The Associated Press

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Politics
3:18 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

U.S. Postal Service: Expect big cuts starting in mid-May

WASHINGTON (AP) - With no financial relief in sight, the Postal Service is pushing ahead with cuts to more than 260 mail processing centers around the nation.

It's part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting effort that will slow delivery of first-class mail.

In a statement, the cash-strapped agency says it completed a review of closings to mail processing centers that were announced last fall. Based on community input and other factors, the post office says it will move forward, beginning in mid-May.

The consolidations are expected to result in a loss of roughly 35,000 jobs.

The agency described the move as a necessary cost-saving measure. Mail volume is declining as people and businesses switch to the Internet in place of letters and paper bills.

Politics
2:45 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds plan to spend $51.5 million on 2012 Asian carp fight

Searching for Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. The Obama Administration released its carp strategy today.
U.S. Coast Guard

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The Obama administration plans to spend $51.5 million this year in its continuing battle to protect the Great Lakes from destructive Asian carp.

Federal officials announced their carp strategy for 2012 on Thursday. It includes first-time water sampling to determine whether bighead and silver carp have reached vulnerable sections of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron.

Other planned measures include stepped-up netting and trapping of Asian carp in the Illinois River. Also high-tech monitoring to determine if an electric barrier near Chicago is adequately blocking the carp's path to Lake Michigan.

Authorities also plan field tests of an acoustic underwater gun that could scare carp away and pheromones to lure them to places where they could be captured.

Asian Carp
7:26 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds spend $50 million on carp fight

The Obama administration will spend about $50 million this year on protecting the Great Lakes from greedy Asian carp, including first-time testing to see if the fish have reached Lakes Michigan and Erie.

Federal officials tell The Associated Press the government has updated its strategy for battling bighead and silver carp that have infested the Mississippi River watershed and are closing in on the Great Lakes.

Scientists say if the carp take hold in the lakes, they could threaten the $7 billion fishing industry by gobbling up plankton at the base of the food web.

Among new initiatives will be searching southern Lake Michigan and western Lake Erie for signs of carp DNA.

Also planned is stepped-up trapping and netting to remove Asian carp from tributary rivers.

Auto/Economy
1:15 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Ford to add $3.8 billion to pension plans this year

Ford

DETROIT (AP) - Ford Motor Co. says it will pump $3.8 billion into its global pension plans this year as it tries to get them closer to fully funding their obligations.

The company also says that it has raised the annual pay for its 16 directors by 25 percent to $250,000.

The disclosures came in Ford's annual report filed Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ford says it will put $2 billion into the U.S. pension plan, make $350,000 in benefit payments and put the remaining $1.45 billion into other plans across the globe.

The report says that as of Dec. 31, the U.S. plan was $9.4 billion short of its obligations, while global plans, which include the U.S., were short by $15.4 billion.

Politics
10:20 am
Wed February 22, 2012

Detroit's public transit system gets new leader

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's problematic public transportation system is getting a new leader.

The office of Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement Tuesday night that Ron Freeland would serve as the Detroit Department of Transportation's CEO. Freeland has worked as an executive with other transportation systems in the U.S.

Word of the appointment comes as Detroit considers ending early-morning bus service as part of an effort to cut about $11 million in costs. The city says some other bus routes could be eliminated. Public hearings on the proposal are planned.

The mayor on Wednesday also planned to show off new city buses at an event on the city's east side. The mayor's office says the new, more fuel-efficient buses are part of the city's newest fleet that began arriving Jan. 30.

Politics
5:44 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Michigan governor approves road commission bills

County commissions can vote to dissolve county road commissions under new legislation signed today.
Ingham County

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation that will allow county boards of commissioners to dissolve and take over duties of county road commissions in Michigan.

The Republican governor signed the legislation Tuesday.

Appointed county road commissions could be dissolved by a majority vote of a county's board of commissioners. Voters would have the final decision on whether to dissolve road commissions in
counties where road commissioners are elected.

Supporters say the measures will save money by eliminating duplicative administrative costs.

Some critics say a vote of the people should be required in all counties because each road commission was created by such a vote, not just those with elected commissioners.

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Lawsuit planned over proposed Michigan Islamic school

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it plans to file a federal lawsuit against an Ann Arbor-area community for denying a zoning change request to allow construction of a Muslim school.

Michigan Islamic Academy officials say the school is too big for its location in Ann Arbor. They want to build at a site in Washtenaw County's Pittsfield Township.

Last fall, the township board denied the request, following an earlier rejection by its planning commission.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the decision violates federal law. CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid says the suit will be filed Wednesday on behalf of the school.

