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10:34 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Strong 4th quarter for Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical released its fourth quarter earnings report today and it was a good fourth quarter for the chemical giant. Its earnings nearly tripled. From the company's website:

  • The Company reported earnings of $0.37 per share, or $0.47 per share excluding certain items. This compares with earnings of $0.08 per share in the year-ago period, or $0.18 per share excluding certain items.
  • Sales of $13.8 billion rose 22 percent versus the same quarter last year.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

[Dow Chemical] has seen sales rebound in recent quarters on volume growth in basic chemicals, agriculture products and other units. Dow, whose chemicals are used in a wide range of products including diapers and products in the auto industry, has been restructuring to focus on higher-margin specialty products from commodities chemicals, which are more vulnerable to energy-price fluctuations.

Bloomberg News says the earnings are more than some analysts anticipated and come "amid increasing profit from caustic soda and plastics."

Arts/Culture
9:29 am
Thu February 3, 2011

The Day the Music Died

C. Awreetus

Fifty-two years ago today, a plane crashed in a cornfield outside Mason city, Iowa, killing three musicians, including Buddy Holly.

An article from WLFI in Lafayette, Indiana, sets up the story:

Three up and coming musicians were on what was called “The Winter Dance Party” tour through the Midwest. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were all about fed up with the tour bus that kept breaking down, the cold weather that had already sent Holly’s drummer to the hospital with frostbite and the long distances between shows.

Holly's frustration with the tour led him to charter a plane to carry the three musicians to the next stop. The plane crashed, killing the musicians as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson.

Gibson.com has this analysis of the legacy of the three rockers, in particular Holly:

Valens and The Big Bopper would be immortalized by the tragedy, while Buddy Holly is still revered as one of the greatest-ever talents in popular music. As Paul McCartney, someone who knows a thing or two about a good tune, once remarked: “At least the first 40 [Beatles] songs we wrote were Buddy Holly-influenced.”

Holly's enduring influence is even more amazing considering his real success lasted less than two years, but with hits like “Peggy Sue” and “Everyday,” it's not hard to see—or hear—why.

Check out this short but sweet clip of Holly performing in Grand Rapids in 1958:

 

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Health
9:10 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Flu season picking up in Michigan

Michigan is among more than 2 dozen states reporting widespread influenza outbreaks.

Flu outbreaks have been reported in most regions of Michigan. Nursing home patients, college students and other groups of people living in close quarters have fallen ill with the flu. State health officials report one child has died from the flu.

Still, James McCurtis, a spokesman for the state Department of Community Health, says this has been a relatively mild flu season:

"Its very typical. Its nowhere near when we had the (Swine Flu) pandemic with H1N1 last year and two years ago."

McCurtis says the flu season still has about 3 months to go. Which means there is still time to catch the flu, and there’s still time to get a flu shot.

News Roundup
8:27 am
Thu February 3, 2011

In this morning's news...

NMU Classes Resume

Northern Michigan University is open today, following yesterday’s closure of the university due to what was being called a, “serious threat.” The threat came from a blog post, but in a statement released last night, school officials said an investigation, “revealed no evidence that the anonymous blog post originated on campus. It was discovered tonight that similarly worded messages have been directed at several other U.S. universities, recently and in a previous year.”

Weather Continues to Keep Schools (and State Legislature) Closed

The massive winter storm that hit much of Michigan this week might be long-gone, but the remnants of the storm remain. Snow, ice, and cold-temperatures have led many school districts to remain closed for a second day in a row, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools. Meanwhile, state lawmakers aren’t ones to be left out: sessions in both the state House and Senate have been canceled today due to the weather.

Michigan Students Return from Egypt

Students from universities across the state are returning to the U.S. from Egypt as unrest in that country continues. Michigan universities have canceled their study abroad programs in Egypt and have been coordinating with the State department to bring students back to the U.S., Bridget Bodnar reports.

State Budget
7:47 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Public employees dispute Governor Snyder's state financial report

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Public employees are taking issue with Governor Rick Snyder’s citizen’s guide to the state’s finances. They say it presents an incomplete and inaccurate picture of employee compensation in the public and private sectors.

Unions say the data in the guide does not compare similar jobs in the public and private sectors. They point to half a dozen studies that paint a different picture than the Snyder administration’s data.

Nick Ciaramitaro is with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees:

"Salaries tend to be a little lower, benefits tend to be a little higher in the public sector, but if you look at total compensation, which is what the governor says he wants to look at, we’re very close or a little behind the private sector."

