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Politics
5:39 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Legislature expected to send abortion bills to Governor this week

A state Senate panel has approved a measure designed to make it more difficult for a pregnant minor to have an abortion. The proposal would prevent young women from so-called “judge-shopping” if one court denies her request to have an abortion without parental consent.

Mary Pollock is with the National Organization for Women. She says the proposal works against pregnant teens who don’t want to have a baby.

"Some teens fear that if their parents are told of their pregnancy, they will take actions to prevent the procedure and force them to complete the pregnancy," says Pollock.

Pollock says some teens will hurt themselves as they try to end pregnancies on their own.

The Legislature is also expected to send a ban on a controversial later-term abortion procedure to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

Politics
5:33 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

UM nurses to voice concerns at "State of the Health System" address

user meddygarnet Flickr

Nurses at the University of Michigan Health System have been working without a contract since July 1.

Officials at the University of Michigan Health System and the 4,000 registered nurses who work there have been unable to reach an agreement on issues such as pay, health insurance, and benefits.

The nurses marched to a University of Michigan Board of Regents on September 15 with their demands.

Now, the nurses say they will voice their concerns at tonight's "State of the Health System" address.

From a Michigan Nurses Association press release:

Nurses will attend the annual University of Michigan Health System “State of the Health System” address on Tuesday, September 27 at 5:15 pm in the Ford Auditorium in University Hospital.

The nurses will be representing the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) in a visible show of solidarity for safe patient care at UMHS. Approximately 4,000 nurses are currently working without a contract rather than settle for an agreement that will diminish benefits and increase costs, leading to substantial nurse to patient staffing issues.

Politics
5:26 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

A conversation with Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell

In 2010, Grand Rapids was named the most sustainable mid-sized city in the U. S., by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic leadership Center and Siemens Corp. When he took office in 2004, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell implemented what he calls a “triple bottom-line sustainability planning process. ” He talks with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about what it takes to create a long term sustainable future for the city.

Economy
5:18 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Postal workers hold rallies across the state

Dozens of postal workers rally in downtown Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Postal workers delivered a message at more than a dozen rallies across Michigan today.   

Postal workers say they have a solution to the multi-billion dollar budget deficit that is threatening the future of the U.S. Post Office.  Postal officials say they are looking at closing hundreds of local post offices and mail processing centers as a way to reduce the red ink.  

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Politics
5:12 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

No-fault insurance coverage could not cover medical marijuna under Michigan bill

People injured in auto crashes would not be allowed to use their no-fault coverage to pay for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain under a bill approved by a legislative committee.

The measure is one of several proposed new restrictions to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The law was enacted by voters in 2008.

Peter Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the measure. He says insurance coverage was not supposed to be part of the medical marijuana law.

"So I think it’s pretty clear, yes, they want to utilize this is as a medical procedure, but at the same hand, not force any carrier to cover it as a covered service."

Kuhnmuench  says the bill would not prohibit someone from buying additional coverage that might pay for medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana patients say the law should not specifically ban one treatment for people facing chronic pain from an injury.

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Politics
4:56 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Bill would circumvent light bulb efficiency standards

Federal policies will begin the phase out of the energy inefficient incandescent bulb in 2012.
user whizzer's place creative commons

The state House could vote soon to let Michigan companies ignore new federal efficiency standards for incandescent light bulbs. But they could ignore the law only if they sell the bulbs exclusively to Michigan customers.

That’s because the federal government regulates interstate commerce.

The new federal standards for incandescent bulbs will start to phase in next year.

State Representative Tom McMillan says if his bill passes, it might mean Michigan manufacturers will jump into the incandescent bulb business.

"So I think there's a chance. There's no chance if we don’t pass this. If we do, I think there's a very legitimate chance."

There are currently no factories making incandescent bulbs in Michigan. There is at least one making the new energy-efficient bulbs.

*Correction - This story has been corrected to clarify that the new federal efficiency standards do not ban the sale of incandescent bulbs. The new standards will, however, phase out the common incandescent bulb as we know it.

