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Science
3:31 pm
Wed August 10, 2011

Comcast announces Internet service for low-income families

laptop
User: whitakerc1985 flickr

Comcast has announced a new national program that provides discounted Internet service for low-income families. Families who live in a Comcast service area and have not been customers with the company for at least 90 days can get the service for $10 per month.

Mary Beth Halprin is with Comcast Michigan.    

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Politics
2:12 pm
Wed August 10, 2011

AP: Michigan Dems say no presidential primary here in 2012

There will be no presidential primaryelection for Michigan Democrats in 2012.

Chairman Mark Brewer said Wednesday that national convention delegates will be picked through party meetings around the state, starting next May.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is expected to run unopposed for a second term next year.

Brewer says Michigan Democrats will hold caucuses in May at approximately 200 locations. He says more than 200 people will be delegates or alternates at the national convention.

Lake Michigan
12:14 pm
Wed August 10, 2011

Coast Guard warning Lake Michigan swimmers about rip currents

Rip current mechanism: breakers cross sand bars off the shore, the water travels back to sea through the gap in the sand bars, creating a fast "rip"
(courtesy of National Weather Service, Wilmington, NC)

Search efforts continue for two swimmers who were caught up Tuesday in rip currents off the coast of Saugatuck.     Lake Michigan’s eastern shore has seen strong rip currents this week. 

U.S. Coast Guard petty officer Lauren Jorgenson  says people swimming in the Great Lakes should be aware of the danger of currents that can pull swimmers away from the beach.  

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Education
11:41 am
Wed August 10, 2011

CMU contract talks may delay school year

Central Michigan University

Classes at Central Michigan University may be delayed because of contract disputes between the faculty union and administration. Without a contract, faculty may not show for class August 22. The two groups are at a standstill on a number of issues including salary increases, health care or who is allowed to be a union member.

Tim Connors is the former president of the faculty union at the university. He says the union is ready to get back to the table.

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Politics
11:35 am
Wed August 10, 2011

Speaker Boehner names two Michigan congressmen to supercommittee

House Speaker Boehner speaks with reporters last month
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton just issued the following statement:

“The Budget Control Act made a modest down payment on our debt in the short term and called on Congress – through a Joint Select Committee – to build on those savings with meaningful spending controls and program reforms that will continue the process of putting our fiscal house in order over the long term. I am humbled by the trust Speaker Boehner and our leadership team have placed in us, and I stand ready to serve on the Joint Select Committee alongside Chairman Camp and Chairman Hensarling on behalf of all House Republicans.

“Being from Michigan where families have endured 31 consecutive months of double-digit unemployment, I know how important it is to get our economy back on track and get Americans back to work. As someone who worked on the federal budget for President Reagan, I saw firsthand that sound economic policy is the bedrock of job creation and fiscal responsibility. And as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I know the exploding cost of health care is at the root of our long-term fiscal challenges; it's why our committee has already produced legislation to save taxpayers $90 billion, and that was just the beginning. Much more needs to be done to bring down health care costs, promote economic growth, and begin to tame runaway government. No one believes this is going to be easy, but working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both Chambers of the Congress, we will work to address our fiscal challenges and get America back to work.”

The Associated Press reports:

House Speaker John Boehner has named GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas to co-chair a powerful new committee that will try to come up with a bipartisan plan this fall to reduce the federal budget deficit by more than $1 trillion.

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Culture
11:33 am
Wed August 10, 2011

The Legacy of Eleanor Josaitis

By now, everybody knows that Eleanor Josaitis lost her battle with cancer yesterday, and that she, with the late Father Bill Cunningham, was one of the founders of Focus Hope.

Focus Hope is that rarest of social welfare organizations; one  praised by liberals and conservatives alike. It started out as a private food distribution program in the aftermath of the horrendous Detroit riot of nineteen-sixty-seven. They still provide food to tens of thousands. But that’s not primarily what they are about.  Focus Hope takes the poor and uneducated, the unskilled and under skilled, and does its best to give them what they need to support themselves.

They trained hundreds of machinists, and when demand for machinists started to slip, they diversified. These days, their biggest program by far is Focus Hope’s Information Technologies Center, which is on their forty-acre campus of beautifully restored industrial buildings in Northwest Detroit.

Focus Hope has saved thousands of people and given them the ability to lead productive and meaningful lives. Hopefully, the men and women who run it will go on helping many more.

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Politics
8:42 am
Wed August 10, 2011

The Week in State Politics

State Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Allieosmar Flickr

Governor Snyder signed the legislative re-districting bills into law yesterday. The maps were approved by the state Legislature's Republican majorities. We talk about the politics behind the new maps and how much they'll change the 2012 election with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.

Also, in this morning's Week in State Politics, we'll take a look at the Michigan Democratic Party's role in the recall elections in Wisconsin and what it means now that five public employee unions have said they'll come together to bargain with the state as the Snyder administration looks to find some $260 million in budget savings from state employees.

