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.

Pages

Courts
12:02 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Abdulmutallab pleads guilty

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Update 11:53 am

Abdulmutallab's stand-by attorney, Anthony Chambers, says he's "disappointed" with the guilty plea, but said he respects the defendant's wishes.

"Certainly no lawyer worth his weight in salt would recommend a plea to life without parole," Chambers said.

Chamber said he believes Abdulmutallab is misguided and impressionable. He said the young Nigerian will not cooperate with the government.

Asked why he believed Abdulmutallab decided to plead guilty, Chambers said he thinks the statement he read upon entering his guilty plea allowed him to say what he wanted, and avoid a trial. In the statement - which Chambers said Abdulmutallab wrote himself - the defendant said his actions were a reaction to U.S. support of Israel and because of the U.S. killings of Muslims around the world. He called the bomb he carried and tried to detonate on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 a "blessed weapon." He said he was guilty of violating U.S. law, but not the law of the Koran.

Abdulmutallab faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. He will be sentenced January 12.

Update 10:39 a.m.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has pled guilty to all eight charges against him.

From the Detroit News:

He pleaded guilty to eight charges after he returned from a 45-minute recess, ending the most high-profile terrorism case in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds asked him if he wished to waive his right to a trial and plead guilty.

"That's right," he said.

The guilty plea marksa major victory against terrorism for the Justice Department, which was criticized by some for trying Abdulmutallab in civilian court instead of a military tribunal.

David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press reports that Abdulmutallab faces 30 years to life in prison.

10:19 a.m.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press are reporting that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is pleading guilty on charges of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The Detroit Free Press is live blogging the trial and reports that the judge is going over the penalties with Abdulmutallab now.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is on her way to the court and will have an update for us later.

Arts/Culture
10:40 am
Fri October 7, 2011

Introducing the winner at ArtPrize 2011 (video)

Rick DeVos and ArtPrize winner Mia Tavonatti answer media questions after the announcement Thursday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

ArtPrize 2011 organizers held a press conference introducing the winner, Mia Tavonatti, last night, and Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith was there.

For receiving the most votes, Tavonatti took home the top prize of $250,000 (Tavonatti placed second last year and won $100,000).

She lives in California now, but Tavonatti is originally from Iron Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Smith described the winning piece this way:

The piece towers in the same performance hall where the winner was announced last night. It’s 9 feet across, 13 feet tall; made up of tiny pieces of stained glass that make up a vision of Jesus Christ dying on the cross.

Tavonatti said "when you bring Christ to town. I just knew he had certain things in store for me. And I wasn't going to tell him how to do his job."

Tavonatti's win was bittersweet. Her mother died early yesterday morning after a bout with pneumonia.

Here's the video of the press conference:

Auto/Economy
5:00 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

UM economist expects slower job growth in 2012

A Ford assembly plant.
Ford Motor Company

In his economic forecast for Michigan released today, George Fulton, Director of the University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics wrote that Michigan's economy is recovering from hitting bottom in late 2009, "but it has not been a smooth climb, especially during 2011."

The Detroit Free Press writes that Fulton cut his jobs forecast for 2012.

...he expects just 33,000 new jobs next year, down sharply from his earlier forecast of 61,500 positions.

Fulton expects the total number of jobs created from late 2009 through 2013 to be 187,000.

From the report summary:

The continuation of the recovery is supported by steadily rising vehicle sales and an improved U.S. economy over the next two years. Manufacturing continues to grow through 2013, but the largest job gains are in the service industries, led by health services and professional and business services. Government continues to shrink over the period.

Law
10:52 am
Wed October 5, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court to hear case involving Michigan church today

Arguments involving a church in Michigan will be heard today in the U.S. Supreme Court.
wikimedia commons

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case between the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At issue, according to the SCOTUS blog (SCOTUS stands for the Supreme Court of the United States) is whether the U.S. government can be involved in church activities. From the blog:

Courts have generally believed that federal employment discrimination statutes do not apply to church employees performing religious functions. The question is whether this ministerial exception applies not simply to religious leaders, but also to teachers at a religious elementary school.

