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News Roundup
8:27 am
Tue July 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Feds Coming to Detroit

The Obama administration unveiled a federal program yesterday aimed at helping cities like Detroit revitalize parts of their urban centers. “The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will target Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Chester, Pa… Officials say the program seeks to cut through federal red tape by providing communities with technical assistance to ensure federal and local dollars are spent wisely. Federal representatives will help Detroit Mayor Dave Bing tackle issues he had identified as ‘vital to their economic strategies, including efforts to build on local assets, strengthen regional economies, develop transportation infrastructure, improve job-training programs and support community revitalization,’” Mark Brush reports.

Thousands Still without Power

Utilities companies say about 90,000 homes and businesses remain without electricity a day after severe thunderstorms and strong winds moved across the lower half of the state. The Associated Press reports:

At least 191,000 customers lost power following Monday's storms. CMS Energy Corp. says Tuesday morning about 42,000 of its customers still were without power. DTE Energy Co. tells WDIV-TV and WWJ-AM about 47,000 of its customers remained blacked out… The storms hit as southern Michigan was already seeing a dangerous mix of high temperatures and high humidity.

Services for Ford

About a thousand people will attend a funeral for former First Lady Betty Ford today. The invitation-only service will take place in Palm Desert, California. Tomorrow, Mrs. Fords’ body will be flown to Michigan where a public viewing will take place in the evening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. A private service is planned for Thursday in East Grand Rapids.

State Legislature
6:50 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Lawmakers to return to Lansing occasionally in July and August

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

State lawmakers are on a summer break but, they will be meeting infrequently throughout this month and next.

“The Senate Appropriations Committee has a meeting set for Tuesday to discuss bills related to transportation funding, court of appeals fees and quality assurance assessments at some health facilities. The state Senate is expected to meet in a full session Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville also plans to introduce legislation this week that would boost the value of Michigan’s film incentives. As the Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta reported yesterday, “the state Senate leader says he is looking for ways to make Michigan more attractive to filmmakers now that the state has scaled back generous tax breaks for the industry.”

Meanwhile, the state House has a session scheduled for July 27th.

Politics
1:01 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Ford funeral service today in California

First Lady Betty Ford
Felix de Cossio White House

Betty Ford and her husband, the late President Gerald Ford, spent much of the past thirty years in Rancho Mirage, California. About a thousand people will attend an invitation-only funeral service today in nearby Palm Desert.

Wednesday, Mrs. Ford’s body will be flown to Michigan. A public viewing will take place tomorrow evening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. 

A private funeral at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids is planned for Thursday. Afterward, she will be buried next to her husband on the grounds of the presidential museum.  

Betty Ford died last week.  She was 93.

Crime
5:57 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court says homeless sex offenders must report 'home' address to state

The seal of the Michigan Supreme Court
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A Michigan Supreme Court says homeless sex offenders must report their home address to the state even though they don’t actually have homes.  Paroled sex offenders are legally required to provide their home address to the state sex offender registry. But what if they’re homeless?   

Randall Lee Dowdy is a convicted rapist.  He was paroled in 2002. But he was arrested again a few years later after he gave the address of a Lansing non-profit as his ‘home address’. Dowdy was homeless at the time.  

Lower courts ruled Dowdy couldn’t be charged with violating the law since he didn’t have a home address to report. 

But the Michigan Supreme Court says homelessness is no excuse. In a 4 to 3 decision, the high court ruled the lower courts had not taken the ‘intent’ of the law into account, adding homelessness doesn’t prevent sex offenders from complying with the law requiring them to report their ‘home’ address to the state.

The dissenting justices describe the majority’s opinion as defying ‘common sense.’

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Michigan fish advisory
5:31 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

State adds to fish warnings this year

The new Michigan Fish Advisory is out.  The advisory lists which Great Lakes fish are fairly safe to eat, and which should be avoided.

In general, blue gill, crappie, yellow perch and rock bass are safer to eat than fish like carp, lake trout, white fish, and catfish.

Women of child-bearing age and children have to be especially cautious about eating too many fish, because chemicals in fish can potentially cause neurological damage.

State toxicologist Kory Groetsch says the level of mercury in locally-caught fish has stayed about the same over the past few decades.

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Politics
5:14 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Film advocates hope state restores scaled-back incentives

Film crews filming the movie "Five Year Engagement" in Ann Arbor. Governor Snyder scaled back Michigan's film incentives to $25 million. Advocates are hoping for more.
Corey Seeman Flickr

People who work in Michigan’s film industry hope efforts to boost the incentives for TV, movie, and video productions are successful.

They say the recent $25 million cap on the incentives makes them too small to attract big productions.

Chris Baum helps market the state to Hollywood with Michigan Film First and Film Detroit.

Baum says the state does not have to be as generous as it has been in the past to movie-makers, but it still has to put more money into incentives if it’s going to build a movie industry here:

"It’s not brain surgery. We've invited an industry here. We've promised them that we wanted them here," said Baum. "We need to continue to giving them conditions that allow themselves to establish themselves here and then down the road, they'll be so comfortable coming to Michigan that we'll be able to pull back on the the incentives further."

