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3:49 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Your Story: Gambling on a career as an artist, and now as a teacher

Jerry Berta teaching art at the Ann Arbor Public Library in 2002.
Ann Arbor Public Library

Making money as an artist can be tough, but Jerry Berta made a good living selling his clay pieces for decades.

He and his wife Madeline Kaczmarczyk, also an artist, weathered the Midwestern recession of the early 1980’s and even built a house in Rockford, Michigan where they still live. Berta said they felt like rich people. They made enough money to buy and sell a couple of restaurants along the way.

“It was so easy when we started out. We started out on a street in Ann Arbor,” Berta said. “We set up, we sold stuff, and we were in business! Now, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Even successful artists, they’re having a hard time making it.”

They later sent two kids to ivy-league colleges. But when the 2008 recession hit things changed.

“It had been happening slowly. You could just feel it,” Berta said. “People were being really tight with their money, and art, you don’t really need art. It’s changed, and I have adapted.”

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Environment
2:51 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Illegal wolf kills spiking in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

In 1992, biologists counted 20 wolves in Michigan. The population has gone up since then and in 2010, 557 wolves were confirmed in the U.P.
www.isleroyalewolf.org

No other wildlife species, it seems, causes such extremes of emotion as the wolf.

Some people want to protect it at any cost.

Others want to shoot the animal on sight.

And in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula illegal wolf kills are spiking.

Wildlife officials say they can defuse the situation if they can just get gray wolves removed from the endangered species list.

Interlochen Public Radio's Bob Allen filed a report with The Environment Report on the controversy in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Allen reported that the return of the gray wolf in the U.P. more than 20 years ago didn't cause concern, but that's changed in the last few years as some hunters are convinced wolves are decimating the white tail deer population.

Here's Allen's report:

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Transportation
2:01 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Faster security checks at airports in exchange for more information

A new TSA program is aimed at speeding up screenings in exchange for more personal information.
Michael Eyal Sharon Flickr

A new program aimed at speeding up airport screenings will be tested in Detroit.

From the Associated Press:

The Transportation Security Administration plans to test a program that would pre-screen certain travelers who volunteer more personal information so they can be vetted to potentially receive expedited screening at the checkpoint.

This is the Obama administration's first stab at a more risk-based, intelligence-driven passenger screening program that could begin to answer traveler complaints that the government is not using common sense when it screens all passengers at airports in the same way.

The program will initially be tested at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Miami and Dallas, among certain Delta and American travelers who are U.S. citizens and are enrolled in the airlines' frequent flier programs, as well as among Delta and American travelers who participate in some other government trusted traveler programs and who also travel through those four airports.

Politics
12:57 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Crowds wait for Betty Ford funeral to begin

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The funeral itself is private, but around 200 people are lining the route close to the Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids.

Donna Smith and her husband, John, live just a couple blocks away from the church and got a great spot to view the precession pass by.

"She went through a lot personally and because of her strength in fighting breast cancer, alcoholism; just being a wonderful wife and mother and supporting her family," Donna Smith says.  "I have a lot of respect for that."

Politics
12:12 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Another delay for Detroit's light rail plans?

An artists rendition of the "Foxtown/Stadium" stop for the proposed light rail project in Detroit.
screen grab from YouTube video

This past Monday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported on the growing controversy surrounding Detroit's light rail project. Reports indicated that private backers might pull out of the project. (Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson told Cwiek  the foundation is committed to the project.)

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Politics
10:39 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Flint considers reopening city jail

Flint is talking to state officials about reopening the city jail. The jail would be a 72-hour lock-up facility that holds roughly 150 offenders. Dayne Walling is mayor of Flint.  

"The city jail is an essential tool for our officers. There has to be an ability to make arrests and put offenders behind bars when they break our community’s laws."

In May, Flint voters said no to a property tax increase to keep the city jail open. Walling says the short term lock-up facility would most likely be paid for through the city’s general fund.

Commentary
10:13 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Limiting welfare... now what?

If you’ve been supporting your family on welfare since the Great Recession started three years ago, here’s news for you. You’ve got one more year left. And then your benefits will be cut off, forever.

What if you get a job after that, work hard for another ten years, and then become the victim of another recession? Sorry, you are out of luck, once your savings and unemployment run out.

What if you have kids? Well, you can still get food stamps.

Yesterday, the state Senate passed a bill which, once the governor signs it, will mean that you can be on welfare for a maximum of four years in your entire life.

Doesn’t matter what might happen to you, the nation or the economy. Four years, and that’s it. Doesn’t matter if you are supporting children. Oh -- if you are pregnant or have a new baby you might be able to stay on the rolls for another 60 or 90 days, but then that’s it. They did make one exemption:  those caring for a disabled child or spouse. But that’s all.

The sponsor of this legislation, State Rep. Ken Horn, a Republican from Frankenmuth, says putting this cap on welfare will make Michigan stronger. What I don’t understand is how.

