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Auto/Economy
4:19 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

GM to add 250-400 jobs to Toledo factory

Brandon C Flickr

A General Motors transmission factory will be adding 250 to 400 jobs, according to a union official quoted by the Associated Press.

The announcement will be made by CEO Dan Akerson and UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.

The AP reports:

A union official says General Motors plans to add 250 to 400 jobs at its transmission factory in Toledo, Ohio.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

The fiery debate over roll-your-own cigarette machines

User inc_hip Flickr

Smoke shop owners are feeling the heat in Michigan as 300 shops received warnings in March from the Michigan Department of the Treasury, according to the Detroit News.

The offense?

Using an "automated roll-your-own machine," which the Department of the Treasury claims amounts to the illegal manufacture of cigarettes.

The smokes from the machine can be up to 50% cheaper than buying brand name cigarettes.

From the Detroit News:

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Science/Medicine
3:00 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Concerns about bias in commercially-funded medical education

User apoxapox Flickr

There is concern among healthcare professionals about potential bias in commercially-funded Continuing Medical Education (CME), according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

CME refers to specific activities--including live events, conferences and online programs--that healthcare professionals participate in for the purposes of professional development.

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Auto/Economy
2:12 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Stabenow and Peters push for investments in advanced auto technologies

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Gary Peters say the government should do more to help the auto industry mass-produce fuel-efficient technologies.

The two Democrats were at Bosch auto supplier headquarters in suburban Detroit today to urge Congressional support for the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.

The bill would authorize $300 million a year for private sector fuel-efficiency research.

Peters says "this is just the right thing to do" with Michigan gas prices at record highs:

 "You’re going to hear a lot of ideas about drilling and other types of ideas, but really the best idea is to push the technology," said Peters. "Push innovation. And that’s what we do here in the Detroit area better than anybody else in the world, and that’s innovate with vehicles and automobiles."

Peters says the legislation has support from both environmental and business groups.

The bill passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support last year, but it couldn’t get through the Senate.

Auto/Economy
1:54 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Ten high speed train and rail projects announced today

User seemidtn Flickr

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the investment of over $2 billion in high speed rail projects around the country.

But what are the actual projects?

The entire list is available at the Department of Transportation's website, which has the full press release.

But here are some highlights (including full descriptions from the press release on the two Michigan projects.

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Environment
1:51 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Detroiters talk land use and the environment

Greening of Detroit

Detroiters who want a say in how the city manages its land gathered for an environmental summit last week.

Activists and community leaders organized the summit so citizens could provide input on environmental aspects of the Detroit Works Project, an ongoing project to deal with the city’s huge swaths of vacant land.

Jackie Victor lives and owns a small business in Detroit.

She says city planners need to look at Detroit’s land and natural resources as assets rather than liabilities.

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Auto/Economy
12:15 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Officials investigate fuel tank problem on F-150s

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at Ford F-150s from the 1997 through 2001 model years. It's investigating a fuel tank problem that could affect more than 2.7 million pickup trucks.
user cogdogblog Flickr

The government is investigating the safety of some Ford F-150 trucks.

From the Associated Press:

U.S. safety regulators are investigating a fuel tank problem that could affect more than 2.7 million Ford F-150 pickup trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that the steel straps holding up the gas tank can rust and break, possibly causing a fuel spill and fire.

The agency says it is looking into trucks from the 1997 through 2001 model years. The F-150 is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S.

NHTSA says there are 243 reports of the tanks falling and causing two fires. No injuries have been reported.

The agency began looking at the problem last year when it had received 32 complaints.

Ford says it's cooperating with the investigation. Anyone with concerns should contact their dealer.

Politics
11:03 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Recall petition against State Rep who introduced EFM laws denied

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Dennis Knowles reviews recall language at his office in city hall. Most of Knowles' power was stripped away by the city's state appointed emergency manager.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Election officials in Southwest Michigan rejected language for a recall petition against State Representative Al Pscholka this morning. They rejected the language because they said it wasn’t clear enough.

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Dennis Knowles filed the recall petition. Knowles wants to recall Pscholka for supporting the state’s new law that gives emergency managers more power over cities and school districts with major financial problems.

Knowles says the new laws “trash democracy.”

 “For specific reasons, that it allows super powers for dictatorship for a emergency financial manager; doing away with municipal governments and school boards.”

The law has provisions that could allow an emergency manager to ask the governor to remove elected officials from office.

