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Offbeat
4:22 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Don't they know it's the end of the world?

The Dam Site Inn in Hell, MI, is prepared for end-of-the-world visitors.
Rina Miller Michigan Radio

Harold Camping runs the Family Radio network of religious stations. He wants you to know that the end is near.

Camping says Judgment Day will be May 21, 2011.

The 89-year-old broadcaster has created quite a stir. Some people are taking his warning literally and they're trying to persuade the rest of us to take heed.

But others are having fun with the idea. They're throwing end-of-the-world parties and planning for post-Rapture looting.

And then there are the folks who take it all in stride -- no more so than in Hell, MI.

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On the Radio
4:17 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

In case you missed it...

user cpstorm Flickr

Turn your radio dial to public radio and you're bound to come across some great stories and interviews. It's impossible to hear them all, but here are a few I caught in that last week that I thought I'd share with you.

Fresh Air - 'Book of Mormon' Creators on their Broadway Smash

The creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker are known for making fun of just about everybody on their show.

Mormonism has been one religion that often seems to be a target of ridicule on South Park.

So when Stone and Parker decided create a musical about Mormons, I'd assumed it would be a musical that would take a cynical look at the religion - but it doesn't - from NPR's Fresh Air:

If you think the musical skewers Mormons, though, think again. Parker and Stone do challenge the literal credibility of the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But the Mormons they write about come across as lovable and optimistic.

"I don't think anybody would want to see a two-hour-long Mormon-bashing, and we wouldn't want to see that either," Parker tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Stone and Parker said that in musicals, "everyone wants to see a piece of themselves up there."

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Economy
4:00 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Michigan's gas pain easing

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A gasoline industry analyst expects Michigan’s gas prices will continue to decline through the Memorial Day weekend. Gas prices peaked at well over $4.25 a gallon this month.  But for the past few weeks, gas prices have declined steadily. 

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Offbeat
2:16 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

US won't pay for Ferrari wrecked by FBI agent

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department is refusing to pay $750,000 to a Michigan insurance company for a Ferrari that was wrecked in Kentucky during a drive by an FBI agent.

In a recent court filing in Detroit, the Justice Department says it's immune to tort claims when certain goods are in the hands of law enforcement.

The 1995 Ferrari F50 was being stored in Lexington, Ky., as part of an investigation into stolen vehicles. A prosecutor says he was invited by an FBI agent to ride in the vehicle in May 2009. He says the agent lost control, and the car landed against bushes and a small tree.

Southfield-based Motors Insurance Co. says the Ferrari is a total loss. The next court hearing is June 13 in Detroit.

Arts/Culture
12:23 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

DSO announces its 2011-2012 season

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra announced its 2011-2012 season today.   The DSO is trying to recover from a contract dispute between its management and musicians that scuttled much of the 2010-2011 season.   The DSO is late in announcing its 2011-2012 season plans.   A Chicago based arts consultant says the late announcement will probably not help the DSO overc

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Economy
11:50 am
Fri May 20, 2011

U of M planning health care policy institute

The University of Michigan has announced that it's planning a new health care policy institute in the
complex that once belonged to drugmaker Pfizer Inc.

The university said Thursday the Institute for Health Care Policy and Innovation aims to inform and influence public policy and enhance efforts to improve health care services.

More than 500 researchers eventually could be part of the new institute at the North Campus Research Complex, Pfizer's former research and development center the Ann Arbor school bought in 2009
for $108 million.

The university says it will launch a national search for an institute director. It expects a $13.7 million renovation project to be completed next spring.

Commentary
11:47 am
Fri May 20, 2011

A Life Remembered

Al Fishman called me last week, full of energy as ever, wanting some advice. He wanted to put together a big debate over the national budget  in Michigan. Wanted to show people things could be more fair. I told him I thought people here were more concerned with the state budget crisis right now. “I know that,” he said.

“But state and local budgets also reflect the spending priorities of the federal government,” he explained. What he wanted me to do was to suggest a television personality who could moderate the forum, someone who might help boost attendance.

