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Economy
11:15 am
Sat September 24, 2011

Agencies look for new funding to help poor pay for heat

About 95,000 Michigan residents needed help to pay their home heating costs last year.
uppermichigansource.com

LANSING -- Social services groups are scrambling to

prevent thousands of low-income Michigan residents from having

their heat cut off after a program that helped pay overdue utility

bills for the poor lost its funding.

 

A court struck down the financing system used by the program in

July, and lawmakers haven't enacted a new one. With the aid money

running out as winter arrives, officials are temporarily drawing on

other funds to tide over needy families.

 

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Crime
9:12 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Michigan State Police stop criminal plot against state lawmaker

State Rep. Barb Byrum, see here at her swearing in ceremony in 2009, with her son Blake.
(courtesy Barb Byrum's facebook page)

A state prisons spokesman says a potential kidnapping or murder-for-hire threat from an inmate targeting a Michigan state lawmaker has been detected and stopped.

Authorities said Friday that the case remains under investigation and no charges have been filed. They say the plot was being developed by a prisoner in a state correctional facility who has since been isolated from other prisoners. It wasn't immediately known why the prisoner was targeting the lawmaker.

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Offbeat
6:55 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Thousands of bikers poised to "take over" Detroit streets

A scene from a past Tour de Troit
www.tour-de-troit.org

Thousands of bikers are expected on Detroit streets Saturday for the 10th annual “Tour de Troit.”

Most of them will take part in a 22-mile, police-escorted tour that explores a different part of Detroit’s historic landscape every year. This year, it will kick off in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station, the hulking former
train depot that’s sat empty for more than 20 years (there’s also a 62-mile loop for more adventurous bikers).

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Politics
5:32 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Politics of Language (Part 3)

user: Widjaya Ivan / flickr

This week we are talking about the politics of language. In the third part of our series we examine how internet technology is being used to disseminate those political catch phrases and messages we all hear and quickly repeat.

Cliff Lampe is assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He says politicians are using social media to their advantage.

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Politics
5:05 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Opponents of Michigan's emergency manager law hope to collect enough signatures for challenge

The city of Benton Harbor is under the control of an emergency manager.
Flickr

The legislative sponsor of the state’s six-month-old emergency manager law says it has cleared the way for the decisive actions needed to help severely stressed cities.

State Representative Al Psholka’s district includes the city of Benton Harbor.

He says Benton Harbor’s emergency manager did not have the authority he needed to fix the city’s finances before the new law took effect in March.

 “We’ve seen some rapid progress in Benton Harbor. There's challenges there, but if you look at the budget, the budget is balanced. There is a projected surplus next year of $400,000. Yes, they had to make some tough choices, but Benton Harbor is in a much better position: a position to go back to local control with a balanced budget," said Psholka.

Psholka was on the Michigan Public TV show “Off the Record.”

Opponents of the law say it robs citizens in takeover communities of their right to choose their local officials.

Organizers of a petition drive say they are close to collecting enough signatures to put a challenge to the emergency manager law the ballot.

A referendum on the law requires opponents to gather more than 161,000 signatures.

Amy Kerr Hardin is with the “Stand Up for Democracy,” the coalition trying to repeal the law. She says the state-appointed emergency managers are given too much power.

 "It takes away our elected officials. It’s crazy the stuff an emergency manager can do just by fiat," said Hardin. "They don’t have to ask any public opinion, and they don’t have to tell the public until after the fact – when they’ve done whatever it is they’ve done."

 Hardin says the campaign expects to turn in sufficient signatures by the end of October. That would put the question on the February 2012 ballot.

It would also suspend the law until the election.

The cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and the Detroit school district are being run by emergency managers.

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Election 2012
4:48 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Michigan Republicans on Mackinac Island, visits from Perry and Romney expected

Republican leaders are on Mackinac Island talking shop this weekend.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry will be on Mackinac Island this weekend for a Republican conference held by the state party every two years. The two prominent presidential candidates will speak with party faithful tomorrow at the Grand Hotel.

Also on the island are many campaign signs, buttons and t-shirts advertising names of Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls. Among them is Gary Glenn, the president of the anti-gay-rights group American Families Association of Michigan. He says coming to Mackinac Island this weekend is important for his campaign.