The Associated Press has more on the arguments from the church school employee:

Cheryl Perich got sick, then tried to return to work. Still, the school, now closed, fired her. She complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the church.

Religious groups say the case should be thrown out. The Americans With Disabilities Act has an exception to prevent government involvement between churches and ministerial employees.

But a federal appeals court said Perich’s job as a teacher was secular, not religious, so the exception blocking the lawsuit didn’t count.

Environment
4:18 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Dow's solar shingles to hit U.S. to markets

Dow's solar shingles will be released in limited markets starting this month.
Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical first unveiled its solar shingle two years ago, with plans for a limited release in mid-2010.

Now the company announced that the shingles will be available to some customers starting this month. The company says they're starting in the strongest markets for solar this month. The shingles will first be available in Colorado, and a "rolling launch" will occur in markets from California to the "East Coast."

In a press release, Dow said the shingle "protects the home like a standard roofing shingle while providing energy that saves the homeowner money":

Dow can now serve the need of homeowners who want to go solar, but aren’t willing to accept the complexity and sub-optimal aesthetics currently offered by bulky, rack-mounted systems.

Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris called Dow's solar shingle "a game changer that will address an estimated $5 billion market by 2015."

From Booth Mid-Michigan:

Dow hasn't reported a price for the shingles, but said the cost to homeowners will be set by the channel to market, and will depend on the size and configuration of the home and desired power generation. Dow officials said the cost of solar shingles can be thousands of dollars less than solar panels installed on top of a roof.

Travel
3:19 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New airport screening measures start today at some airports

No need to de-shoe for some.
user redjar Flickr

Keep your shoes on.

No need to take off that belt or jacket.

And keep that laptop and your toiletries in your bag.

That's the new reality for some passengers going through security today at Detroit Metro Airport.

Detroit Metro is one of four airports where new screening measures are being tested by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami are the other airports).

The new system pre-screens passengers who volunteered for the program. Information on these passengers is cross-checked with other databases by the TSA to determine their risk level.

From the TSA's press release:

“As TSA moves further away from a one-size-fits-all approach, our ultimate goal is to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole. “By learning more about travelers through information they voluntarily provide, and combining that information with our other layers of security, we can focus more resources on higher-risk and unknown passengers. This new screening system holds great potential to strengthen security while significantly enhancing the travel experience whenever possible for passengers.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that passengers have already seen the benefits, some passing through security in less than one minute.

Some frequent fliers with Delta and American Airlines were contacted and asked to sign up for the pilot program. Members of the "Trusted Traveler Program" with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can also participate.

TSA officials say the program might be expanded in the future.

If you would like to participate in the pilot, you can contact Delta or American Airlines (if you participate in their frequent flier programs) and try to opt-in , or you can try signing up for the "Trusted Traveler" program online.

Politics
2:03 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Michigan Senate approves stun gun legislation

Under legislation being considered in the Michigan legislature, individuals licensed to carry handguns could also carry a stun gun.
user jennuine captures Flickr

In this state, the use of stun guns by citizens is prohibited.

Michigan law states that you cannot possess "a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave, or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave, or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure, or kill."

Now Some legislators want to change that. From the Associated Press:

Michigan residents with permits to carry concealed pistols also would be able to carry stun guns or Tasers under a measure approved by the state Senate.

A key bill in a legislative package that would allow the devices to be carried by properly licensed residents passed the Senate by a 35-3 vote Tuesday. The measure advances to the House.

Michigan would join 43 other states that allow residents to carry stun guns under certain circumstances. Michigan law has banned the use of stun guns since 1976, with exceptions for police
and some other personnel.

Laws that cover the use and licensing of concealed handguns in Michigan also would apply to stun guns or Tasers under the Senate legislation. That includes certain "no carry" zones such as schools and stadiums.

