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Rememberance
6:28 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Video of former First Lady Betty Ford's funeral procession

The body of former First Lady Betty Ford is brought into Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids today.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith watched and listened outside of Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids today when the military honor guard removed Ford's body from the hearse.

Here's her video of the event:

Desmond Howard
5:56 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Desmond Howard to be inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

Former University of Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Howard won the Heisman Trophy in 1991, his last year at Michigan. 

Howard says he owes much to then-Wolverine Coach Gary Moeller and his teammates.

"The way I look at this now, is I’m adding another Michigan football player to the College Football Hall of Fame, " says Howard.  "And I just hope my teammates, they understand, that this is something we accomplished together."

 

Politics
5:47 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Michigan politics: debt ceiling talks and the federal budget

United States Capitol
whitehouse.gov

Negotiations over the debt ceiling and federal budget continue in Washington D. C. 

Here in Michigan the still fragile state economy seems to be slowly improving with a recent uptick in job growth. But if the nation defaults on its debt, how is Michigan affected? Economically and politically?

In our weekly political conversation we talk with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Detroit stands to lose millions in Head Start money

Wayne Co. Commissioner Ilona Varga

Detroit is in danger of losing millions of dollars in federal Head Start money. Head Start provides early childhood education for low-income kids.

The city department that runs Head Start has been in trouble with the federal government for failing to fix problems uncovered in audits – including accounting errors and misspent funds.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly looking to Wayne County to take over the program. Wayne County Commissioner Ilona Varga says chronic under-enrollment is another problem the feds are trying to fix:

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Politics
5:10 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Rebublican leader hopes to sweeten Michigan's film incentives

Taking another look at Michigan's film incentives.
Reinis Traidas Flickr

The old film incentives were scrapped in the tax overhaul approved by the Michigan legislature and the Governor.

They said the old film incentives, which gave production companies a 42% credit on total expenses in Michigan, was too costly ($115 million was spent last year, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy).

In it's place, a $25 million film incentive program for Michigan's next fiscal year (which starts October 1).

Now, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he wants to improve the film incentives.

MPRN's Rick Plua filed this report:

Richardville says his new proposal would focus financial support in activities that reward spending on Michigan products, services, and workers.

He says investors have put money into expensive production facilities, and workers have learned new skills in the belief that incentives would attract more film business to the state.

 “I think the strength of that workforce, the strength of the investments we have in Michigan will cause us to win contracts in competitive situations versus other states. Once we’re done with that, then let’s analyze it to see what we can afford versus what the industry needs to sustain itself here in Michigan.”

Governor Rick Snyder’s office says he would like to see how Michigan’s new incentive program is working before making changes.

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Economy
4:46 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Metro Detroit ranks No. 9 in millionaires

jdurham MorgueFile

 Never mind the recession or the near collapse of the auto industry just a couple of years ago.

A report in the Wall Street Journal finds that Detroit and its suburbs have plenty of people whose bank accounts are very healthy.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation spokesman Joe Serwach says Michigan is holding its own.

“Detroit came in at No. 9, ahead of San Jose, which surprised me," Serwach says. "I would have thought Silicon Valley would have had more. But we had 92,100 millionaires.”

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Auto/Economy
4:39 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Borders faces liquidation after lead bid falls through

Borders bankruptcy auction set for July 19
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

It’s been a busy 24 hours for Ann Arbor-based Borders: The bankrupt bookstore chain has gone from having a potential buyer to talk of liquidation.

The auction to sell Borders is still scheduled for Tuesday, July 19th.  But the lead bidder, known as a "stalking horse," has pulled out. That bidder was Najafi, a private equity from Arizona a firm.

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Legal
4:35 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

ACLU sues CIA for suspected files on University of Michigan professor

University of Michigan professor Juan Cole
New America Foundation Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency on behalf of a University of Michigan Professor. Juan Cole is a critic of the Bush administration and Iraq War. A former CIA official claims the Bush administration asked him to dig up some dirt on Cole in 2005 and 2006 to discredit his analysis of the government.

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Economy
4:02 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Bill would ban employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants

A proposed law would forbid employers from accepting applications only from people who are already employed.
earl53 Morguefile

You have to have a job in order to get a job at some companies in America -- and it’s not against the law for them to say that right in their employment ad.

State Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, has proposed a bill that would forbid discrimination against the unemployed.

“I just assumed that was something that wouldn’t be held against somebody," Ananich says. "Usually when you’re applying for a job, it’s because you don’t have one. So to tell someone that they can’t even be an applicant just doesn’t seem fair.”

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Transportation
3:59 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

TSA to test faster security screening program at Detroit Metro Airport

Everyone won't be able to participate in the TSA's pilot program. Want faster security screening times? Don't be messy. A message from your friendly TSA agent.
TSA.gov

I posted information from the AP earlier about the TSA's plans to test a program that will improve screening times at airports. (Welcome news to many who abhor waiting in lines at airports.)

