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11:08 am
Mon July 11, 2011

The Importance of Betty Ford

They’re bringing Betty Ford back home this week, to be buried next to her husband, President Gerald Ford, at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids.

You knew by now that the former first lady died last Friday in California. But what you may not have known unless you are in your fifties, or older, is just how important she was.

They both were, really. President Ford’s story is better known, and best expressed by Jimmy Carter, who said when he took office: “I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Elizabeth Bloomer Ford had a big role in that too, but she also did something else. She showed the nation that a first lady could also be a human being.

The Fords took office after the final convulsion of the Watergate scandal, and eleven of the worst years the United States has ever known. The public had learned that Richard Nixon had lied about virtually everything.

His predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had dragged us into a war in Vietnam for reasons nobody understood, a war that went on for years and tore our nation apart. Before that, we’d been traumatized when the young president before him had his head blown off in broad daylight. The presidency and America had taken a beating.

Nor were any of the first ladies of the period women to whom most people could relate. We’d always been fascinated by the presidents’ wives. But they were sort of like royalty, fascinating, forbidden and distant. Betty Ford was a regular person. Just months before she moved in to the White House, she was the unknown wife of the house minority leader, looking forward to her husband’s retirement from Congress. Then, suddenly, she was first lady.

But she was still Betty Ford, the irrepressible mother of four kids, a woman who most of all, was real.

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News Roundup
8:42 am
Mon July 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Increasing rates of prescription drug deaths in Michigan

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the nation, and Michigan is no exception.

Detroit Free Press medical writer Patricia Anstett has a piece highlighting the problems in the state. From the article:

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.

"We're seeing an alarming trend that continues to increase," said Larry Scott, manager of the prevention section of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction.

One in four people seeking emergency care for prescription drug abuse were younger than 25.

Michigan legislature working on proposal to cap welfare benefits

Under a proposal being considered in the Michigan legislature, there would be a four-year life limit on welfare benefits in Michigan.

From the Saginaw News:

The state Senate this week is expected to consider its version of bill sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth B. Horn that could end some poor Michigan families’ welfare benefits as soon as October.

Horn, R-Frankenmuth, wrote the proposed legislation that creates a 48-month, retroactive limit on direct cash assistance. People who have been receiving assistance since 2007 would be the first affected.

House bills 4409 and 4410 are expected to go before the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. The bill's sponsor expects them to pass.

HUD secretary to make announcement this morning on reviving urban centers

Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is expected to unveil an economic plan in Detroit this morning.

From the Associated Press:

Donovan is scheduled to announce the initiative Monday morning in Detroit alongside Mayor Dave Bing and other government leaders at a loft development near downtown. He also is to speak at noon to the Detroit Economic Club at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

The department says Donovan is to discuss a new Obama administration approach to strengthening cities that involves working with them. He also plans to outline challenges facing those cities as well steps the administration already is taking at the local and national levels.

Arts/Culture
6:00 am
Mon July 11, 2011

Man buys remote Lake Superior island, plans new artist residency

Rabbit Island in Lake Superior.

An uninhabited island in Lake Superior will soon be home to an artist residency program.

New Yorker Rob Gorski saw the 91-acre island listed for sale on Craiglist. At first, he was skeptical. But after talking it over with his brother, both of whom are Michigan natives, they bought the island for less than $150,000.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

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Politics
4:01 pm
Sat July 9, 2011

Stabenow hopes Sunday's 'Debt Ceiling' talks will remember 'Middle Class Families'

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D) Michigan (file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she hopes President Obama and Congressional leaders can strike a ‘balance’ in Sunday’s planned talks on extending the debt ceiling.  Stabenow says the President and Republicans should prioritize the needs of middle class Americans. 

“Its very concerning to me that we not see the budget be balanced on the backs of middle class families and senior citizens.”

Economy
4:01 pm
Sat July 9, 2011

Ethanol subsidies & Michigan corn growers

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan corn farmers may be losing a ‘safety net’.   The Congress is expected to vote soon on ending ethanol subsidies.    The move is expected to save the federal government $1.3 billion this year. 

Ethanol in the United States is mainly produced using corn.  Michigan farmers increased their corn production in recent years as federal mandates required ethanol in gasoline.  

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Politics
11:37 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Political leaders react to former First Lady Betty Ford's passing

President and Mrs. Ford hold hands while riding in the President's limousine on a freeway in Chicago, Illinois on August 19th, 1974.
National Archives

Former First Lady Betty Ford died at the age of 93.

