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Asian Carp
6:05 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Michigan loses legal round in Asian Carp battle

The state of Michigan has suffered another legal setback in its effort to keep Asian Carp from reaching the Great Lakes.  

A federal judge in Chicago has denied a request by Michigan and several other states to order the closure of canals which link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin. Asian Carp are a voracious invasive species.  The carp have devastated Mississippi River fish populations.  

“The court agreed that Asian Carp are indeed a threat," says Joy Yearout,  a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, '"But the judge also ruled the actions the federal government has taken over the last several months prove they are addressing the threat enough to make it not immediate enough to require a court order."

Federal agencies have stepped up construction of electric barriers to keep Asian Carp from passing into Lake Michigan.  Other methods are also being studied. 

The states may continue their legal fight.  They are also asking President Obama to order the canals closed.

Education
5:50 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Charter advocacy group says Michigan's charter law is among best in U.S.

A charter advocacy group gives Michigan's charter law a passing grade
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Want to open up a charter school? A new report says Michigan has one of the nation’s friendliest laws when it comes to allowing charter schools to open.

The Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group in Washington, DC, says Michigan has the 5th best charter school law in the country.

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Economy
4:38 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

White House pushes Congress for unemployment extension

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

Presidential Visit
4:26 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Former President Bush in Grand Rapids today

Former President George W. Bush visits with an audience in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update 4:23pm

Lindsey Smith just sent in this quote from former president George Bush's talk today in Grand Rapids:

"Like in '44 if somebody in Grand Rapids, Michigan said 'I predict someday America and Japan will stand shoulder to shoulder to enhance mutual security' they would have said 'what a hopeless, idealistic nut-job you are'. But democracy transformed an enemy to an ally. I know it sounds far-fetched for some that people want to be free in the Middle East and that freedom will take hold - I think it will."

Update 3:53 pm

The event with George W. Bush in Grand Rapids just wrapped up and reporter Lindsey Smith called in with some of her highlights from the talk:

  • Bush's opening line - "Most people didn't think I couldn't read a book, much less write one."
  • Bush said after his presidency it was like going from 100 mph to 10 mph and he had to figure out what to do with all his extra time
  • About the firing of Donald Rumsfeld Bush said that his relationship with him had gone from one of "creative tension" to one of "destructive tension."
  • About 9/11 and the decision to go into Iraq Bush said that it was a bold move that had to be made. He was disappointed that no WMDs were found. He also says that 9/11 changed his mind about preemptive strikes. If he hadn't done it, he believes there would have been a dangerous nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq.
  • Bush says he's still in touch with Condoleezza Rice, but doesn't talk much with Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.
  • He said he doesn't judge Barack Obama, and won't be pulled into criticizing or commenting on him and his presidency.

Update 12:42 pm:

Our reporter at the event, Lindsey Smith, says Secret Service told the media that laptops are not allowed. So, it might be that we have to wait for updates until after the former President speaks.

___

6:44 am

Former President George W. Bush will be in Grand Rapids this afternoon.  He'll be promoting his new book "Decision Points" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This is the former President's second visit to Grand Rapids this year.  He attended the Economic Club of Grand Rapids in June.

Sports
3:43 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

The Abu Dhabi Pistons? Middle Eastern investors are eying Detroit's NBA team

The NBA's Detroit Pistons are up for sale
Kevin Ward

There's been a lot of talk about who might buy the Detroit Pistons.   Several people with close ties to Detroit have been said to be considering paying as much as a half billion dollars for the NBA franchise.   But there's word now that Middle Eastern investors may be in the mix.

Here's the story from The National of Abu Dhabi:

Investment groups in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar are in separate discussions to buy the Detroit Pistons basketball team, which has been valued at close to US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion).

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U.S. and Canada
3:06 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Effort to OK new Detroit-Windsor bridge fails

(view of Detroit from Windsor, Ontario)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The push to build a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor appears dead. 

The Associated Press reports: 

A final effort to pass a measure this year that could have cleared the way for a second bridge connecting Detroit and Canada has failed.

Democrats in the Michigan Senate wanted a vote on the issue Thursday, likely the final day of the Legislature's 2009-10 session. But a motion to discharge the legislation and send it to the Senate floor failed, getting only 11 votes in the 38-seat Senate dominated by Republicans.

