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.

He has won several state and national awards for his work, including a 2011 national Edward R. Murrow award for best audio news documentary on the future of coal in the United States.

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 "public radio junkie" since 1992. Much of Mark's storytelling philosophy was influenced through his close work with veteran CBC "réalisateur" David Candow.

Ways To Connect

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…

screenshot / Google Maps

Now that Gov. Rick Synder has confirmed that a “financial emergency” exists in the Detroit suburb, Royal Oak Township officials have seven days to decide how to move forward.

Under the state’s emergency manager law, known as the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, there are four options the township can choose:

  • a consent agreement,
  • an emergency manager,
  • neutral evaluation,
  • or Chapter 9 bankruptcy

From the governor’s office:

On January 30th, Governor Snyder determined that a financial emergency exists in Royal Oak Township after reviewing a report from an independent financial review team. Following a hearing township officials requested, as allowed under PA 436, State Treasurer Kevin Clinton recommended that the governor confirm his determination of a financial emergency.

State officials say the township board has until 5 p.m. on Wed., March 26  to make a choice on how to move forward.

screen shot / ESPN.com

President Obama, known as the first basketball fan in the White House, filled out his brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament yesterday.

He picked Michigan State to win it all.

"It's been awhile since Izzo won one," he said.

From ESPN.com:

Update 11:48 a.m.

This is the week that "the-people-seeking-attention" are really cashing in on their bet.

They're betting that you won't pick a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket, but you will give them all kinds of personal information to take a shot at it. 

As Carl Bialik from the lauded Five-Thirty-Eight blog puts it:

No sum of money can beat the math.

(See how statisticians calculate the odds in the original post below.)

ESPN.com's Rick Reilly figures the company sponsoring the contest stands to make a lot of money by gaining "as many as 15 million new sales leads with the registration process alone on this thing."

"You can't buy that kind of PR," [the guy] says. "We love this."

Reilly sat down with the rich guy backing the bet, who isn't too worried about someone picking a perfect bracket. He knows the odds, and he's known how to play them to his advantage all his life:

[The guy] loves making bets that tilt toward his wallet. When his three kids were growing up, he paid them their allowance in dimes. That's because he had a 10-cent slot machine in the house. "By the end of the night," he says, "I'd have most of my money back."

Original post, January 21, 2014

You're more likely to get struck by lightning, but what the heck.

The odds of you picking a perfect NCAA bracket vary.

Some say it's 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

In his video, Jeff Bergen of DePaul University says there's a 1 in 128 billion chance of picking a perfect bracket. He says the odds are a smidge better given that you would  follow the rankings.

The organizers of the contest say the odds are better – 1 in 4.3 billion. (There's no indication of how those odds were calculated.)

If you pick a perfect bracket, they'll give you a billion dollars. More specifically, they'll give you $25 million a year for 40 years, or a one-time payment of $500 million.

So there isn't much in it for you, but there's a lot of free publicity for them. You'll see them in your Facebook feed, or on the Google.

Isle Royale Wolf Moose Study

A wolf that fled from Isle Royale National Park over an ice bridge was found dead on the Minnesota mainland last month.

Researchers were unsure how the wolf died at the time, but a necropsy found that the five-year-old female wolf was shot with a pellet gun.

Lee Berquist of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has more:

The broad view of the giant colon.
American Cancer Society

That one got our attention too.

The press release from the University of Michigan News Service starts with "here's your chance:"

The University of Michigan Health System will partner with the American Cancer Society to bring a 32-foot-long, 14-foot-high giant replica of the colon to Briarwood Mall, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 22, to raise awareness  of colorectal cancer.

What does such a thing look like? We asked for a few photos.

U of M physicians will also be on hand to answer any questions visitors might have.

user rkramer62 / Flickr

EMPIRE, Mich. (AP) - President Barack Obama has signed a bill designating 32,557 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as protected federal wilderness, the final step for a proposal that has been debated locally for more than a decade.

The measure cleared the U.S. House in March and the Senate last June. The White House says Obama signed it Thursday.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes federal park is headquartered at Empire along Lake Michigan in the northern Lower Peninsula. It's famed for towering sand dunes, some of which rise hundreds of feet above the shoreline.

The area is the first land to receive wilderness status from Congress in five years. About 1.4 million people visited the lakeshore in 2011, pumping about $120 million into the local economy.

user John Phelan / wikimedia commons

The money comes from the Department's School Improvement Grants program. 

