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Environment
4:54 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

State reverses, will keep forest campgrounds open

N1NJ4 flickr

The state has reversed a decision to close 23 state forest campgrounds this summer.

Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Mary Dettloff says the DNR has found partners to run three of them, and is in talks with local governments and other groups for similar arrangements for the rest. But she says maintaining the campgrounds is an expense the state is less and less able to afford:

"We have to do regular environmental testing on the wells for the water, we have to have the pit toilets pumped out regularly. We have to have the trash hauled away, the grass mowed. There’s lots of maintenance and upkeep for these things that I think a lot of folks just don’t realize we have to do."

Funding for the state forest campgrounds has been cut by almost two-thirds over the last three years. There are 133 of the campgrounds across Michigan.

Dettloff says the typical state forest campground costs about $9,000 a year to operate.

Politics
4:28 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

House republicans aim to reduce fraud in food assistance program

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The state provides food-assistance to low-income residents who qualify through the Bridge Card Program. The card operates sort of like a debit card instead of more traditional food stamps. They were adopted to make it easier for the state to run the program and reduce the stigma associated with using food stamps.

State Representative Tom Hooker is one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We’re aren’t trying to take food away from little kids and old people and people who are suffering. That’s not the goal of any of these bills.”

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Environment
4:23 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Ban on deer-baiting lifted in much of Michigan's lower peninsula

A buck at a salt lick.
Tee Poole Flickr

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has lifted a ban on putting bait out for deer. From October 1st through January 1st the practice will again be allowed in most counties in the lower peninsula.

Baiting will not be allowed in Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties - the state's six county area known as the  Bovine Tuberculosis Zone.

Officials at the Michigan DNR put the baiting ban in place in 2008 after biologists found the state's first case of Chronic Wasting Disease in a deer at a private deer breeding facility in Kent County.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal brain disease similar to mad cow disease, can be spread from deer to deer through saliva and blood. The disease started out west in elk and made its way into some Midwestern deer herds. Wisconsin had to cull big herds of deer to get the disease under control.

Banning a practice such as baiting, a practice that brings many deer together in one spot as they eat or lick the bait, was thought to be the best way to prevent the spread of CWD in Michigan - apparently, it worked.

From the Michigan DNR press release:

At the time, the Department followed protocol as outlined in the state's emergency response plan for CWD and immediately banned baiting and feeding of white-tailed deer in the Lower Peninsula. The NRC then passed regulations making the ban permanent, but said it would reconsider the ban in three years, giving the DNR adequate time to perform disease testing and surveillance in the state for CWD.

In the three-year period, the DNR tested thousands of white-tailed deer for CWD, but did not detect another case.

So in a 4-3 vote by the Natural Resources Commission, the three-year old ban was lifted. It will be reconsidered in 2014.

In the Grand Rapids Press, Howard Meyerson writes that hunters have been split on the issue. Around half in favor of baiting and half against it. Meyerson writes that in 2008, many hunters were glad the ban was put in place:

They said it altered deer behavior and pulled deer off their lands and onto others where people baited. That, in turn, prompted them to resort to “defensive baiting.”

On the flip side, however, others are crowing.

“The good guys won,” said Jeff DeRegnaucourt, an avid hunter from Rockford who was glad to see the ban lifted.

But the nation’s top professional wildlife biologists probably wouldn’t see it that way. Mason is one who steadfastly urged keeping the ban in place. Steve Schmitt, the DNR’s wildlife disease expert, was another.

Auto/Economy
2:36 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Toyota expects fiscal year profit to fall 31 percent

TOKYO (AP) - Toyota says its profit for the fiscal year through March 2012 will fall 31 percent to 280 billion yen ($3.5 billion) in an outlook that underlines a robust recovery in the latter half of the fiscal year from the damage of an earthquake and tsunami.

Toyota Motor Corp. made the announcement Friday. It had not given an earnings forecast earlier because of uncertainties in its production outlook after the disasters on March 11 wiped out key parts suppliers in northeastern Japan.

