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Arts/Culture
2:32 pm
Sat October 22, 2011

'Answer This!' director Christopher Farah puts Ann Arbor in the spotlight

Director Christopher Farah and U of M Professor Ralph Williams (Professor Tarson)
http://answerthismovie.com

Answer This!, a film by University of Michigan alum Christopher Farah, takes you out to the bars of Ann Arbor, where diehard trivia teams—like the Ice Tigers —face off for a glory far greater than a round on the house.

The movie follows Paul Tarson, a U of M graduate student played by Christopher Gorham. Afraid to make any decisions about his post-academic life, Tarson redirects his intellectual energy toward a citywide pub trivia tournament, much to the disappointment of his professor father, played by real life U of M Professor Ralph Williams.

Funded in part by the now suspended Michigan Film Office incentives program, Answer This! was filmed almost entirely on the U of M campus and around Ann Arbor. It is the first movie to receive official sanction from the university.Farah said it was important for him to locate the film in his hometown. He and his brother Mike Farah, who produced the film, tried several bigger, broader scripts before settling on Answer This!.

“None of those stories really resonated with us,” said Farah. “We wanted to do something that would kind of take us back to something we could really connect with.”

Farah uses the locations in the film to create that same hometown feeling for moviegoers.

“What we did,” said Farah, “was try to take a lot of those places that go beyond the really famous Ann Arbor spots...no matter what town or what city it’s in, people can relate to those kind of places, whether it’s a great corner bar or a pond or rope swing that only they knew about back where they were growing up.”

For audiences from Ann Arbor, this has the effect of making the familiar seem epic.

“A sidewalk outside Ashley’s feels so big in the movie...When you walk by it, it just kind of feels like a sidewalk. But in a movie, it feels like A SIDEWALK,” said Farah. “It’s taking that Ann Arbor that we know, and is somehow blowing it up to cinematic proportions.”

Answer This! opens this weekend in Ann Arbor, Novi and Grand Rapids.

-Meg Cramer, Michigan Radio Newsroom 

 

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Politics
8:08 am
Sat October 22, 2011

Medical marijuana advocate warns of over-regulation

An advocate for medical marijuana in Michigan is urging state lawmakers against over-regulation.

Tim Beck of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers says the law was designed to give local governments a lot of latitude when it comes to regulating dispensaries.

“Ann Arbor has come up with some very excellent regulations on dispensaries. Security requirements - the City of Lansing has done that. The individuals that have had problems are the individuals that have been careless,” said Beck.

Beck acknowledges there are gaps in the law.

“We couldn’t put everything in a ballot initiative,” he said. “And I will admit, okay, we deliberately did not put anything about dispensaries in the law.”

Beck believes Michigan will legalize marijuana by 2016.

The state House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings later this year on legislation that could settle confusion over the medical marijuana act.

- Chelsea Hagger - Michigan Public Radio Network

Politics
6:11 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Michigan's public defense system under review

Brian Turner Flickr

A state commission has begun work to ensure that everyone who is accused of a crime in Michigan gets an adequate legal defense.

Michigan allows every county to handle its own public defender system.

The system is frequently cited as one of the worst in the country.

That’s because some counties do a good job of ensuring that even people who cannot pay get a good lawyer. Other counties are more haphazard.

There are also no training standards for public defenders.

Retired Judge James Fischer chairs the commission.

“I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that there are no problems with the system, that it’s working perfectly fine for everyone. I’m pretty certain that’s not going to be anyone’s position," said Fischer.

The commission’s first step was to approve a set of questions for every county to answer on how it assigns and pays public defenders.

One of the common complaints is that public defenders must take on too many cases to earn a living.

Peter Cunningham is with the Michigan Campaign for Justice.

We need to come up with an improved system for public defense in Michigan. There needs to be more accountability – a statewide structure for holding counties accountable for how public defense is delivered, if not a statewide system,” said Cunningham.

Governor Rick Snyder gave the commission until July of next year to come up with a set of recommendations – including a way to pay for a better public defender system.

