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Changing Gears
3:20 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

The future of manufacturing, all this month, from Changing Gears

Wisconsin Historical Society

What’s different about our factories? How are things changing in the Midwest, from the way people are trained to what’s being produced?

This month, Changing Gears’ regular Wednesday reports will be devoted to the future of manufacturing.

The days are long gone when all you had to do to get a factory job was know someone. These are not the same places your dad or mom or grandfather worked in. And the expectations of what employers need from you have changed, as well.

We’ll kick the series off tomorrow with a report from Dan Bobkoff. Meanwhile, we’d like to pick your brain.

What kind of factories do you think we’ll be seeing in the Midwest? Which industry will be next to catch hold here?

We’re looking forward to exploring our manufacturing future with you.

Politics
2:48 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Medical marijuana advocates to hold Lansing rally

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A rally is scheduled Wednesday on the steps of the state Capitol protesting proposed changes to the state's medical marijuana law.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association president and other speakers during the rally in Lansing are expected to discuss the law and treatment patients and caregivers have received from law enforcement. The event starts at noon.

Michigan voters in 2008 approved use of marijuana to relieve pain and other chronic ailments. About 100,000 people have state-issued cards letting them have 2.5 ounces of "usable" pot and up to 12 plants. Registered caregivers also can grow marijuana for five people.

Michigan's Appeals Court has ruled some sales at dispensaries illegal.

Changes proposed by some Michigan legislators requiring stricter doctor-patient relationships before a patient could get authorization to use the drug.

Economy
2:21 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Flint to consider consolidation as a way to save money

Flint City Council is considering joining a consolidation initiative known as Future Genesee.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

This Wednesday, Flint City Council will consider whether consolidation could be in the city's future.

The Flint Journal reports that a council committee will take up a resolution this Wednesday, with a final decision from council coming next Monday:

Government consolidation in Michigan has been a hot topic since Gov. Rick Snyder told local communities that they would lose out on additional state aid unless they showed a commitment to share services with others to save taxpayer dollars.

Snyder set a Jan. 1 deadline for governments to submit consolidation plans if they want to receive a share of a $200-million pool of funds.

Several local communities, including Burton, Clio, Davison and Davison Township, have already joined the initiative.

The consolidation initiative is known as Future Genesee  and the Journal reports it includes the communities of Burton, Clio, Davison and Davison Township.

Politics
1:04 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

Michigan governor ready to launch fall agenda

Governor Rick Snyder talking to the Michigan Farm Bureau.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is ready to launch a new series of fall initiatives, including measures to improve Michigan residents' health, fix crumbling roads and sewer systems and train
more people for available jobs.

He could unveil his health and wellness initiatives as early as next week. The Republican governor plans to lay out a roads plan in October and a way to better tap Michigan workers' talents in
November.

Snyder has been focused on "reinventing" Michigan since he took office in January, and doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon.

But he could be distracted this fall by a flurry of bills being pushed by fellow Republicans, such as making Michigan a right-to-work state and outlawing a late-term abortion procedure that's already illegal through a federal law.

Environment
11:11 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Lead exposure affects kids' motor development

New research from the University of Michigan reinforces why it’s important to keep kids from being exposed to lead.

It’s long been known that relatively high blood lead levels can negatively affect children’s IQ.

This study finds it can also affect a child’s motor skills.

Dr. Howard Hu, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan, studied children between the ages of three and seven in Chennai, India. Half the children studied had relatively high levels of lead in their blood. Those children tested significantly lower on motor skill tests… like using peg boards and copying pictures… than children with far less exposure to lead.

Dr. Hu says the Indian children’s blood lead levels are about two to three times that of American children. Lead is still a problem in Michigan, with children still being exposed to aging lead paint in homes, lead in pipes, and lead contamination in soil.

Politics
11:05 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Obama previews jobs speech at Labor Day event in Detroit

President Barack Obama in Detroit on Labor Day. He said the country can get through tough times,
screen grab from YouTube video

Yesterday, President Barack Obama told a crowd of around 13,000 in Detroit that the country will rise and fall together:

"Anyone who doesn’t believe it should come here to Detroit," said Obama. "It’s like the commercial says:  This is a city that’s been to heck and back. And while there are still a lot of challenges here, I see a city that’s coming back."