Pscholka's response

Pscholka says most of people he talks to in Benton Harbor say they support the law. 

“Most of them really are kind of sick and tired of the financial mismanagement, the patronage, and really what some folks would describe as corruption.”

He says residents in Benton Harbor are being used as political pawns. He notes the city has had financial problems for several years.

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Transportation
11:02 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Details of higher speed rail project announced today

New funding for higher-speed rail in Michigan.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

Passenger rail in Michigan will get some upgrades because of a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Most of $199 million granted to the state will go toward improving the rail lines between Detroit and Chicago so passenger trains can travel faster.

The improvements are expected to allow trains to travel at top speeds of 110 m.p.h. rather than 95 m.p.h. The Department of Transportation says the improvements will cut 30 minutes off the time to travel between Detroit and Chicago.

Senators Levin and Stabenow put out a press release this morning with some of the details of the plan.

They say the track will be improved between Kalamazoo and Dearborn:

[the] rail project will rehabilitate track and signal systems to allow trains to travel at 110 mph for the 135-mile stretch. The current obsolete signal system will be replaced with a positive train control system, improving safety. The grant fully funds the state's request.

Levin and Stabenow say $2.8 million in Recovery Act funds will also be used to start the process of building a new train station in Ann Arbor:

The Ann Arbor Station's $2.8 million will be used to complete a preliminary engineering and environmental study required to design and construct a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor Station is the busiest Amtrak station in Michigan, but only has single-tracking capacity, forcing intercity trains to block the mainline while serving the station. By constructing a passing track, more than one train will be able to service the station while others can pass unimpeded.

The money being spent in Michigan is part of $2 billion in new spending on rail service across the country. The U.S. Department of Transportation made the spending announcements today.

Rail passengers in Michigan will see new locomotives and passenger cars as a result of the spending. Seven higher-speed locomotives and 48 new passenger cars will run between Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is attending the press conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood scheduled for today at 2:30 today in Detroit. We'll hear more from her later.

Commentary
10:37 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Hope and Despair in Detroit

Two years ago, a band of young idealists crisscrossed Detroit, collecting signatures. They had a goal: To make the city a better place to live, with a decent, responsive, functioning government.

They thought the place to start was revising the city charter to  elect a council that would be responsible and responsive. For years, all nine council members have been elected at large, which meant they are in charge of everything and nothing.

They easily could and did ignore constituents they found annoying. Not that this mattered much; as it now stands, Detroit council members have the power to approve the budget and major city projects, but they are powerless to do small everyday things.

They cannot, for example, even ask the lighting department to replace a burned out bulb in a street light.

Worse, the system is set up to produce the worst possible results. Voters are supposed to select nine names from a primary ballot that may include two hundred names. Nobody can possibly know enough to do that, so they pick familiar-sounding ones.

In recent years, this had led to the election of a former school board member famous for being corrupt and the bizarre wife of a congressman who set new standards for bad behavior. Both are in jail now. In recent years, the council has also included an ex-congresswoman who lost her job after holding a fundraiser in a strip club and a once-famous singer who often did not appear to realize where she was or why she was there.

Well, the idealists made things happen. They got voters to approve writing a new charter, and this November, it will be on the ballot. If voters approve, Detroit in the future will have only two at large councilpersons. The other seven will represent manageable-sized districts of just over one hundred thousand residents each.

Other things the new charter would do include creating an inspector general who would investigate waste, abuse, fraud and corruption in city government, and enact mandatory disclosure rules on contractors and lobbyists making political contributions.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad.

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News Roundup
8:25 am
Mon May 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 9th, 2011

Budget Debate Continues in Lansing

Governor Rick Snyder enters a critical week as he tries to sell his tax and budget plans to state lawmakers, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The governor is still trying to build support from his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. There’s wide agreement on scrapping the Michigan Business Tax and switching to a corporate profits tax while giving most businesses a tax cut. But even a lot of Republicans are balking at a new tax on pensions as well as ending nearly two dozen tax breaks. A state Senate committee is expected to hold hearings and vote on the governor’s tax plan this week - with a Senate floor vote as soon as Thursday.

Train Money

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be in Detroit this afternoon for an announcement regarding high speed rail. The Obama administration designated billions of dollars for high speed rail projects in Illinois, California and Florida. But, Florida’s governor passed on the federal funds. It now appears Michigan may end up getting some of the money that was originally supposed to go to the Sunshine state… we’ll find out more at today’s announcement in Detroit.

