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Michelle Huan

Reem Nasr

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State of Opportunity

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Politics & Government
4:44 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Protesters call for immediate moratorium on Detroit water shut-offs

The National Action Network Detroit Chapter and community activists gathered in front of the governor's midtown office.
Credit Reem Nasr/Michigan Radio

Protesters voiced their anger Monday morning over the controversial water shut-offs in Detroit.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department sent out more than 46,000 shut-off notices this spring and has turned off water to about 4,500 customers.

Community activists and religious leaders met outside of Gov. Rick Snyder's midtown office. They asked him to impose an immediate moratorium on the shut-offs. They also want the city to work out an affordable payment plan based on a person's income.

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Economy
3:04 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

MEC report suggests Michigan living conditions don't live up to residents' hopes

Credit Pothole in a road. / Wikimedia Commons

The living conditions in Michigan are crumbling and the residents aren't happy about it.

That's according to a report by the Michigan Economic Center, called The Michigan Dream at Risk.

It says that over the past 10 years, Michigan's legislators have cut support to the things Michigan citizens love most.

Because of this, Michigan's roads, outdoors, and schools are suffering.

The report suggests more than 60% of those polled favor funding for public investments.

John Austin is the Director of MEC.

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Politics & Government
6:24 pm
Sun June 29, 2014

Protests Call For End to Deportations

For the past year, groups have rallied in Michigan and across the nation, hoping the GOP would take up a comprehensive immigration reform measure. But one year after the U.S. Senate passed the bill, there's been no movement in the House.
Credit Michigan United

Friday marked one full year since the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but with the measure effectively dead in the House, immigrant advocacy groups hope to convince President Obama to use his executive powers to steer around the Congressional roadblock.

In Michigan, activist Maximo Anguiano with Action of Greater Lansing says his group feels separating families with 1,100 daily deportations is not the answer.

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Families & Community
11:21 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Experiencing Detroit's blight digitally is getting interesting

There are over 43,000 pictures in the interactive from The New York Times.
Credit Screen shot of NYT interactive

I timed myself and it took me a minute and 21 seconds to scroll through the images of Detroit's blight. Initially, I didn't even read any of the analysis that The New York Times provided, I just scrolled. 

The Times has done several interactive pieces on blight in Detroit. There's been a wealth of data since the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan was published.

This one really makes you realize how vast the city's housing problem actually is.

Their analysis breaks blight up geographically with different anecdotes and facts. Here are two examples:

7 Mile Road:

While most of the properties on the foreclosure list were residential, about 5 percent were sites of former businesses, of which a majority were vacant lots or unoccupied structures. Many were formerly gas stations, auto body shops and car washes. 

Lenox Street:

Ronald Ford Jr. says he has struggled to find work as a laborer and to pay his bills, let alone the $7,000 in property taxes that he now owes. His family bought the house in 1969, and his mother made the final mortgage payment years ago. But he said they stopped paying the taxes after she grew ill and moved into a nursing facility.  

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
6:24 am
Fri June 27, 2014

New task force to review pipeline safety in Michigan

Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new government task force has been created to review the safety of Michigan's pipelines.

DEQ Director Dan Wyant and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will co-chair.

Formal oversight for interstate gas and oil pipelines comes from the federal government, but states are not required to do their own management.

Carl Weimer is executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. He said Michigan needs state oversight of its increasing number of pipelines.

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Law
4:12 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Stepparent adoption not possible in joint-custody case

Credit Michigan Supreme Court

Stepparent adoption just became more difficult in the state of Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has upheld a state law that says a stepparent cannot adopt a child if the biological parents share joint custody.

In the decision, Justice Brian Zahra wrote that stepparents wanting to do so would have to be married to a spouse with sole legal custody of the child. That means going back to court and petitioning for sole custody before the stepparent can adopt. 

Debra Keehn is a family law attorney in Ann Arbor. She said the added legal step is going to make adoption more difficult for families.
 