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Economy
2:58 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Michigan economy struggling

A job search workshop
flickr user Daniel Johnson Flickr

We all know Michigan has been going through tough times. An unemployment rate of nearly 13%. Jobless benefits expiring for tens of thousands of people. Deep spending cuts coming to state and local governments.

But it may be tougher than you've thought.

 The Detroit New reports:

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News Director: Off-Mic
1:53 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Follow the pack or follow the mission?

The missing Skelton brothers

Michigan Radio’s goal is to cover issues oriented news. What’s that mean? We look for stories that affect our listener’s lives, their communities, and our state. We leave the daily mayhem of crimes and fires to other media outlets, because those stories are not part of our mission.

Following that mission is not always easy.

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Environment
1:33 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

What lies under the farm fields? (audio slideshow)

Lynn Davis' family has run a farm drainage business in northwest Ohio for 100 years.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A few years back, we at the Environment Report did a comprehensive series called, "The Ten Threats to the Great Lakes." Doing our best to make it comprehensive, we broke each of the Ten Threats into several stories.

We joked that the "Ten Threats" series turned into a 33-part series as we dug deeper into the issues.

For the series, I traveled to northwest Ohio and met with Lynn Davis. His grandfather had started a farm drainage business in 1910 using a steam powered trenching machine. Davis later took over the business from his father and uncle.

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Economy
1:32 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Michigan's economy stumbled in October

Michigan’s economy stumbled in October. 

Comerica Bank’s monthly gauge of Michigan’s economic activity shows a slight dip in October.   The state’s economy spiked up in September. 

Comerica Bank chief economist Dana Johnson says Michigan’s economy has essentially been flat for the past four months.  Johnson says:

 As has been the case in the national economy over the second half of the year, growth in Michigan has been sluggish and uneven. Looking ahead, the Michigan economy is poised to make modest gains in coming months, against a background of gradually accelerating national growth.

The Michigan Economic Activity Index weighs nine, seasonally-adjusted indicators of real economic activity.

These indicators reflect activity in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors as well as job growth and consumer outlays.

Campaign Finance
1:00 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Just how much money did candidates raise for Election 2010?

Photo by Tracy O/Flickr

Candidates who ran in Michigan's 2010 election have until today to report just how much money they raised and spent during the 2010 campaign.

The Detroit News reports that as of today:

...only one of the major statewide candidates had filed a post-election report. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican who defeated Democrat Jocelyn Benson, filed her report a day early on Wednesday.

The Detroit News expects reports will be filed today by Governor-elect Rick Snyder.

Environment
12:54 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Snyder shuffles environmental agencies

Governor-elect Rick Snyder speaking at the Michigan Farm Bureau.
Photo by Lindsey Smith

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is already shuffling things in Lansing. He’s planning to split up the Department of Natural Resources and Environment... back into two separate agencies.

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Auto/Economy
12:17 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

GM's Willow Run Plant on the auction block today

The Wilow Run Factory was built in 5 months, and at the height of production during WWII, it was producing one B-24 bomber every hour.
U.S. Army Signal Corps

It was ground zero for the "arsenal of democracy" in the 1940s. Henry Ford built the giant Willow Run factory to manufacture B-24 bombers in World War II. Later GM took over the building making everything from Chevy trucks, the Caprice, the Nova, Corvairs, and transmissions.

Today, the materials inside the plant are being auctioned off as part of the "Old GM's" bankruptcy reorganization (old GM is now known as the Motors Liquidation Company).

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Education
12:00 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Changes may be coming to teacher tenure in Michigan

Time is running out for state lawmakers in Lansing.     The current legislative session is scheduled to end today. They are hoping to pass a change that will effect Michigan's teachers.  


MPRN's Rick Pluta filed this report on what's happening now at the state capitol:

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Arts
10:30 am
Thu December 2, 2010

A prayer vigil for Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin
flickr user ktkatrina

The Detroit Free Press reports that a prayer vigil was held for Aretha Franklin in downtown Detroit last night.

Franklin canceled all her concerts through May and is undergoing a "medical procedure."

From the Freep:

Franklin said in a statement that "all prayers are good." Spokeswoman Tracey Jordan said she had no comment on the singer's condition or any possible medical procedures.

