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3:21 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

Mubarak steps down

From the BBC's live coverage of celebrations in Egypt's Tahrir Square. BBC correspondent says Mubarak's resignation has turned the "whole of the Middle East upside down."
BBC News

Update 3:21 p.m.:

President Obama made remarks today about the events in Egypt:

Obama said in Egypt "the wheel of history has changed at a blinding pace,"  and that the United States will continue to be a "friend and partner of Egypt" and "asks for a peaceful transition to democracy."

Obama said the people in Egypt are saying, "for the first time in my life, I really count," and that the "people of Egypt call for a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations."

Obama said the events in Egypt were peaceful and powerful - "this is the power of human dignity and it can never be denied."

Obama likened the events in Egypt to people in Germany taking down the Berlin Wall, Gandhi's movement in India, and Martin Luther King's movement here at home. He said it was "non-violence - moral force - that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."

"There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom," Obama said.

Update 3:00 p.m.:

President Obama's press conference:

[Live stream has ended]

Update 2:39 p.m.:

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with Mohamed El-Sayed today. El-Sayed is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He was born and raised in Egypt and gave this heartfelt reaction to the events unfolding today in Egypt:

MOHAMED EL-SAYED: Well I want to tell you that this was the moment of my whole life. People might not believe it, but it is the truth. You just live your life and there is a moment that you would like to have lived.

GUERRA: What do you mean by that?

MOHAMED EL-SAYED: What I mean by that is in your whole life, there is a moment that you wish to see happen and when it happens, you thank God that you're alive to see it because in a way you start thinking that it might not happen at all. And then you lose hope. And then suddenly you get hope again and then it happens and then you feel: I am really glad that I'm witnessing this moment, not just because it's a historical moment and you're part of the people, it's just because you have lived your life wishing that the people of Egypt would see what the people in the U.S. take for granted: their freedom, their ability to talk and govern themselves.

Update 1:15pm:

President Obama was scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m. today. He's now schedued to speak at 3 p.m.:

Update 12:58 p.m.:

The military now heads up Egypt. The BBC reports:

The head of the new high military council, Field Marshal Tantawi, has greeted crowds outside the presidential palace, according to AFP.

Asked about the military - including Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi - now being in charge, Mohamed ElBaradei tells the BBC: "I think it is not going to just be Tantawi, but the whole military leadership. I also understand that they are going to reach out to all sections of Egyptian society. I hope it will want to share power with civilians through the transitional period. I hope we will have a presidential council, a government of national unity and have enough time - perhaps a year - to prepare for genuine and free elections."

You can watch Al Jazeera's live coverage of events here.

Update 11:56 a.m.:

President Obama is expected to make a statement at 1:30 p.m. today.

The Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama learned of President Hosni Mubarak's decision to resign during a White House meeting. And then, like people all over the world, Obama watched television coverage of history unfolding. The White House said Obama watched news coverage of the hoopla in Cairo for several minutes on a television set just outside the Oval Office. The stunning announcement came one day after Mubarak surprised the people of his country and the White House by refusing to resign.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Egyptian diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei  had a conversation just moments ago with NPR's Robert Siegel. From NPR's The Two Way:

Hearing the news that Mubarak was stepping down, "reminded me of the moment I received the Nobel Peace Prize." But today, was "more emotional. ... We are emancipating 85 million people who have been repressed for decades."

Update 11:26 a.m.:

The BBC has live video of Tahrir Square in Egypt.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says: "The announcement took everyone by surprise and caused immediate and riotous celebration in Tahrir Square."

"Around Cairo, drivers are honking their horns in celebration and guns are being fired into the air. The huge crowds are rejoicing. However, the army takeover looks very much like a coup. The constitution has been breached. Officially, the speaker of parliament should be taking over. Instead it is the army leadership. Egypt moves into a very uncertain future."

Update 11:19 a.m.:

From the Two Way - The BBC's transcription of the vice president's statement:

"In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody."

11:09 a.m.