Stun guns advocates say they're effective tools for self-defense.

Or they could be used to subdue someone with an exceptionally long question at a political forum (the genesis of "don't tase me, bro!" phrase) .

Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Ford-UAW deal includes more jobs and U.S. investment

John Fleming, Ford executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs discusses the UAW agreement with reporters this morning.
screen grab fordahead.com

Update 1:03 p.m.

More details of the UAW-Ford agreement emerged after the UAW's press conference. UAW vice president Jimmy Settles reports winning a "a $6,000 settlement bonus for workers and $7,000 in inflation protection and competitive lump-sum payments over the term of the agreement."

Settles said workers will receive a payment averaging $3,700 this year.

Entry-level wages for new Ford workers are similar to the GM agreement. Their hourly pay was raised to $19.28 over the term of the agreement.

The union details where the investments in jobs and upgraded auto plants will occur in the U.S. saying that "jobs, investment and product guarantees in the tentative agreement include":

  • Flat Rock, Mich., second source for the next generation Fusion and next-generation Mustang.
  • Kansas City, Mo., in-source Transit Commercial Van from Europe.
  • Louisville, Ky., new unnamed vehicle in addition to 2012 Escape.
  • Wayne, Mich., in-source C-Max from Europe in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
  • Avon Lake, Ohio, in-source medium truck and frame assembly from Mexico, along with in-source Motorhome Chassis.

The agreement with Ford was recommenced to the union's larger membership. Now all UAW members will vote for or against ratification this week.

10:27 a.m.

The agreement reached between Ford Motor Company and United Auto Worker representatives will lead to more jobs and investment in the U.S., according to the Detroit News.

Alisa Priddle of the Detroit News reports that many of those jobs will be in Michigan:

The figure includes 7,000 jobs previously announced as well as 5,000 additional jobs - the majority of them new and paying the lower, entry-level wage. Ford officials declined to break down the exact split between new and saved jobs. Some the jobs are from in-sourcing of work that has been previously done in other countries, including Mexico, Japan and China.

The UAW says that "proposed agreement also includes $16 billion of investment to produce new models and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015, of which, $6.3 billion will be invested directly into retooling and upgrading plants."

Ford's union workers are demanding more from Ford compared to the workers at GM and Chrysler.

Part of it has to do with bargaining from a position of power. Ford's union workers could strike should an agreement not be reached. Chrysler and GM workers do not have that option. Both Chrysler and GM took loans from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A condition of those loans stipulated that its workers could not strike.

Brent Snavely reports in USA Today on the other reasons workers at Ford hope to achieve more in their negotiations with the company.

Entering contract talks, the UAW and Ford had an unresolved grievance, signed by 35,000 of the automaker's 40,600 workers, alleging that Ford had violated equity of sacrifice promise by restoring merit pay to white-collar workers but not to hourly workers.

But Ford workers say they have more reasons to expect more than UAW members at GM. Ford has made $14.2 billion in profits since the end of 2008. Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford each made $26.5 million in 2010, an amount that many workers find excessive since production workers have gone eight years without a base wage increase. That high executive pay has become a rallying point for discontents in Ford's factories.

Comparing previous contracts, Snavely reports that "Ford pays $58 an hour for wages and benefits, which is about $2 more per hour than GM and $9 an hour more than Chrysler were paying..."

More details of the tentative 4-year agreement between Ford and the UAW will be revealed at an 11:30 press conference. The contract will not be ratified until the UAW membership votes on it.

Politics
12:38 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Wayne County says Mullin's secretary received more than $15K severance

And the controversial Wayne County severance story continues... Now there's news that Turkia Mullin's secretary, Sheri Galofaro-Mendez, also received a severance when following her boss to her new post.

From the Detroit News:

While apologizing for a controversy over a $200,000 severance to the county's former economic development czar, county officials admitted Tuesday that her executive assistant, Sheri Galofaro-Mendez, got a $15,600 severance from the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine, or EDGE, when she left in September.