Now, if you aren’t an expert on the system, you may think we are ending welfare for a bunch of lazy adults who would prefer lying around and watching TV to working. Well, guess what.

They were on a program called general assistance, and Gov. John Engler ended it 20 years ago. Welfare as we once knew it has been gradually reduced since the 1980s. Mainly, the only people still receiving payments are needy families.

Now, about 12,000 of those families, which include 25,000 children, will lose benefits forever. That might not be bad, if ending welfare meant the heads of those households would now go out and get good-paying jobs. But they won’t.

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Investigative
9:50 am
Thu July 14, 2011

HIV prevention when time and money are short

I can only imagine, thinking you might have been exposed to HIV might be one of the scariest things of a person’s life.  Am I infected?  Will I get AIDS? 

Even more traumatic, is contracting it because you were sexually assaulted.

David—not his real name— says he was at a bar one night late in 2009.  He was hoping for a ride home.  He ended up at another man’s house and they had sex.  David says it was unwanted, that it was sexual assault.

“He doesn’t think he assaulted me.  So, uhm.  But, he was going to against my will.”

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News Roundup
8:44 am
Thu July 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 14th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Senate Approves Welfare Cap

The Michigan Senate approved a four-year limit on cash assistance welfare benefits yesterday. The 48-month cap is part of a Republican plan to balance the state budget. Some 12,600 families are expected to begin to lose benefits on October 1st because of the new limits. Lawmakers voted along party lines: 24 Republicans voted for the measure, 12 Democrats opposed it. The Senate Fiscal Agency says the legislation will save the state $77 million. If signed into law, the new limits would be among the strictest in the Midwest.

Ford Brought Back to Grand Rapids

Betty Ford will be laid to rest this afternoon in Grand Rapids. Thousands of people paid their respects yesterday evening during visitation at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Dustin Dwyer was at the museum and reports:

The sidewalk outside the Ford Museum was packed with people when the motorcade rolled by, carrying Betty Ford on her final trip home. Visitors remembered Mrs. Ford as a woman who wasn't afraid to discuss her battles with alcoholism and breast cancer. A funeral service is scheduled for 2 o’clock Thursday afternoon. Afterward, Betty Ford will be laid to rest next to her husband at the Ford Museum.

University Tuition Increases

Ferris State University trustees have voted to raise undergraduate tuition 5.14 percent, well short of a 7 percent cap that Governor Snyder has set for schools to get access to special funds, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Ferris is among the final state universities to set their tuition for the 2011-12 academic year. Central Michigan and Northern Michigan are expected to set their rates Thursday, and Grand Valley State is expected to decide Friday… The state is reducing its aid to the school by 15 percent, or $7.3 million.

Jennifer Guerra has a roundup of the schools that have announced tuition increases so far:

Crime
2:19 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Grand Rapids works on healing one week after deadly shootings

Edye Evans Hyde belts out 'Who will comfort me?' at the begining of the cermeony in Second Congregational United Church of Christ. The church is just a few blocks away from one of the shooting scenes last week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

At least 80 people filled the pews of a church only a few blocks away from where 34-year-old Rodrick Dantzler reportedly killed three people.

Four others were found dead at a house about 2 miles away. 2 of the 7 killed were children. Dantzler lead police on a chase and took hostages before killing himself one week ago Thursday.

Rosie, who wished not to use her last name, lives on the same block where one of the shootings happened.

 “I walk my dog early in the morning and it’s so peaceful here. I see that house and still doesn’t seem real.”

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Home foreclosure filings down (and that's a problem?)

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures tumbled in Michigan during the first half of the year. One analyst says that’s bad news.  

Realty Trac reports that home foreclosure filings dropped by about 20 percent during the first six months of 2011. One in 74 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure notice between January and June. 

Rick Sharga is with Realty Trac. He says continuing questions about problems with foreclosure paperwork has slowed down the number of properties being repossessed by banks. Federal and state regulators are expected to announce a deal soon clearing major lenders from intentional wrongdoing involving faulty paperwork that mistakenly evicted people current on their mortgages. 

Sharga says the delay in foreclosure filings has slowed the recovery in Michigan’s real estate market. 

 “What over 60% of buyers are looking for right now are bank owned properties or foreclosure properties.   So it might be a little of a ‘Catch-22’ here…where we need a higher inventory of these distressed properties to get the buyers off the sidelines.”  

Sharga says it may take until 2015 to clear the huge backlog of homes in the foreclosure process which will continue to be a drag on the home sale market.

Rememberance
10:49 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Thousands pay respects to Betty Ford in Grand Rapids

People watch and wait for the precession to head down Pearl Street to the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Betty Ford will be laid to rest Thursday afternoon in Grand Rapids. Wednesday evening, thousands paid their respects during visitation at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

The sidewalk outside the Ford Museum was packed with people when the motorcade rolled by, carrying Betty Ford on her final trip home.