We're getting reports that Mubarak has stepped down. NPR's Two Way is live blogging the event:

Al-Jazeera reports:

"He's gone. He's resigned. 30 years of Mubarak rule is over. Omar Suleiman says: 'President Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of president.' "

The New York Times reports:

President Hosni Mubarak left the Egyptian capital for his resort home in Sharm el-Sheik on Friday and was expected to make a statement, state television said, amid indications that a transfer of power was under way.

The Egyptian military issued a communiqué pledging to carry out a variety of constitutional reforms in a statement notable for its commanding tone. The military’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to Vice President Omar Suleiman and it suggested that the military would supervise implementation of the reforms.

Coal plants
3:05 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

State issues permit for Holland to expand coal-fired-power plant

Holland is considering replacing one of the units at the James DeYoung power plant.
Holland BPW

The state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment initially denied the air quality permit. That’s because former Governor Jennifer Granholm said the state must consider whether or not a community really needs more power before issuing a permit. An Ottawa County judge ruled that’s not a good enough reason to deny the permit and ordered the DNRE to review the permit application by this Sunday.

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Politics
2:55 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

Revolution 2.0

User darkroom productions Flickr

According to The Nation, Whael Ghomin, the Google executive detained by Egyptian police for 12 days, tweeted this as he found out that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was stepping down:

"Welcome back Egypt!"

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Economy
2:46 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

Borders Books may file for bankruptcy Monday

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy protection on Monday or Tuesday next week. The Ann Arbor-based bookseller has struggled in recent years as book buyers have migrated from big box stores to the web.

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State Budget
11:16 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Budget countdown: Corrections

under the state capitol dome
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Next week, Governor Rick Snyder will deliver a budget plan that his own Lt. Governor has described as an ‘atomic bomb’ of spending cuts. Michigan’s Corrections Department is expected to be a prime target. 

Michigan is facing a state budget deficit next year estimated at $1.8 billion. 

Michigan spends nearly $2 billion a year housing more than 44,000  inmates. The number of inmates has declined by more than 7,000 during the past five years.  And the number of prison employees has shrunk by nearly 4 thousand in the past decade.  

Still, conservative groups say more savings can be wrung out of the Corrections Department with privatization.

Mel Greishaber is with the prison guards union.  He warns privatizing some prison jobs might save money, but it will increase security problems.  

“Often...civilians who come in and work are not as sensitive to the safety issues and security issues that they need to be.”  

Greishaber is also worried about the level of experience state lawmakers have with Michigan's prison system.  A large percentage of state lawmakers are new to the job.   Greishaber notes that few members of the largely first term legislature have ever even visited a state prison.

 “Everyone comes in with preconceived notions.  They’ve watched movies which almost always are not the real life situation."

Environment
10:37 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Fracking leak in Michigan

Since producing a Michigan Watch series on the "hydraulic fracking" boom in Michigan last September and October on Michigan Radio, not much has been said or done about this method of drilling for natural gas.

A leak has now put the issue back in the news.

The Associated reports a leak has shut down a drilling operation not too far from Traverse City.

It's not yet clear whether it will damage underground water sources.  It does raise questions as to whether Michigan regulations are adequate to protect the environment while exploiting the gas reserves in the state.

Investigative
9:43 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Economic gardening? What's that?

Michael Finney - As CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, he's the state's chief "economic gardener."
Photo courtesy of Inforummichigan.org and Peplin Photographic (larrypeplin.com)

When the Governor gave his State of the State speech, I was standing on the crowded floor of the House of Representatives.  Governor Rick Snyder outlined his plans to get Michigan back to work.  We all listened as he said the Michigan Economic Development Corporation would lead the way.

“The MEDC will recalibrate its efforts and become a better partner with these regional groups to enhance economic gardening, talent enhancement, and support service to companies.”

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Commentary
8:47 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Michigander: The Backstory

I realize there are a few other things going on today, such as the mess in Egypt, and the aftermath of President Obama’s historic trip to Marquette, where they gave him a Stormy Kromer hat.

