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Arts/Culture
11:09 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Detroit Symphony musicians return to work Thursday

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians say they’ll return to the stage for rehearsal on Thursday.

DSO officials have announced a tentative agreement that would end a bitter six-months-long players’ strike.

Detroit Symphony officials canceled the whole concert season in February, when it seemed like feuding Orchestra players and management just couldn’t agree on a new contract. The two sides had deadlocked for months over issues ranging from pay to musicians’ outside teaching obligations.

But under mounting political pressure and after a marathon weekend bargaining session, the two sides hammered out a tentative work agreement.

Musicians’ union President Gordon Stump wouldn’t talk specifics. An official ratification vote will wrap up on Friday.

Stump says musicians are happy the strike will end even though they’re “not crazy” about parts of the agreement.

“I’m sure the management wasn’t crazy about it either. But most of the things that we had a problem with are gone. In that sense, I think it was a resolution we could all live with.”

Stump says the strike was “a long, protracted struggle, and it’s going to take a long time to heal.”

The strike cost the Orchestra some musicians, including its whole percussion section.

Politics
11:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Unions invoke MLK legacy in Detroit rally

Labor supporters rally in Detroit's Hart Plaza
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Hundreds of labor union supporters rallied against attacks on collective bargaining rights in Detroit Monday.

The rally was one of dozens nationwide commemorating Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

King was killed during a 1968 trip to Memphis to support that city’s striking black sanitation workers. National labor leaders are highlighting this lesser-known part of King’s legacy as they fight new state laws that restrict unions’ collective bargaining rights.

Canton resident Natalie Mosher came to the downtown Detroit rally. She says Governor Snyder and state Republicans have gone too far.

"I’m here to support all working people. I was a former teacher and I think what is happening in Michigan today is just not acceptable.”

The Governor recently signed a bill granting Emergency Financial Managers broad powers, including the right to throw out union contracts.

Former Delphi worker Stacey Kemp drove from near Saginaw to attend the rally. Kemp says everyone should be concerned about the many new state laws that restrict workers’ right to collective bargaining.

“Whether they’re union or non-union, this is going to directly affect all middle and working-class people. If they’re allowed to get away with this, we might as well just kiss our grandchildren goodbye, and they’re going to live in a third-world country.”

The AFL-CIO and other organizers say the King-inspired rallies are part of a continued campaign to fight that law and similar measures in other states.

Arts/Culture
10:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Network of former Detroiters look to assist their hometown

Bernt Rostad Creative Commons

Former metro Detroiters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have formed a network that hopes to lend talent and assistance to the Motor City.

Bryan Fenster co-founded the Detroit Nation chapter in Chicago. He says there are scores of people with Detroit roots who want to help their hometown:

"People have law backgrounds, marketing, advertising, non-profit sector grant writing. It’s kind of all across the board. So when we partner up with more organizations in Detroit, I think we’ll have a better idea of who we can place where and how we can implement that."

Fenster says the first Detroit Nation event in Chicago in December drew about 60 people, and he expects its second event this week will draw twice that many.

Chapters in Seattle and Washington D.C. are expected to be established soon.

Arts/Culture
5:36 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Detroit Symphony musicians agree to go back to work before voting on new contract

The Detroit Symphony announced late this afternoon that orchestra musicians have agreed to return to work before voting on a new contract. The DSO and its musicians' union reached a tentative contract deal over the weekend.

The musicians' union met this afternoon. After the meeting, the DSO announced the musicians will return to work on Thursday to begin rehearsing for upcoming concerts. The union plans a vote on the union contract later this week.

In a written statement, music director Leonard Slatkin expressed the hope that the DSO will emerge strong from the strike that has silenced it for the past six months:

“As we return to our home, I’m confident that the artistic product will continue at the highest possible level.  There is much to be done but the DSO will emerge a healthier and stronger institution.”

Economy
5:16 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

U of M economists say state is posting 'robust' job growth

Students walk on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s jobs picture is getting brighter, according to a new report out of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan economists say the state is starting 2011 with “robust job growth."  

Michigan spent much of the past decade watching its job numbers decline. But after some gains in 2010, U of M economists credit a bounce in manufacturing with getting the state off to a great start this year. The job growth rate is on pace to increase by 3.8% this year.     

