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11:06 am
Tue September 13, 2011

Political Races in Michigan, Stranger Than Fiction

Officially, this is still summer, even though the first leaves are tumbling from the trees and the light looks more like fall.

Politically, however, it is clear what season it is: Silly season. Yesterday’s news included one candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, Pete Hoekstra, happily accepting the endorsement of a man, Mike Cox,  whom he openly despised and reviled barely a year ago.

Also, a state legislator announced she’d challenge one of the nation’s longest-serving incumbent congressmen. The oddest thing about this is not the David and Goliath aspect. It is that the congressman doesn’t even live in that district.

She does, but most think he will be a heavy favorite anyway. Meanwhile, in Lansing, the Republicans who control the state senate are moving closer to setting a date for a presidential primary.

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Environment
10:09 am
Tue September 13, 2011

What we can learn from 3.5 million dead fish

Bill Fink is the Museum of Zoology's Curator of Fishes.
Photo by Rebecca Williams

Here in Michigan, we have the world’s largest collection of dead fish. At least, the world’s largest collection that’s based at a university.

There are about 3.5 million fish in this collection. It belongs to the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan.

Bill Fink is the director of the Museum of Zoology and Curator of Fishes.

He’s offered to take me on a guided tour. We take the elevator to the basement... where there’s row after row of shelves full of glass jars... full of fish.

“These specimens are from Japan and they were collected in 1920s – we have specimens that are well over a hundred years old now and they look fine.”

Bill Fink says these fish have been collected from all over the world, sometimes at great risk to the scientists. He points out the box of jars from Vietnam.

“They were collecting during war, the Mekong River Survey. They were shot at and captured and escaped and there were lots of adventures.”

Bill Fink is not just the curator here... he also goes out in the field. He says some of the fish themselves are dangerous for the collectors.

“We also have a huge collection of piranhas right here...I’ve been there when people have been bitten but I personally have not been bitten. I’m really careful.”

Fink shows me some amazing fish... like the tiny anglerfish with its appendage that glows in the dark at the bottom of the ocean.

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News Roundup
9:00 am
Tue September 13, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Tougher school testing standards set for approval today

The state Board of Education is meeting today to set increased scoring standards for Michigan's public schools. The vote to increase the standards came last February. Today, the board will consider specifics. More from the Associated Press:

The board today is scheduled to consider new so-called "cut scores" for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests taken by elementary and middle school students and the Michigan Merit Exam taken by high school students.

The board voted in February to raise the scoring standards to better reflect students' preparedness for careers and college. The specific cut score levels could be considered today.

Fewer students in Michigan are expected to be categorized as "proficient" after the cut scores are raised.

Ford CEO worries about consumer demand in Europe amid crisis

Europe's financial crisis is heating up. Paul Krugman, opinion columnist for the New York Times, said of the crisis "this thing could come apart in a matter of days."

The crisis has prompted Ford's European CEO to call for action. From the Associated Press:

Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell is calling on European politicians to make painful decisions sooner rather than later to help the economy recover from an increasingly volatile financial crisis.

Odell said Ford is pressing ahead with new product launches at the Frankfurt Auto Show because the market will need products when the spiraling sovereign debt crisis clears and consumer confidence is restored... Odell told reporters on the sidelines Tuesday that politicians have so far not been able to resolve the issue, and urged them to apply even painful remedies "quickly and robustly."

Get ready for crisp, cold weather this week

It might be time to break out the coats. A blast of arctic air is coming our way. The Weather Underground's Shaun Tanner says a storm will move through the state later today:

A... storm will move into the Great Lakes region late in the day, renewing rain and even the slightest chance of early season snow in the Upper Midwest.

The... storms will precede a blast of Arctic air that will stream into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. This Arctic air will not be as cold as in the Winter, but a definite cooling trend will sweep through much of the northern tier of the country during the second half of the week.

Contract talks may be extended
12:10 am
Tue September 13, 2011

UAW contract talks to be extended at Ford Motor Company

The deadline for Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers’ union is fast approaching. 