There’s also a major story the media missed last night. Governor Rick Snyder spoke briefly at a Michigan State University political leadership forum in Livonia, remarks that included a sensational announcement.

Mr. Snyder said he would remain in office until the Lions appear in the Super Bowl. Which means he pretty much declared himself governor for life. The Lions last won a world championship the year I entered kindergarten, a year before Governor Snyder was born.

Maybe that’s an approach Hosni Mubarak should have tried, telling his people that the second the Lions won, he’d be history.

Anyway. I need to get on to the really important story of the day, which is the new poll by Resch Strategies that showed that by a margin of fifty-eight percent to twelve percent, citizens of this state prefer to call ourselves Michiganders, not Michiganians.

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Governor Snyder
8:34 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Snyder makes bold prediction

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

The crowd at a fundraising dinner for the Michigan Political Leadership program was maybe hoping Governor Rick Snyder would drop some clues on what’s going to be in his budget proposal next week.

The governor revealed almost nothing about his spending plan. But he did make a bold sports prediction. Governor Snyder said:

"Before I finish office, the Lions will be in the Super Bowl – how’s that?"

The governor did not say if that would be in the next four years – or if a championship season for the Lions would require a second term. The Lions record last season was six victories to 10 losses, following a winless season in 2009.

Commentary
8:13 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Super Bowl Hoopla

A storm trooper prepares to take the stage at a downtown Pittsburgh Super Bowl XLV rally
user daveynin Flickr

Forty five years ago, the Super Bowl wasn’t even the Super Bowl.

They called it the NFL-AFL Championship game, until one of the founders renamed it after watching his grandson play with a “High Bouncing Ball” – a super ball.

Tickets were only fifteen bucks for that first game, and they barely sold half of those, leaving some 40,000 empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum.   

A 30-second ad cost only $42,000, and they weren’t any different than the ads they showed the previous weekend.

The half-time show featured three college marching bands, including one you might have seen from the University of Michigan.

Over the next couple decades, of course, the event became a veritable national holiday.  Tickets now sell for thousands of dollars, and ads for millions.  The game attracts more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

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Auto
7:13 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Senator Levin wants electric vehicle charging stations on Capitol Hill

Michigan's Democratic Senator Carl Levin
Jeffrey Simms Photography Flickr

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin says he will introduce legislation next week in Congress to create electric vehicle charging stations on Capitol Hill.

As the Associated Press reports, "Levin says establishing the charging stations at no cost to the federal government would help encourage electric cars in the Capitol complex... Levin has said he plans to buy a Chevrolet Volt, General Motors' rechargeable electric car."

Earlier this week, Michigan's other Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow, said she planned to introduce legislation that would change government incentives for buying electric cars.

Currently, the incentive for buying an electric vehicle comes when you file your taxes in the form of a tax credit. Stabenow's legislation, the Charging America Forward Act, would give consumers a rebate of up to $7,500 at the time of purchase.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported on Stabenow's plan earlier this week:

Currently, cars that qualify for the full rebate include the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Roadster. Coda and Wheego also make an electric vehicle that qualifies for the credit. Ford, Fiat and Toyota plan to launch electric plug-in cars within the next year.

Stabenow’s legislation would also commit the federal government to spend two billion dollars to help companies that make advanced lithium ion batteries for vehicles. That’s on top of the two billion dollars the federal government has already spent to help the new industry. 

The Congresswoman admits the legislation is being proposed during a tough budget year, but, she said, "I think that strategic investments in innovation like battery innovation and manufacturing equals jobs – and so I’m hopeful that this will be a priority."

Michigan received the lion’s share of the last round of federal grants for advanced battery development– more than one billion dollars.  Michigan now has more advanced battery companies than any other state.

