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Borders
1:01 am
Tue April 19, 2011

Borders Books liquidation sales coming to a close

The sale is already over at this former Borders location in Ann Arbor
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The company handling the liquidation sales at more than 200 Borders bookstores says most of those stores will close by this weekend.  The liquidation sales have already been completed at many of the stores, including one in Ann Arbor. 

Rick Kaye is a spokesman for Hilco Merchant Services, the company handling the liquidation sales.  

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Auto/Economy
11:51 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Hydrogen fuel cell cars fight possible funding cuts (video)

Battery electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt count the federal government as a good friend these days.  The government has spent two and a half billion dollars in just a few years to boost battery technology. 

But there’s another way to propel an electric car– with hydrogen.  And proponents are making a last-ditch effort to convince the Obama administration that fuel cell cars are ready for prime time.  

Take Honda’s fuel cell electric car, the FCX Clarity.  It can go about 240 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel.  About 60 miles to the gallon if you want to compare it to gasoline.  The only emission from the car is water so pure you could drink it

(Here's a video of me taking the FCX Clarity for a test drive)

There are emissions from the process used to create hydrogen, from natural gas.  But the emissions are about 60% less than comparable emissions from cars using internal combustion engines.

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Environment
11:45 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Deer baiting ban to be lifted?

Baiting deer (often with corn, apples, sugar beets or carrots) has been banned for three years in the Lower Peninsula.
(Photo by Scott Bauer - USDA)

Baiting deer is the subject of lots of debate in Lansing this month. There’s a ban on feeding deer in the Lower Peninsula that could be lifted in June. The restriction was a response to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in one deer in 2008. But as Peter Payette reported for The Environment Report no more sick animals have been found and the pressure is growing to let hunters bait wild deer.

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Politics
10:58 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Community rallies to protest immigration enforcement

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A standing-room-only crowd packed a union hall in Dearborn tonight for a rally to protest what they call harassment by immigration officials. Hundreds of people poured into UAW Local 600 to hear activists and politicians discuss allegations of wrongdoing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – agents.

Complaints include warrantless searches, racial profiling and enforcement actions near schools and churches.

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Politics
5:58 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Detroit, Wayne County officials protest State Police "about-face" on crime lab

Kym Worthy

Detroit and Wayne County officials say they feel like Michigan State Police have “stabbed them in the back."

That’s because State Police have backed off a plan to put a full-service crime lab in a former casino the city plans to turn into its new police headquarters.

But the state later decided that wasn’t the best use of money. They say Detroit Police need more help handling and submitting evidence.

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Offbeat
5:50 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Citizen gun advocates host "open carry" dinner in Detroit

"Open carry" dinner held in Detroit
user westsideshooter Flickr

Gun rights advocates will gather at a Detroit restaurant Monday night for an “open carry” dinner.

Organizer Rick Ector runs Rick’s Firearm Academy in Detroit and the blog Legally Armed in Detroit.

Ector says the dinner is a “family-oriented” event meant to make “law-abiding” Detroiters aware of their right to openly carry guns in many public places.

“There’s a significant percentage of people that do open carry in Detroit. But primarily when you hear about open carry, it’s done outside of the city limits. And for those individuals who are really specifically inside of Detroit proper, I wanted to be the voice out there sharing this information.”

Michigan law doesn’t explicitly permit open carry, but doesn’t forbid it either. Those carrying openly must have a registered weapon “clearly displayed,” be at least 18 years old, and stay out of designated “pistol-free zones.”

The Bluepointe restaurant on Detroit’s east side is hosting the dinner, which Ector says he initially thought would draw about 50 people.

But he says the event has gotten so much attention he now has “no idea how many people will show up.”

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Medicine
5:37 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

New health insurance options for people with preexisting conditions

Michigan Health Insurance Program is offering more options to people with pre-existing conditions.
user striatic Flickr

People with pre-existing medical conditions now have the option of paying lower premiums and higher deductibles if they enroll with Michigan’s Health Insurance Program.

State officials are trying to get more people to take advantage of the program that is a precursor to national health care reforms taking effect in 2014.

