The Associated Press

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Auto/Economy
3:08 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Fiat may shift Dodge Dart launch off April Fool's

The 2013 Dodge Dart was officially unveiled at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

GENEVA (AP) - Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he may shift the date of the Dodge Dart's production launch off of April 1 to "to avoid being jinxed" by an April Fool's Day launch.

The Dodge Dart is the first Chrysler model to use Fiat architecture under the nearly three-year-old alliance.

Marchionne on Tuesday called the Dodge Dart "a huge step forward in terms of moving the brand into the American heartland."

Fiat, which controls a 58.8 percent share of Chrysler, sells the city car 500 in the United States, hitting sales of 2 million last year.

It plans to bring over the 500L - a larger version of the 500 that was launched at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday - in 2013.

Politics
9:32 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Reopening Flint city lockup among Snyder's plans

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder plans to call for $4.5 million to reopen the Flint city lockup to free space in the Genesee County Jail.

The Flint Journal reports Tuesday the proposal is among those the Republican governor is expected to unveil Wednesday morning during his public safety plan at the Flint City Hall Annex.

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are "laughing at the system."

Snyder says it's unacceptable that Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.

His plan's expected to include $15 million for what he has called law enforcement "enhancements." He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms.

Politics
3:40 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Emergency managers in Michigan might lose powers

 LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State-appointed emergency managers soon could at least temporarily lose the enhanced powers granted to them through a 2011 Michigan law.

Those powers include the ability to strip local leaders of authority and toss out union contracts in an effort to fix an entity's finances.

State election officials could take up to two months reviewing petitions submitted by a coalition that wants to give voters a chance to overturn the law in November. Public Act 4 would be suspended while awaiting the election if officials determine enough valid voter signatures were collected.

Supporters of the emergency manager law say that could lead to confusion in places that have emergency managers such as Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac and the Detroit public school system.

Opponents of the emergency law say it undermines democracy.

Politics
2:26 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Michigan governor to deliver public safety speech in Flint

Governor Rick Snyder will give an address about public safety on Wednesday.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder plans to lay out how he hopes to reduce crime during an upcoming special address.

His office said Monday that the Republican governor will unveil his public safety plan at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Flint City Hall Annex.

Snyder said earlier this year that it's unacceptable that Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.

His plan's expected to include an additional $15 million for what he has called "enhancement" of law enforcement. He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms to help former criminals gain skills and jobs.

Shrinking state and local budgets have left the state with 3,400 fewer law enforcement officers since September 2001.

Amit Hekmati
9:36 am
Mon March 5, 2012

Iranian Supreme Court orders retrial for Flint man sentenced to death

Amir Hekmati
courtesy of FreeAmir.org

An Iranian semiofficial news agency reports that the country's Supreme Court has ordered the retrial of a Marine veteran who was sentenced to death for working for the CIA.

Amir Hekmati's family lives in Flint. 

The Monday report by ISNA quotes state prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei as saying the Supreme Court has found shortcomings in the case and sent it for review by another court.

In January an Iranian court sentenced Arizona-born Amir Hekmati to death for allegedly being a CIA spy.

Economy
2:57 pm
Sun March 4, 2012

Betting on more casinos in Michigan

(Courtesy of scalesonfire.com)

Fights are getting under way between groups that are proposing at least 22 new casinos in Michigan and opponents seeking to protect the business of existing gambling halls or simply opposed to more of them.

The Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/AArZwC ) says it has reviewed confidential documents on proposals for opening new casinos besides the three now operating in Detroit and others charted by Indian groups around Michigan.

Four tribes are working to expand off-reservation gambling, while two investor groups are seeking to amend the Michigan Constitution to allow more casinos.

There are four proposals for casinos in Romulus and two each in Detroit and Port Huron.

Michigan State University tribal law expert Matthew Fletcher calls it a "fantasy" and questions if people want that many casinos in lower Michigan.

___

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

Science/Medicine
10:21 am
Sun March 4, 2012

State of Michigan buying new printer for medical marijuana cards

The state of Michigan has ordered a new printer that will allow it to produce 4,000 medical marijuana cards a day.

Rae Ramsdell, who oversees the program, says 40,000 people who don't have cards have been given a tamper-proof letter to show they're qualified to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

More than 131,000 people have been approved for marijuana. Thousands more serve as caregivers, who are allowed to grow marijuana for up to five people.

Sports
4:05 pm
Sat March 3, 2012

Michigan gymnast wins major prep event for the London Olympics

Jordyn Wieber of Dewitt (file photo)
(courtesy of TeamUSA.org)

Reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber captured her third straight American Cup at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, finishing with a score of 61.032 to beat teammate Aly Raisman by two-tenths of a point in the first major prep for the London Games.

