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Government Shutdown
7:33 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Michigan officials keeping close eye on federal budget negotiations

President Obama met late last night with Congressional leaders to try to avert a partial government shutdown
Scott_Ableman Flickr

Governor Snyder’s administration says it expects most state services will continue with little or no disruption if a partial federal government shutdown occurs, the Associated Press reports. The federal government will partially shutdown tomorrow at midnight if there is not a deal to fund the government through September. From the AP:

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Wednesday that the administration is monitoring the situation closely and seeking more information. Key factors influencing the possible effects of a shutdown would be how the federal government defines essential services and how long a shutdown might last.

The federal government faces a partial shutdown Friday at midnight if Congress doesn't take action to avoid one.

Michigan's unemployment insurance agency says it expects benefits would continue to be paid to jobless workers, including the roughly 150,000 who now receive benefits under federal programs.

Michigan has about 52,000 federal government employees, including about 22,000 postal employees.

Politics
7:19 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Snyder defends new Detroit/Ontario bridge plan

Governor Rick Snyder (R) is pushing for a second span across the Detroit River
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending the plan to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Snyder spoke to the Detroit Free Press about his support for a new international bridge over the Detroit River a day after the newspaper published comments from Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun that criticized Snyder and the new bridge plan.  From the Free Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press on Wednesday that a TV ad campaign attacking plans for a second bridge to Canada reminds him of misleading campaign attacks on him in last year's race for governor.

"It's inaccurate," he said of the ad's claim that the public project connecting Michigan and Canada would cost state taxpayers $100 million a year.

The ad is paid for by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who said in a front-page Free Press report Wednesday that Snyder's advocacy for the public bridge would kill Michigan jobs, notably at his companies.

Moroun wants to build his own second Detroit-Windsor span, but the Canadian government won't let him build the span because of traffic, legal and environmental concerns. Snyder said two bridges would be viable…

Snyder said a new bridge, built by a private builder, would stimulate commerce. But, he said in a wide-ranging interview, his top priority is balancing the state budget and enacting tax changes he said will lead to more jobs.

Terrorism
7:05 am
Thu April 7, 2011

'Christmas Day Bomber' due in court

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up an airplane near Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 is scheduled to be in federal court today. From the Associated Press:

…Abdulmutallab is due in court Thursday with prosecutors and his standby counsel, Anthony Chambers.

Abdulmutallab is representing himself, and it's possible that Judge Nancy Edmunds again will ask if he wants that to continue.

It's a critical issue because the deadline to challenge any evidence is two months away. Trial is set for October. Abdulmutallab is not a lawyer.

He's accused of trying to ignite an explosive in his underwear as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approached Detroit on Christmas 2009. The plane left Amsterdam with 279 passengers and a crew of 11.

Arts/Culture
6:53 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Detroit Symphony Orchestra rehersals to begin today

The DSO will begin rehersals again this morning after a six month strike
Mumu Entertainment Flickr

Rehearsals are scheduled this morning for musicians at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The DSO musicians ended their six-month strike earlier this week after they reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with DSO management.

The Symphony's first post-strike concert is scheduled for Saturday night. From the Associated Press:

The dispute was over how deep a pay cut the musicians would have to take to help the struggling symphony balance its budget. The musicians were offering to accept a 22 percent cut, while management sought and then imposed a 33 percent cut.

In an announcement on the DSO's website, DSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin said:

“As we return to our home, I’m confident that the artistic product will continue at the highest possible level. There is much to be done but the DSO will emerge a healthier and stronger institution."

Politics
6:38 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Poll: Most Michiganders dislike emergency manager law

Fifty percent of people in Michigan are opposed to a new law that gives sweeping powers to emergency financial managers overseeing troubled cities and school districts. That’s according to a recent survey commissioned by the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.

Bill Ballenger is editor of the newsletter. He says most people do not live in areas that would be affected by the new law because their local governments are running smoothly.

“If you ask them, do you want to give the power to the state to come in and completely play Big Foot here and come in and crush your collective bargaining rights, dissolve your municipality, and mandate your millage elections when in fact they’ve been doing everything right, they’re going to say no.”

