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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.

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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. 

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Politics
6:14 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Politics of Language (Part 2)

user: feuillu / flickr

Today we continue our series on political language. In part one we spoke to a linguist about the power of language and the effect it has on our view of world. In part two, we’re going to look more closely at the political strategy behind language use. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Craig Ruff, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Don't forget to check out the extended audio below.

Language is being used more strategically in politics than it has been in the past. Ruff says:

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Environment
5:34 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Canadian officials: Zug Island to blame for mysterious "Windsor hum"

Zug Island
Wikimedia commons

Canadian officials say they’ve identified the source of a persistent “hum” that’s aggravated many Windsor residents for months.

Their conclusion, based on seismological data: the vibration is coming from the vicinity of Zug Island, a heavy industry hotspot that sits just downriver from Detroit.

Windsor City Councillor Al Maghnieh is relieved to finally have some answers about the noise, which has shaken houses--and residents--for nearly a year. But he says investigators still need to locate the exact source of the mystery vibration.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

The politics behind right-to-teach

user: mattileo / flickr

The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Randy Richardville, says he favors a right-to-work law that would only apply to teachers and other unionized workers in education. Here to explain the political implications of such a law are former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, Ken Sikkema, and political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, Susan Demas.

 

Law
5:29 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to hear challenge to sex offender's plea deal

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a convicted child molester should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because he did not know it would subject him to a lifetime of electronic monitoring.

The state Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether David M. Cole entered a “knowing, intelligent, and understanding” plea.

Cole plead “no contest,” which is essentially a guilty plea, to two counts of having sexual contact with a child younger than 13 when he was in his late 20s. His plea deal included an agreement that he would eligible for release from prison within five years.

But Cole says that he was never told his conviction on second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges requires that he wear an electronic monitoring device for the rest of his life.

Cole was denied permission to withdraw his plea to try and make a new deal.

Prosecutors say their deal was only on prison time, everything else was not part of the negotiation.

Politics
4:54 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Domestic partner benefit claims in Michigan less than some estimates

Fewer than 100 unmarried state employees are expected to sign-up for health care benefits for their domestic partners by the end of this month.

That would mean less than $600,000 would be spent on live-in partner benefits paid for by the state.

The preliminary estimates are well below what some Republican lawmakers said taxpayers would end up paying for the benefits.

Republican state Representative Dave Agema (R-Ottawa Co.) sponsored a measure to end domestic partner benefits for public employees in the future.

"Numbers aside, it really doesn’t make any difference because what we have now, if it doesn’t stop, it will only grow in the future," said Agema. "We haven’t included the colleges and the local governments and so-forth, so it would only be increased to millions and millions of dollars in the future."

Agema’s proposal could not reverse the decision by the state Civil Service Commission to allow for public employee domestic partner benefits.

Election 2012
4:44 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Clark Durant to formally launch Senate bid

Clark Durant will officially announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate tomorrow.
Clark Durant Facebook page

Former Michigan State Board of Education President Clark Durant says he will formally launch his bid for the U.S. Senate tomorrow in Detroit.

Durant is seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) on the November 2012 ballot.

Durant is a former president of the state Board of Education. He made a failed attempt to win his party’s U.S. Senate nomination 20 years ago.

He also ran unsuccessfully for the state Supreme Court. 

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Law
4:26 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court agrees to hear no-fault insurance cases

The Michigan Hall of Justice.
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on whether people who use a family vehicle without permission are covered by no-fault benefits if they are injured in a crash.

In one case, Ryan DeYoung was excluded from his wife’s insurance policy.

In September of 2008, he got drunk, took his wife’s car without permission and crashed the vehicle.

The hospital and recovery center billed the insurance company, which denied the claim.

The insurance company is challenging an appeals court ruling that says DeYoung was covered under “joyriding” clause that typically covers teen-aged drivers who take their parents’ vehicles without permission.

In a separate case, an insurer is challenging a ruling that Craig Smith Junior was covered for injuries he sustained when he crashed his father’s SUV into a tree while driving drunk.

