News

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

You don’t have to be a cranky old man like me to think that presidential campaigns start far too early these days.

The next election is still more than a year away, but the campaign already has been going on for months and months.

Some candidates, like Minnesota’s Tom Pawlenty, have already dropped out of the race. Former Massachusetts governor and Michigan native Mitt Romney said recently that he thinks it is too late for someone new to get in, and he is probably right.

It takes too much money to run a winning campaign today, and much to the cash available has already been sewn up.

Compare this to the way things were in nineteen sixty eight, when Robert Kennedy didn’t even get into the race until the middle of March and might well have been nominated, if he hadn’t been killed.

But if it is too late for someone new to start a campaign, it is also too early for anyone to have any idea who is going to win.

In this morning's news...

Oct 12, 2011

Chrysler/UAW Tentative Agreement

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have reached a tentative deal on a new four-year contract. The Associated Press reports:

The union says in a statement Wednesday that Chrysler will invest $4.5 billion in its plants under terms of the deal. The union gave few other details. But the agreement is expected to be similar to deals reached earlier with General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. Workers at those companies gave up pay raises for most union members in exchange for profit-sharing payments. The Chrysler deal covers 26,000 workers.

State Budget Surplus

A legislative agency says Michigan is taking in a lot more money than it expects to spend as the books are about to close on the last fiscal year, Rick Pluta reports. “The revenue estimates from the state House Fiscal Agency say the state appears to be in line to reap $285 million more than expected. That includes a $145 million windfall for the School Aid Fund. Some Democrats say a portion of that money should be used to restore cuts to K-12 schools. But Republican leaders say the economy remains shaky, and the state should not be too quick to spend the money,” Pluta explains.

Great Lakes’ Health

Mercury levels in the Great Lakes have dropped over the past 40 years but, those levels are still high enough to pose risks to humans and wildlife, especially in many inland lakes, according to a new summary of the latest research on Great Lakes mercury levels. “Researchers summarized 35 new scientific papers to get a clearer picture of mercury in the Great Lakes. The good news: due to pollution controls, those levels continue to go down. But researchers are finding mercury has more wide-ranging effect than they initially thought. And in some species of fish and wildlife in particular areas, it appears mercury concentrations may be on the rise,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Chrysler Group and the United Auto Workers have reached a deal on a new four-year contract that creates 2,100 new jobs.

The union says in a statement Wednesday that Chrysler will invest $4.5 billion in its plants under terms of the deal.

The union gave few other details.

But the agreement is expected to be similar to deals reached earlier with General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.

Workers at those companies gave up pay raises for most union members in exchange for profit-sharing payments.

The Chrysler deal covers 26,000 workers.

Michigan House of Representatives

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Michigan today to tout the President’s Jobs Bill. But Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg says the $447 billion bill will hurt, not help the nation’s economy.    

Walberg is a Republican. He says the bill would increase spending and raise taxes. And he says that’s not what the economy needs to create jobs. Walberg says the nation may be better off  if Congress doesn’t pass a jobs bill this year.   

"At the very least, if we hold some things back that would be hurtful to our economy, that’s getting something done.  Maybe that’s the process right now…if there isn’t a willingness to negotiate," says Walberg.   

Walberg says he hopes a compromise can be reached which will reduce payroll taxes and spur job growth.

(courtesy of the Illins Department of Natural Resources)

Soaring rates of car ownership in China’s biggest cities are causing huge problems, from days-long traffic jams to choking smog. Even car companies say the trend is not sustainable. 

General Motors says one solution could be to reinvent the vehicle. Introducing the Miao, the Jiao, and the Shiao –  three cute, tiny cars with a serious mission.  

Car ownership in China has a dark side. Last year, a nine-day and a three-day construction-related traffic jam on the highway leading to Beijing were the most dramatic examples.

Mercury levels in the Great Lakes have dropped over the past 40 years.

But those levels are still high enough to pose risks to humans and wildlife, especially in many inland lakes, according to a new summary of the latest research on Great Lakes mercury levels.

Researchers summarized 35 new scientific papers to get a clearer picture of mercury in the Great Lakes.

The good news: due to pollution controls, those levels continue to go down.

Michigan House of Representatives

Attorneys for the federal government today laid out the road map they’ll use to prosecute the young Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane two years ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel told jurors Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s sole reason for being on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 was to blow it up. Tukel said Abdulmutallab “thought he would end up in heaven because he would be a martyr.”

A federal appeals court judge heard arguments Tuesday in a case against the city of Benton Harbor and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The dispute is over a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that’s already operating in Benton Harbor. Three of the golf course's holes were built on public Jean Klock Park along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

A proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada may be nearing a critical vote in a state Senate committee. The chairman of the committee says he does not think there is enough support to approve the proposal, but he thinks the matter could be decided one way or the other as soon as this week.        

“The committee has – you know we’ve studied this subject matter to a point of nauseum," said state Senator Mike Kowall. "There’s a binder about four inches thick and we’re still adding to it every day, and when you answer one question, four more questions pop up.”

Republican leaders have other options if the measure does not have the votes to pass Kowall’s committee. One of those options could include sending the proposal to a different committee.

A legislative agency says the state is taking in a lot more money than it expects to spend as the books are about to close on the last fiscal year. The revenue estimates from the state House Fiscal Agency say the state appears to be in line to reap $285 million more than expected.

That includes a $145 million windfall for the School Aid Fund. Some Democrats say a portion of that money should be used to restore cuts to K-12 schools.

User: minorissues / Flickr

The Detroit Science Center was supposed to re-open Wednesday after it closed late last month due to a shortage of cash. But now it looks as though the science center will remain closed until it can drum up $5 million.