Ballenger says he thinks misinformation about who the legislation would affect is causing many people to be upset. Governor Rick Snyder’s administration says no more than 10 local governments in the state would be in danger of being taken over by an emergency manager.

Arts/Culture
5:46 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

"Art X Detroit" puts spotlight on the city's literary, visual and performing arts scene

Art X Detroit runs Apr. 6 - 10, 2011
Photo courtesy of Art X Detroit

The Detroit arts world will be in the spotlight this week.

The first ever Art X Detroit event runs Wednesday, April 6 - Sunday, April 10 and will feature everything from hip hop performances to classical and jazz music to poetry readings.

The event features the 40 artists who have won visual, literary, or performing arts fellowships through the Kresge Foundation over the past two years.

Lewis Aguilar is a 2010 Kresge Literary Arts fellow. For Art X Detroit, he’s written a story about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and their time in Detroit. A dramatic reading of the work will take place at Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts:

"I will have people reading that story in the form of a 3-act play, while more than 100 images are being shown on a very large screen behind them."

Chido Johnson was a 2009 Kresge “Visual Artist” fellow, and he’s excited to display his new work during Art X Detroit. He says "Detroit has been identified over and over again as a decayed city, and this is a way to really emphasize how rich and cultural it is.

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immigration
4:30 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Immigrant advocates say Detroit ICE office "out of control"

Jose Luis, left, describes hiding out inside his kids' school as immigration agents waited outside.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Advocates for undocumented immigrants say the Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – is “out of control.” They say agents are ignoring the agency’s own guidelines prohibiting enforcement near schools and churches.

Ali Abdel is the principal at Hope of Detroit Academy. He says ICE agents surrounded the school last week, terrifying parents and students:

"The school was like a ghost town. People were coming to get their students out of school, they were scared.... They were calling, flooding our lines – is ICE in the building? Are they around the corner? And this is no way for children to learn."

Jose Luis is one of several parents who hid inside the school last week as immigration agents waited outside. Luis says agents in three SUVs appeared to follow him as he dropped his kids off for school:

"ICE should be following people who they have warrants for. But that’s not what they’re doing, they’re following everybody."

The Alliance for Immigrants’ Rights has a series of demands. They include identifying who authorized the enforcement action at the school, and disciplining those responsible.

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Justice
4:11 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

University of Michigan student sues former assistant attorney general

Former assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, from an interview with Anderson Cooper last September
CNN

Andrew Shirvell gained national attention for his public campaign against a University of Michigan student.

Now, that U-M student is suing him.

The Detroit News reports:

A University of Michigan student is suing a fired assistant attorney general for allegedly stalking him and defaming his character last year in a scandal that received nationwide publicity.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Washtenaw Circuit Court by Christopher Armstrong, 21, the president of the U-M Student Assembly, against Andrew Shirvell, who was fired by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox last November for using state computers to wage a campaign against the openly gay student.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Granholm won't lead new consumer financial protection agency

Matt Hampel Flickr

President Obama once considered Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm for a supreme court judgeship.

Now, it looks like the administration was considering her for another job: the head of the new consumer financial protection agency.

But Granholm has declined to be considered for the position.

The Detroit News reports:

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said today she has no plans to head a new federal agency charged with protecting consumers of financial products such as mortgages and bank accounts.

Reuters reported that Federal Reserve board member Sarah Raskin also is under consideration to head the new consumer protection body called the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

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Economy
2:06 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Borders spokeswoman insists decision to leave Ann Arbor has not been made

Borders bookstore located in Arborland shopping center in Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A report in the Wall Street Journal suggested Borders plans to move its headquarters from Ann Arbor. But company spokeswoman Mary Davis insists no final decision has been made.   

"We are looking at a number of options all around the greater metropolitan Detroit area including Ann Arbor. News reports are making it sound like the decision is final and we are moving out of Ann Arbor. That is not the case."   

The Wall Street Journal reported late last night that Borders will outline its future plans to a group of its creditors today. Part of those plans involves moving out of the company's Ann Arbor headquarters. The company has said the building no longer serves Borders needs. Borders issued a statement saying the company will look for a new facility in metro Detroit.  