The economists say Michigan has posted a stronger recovery rate than the rest of the nation during the past year and a half. However, that may not last. 

The U of M economists predict Michigan’s job growth will cool off, but still the economists predict the state could add 64,000 jobs this year.

Politics
4:15 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Governor Snyder about his first 90 days

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

It’s been a little over three months since Governor Rick Snyder came into office.

He’s had a few successes, including passing the controversial Emergency Financial Manager Bill. He’s also running into some opposition, even within his own party, especially around issues within his budget proposal.

Jennifer White asked Governor Rick Snyder to talk about the past 90 days and discuss where things go from here.

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Politics
4:06 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Governor Snyder confident his budget & tax plans will get legislative approval

Governor Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan

A state House committee is debating a tax-reform package that includes eliminating the state’s business tax and replacing its revenues with a corporate income tax and taxing pensions. Governor Snyder says he wants a state budget in place by the end of May.

However, fierce divisions over how and where to reform taxes – especially over whether to tax pensions – are slowing negotiations.

Snyder’s pleased with the progress on the budget so far:

“Things are going reasonably well in terms of that process.   And we’re working on a very fast time frame.  We’re well ahead of the way things traditional done in past years.  And we’ll still on a path to get fundamental reform done."  

Snyder says he's not put off by the harsh criticism that his budget and tax plans have generated: 

“That’s part of the legislative process.  That’s part of democracy.   But as a whole, I believe the framework we put out there will go ahead and if anything I hope it could be an improved product with the good dialogue we’re having today.”  

Some Senate Republicans have said they will not vote for any pension tax. And many Democrats are upset, claiming they have been locked out of negotiations altogether.

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Offbeat
3:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Update: Charlie Sheen receives standing ovation in Chicago

The Charlie Sheen show comes to Detroit
user justaufo Flickr

Update:

Charlie Sheen might be #winning after all.

After a universally panned show at the Detroit Fox Theatre on Saturday, Sheen has apparently retooled his "Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour, earning him a standing ovation from a Chicago audience.

From the Huffington Post:

After being heckled and booed in Detroit, Charlie Sheen made some changes to his road show Sunday night – and this time, it ended with a standing ovation.

Sheen used a talk show-style format at his Chicago show, with a master of ceremonies asking the actor questions. The interviewer, who didn't identify himself, kept Sheen on track and gave the actor a chance to make some snarky comments.

Some audience members said the second performance on Sheen's "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option" tour wasn't outstanding, but at least it had amusing moments. And Sheen drew cheers throughout the show, which began and ended with a standing ovation.

Mackenzie Barth, 19, said it was a "weird" show. "At least no one was booing," she added.

One commenter on Huffpost said, "I can only conclude that the people of Detroit have better taste than those in Chicago."

What do you think?

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Economy
2:56 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Many Michiganders miss date to pay the tax man

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

County treasurer offices across Michigan this week are processing thousands of homes that have fallen into tax foreclosure. Michigan property owners has until last week to pay up their 2008 property taxes or face losing the property to tax foreclosure. Many counties were expecting about a 10% increase in homes falling into tax foreclosure. 

In Genesee County, the owners of 2,999 properties missed the deadline. About 600 more than last year. Deb Cherry is the Genesee County Treasurer. She was not surprised by the jump in tax foreclosures. 

 “A lot of it has to do with the fact that 2008 was one of the worst years in the housing market.”

Cherry does not expect there will be many buyers when these homes go up for sale later this year.

Many of the properties will find their way to the Genesee County Land Bank, which is already taking care of more than 6,000 properties. Douglas Weiland is the land bank authority executive director.

"Its not a question of whether we can absorb more properties, we will absorb more properties and we expect we'll see that trend continueing for some time yet."

Economy
2:05 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Michigan gas prices getting closer to $4

Gas prices in Michigan are now averaging $3.75 a gallon. AAA Michigan reports gas prices are up $0.91 from this time last year.

This is affecting Michiganders in different ways, some in their jobs, and some in how they volunteer.

Tasha Stetler is the Meals On Wheels Supervisor for Ingam County. She says many volunteers continued to drive for Meals on Wheels when gas prices rose to over $3 a gallon.  