Twitter follower Justin Fenwick wrote us saying "Wish I knew what info. they want..."

Good point, Justin!

The Associated Press reports that currently, the TSA has three bits of information on all passengers:

  1. Your full name,
  2. Date of birth,
  3. and Gender

This new program will gather up information from frequent-flier programs:

Frequent-flier programs include more than those three identification fields. For instance, personal information provided in Delta's frequent-flier program includes the traveler's home address, email address or phone number, and preferred language.

TSA officials would not say what screening measures could be avoided for security reasons.

In a press release, TSA officials say the pilot program is expected to start this fall.

During the first phase of testing, certain frequent fliers and certain members of CBP's (Customs and Border Protection) Trusted Traveler programs, including members of Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS, who are U.S. citizens will be eligible to participate in this pilot, which could qualify them for expedited screening at select checkpoints at certain airports.

They expect around 5,000 to 8,000 passengers to participate in the initial program.

At Detroit Metropolitan airport, officials say certain frequent fliers from Delta Air Lines and certain members of CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs who are U.S. citizens and who are also flying on Delta will be eligible to participate in the pilot.

Officials say they plan to expand the pilot program to other airlines "once operationally ready."

Investigative
3:51 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Five arrested for Flint arsons

User:benwatts Flickr

Police in Flint have arrested five people for a string of arsons that has plagued the city. Flint residents and law enforcement have been working together to catch them.  David Leyton is the Genesee County Prosecutor who charged the five offenders.       

"The people are fed up, the people don’t want to live in fear, they don’t want their homes burnt down, they don’t want to have a problem where they live, and so they’re stepping up now and that’s going to make all the difference in the world."

Your Story
3:49 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Your Story: Gambling on a career as an artist, and now as a teacher

Jerry Berta teaching art at the Ann Arbor Public Library in 2002.
Ann Arbor Public Library

Making money as an artist can be tough, but Jerry Berta made a good living selling his clay pieces for decades.

He and his wife Madeline Kaczmarczyk, also an artist, weathered the Midwestern recession of the early 1980’s and even built a house in Rockford, Michigan where they still live. Berta said they felt like rich people. They made enough money to buy and sell a couple of restaurants along the way.

“It was so easy when we started out. We started out on a street in Ann Arbor,” Berta said. “We set up, we sold stuff, and we were in business! Now, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Even successful artists, they’re having a hard time making it.”

They later sent two kids to ivy-league colleges. But when the 2008 recession hit things changed.

“It had been happening slowly. You could just feel it,” Berta said. “People were being really tight with their money, and art, you don’t really need art. It’s changed, and I have adapted.”

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Environment
2:51 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Illegal wolf kills spiking in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

In 1992, biologists counted 20 wolves in Michigan. The population has gone up since then and in 2010, 557 wolves were confirmed in the U.P.
www.isleroyalewolf.org

No other wildlife species, it seems, causes such extremes of emotion as the wolf.

Some people want to protect it at any cost.

Others want to shoot the animal on sight.

And in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula illegal wolf kills are spiking.

Wildlife officials say they can defuse the situation if they can just get gray wolves removed from the endangered species list.

Interlochen Public Radio's Bob Allen filed a report with The Environment Report on the controversy in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Allen reported that the return of the gray wolf in the U.P. more than 20 years ago didn't cause concern, but that's changed in the last few years as some hunters are convinced wolves are decimating the white tail deer population.

Here's Allen's report:

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Transportation
2:01 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Faster security checks at airports in exchange for more information

A new TSA program is aimed at speeding up screenings in exchange for more personal information.
Michael Eyal Sharon Flickr

A new program aimed at speeding up airport screenings will be tested in Detroit.

From the Associated Press:

The Transportation Security Administration plans to test a program that would pre-screen certain travelers who volunteer more personal information so they can be vetted to potentially receive expedited screening at the checkpoint.

This is the Obama administration's first stab at a more risk-based, intelligence-driven passenger screening program that could begin to answer traveler complaints that the government is not using common sense when it screens all passengers at airports in the same way.

The program will initially be tested at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Miami and Dallas, among certain Delta and American travelers who are U.S. citizens and are enrolled in the airlines' frequent flier programs, as well as among Delta and American travelers who participate in some other government trusted traveler programs and who also travel through those four airports.

Politics
12:57 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Crowds wait for Betty Ford funeral to begin

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The funeral itself is private, but around 200 people are lining the route close to the Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids.

Donna Smith and her husband, John, live just a couple blocks away from the church and got a great spot to view the precession pass by.

