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Politics
5:31 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Snyder defends budget and tax plans

Rick Snyder campaigns last year. Now, Governor Rick Snyder is having to campaign for his budget proposals.
Bill Rice Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending some of his controversial budget plans.

He says taxing pensions is the right thing to do, even though some Republican lawmakers say they will not support that plan.

And Governor Snyder says his proposal to cut funding for universities by 15% this year is necessary, but he says it will get better for the schools in the future:

"We shouldn't have to walk away from our universities. Again, I'm a big, long-term advocate of we need more students going through our universities. Higher Ed is very important in our state, actually we're a very fortunate state in having the high-quality institutions that we have.

We have a tough budget situation and we need to deal with that, but if you look forward to 2013 we’re able to show that hopefully this is the bottom point in terms of where we go with higher education funding."

Snyder also told building-trade union members that he wants to work with unions to help balance the budget, not against them.

He says he is not interested in Republican proposals in the Legislature to strip unions of their power.

State Legislature
5:12 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Immigrant rights advocates stand against House bill

A protest of Arizona's immigation law in Minnesota. Advocates in Michigan say the immigration bill in Michigan will lead to racial profiling.
user Fibonacci Blue Flickr

Dozens of Latinos and Arab Americans joined faith leaders from around Michigan at the state Capitol calling on lawmakers to reject a House immigration bill similar to the controversial immigration law in Arizona.

The House Republican proposal would require police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is a suspicion that the person could be an undocumented worker.

Imam Mohammed Mardini of the American Islamic Center in Dearborn says a similar controversial law in Arizona has caused a lot of problems with how to determine who should be targeted:

"One Congressman suggested that you could tell an undocumented immigrant by their shoes. Let us face it – the police aren't going to be pulling over any suspected Canadians."

But Republican Representative Dave Agema says the intention of the bill is genuine, not racist.

"You're going after anyone who happens to be here illegally and they've already broken a law, that's why the police officer has detained them."

Agema says his proposal would save the state money in health care costs for illegal immigrants, but the protesters say it would cost the state money in additional law enforcement personnel.

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to bring more immigrants to the state who have advanced degrees.

Arts/Culture
5:04 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians offer to return to work

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Striking musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say that after five months on the picket line, they’re willing to come back to work without a contract.

The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration.

The musicians propose that its union and Orchestra management each pick one arbitrator.

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Arts/Culture
5:03 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Detroit to host "Rust Belt to Artist Belt" conference in April

The "Rust Belt to Artist Belt" conference will be held April 6-7 in Detroit
Dani Davis

Creative types from across the country will convene in Detroit next month to talk about how artists can help revitalize post-industrial cities.

Matt Clayson directs the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and is one of the people behind the “Rust Belt to Artist Belt” conference.

He says the conference will focus on the creative supply chain many post-industrial cities like Detroit have to offer:

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Auto/Economy
4:37 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Consumer Reports calls Chevy Volt a "tough sell"

Consumer Reports says the Volt doesn't make sense for the price.
user mariodo creative commons

In its April auto issue, the magazine Consumer Reports calls the Chevy Volt is a "tough sell."

It's not the kind of review GM has been accustomed to after the car was released with much fanfare.

The Volt was named "Car of the Year" at the Detroit Auto Show.

The Detroit News says that harsh review from Consumer Reports questions whether the car makes "economic sense."

David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Report auto testing center said:

"When you are looking at purely dollars and cents, it doesn't really make a lot of sense. The Volt isn't particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it's not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy. This is going to be a tough sell to the average consumer."

The car costs around $40,000, but with a government tax credit (a credit some lawmakers want to turn into a rebate) the cost comes down to around $33,500.

The criticism came from the car's range in cold weather. The Volt's electric motor range is 40 miles under normal driving conditions, but that range dropped significantly when Consumer Reports tested the car in Connecticut this winter - the range dropped to 25 to 27 miles on electric power alone.

A GM spokesman said his range was better in cold weather. Again, from the Detroit News article:

GM spokesman Greg Martin noted that it's been an extremely harsh winter — and as a Volt driver he said he's getting 29-33 miles on electric range. But he noted that in more moderate recent weather, the range jumped to 40 miles on electric range or higher.

Other criticisms of the Volt were its 5-hour charging time, and a heating system that leaves your hands and feet cold.

The magazine gave the Volt praise for its acceleration and for its "taut yet supple ride."

USA Today reports that in the April auto issue, Consumer Reports gives foreign automakers Honda and Subaru top honors with Ford positing the "largest gain" in rankings overall.