Last month, it said January-March quarterly profit crumpled more than 75 percent because of the parts shortage that is hurting production.

Economy
2:15 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

It takes a village... and $226,920 to raise a child

Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases its estimate of how much it costs to raise a child from birth to seventeen years of age.

Here's what they found for their latest Expenditures on Children by Families report:

A middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.

It represents a 2% increase from 2009, and the report also notes that, naturally, the more money you make, the more you spend on your child:

  • A family earning less than $57,600 per year can expect to spend a total of $163,440 (in 2010 dollars) on a child from birth through high school.
  • Similarly, parents with an income between $57,600 and $99,730 can expect to spend $226,920;
  • and a family earning more than $99,730 can expect to spend $377,040.

Housing accounts for 31% of the cost for raising a child for a family with a middle income.

The USDA first released this report in 1960 when a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 to raise a child (or $185,856 in 2010 dollars).

Commentary
12:40 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Teacher Tenure

Everybody whose life has been at all successful has had at least one really good teacher. But most people have had some really bad teachers too. In high school, I had an algebra teacher during the last hour of the day who gave out assignments and promptly left for the racetrack. As far as I know, he was never fired.

On the other hand, there are many good teachers. I was married to one whose students topped the state, year after year, in their performance on the AP history exam. I don’t think she ever worked less than 70 hours a week.

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Offbeat
12:07 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Hear dramatic readings of iTunes license agreement by Richard Dreyfuss

Actor Richard Dreyfuss (left) brings drama to the iTunes user agreement.
Mark Taylor Flickr

Our lives our busy. Who has time to read the myriad of license agreements tossed up on our computer screens by the websites we visit each day?

Well, now's the time to slow down, relax, and really take in the construction and word choice used in some of these documents.

Academy Award winner actor Richard Dreyfuss brings gravitas, a little crazy, and some Nazi to the 40-page iTunes end-user license agreement.

You can hear Dreyfuss ply his craft below (thanks to CNET).

Please read:

Your responsibility:

Damages:

Effective until:

People
11:35 am
Fri June 10, 2011

Friends, family pay tribute to Dr. Jack Kevorkian

Friends and family held a memorial service for Jack Kevorkian today.
UCLA

TROY, Mich. (AP) - Friends, family and supporters of the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian have paid tribute to the polarizing assisted-suicide advocate during a public memorial service in suburban Detroit.

A large photograph of Kevorkian resting his face in his right hand stood near his American flag-draped casket during the service in a chapel at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy.

Kevorkian will be laid to rest later Friday during a private grave-site service for those closest to him.

He died in a hospital last week at age 83.

Kevorkian was an advocate of allowing health care professionals help gravely-ill people die and he claimed he assisted in about 130 deaths. He spent eight years in prison for second-degree murder after "60 Minutes" broadcast video of him helping someone die in 1998.

Politics
11:13 am
Fri June 10, 2011

Pit Bull ban going nowhere

Pit bulls are made up of several breeds - this is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Determining whether a dog is a pit bull or not is just one of the problems inherent in breed-specific legislation, according to the CDC.
User Sannse wikimedia commons

Representative Timothy Bledsoe (D - Grosse Pointe) proposed a statewide ban on pit bulls after hearing from a constituent in his district, according to MPRN's Rick Pluta:

He says he was approached about the measure by a woman from his district whose niece was mauled by a pit bull. 

"And this constituent persuaded me to take a careful look at this breed, which we did. We began to gather evidence and, ultimately, I became convinced that through selective breeding, these pit bulls have become a threat to public safety."

Now it appears Bledsoe's proposal will go nowhere.

The chairman of a state House committee where the bill would be introduced said he won't take any action on it.

Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi is quoted in the Detroit Free Press:

"I don't think it's a dog problem, I think it's a people problem," Crawford said. "And I don't think the state needs to be in the business of being canine police."

