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Arts/Culture
3:57 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Artists signing up for ArtPrize 2011; one tiny change this year

"Nessie on the Grand" won 6th place in ArtPrize 2009, the competition's first year.
Daniel E. Johnson Creative Commons

Registration opened this week for artists who want to take part in ArtPrize 2011. The winner of the yearly art competition is decided by the voting public who visit the event in downtown Grand Rapids.

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Education
3:20 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

No buses for Ann Arbor Public High Schools next year?

High school students may need to take city buses or carpool to school next year if bus service is cut.
04deveni flickr

Ann Arbor public schools may stop all busing to and from its high schools next year to save money.

The proposal to the Ann Arbor School board also includes bigger class sizes and cutting staff. Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing a $15 million budget deficit for next year.

Liz Margolis is a spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

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Auto/Economy
2:35 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Toyota recalls certain RAV4s and Highlanders

A 2008 Toyota Highlander - one of the cars being recalled.
IFCAR wikimedia commons

An airbag issued is prompting Toyota to recall some RAV4s and Highlanders.

From the Associated Press:

The recall includes about 214,000 RAV4s from 2007 and 2008 and approximately 94,000 Highlander and Highlander HV vehicles from 2008. All of the vehicles involved were sold in the U.S.

The recall does not include any other Lexus or Toyota vehicles.

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Politics
2:07 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Michigan Senators vote on education cuts today

Today's tweet from the Governor... "Let's focus on doing the right things to get our fiscal house in order and create an environment where jobs can grow."

For a state with $1.5 billion budget deficit and leaders who want to ease taxes on businesses - that means cuts.

The Appropriations Committee has voted on some cuts in education today.

From the Associated Press:

A Michigan Senate committee has voted to cut state aid to school districts by an additional $170 per student for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

The Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved the cut along party lines Thursday. The reduction would be in addition to a $170 per student cut already on the books for the current fiscal year that would be continued into next year. That makes the total reduction $340 per student.

The proposal advances to the Senate floor. The cuts recommended by the Senate panel aren't as deep as the additional $300 per student cut recommended by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, which would make the total cut $470 per student.

Most state departments will be cut next fiscal year as Michigan continues to struggle with budget problems.

The state's new fiscal year starts on October 1st. The State Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder are hoping to finalize the budget by June 1st.

Commentary
12:46 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Scrooge and the Budget

What if the governor increased the amount of Michigan income tax I had to pay by ten dollars a week?  The truth is, I’d barely miss it, and if I went out to eat a little less often, I wouldn’t miss it at all.

I’m not anything close to rich, but fortunately, I manage to make an income adequate for my family’s needs, and don’t have any children who need to go to camp or college.

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Politics
12:39 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

State Police respond to questions about data extraction devices

A data extraction device made by Cellebrite
from a Cellebrite brochure

For close to three years, the ACLU says it has been asking the Michigan State Police for more information about the use of "data extraction devices" that can be used to get information from personal cell phones.

Using the device is "kind of like copying all the papers in your locked briefcase while your back is turned," according to a report released yesterday by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.

Graham reports "if [the devices] are being used, it could be construed as illegal search and seizure."

Now, the officals at the Michigan State Police (MSP) have issued a statement saying they only use the date extraction devices (DEDs) in certain circumstances. From the statement:

The MSP only uses the DEDs if a search warrant is obtained or if the person possessing the mobile device gives consent. The department's internal directive is that the DEDs only be used by MSP specialty teams on criminal cases, such as crimes against children.

The DEDs are not being used to extract citizens' personal information during routine traffic stops.

The MSP statement said the ACLU's press release caused "speculation and caused inaccurate information to be reported about data extraction devices (DEDs) owned by the Michigan State Police (MSP)."

They might be referring to an article by CNET titled "Michigan cops stealing drivers' phone data."

The ACLU didn't accuse the Michigan State Police of improperly using the devices. They were pointing out the fact that the devices could be used improperly and wanted more information.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The response... send us $544,680 in processing fees and we'll give you the information.

Environment
12:01 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Understanding the new "nutrition facts" for lightbulbs

The new label on lightbulbs
Image courtesy of the DOE

If you’ve ever been lost in the lightbulb aisle... things are getting a little easier. There’s a new label the federal government is requiring on lightbulb packages. It's modeled after the Nutrition Facts label on food.

But the label still needs some deciphering. Greenovation dot tv’s Matt Grocoff knows a thing or two about lightbulbs. I met up with Matt so he could show me how to read the new labels.

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Environment
11:12 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Business owners, DOE officials meet for clean energy manufacturing workshop

Business owners and politicians are trying to figure out how to make Michigan a manufacturing hub for things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels.

They’re gathering at the Clean Energy Manufacturing Workshop in Ann Arbor today and tomorrow. The workshop is being put on by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy along with Ann Arbor SPARK.