But contract talks could be extended past the deadline of this Wednesday – especially at Ford. 

Ford is the only company that faces the possibility of a strike this time, because of agreements made during GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcies.

UAW President Bob King says a strike is not the goal.

But some union dissidents think a strike could happen.

Gary Walkowicz  is a bargaining committeeman at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn.

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Snyder trade mission
12:05 am
Tue September 13, 2011

Trip to China "long overdue," says Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Snyder will travel on his first trade mission later this month.  The Governor will travel to Japan, China, and Korea, to encourage Asian companies to invest and expand in Michigan. 

Snyder says the China part of his trip in particular is long overdue. 

Snyder will be the first Michigan governor to go to China since the Engler administration.

He says Chinese companies may not be aware that a lot has changed for the good in the state since then, like the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, and a new approach to regulation.

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Politics
8:47 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Medical marijuana clinic owner charged with election tampering

The owner of a Lansing medical marijuana clinic faces 90 days in jail or a 500 dollar fine for an alleged attempt to trade pot for votes in city council elections.

Shekina Pena’s clinic offered a small amount of pot or a marijuana-laced treat to medical marijuana card holders as part of a voter registration drive. At the same time, the clinic advocated for city council candidates who opposed a restrictive local medical marijuana ordinance.

John Sellek is the spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says the law does not allow anything of value to be offered in an effort to influence a vote.

"The voters of Michigan when they enacted the Michigan medical marijuana law, they intended that marijuana to be used for a narrow group of people who are seriously ill," said Sellek. "They did not intend for it to be used basically as a door prize to encourage somebody to do something, and that’s what they were doing in this instance."

Pena did not respond to a phone message left at her clinic. Schuette led the campaign against the 2008 statewide medical marijuana ballot question, and supports efforts to add restrictions to the voter-approved law.

film incentives
5:29 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Charges in film studio case dismissed

Michigan’s attorney general is considering an appeal in a case against two men involved in a project to convert an old GM plant located in Walker into a film studio.

Joe Peters and Jack Buchanan Jr. tried to get $10 million in state film incentives for a big studio project. But the film office rejected their application and the deal fell through. They got no taxpayer money.

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Culture
5:03 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Top 10 categories for time spent online

The top 5 social networks and blogs - Nielsen reports that blogs and social networks take up the majority of our time online. No surprise that Facebook is the king/queen.
screen grab from Nielsen report

My colleague Michigan Radio reporter Steve Carmody passed along this study from the Nielsen Company:

State of the Media: The Social Media Report (Q3 2011)

So how are we spending our time online? (hint: you "like" it). From the report:

Americans spend more time on Facebook than they do any other U.S. website.

Here's the top ten:

  1. 22.5 percent of our online time is spent on social networks and blogs
  2. 9.8 percent online games
  3. 7.6 percent e-mail
  4. 4.5 percent "portals"
  5. 4.4 percent videos/movies
  6. 4.0 percent search
  7. 3.3 percent instant messaging
  8. 3.2 percent software manufacturing
  9. 2.9 percent classifieds/auctions
  10. 2.6 percent on current events and global news

Nielsen reports that Tumblr is an emerging social network nearly tripling its unique U.S. audience over the last year.

Does the Tumblr design look somewhat familiar to you?

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Education
3:47 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Study: Educators need more training to help students with autism

MSU researchers say Michigan educators could better serve students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
user frank juarez Flickr

According to Michigan State University researchers, many educators in the state are not using some of the most effective teaching methods  when working with the more than 15,000 Michigan students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Summer Ferreri, an MSU assistant professor of special education, and Sara Bolt, an MSU associate professor of school psychology conducted the study.

Using data from more than 200 school professionals, 34 parents of students with ASD, and classroom observations, the researchers found that more than 40 percent of the educators were not using techniques known as "Applied Behavior Analysis", and "Social Stories" (a method for teaching social skills to children with autism).

