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Education
2:18 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Graduation at Michigan college postponed by norovirus outbreak

Norovirus
starnewsonline.com

Norovirus is the buzz killer that can bring a cruise ship home.

And now, it looks like the little bug is postponing the fun at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI.

The university has postponed its graduation ceremony for one week while it tries to contain a norovirus outbreak. Instead of being held this Saturday, the commencement will be held Saturday, May 21.

The university says more than 170 students are reporting an illness.

University officials are working to contain the outbreak and are consulting with the Jackson County Health Department and the State Health Department.

From Spring Arbor University:

All non-academic related activities have been cancelled from Wednesday, May 11, through Sunday, May 15, 2011. These activities include alumni events, National Christian College Athletic Association baseball regional tournament, and other public-related events. The fitness room, pool and other facilities are closed to the public through Sunday, May 15.

“These decisions are preventative and consistent with the medical advice received. Of utmost concern for all of us is the safety and health of our campus community and the families and friends planning on participating in the various academic year-end activities. Spring Arbor University has a responsibility of doing what is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus,” says University President Charles Webb.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people become infected with the virus by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth, and
  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

Food and drinks can easily become contaminated with norovirus because the virus is very small and because it takes a very small amount (fewer than 100 norovirus particles) to make a person sick. Although the virus cannot multiply outside a human body, billions of norovirus particles are shed by infected people. These shed particles can cause illness if they get into food or water.

Politics
11:46 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Close vote expected on broad Michigan tax proposal

The Michigan Senate is voting on a bill that would overhaul Michigan's tax structure today.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Michigan could see some sweeping changes to its tax structure after today's vote.

Michigan's former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop sent out this Tweet:

"Here we go ... Senate in caucus now, but will soon emerge to vote on Gov's tax proposal. If it passes, I expect it will be by a vote or 2."

From the Associated Press:

The Republican-led Michigan Senate is preparing for what likely will be a close vote on a proposal that would significantly shake up the state's tax structure.

The vote planned Thursday is on a proposal that would cut overall business taxes by about $1 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and $1.7 billion the following year. The key would be replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate income tax while eliminating many types of tax credits and exemptions.

Some exemptions on retiree income would end, which has drawn opposition from some Republican lawmakers. Some Republicans also will oppose the measure because it would delay scheduled rollbacks in Michigan's personal income tax rate, which is 4.35 percent.

A committee reported the bill to the Senate floor Thursday.

Crime
11:19 am
Thu May 12, 2011

U.S. Postal Service supervisors indicted for taking bribes

The five men were indicted for taking bribes in exchange for contracts to repair USPS vehicles.
Kevin Spencer Flickr

Five United States Postal Service supervisors were indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday in Detroit for conspiring to take bribes from  a private contractor in exchange for directing over $13 million in maintenance work on Postal Service vehicles.

From the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Michigan:

The USPS maintains Vehicle Maintenance Facilities around the country, including in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Akron, Ohio. The five Postal Service employees charged today worked at these facilities, and they had the responsibility to decide whether work on Postal vehicles would be performed by USPS employees or sent out to private contractors. They also had the responsibility to decide which private contractor would be used for work sent outside of the USPS.

Between 2004 and 2010, during the course of the conspiracies between the private contractor and the five USPS employees indicted today, the private contractor charged the USPS over $13 million for maintenance and repair work.

The bribes included things like tickets to sporting events, prostitution, drinks and lap dances at a strip club, Levitra (erectile dysfunction) pills, auto repair work, cars, and cash.

“U.S. government employees hold positions of public trust, and they are responsible for managing public funds," said United States Attorney Barbara McQuade. "Federal employees who personally profit by taking bribes in exchange for official acts will prosecuted.”

Environment
10:53 am
Thu May 12, 2011

A majority of Michigan's schools are in areas with high air pollution levels

A new University of Michigan study in the journal Health Affairs finds 62% of public schools in the state are located in places with high levels of air pollution from industries.

Paul Mohai is one of the study’s authors.

“Often schools are located in more polluted parts of their respective school districts.”

He says schools need a lot of land... and land is expensive but money is tight.

“There’s probably quite an economic pressure to put schools where land values are low, and those may be near highways or industrial facilities or that otherwise are polluted.”

Mohai says Michigan has no formal policy that requires school boards to consider the environmental quality of an area for a new school.

William Mayes is the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators. He says school boards do consider pollution when they’re finding new sites for schools.

“You know, intelligent people are thinking about this. The bottom line is you look at where your community is expanding, where your community is growing, and you seek the most economical and safe property you can to build a school.”

Mayes says people are drawn to where the jobs are, and that’s often near industries, and industries pollute.

Environment
10:41 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Farmers want to take land out of conservation to grow more corn

As part of the Conservation Reserve Program, farmers are paid to put in grassy strips to act as buffer zones along waterways. (Photo by Lester Graham)

Leaders in Michigan’s farm community are urging Senator Debbie Stabenow and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to change the rules for a land conservation program on farms. They say the current program could lead to higher food prices.

Read more
Offbeat
10:33 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Copycat faucet-switching bandit strikes Michigan Radio

The scene at the station this morning. The original faucet had been modified.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Yesterday, we had a Batman in Petoskey.