The township has said the decision isn't based on religion. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the township supervisor.

Environment
12:38 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Environmentalists threaten suit over Great Lakes ballast water changes

Testing a ship's ballast tanks for invasive species
David Sommerstein The Environment Report

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Environmental groups say they may renew a legal battle if the federal government doesn't toughen proposed regulations of ship ballast water that has brought invasive species such as zebra mussels to the Great Lakes.

Groups have gone to court twice to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on ballast water disposal. The agency now requires ships to exchange the water at sea. In November, EPA proposed requiring vessels to install equipment that would kill at least some organisms remaining in the tanks.

The rule is based on an international standard that shippers say is the best they can do with existing technology.

But environmental groups said Tuesday the rules aren't strong enough to prevent more species invasions and they may sue again unless EPA toughens them.

Auto/Economy
10:53 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Feds investigate problems with side air bags

DETROIT (AP) - Federal safety regulators are trying to determine if more automakers used defective side air bags that have caused recalls of some Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that it started investigating last week because the air bags may not inflate in a crash.

The problem has caused recalls of more than 2,700 vehicles, but that could grow if more automakers used the bad parts.

Recalled vehicles include 427 Toyota RAV-4s; 974 Honda Accords, Civics, Crosstours and Acura MDXs; 381 Subaru Legacys and Outbacks; and 976 Nissan Altimas and Versas.

Safety regulators say the vehicles may have an incorrect mixture of the gas that inflates the side curtain air bags in a crash. So far no one has been hurt.

Politics
1:56 pm
Sun February 19, 2012

Michigan Governor to sign bill that will be the end of the road for some county road commissions

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R)
(Official state portrait)

Legislation that will allow county boards of commissioners to take over duties of county road commissions is expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Snyder is scheduled to sign the legislation Tuesday at the state Capitol.

The bills were approved by the Michigan Legislature earlier this month.

Supporters say the measures would save money by eliminating duplicative administrative costs.

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Detroit
6:38 am
Sun February 19, 2012

Detroit's mayor reaches tentative deal with city firefighters

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The mayor's office and firefighters' union have agreed to a tentative deal on concessions aimed at cutting the city's budget deficit. Both sides say they wanrt to keep Detroit's finances out of the hands of a state-appointed emergency manager.

Mayor Dave Bing's office says Saturday in a release that the agreement still must be ratified by the 1,014 members of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association.   Bing's office issued a written statement Saturday:

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Amtrak
3:28 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Lansing motorist killed in crash with Amtrak train

user smaedi Creative Commons

DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Officials say the driver of a car who was killed in a collision with an Amtrak train near Lansing drove around lowered gates at a road crossing.

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office continued to investigate the accident Friday.

The driver of the car who was killed was identified as Hermes Fernandez-Lopez. The 39-year-old was from Lansing.

No one on the train was reported injured in the Thursday night accident.

The train was travelling from Chicago to Port Huron with about 145 passengers when it struck the vehicle shortly after 9:10 p.m., authorities said. Train passengers left the scene on buses.

Terrorism
3:45 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Nigerian underwear bomber gets life in prison

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Update 3:45 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) - A Nigerian who tried to blow up an international flight near Detroit on behalf of al-Qaida has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The mandatory punishment Thursday for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was never in doubt after he pleaded guilty in October. The 25-year-old says the bomb in his underwear was a "blessed weapon" to avenge poorly treated Muslims worldwide.

The bomb didn't fully detonate aboard an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight but caused a brief fire that burned Abdulmutallab.

He admitted afterward that the attack was inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric and leading al-Qaida figure killed by a U.S. drone strike last fall.

Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds announced the sentence in a crowded courtroom that included some passengers from Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

2:22 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit federal judge is refusing to set aside a federal law that requires a mandatory life sentence for a Nigerian who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas 2009.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds made her decision as the sentencing hearing began Thursday for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He tried to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his underwear. It failed and he was badly burned.

Abdulmutallab's attorney claims a life sentence when there was no death or serious injury to passengers is unconstitutional.

Separately, the judge says she'll allow the government to show an FBI video demonstrating the power of the explosive chemical possessed by Abdulmutallab.

Politics
7:10 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Romney gets Snyder's support

Wikipedia

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is backing Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination, calling the former Massachusetts governor "the man for the job."

Snyder announced his support for the Michigan native in an op-ed column published today by The Detroit News. Snyder says Romney "has what it takes to build a foundation for America's success in this global economy."