Obama said the nation "cannot have a strong growing economy without a strong growing middle class and without a strong labor movement."

At the event, Obama was previewing his jobs speech, which will be given in front of a joint session of Congress this Thursday (September 8).

"I don't want to give everything away right here, because I want ya'll to tune in on Thursday," Obama said.

"But I'll give you just a little bit.

We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.

We’ve got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building.

We’ve got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. 

There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it.  Labor is on board.  Business is on board. 

We just need Congress to get on board.  Let’s put America back to work."

Here's President Obama's Labor Day Speech:

During the speech, Obama recounted a conversation he had with Michigan Senator Carl Levin:

You know, I was on the plane flying over here, and Carl Levin was with me, and he showed me a speech that Harry Truman had given on Labor Day 63 years ago, right here in Detroit -- 63 years ago.  And just to show that things haven't changed much, he talked about how Americans had voted in some folks into Congress who weren’t very friendly to labor.  And he pointed out that some working folks and even some union members voted these folks in.  And now they were learning their lesson.  And he pointed out that -- and I'm quoting here -- 'the gains of labor were not accomplished at the expense of the rest of the nation.  Labor’s gains contributed to the nation’s general prosperity.'"

Environment
10:57 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Study: Phthalates affect child development

The federal government has banned certain types of phthalates in children's products, but the chemicals are still in many other products including cars, flooring, shower curtains, cosmetics, shampoos and lotions.
Source: Toniht at Wikimedia Commons

Phthalates are a class of chemicals that have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system. They’re used in all kinds of consumer products including flooring, cars and cosmetics.

A new study published today finds a significant link between pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates and negative impacts on their children’s development.

Robin Whyatt is a professor in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and she’s the lead author of the study. She and her team have an ongoing study of more than 700 mothers and their children that began in 1998.

For this particular study, they looked at about half of those mother-child pairs. They measured phthalate levels in the mothers’ urine and compared those levels to several developmental tests on their children, who are now three years old.

“As levels in the mothers' urine went up, the child’s motor development went down significantly.”

She says the types of phthalates they studied appear to affect the babies’ brain development while they’re still in utero.

“Three of the phthalates were significantly associated with behavioral disorders, or behavioral problems: anxious, depressed behaviors, emotionally reactive behaviors, withdrawn behavior.”

Whyatt says they controlled for a long list of factors. They looked at tobacco smoke, lead, pesticides, and other toxic substances.

“We controlled for race and ethnicity, gestational age. We looked at marital status, we looked at a number of different indicators of poverty and also how much hardship a woman was going through.”

And she says still, there was a significant link between the mothers’ phthalate levels and their children’s development.

“Our findings are concerning because saw a two to three fold increase in the odds that the child would have motor delays and or behavioral problems.”

But she says more research is needed. And parents should keep in mind that any individual child’s risk is low.

Read more
Education
10:17 am
Tue September 6, 2011

School Daze (Its the first day of school for many Michigan children)

A banner hanging in a hallway at Lansing's STEM Academy
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today’s the first day of school for most children in Michigan.   In Lansing, this is also the beginning of the final year on the job for the district’s  school superintendent.  

As the public address system blared instructions for which classroom or auditorium they should go to, hundreds of students found their way around Lansing’s STEM Academy this morning.  District Superintendent T.C. Wallace was there to help them find their way.  

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Commentary
10:00 am
Tue September 6, 2011

The President Speaks

Once upon a time, it was an enormous deal whenever a President came to town. I know a woman who was a little girl of six in Pontiac sixty-three years ago, when President Harry Truman came to make a Labor Day speech in Detroit. There was a motorcade along Woodward, and she still has a vivid memory of standing along the curb and hoping for a glimpse of the President on his car.

Incidentally, her parents were Republicans. They didn’t vote for Truman that fall, when he won re-election in a stunning upset. But that didn’t matter. He was the President of the United States, and if you had a chance to see him, you took it.

These days, however, presidents are always on the move. Mr. Obama visited a battery factory in Ottawa County barely three weeks ago. True, an estimated 12,000 people braved crowds and traffic to pack into a parking lot on Detroit’s riverfront to see President Obama yesterday. But 42,000 had come downtown the night before, to pay money see the Detroit Tigers annihilate Obama’s Chicago White Sox.