Auto
6:52 am
Fri February 11, 2011

GM: Workers to get bonus checks

General Motors says most of its 26,000 white-collar workers will get bonus checks
Spacing Magazine Flickr

General Motors says most of its 26,000 white-collar workers will get bonus checks. The automaker says the bonuses will be between 4 and 16 percent of their base salaries. The Associated Press reports:

The company says in a statement Thursday that bonuses will be based on the performance of the worker and the company. GM made $4.2 billion in the first three quarters of last year and is expected to post a fourth-quarter profit shortly. The bonuses come just 19 months after GM needed a $49.5 billion government bailout to make it through bankruptcy protection.

The company says that more than 96 percent of the salaried workers will get bonuses of 4 to 16 percent of their base pay. Fewer than 1 percent will get 50 percent or more.

State Government
6:42 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Michigan Attorney General to take on government corruption

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Inauguration Day, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has created a Public Integrity Unit aimed at stepping up the fight against corruption in state and local government. The Associated Press reports:

Schuette says in a statement Thursday that corruption scandals have "damaged the public's trust in government" and left Michigan with a questionable national reputation. He says there will be "no more Kwames," a reference to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick served jail time for lying in court about an affair and now is in prison for violating probation. He and his father also face a sweeping federal indictment that accuses them of taking kickbacks and bribes.

Schuette says the unit is being created with existing office resources. During last year's campaign, he had said fighting public corruption was important.

Politics
7:00 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Mubarak refuses to resign

Update 6:01 p.m.:

Egyptians in Michigan are disappointed by the news that President Hosni Mubarak plans to remain in office until elections in September.

Ola Elsaid  is a doctor who lives in Rochester, north of Detroit. She stayed home from work today to watch the developments in Cairo.

Elsaid says Mubarak’s announcement was like “a slap in the face,” and she’s worried about the reaction it could produce:

"So we’re afraid that everybody’s going to revolt even more. We see the reaction from our families. I was speaking to my cousin, he’s already dressed and going down to the street to join the demonstration. And we’re just worried about the bloodshed that might ensue in Egypt right now."

Elsaid says she wants to see the U.S. government support the push for democracy in Egypt.

Update 4:39 p.m.:

We're waiting to hear the reaction from local Arab Americans to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's decision not to resign.  The New York Times filed this report from Cairo:

President Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people Thursday that he would delegate more authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but that he would not resign his post, contradicting earlier reports that he would step aside and surprising hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered to hail his departure from the political scene.  

In a nationally televised address following a tumultuous day of political rumors and conflicting reports, Mr. Mubarak said he would “admit mistakes” and honor the sacrifices of young people killed in the three-week uprising, but that he would continue to “shoulder my responsibilities” until September, and did not give a firm indication that he would cede political power.

Even as Mr. Mubarak spoke, angry chants were shouted from huge crowds in Cairo who had anticipated his resignation but were instead confronted with a plea from the president to support continued rule by him and his chosen aides. People waved their shoes in defiance, considered an insulting gesture in the Arab world. 

 NPR and BBC will provide continued coverage of the situation in Egypt throughout the evening on Michigan Radio.

Economy
6:11 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Manufacturers need more skilled workers

Manufacturing jobs are growing, but finding skilled labor can be a challenge (manufacturing t-shirts at American Apparel in LA).
Rich Allosi Flickr

The national economy added 49,000 manufacturing jobs in January. That’s more new jobs than in health care, retail or any other major sector of the economy.

It’s good news for the Midwest, where thousands of manufacturing workers are expected to be hired over the next few years.

The number of students enrolled in manufacturing training and engineering courses is on the rise at two year colleges. But some employers say they still have a hard time finding qualified candidates.

Michigan Radio’s Changing Gears project is looking at the economic future of the Midwest.

Michelle Kanu filed this report from Cleveland:

Read more
Offbeat
4:55 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Detroiters raise funds for RoboCop statue

Detroiters want to raise $50K to build a Robocop scultupre in the city
"RoboCop" photo: Orion Pictures (c) 1987

Ealier this week, a guy in Massachusetts sent this Twitter message to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

"Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky's butt. He's a GREAT ambassador for Detroit."

Mayor Bing's response? Thanks, but no thanks.

"There are not any plans to erect a statue of Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion."

