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Environment
11:56 am
Thu September 8, 2011

Platte Lake cleaner after years of salmon hatchery pollution

Platte Lake
Photo by Chris Harnish, courtesy of Interlochen Public Radio

Decades ago, residents sued to stop a fish hatchery in northern Michigan from polluting a lake. More than thirty years later, the legal battles have ended and the pollution has been greatly reduced.

Northern Michigan is home to some of the clearest blue lakes in the world, like Torch, Glen and Crystal.

Once upon a time Wilfred Sweicki says Platte Lake in Benzie County was in that league.

“It was extremely clear, never quite as clear as Crystal or Glen but nearly so.”

Unfortunately for Sweicki and other homeowners on Platte, fishery biologists did something nearby that changed the Great Lakes dramatically.

They planted Pacific salmon in the Platte River.

That was in the late sixties and soon a billion dollar fishery was born.

A hatchery was built and animal waste from millions of fish began pouring into Platte Lake. The waste contained the nutrient phosphorus.

Phosphorous caused algae to bloom, clouding the water and killing a variety of aquatic animals and plants.

It even caused chemical changes in the sediment of the lake bottom that produced milky clouds of a clay-like substance that collects on stones and docks.

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Environment
11:40 am
Thu September 8, 2011

DuPont promises to reimburse homeowners for trees killed by herbicide

Blue Spruce is one of the species of trees that can be affected by Imprelis.
Arthur Chapman Flickr

A few months ago, reports started coming in that an herbicide made by DuPont was hurting and killing trees. The Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered DuPont to stop selling the herbicide Imprelis. DuPont had suspended sales shortly before that. The herbicide was used by lawn care companies to kill weeds on lawns and golf courses starting last fall.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor of horticulture at Michigan State University.

He says Imprelis can cause a range of different injuries to blue spruce, Norway spruce and white pine.

“You might see like in a big white pine, you might see a little bit of top growth doesn’t look quite right, you’ll see the twisting and curling, stunting of the top of the tree, in other cases, yeah we’ve seen the tree killed outright.”

This week, DuPont announced a program to process damage claims from property owners. DuPont declined an interview. But in a statement, the company said property owners with approved claims will receive replacement trees – or cash compensation.

DuPont’s also facing a number of lawsuits, including a class action suit brought by a woman from Allen Park, Michigan.

Politics
10:27 am
Thu September 8, 2011

The Michigan Supreme Court and the Pension Tax

The Michigan Supreme Court will soon issue an opinion on whether the new law taxing pensions is constitutional.

If they say it is, it’s full speed ahead for the governor’s plan. If they decided that taxing pensions is not constitutional, it’ll knock a huge hole in the budget. That means the state will have to get more revenue -- which means raising taxes.

That, or roll back the business tax cuts or slash aid to education and other programs more severely than ever.

And while I don’t pretend to know exactly what would happen, I can tell you this, after talking to the governor last week. He isn’t about to roll back the tax cuts, and he doesn’t want to raise taxes.

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News Roundup
7:57 am
Thu September 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, September 8th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Medical Marijuana Rally

More than a thousand supporters of Michigan’s medical marijuana law rallied at the state Capitol yesterday. They protested against Republican proposals to limit the law. In 2008, Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use by a wide margin but, just last month, a Michigan Appeals Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries could not sell the drug. The Michigan Supreme Court will likely have the last word on the legality of the law.

Another Round of Education Reforms

A state Senate panel has begun hearings on a new package of sweeping education reforms. “The package of bills include measures that would allow more charter schools in the state, allow schools to hire teachers from private companies, and require districts to open empty seats in classrooms to students who live outside of the area”, Laura Weber reports. Earlier this year, the state legislature and Governor Snyder approved measures that reformed Michigan’s teacher tenure laws.