Edna Jungers and her friend Yvonne Locker traveled from Milwaukee to see the former first lady in repose.

Jungers says her son lived near the Fords when they had a condo in Vail, Colorado.

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Politics
6:44 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Lawmaker wants to make business tougher for land speculators

State Sen. Tupac Hunter

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol aims to make it more difficult for land speculators to bid on foreclosure properties at tax auctions.

State Senator Tupac Hunter says the glut of foreclosure properties has created an environment ripe for speculators who buy properties to flip them, with no intention of improving them or paying taxes on them.

His legislation would set some restrictions on who can participate in auctions where tax-foreclosed properties are sold:

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Education
6:39 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

DPS taps charter school leader Doug Ross to head charter office

Doug Ross
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

In a move likely to shock many observers, Detroit Public Schools has named Doug Ross to head its charter school office.

Ross is the CEO of New Urban Learning, which manages what’s widely considered Detroit’s most-successful charter school system. He'll help Detroit Public Schools as it expands the number of charters it authorizes from nine to 14. He’ll also oversee the process for selecting operators to convert more of the district’s traditional schools in 2012.

Ross says it’s time for critics stuck in the charter-versus-traditional school debate to move past it:

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Politics
6:01 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Michigan getting ready for federal health care law

The federal health care law is being phased in. States are getting ready to fulfill their obligations under the law.
Andrian Clark Flickr

The state Senate has opened hearings on how Michigan will handle its responsibilities under the new federal health care law. If Michigan does nothing, the state will be placed in the federal system when the law is fully enacted in 2014.

Republican leaders expressed hope that federal courts will ultimately strike down the health care law. But Senate Insurance Committee Chair Joe Hune says Michigan needs to be ready.

"This is all because of Obamacare, which is a downright travesty that that was passed through at the federal level, but we’re in a position if we do nothing that we’ll have the federal government breathing down our neck to put something in place that we definitely do not like," said Hune. 

Senate committees were told by consumer groups, social services advocates and businesses that Michigan would be better off designing its own system than joining the federal plan or a multi-state consortium.

Legislative hearings on the state’s role in federal health care reforms could last a year.

Rememberance
4:51 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Services for Betty Ford to be held tonight and tomorrow

Betty and Gerald Ford
ABC News

The body of former first lady Betty Ford is being moved to Michigan for a service, according to the Associated Press.

From the AP:

The body of Betty Ford was placed on an Air Force jet for a final trip to Michigan, where the beloved
former first lady is to be laid to rest next to her late husband, President Gerald R. Ford.

Ford's mahogany casket, covered in flowers, was placed aboard the jet often used by Vice President Joe Biden shortly after 10a.m.

Wednesday for the four-hour flight to Grand Rapids, Mich.

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Rememberance
4:22 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Locations and times for Betty Ford condolence books

Former first lady Betty Ford (center) and her daughter, Susan Ford Bales (left) upon the arrival of the casket of former President Gerald R. Ford to Andrews Air Force Base in 2006.
Shealah Craighead White House Photo

People who wish to express their sympathy to the Ford family can sign a condolence book at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids:

Tonight (Wednesday) from 7pm-11pm and tomorrow from 7am-10am.

There is also a condolence book at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, on North Campus in Ann Arbor. The lobby will be open for the following hours, for people who wish to sign the book:

Today (Wednesday) 10am-6pm
Thursday and Friday 10am-6pm each day.

Education
3:52 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Universities work toward effective social media strategies

ahans Flickr

Many colleges and universities are still trying to develop their social media strategy. A study by Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants shows one in four potential students drops a school from their prospective list after a bad experience on the university’s website.

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Politics
3:16 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Michigan Senate passes welfare limit, raises wage cap

The Capitol Building in Lansing

Here's some additional material on the welfare limit bill passed by the Michigan Senate today from Rick Pluta.

UPDATE:

The Michigan Senate split along party lines to approve a four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits.

 The House is expected to concur with the Senate version, and Governor Rick Snyder will almost certainly sign it because the budget relies on more than 60 million dollars in savings from the benefits cap.

It also means 12,600 families will lose benefits come October first.

Read more
Offbeat
3:15 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

A little tickle therapy courtesy of the BBC

Tickle therapy.
Anathea Utley Flickr

With the news of the world's first "Tickle Spa" opening in Madrid last week, the BBC's James Coomarasamy spoke with Carrie Graham, a Laughter and Happiness Coach based in London.

Graham conducts laughter workshops in which participants are "pretend tickled" if they're not familiar with each other, and full-on tickled if they are.

Naturally, Graham had to try out a little tickle therapy on her BBC interviewer.

Have a listen:

Feel better? You can listen to the full interview from the BBC Newshour (click on chapter 10).

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