Galofaro-Mendez followed Mullin when she became director of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and is now her executive assistant. Galofaro-Mendez also has agreed to follow Mullin's lead and return the money, said Alan Helmkamp, a county assistant executive.

Politics
12:23 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Wayne County's Ficano says no more severance payments, promises investigation

"There were mistakes in process. "There were mistakes in paperwork. … And at the end of the day, there were mistakes in judgment."

So says the assistant executive for Wayne County Alan Helmkamp in the Detroit News.

Helmkamp was talking about the decision to award Turkia Mullin a $200,000 severance payment when she transferred to a new job in the county.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, Mullin received the severance payment last August when she transferred from her job as Wayne County’s economic developer (salary $200,000) to become the CEO of Wayne County's Detroit Metropolitan Airport (salary $250,000).

Mullin and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced last Friday that Mullin would return the money, but questions from Wayne County commissioners remained.

Ficano promised the commissioners that there would be no such payments in the future.

From the Detroit News:

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano promised county commissioners that he won't allow another severance like the $200,000 paid to the former economic development czar Turkia Mullin.

Ficano said he accepts responsibility for the controversial payout and said he is "launching an internal review."

"You have my full commitment that the review will be expeditious, and that I will put protections in place so that this situation isn't repeated," Ficano said.

News Roundup
9:03 am
Tue October 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Ford and the UAW reach a tentative 4-year deal

Details will be discussed later this morning. Ford will hold a live stream of their press conference at 9 a.m. and the UAW will talk to reporters at 11:30 a.m.

The Associated Press reports that "the deal is expected to swap annual pay raises for profit sharing checks and will include commitments from Ford for thousands of new union jobs." Union leaders will meet later today to decide whether to recommend the agreement to 41,000 Ford union members.

Trial for "underwear bomber" starts today

The trial for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" begins today in Detroit with jury selection. The Associated Press reports on the stakes in the case:

The case seems matter-of-fact but carries high stakes. The failed attack was the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, and it could have implications in the debate over whether terrorism suspects should be tried in civilian or military courts.

Tigers Win!

The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees last night in game three of their American League playoff. Detroit has taken a 2-1 lead in the best of 5 series.

From ESPN:

Delmon Young hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh off Rafael Soriano and the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, pushing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.Their hopes ride Tuesday night on A.J. Burnett, the $82.5 million pitcher who was so unreliable this season that he wasn't supposed to get a start in this series. A rainstorm changed all that when Game 1 was suspended Friday, forcing both teams to alter their pitching plans.

Politics
4:18 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Michigan Film Office suspends incentive applications

The Michigan Film Office is suspending applications for film incentives in the state until the guidelines for new incentives are more clear.
user reinistraidas Flickr

Update 4:18 p.m.

Carrie Jones, director of the Michigan Film Office posted a letter on their website explaining their decision to suspend film incentive applications.

The letter explains that they are waiting for direction from Michigan legislators. She says Senate Bill 569 lays out the parameters of the new $25 million incentive program, but it has not been acted on. From her letter:

Recognizing there are many projects currently planning to submit applications on October 1, we feel this is the best course of action for several reasons – the primary of which are ensuring certainty and consistency within the Michigan film incentive program. With everything in SB 569 subject to change at this stage in the process, we simply do not yet have answers to many of the most basic questions projects have when applying for the film incentives. We also want to ensure all projects approved under the new funding are approved using the same set of criteria regardless of when in the fiscal year they apply.

Jones writes that she knows the legislature plans to take up SB 569, but she does not know when. SB 569 was referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development last July.

3:56 p.m.

The Michigan Film Office says it is not taking any more applications for movie incentives because there are no guidelines for the program.

The director of the film office released a statement today saying all applications are on hold, and will likely have to be re-submitted after the Legislature passes a new law outlining new incentive guidelines.