They also found it difficult to "access statewide data on students with ASD" and "concluded that better access is crucial to determine whether the services schools provide are actually helping students succeed."

From the MSU press release:

Suzanne Wilson, a University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education at MSU, said autism education is one of the most pressing issues facing educators today.

“While autism rates have rapidly increased, many new and experienced teachers have little to no experience working with children with autism,” Wilson said.  "Without the appropriate education, new teachers could, at worst, marginalize these students and, at best, be supportive but not effective.”

The researchers also found that 26% ASD students in Michigan "never or rarely had learning opportunities that reflected the general education curriculum."

And "one-third of the 194 Michigan teaching professionals responding said their students with ASD wouldn’t meet any grade-level achievement standards."

The findings of the research will be presented to the State Board of Education tomorrow (September 13). The study was conducted with funding from the Weiser family, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Skillman Foundation.

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Environment
3:32 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Michigan fishing and tourism industry leaders to discuss Asian carp

Michigan sport fishing and tourism leaders don't want this big, ugly fish swimming in the Great Lakes
(courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Michigan’s tourism and fishing industries will discuss how to form a united front against Asian carp during a conference Tuesday in Lansing.  John Goss, the Obama Administration’s "carp czar," will be the keynote speaker at the  conference.  

Asian carp present a threat to the Great Lakes’ multi-billion dollar sport fishing and tourism industries, according to Steve Yencich, president of the Tourism Industries Coalition of Michigan.  The coalition is organizing the carp summit.   

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Economy
2:07 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Quicken Loans plans to hire 500 new workers

DETROIT (AP) - Online retail mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc. says it plans to hire 500 new workers, mostly based in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report the company plans to kick off the hiring effort with a job fair Saturday at its downtown Detroit headquarters. The company wants to hire immediately for several areas including mortgage banking, marketing and technology.

The event runs form 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Job listings are posted online.

Economy
1:22 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Closing the book on Borders' Ann Arbor store

Shoppers walk around looking for bargains, or memories, as just a few copies of the Jonas Brothers tour book are about all that's left on the shelves at Borders' Ann Arbor location.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today, the doors will close for the final time at the Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor. It’s a significant milestone marking the final days of the Ann Arbor-based bookseller. 

“Well it's so sad….we’ll miss’em…great store,” one longtime Borders customer said as she walked out the door of the bookseller's flagship store. That is the feeling of many people who stopped by the Borders store in Ann Arbor on its last day.    

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Politics
12:05 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Former Kilpatrick aide pleads guilty in federal corruption case

An aide to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in federal court. It’s part of a case that alleges Kwame Kilpatrick and others turned city hall into a criminal enterprise.

Derrick Miller was the chief administrative officer in the Kilpatrick administration. As part of the deal he’s expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

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Commentary
10:50 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Emerging Voices After 9/11

Michigan and the nation just finished a weekend commemorating the September 11th terrorist attacks ten years ago. But I think we should take a moment to think about those we don’t normally think about who were also touched by the tragedy.

Last week a former student reminded me what I did that day, when I had a large lecture class in Detroit  that morning. “Who here lives in Canada?” I asked.  Half a dozen hands shot up.

“Go home, now. Right now,” I said. They were startled. They knew I never let them out early. “But I have another class after this one,” somebody said. “If you don’t go now, you may not get home,“ I answered. I thought they would close the border.

They actually didn’t, but by that evening, the wait time was many hours. Then, things got worse after a story in the Boston Globe incorrectly said some of the hijackers came through Canada.

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Arts/Culture
10:18 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Plans come together for Detroit Design Festival

DETROIT (AP) - Plans are coming together for a new festival showcasing Detroit's creative community.

The Detroit Design Festival takes place Sept. 21-28. Online retail mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc. announced Monday that it will be the "premier sponsor" for the event, which will feature fashion shows, exhibitions, lectures, installations and studio tours, performances.

With the sponsorship, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center will be able to provide grants to local designers and creative professionals to showcase their work.