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Offbeat
2:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Aborted takeoff attributed to wind-shear fears

User dsleeter_2000 Flickr

And you thought flying with a hole punched in the roof of your plane was scary.

Earlier today, a plane had to abort its takeoff due to fears of wind-shear.

Wind-shear refers to a drastic change in wind direction over a relatively short distance, and can cause serious problems for airplanes taking of or landing.

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Science/Medicine
10:39 am
Mon April 4, 2011

U of M develops new embryonic stem cell lines for medical research

Gary Smith removing a rack containing vials that hold frozen human embryos donated to the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies.
Scott Soderberg/U-M Photo Services

The University of Michigan has announced it has created new embryonic stem cell lines for medical research.  Developing its own stem cell lines has been an important goal of the university’s stem cell research center since its inception two years. 

In a written statement, Gary Smith, co-director of the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies and leader of the cell-line derivation project, talked about the importance of this milestone for the consortium:

"All our efforts are finally starting to bear fruit...Creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines has been a central goal of the consortium since it was formed two years ago, and now we've passed that milestone." 

The stem cell lines carry genes responsible for a type of hemophilia and a neurological disorder. In the future, researchers at the University of Michigan hope to develop additional stem cell lines that will help with research into Huntington's disease,  spinal muscular atrophy and Tay-Sachs.

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Commentary
10:02 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Confusion Over Medical Marijuana

Two years ago, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Voters from liberal Ann Arbor to staunchly conservative Ottawa County supported this change.

Some, to be sure, saw this as opening the door to a complete legalization of marijuana. However, they appear to have been a minority. Most people seem to have felt that those who are legitimately suffering from disease such as glaucoma ought to be able to use the drug in cases where it could ease their pain.

But the devil is always in the details, and we probably should have foreseen that administering this law was going to be an unholy mess. Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press took a comprehensive look at how the medical marijuana law has been working.

To nobody’s surprise, their answer was: Not very well. The state is struggling with a huge backlog of applications to grow the stuff.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have been going after people who may be falsely claiming to be growing and selling pot for medical use, and there are also rumors that certain physicians are happy to certify that most anybody qualifies to use marijuana for “medical” purposes.

On top of that, neither the constitutional amendment - or any other law - has made it clear where medical marijuana is supposed to come from. Part of the problem is that marijuana is a controlled substance whose use is illegal under federal law.

So, basically, the original source of any pot supply has got to be illegal, even if the state of Michigan approves someone to grow marijuana for medical reasons. There is also, so far as I can tell, absolutely nothing to ensure purity or quality control of the supply.

Basically, then, we’ve got a system of something approaching anarchy when it comes to medical marijuana.

So, what do we do about it?

Read more
Government Shutdown
9:46 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Countdown to federal government shutdown

(flcickr Matti Mattila)

The clock is ticking down to a possible federal government shutdown at the end of this week. And, Michigan lawmakers are playing pivotal roles in the budget debate. 

Michigan congressmen Justin Amash and Tim Walberg are among a group of 13 House Republicans that have threatened to break with the GOP leadership on the budget negotiations. They’ve pushed budget amendments to slash$61 billion in spending.

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin says far right Republicans in the House are preventing the two sides from reaching a budget deal.  

“Right now the leadership of the House…Mr. Boehner…is a kind of a captive of the far right of the House.”  

Levin complains that lawmakers with ties to the Tea Party don’t care if the federal government shuts down, since they believe government is the problem to begin with.

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Economy
9:19 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Community leaders from Grand Rapids to visit Detroit this week

Detroit's skyline
Bernt Rostad Creative Commons

More than 50 community leaders from Grand Rapids will take a bus to visit Detroit this week. Organizers hope the trip will connect people, break down stereotypes, determine common problems and figure out how each side of the state can benefit the other.

Tommy Allen is an editor for Rapid Growth Media. The weekly, Grand Rapids-based economic magazine is hosting the trip.

Lately, Allen says he’s been able to work in Detroit. And he’s loved his experiences there.

 “I love how it’s changed me. My friends in Detroit have pushed me as much as I’ve pushed them. So that creative capital exchange that we do on a regular basis is going to make both of our cities better. So why not? Why not partner with people more and more in Detroit?”

