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10:29 am
Fri April 22, 2011

A look at the week in state politics

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

Michigan Radio's All Things Considered host Jennifer White takes a look at state politics with Susan Demas, Political Analyst for Michigan Information Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. On tap: Benton Harbor's Emergency Financial Manger uses his new powers and the state Senate looks to cut state aid for K-12 schools and higher education.

Religion
6:55 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Jury to decide if Florida pastor should be allowed to hold anti-Islam rally at Dearborn mosque

Pastor Terry Jones talks to the news media outside the 19th District Court in Dearborn, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A trial opening Friday morning will decide if a controversial Florida pastor will be allowed to hold an anti-Islamic rally outside a Dearborn mosque later in the day.     The pastor complains the trial itself is an attempt to deny him his constitutional rights. 

Pastor Terry Jones insists he won’t burn a copy of the Qur’an as he has done in the past during his planned rally outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.  Still, Wayne County officials worry his protest may spark violence.   The city of Dearborn denied his permit request. 

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Science/Medicine
5:46 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

University of Michigan gets $56 million gift for medical research

A. Alfred Taubman has donated millions to the University of Michigan
The University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Medical Research Institute received a gift of $56 million from A. Alfred Taubman, a real estate developer and philanthropist from Michigan. The funds will be used for stem cell and cancer research.

U-M President, Mary Sue Coleman, says the money will go toward what is called high-risk research:

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Economy
5:30 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Muskegon Correctional Facility could be privatized

The Muskegon Correctional Facility will close June 1, but could be reopened as a county jail operated by a private company.
correctionsreporter.com

A West Michigan prison slated to close in June could reopen as a county jail -- under private management.  

The Muskegon Correctional Facility houses Pennsylvania inmates right now as part of a deal that kept the prison from closing previously.

But that deal is ending four years early and the prison will close on June 1st.

Last week, a private company – GEO Group – toured the facility with state and county officials.  The company already owns and operates a private prison in Baldwin.

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Politics
4:55 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Pastor asks for jury trial to allow anti-Islam rally

Florida pastor Terry Jones wants to hold an anti-Islam rally in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
linktv.org

A Wayne County judge is impaneling a six-person jury to hear the county's case against a controversial Florida pastor.

Terry Jones wants to conduct an anti-Islamic rally Friday  in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. County officials want to stop him.

The county is asking a judge to place restrictions on Jones, including having him  pay for police protection  for his rally, and to move the rally to a different part of Dearborn.

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Politics
4:39 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Mental health advocates blast prison drug policy

Prison fence. Michigan prisons are trying to save money in prescription drug costs.
Simon Brass Flickr

A coalition of mental health advocates is calling on the state Department of Corrections to alter its policy of moving as many prisoners as possible from brand-name prescriptions to generic drugs.

The Department says the new policy will save taxpayers’ money without endangering prisoners’ health.

The Mental Health/Justice Coalition says the policy is too sweeping when it comes to inmates with mental illnesses. The Coalition includes inmates’ families, psychiatrists, judges, and attorneys.

Peggy Christian is the mother of an inmate:

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Arts/Culture
3:57 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Artists signing up for ArtPrize 2011; one tiny change this year

"Nessie on the Grand" won 6th place in ArtPrize 2009, the competition's first year.
Daniel E. Johnson Creative Commons

Registration opened this week for artists who want to take part in ArtPrize 2011. The winner of the yearly art competition is decided by the voting public who visit the event in downtown Grand Rapids.

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Education
3:20 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

No buses for Ann Arbor Public High Schools next year?

High school students may need to take city buses or carpool to school next year if bus service is cut.
04deveni flickr

Ann Arbor public schools may stop all busing to and from its high schools next year to save money.

The proposal to the Ann Arbor School board also includes bigger class sizes and cutting staff. Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing a $15 million budget deficit for next year.

Liz Margolis is a spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

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Auto/Economy
2:35 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Toyota recalls certain RAV4s and Highlanders

A 2008 Toyota Highlander - one of the cars being recalled.
IFCAR wikimedia commons

An airbag issued is prompting Toyota to recall some RAV4s and Highlanders.

From the Associated Press:

The recall includes about 214,000 RAV4s from 2007 and 2008 and approximately 94,000 Highlander and Highlander HV vehicles from 2008. All of the vehicles involved were sold in the U.S.

The recall does not include any other Lexus or Toyota vehicles.

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Politics
2:07 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Michigan Senators vote on education cuts today

Today's tweet from the Governor... "Let's focus on doing the right things to get our fiscal house in order and create an environment where jobs can grow."

For a state with $1.5 billion budget deficit and leaders who want to ease taxes on businesses - that means cuts.

The Appropriations Committee has voted on some cuts in education today.

From the Associated Press:

A Michigan Senate committee has voted to cut state aid to school districts by an additional $170 per student for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

The Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved the cut along party lines Thursday. The reduction would be in addition to a $170 per student cut already on the books for the current fiscal year that would be continued into next year. That makes the total reduction $340 per student.

The proposal advances to the Senate floor. The cuts recommended by the Senate panel aren't as deep as the additional $300 per student cut recommended by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, which would make the total cut $470 per student.

Most state departments will be cut next fiscal year as Michigan continues to struggle with budget problems.

The state's new fiscal year starts on October 1st. The State Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder are hoping to finalize the budget by June 1st.

Commentary
12:46 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Scrooge and the Budget

What if the governor increased the amount of Michigan income tax I had to pay by ten dollars a week?  The truth is, I’d barely miss it, and if I went out to eat a little less often, I wouldn’t miss it at all.

I’m not anything close to rich, but fortunately, I manage to make an income adequate for my family’s needs, and don’t have any children who need to go to camp or college.