I suggested a few names. Yesterday morning, Al, who was eighty-two and big on physical fitness, went to the doctor to have a tricky knee looked at. He was in the waiting room when the heart attack came. He may never have known what hit him.

Fishman wasn’t a big name, outside of what his opponents would have called the “left-wing labor community.” There, he was revered, though he didn’t seem to know that.

He acted like just another guy who had just discovered something was wrong in society, and had decided to try to fix it. What was most unusual about him was his energy level and his attitude.

No matter how many times the system disappointed him, no matter how many new wars or atrocities or unfairnesses he lived through, Al never stopped fighting. There was injustice in the world, and he thought it was up to all of us to do something about it.

What he wanted most of all was to abolish war, the nuclear threat, and any kind of discrimination. He grew up in New York City and saw all those things in the army right after World War II.

He came to these parts to attend the University of Michigan, but got involved in politics, and never finished. Perhaps his biggest success came by accident. He married a Serbian-American girl from Detroit, and their political activity caused the Air Force, back in the Red Scare days, to try to kick out her brother, who wasn’t political at all. Edward R. Murrow took up his cause and did one of the most famous programs in television history about it: The Case of Lieutenant Milo Radulovich. That show enabled Murrow to go on to help destroy the demagogue Joe McCarthy.

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State
9:32 am
Fri May 20, 2011

Secretary of State computer problem fixed, hours extended

A mainframe computer system problem that interrupted business at Michigan Secretary of State offices was fixed.

Now the Secretary of State offices will hold extended hours to sort through a backlog.

From the Associated Press:

Secretary of state branches across Michigan are extending their hours through Monday after a computer system problem interrupted transactions over the past several days.

State officials say it will take time to address the backlog created by the outage, which suspended operations for parts of this past Monday and Wednesday and nearly all of Thursday.

As a result, branch offices will stay open later on Friday, Saturday and Monday.

The secretary of state's office also says late fees will be waived for affected customers coming into branches through the end of business on May 27.

The office has alerted law enforcement that some customers were unable to renew their vehicle tabs or driver's licenses during the computer outage.

Commentary
6:30 am
Fri May 20, 2011

Prom night tip: check those coat buttons

Looking good on prom night.
Aaron Alexander Flickr

It was ninth grade, back when ninth graders still stayed in junior high. 

I had detention. I don’t remember why.  But so did the best looking girl in the class, whom I’ll call Rhonda—because, that was her name.

The catch was, she was dating Benny, the captain of the football team.  But, at detention, I learned there was trouble in paradise.  Oh yes.  They had broken up, with just four days to go before the big ninth grade dance. 

Tragic! 

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Politics
1:01 am
Fri May 20, 2011

Recall battle

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Michigan
(Official state portrait)

Thousands of people are expected to descend on the state capitol on Saturday to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s policies.    Organizers plan to kick off a petition campaign to have the governor recalled from office.  

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Economy
6:25 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Michigan economist on state's new tax structure

Charles Ballard, economist Michigan State University
Michigan State University

Governor Snyder and the legislature have come to an agreement on the state’s new tax structure. Does it make fiscal sense?

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University and author of “Michigan’s Economic Future.” Here's the interview.

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Auto/Economy
6:03 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Energy-efficient GM Orion plant ready to build fuel-efficient (and profitable) cars

Orion Assembly workers will be producing a new subcompact car for General Motors in about a month at the automaker's newly-renovated plant in Lake Orion. 

GM doesn’t plan to lose money on the Chevy Sonic, even though small cars are less profitable --which is why other major car companies make their smallest cars in lower-cost countries.   

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Politics
3:48 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Detroit pension board agrees to debt payment changes

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Trustees of Detroit’s general retirement system have agreed to let the city spread out its debt payments over a longer period. It's just one of the changes the city’s mayor is seeking to balance the budget.

The change will save the city about $13 million, and if Detroit’s police and fire pension board trustees agree to a similar move, it bring the total savings to $65 million.

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Politics
3:37 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Democrats feel slighted on budget deal

A budget deal was reached between Governor Snyder and the State Legislature, but democrats say they feel slighted by the deal.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have reached a budget deal for the coming fiscal year.