He said he spoke to some pit bull owners in recent days who told him they can be "the greatest, loving dog they ever had."

Bledsoe said he was disappointed by the news saying he felt his proposal at least deserved a hearing.

The proposal called for phasing in the ban on the breed - first putting restrictions on breeding and selling pit bulls in the state, then requiring all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered - and an outright ban would take place after ten years.

A Centers for Disease Control report on breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks concluded:

Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty,enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and,therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.

News Roundup
8:49 am
Fri June 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Power outages in Detroit, casinos in Lansing, and efforts to ban the bit bull.
user brother o'mara Flickr

Parts of Detroit without power this morning

Power outages are affecting many of Detroit's main buildings today. Workers at Detroit's city hall were told not to report to work this morning. From the Detroit News:

Numerous municipal buildings throughout the city's downtown area remained without power this morning after the city's antiquated public power system failed because of high demand for air-conditioning following a stretch of 90-degree weather earlier this week.

One of the city's five power lines at the Misterky Power Plant failed Wednesday and two others went down on Thursday, leaving the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building, the Detroit Public Library, Wayne State University, the Detroit Institute of Arts, several federal buildings and Detroit Public Schools without electrical service, officials said.

The city hoped to have the problem fixed this afternoon.

Group wants American Indian casino in Lansing  After failing to get enough signatures to put the issue on the August ballot, the Associated Press reports that a group is still moving ahead with a plan to bring an American Indian casino to Lansing: 

 Ted O'Dell, chairman of Lansing Jobs Coalition, tells the Lansing State Journal for a story Friday that he'll ask City Council members to approve his request before trying a ballot issue. He wants to gather enough signatures to get it on the city's November ballot. O'Dell's group did not submit the number of signatures needed to put the issue on the August ballot. In April, a group aiming to build casinos in Lansing and six other Michigan cities launched a process that could put the measure before state voters this fall. "Michigan is Yours" needs more than 300,000 signatures from registered voters across the state. The effort failed to make the 2010 state ballot.

 Pit Bull ban tabled

A bill to ban pit bulls in the state won't see any action in the state legislature. From the Detroit Free Press:

A legislative attempt to eventually ban pit bull ownership in Michigan has been leashed.

State Rep. Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe, introduced the legislation to make it illegal to own a pit bull after a 10-year phaseout.

But the chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee in the state House, Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi, said he's not planning to move on the bill, effectively shelving it.

Environment
6:38 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Raising Lake Huron water level problematic, says study

A new study suggests raising the water level in Lake Huron could cause as many problems as it solves. 

 Eugene Stakhiv is U.S. Co-chair of the International Great Lakes Study. 

He says people could build dams or other structures in the St. Clair River to slow the flow of water out of Lake Huron.  

That would raise the level of Lake Huron and benefit marinas and wetlands around the lake.   

But water levels would also rise near Chicago, which already has high lake levels.

Read more
Auto/Economy
6:25 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Ford to boost production capacity for hybrids and plug-ins

Another American car company is betting that its U.S. customers want more hybrid cars. 

Ford Motor Company says it will hire more than 200 people to meet the increased demand for electrified cars.   

Earlier this year, General Motors  boosted production plans for the Volt by 30% for next year. 

Now, Ford plans a similar increase in its capacity to build hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, including a new car called the C-Max. 

Read more
Politics
6:22 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac should be replaced, says Michigan Congressman

Congressman Gary Peters says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must go.  But he says they have to be replaced with something else.

The two quasi-private groups provide a federal guarantee for home mortgages.

Taxpayers had to bail out Fannie and Freddie after the housing sector meltdown.

Some people in Congress don’t want to replace Fannie and Freddie with anything, and just let the free market take over.

But Peters says without a federal guarantee, banks would stop offering 30-year mortgages.

Read more
Politics
4:22 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Should Michigan ban pit bulls?