The comparison isn’t fair, in a way. These days, almost everybody had the ability to watch the President on TV or the internet, which certainly wasn’t true in the days of Harry Truman.

However, Truman started something that Labor Day long ago that still continues today: The tradition that Democrats running for election or reelection as President kick off their campaigns with a Labor Day speech in Detroit. Campaigns start a lot earlier these days, and that was part of what was going on here.

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News Roundup
8:56 am
Tue September 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Obama Speaks in Detroit

President Obama spoke to union members and supporters at a Labor Day rally in Detroit yesterday. As Sarah Cwiek reports, the President says his biggest concern is to “fully restore” the country’s middle class:

The President will outline a jobs agenda to Congress on Thursday. He drew a disbelieving groan from the crowd when he said he still believes “both parties can work together.” But Mr. Obama also said he “won’t wait around for” Republicans in Congress.  “We’re going to see if Congressional Republicans will put country before party. We’ll give ‘em a plan, and then we’ll say: do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work re-building America.” The President says he’ll urge spending on infrastructure, growing export markets, and renewing a payroll tax cut for workers.

Snyder to Sign Welfare Cap

Governor Snyder is expected to sign the state’s new 48-month cap on welfare benefits into law this week. The state legislature approved the measure last month. “The new limits are expected to immediately reduce the cash assistance caseloads by 15 percent. About 12,600 people have been on cash assistance for 48 months or more, and payments to those families will end when the state’s new fiscal year begins October 1st,” Rick Pluta reports. It’s estimated the new limits will save the state $65 million dollars in the new budget year.

Some Schools Remain Closed on First Day

Some schools have had to postpone their first day of classes due to power outages and storm damage from this weekend’s powerful thunderstorms. The Associated Press reports:

The public school district in Ferndale cancelled classes Tuesday to give cleanup crews more time to deal with the remnants of Saturday's storms that downed trees and power lines and knocked out electrical service to several of the district's buildings. Detroit Public Schools says Macdowell, Carstens at Remus Robinson, Emerson and Vernor elementary schools were closed Tuesday due to power outages caused by the storms… In all, utilities say about 176,000 Michigan homes and businesses lost power.

Politics
6:24 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Snyder to sign welfare cap this week

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign a new 48-month cap on cash assistance welfare benefits into law this week. The new limits are expected to immediately reduce the cash assistance caseloads by 15 percent. The measure got final approval from the state legislature last month.

About 12,600 people have been on cash assistance for 48 months or more, and payments to those families will end when the state’s new fiscal year begins October 1st.

“It was always meant to be a bridge and it’s become a lot longer than that in Michigan  -- in some cases, many individuals or families have been on it for five, six, seven, eight, 10 plus years,” says Sara Wurfel, Governor Snyder’s press secretary.

The new limits are expected to save the state $65 million dollars in the new budget year.

Michigan’s four-year cap on cash assistance will make the state’s welfare limits among the strictest in the Midwest. Advocates for the poor say private agencies may not be able make up the difference for people who still need help. They say many of the people who take payments for extended periods are the chronically unemployed who are struggling through the poor economy.

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Economy
6:00 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Cash incentives have "absorbed" a lot of housing stock in midtown Detroit

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad Flickr

Three Detroit businesses earlier this year began to offer up to $25,000 to encourage their employees to buy a place to live in Midtown Detroit. But the "Live Midtown" incentives have created a new kind of housing crisis in the city: a housing shortage. 

Austin Black is a realtor with City Living Detroit in midtown. He says in 2007 - 2008, the area was flush with unsold units. But he says now many of his clients have become frustrated looking for housing in the area.

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Investigative
6:00 am
Tue September 6, 2011

School supplies not required, but encouraged

Parents are not obligated to buy school supplies, but most do buy for their own kids and for the classroom to share.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

For most Michigan kids, today is the first day back to school.  And many are taking backpacks full of school supplies. They are not required to take school supplies. By state law the public schools are to supply everything students need for class. 

When you add it all up, the new school clothes, gym shoes, and all those binders, crayons, paper, pens and pencils, back-to-school shopping is big business.

“It’s really become probably the second biggest shopping period of the year, right behind Christmas.”

