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Science/Medicine
5:32 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Metro Detroit students compete for science and engineering honors

www.sefmd.org

Students from 143 Detroit area schools competed in the Metro Detroit Science and Engineering Fair Wednesday.

Almost 1400 middle and high school students displayed their projects at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Students from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county schools showed off research projects in 13 categories, ranging from computer science to zoology.

Fair organizers say participation in the fair is trending upward, and participation from Detroit Public Schools students shot up dramatically this year.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Snyder to sign Emergency Financial Managers bills at 5:30pm

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R)
(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Snyder’s office has just announced he plans to sign the controversial Emergency Financial Manager bills this afternoon. Unions oppose the bills, because they will enable state appointed financial managers to void union contracts in cities and school districts with serious financial problems.

Politics
4:48 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Budget protests continue in Lansing

Thousands 6rally on at the state capitol building
(photo by Laura Weber/MPRN)

UPDATE:  A growing number of angry labor-movement supporters are showing up at the state Capitol to protest Republican proposals to tax pensions and limit union control.  A drum circle played on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by thousands of protesters with signs, a 15-foot inflated eagle, and flapping American and U-A-W flags.

There were big, hulking men in hardhats, businesspeople in suits, and young parents pushing strollers.   

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Postal service
4:16 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

No fowarding address: USPS mulls cuts to post office locations

Joey Rozier Flickr

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the U.S. Postal Service is hoping to close a series of post offices around the country to save money. From the article:

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Sports
3:17 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Pres. Obama picking against Michigan teams in NCAA tournament

President Barack Obama
(official White House photo)

The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament begins in earnest tomorrow.   But one very well-known basketball fan expects no team with ties to Michigan will reach the Sweet 16.  

The White House released President Obama’s brackets today.  

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Environment
2:46 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan species affected by power plant emissions

The common loon is one of nine Michigan species vulnerable to mercury poisoning and other toxins from power plants
Andrew Reding flickr

The National Wildlife Foundation has released a report on Michigan wildlife hurt by power plant emissions.

The report says nine species in the state are affected by power plant toxins.  Mercury  is the most dangerous toxin for some species, including the large-mouth bass and the common loon.  

Lee Sprague is on the Tribal Council of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

"What we do know with mercury it really affects all life systems, from the very base of the food chain all the way up."

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Commentary
2:45 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

You Never Can Tell

The governor’s made some decisions that are wildly unpopular. Unions are upset. Taxpayers are upset. His own party isn’t too sure he is right.

Behind closed doors, leaders of the opposition party are rubbing their hands in glee. They think they know a one-term governor when they see one.

That’s what’s going on right now in Wisconsin, to be sure, and also, to a lesser extent, in Lansing. Democrats are convinced that if Governor Snyder indeed manages to tax pensions, cut education, and end the Earned Income Tax Credit, he’ll be toast.

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Science/Medicine
12:29 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan pharmacies see uptick in interest in anti-radiation medication

Potassium iodide
(Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Japanese nuclear crisis began, the handful of pharmacies in Michigan that stock anti-radiation medicine are seeing an uptick in demand.   

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Budget Protests
12:08 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Snyder stands firm against protests

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R)
(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Rick Snyder says he respects the views of people protesting against his budget proposals. Many people have crowded the Capitol lawn this week to stand against Snyder’s plan to tax pensions. The governor says he understands their frustration, but he says a tax on pensions – done the right way – is only fair.

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Romulus
11:18 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Romulus Police Department searched by Michigan State Police

Update: March 16th, 11:18 a.m.

Michigan State police officials have not provided details on why they searched  buildings associated with the Romulus Police Department. State Police Inspector Garth Burnside told the Detroit News that the search warrants were part of an ongoing investigation with the Wayne County prosecutor and the FBI.

The Detroit News reports that the following locations were searched:

  • the Romulus police headquarters
  • the home of Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre
  • St. Andre's wife's tanning salon
  • a building housing Police Department records
  • and a residence Burnside declined to identify.

The Detroit News spoke with a lawyer who sued the Police Chief and the City  of Romulus "over the disappearance of $300,000 worth of auto parts seized by Romulus police." The lawyer's client said the auto parts were in a trailer seized by police. According to the News, the Romulus police contended there were no auto parts in the trailer and the case was dismissed in January 2010.
 

March 15th, 11:36 a.m.

The Michigan State Police are saying little about a search warrant served today at the Romulus Police Department.  State Police Inspector Garth Burnside would only confirm that state troopers, along with FBI agents and the Wayne County Prosecutors Office served the warrant at 7 a.m. this morning.