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Economy
4:29 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Snyder to promote Michigan agricultural products on Asian trip

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder departs Saturday on a week-long Asian trade mission with stops in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul.

The governor will attend a meeting of the Japan Midwest U-S Association early next week. His itinerary also includes lots of private meetings with business executives in Japan, China, and Korea.

But the governor says he does not anticipate many big announcements. 

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Politics
2:56 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Scott gets support against recall from Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc
Michigan Radio

State Representative Paul Scott is getting help in his recall fight from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Scott is a two-term Grand Blanc Republican who chairs the House Education Committee.

A group backed by the state’s largest teachers’ union wants to remove him from office because he supported cuts to schools and a law that makes it easier to fire teachers.  

Now Scott has a powerful ally.

Jim Holcomb is an attorney with the nearly 8,000-member Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

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Military
2:42 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

More time home for Army units after a deployment

A National Guard soldier returns home in Wisconsin. Army officials have announced they plan to increase dwell times.
photo by Spc. Alyson Berzinski 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

After soldiers in the Army return home, they're given time to recuperate  before being asked to deploy again.

It's called "dwell time."

Earlier this month, the Army announced they'll extend the dwell time for units that deploy starting in October.

It's welcome news for military families who saw loved ones return to service after a year home, or less.

From the Military Times:

Army units that deploy starting next month should enjoy two years of dwell time when they come home. That’s the Army’s plan for its war-weary troops even as it transitions from 12-month deployments to nine-month tours, a senior Army planner said.

“If you’re a deploying unit for this coming quarter, when you return, can we tell you you’re on a two-year dwell cycle? The answer is yes for most Army units,” said Col. John Hort, a senior planner at Forces Command. “Our goal is to be able to provide a unit two years of dwell minimum when they return.

In addition to longer dwell times, Army officials say they're also transitioning away from 12-month deployments to nine-month deployments in fiscal 2012. Also welcome news to those who once experienced 15-month tours.

The changes are dependent on continued troop draw downs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an editorial, the Army Times said the changes are "long overdue":

It’s been a long time coming. The deployment rotations took a heavy toll on the morale of the troops and family members who made great personal, financial and emotional sacrifices to support their loved ones and the mission. The long separations often hurt marriages and caused great pain for deployed parents who missed birthdays and ballgames, graduations and anniversaries, and all those moments when it means so much to just be there.

Back home, the deployments in many cases contributed to an epidemic suicide rate among soldiers. Moreover, a Military Times investigation reveals, the number of military children killed through abuse and neglect doubled from 2003 to 2008, an increase “very clearly tied to specific events of the large-scale deployments,” said researcher Deborah Gibbs, who has studied child abuse under a Defense Department contract.

Science
1:11 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Fall is officially here!

Michigan leaf.
user: James Jordan / flickr

The autumnal equinox happened today at 5:05 a.m. ET. It marks the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere.

It’s the time of year when temperatures start to drop and the days start to get shorter.

Every year there are two equinoxes, one in March that marks the beginning of spring and one in September that marks the beginning of fall.

National Geographic explains:

The autumnal equinox and vernal equinox are also the only days of the year when a person standing on the Equator can see the sun passing directly overhead. On the Northern Hemisphere's autumnal equinox, a person at the North Pole would see the sun skimming across the horizon, signaling the start of six months of darkness. On the same day, a person at the South Pole would also see the sun skim the horizon, beginning six months of uninterrupted daylight.

Equinoxes explained:

Trade Mission
1:01 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

How much will Governor Snyder's trip to Asia cost? TBD

Shanghai, China is one of the stops on Governor Rick Snyder's trade mission to Asia.
Trey Ratcliff Flickr

Tomorrow, Governor Rick Snyder heads off to Asia with a delegation of Michigan political leaders and business officials on a trade mission.

He'll spend a week traveling to Japan, China, and South Korea.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will travel with the Governor and report on the stops in Shanghai and and Beijing.

Samilton reported on Governor Snyder's goals for the trip:

The ultimate goal is creating more jobs in the state.  But the Governor has been careful to downplay expectations of new jobs right away. 