Borders filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Since then, Borders moved to close more than 200 bookstores, including four in Michigan. Borders hopes to exit bankruptcy protection later this year, possibly in late summer or early fall.  

Borders, once a leader in the nation's book selling industry, has struggled in recent years as book buyers have moved online.

Arts/Culture
2:05 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Exploring Detroit “beautiful and shocking at the same time”

Jerry Belanger shares the history of renovating Cliffbells with a group touring from Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Just before 7 o’clock this morning, I got on a bus to Detroit. More than 50 people from West Michigan are also on board. And these are normal, non-politician-type people who are trying to learn more about Detroit.

If you find yourself asking something like, “Why would they do that?” or “What’s to learn from Detroit?” – then join me, you’re on the right track.

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Offbeat
1:48 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Kidney donor discovered on Facebook

User apoxapox Flickr

A Michigan man was told he could wait five years for a kidney transplant that matched his blood type.

But then he found one on Facebook.

ABC News reports:

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Kwame Kilpatrick
12:38 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick moving to new prison

Former Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will soon be moving to a state prison cell.

A federal judge today approved Kilpatrick's request to be transferred from a federal lockup in Milan, Michigan.   The Associated Press reports Kilpatrick was transferred to a facility in Jackson after today's hearing.  

He's locked up for violating probation in a criminal case that forced him out of city hall in 2008. Kilpatrick has been housed at Milan to be close to his Detroit-area attorneys as he prepares for trial on federal corruption charges.

But he needs to return to state prison in order to be considered for parole in July. Kilpatrick was in a good mood in court, even joking with TV reporters about the favorite newscast among inmates at Milan.

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Trooper Death
12:29 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Michigan state police trooper dies in rollover accident

Michigan State Police trooper Jeffery Werda
(Michigan State Police)

A Michigan state police trooper died early this morning when his cruiser rolled over during a chase in Saginaw County. The Associated Press reports Trooper Jeffrey Werda of the Bridgeport Post was on his way to help Saginaw County  sheriff's deputies chase a motorist early Wednesday when he apparently lost control and crashed.

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Science/Medicine
12:25 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Detroit Doctors reduce premature births

Treatment with a hormone gel can reduce some premature births by up to 45 percent.
Kitt Walker flickr

Detroit is the site of an important medical discovery that’s expected to reduce infant mortality.

Doctors at the Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University, and the National Institutes of Health identified women likely to deliver their babies early with a simple hormone gel. They treated those women with a hormone gel and reduced the chance of premature delivery by 45 percent. Mike Duggan is the President of the Detroit Medical Center.

"The idea that you could spot a likelihood of that premature delivery and prevent it in really remarkable numbers it is a world changing discovery. This is going to change the infant mortality rate."

Doctor Tom Malone is the head of DMC’s Hutzel Women’s Hospital.

"Prematurity and small for gestational age probably impacts infant mortality more than anything else, and the infant mortality rate in the city of Detroit is the highest in the state. So you get an idea of how significant this study is."

Over 500,000  babies are born early each year in the United States. Prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality.

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Politics
12:05 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Ambassador bridge owner: Snyder’s plan for new Detroit/Ontario bridge should be stopped

A view of the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River
J Powers 65 Flickr

Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, says Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to build another bridge connecting Detroit and Ontario should be stopped.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press on Monday, Moroun said, "I don't know what the governor's doing... He's probably going to win. I can't stop him, but he should be stopped. He's doing the wrong thing."

From the Freep:

Supporters of a publicly owned bridge say it will create construction and spin-off jobs near the new development and meet future traffic needs.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Snyder's point person on the proposed New International Trade Crossing, said the Moroun family's recent high-profile advertising campaign against the project cannot stop it...

By stressing the jobs that might be lost at his bridge and trucking companies if the public bridge is built, Moroun is clearly trying to influence the Republican-controlled, business-friendly Legislature that will soon decide the fate of Snyder's plan, he said...

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who opposes the Snyder plan because it would siphon traffic and revenue away from his privately owned span, sought to frame the debate this week as jobs in Michigan versus jobs elsewhere...