But Detroit artist Jerry Paffendorf and others are running with the idea. Paffendorf says the idea touched a "funny bone," and sparked "the kind of interest and intrigue in Detroit, and an interest in what Robocop means to Detroit."

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Environment
4:48 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Valentine's Day approaches, are you ready?

Most flowers are imported into the U.S.
Joe Shlabotnik Flickr

Pssst... don't forget. Valentine's Day is Monday... four more shopping days (five if you count the actual day as a shopping day).

Judging by my colleagues here at the station, a couple of us are prepared, some are waiting for the weekend, and some will wait until that last minute.

Are you ready?

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Politics
2:15 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

President Obama's "Win the Future" speech in Marquette

President Barack Obama greets the employees during a stop at Donkers candy store and restaurant in Marquette, Mich., February 10, 2011.
Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

Here's a copy of the President's "Win the Future" speech at Northern Michigan University today:

Hello, Marquette!  It is good to be in the U.P.  It is good to be at Northern Michigan University! 

So, I have to say, I think some folks on my staff have it out for me.  Not because it’s 10 degrees here – I can handle that.  It’s because for the second time in two weeks, not long after my Bears went down, they’ve sent me to a town with a bunch of Green Bay Packer fans, even if we are in Michigan.  But I congratulate all the fans here, and we’ll see the Packers at the White House.

Of course, I haven’t come to Marquette to talk about winning the Super Bowl.  I’ve come here because it’s towns like this where the jobs and businesses of tomorrow will take root.  It’s towns like this where our economic future will be won.

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Speech at Northern Michigan University
1:00 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Live Stream of President Obama in Marquette

Presidential Visit
12:40 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

President Obama visits U.P. today

President Obama arrives in Marquette, MI later this morning
The U.S. Army Flickr

Update 12:40 p.m.:

We will carry the live feed of President Obama's speech in Marquette on our website at 1pm.

Update 12:01 p.m.:

Governor Snyder has released the following statement about President Obama's trip to Marquette:

“All Michiganders can take great pride in the national recognition earned by Northern Michigan University and the communities of Marquette County.  Their partnership to expand high-speed wireless internet services through NMU’s WiMAX network wisely recognizes the critical need to enhance online availability in the 21st century.  This cutting-edge approach benefits students and families while providing an essential tool that drives business development.

“At the state level, we are working aggressively to provide additional online and self-service alternatives for Michigan residents.  Expanding wireless capabilities in the Upper Peninsula complements our efforts and provides welcome conveniences to U.P. customers.  The President is right to highlight this initiative as a model of cooperation and innovation.  We welcome the President to Michigan and look forward to him sharing this Upper Peninsula success story across America.  We also applaud NMU and the Marquette area as they get their well-deserved attention on the national stage.  They are outstanding ambassadors for the Upper Peninsula and our entire state.”

Update: 10:58 a.m.:

Marquette, Michigan?? Wish we were going to Hawaii instead....

President Obama and his entourage of staff are flying aboard Air Force 1 to Marquette (Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is making his final flight).

The White House press corps is traveling along and they're not looking forward to the extreme cold temps.

Here's a "pool report" from the press:

Marine One touched down at Andrews approx 9:35 am. POTUS, wearing overcoat but no hat or gloves, on AF1 5 minutes later, followed by staff including Jarrett , Sutphen, Mastromonaco, and Gibbs, making his final flight as press secretary.

AF1 rolling, with a flight time of just over 2 hrs from Andrews to Marquette, where the temp is said to be in single digits with a wind chill of -19. Pool fondly remembering travel pool in Hawaii just over a month ago.

7:12 a.m.

President Barack Obama will visit the city of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula today. The President will visit Northern Michigan University to promote his administration’s National Wireless Initiative.

It’s a program the President first announced during last month’s State of the Union Address.

The initiative would bring high speed wireless internet access to 98 percent of the nation’s population within five years.

Some say it’s a lofty goal, considering such technology is only now being built in major cities.

The initiative is part of the White House’s new focus on innovation and competitiveness as a way to “win the future.”

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