Mark Brush

Reporter/Producer

Mark is a senior reporter/producer at Michigan Radio where he's been working to develop the station's online news content since 2010.

From 2000 to 2006, he worked as the technical director and senior producer for Michigan Radio's regional environmental news service known as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

From 2006 to 2010, as the unit's co-manager and senior producer, Mark helped transition the GLRC into an award-winning national news service known as The Environment Report. The service was heard on more that 130 stations around the country including WBEZ in Chicago, WAMU in Washington D.C., KUOW in Seattle, and KWMU in St. Louis.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Michigan ('00 MS in Environmental Policy and Planning & '91 BA in Political Science) and has been "a board certified public radio junkie" since 1992. He discovered public radio on his commutes to work in his trusty 1984 VW Rabbit. Much of Mark's storytelling philosophy was influenced through his close work with veteran CBC "réalisateur" David Candow.

Ways To Connect

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

The city of Detroit has reached a tentative deal with more than a dozen unions that represent thousands of workers in the city.

Mediators for the federal court overseeing Detroit’s reorganization under Chapter 9 bankruptcy announced the tentative deal this morning.

They say the coalition of unions includes 13 civilian unions and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. AFSCME is the city’s largest union.

The mediators say the city and the unions have agreed on the "major aspects" of a five-year collective bargaining agreement. The deal still has to be approved by the federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes and by the union's members.

Details of the deal will be released once it’s approved. Chad Livengood of the Detroit News reports he spoke with a source with knowledge of the agreement:

State of Opportunity Reporter Dustin Dwyer shares his thoughts on why a viral video of hockey player Jordin Tootoo giving his stick away to an eagerly awaiting kid makes him sad. It has to do with the young woman in the upper right part of the frame.

Jason Hicks going for his ninth strike.
Amber Taylor / YouTube

We're talking the traditional, pitcher-of-beer, middle America, tenpin bowling.

Chad McClean set the official record in Gainesville, Florida last year. He managed 12 strikes in one minute.

Unofficially, Jason Hicks tied that record at his family-owned Clio Bowling Arcade last month. MLive's Aaron McMann says Hicks actually hit a 13th strike, but it was a second too late.

Here's a video of his last attempt:

Credit David Jesse @freephighered / Twitter

The U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling this morning in favor of Michigan's 2006 constitutional ban on using affirmative action in college admissions.

Six justices ruled in favor of Michigan's ban, but for different reasons. Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg dissented, and Justice Kagan recused herself from the case.

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is giving school districts more flexibility in making up for snow days this academic year.

Districts that had scheduled more than the required 174 days of school can now hold just that number if they still meet the required 1,098 hours per school year. Schools that exceeded the six canceled days allowed under state law may not need makeup days.

Schools that need to add more days to the end of the school year can receive state funding as long as they have 60% of students in attendance on those days. That's down from the regular 75% attendance requirement.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation allowing for the changes after record snowfall and harsh temperatures this past winter.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state's unemployment rate fell for the seventh consecutive month to 7.5% for the month of March 2014.

The unemployment rate is the measure of people who are out of work, but are counted as part of the overall labor force. The labor force is a measure of those folks who are actively looking for work in the last month. See my explanation of the rate here.

user Alain r / Wikimedia Commons

Ever since Stephen Hawking came out with his theory about how black holes work, physicists – including Hawking himself – have been wrestling with a "hole" in that theory.

Hawking postulated that if you threw something like a chair into a black hole, given enough time that chair would "dematerialize." It would disappear, leaving no trace of its existence.

But the laws of physics don't allow for things to simply disappear. Things can change, or be altered, but they can't disappear. You can burn a piece of paper, and it's no longer there, but the carbon, water, and other molecules still exist somewhere. Again, it can't simply disappear.

It's called the black hole information paradox.

PBS' Kate Becker quoted Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind in describing Hawking's theory in her post "Do Black Holes Destroy Information?":

As Leonard Susskind wrote in “The Black Hole War,” his 2008 book on the problem of black holes and information loss, “The possibility of hiding information in a vault would hardly be a cause for alarm, but what if when the door was shut, the vault evaporated right in front of your eyes? That’s exactly what Hawking predicted would happen to the black hole.”

The solution?

Now comes a theoretical physicist and computational biologist from Michigan State University who believes he has solved Hawking's black hole information paradox.

Chris Adami joined us today on Stateside. (You can listen to how he explains his theory above.)

Hawking discovered that black holes emit a glow called the “Hawking radiation.” That radiation, Hawking theorized, consumes the black hole and all things in the hole are lost. Poof! Nothing left.

Adami theorizes that a copy of the chair is made before it goes into the black hole.

More on Adami’s solution from MSU:

Rick Beerhorst tells the story of his failed New York City move.
Failure:Lab / YouTube

It was Bill Gates who declared,"It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

And it's good to realize that we all fail at times. It's just that most of us try to cover that up, or, at the very least, we don't broadcast our failures.