Yet it was Gabrielle Douglas who stole the spotlight.

Competing as an alternate, making her ineligible for the all-around title, Douglas outperformed her more celebrated teammates, putting up a combined score of 61.299 points, nearly two-tenths ahead of Wieber.

American Danell Leyva roared back from a slow start to win the men's event, surging from fourth to first in the final rotation with a thrilling high bar performance. Leyva finished with a score of 90.664, just ahead of Ukraine's Mykola Kuksenkov.

Auto/Economy
12:55 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Plans call for demolishing Detroit's Packard plant

The Packard Plant in Detroit.
Angelique DuLong wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - A man who claims ownership of one of Detroit's most widely-known industrial ruins says he plans to demolish most or all of what remains of the sprawling facility.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report Friday that Dominic Cristini, who claims ownership of the Packard plant through Bioresource Inc., is awaiting demolition permits. He says he wants to start demolition within a month. He estimates it will cost $6 million to raze the plant.

Cristini says portions might be saved for historical value.

The plant was built in the early 1900s. The last Packard automobile was built in the mid-1950s. Other smaller industrial businesses have used the facility since. As the years passed, the plant increasingly became the target of thieves, metal scrappers, urban explorers and graffiti artists.

Politics
6:45 am
Fri March 2, 2012

UAW chief: Unions seek Mich. 'right-to-work' ban

United Auto Workers President Bob King says a coalition of unions will push for an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that bars so-called "right-to-work" legislation outlawing contracts that require employees to join unions.

Republicans who control the state Legislature have been pushing for a law that would ban labor agreements with mandatory union dues. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said the issue is not a priority for his administration.

King told about 1,000 people at the UAW's national convention in Washington on Thursday that a union coalition will push for a November ballot issue protecting the right to have union shops.

The Detroit News reports King says unions agreed on the drive at a meeting Wednesday. He says they'll seek 500,000 signatures, about twice what's needed.

Politics
3:57 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Bill aimed at keeping Michigan grad students from unionizing passes House

UM graduate student research assistants James Henderson and Elaine Landy testify in front of a committee in the Michigan House of Representatives against SB 971 which would prohibit the GSRA's from forming a union.
GEO YouTube

The Republican-led Michigan House has approved a bill aimed at blocking unionization efforts by graduate student research assistants at public universities.

The measure was approved Thursday by a 62-45, mostly party line vote. The House hasn't yet taken a procedural "immediate effect" vote or returned the bill to the Senate, which approved the bill last month. But the measure soon could be headed to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The legislation specifies that graduate student research assistants would not be considered public employees as related to collective bargaining rights.

The measure comes as University of Michigan graduate student research assistants attempt to unionize.

That case is pending before an administrative judge after the Michigan Employment Relations Commission last year reaffirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together.

A spokeswoman says Governor Snyder is ‘inclined’ to sign the bill into law. If he signs it, the case before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission would be moot.

University of Michigan Graduate Employees Union president Sam Montgomery had a request for Governor Snyder.

“We ask that when the bill reaches the governor’s desk that he leaves this decision in the hands of the commission which is designed to make those decisions," said Montgomery.

A majority of the U of M Regents support letting the graduate research assistants form a union.   But University president Mary Sue Coleman and many U of M professors oppose it.

University professors who support the bill say allowing their research assistants to form a union would undermine their mentor-relationship.

Auto/Economy
12:30 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Ford, Chrysler and GM report higher sales in February

Update 12:35 p.m.

Ford, Chrysler and General Motors all posted higher auto sales in February.

Ford sales were up by 14% compared with February 2011.   Chrysler sales soared by 40%.  GM posted a slight 1% increase.

Erich Merkel is an analyst with Ford Motor Company.  He says rising gasoline prices influenced which vehicles sold last month.

“What we saw was really strong momentum into more fuel efficient vehicles and toward smaller vehicles," says Merkel.

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First Amendment
11:20 am
Thu March 1, 2012

City of Dearborn, Michigan pays $100,000 in lawsuit by evangelists

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - The city of Dearborn has paid $100,000 in legal fees to attorneys for a Christian evangelist whose free-speech rights were violated at a popular Arab-American street festival.

Dearborn has a large Muslim population and one of the nation's biggest concentrations of people with roots in the Arab world. (Photo above of the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the U.S. by Flickr user ruffin_ready.)