Baum says Michigan needs to have at least $100 million available for incentives if it’s going to attract the big budget movies that generate the most economic activity.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is expected to unveil a plan this week to boost the state’s film incentives.

Governor Rick Snyder dramatically scaled back the incentives saying they offered a poor return to taxpayers.

Arts/Culture
5:07 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Detroit's new biz accelerator focuses on creative sector

New business accelerator focuses on creative industries
Dani Davis

A unique business accelerator opens today in Detroit. 

A lot of business accelerators, generally speaking, focus on internet startups and biotech companies. But with the new Creative Ventures Acceleration Program in Detroit, the spotlight is on creative industries:

"The industrial design world, the interior design world, fashion design, music production, video production and architecture."

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Weather
4:33 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

95,000 Consumers Energy customers left powerless by strong storms

It may take until Thursday before tens of thousands of people in west and central Michigan get their electricity back.  Two strong storm fronts moved through the state today, packing powerful winds.  

Terry Dedoes is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says the utility is busy trying to restore electricity to 95 thousand Consumers Energy customers.   

 “That second wave materialized…and that did a lot of damage…we saw more outages from that second wave that came through in Kalamazoo….which just got brushed by that first one.”  

Politics
4:17 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Detroit light rail in question

John Smaltak modernstreetcar.org

Federal officials and Detroit civic leaders want to reassure people that a light rail project is still going forward.

Those reassurances come after a week of press reports and swirling rumors that some of the project’s private backers may be pulling out.

A group of private investors had pledged $100 million to finance the Woodward Avenue rail line. That money is crucial for the city to get federal matching grants.

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Politics
4:04 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

The U.S. debt ceiling explained

Congress is debating the debt ceiling, so what is that?
user kulshrax Flickr

As many political pundits predicted, the debate over the federal debt ceiling is reaching a new level.

President Obama said in a news conference today that if Republicans refuse to budge in budget negotiations, then a debt ceiling deal probably won't be reached.

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Blood shortage
3:34 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Red Cross issues national appeal for blood donations

Retired U.S. Army Capt. George H. Froemke donates blood during a blood drive held in Colorado in 2007.
U.S. Army Flickr

We spoke with Bridget Tuohey of the Red Cross of Southeast Michigan about today's urgent nationwide appeal for blood donations, after tornados and other disasters impacted the agency's ability to collect blood this summer.

Tuohey says Michigan has been critically short of blood for three weeks now. 

Normally, the state can turn to other areas of the country to get blood when there's not enough donation here.  That's not the case now, says Tuohey, and the Red Cross can no longer completely fill standing orders for blood from state hospitals.  Some hospitals are postponing elective surgeries as a result.

The Red Cross needs all blood types, but especially A-negative, B-negative and O-negative.   O-negative is called the universal blood type because it can be given to anyone in an emergency.

People who can donate can walk in to a clinic.  But Tuohey says it's best to make an appointment ahead of time by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767.)

Environment
2:29 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Number of bald eagles in Michigan rising

A bald eagle spotted near Horseshoe Lake recently
J Scot Page

The number of bald eagles in Michigan has risen to 700 eagle pairs, up 70 from last year, according to the Associated Press.

Here's more from the AP article (care of the Chicago Tribune):

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Science/Medicine
1:31 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Prescription drug abuse on the rise in Michigan

User: Almond Butterscotch Flickr

Death from prescription drug overdose is on the rise in Michigan.

More Michiganders are dying from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined. In 2009, almost 460 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from nearly 410 deaths the year before. Data from 2010 is still being collected.

Larry Scott is with the Michigan Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction Services. He says there is one way to prevent the rise of prescription drug abuse.

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Politics
1:17 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Marijuana stays on DEA's list of "really bad" drugs

The DEA announced that marijuana will continue to classified as a Class I drug stating the drug has "has no accepted medical use in the United States."
user eljoja Flickr

Last Friday, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a petition that sought to reclassify marijuana. The petition came from the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis and had been in front of the DEA for nine years.

From Occupational Health and Safety Magazine:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a nine-year-old petition seeking to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, holding that it meets the three criteria for placing a substance in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1):

  • Marijuana has a high potential for abuse,
  • Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision.There are five categories for drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.
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Politics
12:07 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Federal government announces plan to assist Detroit and other urban centers

The federal government has unveiled a new program aimed at revitalizing Detroit and other cities.
Bob Jagendorf Flickr

The Obama administration today unveiled a federal program aimed at helping cities like Detroit revitalize parts of their urban core.

The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will target Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Chester, Pa.

And in keeping with federal government style, officials have given the program an acronym, SC2.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled the program with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this morning.

From a HUD press release:

"On behalf of the Obama Administration, it is an honor to announce the SC2 initiative in Detroit, one of America's most unique and vibrant cities," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "This will be a new type of federal partnership for Detroit - one that will allow the city to build on its progress and further strengthen its foundation for economic growth and resiliency in a global economy."

Officials say the program seeks to cut through federal red tape by providing communities with technical assistance to ensure federal and local dollars are spent wisely.