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Environment
6:44 am
Thu February 16, 2012

New Enbridge pipeline leak found in northern Michigan

A company responsible for a 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil in southern Michigan says it has discovered a small leak in an oil pipeline in the northern Lower Peninsula.

WOOD-TV reports that damage to the pipeline was discovered Tuesday in a section near the Arenac County community of Sterling. The pipeline runs through the eastern part of the state to the Upper Peninsula.

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Politics
12:09 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Ruling puts Michigan's Highland Park schools emergency manager in limbo

Jack Martin is the emergency manager of Highland Park public schools. The judges ruling puts his authority in question.
US Dept. Ed

Update 4:44 p.m.

From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta

A judge has ruled that state-appointed review teams looking into the finances of the city if Detroit and the Highland Park school district broke Michigan’s open meetings law. The judge says review teams that can recommend state takeovers of local governments and school districts are public bodies that must operate in the public eye.

The ruling by Judge William Collette says the state needs to re-launch its review of the Highland Park school district, and do so in public. But there are no immediate plans to remove the state-appointed emergency manager who was placed in charge of the district two and a half weeks ago. The ruling also says future meetings of the Detroit review team – which has yet to make a recommendation -- must take place in public.

The lawsuit was filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis.

“This is a monumental victory for democracy,” Davis said.

It’s not clear what affect the ruling might have on the emergency managers already running four cities and the Detroit Public Schools. The state could appeal the ruling.

The emergency manager law is also facing a separate court challenge as well as a petition drive that seeks to put a referendum on the November ballot.

12:10 p.m.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Ingham County judge has voided decisions made by a review team whose recommendations led to the appointment of an emergency manager in the Highland Park public
school system.

The decision Wednesday by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette says the review team violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

The suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Highland Park school board member. Davis said the ruling means that Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager for the district last month is wiped out.

Messages were left with the Snyder administration seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said the ruling would be reviewed.

Collette has ruled that the state-appointed review teams should be subject to the state's Open Meetings Act.

Snyder's administration disagrees.

Politics
9:48 am
Wed February 15, 2012

Republican presidential contenders plan Michigan events

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Republican presidential contenders are turning more of their attention to Michigan ahead of the state's Feb. 28 presidential primary.

Mitt Romney is scheduled to be in Grand Rapids on Wednesday for a roundtable and rally at furniture maker Compatico Inc. The Michigan native also is scheduled to speak Thursday at a Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce event in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum speaks Thursday to the Detroit Economic Club at Cobo Center in Detroit. Later that day he's scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Other events are expected leading up to the primary.

Transportation
4:49 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Obama budget has $14.7 million for Grand Rapids transit

Grand Rapids bus.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he's recommending $14.7 million in federal aid to build a 9.6-mile bus rapid transit line in Grand Rapids.

LaHood said in a statement Tuesday that the line will offer fast and efficient access to the western Michigan city's central business district and relieve congestion.

LaHood says the project is part of President Barack Obama's budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The budget sent to Congress on Monday includes $2.2 billion in funding for 29 major rail and bus
rapid transit projects in 15 states.

LaHood says the budget would fund the Grand Rapids Interurban Transit partnership for a new Silver Line BRT system. It would run along Division Avenue from the Grand Rapids central business
district to 60th Street at Division Avenue.

Culture
12:30 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Niece of Michigan Congressman on Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) - The 19-year-old niece of a Congressman from southwestern Michigan is on the cover of the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

Kate Upton was born in Michigan but raised in Florida. Her uncle is Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph.

The magazine cover was unveiled Monday.

Asked Tuesday about her selection as cover model, Fred Upton's office says it doesn't comment on family.

Arts/Culture
10:12 am
Tue February 14, 2012

Max Fisher Music Center to reopen after explosion

The DSO's Orchestra Hall was damaged after an explosion over the weekend. The Hall reopened this morning.
DSO

DETROIT (AP) - The Max Fisher Music Center will reopen for business after Orchestra Hall was damaged in a weekend methane gas explosion that sent several manhole covers flying into the air.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra says the Music Center will be open for business at 9 a.m. Tuesday and all events and concerts will resume as scheduled.

DSO officials say damage from the Sunday morning blast triggered by an underground cable failure was contained to a basement restroom of the original Orchestra Hall structure just north of downtown.

No injuries were reported.

The explosion forced Sunday's Sphinx 15 Finals Competition to be moved to the University of Michigan.

Tickets for Friday evening's Paradise Jazz Concert featuring Gretchen Parlato and Vijay Iyer, and this weekend's concerts featuring piano virtuoso Emanuel Ax, remain available.

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