Governor Rick Snyder's administration is backing away from Michigan's old program of generous tax breaks for filmmakers. The state has set aside $25 million to support filmmaking in the fiscal year that begins tomorrow (Saturday, October 1), but film office director Carrie Jones says she needs guidance on how that money is to be spent.

Politics
2:28 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Governor Snyder calls for review of Flint's finances, emergency manager next?

The Flint Municipal Center. State appointed officials will review the city's finances.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:28 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett spoke with Mayor Dane Walling this afternoon. She asked Walling to give us a snapshot of where the city's finances are at now.

"The city of Flint has ongoing challenges with long-term operating deficits and also recurring questions about month to month cash availability," he said.

"The fact is, in recent months we've made continued positive progress.

The deficits in the audit will be approximately $12 million all funds combined. That's significantly down from the upwards of $20 million projections that had been done recently.

The cash flow is much stronger than it was prior to receiving the support of the state for the fiscal stabilization bond.

We're healthier than we were, so we're moving in the right direction, but we continue to have audited operating fund deficits, and to address the longer term challenges with post employment benefits  and liabilities there," said Walling.

Hulett asked Walling about his message to voters about the job he's doing in Flint and about the timing of the state review (Walling is up for re-election, and the review will be completed right before voters head to the polls). Walling said he thinks voters understand the complications he faces as the Mayor of Flint, and he looks forward to the results of the state review team.

1:49 p.m.

The city of Flint has been facing financial trouble for some time. Now state officials want an official review of the city's finances.

Governor Synder has appointed an eight member panel to review the city's bottom line. The financial review is the first step in a process created under the state's emergency manager law. Governor Snyder has said he hopes an emergency manager is not needed in Flint.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports that Governor Snyder is calling for a quick review:

Snyder wants the team to report back to him in half the time allowed under the law. Review teams are given 60 days, but Snyder has asked Flint's financial review team to report its findings within 30 days, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

"He does want it sooner," she said. "That was on the recommendation from the state treasurer."

Here are the eight members appointed to review Flint's finances (from the Flint Journal):

  • Laura Argyle, VP of finance and CFO for the Midland Center for the Arts
  • Gene Dennis, former president and CEO of Universal Systems
  • Darnell Earley, Saginaw City Manager
  • Robert L. Emerson, former state budget director
  • Roger Fraser, Deputy State Treasurer
  • Fred Headen, Director of the Michigan Dept. of Treasury’s Local Gov't Services Bureau
  • Doug Ringler, Director of the Office of Internal Audit Services in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget
  • Brom Stibitz, senior policy adviser in the Michigan Department of Treasury
Read more
News Roundup
9:25 am
Fri September 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Snyder wrapping up in Asia, highlights mining in the U.P. as one business opportunity

Governor Rick Snyder is wrapping up his trip in Asia with a visit to Seoul, South Korea. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports the governor is expected to sign an agreement with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the province will work together to establish trade.

Of his visit to China, Snyder said he was surprised by the positive response he received from businesses. "Many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business," Snyder said. He pointed to mining copper or other deposits in the U.P. as one business opportunity for Chinese companies.

Welfare recipients file class action lawsuit against state

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that places tighter limits on cash assistance benefits to the poor. It puts a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance payments from the state.

For some, that cap starts tomorrow (October 1).

Some recipients facing the cap have filed a class action lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

The lawsuit, filed against Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, said immediate intervention is needed to prevent more than 25,000 parents and children from losing benefits. The welfare recipients from Saginaw, Genesee and Macomb counties asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation Sept. 6 and said the state would offer exemptions to those with disabilities that prevent them from working.

Cost of new cars higher as a result of price fixing? The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division announced that several Japanese executives have plead guilty in a price-fixing scheme: 

Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., a supplier of automotive wire harnesses and related products, headquartered in Tokyo, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $200 million fine for its role in a criminal price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of parts to automobile manufacturers...  Three executives, who are Japanese nationals, have also agreed to plead guilty and to serve prison time in the United States ranging from a year and a day to 18 months. 