Ciaramitaro also says the data in the guide may not take into account unpaid furlough days taken by state and local workers.

The governor acknowledges the numbers in his guide are a broader overview of compensation trends, but he says he’s open to looking at other data before he presents his first proposed budget later this month: 

"I’m happy to have people react to it whether they agree with it or don’t agree with it because that may bring other data forward that may be worth considering as part of this process. It’s an open  dialogue. This is how you actually set the framework to have the open discussion you’d really like people to have.”

Snyder says that discussion will influence his administration’s budget plans. The governor will present his budget proposal to the Legislature on February 17th.

Winter storm
7:09 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Largest snowfall from winter storm reported in South Haven

The South Haven lighthouse in South Haven, covered with ice and snow from past winter storms
user Cseeman Flickr

The National Weather Service is releasing data on just how much snow fell during the massive winter storm that sweep across the state this week. South Haven, on the coast of Lake Michigan, saw 20 inches of snow on the ground. That's the largest snowfall so far reported, according to the Associated Press. Muskegon got 19.7 inches. A foot of snow fell in the Lansing area. Flint got 10 inches, Detroit got 8.7 inches.

Northern Michigan University
6:51 am
Thu February 3, 2011

NMU to reopen after threat

Northern Michigan University seal

Northern Michigan University in Marquette will resume classes today, a day after being closed due to what was being called a, "serious threat." Last night, the university released the following statement:

NMU President Les Wong said the FBI and other agencies have indicated that there is no longer a clear and ongoing threat and that conditions are suitable to reopening the university. The investigation has revealed no evidence that the anonymous blog post originated on campus. It was discovered tonight that similarly worded messages have been directed at several other U.S. universities, recently and in a previous year.

“We would not make the decision to reopen campus if we did not feel that it is safe to do so,” said Wong. “NMU Public Safety will maintain increased patrols throughout campus as an added precaution, but we think the new information uncovered tonight diminishes the threat to NMU.”

NMU Public Safety Director Mike Bath said his department will continue to work with other agencies to assist in the investigation. NMU had received a phone tip before the university opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday of an anonymous blog post threatening harm to the campus community. Authorities assessed the threat and determined it was serious enough to warrant mobilizing the emergency communication system and closing the university.

State Legislature
6:39 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Another snow day for Michigan lawmakers

Another snow day is in store for the Michigan legislature
Matthileo Flickr

The state Legislature is taking a second snow day. Sessions and committee meetings are canceled today because of this week's winter storm. The Associated Press reports:

Thursday's cancellations include previously scheduled full sessions of the Senate and House, at least three Senate committee hearings and at least five House committee hearings. Lawmakers will resume their regularly scheduled sessions and committee hearings Tuesday.

Lawmakers usually don't hold session on Mondays and Fridays.

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Egypt
5:10 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Michigan university students return from Egypt

A protest in Shoubra, Cairo, Jan. 1, 2011
Mahmoud Saber Flickr

Students from Michigan universities are returning to the United States from Egypt after unrest in that country.

Zenit Chughtai attends Michigan State University and was studying in Alexandria through The Language Flagship program. She says she noticed a difference in the way Egyptians treated foreigners after the protests began:

“I was with a bunch of American students when we encountered a group and, they didn’t – we didn’t get the normal reaction the usually got, a reaction like, "Oh you’re some tourist," they were like – "Come, run with us, join us, protest with us."”

Universities across the state have canceled their study abroad programs in Egypt and have been coordinating with the State department to bring students back to the U.S.

Chugtai returned to the United States only a few days after the protests but she said many other students in her program flew back yesterday. They are currently in Washington D.C., waiting to learn more about how they'll continue their studies.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

NMU Closure
3:25 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Northern Michigan University closed due to threat

Northern Michigan University Seal

Update 3:25 p.m.:

Evening classes for Wednesday, February 2 are canceled.  NMU Public Safety and Police Services continue to have things under control on campus, but for precautionary reasons, ask that people do not wander on campus or come to the University at this time.

Students in residence halls are asked to remain there.

More information will be provided as it's made available.  The University remains closed for the day.

Update 1:29 p.m.:

NMU Public Safety is changing the status of residence halls to lockdown with NMU ID access so that residence hall students can gain access to dining facilities. Students must take their NMU IDs to return to their halls. Residents of Quad I and II can proceed to the Marketplace. Residents of West and Spooner Halls are encouraged to use the Wildcat Den. An NMU Public Safety escort will be provided.