MI SupCo Takes Up Pension Tax

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday for and against Michigan’s new tax on pensions. Governor Snyder proposed the pension tax to increase revenue for the state. Rick Pluta reports:

Public employees argued the pension tax violates the state’s constitution because it effectively reduces compensation that was agreed to by the state. Lieutenant Governor Brain Calley was in the audience to watch the arguments. He says the new state budget will come up short if the tax on pensions in not upheld… Calley says the court should rule quickly to ensure budget stability.

If the pension tax is ruled unconstitutional, the state budget will be short $340 million dollars for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Education Reform
6:23 am
Thu September 8, 2011

State Senate introduces more sweeping education reforms

A state Senate panel began hearings yesterday on a package of sweeping education reforms. This is the second round of major changes proposed to Michigan’s education system this year.

The package of bills include measures that would allow more charter schools in the state, allow schools to hire teachers from private companies, and require districts to open empty seats in classrooms to students who live outside of the area.

Representatives from the education community say the proposals are controversial. Senate Education Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov says, he does not think so.

“I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘controversial,’ I mean we having a conversation about choice for parents and students in the state and that shouldn’t be controversial,” Pavlov says.

Pavlov also took the lead on the debate over teacher tenure reform earlier this year. Pavlov says Governor Snyder supports some of the reforms. Pavlov says he does not have a timeline to get this round of education reforms through the Legislature.

Representatives from the education community say they are concerned these proposals are based on politics and not research of successful education reforms.

Offbeat
7:14 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Divers search for 18th century cannon in Detroit River

Divers took to the Detroit River to try and bring up a long-submerged cannon Wednesday.

Detroit Police Underwater Recovery Team divers discovered the Revolutionary War-era cannon in July. It’s the fifth such cannon pulled out of the river since the 1980s.

Detroit Police say a British vessel capsized leaving Fort Detroit in 1796, losing five cannons.

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Education
6:57 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Detroit schools pull about 55% of enrolled students on first day

Roy Roberts

Officials for the Detroit Public Schools say 43,660 students attended the first day of school Tuesday, out of 79,617 enrolled.

The district doesn’t expect that many kids to ever show up. They’ve set an attendance target of about 65,000 students for the school year.

It’s unclear how many students simply didn’t make it to school, and how many transferred to other districts.

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RELIGION
5:33 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Detroit archdiocese launches fundraising campaign

St. Anne's church in southwest Detroit
Angela Anderson-Cobb flickr

The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit has launched a campaign to raise $135 million in five years.

The bulk of the money will go directly to the parishes to address their needs, says archdiocese spokesman Bill Blaul:

"Those priorities may range from fixing a roof or repaving a parking lot, or doing some painting, you know maintenance and construction-type work, or it may be adding ministries, it may be adding some outreach programs, maybe adding food pantries."

Class
5:03 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Report: A third of middle class Americans slip down economic ladder

Measures of the downwardly mobile from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Pew Charitable Trusts

The report "Downward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking Up from the American Dream" shows a third of children raised under middle class conditions fell out of the middle class as adults.

The report comes from the Pew Charitable Trusts. In the introduction, researchers cite a popular definition of the American Dream - your children are financially better off than you.

For varying reasons, the dream didn't work out for one third of the people they looked at.

The report used data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. 12,686 young men and women who were 14-22 years old were part of that survey.

The reports authors define middle class as being "those falling between the 30th and 70th percentiles of the family-size-adjusted income distribution." Or a family with two adults and two kids making between $32,900 to $64,000 (in 2010 dollars).

Author Gregory Acs writes that while the chances of falling out of the middle class reflects what one might expect mathematically, "not all middle-class children are equally likely to fall."

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Science/Medicine
3:27 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Foundation grants $4.5 million to program preventing infant deaths

Infant mortality is much higher among African-Americans than whites, even when considering risk factors like smoking, poverty and education.
Sono Tamaki Creative Commons

A program that’s showing signs of progress in reducing low birth weight and infant deaths among African-Americans is getting a major vote of confidence. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded a $4.5 million grant to a program in Grand Rapids called Strong Beginnings.