But that’s not how it works at Failure:Lab.

It’s a program designed to get us thinking about the meaning of failure – to realize that failure happens to everyone and to inspire us to take intelligent risks.

You can see our past Failure:Lab posts here.

Today, we hear about Rick Beerhorst’s failure: his attempt to move his family to New York City.

One of the aerial images near Munising, MI capture from the video.
Roam, Inc. / YouTube

Spring in Michigan's Upper Peninsula means watching the layers of snow melt. Thomas Dolaskie of Roam, Inc. in the UP put together this video of a spring weekend in Munising, Michigan. He writes:

Filmed the first weekend of April, 2014 – we got in the last snowshoe and frozen lake roaming of the year, and watched the waterfalls start to flow. Relax, it's spring. 

Here's the video:

The Detroit Public Library.
DPL / Facebook

Forty-seven year old Timothy Cromer was the focus of the FBI’s raid of the Detroit Public Library back in November 2012. Cromer was the library’s chief administrative and technology officer.

Christine MacDonald of the Detroit News has been writing about this case for some time. She reports that Cromer plead guilty to taking $1.4 million in kickbacks from contractors. Two Detroit Public Library contractors were also charged in the FBI’s case.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission meets about a wolf hunt in Michigan.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

When the Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted to allow a wolf hunt in Michigan, they did so with the idea that the hunt would help curb the number of so-called "problem wolves" in the Upper Peninsula – wolves that preyed on livestock owned by cattle farmers.

But MLive reporter John Barnes looked at the wolf predation records in the Upper Peninsula and found that one farmer accounted for the majority of predation reports.

The Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in Detroit.
Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia Commons

Mediators for the federal court overseeing Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy say a deal has been reached between the city of Detroit and the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association over pension and health benefits.

The deal calls for no cuts to current pension benefits, but does cut future "cost of living" increases in their benefits.

The Association's members still need to approve the plan through a vote.

The potential deal is the first agreement the city has reached with a group of retired workers.

Gas prices from the past at the shuttered Logan's Gas and Deli near Battle Creek.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Every time you fill up, you pay seven-eighths of a cent per gallon of gas for a “regulatory fee” that was originally set up to help clean up the thousands of old underground storage tanks in Michigan.

Those pennies you pay at the pump add up to a $50 million pot of money each year.

It’s called the Refined Petroleum Fund. The fund worked initially. The money helped remove tens of thousands of old underground storage tanks in Michigan. When those old tanks leak, they can pollute the soil and ruin nearby water sources.

screen grab / U.S. House of Representatives

Two engineers have been put on paid leave at General Motors as the company has an outside attorney investigate why it took more than 10 years for GM to recall millions of cars with faulty ignition switches.

GM says the switches have been linked to at least 13 deaths.

More on the suspension of the engineers from the Associated Press:

The company says in a statement Thursday that the action was taken after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. He's been hired to figure out why GM was so slow to recall the cars.

A picture that shows the shock waves around a T-38 Talon aircraft on December 13, 1993.
Dr. Leonard Weinstein / NASA

Two parabolic mirrors, a barrier, a camera, and voilà! – you have a way to photograph sound waves – or more specifically, a way to photograph changes in air density.

Check out this video from NPR to see how it works:

H/T Lucy Perkins

Creative Commons photo by user Meridithw

Ben Freed over at The Ann Arbor News has more about the plans being developed by Traverse City-based West Bay Exploration Company. Freed reports the company has approached landowners in Scio Township looking to obtain their mineral rights.

West Bay says it would drill for oil using a "traditional" method. The company's vice president, Patrick Gibson, said it wouldn't use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking:

“We’re a conventional oil and gas exploration company, we do not utilize hydraulic fracturing,” Gibson said.

“What we’re looking for is geological formations that are already fractured so that we don’t have to do any fracturing ourselves, hydraulic or otherwise.”

Landowners are being advised to educate themselves before signing contracts offered by the company. MSU's extension office offers insights into oil and gas leasing on this page.

Image by Mark Brush / Map from MDOT

Construction crews will soon start working on the long stretch of highway east of I-275 that connects Detroit with outlying areas. Officials say the highway will be closed for six months. The project was originally scheduled to get underway in January, but weather delayed the start.

The freeway will be closed starting tomorrow at 7 a.m. Ramps will begin to close tonight starting at 7 p.m.

Transportation officials have put together a website to inform motorists, and they have been counting down the days on their Twitter handle:

More about the $148 million project from their website:

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is reconstructing a 7-mile stretch of I-96 from Newburgh Road in the city of Livonia to Telegraph Road in Redford Township. It will require complete closure of the interstate ... Work includes reconstructing the road and repairing 37 bridges, including on and off ramps. The project will bring the corridor to current design standards and improve safety. Clearances at the 37 bridges/overpasses also will be increased to improve safety.

Go here for more information about other major construction projects around the state.

*A previous post reflected the estimated closure time listed on MDOT's website - 7-12 months. An MDOT official said they expect the highway to be closed 6 months. The post is now updated.