City police in 2010 barred George Saieg and his allies from freely walking sidewalks with literature to convert Muslims to Christianity. Chief Ron Haddad says he was just controlling foot traffic, but a federal appeals court says the city violated the First Amendment.

The court says allowing the evangelists on the festival's perimeter wasn't good enough.

As the prevailing party, Saieg was entitled to legal fees and other costs from Dearborn. His lawyers say the money was paid last week.

Read more
Politics
10:29 am
Thu March 1, 2012

16 percent turnout for Michigan presidential primary

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan election officials say 16 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots in this week's presidential primary election.

The secretary of state's office said Thursday 1.2 million of the state's nearly 7.3 million registered voters participated.

About 21 percent of the state's registered voters took part in Michigan's 2008 presidential primary, when Republicans had a contested race but Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot.

Luce County had the highest voter turnout on Tuesday with 27.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots. Baraga County was second with 27.25 percent. Ottawa County came in third with 25.5 percent voting.

Mitt Romney won the popular vote in his home state, but will split Michigan's 30 convention delegates with second-place finisher Rick Santorum.

Politics
6:40 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Inkster might be able to avoid emergency manager

It's looking like the city of Inkster might be able to avoid a state-appointed emergency manager as it works to improve its struggling finances.

A state review team Wednesday voted to accept a consent agreement with the southeastern Michigan city. It should be reflected in a recommendation the review team is expected to soon forward to Governor Rick Snyder regarding the city's financial situation.

A consent agreement would include conditions that city officials must meet, but local officials would remain in charge as long as the conditions are met.

Michigan officials began reviewing Inkster's finances late last year.

Politics
3:59 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Lawsuit over pay cuts to Detroit school employees settled

Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees and the district's state-appointed emergency manager have reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit over pay
cuts and health insurance contributions.

The school district says the settlement was approved Wednesday.

The unions filed the suit last year after Roy Roberts used new powers given emergency managers by state law to impose a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to their health insurance.

State Treasury Andy Dillon approved the cuts and also was named in the suit.

Settlement terms include partial payment of accumulated sick days for employees who submit an irrevocable notice of retirement by March 19, a one-time lump sum payment of 2.5 percent of the
employee's 2011/2012 earnings and limited reinstatement of step increases.

Politics
2:56 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Emergency manager opponents in Michigan aim to suspend law

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A coalition seeking to overturn Michigan's law giving more power to state-appointed emergency managers says it's submitting more than 226,000 voter signatures in hopes of
eventually overturning the law.

The Stand Up for Democracy coalition turned in petitions to state election officials Wednesday.

Roughly 161,300 valid voter signatures are needed to temporarily suspend the law and get it on the November ballot. It could take two months for state officials to verify the signatures.

Critics say the law gives unconstitutional power to state-appointed emergency managers, who have authority to toss out union contracts and strip power from locally elected officials.

Supporters of the law say it's needed to provide the tools to fix financial problems that locally elected leaders have been unable to fix themselves.

Agriculture
10:24 am
Wed February 29, 2012

45 Michigan counties get disaster designation

A farm in Michigan
Maureen Reilly Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 45 counties in Michigan as natural disaster areas for three separate sets of disaster conditions last year.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced the designation after periods of weather that occurred starting in February 2011 and May 2011. The designation made earlier this year means qualified farm operators are eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

Twenty-nine counties were designated primary natural disaster areas for weather including rain, wind, snow, flooding and tornadoes that started in February 2011. Ten got the designation for similar weather, drought and excessive heat starting at that point.

Six counties were designated primary natural disaster for drought and excessive heat starting in May 2011.

Lists of the counties are on the USDA's website.

Environment
4:20 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Court won't close shipping canal immediately to stop invasive carp

The distribution of the bighead carp in the U.S. Evidence of the fish have been found in Lake Erie, but no reproducing populations have been found there yet.
USGS

This post has been updated with more details and comments from AG's office. 

Shipping locks in Chicago-area waterways will not be closed while a lawsuit over how to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is pending. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the injunction Monday.

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Iraq War
1:53 pm
Sun February 26, 2012

Remains of a missing solider from Ann Arbor identified

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Kousay al-Taie
(Courtesy of Iraqwarheroes.org)

The U.S military says it has identified the remains of the last American service member unaccounted for in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Kousay al-Taie was an Army interpreter who was born in Iraq and lived in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was kidnapped at gunpoint in October 2006 when he sneaked off base on a motorcycle to visit his Iraqi wife in central Baghdad.

The Army issued a statement Sunday saying that the military's mortuary in Dover, Del., had positively identified a set of remains as belonging to al-Taie.

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