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News Roundup
9:25 am
Fri September 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Snyder wrapping up in Asia, highlights mining in the U.P. as one business opportunity

Governor Rick Snyder is wrapping up his trip in Asia with a visit to Seoul, South Korea. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports the governor is expected to sign an agreement with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the province will work together to establish trade.

Of his visit to China, Snyder said he was surprised by the positive response he received from businesses. "Many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business," Snyder said. He pointed to mining copper or other deposits in the U.P. as one business opportunity for Chinese companies.

Welfare recipients file class action lawsuit against state

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that places tighter limits on cash assistance benefits to the poor. It puts a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance payments from the state.

For some, that cap starts tomorrow (October 1).

Some recipients facing the cap have filed a class action lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

The lawsuit, filed against Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, said immediate intervention is needed to prevent more than 25,000 parents and children from losing benefits. The welfare recipients from Saginaw, Genesee and Macomb counties asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation Sept. 6 and said the state would offer exemptions to those with disabilities that prevent them from working.

Cost of new cars higher as a result of price fixing? The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division announced that several Japanese executives have plead guilty in a price-fixing scheme: 

Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., a supplier of automotive wire harnesses and related products, headquartered in Tokyo, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $200 million fine for its role in a criminal price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of parts to automobile manufacturers...  Three executives, who are Japanese nationals, have also agreed to plead guilty and to serve prison time in the United States ranging from a year and a day to 18 months. 

DOJ officials say these are the first charges "as a result of its ongoing international cartel investigation of price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry."

Politics
7:17 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Travelogue: Governor Snyder's Trip to China (with photos)

I'm on assignment in China following Governor Snyder's trade mission, and I'm sharing my thoughts as I travel. Feel free to write me back in the comments below.

Nearing the end - Friday, September 30

The Governor's trade mission is coming to an end, and so is my trip to China.

I won't miss the smog and pollution, either in Shanghai (bad) or Beijing (worse).

But it has truly been too short a trip to get more than a glimpse of everything that is happening with China's economy, its auto industry, and its cultural and population shifts.

Frank Langfitt in Shanghai and Louisa Lim in Beijing surely have two of the biggest, most exciting beats in public radio.  This fly-in reporter leaves the country in their incredibly capable hands.

Adventure travel

My adventures with taxis continued.

I am starting to take this a little personally.

Arriving back in Shanghai from Beijing, I got in the long queue to get a taxi to my downtown Pudong hotel.

I decided I'd be a discerning and demanding customer this time around.  I rejected several taxis that had no seat belt in the back.  But when I found a taxi that was suitably equipped, and showed the driver the address to which I wanted to be taken, he shook his head, and drove up to grab the fellow who was behind me in the line.

The next taxi cab driver whose cab had seat belts did the same thing.  I asked  the airport employee who was in charge of the queue to help, but he spoke no English.  Nor did the first ten or so people in line.

Paying it forward

Finally, however, an angel arrived at the queue.  Deserine Lim, fluent English-speaker and rescuer of helpless American travelers.  She looked at my hotel address and explained that the taxi drivers didn't want me because it was too close, and they wanted a bigger fare.  Ouch.

Then, without my even thinking to ask, she suggested I split a cab with her.  She'd drop me off at my hotel, and continue on to her destination.

I'm not a Tennessee Williams fan for nothing.  I, too, have always relied on the kindness of strangers.  I got in the cab gratefully.

My rescuer is a native of Singapore, she told me, visiting Shanghai just for a day on business.  But she knows the town well, and told me what shops to go to near my hotel, what restaurants to haunt.  We discussed American politics.

When we arrived at my hotel, I paid the fare, and since it was clear her favor to me was going to cost her, both in terms of time and money, I tried to give her some money to cover the extra distance.

She adamantly refused to take it.

So, I shall have to content myself with paying it forward some day.

Ms. Lim is Assistant General Manager of OSIM, a global provider of personal, health and convenience products headquartered in Singapore.  OSIM is a co-owner of Brookstone, a company that provides such products in the U.S.

Thanks, Deserine.  You're a peach.

Next stops before home

Next stop for me:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I'll visit the Joint Institute between SJTU and the University of Michigan.

I also plan to go to a shopping mall with my SJTU interpreter, Paul (Kang Yiping) to ask people about transportation issues.

Then, another interview with a Ford China official, to learn more about the company's strategy to ride the next wave of demand for vehicles in the country.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be on a non-stop flight from Shanghai to Detroit.

They say the jet lag is a lot worse coming back.

Michigan Radio, don't call me.  I'll call you.

Arrived in Beijing - Wednesday, September 28:

I am in Beijing.

