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Sports
4:14 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

Former UM football coach Rich Rodriguez speaks

Former Michigan head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, just issued this statement:

"I am proud of the dedication and commitment exhibited by the coaching staff and student-athletes who have represented the University of Michigan football program over the last three seasons.  While I am disappointed to depart Ann Arbor before we were able to reach the level of success we had in our sights, I am confident that the players who remain have the potential to do great things and to return the Wolverines to greatness.  I would like to thank our fans and our student body for their tremendous support. There is great passion for Michigan football and I have made lifelong friends through this experience."

Politics
3:45 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

State employee pay targeted in budget battles

Battles over the next state budget are heating up.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The start of the new year often brings in a lot of talk of good will. For those in politics, it's talk of bipartisanship.

In Michigan, that spirit is likely to dissolve quickly as the state faces a $1.8 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year (the state's next fiscal year will start October 1st, 2011).

Peter Luke on MLive.com highlights the discussion beginning to take shape among the leaders in the state legislature.

Republicans pretty much control everything in Lansing now, and the first item they say they plan to cut are salaries and benefits for state employees.

Jase Bolger, the new Speaker in the State House of Representatives, said state employee benefits are definitely on the table if the state is going to close the enormous budget deficit gap:

"There are significant dollars that need to be saved through our compensation models, not just salaries, but the entire compensation."

In his recent piece on the looming budget deficit, Michigan Radio's Lester Graham points out that slashing state employee salaries and benefits only gets them a small percentage of their overall $1.8 billion dollar goal.

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Sports
3:43 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

Love or hate Rich Rodriguez, coaching college football is tough

For the past three years I’ve had unfettered access to the Michigan football program, from the film room to the locker room, to write a book about what I’ve seen.

Before I walked into that first staff meeting, I thought I knew Michigan football as well as anyone.  But after three years of seeing everything up close, I can tell you this unequivocally: I had no idea.

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Education
3:41 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

DPS chief: Long-term strategy could include GM-style restructuring

Detroit Public Schools officials are getting ready to submit their latest plan for shoveling the troubled district out from under a crippling deficit.

The plan could include a proposal to split the district in two. It’s an idea Michigan Radio first reported last April, and the concept is similar to the way General Motors restructured.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb says he’s reduced expenses by more than $500 million in the last several months, but there’s still a “legacy” deficit that tops $300 million:

"We’re whittling away at it, but we have to create a long-term plan so that we’re not in this situation 12 months from now or two years from now."

 DPS officials say another option is a New Orleans-style overhaul that would convert many schools to charters. A third option is to use the state’s tobacco settlement money to erase the district’s debt, or the state could opt for some combination of all the above options. Lawmakers rejected a proposal last month to use the state's tobacco settlement to pay off the district's debt.

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Education
3:28 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

DPS wants businesses to adopt schools

Detroit Public Schools is recruiting businesses to adopt schools for academic and beautification projects. Angela Hoston heads the program:

"The goal is to have every school have a partner, and not just one partner but multiple partners. We want to raise the academic achievement levels of the bottom one-third of every classroom, and get them to the highest achievement level possible."

Hoston says each business can work with a principal to craft a unique program based on what the school needs and what the business can offer.

The initiative was announced at Gompers Elementary, where staff from the Doubletree Fort Shelby Hotel have built a garden and mentor students.

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Media
2:39 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

NPR's Ellen Weiss resigns after Juan Williams review

NPR's Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss resigned today
Jacques Coughlin for NPR

National Public Radio released two statements this afternoon.

One statement is about the independent review of the firing of NPR news analyst Juan Williams (ABC News did an interview with Williams after he was terminated).

The other is about the resignation of NPR's Senior Vice President for News, Ellen Weiss.

The two appear to be linked. Weiss was the NPR staffer who fired Juan Williams over the phone.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

Attacking Public Employees

Every culture and civilization has a set of myths which are sometimes partly true, but which are exaggerated out of proportion.

For example, they say any child in America can grow up to be president. That was made more believable when Barack Obama won. But for too many children today, a decent education, let alone the White House, is an impossible dream.

We take other things on faith too. These days, something most people seem to believe is that we have too many public sector employees, that they are paid too much, and that the cost of their pensions and benefits are killing us.

As a result, it is widely expected that Governor Snyder will seek deep cuts in public sector benefits to help close a nearly two billion dollar hole in next year’s state budget.

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Environment
11:55 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Toxins in art supplies

Larry Stephens became a professional artist when he was laid off from his auto job two years ago. He's been doing well, even selling paintings to ABC for the TV show Detroit 187.
Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

Many art supplies contain lead, arsenic, asbestos and other potentially dangerous compounds.  The Environment Report's Tanya Ott profiles a Michigan artist who spends 8-12 hours a day working with spray paint.

Most of the time Larry Stephens paints outside. But in winter, he can’t. So he paints indoors, wearing a respirator or a dust mask. It’s not enough.