 "In terms of specific deals to be announced," Snyder says, "I don’t have high expectations there.  This is more about starting the relationships and then looking six months, a year out, after subsequent meetings and followup and discussions, will there be actual investment or will there be more exports.

So, how much?

We asked our Facebook fans what they wanted to know about Snyder's trade mission.

Many were curious to know how much is being spent on the trip. 

Samilton put this question to Michael Shore at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Here's his response:

  • The trade mission costs will come either from contributions to the Michigan Economic Development foundation, a non-profit that supports economic development in Michigan through corporate contributions, or from MEDC corporate revenues, which derive from sources other than the state general fund. No taxpayer dollars are being spent for those traveling on behalf of the State of Michigan.

MEDC officials followed up that e-mail with this:

  • Local officials and other non-state of Michigan people going on the trip are responsible for paying their own way. The cost of the trip will be disclosed after the trade mission.

So the cost is to be determined, but they wanted to make clear that "no taxpayer dollars [will be] used to fund the State of Michigan official delegation, which includes the Governor."

Other trade trips by Michigan Governors

The last Michigan Governor to visit China was former-Governor John Engler.

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm never made a trip to the country, though she did take many trade trips, according to Crain's Detroit Business:

...Jennifer Granholm was active in going abroad and led 13 overseas trade missions to 10 countries, including Japan and South Korea.

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Science/Medicine
12:39 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Is it OK to use stored newborn blood samples for research?

ameestauffer Morguefile

Michigan State University wants the public’s opinion about whether blood samples taken from newborns should be used in other research.

Every newborn baby in Michigan has spot of blood taken from its heel. The blood is screened for genetic or metabolic diseases.

The state has samples stored in its bio-bank dating back to 1984.

Ann Mongoven is an assistant professor in MSU’s Center for Ethics and the Humanities in the Life Sciences.

She says the proposal raises ethical questions.

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Lansing
11:41 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Homeless line up for help in Lansing

It was a cool morning in Lansing, but scores of people stood in line for a free meal and a chance to get some help from social service agencies that work with people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s rising poverty rate took on a human face in Lansing today as a few hundred people waited outside in the morning cold for a special event to help the capital city’s homeless.   Dozens of social service agencies took part in the event on Lansing’s south side.  

Patricia Wheeler is with the Greater Lansing Homeless Resolution Network.   She says more and more Michiganders are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.   Wheeler says this event is intended to lend them a hand.  

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Offbeat
11:30 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Phew! Space junk threat decreasing for United States

Space junk from a Delta 2 third stage, known as a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module-Delta), reentered the atmosphere over the Middle East and landed in Saudi Arabia, according to Space.com. The titanium motor casing weighed about 154 lbs.
NASA

You've probably caught wind of the space junk hurtling toward the earth's atmosphere.

If not, you can catch up on the story here: Your Friday Forecast: Sunny, with a 1-in-21-Trillion Chance of Getting Hit by Orbital Debris.

The latest projections from NASA: debris from the six-ton "Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite" (UARS) that survives re-entry is less likely to land in the U.S.

From NASA:

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 23, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 100 miles by 105 miles (160 km by 170 km). Re-entry is expected late Friday, Sept. 23, or early Saturday, Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time. Solar activity is no longer the major factor in the satellite’s rate of descent. The satellite’s orientation or configuration apparently has changed, and that is now slowing its descent. There is a low probability any debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States, but the possibility cannot be discounted because of this changing rate of descent. It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 12 to 18 hours.

If you're one of the lucky ones that stumbles upon newly fallen space junk, NASA wants to make sure you don't touch it... you might cut yourself.

@NASA just tweeted - "Nothing radioactive on . Main reason NOT to touch anything that you think could be debris: sharp metal cuts."

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Politics
11:14 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Poverty in Michigan

A lot of people are worried about what’s been going on in the stock market. I guess I should be, too.  To the extent I have any retirement savings, they are tied up in stock-heavy mutual funds.

But what bothers me much more is what’s going on with poverty in this state. A week from today, we are ending cash welfare assistance to something close to twelve thousand families.

That means close to thirty thousand children will suddenly be utterly dependent on the kindness of strangers. And their numbers will grow, every month.