I arrived on the fourth consecutive day of a smog health advisory in the city.  Children are not supposed to play outdoors, and people with chronic health conditions are being urged to stay inside. Even if you are healthy, the smog is very irritating to your eyes and throat.

Michigan has never seemed cleaner. Even the worst Ozone Action Day in Michigan in August can't hold a candle to this.

Shanghai was windy while I was there earlier in the week. We need a good strong breeze to get this stuff out of the city, so people can breathe.

The Chinese government knows it has a potential crisis on its hands, as more people move into the cities, and more of them purchase cars.  That's why the government adopted a five year plan to vastly increase the number of electric cars in China.

The big problem with that is infrastructure.

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Arts/Culture
7:00 am
Fri September 30, 2011

North Woods: Old movie theaters get new lease on life

The Vista Theater "was the place to be" when it opened in Negaunee in the 1920s.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

We wrap up our Stories from the North Woods series with a look at how cities and towns from Detroit to Marquette are bringing new life to their old movie palaces. 

The Vista Theater as community theater

When the Vista Theater opened in Negaunee in the 1920s, the Upper Peninsula town was booming. Alfred Keefer says the Vista "was the theater to be at, and they would fill this house up on movie nights."

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Sports Commentary
6:30 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Good times for Detroit's sports teams

The Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs, and the Lions are 3-0.
Keith Allison Flickr

Once in a while something happens that is so unusual, even those who don’t normally pay attention have to stop and take notice.

Haley’s Comet, for example, only comes along once every 75 years.

A leap year only comes around every four years.  And Lindsey Lohan goes to jail – no, wait, that happens every week. 

Well, this week, Detroit sports fans got Haley’s Comet, a leap year, and a clean and sober Lindsay Lohan all wrapped into one:  The Tigers clinched the American League Central Division, and even more shockingly, the Lions won their third straight game. 

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Business
6:49 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

New airport director gets $200,000 severance deal from prior county post

Turkia Mullin became the director of Detroit Metro Airport in August 2011, leaving her post as Wayne County economic development director. She received a $200,000 severance package in the switch from one county position to another.
Californiaaviation.org

A Wayne County Commissioner says he was unaware of a six-figure severance deal given to the new head of Detroit Metro Airport.

Turkia Mullin left her $200,000-a-year job as Wayne County’s economic developer so she could run the airport for $250,000 annually.

She also got a $200,000 severance check.

Bernard Parker is a Wayne County Commissioner who’s also a member of the airport authority.

Parker says Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano chose Mullin. Parker says he didn’t know about the severance deal.

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Arts/Culture
6:26 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Votes are in: ArtPrize "top ten" announced today

"Rain" by Ann Arbor artist Lynda Cole 'is a kinetic sculpture using 7600 squares of silver leaf on polyester film. The squares are suspended within a 10 ft. cube of space and move with ambient air current.'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

From ArtPrize's website today:

Here are the ArtPrize 2011 Top Ten in alphabetical order. Voting on the top ten will begin at 7:00 PM Thursday, September 29, and continue through 11:59 PM on Wednesday, October 5. The first place winner and the order of the Top Ten will be announced at 6:30 PM on Thursday, October 6 at DeVos Performance Hall. Tickets are available at the ArtPrize HUB at 41 Sheldon.

Laura Alexander
The Tempest II

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Politics
5:41 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

What can we learn from Snyder's trade misson to Asia?

Shanghai, China
user: Jakob Montrasio / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder this week embarked on a trade mission to Asia. He’ll be visiting China, Japan, and South Korea. This is the first visit to China by a  Michigan Governor since the Engler administration. Here to talk about the what Michigan can gain from a relationship with China is Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent who is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

 

Trade Mission
5:25 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Michigan Governor Snyder pleased with results of his first trade mission

Governor Rick Snyder said he will return to China in the next year, after completing his first trade mission in that country.

In the meantime, he said there’s a lot of follow-up to do in Michigan, to develop brand-new relationships with Chinese business leaders.

Governor Snyder spent a day in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and a day in Shanghai, the country’s international commerce center.

He said he was pleasantly surprised at how interested Chinese business leaders seem in closer business ties with Michigan. He said one possibility is getting Chinese mining companies, who want to expand overseas, to take a look at mining copper and other deposits in the U.P.

"It’s another export from our state, and the main thing is we do it in an environmentally conscious way and we put in the structure to do that," said Snyder.

Governor Snyder also highlighted his new “Global Michigan Initiative,” which he says should help create jobs in the state.

The initiative is designed to encourage talented immigrants to settle in Michigan.

The Global Michigan Initiative began two months ago.

While speaking in Shanghai, Snyder said the initiative will expand over the next few years to include cultural programs, more trade missions, and a visa program.

