through the school area and through the neighborhoods…it’s horrendous. There’s gotta be a stop put to it, you know. You can’t just trample over citizens for money,"said Williamson.

No protesters were arrested. They left after about an hour, chanting “We’ll be back.”

Politics
1:01 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Flint mayoral race may turn on who voters believe can deal with the city's crime problem

Downtown Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Flint voters will elect a mayor November 8th. In a city beset by high unemployment and questions about how city hall’s being run, crime is a central issue.   

At a recent meeting at the Flint YWCA, about two dozen people met to discuss crime prevention. Dave Beardslee was one of the people at the meeting. He said, right now, leadership is Flint’s main problem.   

“I think they could do something…they could pull the jacket off…roll up their sleeves and get out there with the rest of us. Be a leader. That’s what we need is true leadership," Beardslee said.

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Environment
8:37 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Muskegon County moves on plans to build large-scale wind farm

Part of Muskegon County's Wastewater Treatment System where the wind farm is proposed.
co.Muskegon .mi.us

Muskegon County has reached an agreement with developers to build a large-scale wind farm at its waste water treatment plant. The 11,000 acre site sits less than 15 miles away from the Lake Michigan shoreline. The county also rotates growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa on the land. This week the county board agreed to lease the plot to add wind farming to the mix.

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Politics
8:19 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Metro Airport CEO returns controversial "severance" pay

The CEO of Metro Airport has returned some of the money she was paid to move from one Wayne County job to another.

Turkia Mullin got $200,000 to leave her post as Wayne County economic development director and take over the airport earlier this year.

She returned $135,900 this week, saying the rest went to taxes. Her secretary, who also received a severance payment, has also returned the money.

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Chrysler posts profit
6:09 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Chrysler makes $212 million profit

Chrysler made a profit in the third quarter of this year.

The news comes a day after Chrysler workers narrowly approved a new four-year contract.

The $212 million profit is small compared to Detroit rival Ford, which made $1.6 billion in the same period.

But it’s the second quarterly profit this year for Chrysler, and a sign that its recovery from the 2009 bankruptcy is gathering some steam.

In fact, Chrysler would have made a profit last quarter too, were it not for one-time costs associated with paying off its federal loans.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the just-ratified contract with the UAW will support the company in its growth plans.

The contract includes a much smaller signing bonus than the one Ford union members will get.

That was likely one of the main reasons the contract was so narrowly approved.

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