Politics
4:12 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Another Michigan lawmaker facing a recall effort

Brandon Dillon is one of dozens of Michigan lawmakers facing recall efforts this year.
House Democrats

Organizers are expected to begin collecting signatures to recall State Representative Brandon Dillon of Grand Rapids. A panel of Kent County officials approved the recall language Tuesday. That’s despite the fact that the claim laid out in the petition is untrue.

The petition claims Dillon voted against a bill aimed at investigating unemployment fraud. Dillon voted against one of the amendments, but voted for the actual bill.

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Politics
3:48 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Bill would require residency for medical marijuana

USFWS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two Republican state senators say they're planning legislation that would require people to live in Michigan for one year before getting state permission to use marijuana for
medical purposes.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Rick Jones say Tuesday it's an effort to stop out-of-state marijuana growers from setting up shop in homes rented in Michigan. The proposal would join at least a dozen other bills aimed at changing the state's medical marijuana law approved by voters in 2008.

Michigan State Police say they have had instances where out-of-state residents rent homes in Michigan, then get a driver's license and a state-issued medical marijuana card.

The out-of-state residents grow pot in the rental homes and return occasionally to check on the crop, selling the drug in their home states.

Trade Mission
3:09 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

New Michigan-Japanese partnership to add jobs in Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

On his trade mission to Asia, Governor Snyder praised a business partnership between a Japanese company and the Michigan Molecular Institute (MMI).

The partnership between Japan's ECO Research Institute (ERI) and MMI is expected to bring around 30 new jobs to Midland.

Snyder made his comments at the Japan Midwest U.S. Annual Conference today praising the partnership "as an example of the economic and technological benefits that Michigan and Japan stand to gain through greater cooperation."

The two companies will form a new company called ECO Bio Plastics Midland Inc. The new company will produce bio-plastic pellets made of compound  mixes of plastics and micron-sized dry powder made from shredded paper.

These pellets will be used as packaging materials, food service products, heat insulation applications, and toys.

The Midland Daily News quoted James Plonka, president and CEO of Michigan Molecular Institute:

Plonka noted EBP has chosen a site for the new Midland facility, with the expectation to break ground before November and to begin production next summer.

“Midland is a good location for the demonstration facility for a couple reasons,” Plonka said. “First, because of the paper shredding services provided by the Arnold Center, Midland, is an excellent source of paper feedstock. And secondly, some of the most innovative plastics research in the world occurs in Midland. It’s a natural fit.

The plan calls for the initial paper-plastic composite production facility to produce 10 million pounds per year, with the ability to grow to 100 million pounds per year, Plonka said.

Education
2:55 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Expanding computer skills training in Lansing

Students attending a class at ITEC's new headquarters in Lansing's Foster community center
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A Lansing-based non-profit that works to improve the computer skills of teens and  young adults is getting a new home.  Local dignitaries were on hand to cut the ribbon officially opening ITEC’s new headquarters on Lansing’s eastside. 

ITEC stands for Information Technology Empowerment Center.  ITEC  works with Michigan State University and local I-T firms to provide instruction that will help young people hone their skills.  

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Station News
1:38 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Maintenance work on WUOM signal tonight

WUOM 91.7 will be going off the air at midnight in order to allow our engineers to safely perform some maintenance work. The work should take about two hours. This overnight repair work will only effect our 91.7 signal in southeast Michigan.

Environment
12:21 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

University of Michigan commits $14 million to environmental improvements

University of Michigan officials say they will purchase seven new hybrid buses as part of their $14 million push to improve the University's environmental footprint.
Corey Seeman Flickr

University of Michigan officials say they are committing $14 million to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce solid waste sent to landfills, protect local water supplies, and support local food supplies.

In a speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said the changes are a new chapter for the university, "one that will alter the face of our campus and, more important, the character of our teaching, research and impact as a global leader."