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Offbeat
4:30 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Health and safety concerns surround Glittersniffer Cosmetics

Glittersniffer Cosmetics sold their customers non-FDA approved products

Glittersniffer Cosmetics is the brainchild of Lela Warren who lives in Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Warren sells brightly colored pigments called "giraffes in love" and "French kiss snow cone," which she markets as eye makeup. She has thousands of fans on facebook. Some of the women say the Glittersniffer cosmetics made them feel "beautiful" for the first time in their lives.

Safety concerns

What all those facebook fans didn’t know, was that Warren was using non-FDA approved soap dyes to achieve some of those vivid shades. Soap dyes can cause irritation and even blindness if applied to the eyes.

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Arts/Culture
2:06 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Striking Detroit Symphony musicians to return to work

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra voted today to return to work without a contract.

Greg Bowens is the musicians spokesman:

"It was a very difficult, gut-wrenching decision; something we would have thought was unthinkable a week ago today, and that is they are trying to extend the hand of friendship in an effort to end the strike under the conditions management had previously imposed."

Bowens says the exact conditions under which the musicians would return will be revealed at a press conference this afternoon.

Management still has to agree to the idea.

The musicians have been on strike since October fourth.

Bowens wouldn't give details on why the musicians voted to go back to work without a contract, except to say this:

"Look, the Max M. Fisher Theater is spiraling out of control financially. Artists are turning down left and right the opportunity to perform there because they don't want to be a part of this strike.

The musicians understand that it's an important part of the economic engine for Midtown, and so they want to do everything they can in order to let the music play."

Politics
1:54 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Bill: No paychecks for Congress if government shuts down

Senator Debbie Stabenow (center) is cosponsording legislation that will prevent members of Congress and the President from being paid if the government shuts down.
stabenow.senate.gov

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she's cosponsoring legislation that will stop member of Congress and the President from getting paid if there's a government shutdown.

The legislation was originally introduced last week by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Seantor Bob Casey (D-PA).

In a statement, the Senator said that under current law the salaries for members of Congress and the President are "held harmless" if a shutdown occurs - meaning they would continue to be paid.

Stabenow says the bill she's cosponsoring would put Congress and the President on "equal footing" with the Americans who would be affected by a shutdown:

"A shutdown could disrupt Social Security checks, veterans' benefits, hold up exports and cost private sector jobs, and will stop paychecks for hundreds of thousands of people.  It's only fair that Members of Congress' paychecks be stopped too."

The statement said the last time the government in 1995, "more than 400,000 veterans saw their disability benefits and pension claims delayed," Social Security and Medicare requests were delayed, passports remained unprocessed, unemployment insurance funding ran out in some states, and "$3 billion in U.S. exports were delayed because export licenses could not be issued, negatively impacting economic growth."

The deadline for a deal is this Friday night. If a deal can't be reached, the government would be forced to shut down.

ABC News reports that Congress might postpone the deadline by "passing a two-week spending measure that would fund the government through March 18th."

Education
12:10 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

College program for single parents

A program for single parents will start at Eastern Michigan University this summer.
user familymwr Flickr

Eastern Michigan University will offer a program to single parents ages 18-24 to help them earn a college degree.

EMU says the "Keys to Degrees" program is open to low-income men and women each with only one child age 18 months or older when the program begins.  

The program will start with availability for ten students who will live in University apartments on campus. While parents are in classes, children will be cared for on campus at EMU's Children Institute.

Because classes are conducted year-round, students could earn a college degree in three years.

In a press release, EMU's assistant vice president of retention and student success, Lynette Findley, said:

"Single parents have been historically marginalized and shut out of higher education, due, in large measure, to the expense of high quality, licensed childcare. This program is an outstanding opportunity to serve the large number of single parents in the greater metro Detroit area in order to improve quality of life for them and for their children."

There are few programs like it around the country.

The Detroit Free Press writes that EMU's program is one of seven colleges offering such benefits:

The Higher Education Alliance for Residential Single Parent Programs lists just seven colleges nationwide that have programs that house single parents and their children on campus through a targeted program. One of the seven is Endicott College, located in Beverly, a Boston suburb.

Endicott College established its program in 1992 and, with a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will partner with EMU to recreate the initiative in Michigan.

EMU and Endicott College hope to replicate the program at two more Michigan colleges.

Environment
9:57 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Decline in Americans' belief in global warming

A polar bear on thin ice
Photo courtesy of Joel Garlich-Miller, USFWS

For the past decade, researchers have been studying what Americans believe about climate change.

For several years, more and more of the public has agreed that climate change is taking place. But recently, the number of people who believe climate change is happening is falling.

I talked with Barry Rabe, a professor in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

He’s the author of a new report that draws on the latest public opinion surveys.

Here's what he had to say about the report, which found fewer people believe the Earth is warming:

"We found in the United States as well as in Michigan that there appears to be an upward trajectory of this in the past decade. Do you think global temperatures are warming, independent of the question of human causation, and other questions about perceptions of global warming consistently increasing, probably peaking in late 2008.

