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12:28 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Massive cuts coming to Detroit-area bus service

Mysid Wikipedia

Southeast Michigan’s regional bus system is getting ready to make massive cuts to its service.

Declining tax revenues due to drops in property values, fewer federal dollars, and the SMART system’s inability to win concessions from its unions are the reasons behind the cuts.

The system is looking at a 22 percent cut to its service, affecting 30 of its 53 routes.

"Certainly this is a tragedy," said SMART’s Beth Gibbons. "It’s not going to be easy for the thousands of people who depend on our service every day to get to work and to school."

Public hearings on the proposed cuts are scheduled for the first week of November. The changes could take effect as early as December 12.

About 40,000 people a day ride SMART busses.

Economy
11:59 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Levin calls for end of offshore corporate tax breaks

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D)-Mich.
Jeffry Simms Flickr

A U.S. Senate report says a 2004 tax break let American companies bring back billions of dollars in offshore earnings at a very low tax rate.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan says companies including Coca-Cola, IBM and Pfizer got a windfall, but didn’t live up to their promises:

"There was no way to make sure that when they brought the money back they would use it for what they use it for – which was to create jobs and have more R&D – research and development,” Levin says.

Instead, Levin says the companies cut jobs and research, while executive pay went up.

He says if Washington repeats the offshore tax break, the treasury will lose up to $80 billion over ten years.

Other companies that took the repatriating tax break include Altria, Bristol-Myers Squibb, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Oracle, and Procter & Gamble.

Politics
11:56 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Judge issues temporary injunction stopping Rep. Paul Scott recall

Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) urges lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to approve the Teacher Quality Package
Rep. Paul Scott's office

A judge in Ingham County has issued a temporary injunction which stops a recall effort against State Representative Paul Scott.   

Republican Paul Scott was targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. Scott is a supporter of cutting K-12 education funding and legislation which targets teachers unions. 

Changing Gears
11:49 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Nonprofit company uses science to turn ideas into jobs

Woody Cook, Battelle National Security, next to a pool that is used to test underwater robotic devices.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

(We're having technical problems with the "audio processing" file above. To listen, please click on the second file.)

Steve Job’s death last week has reminded everyone firsthand the notion that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products.

That’s because ideas need a push. In some cases, a big push from science to become reality.

It sounds obvious, but when we’re talking about actual products, that translate into actual jobs, and actual economic activity, it’s worth exploring.

That’s why I was so interested to learn more about Battelle Memorial Institute.

Innovation can strike in a variety of ways.

Read more
Politics
10:39 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Michigan Campaign Finance Reforms, So Close and Yet?

They came so close and I was really hopeful for a while. But in the end, they just weren’t good enough.

I hope you were disappointed too. Wait a minute -- did you think I was talking about the Detroit Tigers?

I don’t know whatever gave you that idea. What I‘m talking about are the campaign finance reforms unveiled yesterday by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

I have been complaining for a long time about our campaign finance laws. It’s bad enough that it often costs several times an official’s salary to run for office.

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Education
10:23 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Study says online sex offender info may do more harm than good

user rollingroscoe morgueFile

A new study suggests posting the names and addresses of sex offenders online increases the chance the offenders will commit new crimes.

According to the study by the University of Michigan Law School and Columbia Business School, posting sex offenders' information online makes life so difficult for the offenders they may commit new crimes because they no longer consider prison a threat.

U of M law professor J.J. Prescott co-authored the study. He says offenders are likely to re-offend when they have nothing to lose.

“We got to give them something to lose if they’re going to commit another offense. I mean, as it stands right now, they’re already pariahs in their community, they can’t get a job, it’s very difficult for them to live, prison doesn’t sound so bad," Prescott says.

The Sex Offender Registration Act of 1994 requires Michigan State Police to post the names and addresses of sex offenders online.

Allison Lyons

Medicine
8:52 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Kroger recalls Moose Tracks ice cream

Kroger is recalling ice cream because peanuts are not listed on the label. Peanuts can be dangerous to people who are allergic to them.
jppi Morguefile

CINCINNATI  --  Kroger is recalling ice cream sold in 10 states because it may contain peanuts not mentioned on the label.

The nation's largest grocery store operator says people with peanut allergies could have a serious or even life-threatening reaction if they eat the Private Selection Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream being recalled.

The recall involves only 16-ounce pints of the product with a sell-by date of June 18, 2012 and the UPC code 11110 52909. The ice cream was sold at Kroger stores in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the company's Jay C, Food 4 Less, Owen's, Pay Less and Scott's stores in Illinois and Indiana.

Kroger Co. says shoppers should return the product to supermarkets for a refund or replacement.