Read more
Politics
11:58 am
Mon July 11, 2011

Live blog: President Obama's news conference on the debt ceiling

President Barack Obama talks with members of his staff in the Oval Office following a meeting with the Congressional Leadership, July 7, 2011.
Photo by Pete Souza Official White House

LISTEN: NPR coverage of the president's news conference

Update at 11:58 a.m. ET. The president's news conference is over

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. At The End, More On Jobs:

Continuing to speak about current conditions, the president says that "what we can do is solve this underlying debt and deficit problem" so that then, there can be debates about "strategies that we could pursue to focus on targeted job growth."

Update at 11:51 a.m. ET. On The Economy:

The economic stimulus package passed shortly after he became president, Obama says, prevented a depression — but also "stabilized [the economy] at a level where unemployment is still too high and ... can't make up for al the jobs that were lost before I took office" and in the first months after he took office.

Update at 11:49 a.m. ET. Everybody In The Boat:

Paraphrasing former Sen. Bob Dole (the 1996 GOP presidential nominee), the president says that if Republicans and Democrats both compromise, it's as if "everybody gets in the boat at the same time — it doesn't tip over."

Update at 11:46 a.m. ET. "We Are Going To Get This Done":

Asked if the administration is working on any contingency plans in case a deal on raising the federal debt ceiling is not reached by the Aug. 2 deadline, the president flatly states that "we are going to get this done by Aug. 2."

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What's Working
11:28 am
Mon July 11, 2011

Improving Detroit, one neighborhood at a time

Five years ago, the Skillman Foundation began a project called “The Good Neighborhoods Initiative.’ The goal was to improve life for kids in six Detroit neighborhoods. Skillman asked the University of Michigan School of Social Work for help, so the school created the “Technical Assistance Center.”  That group serves as a resource for the neighborhoods as they enact change.

Professor Larry Gant is leading the U of M team. He spoke with us for our weekly series on Michigan Radio, "What's Working."

Commentary
11:08 am
Mon July 11, 2011

The Importance of Betty Ford

They’re bringing Betty Ford back home this week, to be buried next to her husband, President Gerald Ford, at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids.

You knew by now that the former first lady died last Friday in California. But what you may not have known unless you are in your fifties, or older, is just how important she was.

They both were, really. President Ford’s story is better known, and best expressed by Jimmy Carter, who said when he took office: “I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Elizabeth Bloomer Ford had a big role in that too, but she also did something else. She showed the nation that a first lady could also be a human being.

The Fords took office after the final convulsion of the Watergate scandal, and eleven of the worst years the United States has ever known. The public had learned that Richard Nixon had lied about virtually everything.

His predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had dragged us into a war in Vietnam for reasons nobody understood, a war that went on for years and tore our nation apart. Before that, we’d been traumatized when the young president before him had his head blown off in broad daylight. The presidency and America had taken a beating.

Nor were any of the first ladies of the period women to whom most people could relate. We’d always been fascinated by the presidents’ wives. But they were sort of like royalty, fascinating, forbidden and distant. Betty Ford was a regular person. Just months before she moved in to the White House, she was the unknown wife of the house minority leader, looking forward to her husband’s retirement from Congress. Then, suddenly, she was first lady.

But she was still Betty Ford, the irrepressible mother of four kids, a woman who most of all, was real.

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News Roundup
8:42 am
Mon July 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Increasing rates of prescription drug deaths in Michigan

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the nation, and Michigan is no exception.

Detroit Free Press medical writer Patricia Anstett has a piece highlighting the problems in the state. From the article:

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.

"We're seeing an alarming trend that continues to increase," said Larry Scott, manager of the prevention section of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction.

One in four people seeking emergency care for prescription drug abuse were younger than 25.

Michigan legislature working on proposal to cap welfare benefits

Under a proposal being considered in the Michigan legislature, there would be a four-year life limit on welfare benefits in Michigan.

From the Saginaw News:

The state Senate this week is expected to consider its version of bill sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth B. Horn that could end some poor Michigan families’ welfare benefits as soon as October.

Horn, R-Frankenmuth, wrote the proposed legislation that creates a 48-month, retroactive limit on direct cash assistance. People who have been receiving assistance since 2007 would be the first affected.

House bills 4409 and 4410 are expected to go before the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. The bill's sponsor expects them to pass.

HUD secretary to make announcement this morning on reviving urban centers

Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is expected to unveil an economic plan in Detroit this morning.

From the Associated Press:

Donovan is scheduled to announce the initiative Monday morning in Detroit alongside Mayor Dave Bing and other government leaders at a loft development near downtown. He also is to speak at noon to the Detroit Economic Club at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

The department says Donovan is to discuss a new Obama administration approach to strengthening cities that involves working with them. He also plans to outline challenges facing those cities as well steps the administration already is taking at the local and national levels.

Arts/Culture
6:00 am
Mon July 11, 2011

Man buys remote Lake Superior island, plans new artist residency

Rabbit Island in Lake Superior.

An uninhabited island in Lake Superior will soon be home to an artist residency program.

New Yorker Rob Gorski saw the 91-acre island listed for sale on Craiglist. At first, he was skeptical. But after talking it over with his brother, both of whom are Michigan natives, they bought the island for less than $150,000.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

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