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Newsroom

Michelle Huan

Reem Nasr

Chrissy Yates

State of Opportunity

Megha Satyanarayana

Stateside

Bre'Anna Tinsley

Operations

Ford Motor Company

People may talk about wanting to be environmentally friendly but, when it comes to buying new cars, the data show they aren't spending their green on being green.

Car buyers don’t actually end up buying hybrids and electrics even though they say it’s important to them.

"Hybrids and plugins tend to be more expensive," says Sonari Glinton, NPR’s auto reporter. The advance drive market [hybrids, electric vehicles, plugin hybrids] has accounted for 3.6% of the market in the first half of 2014, a decline when compared to 3.8 % in the first half of 2013. Glinton says this market plateau is partially because shoppers are acclimating to higher gas prices. He thinks the other reason is "the novelty of these [hybrid] cars has worn off, so it's not like there's a big new electric car that people are like 'oh I gotta go out and buy that car.' "

Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters is giving the Michigan Legislature a grade of "incomplete" for its current session.

The group's scorecard grades lawmakers on their votes related to energy, land and water issues.

This year, the League says there's been little progress on bills related to those issues.

Jack Schmitt is the Deputy Director of the League's Michigan chapter. He says that means efforts to improve the environment have stalled.

user: dbphotography / Flickr

This week, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra explored language and discrimination. She talked to Robin Queen, a linguist who teaches a class about it at the University of Michigan.

From Guerra's story:

Queen says people often think there's one right way to speak, what linguists call Standard American English, or "The Standard," and everyone else is doing it wrong.

"Who gets to decide they can police someone else's language?" asks Queen. "I mean, when did we get to this point that shaming people for their language is fine?"

Remember the George Zimmerman trial last year? You probably read headlines about it somewhere, or maybe watched coverage of it on TV.

If you got to hear any of the testimony, you may remember Rachel Jeantel. She's a young, African-American woman who was the primary witness for the prosecution, and was on the phone with Trayvon Martin on the day he died. 

When Jeantel began speaking, people both in and out of the courtroom focused on the way she spoke.

Why? 

Check out Guerra's piece. You can watch testimony from the Zimmerman trial and read about a study from MSU on language and discrimination that has some surprising results. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sean_Marshall/ flickr

Three demolished General Motors plants could get state approval for cleanup, starting next year.

The Racer Trust took over all of GM's shut down sites after the company's bankruptcy in 2009. Now the trust is awaiting approval from the Department of Environmental Quality for a remediation plan for the Lansing-area properties.

The goal is to redevelop them for other uses, like industrial parks or housing units.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

There are more than 12,000 vacant lots in Flint, and Genesee county is trying to change that.

Edible Flint is a non-profit organization that helps residents turn these vacant lots into urban gardens.

The group offers classes, resources and helping hands to get new gardeners started.

This year the group will host its sixth annual Food Garden Tour.

The tour will provide transportation to 15 gardens around the city that showcase different techniques of local growers.

Deb Hamilton is with Edible Flint.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The deadline to register to vote in Michigan's primary is today.

On Aug. 5, Michiganders will vote in the party primaries for state House and Senate seats.

But turnout has been historically low in the primaries.

Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

This week, the Environment Report is taking a look at Michigan’s silent poison — arsenic.

Federal standards allow public drinking water supplies to have arsenic levels of up to 10 parts per billion (ppb), but these standards do not apply to private well owners (that's left up to the well owner to determine).

And in counties throughout Michigan, some wells have much higher levels of arsenic than this "maximum contaminant level" set by the EPA.

Higher levels of arsenic in drinking water have been linked to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, among others.

But are lower levels of arsenic a threat to human health?

It may only be July, but Michigan has already begun its search for this year's official Christmas tree.

People can nominate their picks for trees that could fit the bill.

Usually 10 to 15 trees are nominated, and the one that's chosen must be easy to access.

But the process isn't a quick one.

The search begins in the summer to allow enough time to prepare, choose, harvest, and transport the tree to the Capitol.

Lauren Leeds is a spokeswoman for the state. She says cutting down these trees often also helps the surrounding area.

Cooley Law School

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School is battling low student enrollment with faculty and staff cuts.

The Michigan-based law school said it needs to reduce expenses. That means it will also not enroll incoming first-semester students at its Ann Arbor campus this fall.

It hasn't yet determined just how many people it will let go.

That decision will come after the school does a systemwide review of all programs and facilities throughout its five campuses. Low enrollment, according to the university, is to blame. 

Michigan Historical Center

A $1 million grant is going to the Michigan History Foundation.

It's from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and will help the Michigan Historical Museum revamp its 25-year-old exhibits.

But the grant is also meant to focus on racial equity. The money will be used for the museum's "Sharing Michigan's Untold Stories" project. Some of that will include stories of the indigenous tribes who where here before the Europeans came. 

Sandra Clark directs the Michigan Historical Center. She is working to incorporate diverse stories and voices into the museum.

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.

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.

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.

There are over 43,000 pictures in the interactive from The New York Times.
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

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
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.

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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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."

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.

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.

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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