Arts/Culture
5:25 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Massachusetts art museum sues Jack Kevorkian's estate

More than 20 paintings and other memorabilia by the late Jack Kevorkian are supposed to be auctioned off in New York next week.

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Politics
4:06 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Recall petition filed against Wayne County Executive Ficano

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.
Waynecounty.com

Troubles are mounting for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. A federal investigation and a recall effort are now under way.

An outcry over a 200-thousand-dollar payout given to Wayne County’s former development director is being investigated by the FBI, which served subpoenas this week asking for information about Turkia Mullin’s severance pay.

On Thursday, Ficano ended severance payments for all political appointees.

But Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker said there are still unanswered questions about the commission’s responsibilities:

"Do we have anything to do with the contracts for personnel? The administration says no," Parker said. "We think we should. Should all contracts come to us to be approved?  Again, there’s a difference on that.”

Former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino is leading the effort to recall Ficano.

Convertino, an attorney from Plymouth, represents a man who filed a whistleblower suit against Wayne County.

Changing Gears
3:43 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Recap: Everything you need to know about the Midwest economy's magic bullets

user jinglyjon Flickr

History is filled with searches for Magic Bullets.

Economically speaking, those are quick-fix endeavors that promise to fix sour economies, provide jobs and bring prosperity to communities and regions. Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson wrote earlier this week that, “Some have soared; many have backfired.”

Communities across the Midwest are employing a new round of Magic Bullets in attempts to rescue themselves from the Great Recession. All sound promising, but which ones stand up under further scrutiny?

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Politics
3:38 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Presidential hopeful Herman Cain stops by Detroit

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain was in Detroit touting his so-called “9-9-9” tax plan Friday.

That plan has come under attack for being unfair to lower-income people. But Cain says it has provisions for economically distressed cities like Detroit.

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Education
3:30 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Libyan training program to relaunch, leave Michigan

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan State University says a Libya-funded diplomatic and educational program for professionals from the North African nation halted this spring is restarting and participants will move to American University in Washington, D.C.

Michigan State spokesman Kent Cassella says the university learned this week - just before news of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death - that Libya's National Economic Development Board would relaunch the two-year Visiting International Professionals Program.

Cassella says Michigan State also learned the program would consolidate all students to American University.

Cassella says Michigan State officials and the 19 remaining students are disappointed to lose the program that once included 35. Some returned to Libya and those who remained were provided
housing and other help from the university and community.

Messages were left Friday with American University.

Politics
3:23 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

FBI investigation could slow other probes into Wayne County severance scandal

Robert Ficano

A new FBI probe into Wayne County government may hamper the County Commissions’ effort to investigate the compensation of appointed employees.

The Commission’s Special Committee on appointee compensation met again Thursday. They expected to hear about an internal review by County Executive Robert Ficano’s office.

That review is looking into how former economic development director Turkia Awada Mullin got a $200,000 severance to leave that and become CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority. She has since agreed to return the money.

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Politics
2:03 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Michigan Radio and Bridge Magazine to follow families banned from welfare

Over the course of the next year Michigan Watch, the investigative/accountability unit of Michigan Radio, and Bridge Magazine, the online magazine put together by the Center for Michigan, will be collaborating on coverage of Michigan families who were dropped from cash assistance welfare.

Auto/Economy
2:00 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

General Motors to invest $325 million at Warren transmission plant

General Motors officials said they will "create or retain" 418 jobs with a $325 million investment at a suburban Detroit transmission plant. The company says it will invest "in tools and equipment to support production of future electric vehicle components."

So which is it? Are they creating or retaining the jobs?

According this report in Crain's Detroit Business, 360 jobs will be created at the plant in Warren, Michigan as a result of the new UAW contract:

The company would not say how many of the 418 jobs will be new positions. But a summary of GM’s new four-year contract with the UAW said 360 jobs will be added at the plant for a new transmission that originally was to have been built in Mexico. The union said that the jobs were brought to the U.S. as part of the new contract.

At this point, GM is not revealing the timing for the project.