During the past couple of years, the Moroun family and associates have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash to both Republicans and Democrats to try to help block the public bridge project. During last year's gubernatorial campaign, however, Snyder did not take any contributions from the Morouns.

Governor Rick Snyder has said he wants lawmakers to introduce legislation to authorize a new bridge when they come back from their Spring break. Lawmakers will be back in session next week.

Commentary
11:24 am
Wed April 6, 2011

The Price of Civilization

Last night a gentleman who appeared to be in his late sixties approached me after Michigan Radio's Issues and Ale event in Royal Oak.  He appeared frustrated. "My father always taught me that taxes were the price we pay for civilization," he said.

"Why don't people seem to realize that today?"

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News Roundup
9:04 am
Wed April 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 6th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Report: State Doing Well Collecting Child Support Payments

A new Auditor General’s report says about 70 percent of Michigan children who are eligible for child support do receive the payments. About $3 billion in child support payments were collected over the last two years, Laura Weber reports. Marilyn Stephen, Director of Child Support with the Department of Human Services, told Weber the state’s child support program is a great return on investment for taxpayers, with more than $6 in child support collected for every dollar spent.

Enbridge: Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Cost Half a Billion Dollars

Enbridge Energy says last July's oil spill of at least 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan cost the company $550 million in 2010. The figure comes from an Enbridge report. The $550 million does not include insurance recoveries, fines and penalties. In addition to the spill in Marshall, the Kalamazoo Gazette reports, Enbridge spent $45 million on a spill in Romeoville, Illinois in September. Public officials say they don't know when the Kalamazoo River will reopen for public use.

Residents Learn More About DPS Reorginization

The Detroit Public Schools held the first in a series of parent meetings about a radical plan to close some schools and turn others into charters, Sarah Cwiek reports. From Cwiek:

Most parents who attended the first meeting at Priest Elementary school in southwest Detroit expressed concern and even anger about Bobb’s plan. Many worry what it will mean for their neighborhood schools, student transportation, and special needs students.

Robert Bobb, the Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, has proposed closing six schools and turning up to 45 others into charters. Two more meetings are scheduled for April 12th and 13th.

Economy
8:38 am
Wed April 6, 2011

Report: Borders to leave Ann Arbor for Metro Detroit

A report in the Wall Street Journal says Borders will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor, MI to Metro Detroit
Lorna Is Flickr

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group Inc. will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor to the Detroit metro area. The company is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From the Journal:

Borders Group Inc. plans to tell publishers and landlords Wednesday it has achieved major cost savings, including more than $30 million in rent reductions, and that it will move out of its Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters for cheaper office space in the greater Detroit metro area.

Presenting its business plan to an unsecured creditors committee, predominantly made up of publishers and landlords, Borders also plans to say it has now closed about 50 superstores as part of efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter. Altogether, Borders will close 226 by the end of next month, although a handful of additional stores could be closed, depending on negotiations with landlords, the people said.

News organizations around the state were quick to pick up the report:

Environment
7:41 am
Wed April 6, 2011

Levin will continue to co-chair Senate Great Lakes task force

Senator Carl Levin (D - MI) will lead the Great Lakes Task Force along with Republican Senator Senator Mark Kirk
Jeffrey Simms Photography Flickr

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, will co-chair the U.S. Senate’s Great Lakes Task Force for the next two years, the Associated Press reports.

Levin has been on the task force since 1999. Kirk is taking over the position for fellow Republican Senator George Voinovich who retired earlier this year. The AP explains:

The bipartisan group deals with Great Lakes issues that involve the federal government. It has supported an interstate compact to protect water supplies and funding for programs such as invasive species control and cleanup of contaminated sediments.

Kirk said Tuesday he hoped the panel also would develop legislation to crack down on dumping raw sewage into the lakes.

In a statement released on Senator Levin's website yesterday, Levin said:

“I am pleased that Senator Kirk will serve as co-chair of the task force, and I’m excited about our prospects to protect and enhance our Great Lakes. The task force has led the way to passage for legislation to clean up contaminated sediments, fight invasive species and prevent the diversion of precious fresh water from the Great Lakes basin. I look forward to working with Senator Kirk and I am confident that he will help add to that important legacy.”

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