Eric Schneidewind, president of the Michigan chapter of AARP, says only a few hundred people have enrolled with the program so far.

“I think it’s a new program, for one thing, and they just don’t know it exists. And so they aren’t aware of it, they haven’t taken advantage of it, and so it’s really potentially a very good deal for a person who has a chronic condition of health—bad health.”

Schneidewind hopes offering the lower premium and higher deductible will encourage thousands of people to enroll. He says hundreds-of-thousands of people in Michigan are eligible.

"I’ve run across members who have tragic stories about themselves or their children who really probably died prematurely because they couldn’t get adequate health care for a chronic condition. What I’m telling our members at AARP and elsewhere, there now is an option, it is affordable."

The health care company that runs the pool recently got federal approval for a plan to bring down rates that can still be hundreds of dollars a month. The new plan allows people with preexisting conditions to pay higher deductibles and lower premiums than were previously offered.

Michigan is one of a group of states suing the federal government to opt out of national health care reform.

Offbeat
5:09 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Airport in Sturgis, Michigan flooded by callers seeking tax advice

Search for IRS in Google Maps and you find the airport in Sturgis, Michigan.
Google Maps

Don't have the phone number? Just Google it.

That modern day phenomenon led callers seeking information from the Internal Revenue Service to accidentally dial a small airport in Sturgis, Michigan.

The FAA airport code for Kirsch Municipal Airport in Sturgis is "IRS."

If you type in a search for IRS on Google Maps, you'll get the airport's phone number.

Andrian Chen wrote about the mix-up on Gawker.com:

"The phone calls started two months ago, and it was just a trickle at first. Since then it's grown to a deluge of "20 to 50 calls a day" from people with tax questions, according to a weary-sounding office manager named Becky who took the time to talk to us this afternoon...

The calls haven't been a huge issue, Becky says, but she's getting sick of them. "It's just irritating," she said. "Most of them calling aren't the most intelligent, calling us at 7pm on the weekends. And it's like, do you seriously think the IRS is going to answer their phone at 7 on a Sunday?"

Becky will be glad when tax day ends at midnight tonight.

She may, or may not know, that if you need to file an extension, form 4868 is the paperwork you seek.

Sports
5:08 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Michigan House Bill regulates amateur mixed martial arts fights

Amateur mixed martial arts is not regulated in the state of Michigan
mickepe MorgueFile

Amateur mixed martial arts fights may soon be regulated by the state. A bill introduced to the Michigan House would require both promoters and fighters to be licensed by the state. The bill would also create a commission to enforce the rules and investigate complaints.

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Politics
4:13 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Officials receive training on new emergency financial manager law

More than 300 local officials and prospective emergency managers are in Lansing today and tomorrow to be trained in the state's new fiscal crisis law.

The law gives sweeping authority to emergency managers named to run school districts and local governments that can no longer pay their bills.

Terry Stanton of the Michigan Department of Treasury says the goal is for the state to intervene earlier to avoid the drastic step of a state takeover.

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Economy
4:12 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Judge rules in favor of Michigan's smoking ban (but legal fight will probably continue)

(photo by Michigan Radio news staff)

A Macomb County judge has upheld the constitutionality of Michigan’s smoking ban.   But, the ruling will likely not be the last word.   Michigan bar and restaurant owners say they have lost millions of dollars in business since the smoking ban took effect last May.   

The owner of Sporty O’Toole’s, a Macomb County bar, took his fight to court, after he was fined for allowing his patrons to smoke.  A circuit court judge threw out the fine, but also ruled the law is constitutional.  

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Politics
4:05 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Critics take step toward recalling Gov. Snyder

A group opposed to Governor Rick Snyder submitted language today for a recall petition.  It’s the beginning of what may be a long process. 

The group, Michigan Citizens United, is behind the recall campaign.    Gerald Rozner is the group’s spokesman.  He says Gov. Snyder deserves to be recalled for signing legislation that gives state appointed financial managers broad powers to void city union contracts and plans to increase taxes on pensioners. 