According to GM, 679 current employees at  the plant in Warren make transmissions for the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and the Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

From a GM press release:

“This investment in the future recognizes the excellent work force and operation of this plant,” said GM Manufacturing Manager Gerald Johnson. “While we aren’t sharing many details about this product, I can tell you that this investment demonstrates how GM, working with our UAW partners, continues to innovate and bring new electrification solutions to our customers.”

The 2.1 million square-foot plant, equivalent to the area of 15 city blocks, produced more than 338,000 transmissions in 2010.

“We are very proud of the membership of UAW Local 909 whose hard work and dedication to building quality products is why this new electric drive unit module is being built in the United States,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president representing the GM Department.  “These good paying, middle class jobs are very important for the State of Michigan and the Metro Detroit area.  It is the UAW’s goal to increase employment at GM and show the world that we can compete with anyone.”

Auto/Economy
1:16 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Ford's credit rating gets an upgrade

 NEW YORK (AP) - Standard & Poor's is raising Ford Motor Co.'s credit rating two notches, saying a new contract with auto workers will allow for continued profits at the car maker's North American operations.

S&P said Friday it was upgrading Ford to "BB+" - one level below investment-grade - from "BB-."

Ford shares are up 45 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $12.15 in late-morning trading.

Auto/Economy
9:53 am
Fri October 21, 2011

Keeping An Eye On Chrysler

There was a fair amount of anxiety in automotive circles over the new contracts hammered out between the United Auto Workers union and Ford and General Motors. GM remains the largest Detroit automaker, and this was the first post-bankruptcy contract.

The pact didn’t give workers as much as some had hoped for, and it did nothing to eliminate the new two-tier wage system that many old-time union members especially hate.

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Sports Commentary
6:36 am
Fri October 21, 2011

What does it mean to be a "Michigan Man"?

Fielding Yost used the term "Michigan Man" in speeches. Yost on the sideline at right coaching the University of Michigan's 1902 football team against Minnesota.
wikimedia commons

The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan.

But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since – and not always for the better.

Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches.

But the phrase really took off in 1989, when Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder, on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament, because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season.

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Politics
11:41 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Bridge proposal dies in Michigan legislature, Snyder considers other options

Owners of the Ambassador Bridge have been spending millions of dollars fighting a proposal to build a second international bridge downriver.
Thomas Hawk Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is looking how it might move forward construction of a new international bridge connecting Detroit and Canada without the approval of the Legislature.

A measure necessary to project died today (Thursday) in a state Senate committee, and Republican leaders say it appears the bridge project cannot win legislative approval.

But the new Detroit bridge remains central to Snyder’s long-term plans to make Michigan a Chicago-to-Montreal transportation corridor. Geralyn Lasher is the governor’s spokeswoman. She said the administration is considering its options.

"We have to look at it all, and we will look at it all very closely now because –very disappointed about today. It’s too important to jobs, it’s too important for Michigan. It’s too important to really say goodbye to this kind of money that we can leverage to all parts of our state to fix roads, to fix bridges, and to move forward," said Lasher.

The bridge was also going to be used to leverage millions of dollars in federal road and bridge money for projects across the state.

Lasher says there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the project.

An independent watchdog group called ads being aired statewide by bridge opponents “flagrantly” false.

Politics
9:24 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Michigan State Supreme Court in favor of eliminating judges

Michigan Hall of Justice.
Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan’s top judicial official said the state has too many judges, and some of their positions should be eliminated. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young has presented a plan to do that to the state House Judiciary Committee.

Chief Justice Young said a Supreme Court study found there are courts with workloads that no longer justify the number of judges they have. The report recommends eliminating 45 positions over several years.

“Some judges don’t agree with the proposed cuts. But, most have accepted the reality that courts are too expensive and have too many judges. It may not be something all members of the judiciary relish, but I think most of us recognize it’s necessary," said Young.

 Young said Michigan taxpayers are paying more than they should be. He said he wants to make cuts in ways that won’t compromise the integrity of the judicial system and assurances that people are getting fair trials.