President Obama released this statement:

Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights.  After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.
 
Today, we take comfort in the knowledge that Betty and her husband, former President Gerald Ford, are together once more. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to their children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder released this statement:

Betty Ford was an outstanding Michigander and a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference.  Her groundbreaking work in breast cancer awareness and treatment as well as her pioneering efforts to help those struggling with addiction changed the lives of millions of people for the better.  She was a role model for us all as she lived her life with grace and dignity.  While Michigan mourns the loss of this extraordinary woman, we are thankful for her years of dedication to our state and its people.

Sue and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Ford family, in particular children Michael, John, Steven and Susan.

And this statement came from Kent GOP Chairman Sam Moore:

With our deepest sympathy we extend our thoughts and prayers to the entire Ford family following the death of First Lady Betty Ford. Mrs. Ford was a pillar in our community who exemplified the strength, character and class that has defined our nation. The country has lost an American icon. We will always treasure our hometown first family, and the President and Mrs. Ford will continue to live on in our heart.

You can view slideshows of the former First Lady at the New York Times, and the Huffington Post -  and a video at Fox News.

Politics
10:16 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Former First Lady Betty Ford dies

Betty Ford, during her time as first lady
(official White House portrait)

Betty Ford said things that first ladies just don't say, even today. And 1970s America loved her for it.

According to Mrs. Ford, her young adult children probably had smoked marijuana — and if she were their age, she'd try it, too. She told "60 Minutes" she wouldn't be surprised to learn that her youngest, 18-year-old Susan, was in a sexual relationship (an embarrassed Susan issued a denial).

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Arts/Culture
5:14 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Comic drawing workshop for kids

Working a six panel story
Kyle Norris

Cartoonist Jerzy Drozd has picked twenty-one rural and urban towns in Michigan where he knows people are having a tough time making ends meet. Drozd has been visiting those towns and offering comic-drawing workshops, free of charge, to the kids in those areas.  

At the Northville District Library, 30 miles west of Detroit, cartoonist Drozd asks a room full of kids what they might do if they were in a grocery store and they wanted to get their parent’s attention.

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Culture
5:12 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Grand Rapids shooting and social media (audio)

Michigan Radio's Facebook page.

The city of Grand Rapids experienced a series of tragic events yesterday. An alleged lone shooter murdered seven people, including two children, and engaged in a standoff with police before taking his life. As the events played out people in Grand Rapids turned to social media.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Cliff Lampe about the role of social media during this tragic event. Lampe is Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Telecommunication and Information Studies and Media.   

In the interview Lampe says:                                             

"Uncertainty can cause a lot of anxiety for people. So looking to social media for very up to date information can help reduce uncertainty and make them feel more comfortable. A lot of people were also reaching out to loved ones who lived in the affected area just, both to express concern about how they were doing and to make sure every body was okay, and then to find out more information about what was going on."

Politics
5:11 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Housing chief to announce help for troubled cities

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Officials on loan from the federal government are soon expected to help Detroit and a handful of other cities coordinate their redevelopment efforts.

The nation’s housing chief is expected to announce an initiative to place federal officials inside city halls, including Detroit’s.

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Science/Medicine
4:20 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Michigan astronaut: "I have many mixed emotions"

User GovWin Flickr

The Detroit Free Press profiled Jerry Linenger today, a former mission specialist for the shuttle Discovery, who talked about his mixed emotions regarding today's final shuttle launch.

From the article:

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Science/Medicine
3:50 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Researcher looking into rape kit backlog

Rebecca Campbell, professor of psychology, and Giannina Fehler-Cabral, graduate research assistant, are looking into why more than 10,000 rape kits in Detroit went untested.
G.L. Kohuth Michigan State University

It looks like something good might come out of the startling news two years ago that more than 10,000 rape kits in Detroit were found in a warehouse, untested.

Michigan State University researcher Rebecca Campbell is sifting through policies and interviewing police staff in Detroit to try and figure out why the sexual assault kits were gathering dust instead of getting tested.

And she says her findings won’t just apply to Detroit:

"Oh, this is not unique to Detroit. Not at all. This is happening in communities all throughout the United States."

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Politics
3:31 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Snyder administration fundraiser email may have broken the law

Gov. Rick Snyder

A fundraiser-related email from Gov. Rick Snyder's administration breaks the law, according to an article by the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

More from the article:

Area Democrats want to know why Gov. Rick Snyder used his staff and local county governments to spread invitations to a Grand Traverse County Republican Party fundraiser.