Today, we have a faucet switcher in Flint.

As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. "

They're going pro in Flint.

This from the Flint Journal:

A man told police on Monday that someone mysteriously switched the faucet of his kitchen sink, according to a larceny report filed with Flint police.

The man told police he went into his kitchen at 9 p.m. Sunday and noticed a different faucet installed at the home on Colonial Drive near Fleming and West Carpenter Roads.

The man didn't know when or how the faucet was changed, but that it was a different one according to the report. The man told police he has insurance.

Staff here at Michigan Radio came to work this morning surprised to see that their faucet had been switched as well (see photo 1).

It now has one of those twisty-turny things screwed onto to the end.

Fortunately, we caught the copy-cat bandit red handed - Chief Engineer Bob Skon (see photo 2).

Skon said he was merely modifying the faucet so water would not flow onto the counter when people wash their hands.

Yea, right... save your story for the police.

Commentary
10:29 am
Thu May 12, 2011

What Should Be Private?

Robert Bobb, the tough, controversial Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, made an astonishing admission yesterday. He has been fighting a deadly form of cancer.

Thirteen months ago, he learned he had Stage Four tongue cancer, which had spread to the lymph nodes in his neck.

His chances of surviving five years were put at less than fifty percent. Hearing such a diagnosis would be enough to emotionally destroy many people. Bobb toughed it out.

He clearly is an intensely private person. In fact, I had never  seen his age in print - he is sixty-six - or knew he was married until yesterday. People knew something was wrong with Bobb; he seemed to have lost weight, and at one point acknowledged he had been ill, but said he was feeling better. In fact, he was involved in an intensive course of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Bobb would show up at Henry Ford Hospital in the morning, checking in under a fake name, and get half an hour of intense treatment. Then he would go about the battles of the day, and sometimes endure abuse at school board meetings at night.

Remarkably, his secret held, until he decided to reveal it to the Detroit Free Press yesterday, adding, almost as an afterthought, “It was an hell of an ordeal, man.”

Why did he keep his condition from the public? His reasons make sense.

Read more
News Roundup
8:45 am
Thu May 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

Romney in Michigan

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will deliver a speech about healthcare today at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. Steve Carmody reports:

The Republican presidential contender is expected to outline a path away from the nation’s recently enacted health care reform law… Romney has been extremely critical of the health care law enacted last year, even though it’s very similar to the law he enacted as governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s speech will address his proposal to replace the law.

Declining Profits at Toyota

Toyota announced yesterday that its fourth-quarter profit fell by 77%. Reasons for the decline include the strong yen versus the dollar that eroded Toyota’s profits overseas and the fact that the automaker’s global production plummeted after March’s earthquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Toyota says, “its North American production will rise to 70 percent of normal in June as the company begins to recover from parts shortages caused by the earthquake in Japan"

Lawmakers Continue Debate on Tax Reform

It appears Republican leaders in the state Senate are facing a difficult challenge in trying to win approval for Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul. Laura Weber reports:

The tax reform plan has been before a Senate committee this week, but there have been no votes on the measure. Republican Senators on the panel walked in and out of hearings, which may signal they weren’t ready for a vote.  The tax plan is controversial. It would eliminate the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a profits-tax on some corporations, reduce the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and tax some future pensioners. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he still hopes the Senate will vote on the package this week.

Politics
1:01 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Mitt Romney will call for repeal of "Obamacare" at U of M

Mitt Romney celebrating his victory in Michigan's Republican presidential primary in 2008.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be in Ann Arbor later today to talk about the nation’s health care system.  The Republican presidential contender is expected to outline a path away from the nation’s recently enacted health care reform law.  

Mitt Romney will outline his plan to change the nation’s health care system to an invitation only audience at the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular Center. 

Read more
Economy
1:01 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Michigan's foreclosure process slows down

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan mortgage lenders are taking longer to foreclose on delinquent homeowners.  In 2007, the entire foreclosure process in Michigan took on average 78 days to complete.   This year, the average foreclosure is taking 235 days to complete.  The reason is a mixture of the economy and paperwork. 

According to Realty Trac, this is not just a Michigan issue:

Read more
Education
10:44 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Detroit looks to charters to avoid school closures

Detroit Public Schools is offering 45 schools to charter companies.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

In the past two years, Detroit has closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the school system's workforce. But the district is still staring at a deficit of more than $300 million, and thousands of students continue to flee every year. In a story produced for NPR's All Things Considered, we take a closer look at a plan to help the troubled district out of its downward spiral.

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Science/Medicine
7:58 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

University of Michigan loses stem cell researcher to Texas

One of the state’s leading stem cell researchers is leaving for a new job in Texas.

Sean Morrison was head of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Michigan.

He was also a vocal proponent of Proposal 2, which loosened restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in Michigan in 2008.

Morrison says the University is in a good position to continue important stem cell research without him.

Read more
Auto/Economy
6:47 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Toyota's profits plummet 77% in first three months of year

Toyota’s profits fell 77-percent in the first three months of the year.  That’s in part because the strong yen versus the dollar eroded the Japanese company’s profitability overseas. 