Steven Busch will be paying pretty close attention.

He’s with Energetx Composites Company in Holland. It’s a spin-off company of Tiara Yacht. Before the economy went south, their main business was building high end yachts. Now, they make blades for wind turbines.

“The basic manufacturing process is very similar. We have the expertise on how to handle large, big, bulky things.”

He says they’re planning to stay in Michigan.

“Michigan offers the best engineering and manufacturing skill set probably in the world. Geographically, the Great Lakes are a great opportunity as a place to be able to ship products over the water.”

Busch says he’d like to see more training programs at universities and community colleges – and more retraining programs for former auto workers who want to get into the business.

Auto/Economy
9:33 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Fiat moving closer to a majority stake in Chrysler

Chrysler Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
user fiatontheweb creative commons

Updated: 

News that Fiat will soon acquire a bigger stake in Chrysler is another sign the merger is working.

Jim Hall is president of  the auto consulting firm 2953 Analytics.  He says the merger benefits both companies.  Fiat gets access to the U.S. market and to Chrysler’s more profitable vehicles, and Chrysler gets access to Fiat's global markets and its fuel-saving technology. 

And the merger could save the companies money on parts.

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Religion
1:01 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Qur'an burning Florida pastor will be in a Michigan courtroom this afternoon

Dr. Terry Jones
(Stand Up America)

A controversial Florida pastor says he will lead a rally against radical Islam outside a Dearborn mosque this Friday, despite pleas for him to cancel or move his event to another location.  Late Wednesday, the city of Dearborn denied the pastor's permit to protest in front of the Islamic Center of America, meaning he could be arrested if he goes through with his plans for a rally.

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Crime & Punishment
1:01 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Juvenile offenders & life without parole

A guard tower stands overlooking the yard at one of the state prisons in Jackson
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A federal judge will hear the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging state law that allows juveniles offenders to be sentenced to life without parole this afternoon. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are more than 350 people serving life without parole sentences in Michigan who were convicted for a crime they committed when they were under 18 years old.   Michigan has more juvenile offenders serving life terms than any other state except Pennsylvania. 

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Environment
6:14 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Protesters rally against U.S. Chamber, Congressman Upton

WMU student Olivia Rappel protests the energy forum in Kalamazoo.
Chris Broadbent

Protesters rallied at an energy forum hosted by the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce today. They’re calling on the Kalamazoo Chamber to cut its ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Religion
5:29 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Dearborn's mayor sends a letter to a controversial pastor coming to his town

Dearborn mayor John O'Reilly
(courtesy City of Dearborn)

Dr. Terry Jones has gained notoriety in recent years for his attacks on Islam.   His burning of a Qur'an in his Florida church last fall led to deadly riots in Afghanistan.   Now, he's coming to Dearborn.  Jones plans to hold a rally in front of the Islamic Center of America.   

Dearborn mayor John O'Reilly wants Jones to reconsider.  The mayor sent an open letter to Jones today, outlining why he's wrong about Dearborn and Islam.  Here's the letter: 

Dear Pastor Jones:

 

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Politics
4:39 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Secretary of State wants no-reason absentee voting system

Michigan's Secretary of State says absentee voting should be more widely available.
govote.com

Michigan’s Secretary of State is urging lawmakers to support her plan to let voters use absentee ballots without needing an excuse, such as illness or being out of town at election time.

When Ruth Johnson was Oakland County Clerk, she instituted an absentee voting system. Now that she’s Secretary of State, Johnson thinks it will work just as well on a state level.

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Politics
4:35 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Lawmakers debate penalties for illegal teacher strikes

Noah Smith Flickr

Michigan lawmakers debated today whether teachers should face more stringent penalties if they were to participate in an illegal strike.

The state House Education Committee heard testimony for and against a bill that would revoke teachers' licenses for at least two years if they went on strike.

Republicans claim that the law needs to be strengthened to act as a successful deterrent. Democrats claim the measures punish too severely and and also unfairly, compared to other public employees.

Greg Baracy, superintendent for the Wayne-Westland Community Schools district, testified in favor of the stricter bill; his teachers went on a 4-day strike in 2008.

But David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers - Michigan, says strikes like that are rare. And he says teachers shouldn't lose their careers over a strike:

"This has nothing to do with preventing strikes, because they already really don't happen. This is just another attack on teachers and education employees."

This debate occurs as the possibility of an actual statewide teacher strike looms.

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Auto/Economy
2:20 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Another gas price hike coming?

Another increase in store at Michigan pumps?
user Orin Zebest Flickr

Gas prices in Michigan are expected to go higher, according to an online service that shares information on fuel prices. GasBuddy.com collects data on gasoline prices all across Michigan and the rest of the country.  The company says average gas prices in Michigan are about to jump up  to between $4.05 and $4.15 a gallon.