“You know within a couple of hours I’ll start getting dizzy. You’ll end up coughing up paint the next morning. You’ll go to blow your nose and it’ll be green and red and yellow and whatever colors you’re using that day.”

Experts say there are no large scale health studies of people who use art supplies.

But Dr. Steven Marcus – who is New Jersey’s poison control chief – says lead, arsenic and cadmium are found in some paint pigments. Stone carving can release asbestos into the air and cause lung disease. And some glues and cements contain chemicals that can cause neurological damage – including a condition called “wrist drop,” where sufferers actually lose strength in their hands.  

“And for an artist, that’s their bread and butter. They lose strength in their hands and they can’t be an artist.”  

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Economy
11:33 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Is Borders Group Inc. headed for bankruptcy?

Paying rent is just one of the problems for Borders Group.
flickr - brewbooks

Sales at Borders Book stores have been slipping for several years as more buyers go to places like Amazon.com to find their titles, and as more people move into the digital reader market. Last month, the company reported that its third quarter sales were down 17.6% from the same period a year ago.

So the company is struggling to find a way to pay its bills. One way it's trying to preserve cash is to suspend its payments to publishers.

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Environment
10:49 am
Thu January 6, 2011

New Great Lakes leadership

The view from the Empire Bluff hiking trail.
Photo by Rebecca Williams

Governor Rick Snyder picked outgoing Republican state Senator Patty Birkholtz to lead the Office of the Great Lakes. As you might guess, the director of this office oversees all things Great Lakes. Birkholtz will advise the governor and make policy recommendations on everything from Asian carp to water use.

Birkholtz says protecting the Great Lakes will lead to a stronger economy.

“When we have a healthy Great Lakes system we have more jobs here in this state as well as regionally, and if we don’t have a healthy Great Lakes system it’s a detriment to not only the jobs situation but also businesses locating here."

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Cabinet Appointment
10:18 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head DHS

Governor Rick Snyder will name Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan as head of the state Department of Human Services today. The appointment will open a vacancy on the state Supreme Court for the new governor to fill.

The Associated Press reports:

It's not immediately clear how quickly Snyder will replace Corrigan on the court. Corrigan was part of the court's new 4-3 conservative majority... The department has been under pressure in recent years as more Michigan residents hurt by the recession seek public assistance. The department is under a 2008 consent decree to improve the state's foster care system but received poor marks in the latest report.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Corrigan reportedly is eager to lead the DHS because of her long involvement in child protection issues, such as foster care and abuse prevention, said those close to the decision.

Corrigan has served on Michigan's highest court since 1999.

Governor Snyder
9:06 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Snyder to give State of the State address on Jan. 19th

Governor Rick Snyder gives his inaugural address at the state Capitol Building
Corvair Owner Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will give his first State of the State address on Wednesday, January 19th at 7 p.m.  He'll give the speech in front of a joint session of the state legislature in the House chamber of the Capitol building in Lansing . The Detroit Free Press reports:

Snyder is expected to lay out specific goals of his promise to "reinvent Michigan" with an economic and political culture that promotes entrepreneurial spirit with lower taxes and less regulation. Those are themes he struck Saturday in his inauguration speech, in which he called for an end to partisan bickering.

And, if you're an astrology-watcher, it might be interesting to note that there will be a full moon that evening.

Michigan Radio will air live coverage of the address.

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News Roundup
7:58 am
Thu January 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

Michigan Lawmakers Take Oath of Office

All 15 members of Michigan’s U.S. House delegation were sworn in yesterday by new Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Speaker Boehner swore in lawmakers en masse at the Capitol. However, newly elected Republican Representative Justin Amash from the Grand Rapids area was sworn in individually. Also sworn-in individually was Michigan’s new Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke of Detroit.

New Chief Justice

Michigan’s seven Supreme Court Justices have elected a new Chief Justice. Republican Robert Young Junior was selected yesterday in a closed-door meeting to lead the court. The selection reflects the results of November’s election that flipped control of the court from Democrats to Republicans. Young says budget cuts and reducing the size of the judiciary will be his top priority, Rick Pluta reports. Young has served on the court since he was appointed by Governor John Engler in 1999.

Get Ready for Snow

Forecasters are predicting quite a bit of snow will fall in parts of West and Mid Michigan throughout the day and into tomorrow. Holland and Kalamazoo could see up to 12 inches of snow fall by the end of Friday. Parts of Mid Michigan are expected to get 8-10 inches by the end of the day tomorrow.  The Southeast is expected to get up to four inches by Friday evening. A lake effect snow advisory will go into effect this afternoon for parts of West and Mid Michigan.

Goodbye RichRod

After days of speculation about the future of University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez, it was announced yesterday that he was fired. U of M Athletic Director David Brandon made the announcement yesterday afternoon at a press conference in Ann Arbor. The firing came after the U of M football team struggled on the field and violated NCAA rules off the field, Steve Carmody reports. Brandon says he’ll work quickly to find a replacement.