"She went through a lot personally and because of her strength in fighting breast cancer, alcoholism; just being a wonderful wife and mother and supporting her family," Donna Smith says.  "I have a lot of respect for that."

Politics
12:12 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Another delay for Detroit's light rail plans?

An artists rendition of the "Foxtown/Stadium" stop for the proposed light rail project in Detroit.
screen grab from YouTube video

This past Monday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported on the growing controversy surrounding Detroit's light rail project. Reports indicated that private backers might pull out of the project. (Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson told Cwiek  the foundation is committed to the project.)

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Politics
10:39 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Flint considers reopening city jail

Flint is talking to state officials about reopening the city jail. The jail would be a 72-hour lock-up facility that holds roughly 150 offenders. Dayne Walling is mayor of Flint.  

"The city jail is an essential tool for our officers. There has to be an ability to make arrests and put offenders behind bars when they break our community’s laws."

In May, Flint voters said no to a property tax increase to keep the city jail open. Walling says the short term lock-up facility would most likely be paid for through the city’s general fund.

Commentary
10:13 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Limiting welfare... now what?

If you’ve been supporting your family on welfare since the Great Recession started three years ago, here’s news for you. You’ve got one more year left. And then your benefits will be cut off, forever.

What if you get a job after that, work hard for another ten years, and then become the victim of another recession? Sorry, you are out of luck, once your savings and unemployment run out.

What if you have kids? Well, you can still get food stamps.

Yesterday, the state Senate passed a bill which, once the governor signs it, will mean that you can be on welfare for a maximum of four years in your entire life.

Doesn’t matter what might happen to you, the nation or the economy. Four years, and that’s it. Doesn’t matter if you are supporting children. Oh -- if you are pregnant or have a new baby you might be able to stay on the rolls for another 60 or 90 days, but then that’s it. They did make one exemption:  those caring for a disabled child or spouse. But that’s all.

The sponsor of this legislation, State Rep. Ken Horn, a Republican from Frankenmuth, says putting this cap on welfare will make Michigan stronger. What I don’t understand is how.

Now, if you aren’t an expert on the system, you may think we are ending welfare for a bunch of lazy adults who would prefer lying around and watching TV to working. Well, guess what.

They were on a program called general assistance, and Gov. John Engler ended it 20 years ago. Welfare as we once knew it has been gradually reduced since the 1980s. Mainly, the only people still receiving payments are needy families.

Now, about 12,000 of those families, which include 25,000 children, will lose benefits forever. That might not be bad, if ending welfare meant the heads of those households would now go out and get good-paying jobs. But they won’t.

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Investigative
9:50 am
Thu July 14, 2011

HIV prevention when time and money are short

I can only imagine, thinking you might have been exposed to HIV might be one of the scariest things of a person’s life.  Am I infected?  Will I get AIDS? 

Even more traumatic, is contracting it because you were sexually assaulted.

David—not his real name— says he was at a bar one night late in 2009.  He was hoping for a ride home.  He ended up at another man’s house and they had sex.  David says it was unwanted, that it was sexual assault.

“He doesn’t think he assaulted me.  So, uhm.  But, he was going to against my will.”

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News Roundup
8:44 am
Thu July 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 14th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Senate Approves Welfare Cap

The Michigan Senate approved a four-year limit on cash assistance welfare benefits yesterday. The 48-month cap is part of a Republican plan to balance the state budget. Some 12,600 families are expected to begin to lose benefits on October 1st because of the new limits. Lawmakers voted along party lines: 24 Republicans voted for the measure, 12 Democrats opposed it. The Senate Fiscal Agency says the legislation will save the state $77 million. If signed into law, the new limits would be among the strictest in the Midwest.

Ford Brought Back to Grand Rapids

Betty Ford will be laid to rest this afternoon in Grand Rapids. Thousands of people paid their respects yesterday evening during visitation at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Dustin Dwyer was at the museum and reports:

The sidewalk outside the Ford Museum was packed with people when the motorcade rolled by, carrying Betty Ford on her final trip home. Visitors remembered Mrs. Ford as a woman who wasn't afraid to discuss her battles with alcoholism and breast cancer. A funeral service is scheduled for 2 o’clock Thursday afternoon. Afterward, Betty Ford will be laid to rest next to her husband at the Ford Museum.

University Tuition Increases

Ferris State University trustees have voted to raise undergraduate tuition 5.14 percent, well short of a 7 percent cap that Governor Snyder has set for schools to get access to special funds, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Ferris is among the final state universities to set their tuition for the 2011-12 academic year. Central Michigan and Northern Michigan are expected to set their rates Thursday, and Grand Valley State is expected to decide Friday… The state is reducing its aid to the school by 15 percent, or $7.3 million.

Jennifer Guerra has a roundup of the schools that have announced tuition increases so far:

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