Smith did not have a valid license, and had been told not to drive the vehicle. The insurance company tried to deny coverage because Smith broke the law when he took the wheel of his parent’s car.

Election 2012
4:05 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter drops his bid for president

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend.
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

U.S. Reprsentative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) has dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nominiation.

From the Detroit News:

Livonia Rep. Thaddeus McCotter told The Detroit News this afternoon that he is leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination after he failed to win access to the Republican presidential debates.

"If they keep you out of the debates, you are out of the conversation and you can't run," McCotter said. "It was sort of death by media."

McCotter says he will give his support to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Michigan native, and will likely run again for the 11th District congressional seat he's held since 2003.

transportation
3:05 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Lawmakers expect changes to how Michigan pays to fix roads

A 2-mile section of I-196 was widened and reconstructed in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids in 2010. The project cost $40 million and closed the freeway for seven months.
Ifmuth Creative Commons

A new study shows the conditions of Michigan’s roads will continue to decline unless the state can come up with a lot more money to maintain them. More than a third of Michigan’s roads are in poor condition.

The study was released this week by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers. It shows the state needs $1.4 billion more each year for at least 85-percent of roadways to be in good or fair condition.

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Politics
3:03 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Tax evasion charges filed against former Kilpatrick fund-raiser

A fund-raiser for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been charged with income tax evasion.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Another person with close ties to ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is facing federal criminal charges.

Emma Bell, Kilpatrick’s longtime fund-raiser, was charged today in federal court with two counts of income tax evasion for allegedly failing to report more than half a million dollars she received from Kilpatrick’s inaugural and mayoral campaign committees, and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

Bell is expected to plead guilty and is cooperating. A plea date has not yet been set.

The Detroit Free Press reports that it is unknown whether Bell will testify against Kilpatrick in the federal corruption case against the former Detroit Mayor.

Earlier this month, Derrick Miller, a former aide to Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is expected to testify against his former boss.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Derrick Miller were indicted on corruption charges last December along with three other people:

  • Bernard Kilpatrick (the former Mayor's father),
  • Bobby Ferguson (city contractor and friend),
  • and Victor Mercado (former head of the Detroit Water and Sewarage Department).
Economy
2:49 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Too many brain surgeons, not enough machinists?

Author Joel Kotkin says Michigan needs more mid-level workers, like welders, plumbers, machinists and office workers.
earl53 Morguefile

An expert in economic trends says Michigan needs more people with mid-level skills, not advanced degrees. 

Author Joel Kotkin says too many people in Michigan go to four-year colleges and come out with a lot of debt and no marketable skills.

He says that’s created another problem:

"Even in Michigan, with all the unemployment that you’ve had, skilled workers are in short supply, in manufacturing, in medicine, these sort of what we might call middle-skilled jobs, jobs that might take a certificate, maybe a couple years in community college,” Kotkin says.

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Science/Medicine
2:32 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers receive grant

Max S. Wicha, M.D.
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has received a $3.5 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure to study breast cancer and racial disparity. The money will help develop more effective treatments for an aggressive form of cancer called triple-negative breast cancer, which disproportionately affects African American women.

Max Wicha is director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

The reason it’s important is that we know that African American women who have breast cancer do worse than Caucasian women. Some of these differences are due to access to care and socioeconomic factors, with African American women having less access to the latest treatments.

Wicha says the three-year grant is a statewide collaboration.  Researchers are working with a hospital in Ghana, Africa to look at African women who are also affected by this breast cancer. 

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Banning Abortion

Yesterday, after a long series of what were described as impassioned floor speeches, the Michigan Legislature banned a medical procedure called “partial-birth abortion.”

Thinking about this is not for the faint of heart. The procedure, known medically as “dilation and extraction”  involves a technique where a fetus is killed after it partly emerges from the vagina.

A very small percentage of abortions have ever been performed this way -- less than a fifth of one percent. Some doctors have said this procedure sometimes makes sense for the safety of the mother.

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