Officials listed goals they hope to meet by 2025 in a press release:

  • Cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, the equivalent of removing nearly 42,000 cars from the road.
  • Make the university transportation system more efficient – decreasing vehicle carbon output by 30 percent for every person in the car, truck or bus.
  • Shrink the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent.
  • Protect the Huron River through best-in-class storm water control strategies and by applying 40 percent fewer chemicals to campus landscapes, and ensure that at least 30 percent of stormwater runoff does not flow into the Huron River.
  • Promote sustainable foods while supporting more Michigan farmers and producers. From the residence halls to the unions and hospitals, the university is introducing new purchasing guidelines and making a commitment that at least 20 percent of U-M food comes from local and sustainable sources.

Officials say some of changes on campus will be noticed "almost immediately": the purchase of 37 hybrid vehicles (including buses), a solar panel installation on North Campus, a geothermal system for the Weisfeld Family Golf Center, and newly renovated or constructed dining halls will go "trayless" (so students don't pile on food they end up tossing in the garbage).

The Associated Press reports the $14 million the University is committing to sustainability augments other sustainability spending by the University:

That's in addition to $64 million in energy-efficient construction activity and $20 million supporting on-campus sustainability efforts.

The university says its plan is among the broadest of its kind, though efforts are under way at many campuses, including Michigan State University, Miami University in Ohio, University of Oregon
and University of Utah.

Donald Scavia, the director of UM's  Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and an advisor to President Coleman on sustainability,  says the commitments and goals are important, "but more impressive to me is the emerging culture shift on campus. I believe the high levels of focus, energy, and collaboration now in place throughout the university are the most significant steps in driving progress toward all of our sustainability goals -- in education, research, and operations."

Auto
11:34 am
Tue September 27, 2011

NHTSA investigating possible Jeep air bag problem

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the airbags in Jeep Liberty vehicles from 2003-2004 .
IFCAR wikimedia commons

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal regulators are investigating reports that the air bags on some Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicles are suddenly going off without a crash happening.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that in four of seven confirmed cases, the front driver-side air bag went off, while in three, both the driver- and passenger-side air bags deployed.

The investigation involves an estimated 387,356 vehicles made during the 2002 and 2003 model years. Five of the seven reports involved injuries.

Some owners said they saw the air bag light come on, or intermittently come on, before the air bags went off.

Culture
10:46 am
Tue September 27, 2011

Honoring Living People on Stamps?

You have to admit, this has been a very odd year in Michigan, and things seem likely to get odder. We have a governor who happily calls himself a nerd, almost never wears a tie, never ran for office before, and has been phenomenally successful at getting the legislature to pass whatever laws he wants.

His only failure so far has been to get them to accept a bridge which wouldn’t cost anything, would mean ten thousand jobs and two billion free dollars from the federal government.

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Arts/Culture
10:05 am
Tue September 27, 2011

North Woods: Music of the Copper Country

Les Ross, Sr received the Michigan Heritage Award in 2009 for his "lumberjack" style of harmonica playing.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The folklorist Alan Lomax spent nearly two months in the Upper Peninsula in 1938, recording the music of the north woods. He recorded lots of bawdy lumberjack tunes, Finnish songs and polkas. In a note to the Library of Congress, Lomax said "there was material enough in the region for years of work."

Today, most of that music has been lost to history. But Leslie (Les) Ross, Sr still plays it. Born in 1923 in Eben Junction, Ross is one of the last harmonica players in the country to play in the "lumberjack style."

As part of my Stories from the North Woods series, I sat down with Les Ross and percussionist Randy Seppola. With Ross on harmonica and Seppala on bones and spoons, they played me a number of old-timey tunes, and Ross talked about his days in Eben Junction and, of course, the harmonica.

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Environment
10:02 am
Tue September 27, 2011

Chefs try to get Americans to eat Asian carp

Chefs Tim Creehan (left) and Phillipe Parola with a bighead carp.
Photo by Rebecca Williams

Two species of Asian carp, bighead and silver carp, have been swimming their way north toward the Great Lakes for decades. A lot of people are trying to keep the carp out of the Lakes.