Burnside says the search of the Romulus Police Department is part of an ongoing investigation.

He declined to say what is the focus of the investigation.

crime
10:48 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan Attorney General warns of Japan earthquake/tsunami scams

OFUNATO, Japan (March 15, 2011) - A fishing boat is noticeably out of place after being swept ashore during a massive tsunami that impacted this Japanese fishing port. The town was devastated by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake that triggered the destructive t
(flickr U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew M. Bradley/Released)

Michigan’s Attorney General issued a warning today about a growing number of scams linked to the Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami disaster.  Numerous scams have popped up since last week’s disaster, including a viral video making the rounds on Facebook purporting to show people fleeing the tsunami wave.

 Attorney General Bill Schuette says Michiganders wanting to help should beware of phony charities trying to take advantage of them.  

"Even during tough times, the people of Michigan give generously to charities that assist disaster victims around the world….It's important to take steps to ensure your dollars are not lost to fraud and your financial information remains secure."

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Auto/Economy
9:29 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Howell manufacturing plant to stop production

Marelco Power Systems, Inc. told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that is will stop production at its plant in Howell.

The company makes transformers, inductors, and control systems, among other things, for the auto companies and other manufacturers.

From the Associated Press:

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Budget protests
9:58 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Rallies against Governor Snyder’s proposed budget continue

Rich Fink addresses the crowd in the Heritage Hill neighborhood Tuesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

More than 60 people in Grand Rapids rallied against Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts Tuesday night. Protestors took over a normally quite block in a residential neighborhood.

Speaking into a microphone and speaker set up on a sidewalk, Rich Fink told the crowd he’s a proud member of the Jenison Education Association.

“They are after the middle class and it’s time that we say enough is enough.”

Their signs say they’ve had enough of cuts to public education, fair wages, benefits and most prominently Governor Snyder.

60-year old retired General Motors worker Gregg Shotwell is not against balancing the budget. But he says Snyder’s plan to create jobs by lowering taxes for businesses won’t work. 

“They’re not going to use that tax break to create jobs. Because there’s not going to be greater demand for their products or their services if we’re all making less money.”

Snyder says replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a flat 6% tax on corporate income is "simple fair and efficient."

Shotwell was among many other retired UAW workers who are very upset about Snyder’s plan to tax pensions. But Shotwell says the proposed cuts to public education is what brought him out to the protest.

“Our children are the future and you can’t expect to improve the state of Michigan, improve our economic future if you’re going to sabotage education and this is sabotage.”

If lawmakers approve Snyder’s budget, state funding to public universities would be cut 15 percent. K through 12 schools would be cut by a little more than 4 percent.

Politics
6:27 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Students protest selection of Governor as U of M commencement speaker

The University of Michigan’s selection of Governor Rick Snyder as its Spring commencement speaker has sparked a protest.

U-of-M Senior Rick Durance, a history major and progressive activist, started an online petition asking University Regents to withdraw the invitation.  As of 6:15 p.m. Tuesday evening, 3,759  students have signed it.

Durance says Snyder is a poor choice because he wants to make deep cuts to state funding for K-12 schools and universities. 

Durance says it appears the Governor is only interested in helping business people. 

"This in fact is not the proper person to be speaking for us or representing us at this particular junction of our lives," says Durance.

University of Michigan spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham says it's a time-honored tradition since 1967 for the newly elected governor to present the commencement address.

She says the school is very pleased that Governor Snyder, a three-time alum of the University, was able to accept the invitation.  

Durance says there will be a 1:00 rally on Wednesday on campus against Snyder as commencement speaker. 

But he doesn't favor a commencement boycott, should the petition fail in its goal.    He says students who oppose Snyder should join protests in Lansing.  But at commencement, students should act with decorum.  

"I've already invited people, my parents are going to be there.  I want to be there.  I would not miss my own graduation for the world."

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Awards
5:22 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Michigan Radio recognized for news coverage

Some of Michigan Radio's awards
Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio was recently honored with several awards for its news coverage.

The station put out this news release announcing the awards:

Michigan Radio, the public radio service from the University of Michigan, was recently honored with awards from both the Michigan Associated Press and the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.

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Economy
4:45 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Borders will get more time to review bookstore leases

Borders bookstore located in Arborland shopping center in Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal bankruptcy judge has decided to give Borders Group another 90 days to review leases for its bookstores.   The Ann Arbor-based bookstore change is working to emerge from bankruptcy later this year. Borders is already closing 200 bookstores across the country, including 4 stores in Michigan.   Borders is expected to announce plans to close additional stores and renegotiate leases on about 600 other outlets. 