"All of that takes a lot of time and a lot of money and it puts a big financial burden, I think, on a family who’s trying to increase the security of a child."
 
The court ruled in the case of a couple who divorced in 2009.

The mother remarried a year later and petitioned to have her new husband adopt her child. She argued that the child's father had not made contact or sent any money in over two years. But the ruling said she would have to petition a court for sole custody of her child before her new husband could adopt.

The court's decision was unanimous.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
6:31 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Great Lakes region not doing well on beach water quality

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes region didn't do so well last year in beach water quality, according to the annual beach report by Natural Resources Defense Council. 

More than 3,000 samples were taken from coastal and Great Lake beaches across the country. Thirteen percent of the samples had bacterial levels that were too high for safe swimming. That means the region has one of the highest failure rates in the country. 

Steve Fleischli is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He explained why this might be the case. 

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Environment & Science
6:24 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Small businesses welcome carbon emission regulations

Credit Photo courtesy of Carbon Green BioEnergy

Support is growing within the small business community for tighter limits on carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change.

That's according to research by the American Sustainable Business Council. One in five of the surveyed businesses said they had already been hurt by extreme weather events.

Many business owners say they've searched for their own ways to reduce energy costs to become more efficient.

David Levine is CEO of the council. He said small businesses want to see these changes implemented across the board.

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Politics & Government
6:30 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

A "humanitarian crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border

Credit gop.gov / gop.gov

At a congressional hearing today, Michigan congresswoman Candice Miller weighed in on the massive influx of unaccompanied children smuggled into the United States through the Mexican border. A situation Congress has called a "humanitarian crisis."  

More than 50,000 children have come across the border in the last year alone. About three-quarters come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These children are sent alone north through Mexico, usually by paying drug cartels huge sums of money.

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Health
4:11 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Bill proposes more authority for nurses with advanced degrees

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A bill that would give nurses with advanced degrees more autonomy is coming up for debate in the Michigan House.

Senate Bill 2 would give advanced practice registered nurses, also known as APRNs, the authority to write prescriptions and order tests without a doctor's approval.

The Affordable Care Act has led to more people seeking medical care. Also there is a physician shortage in rural parts of the state. This legislation aims to accommodate more of those additional people.

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Education
4:47 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Detroit Public Schools release budget proposal for next year

Credit DPS website

For the first time in six years the Detroit Public Schools' proposed budget does not call for any schools to be closed. 

The district expects it will bring in about $50 million fewer than it planned for next year. But officials say despite that, they are planning new programs and won't close any schools. 

The idea is to keep the city's schools competitive with charters and suburban districts. 

But there is still the matter of a $127 million deficit the Detroit school district is battling. 

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Education
1:22 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

MSU and the University of Michigan to raise tuition rates

Michigan State University.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Students at two of Michigan’s largest universities will be paying more in the fall.

The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents increased in-state undergraduate costs by 2.6% yesterday.

For out-of-state students, the increases will be higher: According to The Michigan Daily, out-of-state undergraduates will see their cost of attendance rise by 3.4%.

That brings the total cost of in-state attendance to $13,158. For out-of-state students, cost of attendance will be around $41,578.

Michigan State University followed suit today, increasing its in-state costs by 2.6% for in-state underclassmen, and 2.9% for in-state juniors and seniors.

The state’s budget increased its funding for higher education this year by 5.9%.

For the University of Michigan and its three campuses — Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn — that translates to $295 million coming from Lansing. That’s an increase of $18.5 million.

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Health
4:51 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Michigan ranks low in long-term elderly care

Credit cswe.org

The state of Michigan still has a way to go when it comes to serving its aging residents.
A new national scorecard by the AARP ranks the state 31st in terms of long-term services and support for the elderly.

The report also focused on how well states support family caregivers who provide the bulk of care for older Michiganders.  This can cause stress and financial burden on those families, especially those who are juggling their own families and full-time jobs. 

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Environment & Science
3:49 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

New laws allow for coal ash in cement and asphalt

Credit Peter Ito / flickr

This week Gov. Rick Snyder signed laws that allow for more uses of industrial byproducts.