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Allegan County
10:43 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Small plane clips a FedEx truck, crashes and kills pilot

The plane crash occurred near the Plainwell Municipal Airport about 16 miles north of Kalamazoo.
Google Maps

A small plane crashed in Allegan County this morning.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that construction workers working on a bridge over U.S. 131 saw the plane approaching the Plainwell Municipal Airport and noticed that it was too low.

The plane clipped the back of a FedEx semi traveling on U.S. 131 before crashing. Chuck Wiersma was one of the construction crew members:

"We said, 'He's not going to make it," Wiersma said. "And he didn't make it."

The plane clipped the truck's trailer and crashed. Paul Brindley, who runs the airport, said the pilot was killed. Police said the truck driver was not hurt.

After the plane crashed, Wiersma said he drove onto northbound U.S. 131 and attempted to stop traffic. He also went to the crash site to see if he could help.

Asked what he saw, Wiersma said, "It was a mess."

At around 9 a.m. this morning, WZZM reported that a stretch of U.S. 131 was closed:

Allegan County Sheriff's Deputies have closed the northbound side of the highway, from M-89 to M-222. It is unclear how long U.S. 131 will remain closed. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

Economy
9:40 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Wayne County and U of M Health System agree to share forensic services

Pathologists at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office have been working to keep up with a case load that is one of the largest in the country - around 2,500 autopsies each year. They've been doing this at a time when the office's budget has been cut by 20 percent over the last 4 years.

Now, the University of Michigan Health System and Wayne County officials have announced they'll share resources to save money and improve educational opportunities.

From the Associated Press:

The University of Michigan Health System and Wayne County have agreed to partner for forensic services at the county medical examiner's office.

Officials said Thursday that the 3-year deal will save county taxpayers $1.5 million and provide the University of Michigan's Pathology Department with additional training.

The combined staff will help move along the high-volume of autopsies in Wayne County.

County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt and other Board of Pathology-certified pathologists would become employees of the school. The medical examiner's office would remain under county governance.

Schmidt said his office is one of the busiest in the country with about 2,500 autopsies each year. He said funding has dropped from $8.1 million in 2007 to $6.2 million to $5.7 million for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The partnership is expected to start on October 1.

It won't prevent layoffs at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office. From a University of Michigan Health System press release:

The agreement would require five of the 31 employees at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office to be laid off. However, three of the five employees will continue employment with Wayne County government and one will retire.

Election 2012
8:43 am
Fri September 23, 2011

GOP candidates head to Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI
Jpwbee Flickr

On the heels of last night’s Republican presidential debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are heading to Mackinac Island. The two GOP presidential candidates are scheduled to attend the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference this weekend.

As Rick Pluta tell us, it’s a time for Republicans to brainstorm their policies and political messages:

"It's where half of the political culture is going to be. [They'll] be developing the platforms and messages that they're going to be coming back to us with next year...  to try and make the case that it ought to be another Republican year."

Pluta notes that fundraising also plays an important part at the conference:

"Conceivably its to network and to plot strategy but, it's on a resort island, and it's really for Republicans who have the money or the means to go up there so, as you can imagine, there's a lot of fundraising... as the individual GOP campaigns figure out how they're going to finance their efforts."

Governor Snyder will address the conference this evening. The events wrap up on Sunday.

Sports Commentary
6:30 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Frenzy of conference realignments threatens things we love about college sports

At the Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon. The Big Ten Conference now includes twelve schools.
Big Ten Facebook page

College conferences are going through a major upheaval – perhaps the biggest in the history of college sports.

In the past year, we’ve seen Nebraska join the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah join the Pac-10, and, this week, Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the Atlantic Coast Conference.  DePaul, Marquette and Texas Christian University just joined the Big East.

Which raises the question: Just how BIG is the East?

Big enough to swallow half the Midwest and a chunk of Texas. 

A lot of people who don’t care much about sports seem to care about this.

Read more
Snyder trade mission
12:57 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Snyder: First trade mission about building relationships

Governor Rick Snyder begins his first trade mission this weekend.  

The governor’s whirlwind schedule includes two days in Tokyo, one day in Beijing, one day in Shanghai, and one day in Seoul – not including two days of travel. 

The ultimate goal is creating more jobs in the state.  But the Governor has been careful to downplay expectations of new jobs right away. 

Read more

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