Since that time in the United States, we’ve seen a drop of about 18-20 percentage points on some of the very basic, standard survey questions that have been used for some time in the U.S. and really around the world.

In our latest survey which comes from November 2010, we actually see a little bit of bouncing back up again, not back to those November 2008 levels but for our purposes what this suggests is public understanding and perception of climate change is really a pretty volatile area of public opinion.

The numbers move around quite a bit from year to year, much more than we would have ever anticipated."

He thinks one main reason why belief in global warming has dropped over the past couple years is because a lot of people are affected by the weather in their own backyards.

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Education
9:56 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Grand Rapids Schools superintendent finalist for opening in New York

Dr. Bernard Taylor Jr. has been with GRPS for five years.
Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor is one of two finalists for an opening at a school district in New York.

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Commentary
9:07 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Why Libraries Matter

Predicting the future can be a dangerous thing. When I was a child in the early nineteen-sixties, I used to watch a television show that predicted how we’d live in the far-off world of 2000.

By then, I was told, our homes would be heated by mini-nuclear power plants in the basement and we’d take our private helicopters to work. Nobody, however, saw the coming of the Internet.

Futurologists have gotten somewhat more cautious since then, but there is something most of them do agree on, which is that days are numbered for libraries as we have known them. Printed products have been  moving rapidly to servers and Kindles. While most are still published on paper, this is widely seen as a temporary measure which will last only as long as it takes the old fuddy-duddies to die off.

And priorities are shifting. Last week, the Detroit Public Library announced the layoff of a fifth of their entire staff, or eighty-three employees, at the end of March. The far more affluent suburb of Troy has already voted to close its library. Other libraries across the state are threatened with huge cuts or extinction.

The economy is bad, but why do we feel that we can live without libraries?  Here’s what one reader posted on the Detroit Free Press website, spelling several words wrong in the process: “Library’s are fast becoming a thing of the past due to rapid access and information that can be had via the Internet.”

Or, in other words, why would we possibly need a place where books are kept and stored when we’ve got Google? Those who defend libraries mainly do so on the grounds that everybody doesn‘t have a computer at home. The newspaper‘s story about the layoffs talked about all the poor people who come to the library to print resumes and scan the internet for job openings.

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Science/Medicine
6:24 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Too many doctors still prescribing antibiotics for viral infections

A new study says overuse of antibiotics is still a big problem, fifteen years after the Centers for Disease Control began a campaign to stop the practice.  

Marianne Udow-Phillips is head of the University of Michigan’s Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.  She says antibiotics do not work for viral infections.  And the more physicians over-prescribe antibiotics, the more pathogens will develop resistance to the drugs.  But she says patients and doctors alike haven’t gotten the message. Udow-Phillips says:

"We’re just sick for a long time and we just want that magic pill to fix us... But if we have a virus, an antibiotic is not gonna help.  And sometimes physicians cave in to the pressure from families who say, 'just do something'."

Udow-Phillips says drug-resistant staph has become a huge problem.  In fact, more Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant staph infections than AIDS. 

The practice of overprescribing the drugs is a bigger problem in some parts of Michigan than others, the study found.  In Holland, only about 10% of children who saw a doctor for an upper respiratory viral infection were given a prescription for antibiotics.

But in West Branch, nearly 68% of children with upper respiratory infections were given a prescription for an antibiotic.

Udow-Phillips thinks the differences in prescription rates is most likely because the CDC campaign focused on pediatricians rather than family physicians or internal medicine specialists.  She says more children may be seeing family physicians in areas like West Branch.

Udow-Phillips says the worst part of it is, physicians are often over-prescribing so-called "broad spectrum" antibiotics, when "narrow spectrum" antibiotics would, at least, do less harm.

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Politics
6:02 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Allen Park lawyer "confident" city fire department will survive

An attorney for the Detroit suburb of Allen Park says he’s “confident” the city won’t have to eliminate its fire department.

Allen Park faces a budget deficit of around $660,000. Last week, its City Council voted to lay off all the city’s firefighters.

But an attorney who works for the city says he thinks that can be avoided.

Todd Flood says “he’s confident” the city and the firefighters’ union can strike a deal involving union concessions.

Flood says other city workers would have to make similar sacrifices.

Allen Park is a downriver Detroit suburb of about 25,000 people. The move to cut its whole fire department has sparked outrage at city government.

The Allen Park city administrator cited the uproar when he resigned on Sunday.

Politics
5:53 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court rules on Michigan case

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a murder conviction in the case Michigan v. Bryant.

The case involved a Detroit man who identified his shooter as the victim lay dying, and whether or not that evidence could be considered in court.

