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Auto/Economy
1:20 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

First quarter late payments on auto loans lowest since 1999

Fewer late payments on auto loans.
Emilio Labrador Flickr

Late payments on auto loans hit their lowest level since 1999 in the first quarter, providing more data that shows consumers have gotten a handle on their debt.

TransUnion said the rate of payments that are 60 days or more past due reached its lowest point since the credit reporting agency began tracking the figure, dropping to 0.49 percent.

The improvement from 0.66 percent a year ago reflects the stronger auto sales market, which is being fed by higher consumer confidence and low interest rates, says Peter Turek of TransUnion. The number of auto loans started during the quarter rose 22 percent from the prior year.

TransUnion expects late payments to continue to drop this year.

Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Fiat plans to buy Canada's stake in Chrysler

Working to free itself from government ties.
Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

The majority owner of Chrysler, Fiat, is anxious to rid the company of any government ties.

Last week, the company refinanced it's TARP loans from the U.S. government.

Then they announced plans to buy the U.S. government's remaining 6% stake.

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Environment
10:34 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Bears and people getting too close?

Photo by Alan Vernon

Black bears are doing well across northern Michigan.  In fact, they're doing so well, people are complaining more about bears getting into bird feeders and bee hives and damaging orchards.

It’s still rare to encounter a bear in the woods. But last year a hunter was attacked near Petoskey. And state wildlife officials say bears become aggressive when people forget they are wild animals.

Sometimes bears just out of hibernation wander into town or into someone’s back yard to rummage for food.

Last spring, hundreds of people in Traverse City flocked to a tree with a bear in it near the airport. State wildlife officials captured the young male and moved it to a distant swamp.

But an incident from last fall near the Bear River in Emmet County continues to raise concerns.

On an October evening, three yearling bears and their mother attacked a bow hunter up a tree in his stand.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says the problem likely had been brewing over the summer.

“There were reports of a sow with three cubs showing up in people’s yards and on their porches and people feeding the bears. They liked looking at them and thought they were amusing. People do things like that. They ought not to.”

In this case, the deer hunter says he kicked and hit a couple of the cubs when they climbed up his stand.

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News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue May 31, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 31st
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Powerless

Utility crews continue to work to restore electricity to thousands of Michigan homes and businesses that lost power after a wave of severe thunderstorms and tornados. The Associated Press reports:

CMS Energy Corp. says it may take until late Wednesday to have all power restored. It says Sunday's storms blacked out more than 115,000 of its customers, and about 42,000 remained without service Tuesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says about 30,000 of its customers lost power, and about 4,000 remained blacked out Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service confirms that three funnel cloud touchdowns Sunday - one near Perry in Shiawassee County, one in the Three Rivers area in St. Joseph County and one in Coldwater in Branch County.No deaths or life-threatening injuries are reported.

Farm Bill

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow will hold the first field hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill later today. Stabenow is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. The hearing, titled, “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,” will, as Stabenow’s office explains, “focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill (which determines agriculture policies every five years), examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan.” The hearing will be held at Michigan State University.

Countdown to Break

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada. The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

Weather Advisory
7:04 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Weather prompts heat advisory

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for parts of Michigan as more severe thunderstorms were in the forecast.

The weather service says that Tuesday temperatures were expected to reach the lower 90s. The heat advisory was to be in effect until Tuesday evening in a number of counties as well as cities including Detroit, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw, Port Huron and Ann Arbor.

The weather service says severe thunderstorms could move across the state Tuesday afternoon and evening, bringing damaging winds or hail.

The forecast comes as power restoration efforts continue following severe thunderstorms on Sunday that spawned three tornadoes in Michigan.

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State Legislature
6:43 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Lawmakers to take up big issues in June

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Allieosmar Flickr

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada.

“I expect most of that will be done before we break for the summer, yes. June ought to be a very busy time around here. Just because the budget bills get signed into law next week doesn’t mean we won’t be working very hard around here for the next month or so.”

The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

Economy
3:59 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Borders prepares for important bankruptcy court date this week

Borders bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Attorneys for Borders will be back in court this week  asking a judge to give the troubled Ann Arbor-based book store chain more time to exit bankruptcy protection.  When Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, the hope was the bookstore chain would be able to quickly turn itself around.   That apparently isn’t happening. 

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Arts/Culture
3:05 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Dearborn continues Memorial Day tradition

People line Michigan Avenue in Dearborn for the city's Memorial Day parade.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

The city of Dearborn held its 87th annual Memorial Day parade Monday.

It’s the longest-running Memorial Day celebration in the state.

This year’s parade honored veterans of the Vietnam War. It’s been 50 years since the U.S. first became involved in that conflict.

The events included a funeral procession for several veterans, and a Remembrance Service.

Judy Carty watched the parade alongside her husband, a Korean War veteran.

Carty says as someone who protested the Vietnam War, she had “mixed feelings” about the proceedings.

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Economy
3:01 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Keeping Michigan on track

A freight train rumbles through downtown Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The future of Michigan’s passenger and freight rail services is the subject of a series of public hearings next month. Michigan has thousands of miles of rail lines. Much of it is owned by freight haulers. But the state has some input about the future of those rail lines.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is holding a series of six public hearings in June from Grand Rapids and Battle Creek to Detroit and Flint. 

Larry Karnes is with the Michigan Department of Transportation. He says they want the public’s input on what the future of Michigan’s rail service should look like.

 “It will include a look at some of the issues….and challenges facing the rail system…and needs….and then come up with some strategies for addressing those needs…in the future.”  

High speed rail will play some role in Michigan’s future rail planning. The federal government has committed about $400 million toward high speed projects in Michigan.