"There are a number of states that are unfortunately discouraging immigration, and I believe it should be the opposite, and the empirical support is there by encouraging immigration you actually create jobs for people in your community," said Snyder. " It’s a job creator."

The Governor is now on his way to South Korea, after a two-day stay in China.

This is Snyder’s first trade mission, and he says it was easier to make a pitch for the state’s positive business environment than he expected.

That’s because some of the Chinese business leaders he met with had already done some homework on Michigan.

"The most pleasant surprise was just the positive response of people in China and businesses in particular, that many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business, and I was happy to see that they mentioned tax reform is a good reason for them to come, having a balanced budget is a major item," said Snyder.

The Governor will be in Seoul next, where he will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the Province will work together to establish trade.

Snyder will return to Michigan on Saturday.

Politics
5:06 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

State will institute furloughs in lieu of concessions

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has ordered that 367 unfilled jobs with the state remain vacant. The order comes as a result of no bargaining agreement with state worker unions to cut costs.

The governor’s administration will order state workers to take four unpaid vacation days in the coming fiscal year.

Some say the furlough days won’t save the state as much money as expected.

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Science/Medicine
4:57 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

A new call for organ donors in Michigan

The pictures and stories of donor & tissue donors and recipients were on display on the state capitol grounds today in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s a new push underway to get more Michiganders to sign up as future organ donors.  

Michigan ranks 44th in the percentage of adults who are registered organ donors.   

Richard Pietroski says that’s not good enough.  He’s the chief executive officer of Gift of Life Michigan.   Pietroski says the 3 thousand critically ill Michiganders waiting for an organ or tissue transplant have to wait longer than they should.  

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Politics
4:52 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Political Roundup with Debbie Dingell and Ken Sikkema

Michigan State Capitol.
user: Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

So far, this session of the Michigan legislature has been busy. Governor Snyder is expected to sign legislation that creates a state ban on dilation and extraction abortions despite there already being a federal ban. We’ve seen a proposal to block foreign laws from being used in Michigan. And there’s a proposal that would allow Michigan companies to produce incandescent light bulbs. That’s despite a federal ban and despite the fact that no Michigan companies currently produce incandescent light bulbs.

Culture
4:36 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Census releases numbers on the black population in the U.S.

The black or African American population as a percent of a county's population in 2010.
U.S. Census Bureau

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report "The Black Population: 2010."

The 2010 Census found that 14 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as black, "either alone or in combination with one or more other races."

From a U.S. Census Bureau press release:

Of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million on April 1, 2010, 38.9 million people, or 13 percent, identified as black alone. In addition, 3.1 million people, or 1 percent, reported as black in combination with one or more other races. Together, these two groups comprise the black alone-or-in-combination population and totaled 42.0 million.

Detroit has highest concentration of blacks living in an urban area

Census officials report that of the major cities in the U.S. (cities with 100,000 people in them or more), Detroit had the highest percentage of people identifying as black, or black in combination with other races, at 84 percent.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Detroit, Michigan (84.3 percent)
  2. Jackson, Mississippi (80.1 percent)
  3. Miami Gardens, Florida (77.9 percent)
  4. Birmingham, Alabama (74.0 percent)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (65.1 percent)
  6. Memphis, Tennessee (64.1 percent)
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana (61.2 percent)
  8. Flint, Michigan (59.5 percent)
  9. Montgomery, Alabama (57.4 percent)
  10. Savannah, Georgia (56.7 percent)
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Economy
2:23 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Activists: Stop delaying fair farm rules

Activists are calling for the implementation of rules that allow small and medium-size farmers to compete more fairly with large and corporate farms.
jschumacher Morguefile

Activists are pressuring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow to implement new rules to support small and medium-sized farms.

A group called Food and Water Watch says corporate farming dominates America’s food system.

Spokeswoman Lynn Kaucheck says the 2008 Farm Bill has rules designed to level the playing field, but they haven’t taken effect yet.

They want Sen. Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, to do something about it

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Auto/Economy
2:14 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

In Lansing, Michigan, little jubilation over UAW-General Motors deal

Members of the Local 602, employed at the Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant above, voted against ratifying a new contract between UAW and General Motors.
Photo courtesy GM

DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Auto workers at the Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant make some of General Motors’ most popular vehicles.

The GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave are all produced inside this 3.4-million square-foot facility on the outskirts of Lansing, which is Michigan’s state capital.

In August, when GM announced an 18 percent sales increase from 2010, GMC led the turnaround with a 40.3 percent increase. Chevrolet had gained 15.8 percent.

So when contract negotiations began last month, the plant’s 3,430 hourly workers expected they’d be sharing in the company’s improved position. But when they saw the proposed deal between the United Auto Workers and GM, many members of UAW Local 602 here felt jilted instead.