Law
6:51 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Michigan's new Attorney General will continue to fight the federal health care law

Attorney General Bill Schuette shortly after he took the oath of office in Lansing
Corvair Owner Flickr

The state's new Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will continue Michigan's role in a legal challenge to the federal health care overhaul.  In a statement released yesterday,  Schuette said, "I will fight Obamacare tooth-and-nail to protect our citizens from this constitutional overreach."

As the Associated Press reports:

Schuette ... said Wednesday he will add his name to the lawsuit challenging the law. That continues a legal strategy from former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Both Schuette and Cox are Republicans. Attorneys for 20 states are challenging the new federal health care law in a case before a federal court in Florida. The states argue the law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

Schuette was sworn in as the state's Attorney General on Saturday.

Weather
6:29 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Forecast: Get ready for snow

Snow showers are expected throughout the state through tomorrow afternoon
Sami Flickr

Weather forecasters are predicting quite a bit of snow will fall throughout the state today, tonight and tomorrow.

Today: snow is likely across the state.  West and Mid Michigan could see up to three inches of snow by the end of the day; the Southeast is likely to get around an inch.

Tonight: the snow continues. Parts of the state around Holland and Kalamazoo could see an addition 2 to 5 inches of snow.  Mid Michigan could get another 1 to 3 inches and the Southeast will see occasional snow showers with additional accumulations of around an inch.

Tomorrow: more snow. West Michigan could see another 2-5 inches.  Another 2-4 inches is expected in parts of Mid Michigan and the Southeast is predicted to get another 1-2 inches.

Meanwhile, a lake effect snow advisory will go into effect this afternoon through tomorrow for parts of West and Mid Michigan.

Sports
10:12 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Brandon: UM prepared to pay for top tier football coach

University of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon at a press conference announcing the firing of Rich Rodriguez.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Now that University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez has been fired, David Brandon says he'll work fast to find a replacement.

Brandon was hired one year ago as the University of Michigan's Athletic Director. During the past twelve months the U of M football program has been his primary concern.   

The football team has struggled on the field and violated NCAA rules off the field.  

Now, the once premier football program faces years on probation and an uphill climb to become truly competitive. 

Brandon says whoever he hires as head coach needs to be more than an average football coach:

 “This individual has to be able to compete at the highest level.  The expectations here are extraordinarily high.  The passion for this football program is unbelievable.  If you don’t believe me, you should see the email traffic. There are people out there who care.  And it’s beyond just sport for them.  It’s part of their life.  That’s put a coach in a position where they have to have the ability.  To stand up to that pressure and perform against it.

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Auto
9:41 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Ford Catching Up To Toyota In Quality - And Perception of Quality

Another survey, another big improvement for Ford Motor Company.

Consumer Reports says its subscribers ranked Ford second only to Toyota as the best brand this year.  It’s a notable reversal of fortunes for both companies.

According to Consumers Reports, subscribing car owners perceive the Ford brand as nearly equal to the Toyota brand, and on the key factors of safety, quality and value, they rank Ford better than Toyota.  

Ford also was rated best non-luxury brand in a recent J.D. Power survey on initial quality. 

"This was long-term planning that is now paying off," says Jesse Toprak, an analyst with TrueCar.com.

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Michigan Supreme Court
9:10 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Chief Justice Young calls for cuts in the courts

Newly appointed Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young.
justicebobyoung.com

Newly appointed Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young is calling for budget cuts in Michigan's judiciary, reports Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Pluta reports that Chief Justice Young "says he will call for combining courts and cutting judges in areas where there are fewer people and fewer cases." Young said:

"The Legislature will either do something rational to reduce the size and cost of the judiciary, or it will do something irrational. I think it is most rational to reduce redundancy rather than to cut into the judiciary in ways that will disable it from fulfilling its constitutional duties."

Pluta says "a 2009 report by the State Court Administrator says the state could save $2 million by eliminating more than a dozen judgeships in metro Detroit and northern Michigan."

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Offbeat
4:37 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Job offers pile up for homeless man with "golden voice"

Ted Williams
screen grab of YouTube video

Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III says he filmed Ted Williams on a whim.

"We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them," said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. "This guy was using his talent."

Ted Williams was standing on a street corner near a highway exit ramp in Columbus, Ohio holding a sign that said "I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please any help will be greatfully (sic) appreciated..."

And when you hear his voice, it's uncanny. It sounds as if you've just stepped into a commercial radio or television broadcast. It almost sounds fake. Listen for yourself:

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Economy
4:35 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

More Borders stores to close, including one in Michigan

Borders to close at least 17 stores nationwide this quarter
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

A Borders bookstore in Farmington Hills is set to close Friday, Jan. 7.

Borders Books is starting the New Year by closing the Farmington Hills store and at least 16 other stores nationwide. A Borders spokesperson says more closures could be announced in March.

The Farmington Hills store is plastered with bright yellow "Going Out of Business" banners. Books are up to 80% off, and everything has to go in the next two days.

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