Ten states received grants, and Michigan was second to Texas in the amount given. Texas will get $46.7 million through the SIG program.

More from the Department of Education's press release:

NOAA

My neighbors and I officially had our last "pond hockey" game over the weekend. We moved everything off the ice as things started to melt.

So the ice in the region has reached its peak, right? No one thinks we're going to be hit with another prolonged polar vortex, do they? 

Let's hope not.

With the most frigid part of this winter over, let's look at the record books for ice cover on the Great Lakes.

Here's what we know.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The fate of Michigan's constitutional ban on gay marriage now rests with federal Judge Bernard Friedman.

After nine days of argument, the trial of Deboer v. Snyder ended this morning.

The highly anticipated federal trial began last Tuesday, Feb. 25, and now Judge Friedman says he will weigh all the evidence before making his decision.

He’s expected to take a couple of weeks to review the case.

Curbed Detroit video screen shot

Shinola makes handcrafted wristwatches in Detroit, and now they're donating four clocks for display in the city.

Today they unveiled one of the Shinola City Clocks at Cobo Center. Other clocks are also located at Eastern Market, Midtown and the College for Creative Studies, according to the Detroit News:

The other three clocks, which also went up Friday, are at Eastern Market’s Shed 3, in Midtown at a future dog park at Cass and West Canfield, and at Shinola’s headquarters at the College for Creative Studies.

Here's a video from Curbed Detroit showing the clock and its second hand at work.

Great Lakes ice levels as of March 4, 2014. The blue areas show open water.
NOAA

The last time I posted on this (on Feb. 26), the ice levels on the Great Lakes had dropped off.

There had been a slight warm-up and some strong winds that had opened up the water.

But it's been cold since then, and the ice levels have increased on the Great Lakes. Here's a graphic showing you where the ice levels stand as of yesterday. The blue areas show the open water:

As I mentioned in my previous post, ice formation on the lakes is dynamic – constantly changing.

MLPP

That's for a two-parent family with two kids and where the two parents are working.

Peter Ruark and Cameron Merrill compiled the numbers for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Their report states that "making ends meet" means just covering the bare necessities.

If you and your partner have two kids, and you make $52,330 a year, the authors say you have just enough to cover your expenses for things like housing, food, healthcare, clothing, child care, transportation, and taxes.

It's equal to each person making $12.85 an hour at a full-time job. 

That's just one living situation the MLPP report looks at. It also breaks down the amount you would need to earn each year to "make ends meet" if you were:

  • single - $21,570
  • a single parent with two kids - $44,164
  • a two-parent family with two kids and you are both working - $52,330
  • a two-parent family with two kids and only one parent is working - $26,720

(They assume child care is not needed in a two-parent family with only one person working.) 

They also broke down the difference in need based on where you live in Michigan. Scroll over the interactive map below to see their wage estimates for each county.

David W. Carmichael / Wikimedia Commons

Fresh off their gold-medal win in Sochi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White will ride their fame straight onto one of the most popular shows on television.

Charlie White will be paired up with professional dancer Sharna Burgess, and Meryl Davis will be paired up with dance pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

USA Today reports on the next "Dancing with the Stars" lineup.

Olympians Charlie White and Meryl Davis seem to have an obvious advantage. (

... and in Hawaii, and in Minnesota.

Allan Levene, a naturalized U.S. citizen from London, England, is running for Congress in four different states.

He can do that.

The U.S. Constitution states that to be a representative in Congress, you only have to live in the state when you are elected.

Levene says if he doesn't win the primary this May in Georgia, where he lives now, he's going to try his luck in Michigan, Hawaii, and Minnesota.

Why? 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Massive blooms of cyanbacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae) and dead zones in Lake Erie: These used to be major environmental problems around the most urbanized Great Lake back in the '60s and '70s, but they are problems once again.

Now, an international agency that keeps an eye on the health of the Great Lakes is calling for more action.

The International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency, wants sharp cutbacks on phosphorus runoff getting into Lake Erie.

Issue Media Group

Cities like Ann Arbor, Portland, and Seattle are known for promoting biking in their cities, but biking hasn't found much of a foothold in many traditional Rust Belt cities.

Some people are trying to change that. Issue Media Group has two pieces profiling those people.

In their publication Mid-Michigan Second Wave, writer Kelli Kavanaugh looks at this trend in Flint. Kavanaugh spoke with Flint native Andy Stamps who founded the Berston Bicycle Club Project. 

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