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storms
2:31 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

National Weather Service confirms tornado touched down Sunday in Michigan

Utility crews from Ohio and Indiana are helping crews restore electricity in Michigan today. Consumers Energy says around 70,000 homes and businesses in Mid-Michigan are without power following severe storms in the area Sunday afternoon. That's down from 108,000 originally.

Jay Jacobs is with Consumers Energy. They’re working to restore power to tens of thousands of people near the cities of Lansing and Battle Creek.

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Arts/Culture
1:48 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Some Michigan museums offer free admission to military families

The Detroit Historical Museum is one of 129 museums in Michigan participating in the Blue Star Museums program
Detroit Historical Museum

Active-duty military members and their families will get free admission to more than 1,000 museums in the United States this summer. It’s part of the National Endowment for the Arts Blue Star Museums program. 129 of those museums are in Michigan.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Museum. He says this is the second year the museum has participated in the program and they hope to continue:

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Breaking: Jim Tressel resigns
10:38 am
Mon May 30, 2011

Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel resigns; good for Wolverines?

The man who led Ohio State to victories over the University of Michigan in nine out of the rivals' last ten games has resigned.

Football coach Jim Tressel faced an NCAA investigation into possible corruption in his program, including claims that players received cars from local dealerships. 

Sports analyst John U. Bacon says there have been allegations of corruption for years.  So he's not surprised that a scandal finally brought the Tressel era to an end, despite his stellar performance.

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Environment
3:01 pm
Sun May 29, 2011

Mosquito Invasion!

Mosquito picando
user trebol-a Flickr

Mosquitoes are expected to be an even bigger annoyance than usual for Michiganders this summer.  Heavy rains in April and May have set the stage for a big burst of mosquitoes in Michigan this year. 

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Economy
3:01 pm
Sat May 28, 2011

Free gas giveaway in Battle Creek Sunday

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Sunday afternoon in Battle Creek a religious group plans to help about 20 poor families gas up their cars and trucks.  The group,  Free Gas USA, is providing 50 dollars-worth of gasoline to pre-selected families. 

Reverend William Stein founded Free Gas USA in 2008.    He says having some form of transportation is essential for struggling families. 

Memorial Day
2:17 pm
Sat May 28, 2011

Author Wade Rouse remembers Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was declared in 1868 to honor the memory of deceased military service members. Michigan-based author Wade Rouse shares his perspective on Memorial Day, from his memoir, "It's All Relative."

Listen for more stories from Rouse throughout the year on Michigan Radio.

 

 

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Medicine
5:02 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

School health clinics in Michigan to get a boost

Primary Care Doctor Lisa Lowery shows off the health clinic’s laboratory, patient rooms, and the dental clinic (behind her).
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Health clinics based inside 3 Grand Rapids high schools will get $2.6 million over the next five years. Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids Schools, and the Michigan Department of Community Health pay for the program. The state is expected to announce grants for other school clinic programs soon.

Lisa Lowery is a primary care doctor at Spectrum Health. She shows off the health clinic’s laboratory, patient rooms, and the dental clinic. A high school senior getting his teeth cleaned gives us a thumbs up.

“It’s just not ‘oh here’s an ice pack’ cause you hurt your knee.”

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U.S. Treasury to sell Chrysler stock
4:49 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Chrysler to be free of government ownership before General Motors

Fiat says it will buy the U.S. Treasury’s 6% stake in Chrysler.   

The announcement means Chrysler will be free of government influence long before General Motors will be. 

Fiat and the U.S. Treasury will negotiate the price over the next ten business days.   Fiat will own 52% of Chrysler once the deal goes through.     

Sheldon Stone is a restructuring expert with Amherst Partners.  He says the negotiations should go smoothly, since the federal government is highly motivated to get out of the car business.

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Politics
4:20 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Political Roundup

Photo by: contemplative imaging

The State Legislature completed work on a $46.5 billion state budget this week. It’s the quickest budget process since the 1960’s.

Michigan Radio’s Jenn White spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Bill Ballenger, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.  You can hear the interview here:

Ballenger says  Governor Snyder had a clear plan coming into office, which helped get this budget passed so quickly. He also points to the strong Republican control.

These are the biggest margins of control since the years after World War II ended. This is how strong the majority is in the House and Senate with a Republican Governor. That is incredibly important.

Certain items in the tax structure and in this budget have gotten lots of attention from the public. Tax on pensions, the reduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the cuts to K-12 schools all have been on people’s minds.

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Politics
4:12 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Election of President Obama changed perceptions of racism

Study shows election of President Obama changes perception of racism, not, not reality of racism
Pete Souza White House

The election of President Obama in 2008 made some believe racism in the United States had declined. That's according to a study from the University of Michigan. It measured perceptions of racism amongst Americans before the 2008 election and again in 2010.

Nicholas Valentino is a professor with U of M. He says it’s difficult to know how perceptions about racism are formed. But he thinks it might have to do with obstacles different racial groups face:

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Investigative
3:37 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Evidence abandoned in closed Detroit crime lab

Detroit's former crime lab, shut down in 2008, still contained evidence that should have been cataloged and removed. Vandals apparently broke into the building after it was left unattended for at least a week, according to The Detroit Free Press.
dreamstime.com

A Detroit newspaper says a Detroit police lab closed two years ago was left unsecured,with evidence and live ammunition still inside.

The Detroit Free Press reports the lab recently had been left open for at least a week.

The report says evidence kits, personal information of rape and assault victims and live ammunition were scattered around.

The newspaper reported that the lab, housed in a former elementary school, also contained bulletproof vests, gunpowder and bottles of toxic chemicals.

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