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Health
3:27 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

MI cooling centers open amid excessive heat and power outages

user jdurham MorgueFile.com

Update 3:27 p.m.

The AP is now reporting that more Michigan homes and businesses --around 400,000-- lost power this week:

DTE Energy Co. says about 210,000 of its customers were without power Thursday after a new round of damaging thunderstorms made its way across the state, knocking down trees and power lines. Since Tuesday, DTE says about 300,000 of its customers have been affected.

Read more
Politics & Government
11:46 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Raunchy TV script by Michigan's Rep. McCotter surfaces

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jams with his blues band.
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

Things don't seem to be going all that well in U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's (R-Livonia) political career. His bid for the Republican presidential nomination sputtered out last year, and more recently, he was forced to give up his Congressional re-election campaign over falsified petition signatures.

But perhaps he has a future in show business.

Read more
Politics & Government
3:18 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Snyder vetoes election bills

Gov. Rick Snyder, seen here, vetoed three bills in a package of Republican-sponsored election reforms today.
Rick Snyder for Michigan Facebook.com

Update 3:18 p.m.

MPRN’s Rick Pluta reports that reactions to Gov. Snyder's vetoes today were divided across party lines:

Republicans – including Secretary of State Ruth Johnson – said the bills were reasonable ways to ensure only people who are supposed to vote cast ballots. She says the veto will not stop her from including a box on voter registration forms affirming their U.S. citizenship.

The governor did sign 11 other bills in the package. But GOP leaders in the Legislature expressed disappointment in their Republican governor’s decision to veto some of their work.

House Speaker Jase Bolger quickly issued a statement expressing his disappointment in the vetoes.    

Democrats, on the other hand, praised the decision as “courageous.”

House Democratic Leader Rick Hammell said the vetoes were “brave,” and Michigan AFL CIO President Karla Swift praised the governor for standing up to “extremists” in his party.

The governor said in a veto letter that “voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote.” 

2:07 p.m.

The Michigan Election Coalition publicly thanked Gov. Rick Snyder for vetoing three election bills today. The group is a collection of organizations with the common aim of ending what it calls "voter suppression legislation" in Lansing.

In an MEC press release, Sue Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan said,

“On the eve of Independence Day, this is a huge victory for our American democracy. We want to thank Gov. Snyder for doing the right thing by vetoing this unfair and unjust legislation. While today’s action is a step in the right direction, the League of Women Voters will continue to educate voters about their rights to make sure every eligible voter can make their voice heard at the ballot box this November."

In the press release another MEC member, Melanie McElroy, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan, said,

“Gov. Snyder’s veto pen should send a strong message to Lansing politicians that it’s time to halt these voter suppression efforts once and for all. Our elected leaders need to stop the partisan games, and start working together to expand access to voting in Michigan.”

The AP reports that Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says he's "deeply disappointed" his party's governor vetoed "very reasonable" changes to election laws.

More from Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta to come.

12:35 p.m.

Gov. Snyder has vetoed three bills in a Republican-sponsored package.

The vetoed bills would have required people to affirm their U.S. citizenship and show a photo ID before they can get a ballot, and require people to get training before they can register voters. In both cases, the governor says, the measures would have created too much confusion about who can vote or register people to vote.

The governor signed 11 other measures including ones that would require ballot petitions to be submitted in advance for the Secretary of State to post online, and forbid the use of campaign funds to cover legal expenses unrelated to campaigning.

Health
1:52 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

How to stay safe this Fourth

user Miguelwhee MorgueFile.com

A confluence of Heat Advisories in 34 Michigan counties, drought-like conditions in the southern half of the state, and relaxed consumer firework legislation could make this year's Independence Day celebrations more dangerous than usual. 

The AP reports that two Lansing-area communities have postponed tomorrow's annual firework shows because of warm and dry weather that's settled in across the state.

Michigan officials are urging people to use caution with fireworks and outdoor fires as some areas face what's described as dangerously dry conditions.

Here are some tips from The National Council on Fireworks Safety about how you can stay safe this holiday.

Read more
Economy
4:11 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

After tough losses, MI farmers get some federal help

Cherries, a staple Michigan fruit crop suffered after this spring's fluctuating weather.
user maena MorgueFile.com

The federal government has approved financial support for Michigan fruit growers whose crops suffered due to unusual temperature fluctuations.

Almost all of Michigan's counties--72 of 83-- are now considered natural disaster areas and eligible for help.

Some growers say crop losses haven't been this bad in three generations.