Yesterday, attorneys general from around the country announced they’re putting more pressure on Congress to speed up action on Asian carp.

Some people think one solution is to create a market for the fish.

There are a couple of companies working to sell Asian carp to China... where the fish are considered a delicacy.

But winning over the American palate is much harder. Carp have a bit of an image problem... and they are full of bones.

“We are spoiled here, we like convenience. Everybody expects to have fish without bones, right? And that’s the issue.”

This is Chef Phillipe Parola. He’s from Baton Rouge and he wants you to learn to love Asian carp.

Parola is one of the chefs who tried to get Americans to eat nutria. Nutria look like oversized rats. So that didn’t go over so well.

Two years ago, Chef Parola found his new calling. He was out fishing in Louisiana, where the Asian carp are thick.

“With ten minutes, this fish started jumping everywhere. I’m like, what in the heck! Two of them, one after the other, landed right at my feet.”

He kept the giant carp, put them on ice, and took them home.

“To my surprise, when I saw the meat, as a professional chef, I knew right on that there’s no way that this fish could be bad, literally. When I went and cooked it, I'm going to tell you, it tasted between scallops and crab meat, there is no doubt.”

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News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue September 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

UAW talks with Ford heat up

Officials from the United Auto Workers are pushing for more from Ford Motor Company. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the union leaders "expect to get better terms" from Ford, since the company is in a better position compared to GM and Chrysler. From Cwiek's report:

If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, there is the possibility of a strike. Since Ford didn’t go through bankruptcy, it doesn’t have the no-strike clause in its current contract that the other companies enjoy.

Like its fellow U.S. automakers, Ford is reluctant to increase its fixed costs by raising wages. But the union is expected to make a major push for bonuses, more generous profit-sharing formulas and retaining jobs in the U.S.

Costs of Enbridge oil spill going up

Officials from Enbridge Energy have revised their estimates for cleaning up the oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. It's original cost was $585 million. Now, they say it will cost $700 million. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports the new estimate was part of paperwork Enbridge Energy filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. An Enbridge spokesman says the increase is due to "additional work around submerged oil and just some more active remediation of the impacted environment."

New state policy: ties for guys

In contrast to their chief executive's style, officials from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs have issued a dress code for men that calls for ties. Governor Rick Snyder prefers a sport coat and dress shirt with no tie. The Lansing State Journal reports the new policy is aimed at thousands of state employees:

The new policy went into effect Sept. 12 for about 3,700 employees at the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It's part of a move to implement a consistent dress code among the several state bureaus and offices that merged this year to create the agency.

"Some of the old bureaus had dress codes, others didn't," said Mike Zimmer, the agency's chief deputy director. "We thought it should be consistent throughout the department."

Lansing
11:40 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Lansing city council may tweak city's snow removal ordinance

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing’s ordinance requiring people to shovel snow from their sidewalks might get a tweak before the snow flies this winter.   

Last night, the Lansing City Council voted to allow four people off the hook for failing to shovel snow from their sidewalks last winter.  The reason?  They either didn’t actually own the property last winter or there was an administrative mistake.  

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Politics
9:36 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Amash says he's gaining support for plan to balance federal budget

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) took questions from students at Grand Valley State University Monday night. He has town hall meeting planned Tuesday evening.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) is pushing for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. Amash shared his proposal with a group of college students Monday night and he’ll host a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Barry County.

Amash is one of 66 Republicans who voted against raising the debt ceiling back in August. He says he’d vote against a deal again if “it’s not very serious” about reducing federal spending. 

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Education
8:19 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Senate committee to look at lifting the state limit on the number of charter schools

Students arrive for the first day of school in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate Education Committee will launch two days of hearings Tuesday focused on school choice and ways to encourage more charter academies. A Senate Republican education package would lift the statewide cap on the number of charter schools academies that can be sponsored by public universities. 

The Senate GOP package would also allow more online charter schools and make it easier for parents or teachers to ask a school district to convert a traditional school to a charter.  

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