Kelly Fulford, vice-president of Marketing and Development at the Detroit Science Center, says the museum is developing a new operating plan – one that’s lean and conservative.

The U.S. Army / Flickr

October is domestic violence awareness month. At Michigan Radio, we are taking a look at how domestic violence impacts our communities.

What support and intervention programs are in place to assist those impacted by domestic violence?

We have already spoken with the Director of Safe House Center in Ann Arbor, which provides assistance to those impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault.

Now we want to look at the other side of the equation. Jenn White, host of Michigan Radio’s All Things Considered, speaks with David Garvin, Senior Director at Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County.  

Garvin manages the Alternatives to Domestic Aggression (ADA) program, a 52 week batterer intervention program that specializes in changing the behavior patterns of men who abuse their intimate partners. Typically, men who participate in the program have been court ordered to do so.

 Michigan health officials say it’s time to get your flu shot.   And they want your children vaccinated too.   

You might think flu season is still months away.   But you’d be wrong.  State health officials say there have already been two confirmed influenza cases in Michigan this year.  

"Both of those cases did match the components that were in the vaccine for this year," says Dean Sienko, the interim Chief Medical Executive at the Michigan Department of Human Services.   

Photo courtesy of EPA

The Midwest’s persistently high unemployment rate isn’t expected to fall anytime soon.

But as Changing Gears' Kate Davidson reported, temporary employment agencies across the Midwest can’t seem to find enough people to fill all the open factory jobs they have waiting. These agencies are busier than they’ve been in years, because manufacturing has more open jobs than candidates willing or able to fill them.

Now, another industry finds itself in a similar position: agriculture. It's a big business all across the Midwest. In Michigan, agriculture is said to be the state’s second largest industry and is still growing.

But, Jim Byrum of the Michigan Agri-Business Association says agriculture producers can’t find enough people to fill jobs now, and he’s even more worried about the future.

“The industry demand is pretty solid, and it’s an increasingly severe problem,” Bryum says.

A large group within the agriculture industry -- white collar workers at agri-business companies -- is getting ready to retire soon. His concern is that a new generation of workers is not ready to replace those workers getting ready to leave.

The U.S. Senate will soon vote on a bill that would punish China, and other countries, for manipulating their currency. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, has been leading the charge on the legislation.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

General Motors now sells more cars in China that it does in the United States. In a few years, it’s likely that will be the case for Ford Motor Company, too.   

But selling cars in China takes a different approach than it does in the U.S.

There's much that's familiar at Shanghai Dongchang Fude Auto Sales and Service. There’s the piped in music -- the salespeople hanging out near the front entrance, waiting to grab the next walk-in customer., and the lineup of shiny new cars on the floor. 

Cle0patra / Flickr

We usually think of Franklin D. Roosevelt today as the quintessential liberal, big government president -- and in today’s polarized politics, both sides look back at his New Deal as the time when things either started going right or wrong, depending.

However, FDR didn’t think of himself that way. Once, when asked about his ideology, he said something like, “I try something, and if it doesn’t work, I try something else." Those who were really on the far left in his day mainly hated him. They understood what he was trying to do better than the right wing did.

As author Gore Vidal put it, “He saved capitalism. Whether it should have been saved or not is a different question. But he saved it, all right.”

I was reminded of this today by the ongoing, ferocious debate going on in Lansing over charter schools, which are independent, for-profit, public schools. A new package of bills would lift virtually all restrictions on charters, which are now limited to areas where public school performance is below average.

What bothers me is that so much of the ongoing debate over these schools is ideological or self-serving. And too few of the lawmakers debating these proposals are asking any version of FDR’s classic question, which in this case should be put this way:

What is the best way to make sure these children are being educated? Common sense means that we should all be in favor of any system that gets that job done, by any means necessary.

In this morning's news...

Oct 11, 2011

‘Underwear Bomber’ Trial Begins

Opening statements are set today for the trial involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to detonate a bomb in his underwear on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009. Abdulmutallab is, “acting as his own lawyer but is relying on attorney Anthony Chambers to handle the courtroom work. Chambers will grill witnesses and give an opening statement after Abdulmutallab dropped plans to give his own statement. Chambers is promising to ‘challenge everything’ at trial,” the Associated Press reports. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett will be in the courtroom today and report on the proceedings during All Things Considered.

Obama to MI

President Barack Obama travels to Michigan on Friday. Mr. Obama and the President of South Korea will tour the General Motors Orion Assembly plant. They’ll speak about the South Korean trade agreement that the White House says, “will open up economic opportunities and support jobs on both sides of the Pacific.” Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will be in downtown Flint tomorrow to talk about the President’s jobs plan.

Snyder Wants Immigrants Ready to Start Businesses

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to attract more foreign entrepreneurs to the state, Lindsey Smith reports. From Smith:

Snyder told a gathering of “The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan” he’d like to leverage a federal immigration program to attract new jobs and investments. Under the program, immigrants who’ve invested at least $500,000 in a business that creates at least 10 full-time jobs can apply for green cards. That allows them to live and work in the United States permanently. Snyder says he realizes there are a lot of people who are against inviting more immigrants into the U.S. Snyder says Dow Chemical and the Meijer retail chain are examples – both were founded by immigrants.

Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero calls it a ‘debacle’.    

The battle between two local colleges over an empty apartment building is in a holding pattern.   

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she doesn’t know if the president’s jobs bill will clear its first legislative hurdle later today.    That’s when the U.S. Senate is scheduled to take a procedural vote on the $447 billion ‘American Jobs Act’.   

Stabenow, a Democrat, says she’d like to see the legislation move forward.  

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