Allen knows too many people who reinforce the stereotypes about and the divide between Detroit and Grand Rapids. Allen hopes to start to bridge that gap by bussing innovative, talented people from West Michigan to network with their counterparts in Detroit; see what they’re working on during a day-long tour.

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Economy
9:18 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Whirlpool accuses rivals of dumping

Whirlpool is accusing two rival appliance makers of dumping refrigerators on the U.S. market. Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool named Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics in an anti-dumping petition filed with the U.S. Commerce Department last week. 

Whirlpool accuses the companies of selling refrigerators below cost in the U.S. 

Kenneth Zener is a financial analyst with Key Bank.  

“Whirlpool is the largest appliance manufacturer worldwide. I think they have a good understanding of what it costs to make an appliance.  And they are asserting that it is upwards of 30% below the construction price for the items identified in the petition."

The Commerce Department is not expected to rule on whirlpool’s petition until next year.   

If Whirlpool wins its case, the federal government could impose higher import duties on the dumped refrigerators.

Read more
medical marijuana
9:03 am
Mon April 4, 2011

ACLU of Michigan to take medical marijuana case to Michigan Supreme Court

The ACLU of Michigan hopes to take a medical marijuana case to the Michigan Supreme Court
Kevin Connors MorgueFile

The Michigan Supreme Court may soon hear its first case on the state’s medical marijuana law.

Larry King of Owosso has a medical marijuana license from the state.  He was charged with a felony by the Shiawassee County prosecutor for growing marijuana in a locked dog kennel that did not have a roof. The Circuit Court dismissed the case, but the Court of Appeals reinstated the felony charges.

Dan Korobkin is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. He says the prosecution shouldn’t charge King with a felony because King is legally allowed to grow marijuana:

“Instead of simply telling Mr. King that he needed to move his plants inside, or put a roof over it, they’re now prosecuting him on felony drug charges for the same offense that he would be charged with if he never had any medical marijuana card at all.”

Korobkin said Michigan voters approved the medical marijuana act to protect patients that were approved to use marijuana for medical reasons.

“We’re representing him because the prosecution of a medical marijuana patient who is complying with the law is a gross injustice and thoroughly undermines the intent of the voters in passing the Medical Marijuana Act."

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Politics
7:01 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Snyder says new Detroit/Ontario bridge is still in the works

A view of the Ambassador bridge over the Detroit River
J. Stephen Conn Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he hopes to introduce legislation next week that would move forward with construction on a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. A similar proposal has met stiff opposition for several years among Republicans in the Legislature. Snyder says it is time for another international crossing:

“Doing the new international trade crossing is the right thing to do. At the same time, when I did my analysis I believe there’s viable opportunity to have the Ambassador Bridge continue, the Windsor Tunnel, the Blue Water Bridge, and clear up at the Soo. We’ve got great crossings, we just need another crossing.”

Democrats in the Legislature say Snyder will need their votes to approve the bridge project. They say if the governor wants their support he will also need to work with them more during budget negotiations.

Lawmakers return next week from their spring break.

Arts/Culture
6:29 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Tentative deal could end Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike

There appears to be a tentative deal at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
ZUU Mumu Entertainment Flickr

Update 6:36 a.m.:

From the AP: Musicians' spokesman Greg Bowens says the tentative agreement was reached late Sunday. He says musicians will vote this week on whether to ratify the deal.

6:27 a.m.:

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra says a tentative agreement has been reached with striking musicians that could resolve a six-month strike, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Management spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt tells The Associated Press in an e-mail Monday morning that details of the agreement reached following talks over the weekend weren't being immediately released.

A message seeking comment was left with musicians spokesman Greg Bowens... Musicians had said they were given a deadline of last Friday to settle the strike or face losing the summer performance season and jeopardizing the fall season.

Musicians have been on strike since October 2010.

Election 2012
6:21 am
Mon April 4, 2011

President Obama announces reelection bid

President Obama launched his re-election campaign early Monday morning
The U.S. Army Flickr

President Barack Obama launched his reelection bid this morning. The announcement was made via a web video that was posted to the President's campaign website and through an email sent to supporters.

The news made headlines across the blogosphere:

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