DOJ officials say these are the first charges "as a result of its ongoing international cartel investigation of price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry."

Culture
4:36 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Census releases numbers on the black population in the U.S.

The black or African American population as a percent of a county's population in 2010.
U.S. Census Bureau

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report "The Black Population: 2010."

The 2010 Census found that 14 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as black, "either alone or in combination with one or more other races."

From a U.S. Census Bureau press release:

Of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million on April 1, 2010, 38.9 million people, or 13 percent, identified as black alone. In addition, 3.1 million people, or 1 percent, reported as black in combination with one or more other races. Together, these two groups comprise the black alone-or-in-combination population and totaled 42.0 million.

Detroit has highest concentration of blacks living in an urban area

Census officials report that of the major cities in the U.S. (cities with 100,000 people in them or more), Detroit had the highest percentage of people identifying as black, or black in combination with other races, at 84 percent.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Detroit, Michigan (84.3 percent)
  2. Jackson, Mississippi (80.1 percent)
  3. Miami Gardens, Florida (77.9 percent)
  4. Birmingham, Alabama (74.0 percent)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (65.1 percent)
  6. Memphis, Tennessee (64.1 percent)
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana (61.2 percent)
  8. Flint, Michigan (59.5 percent)
  9. Montgomery, Alabama (57.4 percent)
  10. Savannah, Georgia (56.7 percent)
Read more
Politics
9:20 am
Thu September 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Bid to recall Governor Snyder ends

The organization behind recalling Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says its effort has fallen short of collecting the more than 807,000 valid signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. From the Detroit Free Press:

The campaign to recall Gov. Rick Snyder is calling it quits after falling short of collecting the number of petition signatures needed to put the issue before voters, campaign spokesman Tom Bryant said in an e-mail to the Free Press. Bryant did not specify how many signatures had been collected, and could not be reached for further comment today.

Detroit moves forward with targeted effort to support "healthier" neighborhoods

The city of Detroit is tight on resources, so providing services to all the neighborhoods in the city's footprint is a challenge. Mayor Bing's "Detroit Works Project" is aimed at providing more services to neighborhoods considered healthy, and cutting back on other neighborhoods. The Detroit News reports the targeted effort is beginning:

The strategy is the first phase of a larger Detroit Works Project that eventually could encourage residents to leave some neighborhoods. That plan is still being formed, and Bing announced the service changes in July that will be rolled out in the next several months.

Under the plan, neighborhoods identified by City Hall as healthy, such as East English Village and Palmer Park, would get more code enforcement, commercial code improvements, home rehabs, streetlight fixes, tree trimming and dump cleanups, but fewer housing demolitions.

That would be reversed for those deemed distressed, such as Brightmoor and the east side surrounding Coleman A. Young International Airport, where demolitions would be focused and some services reduced.

Grant means 35 police officers in Michigan can be retained or hired

An $8.18 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will cover full salaries and benefits for 35 police officers for three years. The Associated Press reports that U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say the Department of Justice is giving the grant to four Michigan police agencies in Michigan. The grant comes form the Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS):

They say Detroit is getting $5.69 million for 25 officers, Flint is getting $1.23 million for six officers, Wayne County's Redford Township is getting $936,000 for three officers, and Roseville is getting $320,000 for one officer.

Food
4:10 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Ground beef recalled, Kroger stores in Michigan not affected

Officials say, based on the latest information, the ground beef recall does not affect Michigan Kroger stores.
Daniel Jordahl Flickr

First, a deadly listeria outbreak on Colorado cantaloupes, now a ground beef E. coli scare affecting some Kroger generic brands.

In a recall release, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service says 131,300 pounds of ground beef products from Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. are being recalled because of possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

E. coli O157:H7 can make a dangerous Shiga toxin. CDC officials say the toxin "can attack the body in several areas: the gut (causing bloody diarrhea), the kidneys (causing kidney failure), and sometimes the nervous system."