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Medicine
3:39 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

UM surgeon resigns from post after controversial editorial

Dr. Lazar Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan, resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) after writing a controversial editorial in a February issue of  Surgery News. Greenfield also served as the lead editor for ACS' content in the publication - a post he has also resigned.

The editorial suggested that semen has a mood-enhancing effect on women. It concluded, "so there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates."

The entire February issue of Surgery News was retracted by ACS after receiving complaints.

You can find Dr. Greenfield's editorial as originally posted on Retraction Watch.

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Environment
2:03 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Source of gasoline leak found

The spill occurred in White Oak Township (the location of the White Oak Township Hall is marked on this map).
Google Maps

Update 2:03 p.m.

Officials say the gasoline leak has been stopped. Still no word on how much fuel leaked from the storage tank.

From the Associated Press:

Officials say they've stopped a gasoline leak in Michigan and confirmed the source as a storage tank in the area.

Ingham County emergency officials said in a statement Monday that the tank and a related filling system in White Oak Township, about 55 miles west of Detroit, are owned by Marathon Pipe Line LLC.

A message seeking comment was left Monday by The Associated Press at Marathon's offices.

Wolverine Pipe Line Co., which also owns some tanks at the same storage site, has been working with the county on response to the leak since it was reported Wednesday.

The county says Marathon will take over work dealing with the leak from Wolverine. The amount of the spill remains unknown. There's no evidence of health hazards in the area.

9:07 a.m.

Authorities say they've found the source of the gasoline leak in Ingham County.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan authorities say they've traced a gasoline leak to the area of a storage tank holding 14,700 barrels of fuel. Ingham County Emergency officials said in a statement Sunday that they've found higher levels of spilled gasoline as their monitoring equipment approaches the Wolverine Pipeline Co. facility.

The large gasoline storage tank site is in White Oak Township, about 55 miles west of Detroit.

Some of the gas flowed about a mile down an open drain by the time a farmer reported the leak Wednesday.

The county says the suspected source of the leak is a tank that can hold up to 180,000 barrels of fuel. It says that while the amount of the spill remains unknown, it's nowhere near the capacity of the tank, which was mostly empty when the leak started.

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris reported yesterday that officials from the Wolverine Pipeline Company were searching for the gasoline leak.

Commentary
12:49 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Rolling the Dice

We in the media have been paying a lot of attention to Governor Snyder’s attempts to push his program through the legislature. Mostly, we‘ve been preoccupied with the mechanics.

Last week, we talked about his compromise on the pension tax. Soon, we‘ll be discussing what seems likely to be the governor’s  success at cutting spending for the schools. Occasionally, we remember to mention the reason for all this painful budget slashing.

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Jobs
12:44 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

McDonald's "National Hiring Day" is tomorrow

McDonald's hopes to hire thousands of new workers.
Miguel Vaca Flickr

"Would you like some fries with that?"

That’s the phrase many are perfecting for McDonald's National Hiring Day tomorrow. Many of the McDonald’s  jobs will be in the Midwest.

McDonald's got its start here in the Midwest, and it has a substantial presence throughout the Great Lakes states.

That’s why 10,000 of the 50,000 new workers, the company wants will be based across the region.

The McDonald's in downtown Chicago (on Chicago and State) is one location that is hiring. Nick Karavites and his family own that restaurants and 18 others across the city.

"Not only are we looking to hire cashiers but also hospitality staff and kitchen staff," says Karavites.

As the employment market improves, job seekers can get more selective about where they work.

Karavites said pay at their restaurants averages $9 an hour, and that all workers can participate in a McDonald’s Insurance program.

McDonald’s says the company needs more workers because last year’s sales were up five percent and continues to grow.

Flint
12:02 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Reporter rides along with cops in Michigan's "Murdertown"

Closed on the weekends. Doors "locked at dusk" on weekdays.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

"We ain't cops anymore. We're librarians. We take reports. We don't fight crime."

That's what officer Steve Howe told New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff.

LeDuff rode along with Howe and wrote about the experience in his Sunday Magazine article "Riding Along With the Cops in Murdertown, U.S.A."