Bad Dog? One Michigan state lawmaker wants to ban pit bulls by 2021.
Flickr audreyjm529

A metro-Detroit lawmaker has proposed a statewide ban on pit bulls.

The measure sponsored by Representative Timothy Bledsoe would make it illegal to own a pit bull in Michigan by 2021. He says he was approached about the measure by a woman from his district whose niece was mauled by a pit bull. 

Offbeat
4:02 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Judge to decide if Flying Dog can sell latest beer in Michigan

This is the label from the new beer as attatched in federal court records.

Should the state of Michigan’s liquor control commission be allowed to ban the sale of a certain beer based on its name? That’s the question a federal judge in Grand Rapids will decide, following arguments this week.

People can buy several kinds of Flying Dog beer in Michigan already; In-heat wheat, Doggie Style pale ale, and Horn Dog barley wine for starters.

The state of Michigan argues the name of Flying Dog’s latest beer is a “sexist, derogatory and demeaning portrayal of women.”

Alan Gura is the brewery’s attorney.

 “The liquor commissioners don’t happen to like the name of Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch beer. They think it’s very offensive, we simply think that’s too bad.”

Read more
Education
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Ann Arbor schools to cut more than 60 full-time teaching positions

The Ann Arbor school board passed its budget last night which eliminated teaching positions.

Kyle Feldscher from Annarbor.com reports:

Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.

Feldscher reports that teacher layoffs are not expected:

The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.

Politics
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

House approves teacher tenure changes

School districts would have an easier time firing teachers under changes to tenure laws approved by the state House.

The tenure proposal would rate the effectiveness of teachers based on student test scores.

The bills have begun their march through the Legislature after many years of debating changes to tenure rules.

Democratic state Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton says tenure laws came about to protect teachers from administrators that tried to ban certain books from being taught in the classroom.

She says of course tenure rules should be updated and changed, but she says these changes go too far:

"Rather than go in with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel, identify a problem and fix it, what these bills do, really, I think, absolutely flay the tenure act with all the zeal of a butcher’s knife," said Lipton.

Republicans say the proposed changes would ensure bad teachers with failing student test scores are removed from classrooms.

The tenure bills were approved along mostly party lines, with one Democrat saying he would discourage his granddaughter from ever teaching in Michigan. The bills now head to the Republican-led state Senate.

Auto/Economy
3:57 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Political Roundup: Auto industry bailout & Mitt Romney (audio)

Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion to the U. S. and Canadian governments back in May.

Recently, General Motors announced the addition of 2,500 jobs to its Hamtramck plant and plans to invest $130 million in a new data center in Warren, Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White helps us get a look at the political implications of the automotive industry’s progress.  She spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Read more
Changing Gears
3:17 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Midwest manufacturing bouncing back

Midwest manufacturers heard good news about U.S. trade at a conference in Chicago.

A record number of exports are helping to shrink the trade deficit, and conference organizers are optimistic about the future of Midwest manufacturing.

Economist Bill Strauss, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, likes to use a tennis ball as an analogy to explain what’s going on in manufacturing.

"The sectors that fall the hardest tend to bounce back the strongest," said Strauss. "And we are definitely seeing that with regard to manufacturing where it was automotive and it was primary metals that fell the most during the downturn and they are coming back the strongest at this point."

This morning, Strauss and others told the  Chicago Council on Global Affairs they’re optimistic. They point to data like a 7 percent increase in manufacturing over the past 22 months.

Now for the bad news.

That doesn’t translate into more jobs, because manufacturers have gotten better at producing more with less people.

Economy
3:14 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Gasoline stations accused of price fixing

Pain in the gas tank
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Five Detroit area gasoline station owners have been charged with price fixing.   The five gas stations are located in Madison Heights and are within 2 miles of each other. 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says an inside source claims the gas station operators agreed to keep their prices within a penny of one another on at least five days in February and early March of this year. 

Schuette says there is a difference between watching your competitors’ prices and colluding to keep everyone’s prices high. 

Read more

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