Plane Cleared to Fly After “Security Threat”

It was reported yesterday that a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to San Diego had to be diverted to New Mexico on Sunday over what authorities called a, “potential security threat.” The plane has now been cleared to take off again. From the Associated Press:

Albuquerque International Sunport spokesman Daniel Jiron says the 107 passengers aboard the flight were interviewed, as was the crew. He says passengers will be allowed to continue their trip. Jiron has declined to specify what the nature of the potential threat was. FBI spokesman Frank Fisher also declined to clarify. The flight was diverted at 10 a.m. MDT. Jiron says it was cleared to fly again around 12:30 p.m. but doesn't know what time the plane would take off.

Investigative
7:42 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Redistricting: drawing the political maps

Michigan's 110 House Districts. Plans are underway to redraw the district lines after the results of the 2010 Census.
Michigan Geographic Framework

States must redraw congressional and legislative maps to adjust for the shifts in population when the census numbers are released every ten years.  This time Michigan lost population while other states gained.  That means Michigan will lose a representative in Congress.  But there were also shifts of population within the state which means the state house and senate districts will have to be redrawn.

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What's Working
6:52 am
Mon May 9, 2011

What's Your Art?

2010 ArtPrize exhibit displayed in Grand Rapids
HarrisinMI / Flickr

This week, What’s Working is taking a trip to Grand Rapids to focus on the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. Many of us are familiar with the annual ArtPrize event held each fall in Grand Rapids, but there are many other art events taking place in the city throughout the year. The What’s Your Art? campaign aims to raise awareness of the many arts-based events held year-round in the Grand Rapids area.

Caroline Older is the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, and she is overseeing the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. She says What’s Your Art is focused on supporting the culture of art in Grand Rapids more than any one specific event.

“The goal is a long-term goal, not a short-term answer. The impetus behind the What’s Your Art campaign came in the fall of 2008, when we all know the stock market tanked. It was a very tough time for lots of non-profit organizations, and the foundations in our area were looking at ways to try and help support arts organizations. And what we wanted to do was raise awareness about how incredibly rich this region is with its arts and cultural organizations. And we’re so thrilled that ArtPrize takes place, and we wanted to leverage the excitement that ArtPrize brings to the arts for the other forty-nine weeks of the year when ArtPrize isn’t taking place.”

Older says that, while What’s Your Art is still in its startup phase, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to the campaign’s success thus far.

“When we started it, we were very much hoping to help organizations drive some ticket sales. And who knew at that time that websites such as Groupon or, I think it’s LivingSocial, would be developed and be so successful at marketing last-minute ticket deals. And lots of arts organizations have ended up using those.”

Although What’s Your Art is a work in progress, Older says the campaign is developing ways of measuring its success as it evolves.

“In terms of measuring the success, we’re looking at how many people we have reading our e-newsletter which is growing exponentially each month. We have Facebook followers and we’re looking at how many additional Facebook followers we get each month, and the same thing for Twitter. And then of course we’re measuring how many visitors we get to the website, but, as I said, it’s all a work in progress. We’re very excited about the support that we’ve received from the foundations in town, particularly the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, in helping us with marketing and public relations needs in regards to this effort.”

Older says technology and social networks have proven themselves as effective ways to raise awareness about the arts. But she says people sometimes underestimate the various benefits a healthy art culture can have for a local community.

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State Budget
6:42 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Snyder says tax reform and budget on track

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder enters a critical week as he tries to sell his tax and budget plans to state lawmakers. The governor is still trying to build support from his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. There’s wide agreement on scrapping the Michigan Business Tax and switching to a corporate profits tax while giving most businesses a tax cut. But even a lot of Republicans are balking at a new tax on pensions as well as ending nearly two dozen tax breaks.

On the budget side, many lawmakers continue to push back against the size of cuts the governor’s suggested for to K-through-12 schools. But the governor says the work will get done on time:

“I just view it as part of the process. We did our proposal.  We get different feedback from the House and the Senate. There’s differing views in both of those houses, and we’re going to work through it and we’re on a path to get it done by May 31st.”

That’s the deadline the governor has set for finishing work on the budget and tax reforms.

A state Senate committee is expected to hold hearings and vote on the governor’s tax plan this week -- with a Senate floor vote as soon as Thursday.