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Politics
12:39 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

State Police respond to questions about data extraction devices

A data extraction device made by Cellebrite
from a Cellebrite brochure

For close to three years, the ACLU says it has been asking the Michigan State Police for more information about the use of "data extraction devices" that can be used to get information from personal cell phones.

Using the device is "kind of like copying all the papers in your locked briefcase while your back is turned," according to a report released yesterday by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.

Graham reports "if [the devices] are being used, it could be construed as illegal search and seizure."

Now, the officals at the Michigan State Police (MSP) have issued a statement saying they only use the date extraction devices (DEDs) in certain circumstances. From the statement:

The MSP only uses the DEDs if a search warrant is obtained or if the person possessing the mobile device gives consent. The department's internal directive is that the DEDs only be used by MSP specialty teams on criminal cases, such as crimes against children.

The DEDs are not being used to extract citizens' personal information during routine traffic stops.

The MSP statement said the ACLU's press release caused "speculation and caused inaccurate information to be reported about data extraction devices (DEDs) owned by the Michigan State Police (MSP)."

They might be referring to an article by CNET titled "Michigan cops stealing drivers' phone data."

The ACLU didn't accuse the Michigan State Police of improperly using the devices. They were pointing out the fact that the devices could be used improperly and wanted more information.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The response... send us $544,680 in processing fees and we'll give you the information.

Environment
12:01 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Understanding the new "nutrition facts" for lightbulbs

The new label on lightbulbs
Image courtesy of the DOE

If you’ve ever been lost in the lightbulb aisle... things are getting a little easier. There’s a new label the federal government is requiring on lightbulb packages. It's modeled after the Nutrition Facts label on food.

But the label still needs some deciphering. Greenovation dot tv’s Matt Grocoff knows a thing or two about lightbulbs. I met up with Matt so he could show me how to read the new labels.

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Environment
11:12 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Business owners, DOE officials meet for clean energy manufacturing workshop

Business owners and politicians are trying to figure out how to make Michigan a manufacturing hub for things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels.

They’re gathering at the Clean Energy Manufacturing Workshop in Ann Arbor today and tomorrow. The workshop is being put on by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy along with Ann Arbor SPARK.

Steven Busch will be paying pretty close attention.

He’s with Energetx Composites Company in Holland. It’s a spin-off company of Tiara Yacht. Before the economy went south, their main business was building high end yachts. Now, they make blades for wind turbines.

“The basic manufacturing process is very similar. We have the expertise on how to handle large, big, bulky things.”

He says they’re planning to stay in Michigan.

“Michigan offers the best engineering and manufacturing skill set probably in the world. Geographically, the Great Lakes are a great opportunity as a place to be able to ship products over the water.”

Busch says he’d like to see more training programs at universities and community colleges – and more retraining programs for former auto workers who want to get into the business.

Auto/Economy
9:33 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Fiat moving closer to a majority stake in Chrysler

Chrysler Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
user fiatontheweb creative commons

Updated: 

News that Fiat will soon acquire a bigger stake in Chrysler is another sign the merger is working.

Jim Hall is president of  the auto consulting firm 2953 Analytics.  He says the merger benefits both companies.  Fiat gets access to the U.S. market and to Chrysler’s more profitable vehicles, and Chrysler gets access to Fiat's global markets and its fuel-saving technology. 

And the merger could save the companies money on parts.

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Religion
1:01 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Qur'an burning Florida pastor will be in a Michigan courtroom this afternoon

Dr. Terry Jones
(Stand Up America)

A controversial Florida pastor says he will lead a rally against radical Islam outside a Dearborn mosque this Friday, despite pleas for him to cancel or move his event to another location.  Late Wednesday, the city of Dearborn denied the pastor's permit to protest in front of the Islamic Center of America, meaning he could be arrested if he goes through with his plans for a rally.

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Crime & Punishment
1:01 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Juvenile offenders & life without parole

A guard tower stands overlooking the yard at one of the state prisons in Jackson
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A federal judge will hear the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging state law that allows juveniles offenders to be sentenced to life without parole this afternoon. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 350 people serving life without parole sentences in Michigan who were convicted for a crime they committed when they were under 18 years old.   Michigan has more juvenile offenders serving life terms than any other state except Pennsylvania. 

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Environment
6:14 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Protesters rally against U.S. Chamber, Congressman Upton

WMU student Olivia Rappel protests the energy forum in Kalamazoo.
Chris Broadbent

Protesters rallied at an energy forum hosted by the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce today. They’re calling on the Kalamazoo Chamber to cut its ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Religion
5:29 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Dearborn's mayor sends a letter to a controversial pastor coming to his town

Dearborn mayor John O'Reilly
(courtesy City of Dearborn)

Dr. Terry Jones has gained notoriety in recent years for his attacks on Islam.   His burning of a Qur'an in his Florida church last fall led to deadly riots in Afghanistan.   Now, he's coming to Dearborn.  Jones plans to hold a rally in front of the Islamic Center of America.   

Dearborn mayor John O'Reilly wants Jones to reconsider.  The mayor sent an open letter to Jones today, outlining why he's wrong about Dearborn and Islam.  Here's the letter: 

Dear Pastor Jones:

 

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Politics
4:39 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Secretary of State wants no-reason absentee voting system

Michigan's Secretary of State says absentee voting should be more widely available.
govote.com

Michigan’s Secretary of State is urging lawmakers to support her plan to let voters use absentee ballots without needing an excuse, such as illness or being out of town at election time.

When Ruth Johnson was Oakland County Clerk, she instituted an absentee voting system. Now that she’s Secretary of State, Johnson thinks it will work just as well on a state level.

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