Election 2012
7:54 am
Wed August 10, 2011

McCotter heading to Ames, Iowa

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right) of Michigan.
Republican Conference Flickr

Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter is heading to Iowa for the Ames Straw Poll. McCotter, a Livonia Republican campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination, will be competing in the statewide 'poll' this weekend.

“But it's really not a poll at all - and it's certainly not scientific,” the Associated Press reports. “Rather, it's a fundraiser for the state GOP and a day long political festival at Iowa State University. Presidential candidates make speeches and try to lure the most supporters to the event - with promises of food, live music and, sometimes, a lift to the site - in hopes of getting their backing in a nonbinding vote," the AP notes.

From the Detroit News:

McCotter and his Iowa strategist, Christopher Rants, say they don't know how he'll do in the Ames Straw Poll.

McCotter won't bus in voters or give them the $30 tickets needed to vote, as some candidates will. Nor has he run TV or radio ads in the Hawkeye state.

What McCotter will have in Amesisa tent where he will give away copies of his book, "Seize Freedom," and hand out Iowa's Blue Bunny ice cream.

"We could come in dead last,"Rantssaid. "This is an opportunity to meet a lot of folks and make a first impression. The only thing that will upset me is if we can't give away the ice cream."

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Economy
7:44 am
Wed August 10, 2011

State lets some families know aid is running out

Michigan has begun sending out notices to some families receiving welfare benefits to notify them that their federal assistance is running out. The Detroit Free Press reports the change may affect nearly 14,000 families who had passed a five-year federal limit but got the time extended. Notices began going out Tuesday that include contact information for caseworkers who will try to help families find other assistance programs.

Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan says the notices come at the same time the state is revamping how it hands out assistance. It's also planning to put into effect a four-year limit in most cases for families receiving welfare benefits.

The limit could begin Oct. 1. Critics say such a limit would boot some needy families off public assistance.

Changing Gears
6:10 am
Wed August 10, 2011

Taxing Cigarettes for the Arts

Fozzman Flickr

It’s a tough time for arts funding around the nation. Kansas, as an example, just cut all its state support. It’s a different story in the Cleveland area, though. That region has found a unique way to fund the arts, and it’s paying off big.

It’s made residents like Samantha Kane arts patrons of sorts. She says she smokes about two or three packs of cigarettes a week. We find her waiting at a bus stop with a stroller in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Since 2006, each cigarette she smokes contributes a penny and a half to Cuyahoga County’s arts organizations.

“I love that it goes to something instead of road work, or you know, padding congressmen’s pockets,” Kane says.

This county cigarette tax really adds up. The group that administers the money is doling out $15 million this year alone. That’s enough to catapult the Cleveland area to among the top public funders for the arts in the nation—many times more than what most states contribute.

“I tell people: you don’t have to smoke ‘em, just buy them,” says Cindy Einhouse, CEO of the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood.

It puts on shows, teaches dance and music, and provides summer camps for kids.

Einhouse says the recession hit her organization hard. The Beck Center almost closed its doors in 2009. A wave of private donations helped, but she’s grateful for this county tax.

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Economy
1:01 am
Wed August 10, 2011

Treasury Dept: state retirement funds sound, despite stock market decline

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The people who manage more than 50 billion dollars in state retirement funds say the recent stock market drop should not be a serious long term problem.    More than 400 thousand former state employees, teachers, state troopers and  judges receive checks from the state managed retirement funds. 

Terry Stanton is with the State Treasury Department.   He says the retirement fund  is managed to absorb the changes in the financial world. 

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AUTO
6:21 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

GM is less complicated and less wasteful, investors told

General Motors executives says the company is becoming less complicated, and less wasteful, than it was in the past.   

GM CEO Dan Akerson says that simplicity -- along with a "fortress" balance sheet, and a lower cost structure will help GM break even in bad times, and make money in good times. 

Akerson and other top executives gave investors an in-depth briefing of the company's post-bankruptcy progress and plans for the long-term future.

GM has reduced its brands in the U.S to four, will focus on Chevrolet and Cadillac as its primary global brands, and will use regional brands such as Opel to help the company compete in specific markets like Germany.

GM's drastically reduced debt load also frees the company to follow through with product plans.  In the past, the company had to abandon car programs during recessions because of the pressing need to make debt payments.

"We think, just on cancelled product programs, we’ve probably blown a billion dollars a year in the last few years, as a result of having to pull back from things we’d already started," said Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann.

GM regained its number one global sales position in the first six months of this year.  But Akerson says being number one is not the goal.

He says GM must make the customer the first priority.  And GM will focus on profitability, not market share.

GM's head of global marketing Joel Ewanick said GM will also set its sights on a new "stretch" challenge: being the first automaker to get one of its brands on the list of the top twenty-five most recognized global brands. 

That list includes a number of U.S. brands, including Apple and Coca-Cola.  But no car company's brand has yet made it onto the list.

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Politics
6:01 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Unions promise to work together in state contract talks

Five public employee unions say they will bargain with the state as a single unit on economic issues. Governor Rick Snyder is asking the unions to find $260 million in savings.   

