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Politics
7:11 am
Mon July 25, 2011

MI Congressmen Benishek, Clarke going on road

U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek and Hansen Clarke of Michigan have announced plans to tour together in each other's districts. The joint tours will be focused on ways to promote job creation in northern Michigan and Detroit.

Both are freshmen in Congress.

Benishek is a Republican from Crystal Falls whose district encompasses parts of the northern Lower Peninsula and all of the Upper Peninsula. Clarke is a Democrat from Detroit, and his district includes a portion of his home city and a number of its suburban communities.

Benishek and Clarke's offices say the lawmakers are planning to embark on the first joint tour in the U.P. on July 29. Benishek then will travel with Clarke in Detroit on Aug. 12.

Politics
6:49 am
Mon July 25, 2011

State to open contract talks with request for concessions

State Capitol Building, Lansing, MIchigan
Aflyingpsychofly Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and state employee unions will open contract negotiations this week. The first topic of bargaining will be whether state workers will give up the salary and benefits they’ve already been promised.

The new state budget is not balanced yet. For one thing, the budget assumes millions of dollars in savings in employee costs. State state worker unions have yet to agree to those cuts. In fact, the state can’t even begin to negotiate unless the unions agree to re-open the current contracts. Kurt Weiss is with the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

“We know it’s a significant number. We know it’s a painful number.”

Weiss says the alternative to concessions is layoffs and privatizing services. The largest amount of money would come out of the state Department of Corrections.

State employee unions say state government is currently top heavy with managers and has too many contracts – and the Snyder administration should look those first before looking to squeeze more from frontline workers or lay them off.

Politics
4:40 pm
Sun July 24, 2011

State workers to rally ahead of contract talks

Gov. Rick Snyder signs the 2011-2012 budget as Republican lawmakers look on. The governor is banking on $145 million in concessions from state employee unions as part of that budget.
michigan.gov

State workers are scheduled to rally in Detroit tomorrow to protest wage and benefit cuts. Governor Snyder is seeking $145 million in concessions from state employees for the fiscal year that starts in October.

An official with one of the largest state employee unions, Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000, says over the last decade the state has shed more than 12,000 positions.

"And what that means for the average, for example, Department of Human Services caseworker, is they may have 700 to 1,000 families they’re responsible for."

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Politics
4:30 pm
Sun July 24, 2011

Lawmaker: Recall process is unconstitutional

A target of one of the many recall efforts active in the state right now says the process citizens use to launch the campaigns is unconstitutional.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger has filed suit to block the recall against him. At issue is the fact that county election commissions are made up of a judge, the county clerk and the county treasurer. Bolger says that violates the separation of powers doctrine in the state constitution.

"The constitution specifically prohibits one branch of government from having authority under another branch when it’s under their purview. So we think it’s an important legal question that ought to be answered."

More than a dozen state officials – including the governor and attorney general – are currently the targets of recall campaigns.

Politics
4:19 pm
Sun July 24, 2011

Speaker orders cuts for state House staff

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall).
gophouse.com

The speaker of the Michigan House has ordered representatives to cut their office budgets by almost 14 percent. Smaller cuts were also ordered for Democratic and Republican party staff and non-partisan House of Representatives staff.

House Speaker Jase Bolger says the cuts are necessary to keep the state’s budget balanced. He says the reductions do not necessarily mean there will be layoffs.

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Arts/Culture
4:00 pm
Sun July 24, 2011

New reality series to focus on Muslims in Dearborn

TLC's "All-American Muslims" debuts in November
user ppdigital morguefile

A new reality show will focus on five Muslim families in Dearborn.

Filming is already underway for the new reality show “All-American Muslims.” The show will debut in November on TLC, the channel behind other reality shows like "Sister Wives" and "Kate Plus 8."

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Bright colors in small cars
2:03 pm
Sat July 23, 2011

Small cars increasingly grab attention with color

Some car companies are rolling out brighter colors on their vehicles,  especially on small cars.   