The Associated Press reports the recall occurred when an Ohio family fell ill after eating the meat contaminated with E. coli:

The recall involves beef sold as Kroger and generic brands at Kroger supermarkets; Butcher's Beef at Food Lion supermarkets; and generic beef sold to SAV-A-LOT, Spectrum Foods, Supervalu and the Defense Commissary Agency...

According to Michigan Kroger officials, the meat recall does not affect its stores:

At this time, Michigan Kroger stores are not affected by this recall.

“The Kroger ground beef products sold in our stores in Michigan are not included in this recall,” said Dale Hollandsworth, Customer Communications Manager, The Kroger Co. of Michigan. “If a recall were to occur in Michigan, Kroger would initiate our customer recall notification system to alert all customers who may have purchased recalled product.”

USDA officials say "the products subject to recall have a "BEST BEFORE OR FREEZE BY" date of "SEP 12 2011" and the establishment number "245D" ink jetted along the package seam."

Here are the latest details from the USDA on the specific types of ground beef being recalled:

  • 5-pound chubs of Kroger-brand "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 40-pound cases containing eight chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 QW." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Ind. and Tenn. for retail sale.
     
  • 3-pound chubs of Butcher’s Brand "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWIF." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in N.C. and S.C. for retail sale.
     
  • 3-pound chubs of a generic label "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWI." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Del., Fla., Ga., Md., Ill., Ind., Mo., N.Y., Ohio, Tenn., Texas and Wis. for retail sale.

Auto/Economy
3:07 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

UAW membership approves 4-year deal with GM

A view from GM's Headquarters. The UAW membership and GM have agreed to a four-year contract. The team from Changing Gears share their analysis.
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Update - 3:07 p.m.

More thoughts on the newly ratified UAW-GM contract from Micky Maynard with Changing Gears:

General Motors gave some new details today on its just-ratified agreement with the United Auto Workers union. Among them: up to 25 percent of its workforce could be “two-tiers” — new hires at lower rates than veteran workers.

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson profiled two-tier workers last year. Right now, they’re only 4 percent of GM’s workforce, but the auto company clearly has plans for more of them.

There’s a caveat, though. In order for GM to hire more workers, auto sales have to pick up, company executives said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. And it isn’t promising to hire the same number of workers as it sees sales go up: it will study its staffing needs and hire accordingly. 

The new contract runs through 2015 and caps the number of “two-tiers” at 25 percent at the end of the contract. It calls for the new hires to get a raise to nearly $20 an hour by 2015 (veteran workers are paid about $28 an hour now).

Other GM highlights:

  • The number of people working in its U.S. factories has dropped sharply. GM had 110,000 hourly production workers in 2005, according to its presentation. In 2008, the year before it filed for bankruptcy production, GM had 78,000 U.S. workers. Now, GM has just 49,000 hourly workers, or less than half what it had six years ago.
  • For the first time in 58 years, GM does not expect its pension expense to rise under the new contract. One reason is that newly hired workers will not be covered by GM’s traditional pension plan; they will receive a 401(k) retirement program instead.
  • GM says it still has 700 workers laid off from their jobs. They have first dibs on jobs at GM plants, including the workers it plans to hire when it reopens its factory in Spring Hill, Tenn. Once those workers have been offered the chance to come back, then GM will hire new workers, including temporaries.

Read more about the GM contract in The New York Times.

1:05 p.m.

More from Pete Bigelow of Changing Gears:

General Motors became the first domestic automaker to reach an official agreement on a new contract with members of the United Auto Workers union Wednesday afternoon.

The UAW said in a written release that 65 percent of production workers and 63 percent of skilled trade workers voted in favor of the agreement, which had been tentatively agreed upon Sept 16. A four-year contract provides a wage increase for entry-level workers, and goes into effect immediately.