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Politics
1:01 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Michigan may get more federal money for high speed rail

The future of passenger rail service in Michigan may take a big leap forward today. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation will be in Detroit this afternoon for an announcement concerning “high speed rail." 

Michigan’s been down this track before. State transportation officials had high hopes last year when the Obama  administration planned to invest billions of dollars in developing  high speed rail projects across the country.  

State officials lobbied hard for the federal government to upgrade the  rail link between Detroit and Chicago, so trains could travel between the two cities at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. But, while the administration designated billions of dollars for projects in Illinois, California and Florida. Michigan only received a small amount of money to upgrade some Amtrak stations.  

But, Florida’s new governor decided his state didn’t want the two billion dollars the Obama administration was offering.  It appears Michigan and New York may end up splitting the money. We’ll find out  specifics later today. 

Florida’s not the first state to say “no” to federal high speed rail  money.  Wisconsin and Ohio also declined.  

Amtrak reported last month that ridership is rising on all three  passenger rail lines it operates in Michigan.

Politics
3:01 pm
Sun May 8, 2011

The race for Flint mayor begins

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tuesday is the deadline for anyone who wants to be the mayor of Flint to get their nominating petition filed with the city clerk. More than 2 dozen people have expressed an interest in being Flint’s next mayor, including the man who currently holds the office.  

Dayne Walling plans to turn in his nominating petitions before Tuesday’s deadline. He’s been mayor since a special election a few years ago.  

“I’ve been in the position for less than 2 years at this point.  A lot of the work we’ve had to do has been to clean up the old messes.”  

Not everyone is happy with the job Walling’s done as mayor. Under Walling’s watch, violent crime has soared as budget cuts forced the city to lay off police officers.

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Arts/Culture
3:00 pm
Sun May 8, 2011

National study shows an arts degree can lead to a job

The SNAAP survey shows 92% of arts students who wanted a job after graduation got one.
Dani Davis

A new national survey shows that, despite what many may think, students who major in the arts are not destined for a life of unemployment.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) surveyed more than 13,000 alumni from arts schools around the country were surveyed.

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Developing: Delta Airlines
2:44 pm
Sun May 8, 2011

Delta Airlines flight from DTW diverted for potential security risk

UPDATE at 3:35: An airport spokesman says a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to San Diego that was diverted to Albuquerque, N.M. on Sunday has been cleared to take off again after authorities investigated a "potential security threat." 

UPDATE at 3:07: Television station KOB reports note was a bomb threat.

UPDATE at 2:55 pm:  Transportation Security Administration tells CNN a suspicious note was found in the lavatory by a flight attendant. 

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Environment
1:17 pm
Sun May 8, 2011

Flint "karate farmers" win award

Karate, farming, and conservation go hand in hand, at Flint's King Karate
Flickr user JadeXJustice

Two black belts have combined karate and urban farming, in a push to revitalize a Flint-area neighborhood, and they’ve just won the Small Farmer of the Year award for Michigan.

The award goes to husband and wife, Jacky and Dora King. They run the King  Karate school and the Harvesting Earth Educational Farm.

On their website, the King's say they employ local youth to help out on the farm.

"We have had students who did not know that potatoes grow in the ground, but thought instead they grew in trees!"

The Flint Journal reports the couple beat out farmers in Isabella and Ionia counties for the award.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the award recognizes farmers based on their conservation efforts, such as preventing erosion and water contamination, and community involvement. The farm also has been nominated for the national Lloyd Wright Small Black Farmer Award.

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Politics
5:31 pm
Sat May 7, 2011

Protesters rally against Gov. Snyder at Blossomtime Parade

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Dennis Knowles (second to left) yells "traitor!" at Governor Rick Snyder as he walks down Main Street in Benton Harbor.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People came from as far away as Wisconsin to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s appearance in a parade through St. Joe and Benton Harbor Saturday afternoon. The governor of Michigan is invited to be the Grand Marshall of the parade every year.

“They asked me some time ago to participate in this wonderful festival and event and I’m happy to be here. And to the degree that people are exercising their democratic rights, I respect that. But it’s mainly about a quarter of a million people having a great day enjoying a wonderful part of Michigan.”

About 150 protesters mixed in with those gathered to watch the Blossomtime parade. They followed Snyder throughout the parade chanting “Recall Rick now!” and “Shame!” But there were some cheers of support mixed in with the demands to recall Snyder.

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