The desperation in Flint is well known. After several years of cuts to vital city services, the city is still looking at a projected budget deficit of $17 million.

LeDuff writes that the sign on the door of Flint's Police Headquarters says it all "Closed weekends and holidays."

LeDuff writes that another sign in town is a lie. He's talking about the sign on an archway that names Flint "Vehicle City."

But the name is a lie. Flint isn’t Vehicle City anymore. The Buick City complex is gone. The spark-plug plant is gone. Fisher Body is gone.

What Flint is now is one of America’s murder capitals. Last year in Flint, population 102,000, there were 66 documented murders. The murder rate here is worse than those in Newark and St. Louis and New Orleans. It’s even worse than Baghdad’s.

The murders in Flint continue to pile up. More than 20 so far this year.

Mayor Dayne Walling held a press conference recently saying "the killings and criminals must be stopped."

But who's going to stop them? LeDuff reports there are only six patrolmen working on a Saturday night in Flint and the city has laid off two-thirds of its police force in the last three years.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported that Flint's Public Safety Director Alvern Lock denied "that cuts to Flint’s police department have played a role in the increase in the city’s increase homicide rate."

But when reading LeDuff's piece, you have to wonder.

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Economy
11:54 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Weather & fuel costs on the minds of Michigan farmers

Instead of snow, Michigan farmers would rather see something like this in thier fields
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s planting time for many Michigan farmers.  In addition to the weather, farmers are closely watching fuel prices this Spring.   

The price of fuel affects practically every aspect of farming in Michigan, from the cost of the diesel in the tractor to the price of the fertilizer on the fields.  Bob Boehm is the director of the commodities department for the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says fuel costs are between 7% to 15% of the average Michigan farm’s budget, but may be higher this year.  

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Environment
11:27 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Regulators, industry reps attend pipeline safety forum

The U.S. Department of Transportation is holding a forum on pipeline safety today in Washington, DC.

Last summer’s massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River and two fatal gas line explosions in California and Pennsylvania triggered the review of pipeline safety.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced a pipeline safety action plan.  The plan calls for pipeline operators to review their pipelines and quickly repair sections that are in bad condition.

Andy Black is the President and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipelines.  It’s a trade group that represents pipeline operators. 

“The industry strives for no accidents but I cannot assure you there will be none.”

He says despite the recent accidents, the industry’s safety record is improving.  The Transportation Department backs up that claim... saying accidents have decreased nearly 50% over the past 20 years.

You can find out what kind of pipelines run near your home, school or office on a new website from the DOT.

What's Working
7:05 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Children focus in on nature

Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior
user Rhonda Noren Flickr

With the spread and advancement of home technology such as televisions, computers, cell phones, and video games, American children are spending less and less time outdoors. A baseball glove has been traded in for a remote control, and parents have gone from fretting over grass-stained jeans to fretting over their child’s apparent reclusiveness. Most kids today are more comfortable walking a parent through setting up Facebook account than they are walking through a forest. But the Udall Foundation, based in Arizona, is trying to reacquaint kids with the joys of exploring the natural world with their Parks in Focus program.

Parks in Focus is all about bridging the gap between technology and nature. Children, mostly middle school aged, are put in touch with Parks in Focus through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters. After providing each child with a digital camera to document their explorations, Parks in Focus program leaders take the children on camping and hiking trips in some of America’s most scenic parks. While trips originally went only to the Grand Canyon, Parks in Focus has expanded to several other states, including Michigan.

Bret Muter is the Michigan Program Coordinator for Parks in Focus. He says digital cameras act as security blankets for the kids, allowing them to have a familiar piece of technology in an unfamiliar world of mountains, streams, and creepy crawlies.

“If kids aren’t comfortable with nature, they’re typically comfortable with technology such as a camera, even if they don’t own one. So cameras serve as that safety net for exploring the environment, which may otherwise be unfamiliar or even scary to some kids.”

On top of just making the children more comfortable with the initial shock of being out in the middle of the woods, Muter says the cameras allow the kids to interact with their surroundings more than they normally would.

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