If you are a parent of an NMU student and have questions, you may call 906-227-1226

Update 11:34 a.m.:

Northern Michigan University has issued the following statement:

NMU Public Safety and Police Services has things under control on campus, but for precautionary reasons, ask that people do not wander on campus or come to the university at this time. Students in residence halls are asked to remain there. More information will be provided as it's made available.  The university remains closed for the day.

Update 10:51 a.m.:

Northern Michigan University was closed down around 9 a.m. this morning because of a "serious threat."

Spokeswoman Kristi Evans says an online threat was made to harm students, faculty and others at the campus. Employees already at work were evacuated from buildings, and students were turned away by Public Safety officers. 

Detective Captain Gordon Warchock is with the Marquette Police Department. He says there is an ongoing investigation:

We're assisting Northern Michigan University public safety in any way we can with the investigation and providing manpower.

An unconfirmed source says a blogger threatened to "shoot up" campus this morning. Nicole Walton is News Director at public radio station WNMU.  She says even essential personnel were told to go home, so the radio station is on autopilot:

When we think of closures usually it's because of several feet of snow falling, and shooters coming on campus, it's just not on our radar.

Students at Marquette Area Public Schools have also been sent home, and Marquette General Hospital has posted security at entrances.

Update 10:44 a.m.:

The Associated Press reports:

Spokeswoman Kristi Evans says Wednesday an online threat was made to harm students, faculty, staff and administrators at Northern Michigan. Evans had no further details about the nature of the threat, which was discovered shortly before 8 a.m.

Evans says an emergency notice was transmitted on laptop computers that are provided to all 9,400 students. Text messages were sent on cell phones.

She says it's uncertain whether the closure will extend beyond Wednesday.

Evans says the message did not mention the public schools. But interim superintendent Deborah Veiht said they also were closed as a precaution. Marquette Senior High School is next door to the university campus. The public schools have 3,000 students.

Update 10:33 a.m.:

The Mining Journal reports from Marquette:

Northern Michigan University was closed today because of an anonymous threat received early this morning.

Effects of the threat rippled outward from the NMU campus, resulting in the closure of all Marquette Area Public Schools.

According to Cindy Paavola, NMU director of communications and marketing, the unspecified threat would have caused harm to students but it was unknown what part of campus it would impact. More information will be released as it becomes available throughout the day, Paavola said.

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Negaunee Post said NMU Public Safety told them they were responding in a cautious way by closing down the university.

Update 10:18 a.m.:

Northern Michigan University was closed down around 9 a.m. because of a "serious threat" received by officials. Employees already at work were evacuated from buildings and students were turned away by Public Safety officers, who were parked in the middle of campus. Marquette Area Public Schools were locked down, but students have since been released to their parents. Although open, the local hospital has limited the number of entrances to five and has posted guards at each door.

It has not been confirmed, but a source says a blogger threatened to "shoot up" campus Wednesday morning. A California resident read the blog and contacted NMU officials. No reason for the threat has been given

Update 10:11 a.m.:

City police say area schools are also taking precautionary measures.

The university is shut down for the day because of a threat that university officials are taking seriously, according to a Public Safety spokesperson who could not provide additional information.

Students, staff and employees, including essential personnel, were notified this morning that the university is closed, and security personnel were turning away employees who did show up to work.

Update 10:07 a.m.:

Northern Michigan University has been evacuated and Marquette General Hospital is also reportedly under lockdown with limited entrances open because of the threat to NMU. We’ll have more information as it becomes available.

9:59 a.m.:

Northern Michigan University is closed today... not because of the weather but due to a serious threat it has received. The closure includes essential personnel. We have anecdotal reports that security personnel are turning employees away and telling them to go back home. We’ll have more information as it becomes available.

Politics
3:18 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Catholic Church weighs in on state Earned Income Tax Credit battle

User VanZandt Flickr

State lawmakers trying to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit are hearing from the Catholic Church.

The Michigan Catholic Conference says keeping the credit for the working poor is its top policy goal for this year.

The Conference is the official lobbying arm of the Michigan’s Catholic Dioceses and represents 2.25 million people.

Dave Maluchnik is a spokesperson with the Michigan Catholic Conference.

We have urged members of the House to reconsider their proposal to eliminate the earned income tax credit. There are numerous other groups out there in the state who are very concerned. In fact, there are many protestant organizations, Jewish organizations, that are very interested in protecting this policy.

Lobbying on all sorts of issues will heat up in the coming weeks when Governor Rick Snyder announces his budget priorities for the next fiscal year on February 17th.