State Representative John Walsh (R-Livonia) chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He said the Legislature appears ready to act on the recommendations, even though eliminating local elected positions can be politically difficult.

 "I would say in general this is an unprecedented accomplishment to have this degree of support. We have all seven justices of the Supreme Court who have unanimously endorsed this, all of the judicial associations and the state bar," said Walsh.

Walsh said the committee expects to hold four more hearings on the topic. He expects a vote by the committee around Thanksgiving.

- Chelsea Hagger - Michigan Public Radio Network

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Politics
4:36 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Political Roundup with Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas: A new bridge for Detroit?

Michigan Municipal League

A vote on a bill to build a new Detroit to Windor bridge crossing has failed in the Senate Economic Development Committee. That means the bill won’t be presented to the full Senate. Here to look at the politics surrounding the bridge and what options the Snyder administration has now are Ken Sikkema former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Environment
2:43 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Exotic animals killed in Ohio puts spotlight on Michigan bill

The tragedy that unfolded for the exotic animals near Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday night and Wednesday highlighted the lack of regulation in Ohio for a particular type of animal compound.

Terry Thompson kept bears, tigers, lions, monkeys, and other animals on his property.

He reportedly did not display them to the public for compensation, and was not required to carry a permit from the USDA. And an Ohio state law regulating exotic animals had expired.

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Breaking
12:41 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court: Recall effort against state representative Paul Scott can go forward

Update 12:41 p.m.

Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook issed a statement in response to the Michigan Supreme Court's decision to allow the recall of Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) to go forward.

In the statement, Cook said voters are "fed up with the decisions" made in Lansing this year. He cited cuts to public education, taxes on pensions, and tax breaks for businesses as reasons for the recall.

From Cook's statement:

"Today’s decision allows those constituents to hold their representative accountable for his actions.  That’s what the law allows for and that’s what the courts have upheld today. We need lawmakers to stand up for our kids, not CEOs.  It is our sincere hope that this recall sends that message loud and clear to politicians in Lansing."

11:37 a.m.

More from the Associated Press:

The Genesee County clerk says a recall election targeting Republican Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc is back on the Nov. 8 ballot.

County Clerk Michael Carr says Thursday his office received an order from the Michigan Supreme Court that puts the recall question back on the ballot.

The order reverses an earlier decision from a lower court that would have allowed Scott to avoid a recall election in November.

The effort to recall Scott is financed and backed by the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. The MEA is unhappy with Scott, the chairman of the House Education Committee, for his leadership role in new laws that weaken the role of teacher tenure in the state.

A Michigan lawmaker has not faced a recall election since 2008.

11:06 a.m.

This just came in from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Michigan Supreme Court has reversed a lower court and says the recall question targeting state Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) may go forward. If the question is certified, the recall question will go on the November ballot.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on the recall campaign yesterday.

Paul Scott is among about a dozen Republican lawmakers targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. The Scott recall campaign is the only one that collected enough signatures to get the recall on the November ballot.

Environment
11:20 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Green building architect: Insulation is sexy

If you want to build a new home, you want an architect who can take your lifestyle and design a home around it. When it comes to building an environmentally-friendly house, you might even want someone who challenges you a little.

I was at the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference earlier this month to moderate a panel on America’s oldest net-zero energy home. That house happens to be here in Michigan and owned by Matt Grocoff. Matt wanted me to meet one of the architects leading the green building movement. His name is Eric Corey Freed.

As we talked to Freed at the conference… I wondered if people knew what they were getting into when they decided to build green…

“I think most people just assume I’m going to slap solar on it and be done.”

Solar. Yeah, it’s the sexy add-on that everyone seems to want. But Freed says solar is way too expensive unless first the house is built to be as energy efficient as possible. That means basic things… like proper insulation… which is not so sexy.

“Well, I think insulation is sexy, frankly. I mean, I think everybody should get naked and roll around in it. Not in the fiberglass! Because that could hurt. Maybe the recycled cotton one, that’d be pretty cozy. But remember, to me insulation is like chocolate: the more you have the better it is. So just bring it on.”

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