Home Sales
9:05 am
Thu December 2, 2010

Foreclosed home sales slow in Michigan

Fewer people bought formerly foreclosed homes in Michigan in the third quarter of the year. 

Federal home buyer tax credits spurred home sales in Michigan and the rest of the country during the first half of the year.  Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says July through September home sales slumped without those incentives.  He says Michigan’s foreclosed home sales dipped 26%.

Bloomquist says:

Some of the sales you would have seen in the third quarter were pushed forward to the second quarter.  So, there was a little artificial inflation in those numbers. These numbers in the third quarter are a little bit lower than normal.

People who bought one of the 95 hundred formerly foreclosed homes that sold in Michigan in the third quarter of the year got a good deal.  The average sale price was about 41% cheaper than similar homes sold at the same time.

City Budgets
8:44 am
Thu December 2, 2010

Pontiac closer to shutting down Police Department

The city of Pontiac is a step closer to shutting down its Police Department
Nikonmania/FLICKR

The city of Pontiac is one step closer to shutting down its Police Department and having the Oakland County Sheriff's Office take over the city's patrols.

Pontiac faces a projected $9 million budget deficit and Michael Stampfler, Pontiac's state-appointed emergency financial manager, has asked the Oakland County Sheriff Department to take over policing the city.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

A committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve the $10-million contract. The county's Finance Committee will consider the plan today, and the full board is to vote on it Dec. 9... Undersheriff Mike McCabe said the department is expected to hire more than 60 of the Pontiac department's 70 employees and operate out of the city's headquarters in downtown Pontiac.

If approved, the Oakland County Sheriff Department would takeover on January 1st, 2011.

Governor-elect Snyder
7:42 am
Thu December 2, 2010

Snyder announces director of state's D.C. office

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has chosen Bill McBride to be director of the State of Michigan Washington, D.C. office.  McBride was a deputy chief of staff for former-Governor of Michigan John Engler.  McBride currently is chief of staff to Michigan Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids.

In a statement released yesterday, Snyder said:

Michigan’s Congressional delegation will have significant influence in the upcoming Congress since our U.S. Senators and Representatives will chair key committees. Bill McBride’s experience and impressive working relationships on both sides of the aisle make him an outstanding choice to head up our Washington D.C. office.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

News Roundup
7:09 am
Thu December 2, 2010

In this morning's news...

November Auto Sales

Auto sales rose 17 % in November from a year earlier. Ford sales were up 24%, Chrysler sales up by 17% and GM’s sales were up by 11%. As Reuters explained, the numbers were, “a stronger-than-expected gain that pointed to a slow but steady return in consumer demand from the depressed levels of a year ago.” GM and Chrysler both announced earlier in the week that they were hiring new workers.

Senate Approves Teacher-Tenure Reforms

As the final days of the 2009-2010 legislative session wrap up, the state Senate has approved teacher-tenure reforms.  The reforms, passed yesterday, would make it easier for school districts to fire teachers whose students don’t receive adequate test scores.  Speaker of the House Andy Dillon says he expects the House to vote on the measure today.  Teachers unions say the bills are unfair as they focus on teachers rather than problems with education funding in the state.

Wayne County Cuts Workers' Pay

Union employees in Wayne County are taking a 20% pay cut imposed by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. As Sarah Hulett reports, “the move comes after two years of negotiating failed to yield an agreement. Earlier this year, Ficano instituted unpaid furlough days after the union rejected a proposed 10 percent pay cut.” Ficano called the situation disappointing.

Presidential Visit

Former President George W. Bush will be in Grand Rapids this afternoon. He'll be promoting his new book, "Decision Points" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. This is the former President's second visit to Grand Rapids this year.  He attended the Economic Club of Grand Rapids in June.

Environment
11:02 pm
Wed December 1, 2010

Effort to preserve Saugatuck dune-land likely to get state grant ahead of schedule

Dunes near Saugatuck
Norm Hoekstra

Conservationists are celebrating a recommendation to approve a $7 million grant to preserve dune-land near Saugatuck.

The grant will help the City of Saugatuck purchase the 171-acre property. The land includes thousands of feet of Lake Michigan shoreline; plus dunes, wetlands, and lakes.

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