That’s Tom Scott with Michigan Retailers Association. One national estimate puts back-to-school shopping at about 16 percent of retail business in a year. It’s difficult to separate just how much of that is actual school supplies and not clothes or computers. 

The school districts always put out a long list of things kids might need for school and parents start hunting.

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Politics
5:50 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

In Detroit, President Obama says unions can help "fully restore the middle class"

Pete Souza Official White House photo

Speaking to union members and supporters at a Labor Day rally in Detroit, President Obama says his biggest concern is to “fully restore” the country’s middle class.

The President will outline a jobs agenda to Congress on Thursday. He drew a disbelieving groan from the crowd when he said he still believes “both parties can work together.”

But Mr. Obama also said he “won’t wait around for” Republicans in Congress.

Read more
Economy
4:13 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Potential strike looming over American Red Cross blood drives this week

The sign at the American Red Cross office on Saginaw St. in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 The American Red Cross may be hit by a strike this week by some of its unionized employees.   The picket signs are stacked up and ready to go at the union hall in south Lansing.  

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Lansing
4:01 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Pastor Terry Jones returns to Michigan this week

Pastor Terry Jones during one of his previous visits to Dearborn
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones is coming back to Michigan this week.    Terry Jones gained fame for burning a copy of the Qur’an as a protest against what he calls ‘radical’ Islam.     His attempt to hold a protest in Dearborn landed him in jail briefly this Spring.    He’s due back in a Dearborn courtroom on Thursday. 

Before then on Wednesday, Jones plans to take part in a rally at the state capital, which he says will focus on America’s moral decay and the rise of radical Islam. 

Read more
Education
4:00 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

U.S. Sec of Education Duncan to visit Detroit on Thursday

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will make an appearance in Detroit this week, just days after a visit from President Obama. It's part of a three-day “Education and the Economy” tour Secretary Duncan is taking through the Midwest.

Read more
Politics
2:55 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

Legislature to continue hearings on second international bridge

A new bridge would compete against the Ambassador Bridge which spans the river between Detroit and Windsor, On.
Matt Callow Flickr

 A state Senate panel is expected to continue hearings soon on a proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada. Lawmakers say they still have a lot of testimony they need to hear before they can make a decision.

State Senator Geoff Hansen is from Oceana County. He says people ask him every day about the Detroit bridge proposal, even on the west side of the state.

“It’s been brought up to a really high profile thing with all the advertising on the TV and all the fliers that have come out,” Hansen said.

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Commentary
10:30 am
Mon September 5, 2011

Labor Day

I hope you are out on a boat listening to this. Or getting ready for a barbecue, or working in the garden, or doing something you feel like doing. Depending on the weather, I may be playing soccer with my Australian Shepherd right now.

He, by the way, will win easily. But while I hope you are relaxing, I hope even more that you have a job to go back to tomorrow. Far too many people don’t.

True, the unemployment rate is down from last year, but it is still over ten percent in Michigan, which is far too high. And there’s something that worries me more than the numbers.

And that’s the number of adults in the prime of life who have been unemployed for a long time -- six months or more. That’s the most on record, according to the Michigan League for Human Services, and they should know. They’ve been trying to help folks in difficult circumstances for almost a century.

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Presidential Visit
6:43 am
Mon September 5, 2011

Obama travels to Detroit today

The U.S. Army Flickr

President Obama travels to Detroit today to attend Detroit's annual Labor Day parade. He'll address thousands of labor union members about his ideas to create jobs and help grow the economy, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Obama's speech at a rally sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO may serve as a dry run for the jobs speech he'll deliver before a joint session of Congress Thursday night...In the speech to Congress, Obama is expected to outline a mix of tax credits and public works spending and press lawmakers to act quickly on the proposals.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek will be at the President's speech. As she notes:

The President is looking to shore up support among organized labor, a key part of his base...

Speaking in the shadow of General Motors headquarters, it's likely the President will tout his administration's role in reviving the American auto industry. Publicly, Michigan's union leaders have generally praised Mr. Obama for rescuing U.S. automakers.

But, there are signs the President's support among union members has eroded, especially as unemployment remains high, and collective bargaining rights for public employees are under attack in many states.

This will be the President's second visit to Michigan in the past month. Mr. Obama toured an advanced battery plant in Holland in August.

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