News Roundup
7:09 am
Thu October 13, 2011

In this morning's news ...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

V.P. Biden gets visit from "Occupy" protesters in Grand Rapids

People inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York showed up at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday evening. Biden made stops in Flint and Grand Rapids to promote President Obama’s American Jobs Act before switching to campaign mode. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports at least 50 protesters marched on the sidewalk outside the $500 per dinner private event. The event raised money for the 2012 presidential election.

Proposed U.S.-Canada bridge still a contentious issue

A proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada appears to be the cause of a fierce divide among Republicans in the state Senate. The chairman of the committee handling the proposal does not seem to have enough support among Republican colleagues to vote on the issue. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said if that’s the case he will most likely take on the issue in a committee he chairs and move it along quickly.

"We would still take a hard look at it and take some open testimony, but we’re not going to rehash everything that’s been done for the last nine months,”  Richardville said.

Secretary of State calls for no-reason absentee voting

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan should allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason why they cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day. It’s one of several election proposals she outlined.

They also include cleaning voter rolls of dead people, those who have moved, and non-citizens.  Johnson said people should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason why they cannot show up at a polling place on Election Day.

Politics
8:37 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

“Occupy Grand Rapids” group protests at Biden fundraiser

At least 50 people walked in front of the downtown restaurant where Biden held a campaign fundraiser Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York showed up at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday evening.

Biden made stops in Flint and Grand Rapids to promote President Obama’s American Jobs Act before switching to campaign mode.

At least 50 protesters marched on the sidewalk outside the $500 per dinner private event. The event raised money for the 2012 presidential election.

“We can get Mr. Biden’s attention,” Richard Ertl said. He’s wearing a sticker on the back of his head that reads “we are the 99%”. “We can get them to listen to us and know that we’re starting to gel up and become cohesive as a people,” Ertl said.

Ertl and other say they’re not protesting Biden but want to send a message. He says protestors want politicians to listen to one another and work together to solve the nation’s financial problems. 

“Occupy Grand Rapids" held its first big meeting over the weekend. They’re now camping out in a church parking lot (private property) downtown after spending several days in a public park near the Grand River.

He says they meet for general assemblies everyday at noon and 6 p.m.

Education
8:19 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Vice President Biden says students would gain from “Jobs Act"

Vice President Joe Biden visited the more than 100-year-old Central High School in Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden says he’ll work to get President Obama’s American Jobs Act through Congress piece by piece if lawmakers won’t take up the entire stimulus bill.

Biden says the bill would invest $25 billion to fix 35,000 schools across the country, including buildings like the one visited in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Junior and seniors at Grand Rapids’ Central High School showed Biden around their science classroom, listened, and asked questions. He also saw a classroom they can’t use because of health concerns over chipping and peeling paint.

“They’re in a laboratory where they can’t turn on a burner because there’s no ventilation system,” Biden said. “They have microscopes that use mirrors – I mean it’s just totally out of date.” The science classroom is part of Grand Rapids Public Schools district’s School of Health Science and Technology; a “hub” school students can opt into. “Come on man,” Biden told reporters after the visits, “these are talented kids - they chose to come here to learn more.”

Biden says some GOP leaders would rather “do nothing” than pass parts of the bill he says they agree with.

Politics
5:17 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Bridge debate creates a divide among Michigan Republicans

A proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada appears to be the cause of a fierce divide among Republicans in the state Senate.

The chairman of the committee handling the proposal does not seem to have enough support among Republican colleagues to vote on the issue.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said if that’s the case he will most likely take on the issue in a committee he chairs and move it along quickly.

“I don’t think we would need to take as much time to go through all the detail, but we have been following the process, we’ve been following the information, so we would still take a hard look at it and take some open testimony, but we’re not going to rehash everything that’s been done for the last nine months,” said Richardville.

Richardville says misinformation floating around in television ads and brochures have made the bridge issue more confusing and frustrating than it should be. He says the Senate could vote on the proposal within a couple weeks.

Politics
4:41 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Michigan Secretary of State outlines new election proposals

Michigan Secretary of State outlined new election proposals today.
Flickr

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan should allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason why they cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day.

It’s one of several election proposals she outlined today.

They also include cleaning voter rolls of dead people, those who have moved, and non-citizens. 

Johnson said people should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason why they cannot show up at a polling place on Election Day.

She said people who vote absentee would face the same identity requirements as people who cast ballots on Election Day.

"We need the same level of security in our elections whether it's absentee or it's people who come to vote at the polls. Michigan is a state where you must show an ID, a photo ID, or sign an affidavit of identity. We would require the same standard for the no-reason absentee," said Johnson.

Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party Mark Brewer says the Republican’s election plans provide less ballot access than what’s being done in other states.

 "Many other states, including those run by Republicans, on a bipartisan basis are adopting reforms like early voting. They’re letting people register to vote on Election Day. All these are designed to make and have made it much easier for people to vote," said Brewer.

Brewer also said voting by non-citizens is not a big problem because they would risk deportation.

He said the effort to stop non-citizens from voting plays to racial fears.

Johnson does not favor early voting or Election Day voter registration as methods to spur more voter participation.

She has called for a federal law to give her office access to immigration and Social Security records that would help clear non-citizens off the state’s voter list.

She said going forward the state will also require people to promise they are U.S. citizens before they can vote.

Auto/Economy
4:38 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

UAW and Chrysler reach tentative contract deal

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have agreed to terms for a four-year contract deal.

Chrysler is the last of Detroit’s three carmakers to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW.

The agreement follows some tense negotiations between the UAW and Chrysler, which is majority-owned by the Italian automaker Fiat.

Chrysler is smaller and more indebted than its fellow U.S. automakers, but the UAW sought a contract with similar terms to those it got from GM and Ford.

Like in the GM and Ford contracts, entry-level Chrysler workers will get a wage hike under this deal. Workers also stand to get more in bonus pay and profit-sharing.

“The overall framework, the overall labor cost agreement [compared to GM and Chrysler] is very, very comparable,” said UAW President Bob King. “We tweaked them, shifted them a little bit in each case, because of the specific needs of the individual companies.”

Also like the GM and Ford contracts, this agreement focuses more on creating and retaining jobs for U.S. workers than on boosting worker pay. Chrysler says it will invest $4.5 billion in U.S. production, and create 2100 U.S. jobs.

King thinks most of his members understand the focus on future investment.

“Our members overwhelmingly supported the goal of bringing more jobs into our plants,” King says.  “And our members understand overall that they can’t be secure unless there’s product and investment long-term in their facility.”

UAW officials hope to get Chrysler workers to ratify the deal within the next two weeks.

GM UAW workers ratified their contract by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. Ford workers are still voting.

Politics
3:36 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

No more cash assistance for 11,162 recipients, updated notices sent

Last week, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman delayed the cash-assistance cap for some welfare recipients in Michigan. (A new law caps cash-assistance payments from the state to a total of four years in a lifetime.)

The state sent out notices to recipients starting last month notifying them their benefits would cease, but Judge Borman said those notices were deficient. He issued a restraining order against the Michigan Department of Human Services.

Today, the agency sent new notices to 11,162 recipients telling them their cash-assistance payments will stop. The MDHS says the new notices are "in accordance with the ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman."

From a MDHS press release:

The reissued notices cite the appropriate legal authority as well as more prominent language on the appeal process, as required in the ruling.

"We are moving forward with the welfare reform passed by the legislature," said Maura D. Corrigan, DHS director.  "These notices, the fourth that have been sent to recipients affected, follow Judge Borman’s directive."

Corrigan said the MDHS has not interrupted benefits to this group yet and continues to help them with job placement programs, food assistance, and help with rent.

The MDHS says that clients have 10 days to appeal the cut-off decision. If the decision is appealed within 10 days, recipients will continue to receive payments until their appeal is heard.

People affected by the cuts can call the Michigan Department of Human Services at 1-855-763-3677 with questions.

Read more
Economy
2:52 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Prison chief: Inmates should learn building skills, work in community projects

Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns.

There’s not a lot of industry inside Michigan’s prisons right now. Most of the jobs involve making prison or guard uniforms.

Dan Heyns says he wants to change that.

The new head of the Michigan Department of Corrections says prisoners should be learning job skills they can use when they’re released.

Heyns has formed a woring group of the state’s 33 prison wardens to look at some options for inmates. Learning the construction trade is one of them.

Another option is for prisons to partner with communities, cleaning up parks, for example.

“There are an awful lot of projects in communities – because they’re so cash-strapped – that wouldn’t get done if not for access to a reasonably cheap labor force," Heyns says.

He says the community projects would give taxpayers something in return for the $2 billion dollar annual state corrections budget.

Heyns also says construction skills would be useful for inmates to learn. He suggested former prisoners could build Department of Natural Resources huts or migrant housing units.

Politics
2:49 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Republicans seek Michigan campaign finance changes

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she is calling for tougher campaign finance laws.

The Republican says Wednesday her plan would create felony charges for the worst violators of Michigan's campaign finance regulations. Felony penalties and harsher fines could be charged in
some circumstances for failing to file regular reports of fundraising and spending activity.

