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Offbeat
1:34 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

One last shot of Summer

Many Michiganders don't intend to let the sun set on their summer until they've had a chance to visit the beach one last time.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Many Michiganders will head to the beach or campgrounds to enjoy one last taste of summer during the Labor Day holiday weekend.   AAA predicts 1.2 million Michiganders will travel this weekend.  98 percent will be driving.   

Sergeant Jill Bennett is with the Michigan State Police.    She says police will be out in force this weekend. 

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Detroit
1:32 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Ex-NFL star Bettis: Detroit project back on track

DETROIT (AP) - A plan by former NFL star Jerome Bettis to build high-end condos and retail on a 43-acre industrial site along Detroit's riverfront is moving forward with the start of soil cleanup.

Bettis and Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday that companies that once operated on the site are removing contaminated soil, which stalled redevelopment plans.

The $20 million first-phase cleanup of a third of the site is expected to take 18 months. Negotiations continue for the remaining cleanup of ammonia, iron, and coal byproducts.

Bettis says he and his partner are the site's developers. He says his project is seven years in the making and is expected to help revitalize Detroit's riverfront.

Bettis starred at Detroit's Mackenzie High School, and played professionally for the Rams and the Steelers.

Commentary
12:21 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Rick Snyder and the Future

When I asked one famous Michigan native what he thought people might not know about him, he put it this way: “I just do my thing. I go to work and do my job the best I can.“

“I think about how I can help people, and have fun.“ If that sounds like something Jeff Daniels or Bob Seger might have said, guess again. That’s how Governor Rick Snyder described himself to me during a interview this week.

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Politics
11:43 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Fairness of pension tax will be decided by Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Hall of Justice - where the Michigan Supreme Court sits. Justices will decide on the fairness of the new tax on pensions.
user subterranean wikimedia commons

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to let unions and business groups weigh in before the justices rule on whether the state’s new tax on pension income is legal.

The court will hear arguments in the case next week.

Governor Rick Snyder asked the court to cut short any legal challenges with a preemptive ruling.

The governor wants an opinion from the court before the end of the month.

His budget relies on $343 million dollars from taxing pensions, and he wants to avoid months or years of legal wrangling on the question.

The governor asked the court to decide whether the pension tax breaks a promise by the state to retirees and public employees; and whether income limits in the law amount to a graduated income tax – which is prohibited by the state constitution.

The Supreme Court has agreed to accept briefs from retiree associations and unions that oppose the pension tax, as well as business groups that say the tax is fair.

The Michigan Education Association, the UAW, and the AARP are among the groups that filed briefs opposing the tax. They say the pension tax breaks a promise to retirees and public employees, and it violates the state constitution.

Business groups, including the Michigan Bankers Association, and the Small Business Association of Michigan, are backing Governor Rick Snyder. They say the pension tax is fair because it treats all income equally in the tax code.

If the pension tax is upheld, pension income will be subject to the state income tax starting January 1, 2012.

August car sales
11:25 am
Fri September 2, 2011

August auto sales weather bad economic news

U.S. auto sales were a bright spot in a sea of bad economic news in August.  Most companies reported increases from the same month a year ago. 

Consumer sentiment in August fell to its lowest level since November 2007, stock markets dove, and fears of a double-dip recession increased. 

Those conditions usually flatten U.S. vehicle sales.

Yet car sales rode the storm, with sales at Chrysler  up 30%, GM,  up 18% and Ford,  up 11%. 

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Crime
10:55 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Court overturns conviction in 2000 Detroit slaying

DETROIT (AP) - Ten years later, a federal appeals court has overturned a murder conviction in Wayne County because jurors weren't told that the gunman had a history of mental illness.

The court on Friday says Reginald Walker's trial lawyer was ineffective. The court ordered Walker's release from a life sentence unless he's brought to trial again within six months.

There is no dispute that Walker fatally shot a man inside a Detroit liquor store in 2000 and then walked out. The victim was a complete stranger.

The 57-year-old Walker has a history of mental illness, but his defense was based on self-defense. The appeals court says the 2001 trial strategy was greatly contradicted by "every piece" of evidence. The court's decision was 2-1.

Environment
10:31 am
Fri September 2, 2011

State officials warn of fire danger ahead of Labor Day weekend

The Meridian Wildfire near Grayling, Michigan in 2010. The fire damaged and destroyed homes. It was started by one person who lost control of their burn pile.
Fire Officer Randy McKenzie MIDNR

Want to roast some marshmallows this weekend? 

Natural resource officials in the state have a message for you - "with the romance, comes responsibility":

The Associated Press reports that campfires account for about one in 10 wildfires. From the AP:

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says warm summer temperatures and a lack of rain have combined to make the risk of wildfires especially high.