The program has reduced the number of black infant deaths in Grand Rapids by more than 20 percent in five years. 

Peggy Vander Meulen is executive director of Strong Beginnings.

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Food
3:03 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Feds win lawsuit over drugs in Michigan cows

HAMILTON, Mich. (AP) - A judge says a western Michigan farm violated federal law by selling cows for slaughter with illegal levels of antibiotics.

Judge Gordon Quist ruled in favor of regulators who say Scenic View Dairy in Allegan County repeatedly ignored warnings about selling the cows for human consumption.

Quist didn't order a penalty last week and says he doesn't want to put Scenic View out of business. The judge told the farm and the government to come up with an agreement by the end of September.

Scenic View's primary business is milk but about 70 cows a week are sent to slaughter for human consumption. The farm claims there are exceptions to the government's drug rules. But the judge says
they don't fit.

Politics
2:06 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Medical marijuana supporters rally in Lansing

Medical marijuana supporters rally in Lansing this afternoon.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Several thousand medical marijuana patients and their supporters rallied at the state Capitol today. 

The state Court of Appeals recently ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under Michigan law.

Patient advocate Joe Cain says the courts and state officials are working to undermine the state constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana.

"They don't care about you," said Cain. "They don't care or they would have had a plan, because you don’t take sick people’s medicine away."

Cain says the state Court of Appeals decision was politically motivated.

"The objective was to deny people safe access to their medicine. This was not a judicial decision. This was a political decision," said Cain.

The Michigan Supreme Court will soon consider several medical marijuana cases. The court's decision in those cases is expected to go a long way to determining the scope of Michigan's medical marijuana law.

State Legislature
12:48 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

State House votes to restrict food assistance use

Inside the state Capitol building, Lansing, MI
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Welfare recipients could not use their state-issued debit cards to draw cash from casino ATMs or buy lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco under legislation moving through the state Legislature.

The Michigan House passed bills Wednesday that would restrict the use of Michigan Bridge Cards, used like debit cards for state food assistance and cash programs. The major bills passed 108-0 and advance to the Senate.

Monthly food assistance in Michigan is based on income, how many people are in their household and other criteria. Funds are made available on a debit card swiped through electronic reader when buying groceries.

Other bills in the package would require the state to deactivate a Bridge card when a recipient is in jail.

Auto/Economy
12:10 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Saab Automobile files for bankruptcy

A Saab 9-3 SportCombi II. The company stopped production last April.
user S 400 HYBRID wikimedia commons

Saab Automobile AB filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday.

Saab used to be owned by General Motors. GM sold the company to Spyker Cars in January of 2010.

From the Associated Press:

The owner of cash-strapped car maker Saab filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to salvage a brand crippled by production stoppages, withheld salary payments and mounting debt.

Swedish Automobile, formerly known as Spyker Cars, said the move would buy it time to receive funding from Chinese investors, currently awaiting regulatory approval, and avoid bankruptcy.

The Wall Street Journal reports this is an attempt at reorganization, similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S.:

Saab Automobile has struggled with its finances for months. Production at its plant in the Swedish town of Trollhattan has been halted since April.

In a bid to solve its long-term funding needs, the car maker this summer signed agreements with two Chinese companies. But Saab will receive no money until regulators in China and Sweden approve the deal, so the company is still strapped for cash.

Politics
12:00 pm
Wed September 7, 2011

Mid-Michigan Red Cross workers on strike

A Mid-Michigan Red Cross worker on the picket line.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Workers at the American Red Cross Mid-Michigan chapter are on the picket line, after a strike deadline passed without a deal.

Red Cross spokeswoman Monica Stoneking says the strike will drastically reduce blood collection efforts in 65 Michigan counties:

"In the Great Lakes region alone, we need to collect about 700 units of blood every day to meet the hospital needs and the needs of the patients we serve, and not being able to collect those blood products really puts our blood supply in jeopardy," said Stoneking.