  

The idea is to send less material to landfills and instead recycle them into as many practical uses as possible. 

These are materials like coal ash, paper-mill sludge and foundry sand. In the past they were dumped in landfills. 

But the state has been researching ways to recycle them – such as mixing them into cement used in roads and parking lots. The law also allows for some of these materials to be used on farmland as soil conditioners. 

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Environment & Science
4:51 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

New technology could improve beach water-quality testing

Credit Kathleen Tyler Conklin/ Flickr

A new technology will make testing water quality at Michigan beaches faster. And that means safer swimming. 

County water departments  are required to test  public beach water for E. coli contamination. But the testing process has been pretty slow – it can take around 24 hours for results to come in. That means that a health department may not close a beach a full day after it discovers water was unsafe for swimmers. 

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Education
1:47 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

GM donates robots to Oakland Community College

OCC offers seven industrial robotics courses using robots such as this at their Auburn Hills Campus.
Credit OCC

The robotics students at Oakland Community College are getting a gift today. 

General Motors is donating robots that were once used to make cars on its assembly plant floors. They are going to the school's industrial robotics program at the Auburn Hills campus. 

The equipment is valued at $20,000  and will be used for hands-on training for students learning how to program and maintain robots.  

Dr. Timothy Meyer is chancellor at Oakland Community College. He says the donation will help prepare students for manufacturing jobs that can help boost the local economy. 

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Environment & Science
4:15 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Program targets invasive plants at Belle Isle – and you can help

Credit Matt Lavin/ Flickr

A program to remove invasive plants is coming to Detroit's Belle Isle this summer.

A federal grant from the EPA of almost half a million dollars will go to Friends of the Detroit River. Sam Lovall is the project manager. He says removing the invasive plants is really important for the health of the island's ecosystem.

"Although some of them are quite attractive, they tend to overpopulate the area," said Lovall.

"They are very aggressive and they can compete very well with some of our native plants."

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Health
10:54 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Stricter regulations for Michigan's compounding pharmacies possible

Credit cdc.gov

The fungal meningitis outbreak isn't that far behind us. 

Two years ago, a Massachusetts compounding facility sold tainted steroid medications around the country. What happened was disastrous: 22 Michigan residents lost their lives to meningitis and more than 260 were infected. 

New legislation could prevent that from happening again. A bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg, may be voted on this week. It calls for more background checks on compounding pharmacies and more facility inspections.

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Health
4:49 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Pregnant women need to eat more fish, say FDA and EPA

Credit rick/ Flickr

The government wants pregnant women to eat more fish. Yesterday the FDA and EPA issued new draft advice that urges pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat at least eight to twelve ounces of fish a week.

The update comes 10 years after the last recommendation, which didn't specify a minimum.

The FDA is worried that fears over mercury levels in seafood have kept many pregnant women from getting enough of the nutritional value needed for their babies.

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Health
4:20 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Researchers say childhood lead exposure costs $300 million a year in Michigan

Credit user Steven Depolo /Flickr

Childhood lead exposure costs Michigan about $300 million a year.

That's according to a report by the University of Michigan and the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

They recommend lead remediation projects for around 100,000 houses throughout the state at a cost of $600 million. They say the program would pay for itself in three years.

Paul Haan is executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. He says more remediation programs would be a good long-term investment for the state. 

“At the end of the day we’re going to continue to pay the cost of the problem of lead poisoning if older housing is not remediated,” said Haan.

“So the question we really need to ask ourselves is do we want to pay the increased cost of suffering the consequences, or do we want to pay the lower cost of remediation?”

About 70% of childhood lead exposure comes from lead-based paint in older homes.

Earlier this week, the state Legislature approved an additional $500,000 for lead hazard control in next year’s state budget. The change is pending approval from the governor.

Haan says this shows that “public will is building and that state leadership recognizes the need for the kind of investments called for in the report.” 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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