The Associated Press

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Offbeat
2:16 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

US won't pay for Ferrari wrecked by FBI agent

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department is refusing to pay $750,000 to a Michigan insurance company for a Ferrari that was wrecked in Kentucky during a drive by an FBI agent.

In a recent court filing in Detroit, the Justice Department says it's immune to tort claims when certain goods are in the hands of law enforcement.

The 1995 Ferrari F50 was being stored in Lexington, Ky., as part of an investigation into stolen vehicles. A prosecutor says he was invited by an FBI agent to ride in the vehicle in May 2009. He says the agent lost control, and the car landed against bushes and a small tree.

Southfield-based Motors Insurance Co. says the Ferrari is a total loss. The next court hearing is June 13 in Detroit.

Economy
11:50 am
Fri May 20, 2011

U of M planning health care policy institute

The University of Michigan has announced that it's planning a new health care policy institute in the
complex that once belonged to drugmaker Pfizer Inc.

The university said Thursday the Institute for Health Care Policy and Innovation aims to inform and influence public policy and enhance efforts to improve health care services.

More than 500 researchers eventually could be part of the new institute at the North Campus Research Complex, Pfizer's former research and development center the Ann Arbor school bought in 2009
for $108 million.

The university says it will launch a national search for an institute director. It expects a $13.7 million renovation project to be completed next spring.

Culture
1:15 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Jack Kevorkian in hospital with kidney problems

Jack Kevorkian speaking at UCLA last January.
Greg Asatrian wikimedia commons

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) - A lawyer says assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian is in a Detroit-area hospital with pneumonia and kidney problems.

Mayer Morganroth says Kevorkian was reluctant but agreed to go to Beaumont Hospital on Wednesday night. He predicts Kevorkian will be there for several days.

Kevorkian turns 83 next week. Morganroth says his health is not in grave danger but "it's not a good thing right now."

Kevorkian was released from a Michigan prison in 2007 after serving eight years for second-degree murder. He claims to have assisted in at least 130 suicides.

Economy
11:51 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Governor Snyder to deal with bond ratings after budget

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says he plans a trip to New York to discuss the state's bond ratings.

Snyder told reporters following a speech in Detroit Thursday that he and top financial officials in his administration will make the trip after current negotiations over the state budget conclude.

As a new governor, Snyder says it's important to establish a good relationship with agencies that rate Michigan's bonds.

Snyder says he believes the agencies would look more favorably on a state with a "stable, thoughtful tax system," something the Republican former businessman says he has taken steps to achieve.

A top bond rating is a sign of sound fiscal practices and enables an entity to borrow money at the most favorable rate.

Politics
1:33 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Michigan bill would freeze pay between contracts

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republicans in the Michigan Senate have approved a bill that would freeze pay and benefits for union-represented public employees including teachers working under expired contracts.

The bill that passed by a 21-17 mostly party-line vote Wednesday now returns to the Republican-led House, which already has passed the bill and could soon send it to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The bill calls for public employers to provide no more than current pay and benefits after the expiration date of a collective bargaining agreement until a new contract is in place. It would eliminate or freeze so-called step increases sometimes paid by school districts regardless of contract status.

Democrats say the bill dabbles in issues that should be left to local decision-makers.

Republicans say the changes would give unions more incentive to bargain.

Culture
12:08 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Census: Divorces decline but 7-year itch persists

WASHINGTON (AP) - New census figures show the "seven-year" itch persists - couples who break up typically separate upon seven years of marriage, and divorce a year later.

The 2009 data released Wednesday also show U.S. divorces are leveling off after decades of increases. The census report found that among all race groups, women who were ever married and then divorced reached as high as 41 percent among 50- to 59-year-olds. That's down from 44 percent in 2004.

The exception was black women ages 50 to 59. Their divorce rate edged up to 48 percent.

Rose Kreider, a census demographer, says recent increases in couples cohabitating as well as rising median ages before marriage are contributing to overall declines in divorce as people wait
longer before making long-term commitments.

Politics
10:49 am
Wed May 18, 2011

Michigan lawmakers seek compromise on next budget

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers may be closing in on a compromise plan related to education spending.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said Wednesday negotiators are working on a proposal that would lessen the projected cuts to K-12 school funding.

Gov. Rick Snyder in February proposed cutting per-student funding by an additional $300 in the next budget year. The developing revised plan would provide $100 per student to all districts to offset or restore part of that cut. The cut could be reduced by another $100 per student if districts adopt so-called "best financial practices."