These days, you can order a lime-green Ford Fiesta, a coppery-orange Honda Fit, or a sunshiny-yellow Fiat 500.

Mazda has probably pushed the color envelope the furthest, with an attention-grabbing color for the Mazda 2 called “Spirited Green.”

It’s really green. 

Teresa Stafford is a lead designer for color and materials for Mazda.

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Environment
1:46 am
Sat July 23, 2011

Saugatuck Township accepts settlement over dune land

The Saugatuck Township board voted 5-0 in favor of the proposed settlement. There were more than a dozen police officers at Saugatuck High School. Police went through bags on the way in.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Saugatuck Township officials have agreed to settle a land-use case with a billionaire who’s trying develop property along Lake Michigan. Saugatuck Township voted Friday night to accept a legal settlement with Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon. The proposal settles a land-use dispute between the two.

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Arts/Culture
4:35 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

Here comes the bride...down the football field!

Wedding ceremony on the 50 yard line at the Big House in Ann Arbor
Ray Anthony Photography

The University of Michigan football stadium is cashing in on the ever-growing wedding industry.

The Big House is now available for weddings.

Couples can pay $6,000 to get ready in the home and visitor locker rooms, and then head to the field for an hour-long ceremony.

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Politics
3:29 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

AP: Federal officials subpoena Flint city records

Officials in Flint have been asked to produce documents and audio and video recordings as part of a federal probe into at least $1.3 million in grant spending by the city.

The Flint Journal is reporting through a Freedom of Information Act request that it has learned federal officials have subpoenaed the records from four city departments.

Documents, check stubs and e-mails from the past two years are being sought. Federal authorities also conducted a May 25 raid at Flint City Hall.

Many of the records requested pertain to city economic development workers and personnel files of two administrators. The newspaper says both administrators cited the investigation and declined to comment.

A federal grand jury was convened July 6.

Mayor Dayne Walling says the city is cooperating in the probe.

Offbeat
1:28 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

Local lemonade stand goes for "Michigan Radio Bump"

Local lemonade stand kicks its marketing machine into high gear.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

As Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reported yesterday, even lemonade stands are not immune to the down economy.

Guerra talked with Molly and Lucy Prochaska who have been in the lemonade business for five years.

They described how they stopped getting "lots of money" once the economy took a dive.

But the pair is not giving up. Especially with a competitor setting up nearby.

As you can see in the photo above, the lemonade duo is working to capitalize on their public radio appearance.

It's too early to tell whether the "Michigan Radio Bump" will pay off, but don't count these kids out.

Offbeat
12:17 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

"Grounds crew" keeps up old Tiger Stadium site

Dave Mesrey cuts the grass at Michigan and Trumbull.
Sarah Aittama

Imagine watching a place you love—and that your family has loved, for generations—fall into disrepair.

That’s what it’s been like for many Detroit baseball fans, who consider the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues to be sacred ground. That’s the site of the old Tiger Stadium, which was demolished in 2009.

One group of fans decided to do something about that. The only problem: the land isn’t theirs to maintain. And while they may see themselves as being helpful, the city of Detroit sees it differently.

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Arts/Culture
11:44 am
Fri July 22, 2011

A path through the darkness: An interview with Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell
Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell not only writes great Michigan books, she knows a lot about great Michigan books, too.

Campbell's most recent book, the novel Once Upon a River, earned a profile in Poets and Writers Magazine and was listed on Newsweek's  10 Must-Read Summer Books.

It has received critical acclaim from the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Parade, NPR, and Booklist.

Her previous book, American Salvage, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Before coming into the studio, we had spoken about Michigan books, and to my surprise Campbell came into the studio with a big box full of books  - books either about the state or by Michigan writers.