A Wayne County jury convicted Richard Bryant of murder based on the victim's statement. But the Michigan Supreme Court overturned that conviction, saying Bryant was denied his constitutional right to confront his accuser.

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Economy
5:46 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Engineers in Grand Rapids will design control systems for new U.S. Air Force tank fleet

Boeing NewGen Tanker refuels the Boeing family of 737-based air battle management systems. (Boeing photo illustration)
Boeing

The Air Force announced last week it picked Boeing over rival Airbus to build 179 new planes that refuel other planes while flying. GE Aviation Systems in Grand Rapids will design and build computerized mission control systems for the planes – known as tankers.

GE Aviation Systems General Manager George Kiefer says the contract is a great opportunity for engineers at his company.

“Typically, you’ll end up with – during your career – two or three or four new aircraft programs like this, if you’re lucky.”

Kiefer says the Grand Rapids location will be able to maintain 100 engineering positions thanks to the contract. Over time he says the company will create another 50 jobs. Those new jobs will be spread amongst the group’s facilities in Grand Rapids, Florida and the United Kingdom.

Science/Medicine
4:15 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Docs would not be liable for “I’m sorry” under bill up for vote

Eddie Griffith Flickr

The Michigan House could vote on a bill this week that protects doctors who say “I’m sorry” from having the comment used against them in a lawsuit.  

Rick Boothman is the chief risk officer for the University of Michigan Health System. The U-of-M adopted a policy 10 years ago to encourage doctors to show compassion and sympathy when a medical procedure goes wrong.

“The practice of medicine is inherently very risky and when things go badly, it can feel very punitive. Historically, we have chilled the communication between patients and physicians because physicians are afraid of saying anything that’s going to get them into trouble.”

Boothman says it’s impossible to tell if the policy is the cause, but the number of malpractice lawsuits against his hospital has gone down in the past decade.

The bill before the Legislature would not shield doctors from liability if they admit a mistake.

Science/Medicine
4:09 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Few uninsured taking advantage of health coverage pool

Contrando Estrelas Flickr

Fewer than 200 people have signed up for Michigan’s federally subsidized health coverage pool. The pool was created for people with pre-existing medical conditions but no insurance.

The managers of the program say there are thousands of openings. But some prospective buyers appear to be put off by the cost.

Even at a reduced rate, the premiums can run as high as $650 a month for people in their 50s and their 60s. Younger people get a lower rate – as little as $180 a month, but it can still be difficult for some people to come up with that much money. 

Some hospitals are offering to split the cost of premiums with patients, or to direct people to foundations that can help with payments.

Kevin Downey, who is with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, thinks there are dangers to avoiding insurance.

“Those without coverage are in situations where their conditions worsen and by the time they are actually seen at a hospital in the emergency room there are fewer options and the costs are higher.”

Eric Schneidewind is with AARP of Michigan. He says providing treatment for people with chronic conditions is a bargain for everyone.

“People who do not have insurance who show up at a hospital are costing the rest of us a thousand dollars a year to pay for this, so it’s in our interest to get these people coverage and have them pay what they can afford to pay rather than nothing and have no coverage.”

The pre-existing conditions pool won’t be necessary after 2013 under the new federal healthcare law. After that, everyone will be required to carry coverage through healthcare exchanges, and people can’t be turned down for a medical condition.

Politics
3:48 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Secretary of State Clinton presses the United Nations on Libya

Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

According to NPR, Secretary of State Clinton claims that pro-Gadhafi forces have been and continue to use violence against Libyan protesters:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi of using "mercenaries and thugs" against his own people Monday as rebels said they thwarted an attempted aerial bombing of an eastern city.

"Gadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency,'' Clinton told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Nothing is off the table as long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyan citizens."She called on Gadhafi, who has ruled the North African nation with an iron fist since 1969, to leave power "now, without further violence or delay."

Meanwhile, Gadhafi himself refuses to step down, claiming "all my people love me."

Secretary Hillary Clinton's remarks are some of the strongest yet from President Obama's administration regarding the recent protests and unrest in Libya.

Auto
3:41 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

High-tech rearview mirror maker watching federal regulations that could boost bottom-line

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is considering federal regulations that would require all new vehicles to have back-up camera displays by 2014. Gentex’s rear-view mirror display is one option for automakers.
Gentex Corporation

When you think high-tech you probably don’t think about car mirrors. But now you can use your car rearview mirror to open your garage door, see how cold it is outside and call your mom. One of the nation’s leading car mirror manufacturers is Zeeland-Michigan-based Gentex Corporation. New federal safety regulations set to be finalized soon would significantly boost the company’s business.

Gentex designs and builds rearview mirrors with embedded video display; sort of like a TV with picture in picture. The built in screen displays the picture from a tiny camera mounted on the back of a vehicle.  

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