The agreement would create 6,400 jobs in the United States, the release said.

“When it seems like everyone in America is getting cuts in benefits and paying higher co-pays and deductibles, we were able to maintain and improve on our current benefits,” said UAW vice president Joe Ashton.

GM CEO Dan Akerson is expected to hold a conference call with Wall Street analysts at 2 p.m.

12:37 p.m.

The deal is complete. UAW members officially ratified their contract with General Motors.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The UAW said today that its members have ratified a new four-year labor agreement with GM that gives workers a $5,000 signing bonus and is expected to preserve or add 6,400 U.S. jobs.

It is the first contract for 48,500 GM hourly workers since the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring.

The union said the vote was 65% in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63% in favor among skilled-trades workers.

Indictment
1:56 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Three corporate executives indicted in compressor price-fixing case

A refrigerator compressor. The thing that makes your refrigerator cold. Three executives have been indicted by a Detroit federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to fix the price of compressors.
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The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former executives from a Whirlpool Corporation subsidiary, a Panasonic Corporation, and a Tecumseh Products Company subsidiary for conspiring to fix prices on refrigerant compressors.

The compressors are used in refrigerators and freezers.

From the DOJ's press release:

The indictment, returned today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, charges Ernesto Heinzelmann, former president and chief executive officer of Empresa Brasileira de Compressores S.A. (Embraco), a division of Whirlpool S.A.; Gerson Veríssimo, former president of Tecumseh do Brasil Ltda., a subsidiary of Tecumseh Products Company; and Naoki Adachi, general manager of global sales & SE group, refrigeration devices division at Panasonic Corporation, with conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition by coordinating price increases for refrigerant compressors to customers in the United States and elsewhere.

Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General from the DOJ's Antitrust Division said:

“Cracking down on international price fixing cartels has been and will continue to be among the most significant priorities for the Antitrust Division. Our investigation into the refrigerant compressors industry has already resulted in two companies – Panasonic and Embraco North America – pleading guilty and paying a total of $140.9 million in criminal fines. Our investigation is continuing.”

The three are being charged for price fixing under the Sherman Act. The maximum penalty they each face is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The DOJ reports that their investigation led to guilty pleas in 2010 from Panasonic and Embraco North America Inc:

On Nov. 15, 2010, Panasonic Corporation pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $49.1 million criminal fine, and on Dec.16, 2010, Embraco North America Inc. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $91.8 million criminal fine.

News Roundup
9:16 am
Wed September 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Palisades nuclear power plant remains shut down

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant 55 southwest of Grand Rapids is still shut down.

From the Associated Press:

Operators of the plant said in a statement Wednesday that the plant remains out of service after an electrical breaker fault automatically prompted the shutdown Sunday.

Repairs were being made this week. New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. owns Palisades and says no one was hurt in the shutdown...

It was shut down Sept. 16 because of a loss of water in a cooling system, then brought back on the grid last week.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspected the plant in August after a water pump component failed.

Michigan Republicans continue education policy debate

The Associated Press reports that Governor Rick Snyder's administration and Republicans in the legislature will continue to push their education overhaul proposals this week. From the AP:

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to discuss the administration's education proposals Wednesday at a Lansing conference hosted by The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

The Republican leaders of committees dealing with education policy also are scheduled to attend.

The conference comes as lawmakers are debating multiple bills related to education policy in the state Legislature. A package of bills in a Senate committee would let students transfer to other schools more easily and have a broader choice of charter schools and online learning options.

Michigan State University to test "Head Start on Science" for preschoolers

MSU will test a new program aimed at teaching preschoolers science. The effort is funded by the National Science Foundation. From an MSU news release:

The five-year effort, called Head Start on Science, is funded by a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It’s designed to get educators more comfortable teaching science to 3- to 5-year-olds – a task that’s especially important for low-income and minority children who often start school with less preparation for science learning than affluent students, said lead researcher Laurie Van Egeren.

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