Johnson said her proposals also seek filing requirements to try and prevent clandestine efforts such as a "Tea Party" that unsuccessfully sought to put candidates on the 2010 ballot in Michigan. The effort was widely considered to be a fake and didn't have support from tea party activists.

Republican state lawmakers say they are introducing bills aimed at achieving some of Johnson's goals.

The Michigan Democratic Party said Johnson's proposals would be ineffective.

Science/Medicine
1:31 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Safe at Home (Part 3): Women who use force

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
user: The Ohio State University Flickr

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At Michigan Radio we have been looking at how domestic violence affects our community, and what programs there are for survivors and abusers that keep people safe at home.

Often, discussions about domestic abuse focus on men who use violence. The National Institute of justice reports that 90 percent of "systematic, persistent, and injurious" violence against an intimate partner is committed by men. But what about female aggressors?

Read more
Politics
12:18 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

In Flint, Vice President Biden blasts Congressional Republicans for stalling jobs bill

Vice President Joe Biden is flanked by Flint police officers and firefighters during a speech at one of the city's fire stations
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Vice President Joe Biden used a speech in Flint to chastise Congressional Republicans for stalling the President’s jobs bill.  

 Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote on the $447 billion bill last night.    The bill’s tax hike on millionaires was a major reason cited.  

The bill contains money for hiring firefighters and police officers. Biden talked about how budget cuts in recent years have slashed the number of police officers and firefighters on Flint streets.  

Read more
Courts
12:02 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Abdulmutallab pleads guilty

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Update 11:53 am

Abdulmutallab's stand-by attorney, Anthony Chambers, says he's "disappointed" with the guilty plea, but said he respects the defendant's wishes.

"Certainly no lawyer worth his weight in salt would recommend a plea to life without parole," Chambers said.

Chamber said he believes Abdulmutallab is misguided and impressionable. He said the young Nigerian will not cooperate with the government.

Asked why he believed Abdulmutallab decided to plead guilty, Chambers said he thinks the statement he read upon entering his guilty plea allowed him to say what he wanted, and avoid a trial. In the statement - which Chambers said Abdulmutallab wrote himself - the defendant said his actions were a reaction to U.S. support of Israel and because of the U.S. killings of Muslims around the world. He called the bomb he carried and tried to detonate on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 a "blessed weapon." He said he was guilty of violating U.S. law, but not the law of the Koran.

Abdulmutallab faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. He will be sentenced January 12.

Update 10:39 a.m.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has pled guilty to all eight charges against him.

From the Detroit News:

He pleaded guilty to eight charges after he returned from a 45-minute recess, ending the most high-profile terrorism case in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds asked him if he wished to waive his right to a trial and plead guilty.

"That's right," he said.

The guilty plea marksa major victory against terrorism for the Justice Department, which was criticized by some for trying Abdulmutallab in civilian court instead of a military tribunal.

David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press reports that Abdulmutallab faces 30 years to life in prison.

10:19 a.m.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press are reporting that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is pleading guilty on charges of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The Detroit Free Press is live blogging the trial and reports that the judge is going over the penalties with Abdulmutallab now.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is on her way to the court and will have an update for us later.

Politics
11:46 am
Wed October 12, 2011

Snyder signs partial birth abortion law

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

Governor Snyder has signed the state's partial birth abortion ban into law. Senate Majority Floor Leader Arlan Meekhof sponsored Senate Bill 160 that, "outlaws the practice of partial birth abortion in Michigan, unless determined necessary to save the life of the mother. The law was modeled after the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court," the Holland Sentinel reports.

From The Associated Press:

The approval from the Republican governor, which was expected, could end more than a decade of efforts by anti-abortion activists to get the ban added to state law. Previous attempts were rejected by courts or vetoed by then-Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Supporters of the Michigan bill say it should survive a legal challenge this time because it mirrors the federal ban. They argue it was important to include a ban in Michigan in case the federal law changes.

Opponents say the federal ban makes the state proposal redundant and unnecessary. Some opponents of the Michigan measure have said it may be vulnerable to legal challenge.

The outlawed procedure typically is used to end pregnancies in the second and third trimesters and involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus and then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion.

Granholm vetoed a similar bill in 2008. She also vetoed a bill in 2004, but hundreds of thousands of voters signed petitions that allowed the bill to become law with only the approval of the Legislature. Federal courts later declared that ban unconstitutional, however, because it also could have prohibited other abortion procedures.

A Michigan law from the 1990s also was eventually overturned by federal courts.

In a statement released today, the Governor said, "the people of Michigan have repeatedly spoken on this issue and this legislation reaffirms the value of human life.  It also brings Michigan in line with federal law... I want to thank state Sen. Arlan Meekhof and state Rep. Ben Glardon for their leadership on this issue.”

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