The plan will use hundreds of millions of dollars from a tax revenue windfall to lessen proposed cuts to K-12 schools.

Democratic leaders say the plan violates a deal they agreed to last week, because the money doesn’t go directly to replace the cuts. Instead it will be used to urge schools to cut costs, and help make retirement payments.

"I think that we should motivate people to do the right thing and to find efficiencies where they can," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. "And if you want to incentivize them with extra dollars, I’m comfortable with that idea. But this violates the agreement that we had, and the agreement was that we would mitigate the per-pupil foundation allowance so that the dollars would get right into the classroom with the kids."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says negotiations could have gone more smoothly with Democrats.

"There was no malice, there was no intent to mislead or anything like that, we don’t have that kind of a relationship. But this is the first time that this group of people is actually getting together and negotiating a deal, so there may have been some improvements laid out, we could probably do things better than we did, and we’ll continue to work toward that."

There is about a week and a half left before Governor Snyder’s self-imposed, May 31 budget deadline.

Richardville says he expects the Legislature to meet that goal.

Smoking Ban
3:29 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Michigan's smoking ban - One Year Later

(photo by Michigan Radio Staff)

State health officials received nearly 15 hundred complaints about businesses violating Michigan’s public smoking ban during the first year of the ban’s existence.  The smoking ban took effect on May 1st, 2010.

James McCurtis is with the Department of Community Health.     He says for a lot of businesses getting a citation for violating the smoking ban has been like getting a speeding ticket from a state trooper. 

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Politics
2:52 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Computer outage at Secretary of State offices will not be fixed today

The Michigan Department of Management, Budget and Technology says the computer outage affecting Secretary of State branch offices will not be fixed before the close of business today.

A spokesman says technicians will work through the night, if necessary, to fix the problems.

The shutdown of a mainframe computer also prevents State Police troopers from conducting license and vehicle checks, but not from issuing tickets.

Economy
2:02 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Two minimum wage incomes needed to purchase a home

 A Michigan family needs two people working full-time at minimum wage in order to afford a modest home. That’s according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The report says, the cost of housing has risen 27% in Michigan over 11 years, but wages have not increased.

Danilo Pelletiere is with the housing coalition. He says the gap between housing prices and wages has become a problem in the state.

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Environment
1:54 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Southwest Detroit residents want health investigation

Many people call Detroit a “post-industrial” city.

But residents in one corner of the city still live alongside a cluster of heavy industry, and they say it’s affecting their health. Now, community members in southwest Detroit want the state to do more to find out just how extensive those health impacts might be.

Southwest Detroit is home to a number of heavy industrial sites. Some effects can be seen with the naked eye: from hazy diesel truck fumes to an eerie metallic dust residents say has rained down on their neighborhood. But others are more subtle. The neighborhood is full of children with asthma. Residents also blame the pollution for cancer and other deadly illnesses, though such a link hasn’t been definitively established.

Now, southwest Detroit residents are pushing hard for the government to launch a thorough investigation into those potential health impacts.

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Environment
1:50 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

More corn in your gas tank?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says gas stations can now sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for all cars built in 2001 or after. Right now, when you fill up in Michigan, your gasoline has 10% ethanol.

The EPA says E15 gasoline will help reduce our need for foreign oil. Ethanol is made from plants like corn. The EPA only tested the effects of E15 on emissions and catalytic converters.

But ethanol is corrosive. Patrick Kelly is with the American Petroleum Institute.

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Culture
1:15 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Jack Kevorkian in hospital with kidney problems

Jack Kevorkian speaking at UCLA last January.
Greg Asatrian wikimedia commons

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) - A lawyer says assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian is in a Detroit-area hospital with pneumonia and kidney problems.

Mayer Morganroth says Kevorkian was reluctant but agreed to go to Beaumont Hospital on Wednesday night. He predicts Kevorkian will be there for several days.

Kevorkian turns 83 next week. Morganroth says his health is not in grave danger but "it's not a good thing right now."

Kevorkian was released from a Michigan prison in 2007 after serving eight years for second-degree murder. He claims to have assisted in at least 130 suicides.

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