We couldn't talk about all of them in the interview, so here's the list of books that Bonnie Jo Campbell brought:

  • How to Fly by Rachael Perry
  • Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open by Diane Seuss
  • Autopsy of an Engine by Lolita Hernandez
  • The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
  • Within the Lighted City by Lisa Lenzo
  • The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
  • Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle
  • Freshwater Boys by Adam Schuitema
  • The Legend of Sleeping Bear by Kathy-Jo Wargin
  • Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke
  • Laughing Whitefish by Robert Traver
  • Stitches by David Small
  • Of Woods and Other Things by Emma Pticher
  • Michigan's Eastern Massasauga--An Historic Distribution by Tom Beauvais
  • "Brown Dog" by Jim Harrison
  • "Wanting Only to be Heard" by Jack Driscoll
  • "The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit" by Michael Zadoorian

Campbell had a couple of other recommendations, though she didn't bring the books with her: 

  • The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake by Steve Amick
  • The Women Were Leaving the Men by Andy Mozina

We spoke in Michigan Radio's studios about why people are drawn to dark books and what the difference is between why Hemingway's characters hunt and why Campbell's characters hunt. And despite her protest, we think she sounded awfully sophisticated throughout the entire discussion.

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Economy
11:04 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Borders says goodbye after 40 years

A going out of business sale at a Borders bookstore in Washington D.C.
Martin Kalfatovic Flickr

CEO Mike Edwards sent a goodbye note to customers today as going out of business sales start at Borders Book stores across the country.

In his note, Edwards explained why the company couldn't keep their doors open:

We had worked very hard toward a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy. We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren't able to overcome these external forces.

Over the last decade, the company made many missteps that led to its demise. One of the most notable was the company's failure to invest early in online book sales. Analysts say other problems included being overextended in real estate holdings for the bookstores, and a lack of leadership.

The shuttering of the company means 10,700 will be out of a job. 400 here in Ann Arbor will lose their jobs at Borders Headquarters (a place that once had 1,800 workers).

We asked our Facebook friends what they will miss when the Borders bookstores are gone.

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Commentary
10:00 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Building the Future

I had dinner the other night with perhaps the most amazing man in Michigan, a man who has been hard at work creating the future for more than half a century .

I’m talking about the inventor Stanford Ovshinsky, a man whose life story is better than any novel, and who has more than four hundred patents to his name. If you have a laptop computer, you have him to thank for the nickel-metal-hydride battery that powers it.

His inventions include the processes that makes solar cells practical, and the first rewrittable CDs and DVDs. Five years ago, he left the company he had founded to do all these things -- Energy Conversion Devices -- and promptly started a new firm. Ovshinsky Innovation, LLC.  After all, he was then barely in his mid-80s.

Today, he and his wife Rosa, a Chinese-born physicist, are hard at work on photovoltaics, which means harnessing a form of solar energy for practical purposes.  Ovshinsky is convinced that he can bring down the cost of solar energy considerably below coal, and and that hydrogen is the automotive fuel of the future.

By the way, he has a long and distinguished track record of making predictions that those in the know laughed at -- and then proving them wrong. There are those in many countries who think he may be the greatest living scientist. What makes that especially amazing is that he never even graduated from high school.

He does, however, have at least seven honorary doctorates from distinguished schools including the University of Michigan.

Ovshinsky still works more than full-time; after all, he doesn’t turn 89 till November. He usually wears a three-piece suit, and is the most sartorially distinguished inventor I have ever met.

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News Roundup
8:38 am
Fri July 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, July 22nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

New Asian Carp Evidence

There is new evidence that Asian carp may have slipped past electric barriers in Chicago-area waterways. The barriers are meant to keep the fish from reaching the Great Lakes, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The news has launched a new wave of arguments over the threat posed by the invasive species. The Army Corps of Engineers turned up nine positive tests for Asian carp DNA out of hundreds taken from Chicago-area waterways. Federal officials say that’s not proof the invasive species is getting closer to Lake Michigan, or that it poses an imminent threat of infesting the Great Lakes. The state of Michigan is suing the federal government to get the shipping locks shut down as an emergency precaution.