They rejected the deal — a rarity for a contract approved by two-thirds of GM workers nationwide.

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Environment
1:18 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Citizens' group raises concerns about wind turbines' proximity to gas pipelines

(*We're experiencing technical problems with one of the above audio files. Please ignore the "audio processing" message above.)

By Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Officials in Mason County have given the green light to the first large scale wind farm near the Lake Michigan shore. Consumers Energy wants to have fifty-six turbines built and running before the end of next year. But some residents say in its rush to get going Consumers and the County are downplaying a serious threat to public safety.

Natural gas pipelines run through the site of Consumers Energy’s wind park south of Ludington.

A group of residents says at least half a dozen of the windmills are within falling distance of a gas line. And they say if a turbine falls it could cause a pipeline to break with the risk of an explosion.

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Changing Gears
11:52 am
Thu September 29, 2011

Detroit, Milwaukee Get Ready For Post-Season Economic Boost

The Detroit Tigers drew 2.6 million fans to Comerica Park during the regular season, good for 13th place among major league teams.
Flickr

There may be no joy in Boston or Atlanta, but there is plenty among baseball fans in the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers are headed to division playoff series in the American and National Leagues, respectively.

The Brewers have a leg up on their neighbors across Lake Michigan: they’ve clinched home field advantage in the best of five series. They play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday and Saturday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The Tigers face the New York Yankees those same days at Yankee Stadium in New York, then return to Comerica Park on Monday.

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Environment
11:39 am
Thu September 29, 2011

NRC inspectors back at Palisades after 2nd shutdown in 2 months

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in South Haven.
nrc.org

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is conducting a second special inspection within two months at Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in South Haven.

NRC inspectors were at the 40-year-old Palisades plant in August after a water pump part failed, leading to a plant shutdown.

The team is back in South Haven, after workers performing maintenance on an electrical panel caused the plant to shut down again on Sunday.

“Did it involve maintenance issues, human performance issues, design concerns? What happened? Why did the plant trip after that electrical arc?"

Those are some of the the questions the inspectors will ask, according to NRC spokeswoman Victoria Midlyng.

The inspection could take up to two weeks.

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says the plant and its owner, Entergy, are conducting their own investigations. He says employees and the public were never in danger.

interview-with-governor-granholm-dan-mulhern
11:35 am
Thu September 29, 2011

A Governor's story: An interview with former Governor Jennifer Granholm and Dan Mulhern

www.danmulhern.com

Less than nine months after leaving office, Michigan former Governor Jennifer Granholm has published an account of her administration. The book was co-authored by her husband, Dan Mulhern.

In "A Governor's Story, The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future," Granholm recounts the many challenges the state faced during her term as Governor from 2003 to 2011.

The book details job losses, globalization, a shrinking auto industry, and Granholm's efforts to combat how those issues affected the state and its residents.

Politics
11:32 am
Thu September 29, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

A while ago, somebody asked me what the biggest thing was that I had learned from a lifetime in journalism.

What instantly popped into my mind was this: Common sense is a very uncommon thing. And that keeps a lot of journalists in business. You don’t need fancy degrees to know that it risky, not to mention wrong, to steal money, tell lies that can be easily uncovered, or cheat on your dying wife when you are running for president.

However, that doesn’t stop brilliant, well-educated people from doing such things and self-destructing, all  the time.

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Auto/Economy
11:07 am
Thu September 29, 2011

GM to offer center air bag on 3 models

GM says center airbags will be standard on all 2013 Buick Enclaves as well as some other models.
user alins Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors Co. said Thursday it will install a center air bag on three of its models next year to better protect drivers and front-seat passengers.

The new bag inflates from the right side of the driver's seat and is designed to protect people when their vehicles are hit on the opposite side of where they are sitting. They serve as a cushion between a driver and front-seat passenger in a collision, GM said in a statement.

The bags will come standard on all Buick Enclave crossover vehicles starting in the 2013 model year, and they'll be on the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers that are equipped with
power seats. The 2013 models will come out in the fall of 2012. Crossovers are like SUVs but are more efficient because they're built on car underpinnings rather than trucks.

GM said in the statement that the center air bags, developed with parts supplier Takata Corp., are the first in the industry. It has plans to put them in more of its models, but the company would
not say which ones.

GM said it analyzed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database of fatal auto accidents and found that crashes on the opposite side of where people sit accounted for 11 percent of deaths in non-rollover crashes from 2004 through 2009. The company said it checked crashes involving passengers wearing seat belts in vehicles from the 1999 model year or newer models.

The center air bag also is expected to help protect passengers in rollover crashes, the company said.

Shares of GM rose 11 cents to $20.52 in morning trading. They are down 38 percent from the November initial public offering price of $33 per share.

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