Read more
Sports
2:29 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

DeWitt gymnast heading to the London Olympics

DeWitt native Jordyn Wieber will compete at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Jordyn Wieber webmasters Facebook.com

In last night's U.S. Olympic Trials for women's gymnastics, Jordyn Wieber placed second all-around, securing a spot on the team headed to London this summer.  The 16-year old DeWitt native nearly cinched the top score, impressing judges in San Jose's HP Pavilion with her performances on the uneven bars, the balance beam and in her floor routine.

In an interview with USA Gymnastics, Wieber, already named the 2012 National Champion in women's gymnastics, said,

"It feels amazing to be an Olympian. This is definitely the best day of my life and knowing that all of my hard work has paid off is amazing. I'm just so proud of each and every girl who competed here today."

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Offbeat
11:16 am
Mon July 2, 2012

Revitalizing Detroit? Consider zombies

A rendering of Z World Detroit, a proposed zombie-themed game zone where players would run for their lives in one of the city's abandoned neighborhoods
http://www.indiegogo.com/zworlddetroit

People have come up with a lot of ideas about how to repurpose the large swaths of vacant land and abandoned buildings in Detroit, but turning them over to the undead is probably a first.

No, the zombie apocalypse isn't finally upon us, at least as far as we here at Michigan Radio know. The "zombies" in this case would be "professionals" there to chase paying customers as they flee through derelict neighborhoods and crumbling warehouses.

The zombie-themed "game zone" is the brainchild of Clawson's Marc Siwak who told Detroit's WWJ-AM that he envisions a structured game where an initial group of professional zombies catches participants and assimilates them, while the remaining "living" players try to avoid the growing horde.

Siwak is currently trying to raise funding through online crowd-sourcing.  WWJ reports that while he has failed to secure any sort of permission from the city, he thinks Z World Detroit would fit in well alongside urban farms and other projects aimed at transforming blighted areas.

From Siwak's website:

“There are formal proposals to essentially abandon some of Detroit’s neighborhoods. That’s not a solution.  Collectively we must be more creative than that. Let’s do something fun and unique that will revitalize an area while creating some jobs for Detroiters.”

Siwak told WWJ-AM that he's already received resumes from brain-hungry potential employees.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Offbeat
3:55 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Facebook responses: Top three foods for life

Bacon was the most popular food mentioned in the responses.
user Jonathunder Wikimedia Commons

In a recent Michigan Radio Facebook post, we asked followers:

If you could only eat three basic foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Responses filled up our wall, ranging from the responsible:

Alison- Kale, eggs, and nuts...if I had to chose one I would say almonds

...to the indulgent:

Kyle- Pizza, Donuts, and McDonalds

...to the bizarre:

Paul- Bacon, wrapped in ham, wrapped in bacon

Bacon, it turns out, was the most popular food item with 13 votes.

Read more
Asian carp
3:12 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Michigan congressman pushes speedier Asian carp response as part of federal highway bill

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Update 3:12 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) Congress has approved a measure requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quicken development of a strategy for keeping the Great Lakes free of Asian carp.

Corps officials said in May they would submit a report by the end of 2013, roughly the same time as required under the legislation. But officials said they would provide only a list of options for Congress and the public to consider.

The legislation instead requires specific steps for preventing species migrations at 18 potential entry points, including Chicago-area rivers and canals.

11:29 p.m.

A massive bill, covering everything from highway spending to student loan interest rates to flood insurance, is set to pass the U.S. House and Senate in a rare show of bipartisan deal-making.

And tucked into the legislation is an act that would make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers speed up their research and planning aimed at keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland) used his spot on a House and Senate negotiation committee to make sure the Stop Invasive Species Act was included as part of the larger law.

The act was introduced by Camp and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) earlier this year and would force the Corps of Engineers to draft a plan within 18 months---about a year ahead of the current schedule.

In a press release, Camp cast the Asian carp threat in both an environmental and economic light:

“Today Congress took an important step to stop Asian carp from devastating the Great Lakes ecosystem.  Over two years ago, a live Asian carp was found in Lake Calumet, less than six miles from Lake Michigan.  The responses so far have been temporary fixes when what we need is a permanent solution.  The Stop Invasive Species Act lays the groundwork to permanently protect our lakes and the $7 billion fishing industry and 800,000 jobs they support.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with blocking species transfer between the Great Lakes system and the Mississippi River.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Law
2:54 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Font size fight over EM referendum may reach Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Hall of Justice, in which the Michigan Supreme Court might hear the petition font case.
user Subterranean Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has been trying to block a statewide referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law. Today, the group filed a request asking the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that would allow voters to decide on emergency managers.