This from an e-mail sent out by Gasbuddy.com:

We're at increasing odds for a price hike. Oil prices have continued to rally this week, meaning it may be price hike time. With the rise in wholesale costs already being passed on to stations, odds are this hike will occur any time in the next 48 hours.

Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst with Gas Buddy, says several factors, including refineries switching to summer blends of gasoline,  are behind rising gas prices. 

“Unfortunately, until these refineries get going and finish their maintenance and boost production…we will continue to see supply dwindle and that will continue to impact prices.”  

DeHaan predicts Michigan gasoline prices will continue to edge higher between now and Memorial Day.

The White House says speculators on Wall Street are driving oil prices up. President Obama made some remarks on speculation in Virginia accoring to UPI:

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a speech in Virginia, said it's not a lack of supply that is driving oil prices up on the commodity markets.

"The problem is, is that oil is sold on these world markets, and speculators and people make various bets, and they say, you know what, we think that maybe there's a 20 percent chance that something might happen in the Middle East that might disrupt oil supply, so we're going to bet that oil is going to go up real high," he said. "And that spikes up prices significantly."

In the article, Bart Chilton, a member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, says speculation makes up part of the price at the pump, "there is a Wall Street premium on gas prices today. Every time folks fill up their tanks, they can expect that several dollars are due to speculation."

Speculation was a big driver of the skyrocketing oil prices back in 2009.

Consumer Protection
2:02 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Fake news websites taken to court over acai berry claims

One of the fake news sites that "reported" on the benefits of acai berries
Federal Trade Commission

Two men from Michigan were named in a series of lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about the health benefits of acai berries. The FTC filed a total of ten cases against similar websites across the country.        

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Auto/Economy
1:26 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Two auto shows, a world apart

Carmakers are launching new products simultaneously at the New York and Shanghai auto shows.
autos.yahoo.com

Automakers are hoping to dazzle customers at opposite ends of the world this week as the New York and Shanghai auto shows are run simultaneously.

Joel Ewanick  is General Motors’ Vice President for U.S. Marketing.

He says all automakers are taking a global approach to sales as markets like China continue to grow.

Ewanick says Chevy is unveiling a different version of its new Malibu in Shanghai, where it might be seen as more of a luxury vehicle.

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Commentary
11:53 am
Wed April 20, 2011

Recall the Governor?

There’s one word you can’t use to describe Governor Rick Snyder: Uncontroversial. In less than four months Michigan’s newest governor has created loads of controversy.

The seemingly mild-mannered former business executive has rammed a tough new emergency financial manager law through the legislature. He is pushing a budget that gives businesses a big tax break and makes devastating cuts to education and social programs. Lots of people are hopping mad, and some of them are trying to do something drastic about it. A group called Michigan Citizens United is launching a campaign to remove the governor from office.

They’ve filed paperwork in Washtenaw County seeking official permission to begin a recall drive. In nine days, the county board of commissioners will have a hearing to determine if the language on the petition is clear. If it is, the group can start collecting names. If they get enough signatures, the state’s voters may go the polls November 8th and decide whether to remove the governor. If a majority voted yes, Rick Snyder would be out of a job.

His opponents have a web site. They have a facebook page, and they are gung-ho. But there are two questions we should ask:  Does this recall effort have a chance of succeeding, and -- is it a good idea?  The first question is fairly easy; the answer is a resounding no. It will be all but impossible for this or any grassroots group to get enough signatures to make this happen.

Here’s why. They would need to collect 807,000 valid signatures within ninety days. Practically, as Citizens’ United admit, they really need well over a million, since some are bound to be disqualified.

That would mean they’d have to collect more than ten thousand signatures a day. The only way they could possibly achieve that is by spending a vast amount of money to hire people to collect the signatures, and this group doesn’t have it.

Most petition efforts to get constitutional amendments on the ballot fail, unless they have heavy financial backing, and an amendment only needs about a third as many signatures.

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Politics
11:16 am
Wed April 20, 2011

New Department of Corrections Chief named

Governor Rick Snyder has named Jackson County Sheriff Daniel Heyns as the new director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. He'll start his new duties on June 1st.

From the Governor's Press release:

Heyns earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1973 and a master’s in criminal justice, with a correctional administration focus, from Michigan State University in 1977.  Heyns obtained his State of Michigan Police Officer Certification in 1981, is a graduate of the National FBI Academy and has completed special weapons and tactics training...

Heyns, of Jackson, has served as Jackson County sheriff since 2003.  He is responsible for a $12.5 million budget, a 450-bed jail operation, 911 central dispatch center and multiple specialized units including marine patrol, detective bureau, K-9, narcotics, traffic, firearms, Special Response Team and school liaison.  He previously served as Jackson County undersheriff and was a captain in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

The Associated Press notes that Heyns was a vocal opponent of Governor Granholm's plan to release more nonviolent prisoners eligible for parole.

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