Politics
9:25 am
Mon September 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Negotiations between UAW and automakers might go down to the wire

Contracts between the UAW and Detroit automakers expire this week. The sides have been negotiating for the past month and will likely continue to negotiate through the middle of this week. The Detroit Free Press reported that "GM's agreement... is likely to add thousands of jobs at U.S. plants, offer buyouts for skilled trades workers and enhance the profit-sharing formula.":

Chrysler has been in lockstep with talks at GM and out-of-state union leaders were told that they might need to travel to Detroit soon to review a tentative deal.

Talks were continuing at Chrysler over the weekend. CEO Sergio Marchionne said in Canada that he would be involved in the talks, even though he was traveling from Calgary, Alberta, to Detroit and then to Frankfurt, Germany, over the course of the weekend.

Meanwhile, talks lag at Ford, where economic issues have barely begun being discussed.

State to decide whether to increase testing standards this week

The state Board of Education might decide to raise school testing standards at a meeting tomorrow, according to the Detroit News. If the scores are raised, fewer schools in Michigan will be found to be proficient in key subjects:

Education officials say the changes are necessary because existing standards reward students for average work and have disguised dismal ability levels. For instance, just 10 percent of third-graders are not proficient in reading, according to last year's Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said the newer scores will show that more than 60 percent are not proficient.

F-16s scrambled to follow a passenger plane on 9/11

Two passengers behaving suspiciously raised concerns of terrorism on a Frontier flight from Denver to Detroit yesterday. More from WXYZ.com:

People on the plane tell Action News the two men in question spent long periods of time in the plane’s lavatories. It's not clear how the woman was involved.

“They were going back and forth through the aisle,” passenger David Mungia said, describing the behavior of the two men who were taken away by police.

“One of the guys was in the bathroom for at least ten minutes,” Mungi said.

Authorities are not saying what was going on inside the lavatories but ABC News is reporting the unidentified passengers were making out.

 

Update 11:47 a.m.

The Detroit Free Press reports that reports of amorous activity on the flight are false:

Three passengers detained at Detroit Metro Airport Sunday after the crew reported suspicious activity were actually just using the rest room, according to an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit.

FBI Detroit spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said reports about sexual encounters taking place in the rest room are false, describing them as "stories spinning out of control."

What's Working
9:18 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Creating 'zero-waste' events

Every Monday morning, we take a look at groups around the state that are trying to improve things in Michigan. Today, we hear from Samantha Schiebold, a third year undergrad at the University of Michigan who is also the project manager of the Student Sustainability Initiative at U of M. The group works to increase awareness of ways students can protect the environment.

One of the Initiative’s biggest successes was hosting a zero waste U of M basketball game last year.

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Education
6:03 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Grand Rapids schools leader finalist for job in Florida

Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor, a day after his resignation was announced in July 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Bernard Taylor agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools at the end of this school year. That agreement came after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. He didn’t get any of those jobs.

Now he’s looking to head Broward County Public Schools – the sixth biggest district in the U.S.

Taylor will attend a public forum in Broward County Tuesday evening. The school board is likely to make its choice Wednesday morning. He’s one of five finalists for the position.

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Investigative
6:00 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Another tax break for Michigan businesses?

Large corporations such as automakers and their suppliers say they need tax relief at the state level.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are considering eliminating the Personal Property Tax.  That’s a tax businesses pay on equipment.  The money goes directly to local units of government.  Businesses say it’s a complicated tax that punishes them for investing in equipment.  Cities, townships, counties and schools say if the tax is eliminated, that revenue has to be replaced. 

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Environment
5:31 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

Emerald ash borer hits Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
user rkramer62 Flickr

An invasive insect may wipe out the ash trees at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The emerald ash borer has infested up to 90 percent of the ash trees on the lakeshore's mainland in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. The first case was discovered in June and the tree-killing pest has spread quickly.

Lakeshore officials are considering their options to try to control the ash borer, but things look bleak.

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