The company’s global production also plummeted after the tsunami damaged many Toyota parts suppliers in Japan.

Aaron Bragman is an analyst with I-H-S Automotive.    He says Toyota is, at least, on the mend from last year’s recall crisis.

Read more
Politics
6:17 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

A conversation with Benton Harbor's Emergency Manager - Joe Harris

Benton Harbor continues to make headlines in national news as the city works to stabilize its finances.

Joe Harris was appointed as Emergency Manager last April by former Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Since then, Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law the expansion of an Emergency Mangers' power. Under the law, emergency managers can strip power from locally elected officials and dissolve union contracts.

Joe Harris is the first emergency manager to take advantage of the new law.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Harris. Here's the interview.

During the interview, Harris said he wanted to correct the record - that he didn't strip the elected officials in Benton Harbor of their power. Harris says their power was effectively stripped when the new Emergency Manager bill was signed into law by Governor Snyder:

"In that act... mayors, commissioners, and chief administrative officers of any city that was under the control of an emergency manager lost their authority.

I never stripped them. And so the news report that's all over the country that I stripped them of their authority is incorrect. They had no authority.

The only authority that they can have is the authority that's provided to them, or is given to them by the Emergency Manager."

On April 14th, Harris issued this order.

Economy
4:55 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Snyder's "Reinventing Michigan" award goes to…

Governor Snyder hands memebers of the Slikkers family his first ever "Reinventing Michigan" award Wednesday. The Slikkers own Energetx Composites, a spin-off of Tiara Yachts.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is honoring a West Michigan company for diversifying its business. Snyder presented Energetx Composites with his first “Reinventing Michigan” award. The award is part of a campaign promise to highlight more business success stories in the state.  

Energetx is a spin-off of Tiara Yachts. Luxury boats sales crashed during the recession.  In 2008 the company realized they could use the same strong but light-weight material used to make yachts to make other things, particularly parts for wind turbines. 

Read more
Offbeat
4:26 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Comics writer Geoff Johns debuts new series

Comics writer Geoff Johns
CNN

I was going to put the superhero The Flash's catchphrase here, but apparently he doesn't have one.

Geoff Johns' catchphrase might be "I earned it."

Johns, hailing from Detroit, MI, received his degree in Media Arts and Film from Michigan State University before moving to Hollywood, where he worked with film director Richard Donner on movies like Conspiracy Theory and Lethal Weapon 4.

All of this happened before he decided to be a full-time comics writer.

Read more
Sports
4:02 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Robert Traylor, former Michigan basketball player dead at 34

Former University of Michigan player Robert Traylor died in Puerto Rico today.
wingsofjustice.com

Robert "Tractor" Traylor died of apparent massive heart attack in Puerto Rico.

From ESPN:

Police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said in a statement he was found dead Wednesday on the bedroom floor of his oceanfront apartment. Police and Traylor's team, the Vaqueros de Bayamon, said he had been missing for a few days and apparently died from a heart attack.

The Vaqueros said Traylor was rehabbing a heel injury and had not been playing. They suspended their game Wednesday night because of his death.

Traylor played for the University of Michigan from 1995 to 1998. Prior to that he played for Murray-Wright High School in Detroit.

He was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft and traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to play for seven years in the NBA for 4 teams (Milwaukee, Cleveland, Charlotte, and New Orleans). After his NBA career, Traylor played for teams in Turkey and Italy before playing in Puerto Rico.

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Arts/Culture
3:56 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

NYT CEO: Paid online subscriptions can work for newspapers of all sizes

New York Times Company CEO Janet Robinson
david_shankbone flickr

The CEO of the New York Times Company says the Times’ decision to charge for some online content is going much better than expected. And Janet Robinson says she thinks similar models can work for smaller newspapers, like the Detroit dailies:

"Newspapers of all sizes really have the opportunity to have some kind of paid model. And the earlier they start to explore and test and experiment, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised in regard to what the results may be."

The New York Times uses what’s called a “metered model.” That means people can read 20 articles for free each month before they’re required to pay for unlimited access. Home delivery subscribers also have unlimited access.

Robinson says from mid-March to mid-April more than 100,000 people signed up for paid online access.

Robinson spoke to the Detroit Economic Club in Birmingham today.

Economy
3:22 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Report claims nearly half Detroit workforce is not prepared for workforce

Nearly half of the Detroit workforce lack the basic skills needed by employers
sideshowmom Morgue File

A recent report  describing the adult workforce in Detroit says that 47% are unable to read.

Read more
Politics
3:03 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

State Senate debate continuing on Michigan tax proposal

A Michigan Senate committee isn't yet ready to make a decision on a broad plan that would significantly change business and income tax structures in the state.

The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee adjourned Wednesday without a vote on the legislation.

It's still possible the proposal will be voted on in the Republican-led Senate as early as Thursday.

The plan backed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder would cut overall business taxes about $1 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and $1.7 billion the following year. The key would be replacing the
Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate income tax while eliminating many types of tax credits and exemptions.

Some exemptions on retiree income would end, which has drawn opposition from some Republican lawmakers.

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