Sarah Alvarez - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Winter Storm
3:15 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

People in West Michigan digging out after near record snowfall

City crews clear Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The east side of the state may have been spared the brunt of the storm but in Grand Rapids the nearly 16 inches of snow in a 24-hour period could prove record setting

Chad Doty shovels a foot of snow off the sidewalk of a Big Boy in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s normally packed during lunch but today it’s closed. He’s been out shoveling for hours.

 “We tried to get out at like 1 o’clock (in the morning) but the weather was just too bad I couldn’t see the drive. So I had to pack it up, got back out at about 4 o’clock I think and just started the grind.”

Doty says he’ll work until early evening, take a nap, and head back out. He says the extra snow means extra cash for him. 

The busses are running, even though all universities, many schools and businesses are closed today.

Mayor George Heartwell refused to declare a snow emergency. City workers are working around the clock to clear the streets. He says all of them should be clear by Friday. Heartwell is asking those physically able to do so help clear snow away from fire hydrants, and keep cars off the streets if possible.

City leaders say they expect around 16 inches total. That’s nearly equal to the record set more than 20 year ago. 

Hal and Judy Fruit trek down a normally busy street in snow shoes they got for Christmas.

“It’s a good storm but I think they overblew it a little bit. It’s Michigan. It’s snow. It’s winter. No big deal. You know you live with it. Roads are clear. The sun is out. It’s beautiful!”

Just under 400 people in Kent County were without power, but are expected to be back online before the end of the day.

Politics
2:04 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Is Detroit City Council too costly?

A new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Detroit spends a larger chunk of its budget on the City Council than other major cities.

Detroitspends just over 1% of its current general fund budget on Council expenses. The national median is just under 0.5%.

The study also looked at whether cities have Council term limits, or serve full- or part-time. Detroit has a full-time Council.

Thomas Ginsberg is the Project Manager of Pew’s Philadelphia-based research initiative. He says the research didn’t “find much correlation” between that status and costs.

“Most of the Councils that call themselves part-time…in fact the members work much more than part-time. So we found that’s not a particularly useful term. That’s a commentary more about the term than the numbers.”

But Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh calls portions of the study “totally inaccurate.”

Pugh says Detroit’s Council budget also includes some administrative offices, like the city planning commission. He also points out that Detroit Council members’ have lower salaries than most of their counterparts in other cities.

Politics
1:28 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Carl Levin on Egypt, repealing health care reform, and electric cars

Senator Carl Levin talking to the press
USGov creative commons

Michigan Radio spoke with Democratic U.S. Senator Carl Levin about a wide range of topics on Wednesday - starting with the situation in Egypt.

Levin says Egyptians deserve a democratic government and the U.S. should support their aspirations. Levin is the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee . But he says the violent turn of events in Egypt is a bad sign. Levin thinks it best if current President Hosni Mubarak oversees the transition to a new government.

"The more violent and the more sudden his departure is, seems to me, the more likely it is that what will take his place would not be sustainable," says Levin. "If the army has to move in to restore order, that’s not necessarily the best way to move to a democracy."

Thousands of anti-government  protestors clashed with supporters of President Mubarak today.

Levin also addressed this afternoon's vote in the Senate to repeal the nation's new health reform law.

It's expected the bill will not pass, since the vote will likely be along party lines, and Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate.

Levin says repeal is out of the question. He says the reform will help millions of Americans get health insurance and avoid bankruptcy because of medical bills. And repeal, he says, would cost $500 billion.

But Levin says Democrats in the Senate are willing to consider bills to improve the law.

"We are open to those kind of changes, but it’s gotta be looked at very carefully one by one as to what is being proposed and what the cost of it is," he says.

A bill has also been proposed to allow states to opt out of the new law. A vote on that bill hasn’t been scheduled.

There are also court challenges to the law, in particular, the provision that requires everyone to buy health insurance. 

Read more
Politics
12:52 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Water rate hikes stir more criticism

William Warby Flickr

Proposed new rates for customers of Detroit’s massive water system have done little to tamp down criticism of the department.

Water bills would go up an average of about nine percent in July, and sewer rates would climb a little more than 11 percent.

Water department officials say lower demand is to blame for much of the increase. But critics are not happy about how the rates are calculated. State Representative Kurt Heise represents western Wayne County:

Read more
Winter storm
12:30 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Winter Storm Pictures

The snow begins to come down in Ann Arbor around 7pm.
Tamar Charney Michigan Radio

The blizzard warnings are over and people in Michigan are spending the day digging out.