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State Legislature
4:30 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Item pricing repeal and emergency manager bills clear legislature

Lawmakers moved on the item pricing and emergency fincancial manager bills today.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Two controversial measures have cleared the Michigan Legislature and will soon await Governor Snyder's signature.

One would repeal the law that requires store owners to put price tags on most items in their stores, and the other would grant sweeping power to emergency financial managers.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he agrees with Governor Rick Snyder that Michigan’s item pricing law is outdated, and it’s time to allow retailers to upgrade their systems.

"I've been a proponent for, I don’t know, most of my career I’d say," said Richardville.

Once signed into law, store owners will soon no longer be required to put price tags on almost every item on their shelves.

Richardville says removing price tags will not hurt customers or confuse seniors:

"I don’t think anybody’s trying to maliciously cheat senior citizens. I think if the market demands such, people will make it easy to see what the prices are. Whether it’s individual item pricing, or something different, I think the store owners are pretty responsive to their customers," said Richardville.

Democrats say price tags protect consumers from being overcharged in checkout lines.

The item pricing vote fell mostly along party lines, but that wasn’t the only partisan bill moving through the Legislature.

The Republican-led House also gave final approval to a proposal that gives more authority to emergency managers of cities, townships or school districts.

The legislation passed on party-line votes.

Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel says there are many "union-busting" pieces to the emergency manager bills, including elimination of collective bargaining rights at the local level.

"And on top of that, doing away with contracts of other folks that are just doing business with the local unit of government, so a lot of things that are really problematic for us in this," says Hammel.

Democrats railed against the measure for eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.

Representatives for the labor movement say they will be at the Capitol all week protesting those and other Republican proposals.

tax incentives
4:02 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

MEGA approves tax breaks for 10 companies, nearly 2,000 new jobs

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation headquarters in Lansing. MEDC staff serve the MEGA Board and administer activities and programs.
MEDC

Together the projects will generate up to $602 million in new investments and create close to 2,000 new jobs.

By far the biggest project approved by the board this month is in Charlotte. Spartan Motors Chassis designs and manufactures a variety of special products for vehicles. They’re expected to add 450 new jobs along with an expanded facility.

George Bosnjak manages business development at The Right Place. It’s an economic development group in West Michigan. He helped two companies expanding in Grand Rapids get the tax breaks. Atomic Object LLC will expand its current location over a site in California. They expect to launch two new programs that’ll add 30 high tech software design jobs. Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Company makes all kinds of storage related components in Grand Rapids. They purchased a company in Illinois and will move production to Michigan, creating more than 120 new jobs.  

Bosnjak is optimistic about industry growth in West Michigan.

 “We really see a positive trend across all sectors, certainly nothing where it’ll turn around and change what’s happened over the last three years overnight but I feel that our economy and companies here are certainly moving in the right direction.”

However, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing to eliminate these and many other tax breaks. Bosnjak says they’re playing it by ear.

“I don’t think anyone really knows exactly what the programs will be and what the changes will be and how it’ll affect companies. But we’ll certainly deal with the tools that we have and make the best and do the best job that we can.

Snyder says the incentives inherently pick winners and losers when he says the state needs to create a simple and fair tax structure so all businesses are on an even playing field.

Politics
4:01 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Feds target Medicare fraud in Detroit, nationwide

Two top Obama administration officials want people to know that cracking down on Medicare fraud is a “Cabinet-level priority.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius talked about those efforts at a Wayne State University summit Tuesday. The two have been holding “Health Care Fraud Prevention Summits” across the country.

Sebelius says government agencies and law enforcement are now using new tools to root out that fraud.

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Flint
3:13 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Flint can issue bonds to address deficit, still more to do

The city of Flint has scored a partial victory in its efforts to get its city budget deficit under control.   But there is still more work to do. The city of Flint is looking at a projected $17 million budget deficit.  

City leaders had asked the state for permission to sell $20 million in bonds to stabilize Flint’s budget. But the state only approved  $8 million in bonds. The Flint City Council must still approve the $8 million bond issue. 

Flint mayor Dayne Walling says that will help get the city through the current fiscal year. Flint has already laid off dozens of city employees, including police officers. 

But Walling says Flint may need to cut $12 million in city spending next year. The mayor says a proposed change in state revenue sharing could force evcen deeper cuts next year.

“We of course need to see where the state finally comes down with state revenue sharing when they’re through with their budget process.  Of course the legislature will have its say on the governor’s proposal.”

Flint, like other Michigan cities, stands to lose millions of dollars under the governor’s proposed changes to state revenue sharing.

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