The agency says the highest risk is in the western half of the Upper Peninsula and in the central counties of northern lower Michigan, areas that are especially dry.

There's only a slight chance of rain over the weekend to lessen the danger.

The DNR recommends taking precautions to keep campfires under control and extinguishing them by dousing them with water before leaving.

Sports
7:30 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Steve Kampfer hoists the Stanley Cup in Jackson

Steve Kampfer played for the Boston Bruins last season, but after a knee injury, he was just shy of the number of games to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
user slidingsideways Flickr

Steve Kampfer grew up in Jackson, and learned to play hockey well enough to earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan.  He was a good student and player on great teams, but few expected Kampfer to make it to the NHL.

What chance he had seemed to vanish in October of 2008, when he was leaving a campus bar.  He started jawing with another student, who happened to be on the wrestling team.  Things got hot, but it was all just words, until the wrestler picked up Kampfer and turned him upside in a single, sudden move – then dropped him head first on the sidewalk. 

Kampfer lay on the sidewalk unconscious, with blood sliding out of his mouth.  His stunned friend thought he might be dead.

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corrections
6:03 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Postcard only rule at Muskegon County jail revised, a little bit

Protestors lined up in front of the Muskegon County jail several times this year to protest the posdcard only policy.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In February the sheriff instituted a “postcard only” rule at the county jail. That meant inmates could only send or receive mail on standard postcards. The sheriff was trying to keep drugs, pornography, and items inmates could use as weapons – out of the jail. Legal paperwork is exempt. Now the sheriff is allowing inmates to send letters. But incoming mail still has to be written on standard postcards.

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Auto/Economy
7:00 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

New Black Chamber of Commerce forms in Grand Rapids

New chambers of commerce are starting to form in cities across Michigan to support African-American business leaders. The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce is working to charter local black chambers in several cities. The group wants to empower African-American business leaders to overcome unique challenges, like historically bad access to capital.

Leaders of the newly-formed Grand Rapids Black Chamber of Commerce are hoping to empower African-American business owners.

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Environment
6:51 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Health concerns lingering after Kalamazoo River oil spill

It’s been more than a year since a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured... spilling more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup continues. And people who live near the river say they’re worried about what they might have been exposed to when the spill happened... and what they might still be getting exposed to.

The majority of the oil has been cleaned up, but there are still significant amounts of submerged oil on the bottom of the river.

The Michigan Department of Community Health recently put out a report on the risks of contact with that submerged oil.

Jennifer Gray is with the MDCH.

“We concluded that in terms of long term health issues, so health issues that would stay with you after the contact was done, or things like developing cancer, that contact with the chemicals in the submerged oil wouldn’t really cause these kinds of effects.”

She says people could have short term health effects from contact with the oil - things such as skin irritation.

The assessment did not include any health risks from breathing in chemicals from the remaining oil. Jennifer Gray says her agency is currently evaluating air monitoring data from the early days of the spill... and says they’re continuing to look at other ways people might be exposed to the oil that remains.

The areas of the Kalamazoo River that were affected by the spill are still closed for recreation.

People who live near the spill site want local officials to conduct a long-term health study.

Riki Ott is a marine toxicologist from Alaska. She’s spent the past two decades charting health problems from people who live near the site of the Exxon Valdez spill and last year’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She’s in Battle Creek this week to talk with people affected by the Kalamazoo River spill.

“I could have zipped back in time and it would be the same things as Exxon Valdez residents and workers, the same thing I’ve heard in the Gulf for a full year and here now. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, rashes, these things are not going away. People want answers.”

Ott says it’s too early to rule out the potential of long term health effects from the Kalamazoo River oil spill.

“If the state is acknowledging there could be short term health effects, then that means there could also be long term health effects.”

The Calhoun County Health Department has petitioned the federal government for a long term health study on residents.

Environment
6:13 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Foes make final try to block UP mine

Opponents of a planned nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are making a final legal appeal to halt initial blasting at the site.

Four organizations have filed a motion in Ingham County Circuit Court for a stay of mining permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality. A judge with the court is considering an appeal of the DEQ's decision to grant the permits.

The Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve say the mine jeopardizes water and air quality in the forestland of western Marquette County. They say extracting minerals at the site could pollute ground and surface waters with sulfuric acid.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals says the project can be carried out while safeguarding the environment.

Politics
5:45 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

More Medicare fraud charges announced in Detroit

Federal prosecutors in Detroit have charged another 28 people in three alleged Medicare fraud schemes.

The allegations outline typical Medicare fraud schemes totaling over 28-million dollars.

One scheme involved 14 people operating out of the Detroit suburb of Livonia, who allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for home health care services.

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Environment
5:41 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Dingell hosts panel on "vanishing" hunting and fishing opportunities

John Dingell

Michigan Congressman John Dingell hosted a panel about the shrinking hunting and fishing opportunities in the state.