More than a foot of snow fell in many parts of the state.

The snow fall in Grand Rapids has almost eclipsed a record (16.1 inches in 24 hours). Reporter Lindsey Smith says the count stands at 15.9 inches as of this morning. There's still time to get .2 inches by 2pm, so the record may fall.

Click on the photos above to see a slideshow of the snow arriving around the state.

Commentary
12:12 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day in Lansing

Well, it’s Groundhog Day, there’s a foot of snow, and I’d guess  most of the state’s woodchucks aren’t even thinking about coming out of their burrows, let alone looking for their shadows.

Our lawmakers aren’t anywhere near the Capitol Dome either; they prudently took a couple of days off. But they’ll be back soon, and hopefully at work straightening out the state’s finances.

People may differ on how our lawmakers should balance the books, and put our state on a permanently sounder footing.

But nobody wants any further repeats of Groundhog Day. As in the movie of that name where the main character has to keep repeating the same day over and over. 

He had to do that, as I recall, until he learned a profound lesson about life. Our legislators have been doing a version of that for years.  Papering over serious problems; going for quick fixes, kicking problems down the road for future generations to deal with.

Read more
Arts/Culture
11:56 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Wayne State to launch new 'Artrepreneurship' program this fall

New program will help artists market their entrepenurial ideas
User: Sultry creative commons

Wayne State University is developing a new, free program to help artists market their ideas better. It's called the Artrepreneurship program. That's right: a hybrid of art + entrepreneurship.

Wayne State University got a $25,000 grant from the Coleman foundation to start up the new program, which will mostly consist of a lecture series and the occasional workshop.

Read more
Weather
8:59 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Spring prediction: Michigan's Woody vs. Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil in 2009
Scottobear Flickr

While many in the Midwest chose to stay buried under the covers this morning amidst the snow storm that blanketed the region, Punxsutawney Phil, the famed weather prognosticator, ventured out to let us know whether or not we should expect an early spring. Upon being presented to the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil failed to see his shadow, thereby predicting an early spring for everyone.

Today marks the 125th annual Groundhog Day ceremony featuring the meteorological predictions of the large marmot. Since Phil’s first prediction in 1887, he has failed to see his shadow only 15 times. Most meteorologists suggest that Phil’s predictions lack scientific justification. But, as many struggle to dig their way out of over a foot of snow in temperatures near zero, it remains unclear whether Phil is an optimist attempting to lift our spirits or just a sarcastic rodent.

Meanwhile, at the Howell Conference and Nature Center in Livingston County, Woody the Woodchuck made her own prognostication regarding the arrival of spring for Michigan. Upon being presented to the crowd in Howell, Woody promptly saw her shadow, predicting another six weeks of winter, and perhaps inadvertently starting a meteorological feud between the two prophetic marmots. Only time will tell who has true powers of prophesy, but, after last night’s winter storm, odds are currently in Woody’s favor.

Weather
8:41 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Winter storm brings more than a foot of snow in parts of Michigan

The big winter storm has brought more than a foot of snow in some parts of the state
Sami Flickr

Update 8:33 a.m.:

The National Weather Service has canceled blizzard warnings for much of the west and middle regions of the state. A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for West and Mid Michigan until 12p.m. Blizzard warnings remain in effect until 12 p.m. today for cities in the eastern part of the state including Midland, Bay City, Bad Axe, Saginaw, and Caro.

6:35 a.m.:

Most of Lower Michigan is digging out of last night’s winter storm, and it’s not over yet. A blizzard warning remains in effect until 7 P.M. for the western side of the state, as well as areas as far east as Lansing. In areas around Flint, a blizzard warning is scheduled to expire at noon. In the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas, a winter storm warning will last until noon. The counties along the state’s southern border are under a winter weather advisory until 1 P.M., with the exception of Berrien County, whose winter weather advisory is set to expire at 10 A.M. As for the Toledo area, a winter storm warning will remain in effect until 7 o’clock this evening.

Earlier this morning,  the southwestern part of the state reported having 10 to 15 inches of snow already on the ground. Cities in the southeast, including Ann Arbor and Flint, received between four and six inches.

The storm has made roads hazardous, with snow drifts of up to five feet being reported. AAA Michigan reportedly helped more than 3,600 drivers stuck on the roads Tuesday night. Those who can avoid driving are urged to do so.

Today, numerous school districts, as well as many colleges and universities, are closed. School districts closed for Wednesday include Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Toledo, and Jackson. In addition, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Western Michigan University, and Grand Valley State University have canceled classes for today.

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