Gov’t to Chrysler: Bye-Bye

The U.S. Treasury Department says Italian automaker Fiat SpA has bought the U.S. government’s remaining holdings in Chrysler. “Fiat paid $560 million to the Treasury Department for the government's 98,000 shares. Fiat has run the company since it emerged from bankruptcy protection in June 2009. Treasury provided a total of $12.5 billion to Chrysler and its financing arm after the recession hampered auto sales and sent Chrysler and General Motors to the brink of collapse. The funds came from the government's $700 billion bank bailout fund,” the Associated Press reports.

Michigan in the “Toxic 20”

Michigan ranked seventh worst in air population in a study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC study found almost half of all toxic air pollution came from coal and oil-fired power plants. The NRDC used data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory. Ohio had the worst air population, followed by Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.

Commentary
7:30 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Giving teachers the respect they deserve

Commentator John U. Bacon say teachers deserve more respect.
Kevin Wong Flickr

Teachers in our country rarely get the respect they deserve -- a uniquely American pathology. But this year they’ve endured not just indifference, but disrespect – and from Congressmen, no less. Teachers are now blamed not just for falling test scores, but failing state budgets and rising healthcare costs.

There was once a politician who took a different view.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance – what some scholars believe to be one of the three most important documents in the founding of America, along with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – provided funding for public schools and universities. In it, he declared, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

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State Law
6:40 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Law clarifies graduated license rules

YoungladAustin Flickr

A new law seeks to clear up some confusion on when teen-aged drivers may have other teens in a vehicle with them. Governor Rick Snyder signed the law yesterday. It says teen drivers may carry passengers between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. to and from school, church, or work-related activities.

Jack Peet is the traffic safety manager for AAA of Michigan. He says it was good to make the law more clear. But he says the law could have been made better if it placed some new restrictions on passengers in vehicles driven by teens. He says passengers increase the likelihood that a teen will be in a fatal crash.

 “So limiting those to no teen passengers in the vehicle would be our preference and we’re just talking about drivers there. Obviously, adding teen passengers during that time frame increases the risk for those teen passengers as well, so this would make teens a lot safer if there were stronger restrictions on that.”

Peet says it would make sense to at least have a no-passengers rule when a teenager first gets a license to drive without an adult in the car.

Politics
6:35 am
Fri July 22, 2011

New law requires earlier DNA tests for inmates

Michigan prison inmates will have to submit to DNA testing soon after they're locked up rather than waiting until just before they're released under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The state began collecting inmates' DNA samples in 1994, but inmates currently aren't required to provide a sample until they're released on parole, placed in a halfway house or discharged after serving their full sentences.

Supporters say the new law Snyder signed Thursday will help police solve cold cases sooner by giving them the ability to match inmates' DNA to unsolved crimes while they're still in prison.

Prison inmates now will have to give a DNA sample within three months of incarceration.

Great Lakes
5:55 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

Asian carp evidence renews calls for action

The electric barrier is located on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal in Illinois. The barrier is supposed to keep asian carp out, but is it working?
USACOE

There is new evidence that Asian carp may have slipped past electric barriers in Chicago-area waterways. The barriers are meant to keep the fish from reaching the Great Lakes.

The news has launched a new wave of arguments over the threat posed by the invasive species.

The Army Corps of Engineers turned up nine positive tests for Asian carp DNA out of hundreds taken from Chicago-area waterways.

Federal officials say that’s not proof the invasive species is getting closer to Lake Michigan, or that it poses an imminent threat of infesting the Great Lakes.

The state of Michigan is suing the federal government to get the shipping locks shut down as an emergency precaution.

John Sellek is with the Michigan Attorney General’s office. He says there is a growing body of evidence that the threat exists.

“How many more warnings do we need at this point that that impending tragedy is coming? The time for studying is over. It’s time to take action.”

The state is appealing a judge’s refusal to close the Chicago shipping locks while the Army studies ways to permanently ensure Asian carp don’t become a Great Lakes problem.

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