The proposal would cut university funding by 15 percent and community college funding by 4 percent.

Richardville stressed negotiators are still working toward the possible agreement. Talks are continuing between Senate, House and Snyder administration leaders.

Politics
12:27 pm
Tue May 17, 2011

Poll: Michigan voters split on Obama job rating

President Obama's poll numbers went up after Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden.
Marc Nozell Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A poll finds that President Barack Obama's favorability rating rose among Michigan voters after Osama bin Laden's death.

The poll, however, finds that most state voters are unhappy with how he's handling the economy.

The EPIC-MRA poll released Tuesday showed 53 percent of 600 likely voters polled May 9-11 had a favorable opinion of the Democratic president, up 9 points since February. Forty percent had an unfavorable opinion and 7 percent were undecided.

A third gave him a positive job rating on handling the economy, while 66 percent gave him a negative rating and 2 percent were undecided.

Half gave Obama a positive job rating for conducting foreign affairs and waging the war in Afghanistan.

The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Energy
8:42 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Regulator: Fermi 2 nuclear plant operated safely

DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power station on the shores of Lake Erie in Monroe, Michigan.
nrc.gov

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant operated safely last year.

The Monroe Evening News reported Monday that a letter from a branch chief for the commission's reactor projects division says no inspections beyond ones that are routine and previously planned are scheduled for this year at the facility in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County.

The letter was to plant operator DTE Energy Co.

Each year, the federal regulatory agency reviews its inspections at plants during the calendar year and issues an assessment letter. The NRC says the plant met all operational standards in 2010 and is working to address some employee issues from recent years.

The 1,200-megawatt Fermi 2 plant began operating in 1988.

Auto
4:59 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Owners of auto parts company charged with fraud

CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Two brothers whose Michigan company supplies parts to the auto industry have been charged with fraud in an investigation of the quality of plastic.

Orman and David Bernhardt of Davalor Mold are accused of using less expensive materials than required in seat belt assemblies and then covering it up through false reports.

The fraud charge was filed Monday. Their lawyer is Bob Sheehan, and he says a guilty plea is planned.

He says there's "absolutely no safety issue." Sheehan says the parts were tested by federal regulators.

Davalor Mold is in Macomb County's Chesterfield Township, about 30 miles northeast of Detroit. The company works for Tier I auto suppliers, which supply parts for automakers. The alleged scheme lasted for two years until spring 2010.

Energy
2:57 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Canadian company delays Great Lakes nuke shipment

Turbines in the Bruce A power station on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario.
user pencefn creative commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian power company is no longer seeking U.S. permission to ship 16 scrapped generators with radioactive contents across three of the Great Lakes, but says it
hasn't abandoned the plan.

Bruce Power Inc. withdrew an application this month for a transport license from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission had granted the company permission in February to ship the generators, but U.S. approval was also needed because the vessels would cross into U.S. territory.

The Kincardine, Ontario-based company seeks to send the generators to Sweden for recycling. Environmentalists and other critics say transporting the school bus-sized devices on the Great
Lakes would be risky.

The company says it's delaying the shipment to allow further talks with opponents, including native tribes.

Read more
Politics
1:24 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

State economists expect Michigan tax revenues to be up

Economists say the state is expected to take in more than $400 million more than anticipated.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State economists agree that Michigan is expected to take in $429 million more this fiscal year than they forecast in January.

But their predictions for the next budget year have dropped as deep business tax cuts take effect.

Lawmakers will be able to use some of this year's surplus in the next budget year, and lawmakers are likely to consider putting some of the money toward easing deep cuts for public schools in 2011-12.

Without the business tax cut, the state would have gotten nearly $500 million more in the next budget year than state economists had predicted in January. But that will largely disappear as business revenue declines.

The heads of the Treasury Department and House and Senate fiscal agencies agreed on the revenue figures Monday.

Economy
11:50 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Economist: Michigan will keep adding 60K jobs a year

An economist says the resurging domestic auto industry is helping the state get back on its feet (assembly of the Chevy Volt).
Argonne National Laboratory

 LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A University of Michigan economist says the state's rebounding economy will add about 60,000 jobs annually for the next three years.

George Fulton says the state unemployment rate will hover between 9 percent and 10 percent through 2013 as job growth stays steady but not spectacular.