Cindy Estrada with the UAW says there is a common assumption that when the state asks for savings from unions, that means employee wages will be docked or workers will be laid off. But she says that should not be the case.  

“That doesn’t just happen by coming to workers and saying ‘you need to give back.’ It happens by looking at what are the real problems in the state.”         

Public employee unions representing more than half of the state’s workers say there are structural changes that should be made. And they say the changes could save the state more than Governor Rick Snyder asked for. Those changes include reducing the number of managers compared to frontline workers and fewer privatized contracts for public services.

Politics
5:25 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Governor Snyder approves redrawing Michigan's political map

Governor Rick Snyder has approved measures that redraw Michigan’s legislative and congressional districts. The new maps were approved by the Legislature’s Republican majorities in an intensely partisan battle. But this may not be the final word on the state’s new district maps. 

Michigan loses a congressional seat in the new maps to reflect the loss of population in the most recent census. The new lines throw at least two incumbent Democrats into the same district.  

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Science/Medicine
2:54 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan buys Medicaid insurer

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan is expanding its involvement in Medicaid coverage.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan joined a Pennsylvania Blue Cross to buy up a Medicaid health care plan based in Philadelphia.  Amerihealth Mercy ser

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Economy
1:09 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

General Electric hopes to hire 1,100 technology workers by 2013

User: ismh flickr

General Electric hopes to bring 1,100 jobs to a Michigan technology center by 2013. The 2 year old center is located outside of Detroit.  GE is developing new software and other technology.

Deia Campanelli is with GE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center.  

"Michigan has an exceptional number of talented experienced professionals, and the state has some strong advanced manufacturing capabilities and information technologists that are really just on the forefront of where industry is headed. So it makes putting jobs in Michigan a really easy decision."

Campanelli says the center has hired 660 workers to date. 90% of those hires are from Michigan.

-Traci Currie, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Local
12:53 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Focus: HOPE co-founder Eleanor Josaitis dies

Focus: HOPE

Focus: HOPE’s co-founder Eleanor Josaitis died of cancer Tuesday morning. Focus: HOPE provides vocational training and food assistance. Josaitis and her partner Reverend William Cunningham founded the social services organization in the aftermath of the Detroit riots. Cunningham died in 1997.

Tim Duperron is the chief operating officer at Focus: HOPE who worked with Josaitis for 13 years. He says she had strong ties and loyalty with many people.

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Arts/Culture
12:38 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Ypsilanti studio space "spurs" on artists, musicians

James Marks, SPUR Studios founder, in front of the building on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti
Doug Aikenhead Michigan Radio Picture Project

You can file this story under "silver lining."

Michigan's recession has left a lot of empty buildings in its wake. When James Marks was looking for a larger building to house his t-shirt and flat screen printing company, VG Kids, he looked at a two-story brick building on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti.

The building had plenty of space, but was divided into dozens of small rooms. Marks says the space wasn't a good fit for his company, but it was perfect for artists’ studios:

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Environment
10:08 am
Tue August 9, 2011

MSU researchers testing beef tracking from pasture to plate

Beef from the cattle on this 350 acre farm on MSU's campus will be served in the cafeterias at MSU in the fall.
Photo by Emily Fox

Local food is the hottest thing on menus this year. That’s according to a survey by the National Restaurant Association. Michigan State University researchers are trying to give consumers more information about locally grown food.

Some say local is the new green. Here's how two characters in the show Portandia portray the local food movement in America:

Waitress: “My name is Dana, I’ll be taking care of you today if you have any questions about the menu, please let me know.”

Woman: “I guess I do have a question about the chicken. If you could just tell us a little more about it.”

Waitress: “Uh, the chicken is a heritage breed, woodland raised chicken that’s been fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy and hazelnuts. . .”

Man: “This is local?”

Waitress: “Yes. Absolutely.”

Man: “I’m going to ask you one more time. And it’s local?”

Waitress: “It is.”

Woman: “Is that USDA organic, Oregon organic or Portland organic?”

Waitress: “It’s just all across the board. Organic.”

FOX: Okay, so not every restaurant is like the one featured in this sitcom. But researchers at Michigan State University say people do want more information about their food. They're starting a pilot program to do just that with local beef.

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Environment
10:00 am
Tue August 9, 2011

Company unveils new wind turbine plant

Jeff Kubina / flickr

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is in Michigan today. She’s visiting for a ribbon cutting at Ventower Industries in Monroe. It’s a company that will be making towers for wind turbines.

The Monroe facility will serve as Ventower's main U.S. operation.

35 employees will start work this week, and as many as 300 could eventually work there.

Scott Viciana is the company’s vice president. He says the plant is built on the site of a former industrial landfill.  So first, they had to clean up the land.

“We stumbled across less (sic) concerns in the end than we thought potentially we could.”

Ventower got state and federal tax credits to clean up the brownfield site.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that makes it a double win for the environment.

"What we see here today is a return to use. A return to use for a site that will preserve green space, but also support a clean energy economy."

Ventower officials say the Monroe site is ideal because it can ship parts by road, rail, and a Great Lakes port.

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