The group says a mistake in the font size that pro-referendum campaigners Stand Up for Democracy used in a portion of the text of their petitions was too small under regulations. 

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility believes the font size is reason enough to keep the emergency manager referendum off the November ballot.

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Health
5:21 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Gov. Snyder order creates Michigan Autism Council

Gov. Rick Snyder signed an order creating an Autism Council today
Office of Governor Rick Snyder Wikimedia Commons

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder signed an order creating an Autism Council in Michigan's Department of Community Health.

The governor's office said the order is a step to implement Michigan's Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan. According to a 2009 issue paper concerning the plan, autism diagnoses have dramatically increased amongst children over the past several decades.

The AP reports:

The council will have 12 gubernatorial appointees.

Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley pushed hard to win passage of a mandate for insurance coverage for autism treatment for children. Insurers are reimbursed through a $15 million autism coverage incentive fund.

Calley's daughter Reagan has been diagnosed with autism.

Michigan's upcoming budget also provides for Medicaid coverage of autism treatment for children through the age of 18.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Law
3:30 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Supreme Court upholds almost all of health care law, what's next for Michigan?

Some states want the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the Asian carp fight.
US Supreme Court

Update 3:30 p.m.

The battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn't end with today's Supreme Court ruling that upheld almost all of the law.

It now moves to November's election, as the Twitterverse shows:

[View the story "Debate over healthcare law moves to November" on Storify]

1:55 p.m.

In the lead-up to today's Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R- Marshall) insisted on waiting to to set up a health care insurance exchange in the state until the ruling came down, despite the governor's wishes to move forward with establishing a statewide exchange.

In a statement released today, Bolger expressed his disappointment in SCOTUS' decision, but also that the state house plans to create a health insurance exchange.

He said:

"I could not be more upset that the Supreme Court has upheld this massive attack on Michigan’s working-class families and mandates for insurance coverage that citizens have repeatedly objected to. I am mad and disappointed, but we remain committed to fighting for Michigan’s future...

"We will work with Gov. Snyder and the state Senate to see that Michiganders have access to healthcare that is marketplace-driven and provides competition, transparency and common sense options.

"Having the state establish a healthcare exchange is not something we wish to do, but we cannot stand idly by and hand over our citizens’ healthcare to an overreaching federal bureaucracy. We will focus on putting people first and protecting them from this massive tax increase on Michigan’s working families.”

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Education
3:09 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Major achievement gaps for high school students

www.theartofed.com

State officials announced the results from the 2012 Michigan Merit Exam today.  They say the results for Michigan high school students are encouraging.

Eleventh and twelfth graders showed small gains in math, reading, writing and science. Half of students met standards in reading and writing. But just a quarter of students were proficient in math and science.

Joseph Martineau is with the Department of Education.  He says Michigan students are making consistent gains even with a more challenging curriculum.

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Business
2:47 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Benton Harbor, St. Joseph resort plan secures some funding

The Entrance to the Harbor Shores Clubhouse, part of the $575 million Harbor Shores project planned for Benton Harbor and St. Joseph
Harbor Shores Facebook.com

St. Joseph-based developer Edgewater Resources is reportedly in the process of raising $70 million for a new resort on the city's river.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Read more
Education
11:10 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Muskegon Heights charter takeover a 'state bailout,' new report says

Muskegon Heights High School
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public Schools voted late last year to request a state emergency manager in an effort to sort out chronically troubled finances. Part of the plan emergency manager Don Weatherspoon eventually came up with involved turning schools in the district over to a charter operator.

But as the Detroit Free Press reports today, a study from a non-profit research group says the turnover amounts to little more than a state bailout.

Read more
Economy
5:26 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Reuters: Natural gas giants may have colluded in Michigan drilling lease grab

The Utica Shale, seen here, has recently become the target of gas and oil exploration by corporations like Encana and Chesapeake Energy.
Michael C. Rygel Wikipedia Creative Commons

Two of North America’s biggest natural gas corporations, Encana and Chesapeake Energy, are under scrutiny today after the Reuters news agency intercepted at least a dozen emails from 2010 between the competing companies that might show evidence of price-fixing in Michigan’s oil and gas lease market. 

Reuters alleges that the emails suggest top company officials discussed a plan to divide up counties in Michigan auctioning "prime oil- and gas-acreage" in order to avoid a costly bidding competition.

Both companies deny the allegation, though they admit to discussing the possibility of entering into a joint venture in Michigan.

Yesterday, Reuters reported:

Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp tumbled Monday after a Reuters investigation showed that top executives of the two rivals plotted in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in a state auction and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners.