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Sports
3:24 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

OSU vacates victories from 2010 season

Here's some bad news for Ohio State fans.

The university's football team has agreed to "vacate" its wins from the 2010 football season as part of its response to NCAA charges that players received improper gifts and that coach Tressel covered the rules breaches up.

From USA Today:

Ohio State announced it will vacate all its football team's wins during 2010 season, including the controversial Sugar Bowl victory when five suspended players participated.

The punishment is part of the school's response to NCAA charges that players received impermissible benefits in exchange for memorabilia and coach Jim Tressel lied about his knowledge of those violations.

Among the other measures taken are tw0 years of probation and increased resources devoted to compliance and educational programs.

The response, which was made Friday, was scheduled to be made public on July 11. However The Columbus Dispatch obtained a copy. It included the following:

"The responsibility is upon Tressel. No other institutional personnel were aware" of the violations, and the former coach failed in his obligation to report them, the response says. "The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel."

 

Unfortunately for Michigan fans, that doesn't mean that teams who played OSU suddenly receive those wins. Those will remain firmly set in those schools' loss columns.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sports
3:05 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Red Wings hire Western Michigan coach

The Detroit Red Wings' logo

The Detroit Red Wings hired Jeff Blashill, a former Wester Michigan coach, according to the Detroit Free Press.

From the article:

The Red Wings have hired Western Michigan coach Jeff Blashill and Rockford (AHL) coach Bill Peters to be assistant coaches under head coach Mike Babcock.

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Crime
2:14 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Vigil and church service to be held for those killed in Grand Rapids yesterday

A candlelight vigil will be held at 8:30 p.m. tonight in Ah-Nab-Awen Park on the Grand River to remember the victims in the Grand Rapids mass shooting. There will also be a service held next week.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

The location for tonight's candlelight vigil has been changed to Ah-Nab-Awen Park, and the mayor has announced a Wednesday church service to remember the victims of the mass murders by Rodrick Dantzler.

Crime
1:47 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Victims names released in Grand Rapids shooting

Kevin Belk, Grand Rapids Police Chief, released the names of the victims killed in yesterday's shooting rampage.

From WZZM13.com:

At a home on Brynell Court NE, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler killed Jennifer Heeren, 29, his estranged wife, their daughter, Kamrie Heeren-Dantzler, 12, and Jennifer's parents, Rebecca Lynn Heeren, 52, and Thomas Heeren, 51.

At a home on Plainfield Avenue, Kimberlee Emkins, ex-girlfriend of Dantzler, Amanda Emkins, 27, Kimberlee's sister and Marissa Lynn Emkins, 10, Amanda's daughter, were also shot and killed.

Two people were wounded as Dantzler shot from his car while fleeing police. Those people suffered minor injuries.

Flint
1:24 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Flint loses police arbitration case, will pay millions of dollars in compensation

Flint City Attorney Peter Bade
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Flint has lost a multi-million dollar arbitration decision in a discrimination lawsuit involving city police officers.  

In 2006, former mayor Don Williamson created a new unit in the police department called the Citizens Service Bureau, or CSB.    Flint’s police unions objected to how the former mayor selected which officers would be promoted to the new unit. 

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Politics
12:23 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Michigan community takes on census data

user: quinn.anya flickr.com

A small village 20 minutes south of Grand Rapids is challenging U.S. census data gathered there last year. Last year the U.S. Census counted just 1,500 people living in the Village of Caledonia.

But Village President Glenn Gilbert thinks they really have about 100 more people than the census says.

“So if we had 1,600 versus 1,511, it’s not a big deal. But it’s just the accuracy and the commitment as an American you should really take to task the federal government and make sure they’re correct in what they do,” said Gilbert.

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Crime
12:23 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Grand Rapids Mayor says city is safe

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says yesterday’s violent murders and hostage situation in his city has shaken the community to its roots.

But he says Grand Rapids is still a great community and a safe city.

"I don’t for a minute think that that defines Grand Rapids in any way or that it suggests that we are a city that is changed, or less safe today," said Heartwell.

Heartwell praised the city's police force, saying their actions saved lives.

34-year old Rodrick Danztler took his own life last night while negotiating a hostage release with the police.

Police say earlier in the day he shot and killed seven people, including an ex-girlfriend and his daughter, and a second ex-girlfriend and her daughter who was not his child.

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