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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Arts/Culture
3:00 pm
Sun September 4, 2011

"Arc of Justice" chosen for statewide reading program

User ppdigital MorgueFile

High school students from Detroit to Marquette will be participating in this year’s Great Michigan Read, a free, statewide book club put on by the Michigan Humanities Council.

This year’s book is "Arc of Justice" by Kevin Boyle. It’s a true story about an African American physician in the 1920s that moves to an all-white neighborhood in Detroit and defends his family’s right to live there.

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Economy
4:01 pm
Sat September 3, 2011

President Obama's economic plans could affect Michigan home builder

President Barack Obama
(Official White House photo)

 The nation’s home builders are one group expected to closely watch President Obama’s economic address to Congress this week.  Pulte Homes of Bloomfield Hills is the nation’s largest home builder.   

Pulte, like its competitors, has seen its sales plummet as the housing market crashed in recent years.    And past government efforts to prop up the housing market with tax breaks have failed to spur new home construction.      

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Sports
6:36 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Detroit rejects plan for youth baseball at former Tiger Stadium site

Tiger Stadium during demolition
Kevin Ward wikimedia commons

The city of Detroit has again put a damper on plans to keep baseball at the site of the former Tiger Stadium.

Chevrolet had proposed a plan what it calls the “hallowed” site to create a “new ballpark for Detroit’s youth.”

Chevy said it had support from the Detroit Tigers, and a non-profit group called the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy.

But the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation quashed the proposal. DEGC head George Jackson says it just wasn’t a good idea.

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Politics
6:28 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Detroit plans clean up, development for former Uniroyal site

by nailhed for Panoramio/Google

Detroit officials have announced a $20 million effort to clean up one of the city’s most notorious pieces of vacant land.

They say it's only phase 1 of a plan to clean up the site on Detroit’s east riverfront that once housed a Uniroyal tire factory, and other heavy industry that contaminated the land.

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History
5:07 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Why we celebrate Labor Day

Participants in the 1960 Labor Day parade in New York. On Monday September 5, President Obama is expected to give a speech in Detroit.
The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives

This Friday many of us head into a three day weekend that marks the unofficial end of summer. We might mark Labor Day with a family picnic, one last summer visit to the beach, or maybe with a mad scramble to get that last bit of school preparation done. But what is Labor Day really for? Joining us to take a look is Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry.

Arts/Culture
4:55 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Countdown to third annual ArtPrize begins

ArtPrize Executive Director Catherine Creamer shows off the ArtPrize totebag. The bag is one of at least 50 different pieces of ArtPrize swag available for purchase.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Organizers and artists are working hard to get everything done in time for opening day later this month.

The winner of the art competition gets $250,000 in prize money. Organizers claim it’s the world’s largest art prize.

People who visit Grand Rapids during the event determine the winner through online voting.

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Transportation
3:06 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

10 slow Amtrak trains in Michigan

Most of the track that Amtrak trains run on in Michigan are owned by freight companies.
Amtrak

There are three Amtrak routes with trains that travel to and from cities in Michigan to Chicago.

If you ride on any of them, chances are your train will be late.

The route with the best on-time rate in the last year were the trains traveling on the "Blue Water" route between Port Huron and Chicago. On average, you'll be on-time 50 percent of the time on these trains.

The "Pere Marquette" route with trains traveling between Grand Rapids and Chicago comes in second. On average, those trains run on-time 48 percent of the time.

The most popular route is the worst.

The "Wolverine" route, which has trains running between Pontiac/Detroit to Chicago, had an average on-time rate of just 14 percent.

Amtrak provides a detailed breakdown of each train's on-time performance along with reasons for delays on their website.

Here's a breakdown of the on-time percentages for Amtrak trains in Michigan from best-to-worst:

  1. Blue Water #364 - 73.8% (Chicago to Port Huron)
  2. Pere Marquette #370 - 54.2% (Chicago to Grand Rapids)
  3. Pere Marquette #371 - 41.7% (Grand Rapids to Chicago)
  4. Blue Water #365 - 25.5% (Port Huron to Chicago)
  5. Wolverine #350 - 19.8% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)
  6. Wolverine #355 - 18.7% (Detroit/Pontiac to Chicago)
  7. Wolverine #353 - 17.6% (Detroit to Chicago/Pontiac)
  8. Wolverine #351 - 11.4% (Detroit/Pontiac to Chicago)
  9. Wolverine #354 - 9.5% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)
  10. Wolverine #352 - 4.4% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)
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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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