Melanie Kruvelis / Michigan Radio

President Barack Obama spoke on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor today. His speech focused on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

Here's the text of his speech, and you can watch it here.

And you can listen below to hear how the speech wrapped up:

Click on the slideshow above to see some of the images captured during his speech.

Melanie Kruvelis / Michigan Radio

President Obama is in Ann Arbor on the campus of the University of Michigan today to give a speech on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

You can watch his speech below (or you can follow this link):

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama was in Ann Arbor today to give a speech on raising the federal minimum wage. Prior to the speech, Mr. Obama stopped at Zingerman's Delicatessen and ordered a Reuben sandwich. 

From the White House pool report:

POTUS and motorcade stopped at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor just before 1:30 p.m. With his suit coat off and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters by his side, the president ordered a Reuben sandwich.

Pete Souza / White House

A minimum wage increase is something President Obama has been calling for since he was a candidate.

Buzzfeed has a whole collection of "I'm going to raise the minimum wage" videos from campaign stops Obama made in 2008.

Here's one of them:

screen grab / U.S. House of Representatives

The new head of General Motors, Mary Barra, is on Capitol Hill today starting what will be two days of testimony.

She'll be questioned about a safety defect that's been linked to at least 13 deaths and has sparked a 2.6 million-vehicle recall.

At issue: What did GM know about the problems with ignition switches in its cars, and when did the company know it?

Watch it below:

user WolfgangW / Wikimedia Commons

A collective sigh of relief was heard today in Ann Arbor when the organizers of the Water Hill Music Festival announced a ban on banjo playing during this year's fest.

From the Water Hill Music Fest:

Today Water Hill Music Fest organizers received a petition with over 500 signatures urging a ban on banjos at the festival.  

Megha Satyanarayana / Michigan Radio

President Obama will fly to Michigan tomorrow aboard Air Force One. He's scheduled to deliver a speech on raising the national minimum wage at around 3 p.m. on the campus of the University of Michigan in the Intramural Sports Building.

The event is open to those with tickets and the media.

Students on the campus of the University of Michigan started lining up last night for tickets. They had to wait overnight with their sleeping bags as the Michigan Union just started distributing tickets at 9 a.m. this morning.

MLive's Ben Freed spoke with students in line last night who told him that seeing the president speak is a "pretty unique opportunity." Janie Brown, Freed writes, was one of the first in line:

“I came down here to get food at about four and then I decided to just set up out here so that I wouldn’t get shafted and not get a ticket,” [Brown said]... 

“The last thing I waited this long for was the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie. I showed up more than 15 hours early for that and I was in full costume,” she said.

“But that was in daylight, and for a Harry Potter movie. Hopefully this is a bit more impressive.”

The president's last visit to Michigan was on Feb. 7, 2014 when he signed the Farm Bill into law on the campus of Michigan State University. This will be Obama's third trip to U of M while president. The Ann Arbor News' Kellie Woodhouse points out that no other president has visited more while in office.

Today is the day.

If you don’t sign up for health-care coverage by midnight tonight, you might not be able to get coverage until next year. And if you choose not to get covered, you might get dinged on your 2014 taxes –also known as the "individual shared responsibility payment."

If you can afford health coverage, but you decide to do without, here's how much you might have to pay:

  • In 2014, it's 1% of your yearly income or $95 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2015, it’s 2% of your yearly income or $325 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2016 and later years, it’s 2.5% of your yearly income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. 
  • After 2016, the fee is adjusted for inflation.

To avoid any potential fees, you need to sign up by tonight.

There are exceptions.

Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf / Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood / U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

MDOT

Orange construction barrels are a sure sign of spring in the upper Midwest.

To find where the larger road construction projects will take place in Michigan, you can download this map from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The map is updated each year to help motorists locate major MDOT road and bridge projects across the state. Printed versions are available at MDOT Transportation Service Centers and region offices, as well as at all Welcome Centers. Printed versions will be available in the UP sometime in April.

This map, of course, won't show what local road crews are up to. They'll have their hands full with all the potholes left behind by this brutal winter. 

Some of those crews are more challenged than others:

user wyliepoon / Wikimedia Commons

A baseball diamond is still there, but not much else. 

Now Detroit’s Economic Development Corporation wants to see proposals to redevelop the former site of Tiger Stadium.

The EDC wants to establish a new headquarters for a Detroit youth sports league, Detroit PAL, along with three zones for mixed-use development at the site in the Corktown neighborhood.

The proposed plan should also have a youth baseball diamond “in the same area as many legendary baseball stars played.”

Clark Art Photography / Grand Rapids Ballet Facebook

Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book "The Polar Express" will design the new production for the Grand Rapids Ballet, and the set will be built by designer Eugene Lee, known for his work on SNL.

More from the Grand Rapids Press:

A $2.5 million fundraising campaign, in part, is providing for the 42-year-old company's first entirely new production of "The Nutcracker" in three decades…

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