Stoneking hopes negotiations will resolve the standoff soon.

"We're preparing for at least ten days," said Stoneking. "We're calling on other regions that aren’t affected by the union to increase our blood collection so that our national blood supply is healthy."

The strike affects about 280 nurses and staff who handle blood. They’ve been working without a contract since 2008.

Union officials say the two sides are far apart on many issues.

Talks are scheduled to resume September 17.

Politics
11:38 am
Wed September 7, 2011

Reaction to stronger limits on Michigan welfare benefits

Yesterday, 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. The four years don't have to be consecutive, they can be tallied up over time, and the clock on the four-year cap started on October 1, 2007.

It's estimated that 12,600 cases will be taken off the cash assistance as of October 1, 2011.

Peter Luke of MLive points out that in 2006, then-governor Jennifer Granholm also signed legislation limiting cash benefits to four years, "but DHS caseworkers had leeway to authorize exemptions."

This measure is more strict, and Governor Snyder said his administration is "returning cash assistance to its original intent as a transitional program to help families while they work toward self-sufficiency."

From MLive:

DHS Director Maura Corrigan said the agency is partnering with non-profit groups to provide recipients with a “soft landing” during the transition... The measure is estimated save the 2012 state budget about $65 million.

The new law also allows families on the rolls to earn more money on the job while still receiving benefits. In the past, families that earned more than $814 a month could no longer qualify for cash assistance. The new limit on earned income is $1,164.

"Michigan continues to face financial challenges, and the fiscal reality is that we cannot afford to provide lifetime cash assistance to recipients who are able to work," Corrigan said.

In a statement, the head of the Michigan League for Human Services, Gilda Jacobs, says these cash benefits support children in need:

The Department of Human Services has estimated that 29,700 children will be cut from cash assistance in October. Though the department says it will assist the families for a few months, it’s questionable whether new jobs will be available for adults in these families by the end of the year.

It will be a hard, hard winter for many of these families.

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Politics
11:32 am
Wed September 7, 2011

Musical chairs in the 14th Congressional District

Michigan has six congressmen from the Democratic Party. Their ages are 85, 82, 82, 80, 54 and 52. One of the 82-year-old guys is retiring.

But Michigan is losing a seat in Congress, and so it has to lose another of these men. Our state has no women Democrats in the house, by the way. So, logically, which one should go?

Should the 85-year-old, whose own party stripped him of his committee chairmanship last year, retire? He has already served longer in the house than any man in history. Should the other 82-year-old retire? He sometimes appears confused in public; his office is chaotic and has been the target of ethics investigations.

What about the 80-year-old, who was his party’s nominee for governor before most of today’s citizens were alive?

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History
10:47 am
Wed September 7, 2011

Police dive team finds cannon in Detroit River

DETROIT (AP) - A police dive team has found a cannon in the Detroit River near the city's downtown. The cannon was discovered about 200 feet from Cobo Center in July. The police department says the cannon could be more than two centuries old.

Changing Gears
9:31 am
Wed September 7, 2011

The "Google of manufacturing?" One company shows a possible future

Matt Hlavin stands in front of a rapid prototyping and manufacturing machine. These can produce small batches of plastic products quickly and cheaply. This is the future, he says.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Depending on who you ask, American manufacturing is either the way out of our bad economy, or it’s dead.

Whatever you think, there’s no denying that manufacturing has changed.

That’s the story of Thogus Products in Avon Lake, Ohio.

This manufacturer has changed so much, its President calls it a 61 year-old startup company.

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Politics
8:43 am
Wed September 7, 2011

The week in state politics

State Capitol building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Every Wednesday, we get a dose of state politics from Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry. On tap for this morning: state lawmakers are back in Lansing for the fall session, there's a good chance 'right to work' legislation will make its way to the state Legislature, and the latest round of musical chairs in the state's 2012 Congressional election.

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