Dingell says conserving places to hunt and fish are keys to Michigan’s quality of life.

And he says hunters and anglers are good people to ask about how those places are impacted by climate change and other threats to the Great Lakes, because, “Sportsmen are really one of the first lines of defense for the protection of our environment.”

Dingell says he’s also working on building up protected natural areas in southeast Michigan.

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Politics
5:10 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Limit on cash assistance and welfare reform in Michigan

Michigan State Capitol
Matt Katzenberger Flickr

The legislature recently approved a bill that would impose a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare cash assistance. The new limits could affect 12,000 families in Michigan. Governor Snyder has yet to sign the bill into law.

In this week's political roundup we talk about the bill with Debbie Dingell, a Democratic Political Analyst and member of the Democratic National Committee and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Dingell says:

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Environment
4:37 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Coal regulations could reshape Midwest energy

The W.C. Beckjord Station along the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Duke Energy says it plans to close the coal burning power plant in 2015 because updating the plant to meet new environmental regulations would be too costly.
courtesy of Duke Energy

The Midwest relies so heavily on one source of power that some call us the "coal belt."

Coal is cheap and plentiful, but that’s about to change.

A wave of government regulations is about to hit the electric industry.

Ed Malley, a Vice President at industry consulting firm, TRC Corporation has a name for all the new rules coming down the track: “The train wreck.”

That "train wreck" is the list of environmental regulations expected to be in place within the next few years.

Electric utilities say this will mean the shutting of power plants, leading to higher prices and less peak capacity for hot summer days. Environmentalists say: about time.

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Environment
3:50 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Help wanted: Great Lakes cleanup

The federal government says it will spend six million dollars to hire jobless workers for Great Lakes cleanup projects.

Conservation groups often make the claim that environmental cleanup and restoration efforts are good for the economy.

Andy Buchsbaum works for one of those groups. He heads the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation, which lobbied aggressively for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The federal government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the initiative. It includes projects like toxic pollution cleanup, restoring wildlife habitat, and fighting invasive species.

Buchsbaum says projects like those will need lots of engineers, landscapers and construction workers.

“They’re the people who actually move the dirt, move things around, constructing sewage facilities, cleaning up contaminated sediment. All those activities have a variety of direct jobs associated with them.”

Buchsbaum says there are also indirect jobs created when those people start spending money on things like groceries and rent.

The Environmental Protection Agency is likening the hiring initiative to the Civilian Conservation Corps – the New Deal program that put single, unemployed men to work doing manual labor.

Arts/Culture
3:32 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Aretha Franklin plans to sing during Obama's Detroit visit

Aretha Franklin will perform during President Barack Obama's visit to Detroit on Labor Day.
fotopedia

President Obama will be in Detroit Monday, September 5 to speak at the city's annual Labor Day festivities.

Aretha Franklin will sing at the event which will be free and open to the public.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The event will be held at General Motor’s parking lot adjacent to the Renaissance Center on Atwater Street.

The gates will open at 10 a.m. for Obama’s speech, which is expected to begin at 1:15 p.m. The public should expect to go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible. No bags, sharp objects, chairs, umbrellas, liquids or signs will be allowed inside the speech area.

Politics
2:58 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

No layoff notices for Michigan's state employees

Update 3:12 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has decided not to send out 30-day layoff notices to thousands of state workers while contract bargaining continues.

Allowing today’s deadline to pass means no workers can be laid off with the start of the state’s new fiscal year on October 1.

The governor’s spokeswoman says he wants to send a signal that he’s confident a deal can be reached without resorting to layoffs and other temporary solutions to keep the state budget balanced.

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, the largest state employee union. He says the decision not to send layoff notices was the right one.

 "We agree with Governor Snyder that we need to make structural changes and what we need to do is look at the private contracts and then also invest in frontline staff, invest in the foot soldiers - the people actually doing the work."

Holman says that means managers should be first in line to lose their jobs to budget cuts.

The Snyder administration is trying to convince state employees to pick up a bigger share of their health and retirement costs.

The administration is looking for a total of $265 million dollars in employee savings.

2:58 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder's administration will not send layoff notices to state employees as contract talks continue.

Snyder's spokeswoman says he wants to send a signal to state employees that he believes a deal can be struck before the state's new fiscal year begins on October 1.

State contracts require 30-day notice before layoffs can occur.

Business
2:10 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Stores in Michigan no longer need individual price tags as of today

No more individual price tags in Michigan stores as of today.
user walmart stores Flickr

Governor Snyder called for it last January during his first State of the State address, the law passed the legislature, and now it's in effect.

Individual price tags on each item are no longer in Michigan stores as of today.

From the Associated Press:

For the first time in decades, price tags no longer are required on most retail items in Michigan stores.

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