Fulton gave his economic forecast to state economists Monday at the Capitol. He says the resurging domestic auto industry is helping the state get back on its feet as the Detroit Three see their first increase in market share since 1995. All sectors except government are expected to add jobs.

Fulton says Michigan is in the early stages of a sustained recovery and that 2011-13 will be the best three years for the state economy since 2000, although some residents will continue to suffer.

Science/Medicine
10:13 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Michigan autism center to close after director leaves

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan plans to close its well-known, decade-old autism center when its director leaves this fall for a new post with a New York venture.

AnnArbor.com reports that Catherine Lord, director of the University of Michigan's Autism and Communication Disorders Center, plans to leave to head a joint effort between Columbia University
Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Lord says her two grown children who live in New York City drove her decision. The new Institute for Brain Development is to open next year.

Lord says a psychologist and a small number of researchers and staff will follow her to New York.

Lord says the Michigan center provides services for 300 to 400 people. Some federally funded research programs will continue.

Weather
9:10 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Parts of Michigan see risk of flooding, wildfires

The National Weather Service says parts of Michigan's lower peninsula are under flood advisories or flood warnings.
user doodlepress creative commons

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Heavy rains in parts of Michigan's Lower Peninsula have caused flooding while dry weather in the Upper Peninsula has brought an increased risk of wildfires.

Flooding was reported Sunday on freeways in the Flint area. WEYI-TV reports a pump that handles water on Interstate 475 under I-69 stopped working following a power outage. Workers put up barricades and signs warning drivers to stay off the road.

WJRT-TV reports heavy rainfall soaked a golf course, roads and yards other parts of Genesee County.

More rain fell Monday. The National Weather Service says flood warnings or advisories were in effect for parts of the Lower Peninsula.

In parts of the Upper Peninsula, the weather service says there was an elevated risk of wind-fed wildfires from Monday and into the weekend.

Politics
1:30 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

Michigan to take in $427M more than expected

Andy Flickr

The House Fiscal Agency says it expects Michigan to take in $427 million more by Sept. 30 than earlier forecasts.

It tempers the good news with a warning that the new business tax cut just enacted will create a deficit in the next budget year that will have to be filled with about $77 million of the extra revenue.

The agency released its figures Friday in anticipation of Monday's revenue estimating conference where state economists will forecast how much tax money the state will take in through 2012.

Auto/Economy
11:33 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Chrysler moves up summer plant shutdowns to June

Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
user fiatontheweb creative commons

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is moving its normal summer shutdowns at three factories into June from the usual July closings because of parts shortages from the earthquake in Japan.

The company says its pickup truck plant in Warren, Mich., and its Toledo, Ohio, North assembly plant will be idled the weeks of June 20 and 27. Both plants had been scheduled to close the weeks
of July 11 and 18.

In addition, a Toledo parts operation will close the week of June 20 instead of July 11.

The company says its other plants will have their normal summer shutdowns in July and August.

Nearly all automakers have lost production due to parts shortages from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan. The quake damaged parts supply plants or knocked out electricity.

Environment
8:39 am
Fri May 13, 2011

St. Clair Co. officials expand look into cancers

MARINE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Public health officials in St. Clair County are expanding their investigation into whether environmental or other factors could be responsible for a rare form of kidney cancer diagnosed in children in the Marine City area.

The investigation started this year looking into five cases of Wilms' tumor since 2007 in southeastern St. Clair County. The Times Herald of Port Huron reported Thursday that eight cases now are included, including two in the Port Huron area and one in Richmond.

Officials say another case in the St. Clair Shores area isn't being considered because it's too far away.

Marine City, which is located about 40 miles northeast of Detroit, has industrial plants and is about 10 miles from petrochemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario. But health officials say there's no established link.

Environment
7:07 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Enbridge: Replacing 75 miles of Ind., Mich. pipe

Enbridge Inc. says it will spend $286 million to replace 75 miles of pipeline in Indiana and Michigan after a 2010 break that spilled at least 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River system.

The Houston-based company said Thursday the work is planned next year on the pipeline, which runs from Griffin, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

The company says it's already replaced 14 segments covering 1.7 miles in southeastern Michigan and has installed a new line under the St. Clair River.

The new work includes five miles of pipeline downstream from each of two pump stations in Indiana and three in Michigan, as well as 50 miles of pipeline downstream from the Stockbridge station and terminal, about 55 miles west of Detroit.

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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