Following the report, the state of Michigan pledged to determine whether the two energy giants acted two years ago to suppress land prices there.

In Michigan, private land owners can sell the drilling rights on their properties, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources holds auctions to sell state-owned rights called "oil and gas leases" biannually.

Around 2008, this market gained national attention when the Utica and Collingwood Shale oil and natural gas fields drew interest as potential natural gas mother lodes in northeast Michigan. Companies looking to access the reserves thousands of feet underground through a new process called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, started purchasing these rights. Bids for the drilling rights per acre soared to record highs in the May 2010 auction. 

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Economy
12:15 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Detroit housing prices down in April, but up from last year

A graph showing annual changes in U.S. home prices.
S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Detroit housing prices fell 3.6 percent from March to April, but were still higher than they were in April 2011.

A report released today by S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices shows that, nationwide, home prices rose for the first time in seven months. But Detroit was the only city, of the 20 "metropolitan statistical areas" (MSA's) they look at, to show a monthly decline.

The news wasn't all bad for Detroit.

Looking annually, Detroit is one of 10 cities that saw prices rise compared with the same period a year ago. On a national level, annual figures ticked downward.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Detroit
11:11 am
Tue June 26, 2012

Mayor Bing hopes to raze 1,500 more abandoned buildings in Detroit this summer

An abandoned home in Detroit
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has plans to demolish 1,500 abandoned structures in the city over the next three months.

In a press release, Bing's office said the "Summer 2012 Demolition Plan" is part of a larger effort to raze 10,000 dangerous and abandoned buildings by the end of the mayor's first term. Over 4,500 homes and other empty buildings have been demolished so far.

Removing abandoned structures in Detroit, the press release says, is a key part of Mayor Bing's "blight elimination and neighborhood stabilization plans, the U.S. Department of Justice Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and the Safe Routes to School campaign."

Some 350 of the buildings slated for removal this summer were suggested by students, parents and patrol volunteers at area high schools.

Mayor Bing is set to make an official announcement later this afternoon at the site of one home set for demolition today on Detroit's east side.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Read more
Environment & Science
10:52 am
Tue June 26, 2012

Bee Palooza showcases backyard bee habitats

A native bee hotel on display at Bee Palooza. The bee experts from Michigan State University say a bee hotel is easy to build.
Logan Chadde Michigan Radio

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat.

Rufus Isaacs is an entomology professor at Michigan State University. He studies pollination of berry crops.

"Honeybees are, if we’re talking about commercial agriculture, they’re the most important pollinator. We have tens of thousands of those bees that come into Michigan every spring, and they do the lion’s share of the work to get our cherry crop, our blueberry crop, our apple crop, our pickling cucumber crop pollinated."

But since 2006, beekeepers have been reporting major honeybee losses. That’s because of something called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Honeybees are not native to Michigan, but there are 400 native bee species in the state. Isaacs says these native bees also pollinate crops and wild flowers.  But he says the overall health of native bee populations is unclear.

"To be honest, we don't really know anything about long-term trends in their populations because there hasn't been any careful monitoring of them over the years," he said.

A few days ago, Isaacs and others in MSU’s entomology department put on an event called Bee Palooza.

The bee experts say human development is threatening the habitats that native bees use. So they wanted to show people how to build homes for native bees in their backyards.

Emily May is a graduate student at MSU. She’s standing next to a structure that’s shaped like a house. It’s made out of logs, bamboo and pieces of wood with a lot of holes in them. May calls it a bee hotel.

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Environment & Science
10:33 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Debate heats up over proposal to increase Michigan's renewable energy standard

Michigan already has a renewable energy  standard on the books. 10 % of the energy utility companies provide has to come from renewable sources by 2015. But the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition wants to bump that number up to 25% by the year 2025. The group is gathering signatures for a ballot proposal to create an amendment to the state constitution.

Stephen Transeth is with the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition. It's a group that is trying to defeat the so called 25-by-25 ballot proposal. He says he supports the current standard but does not think the new proposal is appropriate to put in the state constitution.

"When you put a proposal like this into the constitution, you are effectively limiting your options in the future, the way we generate and use electricity in the next five, 10, 20 years from now, is going
to look so much different than today."

But the organizers behind 25-by-25 say utilities are already ahead of schedule to meet the current standard and it’s been cheaper than expected.

Mark Pischea is with the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition. He says Michigan companies are already sending wind turbine parts to places like Spain and China.

"Michigan has the opportunity to again be the hub to export products made in Michigan to the world, just like what we did 100 years ago with the automobile."

330,000 signatures are needed to put the proposal on the ballot in November.

-Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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