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Law
4:16 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court allows lawsuit to move foward on Gun Lake Casino

Rishad Darwoowala Flickr

Michigan's Gun Lake Casino is under threat to shut down after less than two years in operation.

The U.S. Supreme Court said a lawsuit challenging the west Michigan casino can move forward.  The suit said the casino increases traffic and hurts the aesthetic of the rural area.

It said the U.S. Department of the Interior should never have reserved land for the tribe that runs the casino. That's because the Gun Lake tribe was not federally recognized during the Indian Reorganization Act. The Act was passed in 1934. It spells out land ownership rights for tribes.

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Environment & Science
2:09 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

DNR to search lake after illegal carp report

A Michigan DNR group today will search for Grass Carp, seen here.
user Dezidor Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife experts are searching a southern Michigan lake for illegal carp this week after a fisherman submitted a photo of a 3-foot-long grass carp, a species of Asian carp.

A crew traveled today to set up nets in Marrs Lake in Lenawee County, about 20 miles southeast of Jackson. Department of Natural Resources agency biologist Todd Kalish  says the crew plans to pull out the nets on Thursday to inventory what's found.

MDNR Fisheries Specialist Elizabeth Hay-Chmielewski traveled with that group today.  She says the grass carp is capable of disrupting a lake's ecosystem.

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Business
1:01 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Michigan leaders seek business partnerships with Turkey

Turkish flag
user alexeyklyukin flickr

Michigan and Turkey share a passion for cars, spend a lot of time farming, love entertaining visitors and both have a close connection with water.

More than 50 Michigan leaders went to Turkey earlier this month for a four-day conference titled the “Turkey-Michigan Forum: University-Industry Collaboration and R&D Trends.” Attendees came from the private sector, public sector and academia.

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Arts & Culture
3:42 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Facebook community split over personal panhandler policies

Panhandlers: To donate, or not to donate?
The Library of Congress Flickr Creative Commons

New posters in downtown Ann Arbor businesses will ask visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers.  The effort by the mayor's office and businesses asks people to give money to local resources for the homeless instead. 

Yesterday, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community:

“What is your policy on giving to panhandlers?”

Readers jumped at the chance to share their stories and “personal policies.”

Charles–I used to run the old laundry mat on Broadway & Maiden Lane in Ann Arbor & used to have to deal with panhandlers, daily! After awhile you can figure out who really needs some help and those who were just mooching a free ride. $5 was the limit I would give to those who were not just gonna drink it away, but, you never know, do you!

Angie- We were dining in A2 a couple of years ago, and my daughter was being nice and felt sorry for a beggar. When we left the restaurant, she offered him some take-out in a container and he got all annoyed at her and said "I dont want that" >:(

Tom- If someone asks me politely, I'll give them whatever change I have in my pocket-- sometimes it's more than a dollar; sometimes it's 10 cents. But I won't open my wallet in front of a panhandler. My policy prevents me from having to make a decision each time I'm asked. I've never had anyone be anything but grateful.

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Transportation
2:45 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Gov. Snyder annouces bridge deal with Canada

A concept drawing of the new bridge to be built across the Detroit River. The bridge has yet to be designed.
NITC

At a press conference in Windsor, Ont. today, Gov. Rick Snyder joined Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper to announce the New International Trade Crossing Agreement. This agreement, according to the Governor’s Office, will bolster trade, simplify travel and provide as many as 10,000 temporary and permanent jobs by allowing the construction of a new bridge over the Detroit River connecting the cities of Detroit and Ontario.

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Environment & Science
1:08 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

EPA proposes new standard to cut soot emissions

Smog and air pollution around downtown Los Angeles.
Ali Azimi Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new proposal today to cap soot emissions at between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) annually. The current standard is 15 µg/m3 annually. The agency is required to update the standard every five years.

In a press release from the American Lung Association, Albert Rizzo, M.D., chair of the board of the ALA, emphasized the dangers of soot.

"Particle pollution kills — the science is clear, and overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution at levels currently labeled as officially 'safe' causes heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks," Rizzo said.

"The Clean Air Act gives the American public the truth about pollution that is threatening their lives and health—just as they would expect the truth from their doctor," he added.    

Last year the ALA, the Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm, released a report warning of the dangers of soot and urging the EPA to set stricter emissions standards.

Their analysis estimated that capping emissions at 11 µg/m3 annually and 25 µg/m3 daily would prevent:

  • 35,700 premature deaths
  • 2,350 heart attacks
  • 23,290 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 29,800 cases of acute bronchitis
  • 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma

According to the report, these standards would save about $281 billion in medical costs annually.

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Politics & Government
12:36 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

LIVE VIDEO: Deal reached for new bridge to Canada

Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley announced that they will join Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper and other U.S. and Canadian officials at 12:45 p.m. at  The Hilton Windsor Hotel for what the Governor's Office is calling "an announcement of significant economic importance to Michigan and Canada." Watch the live stream of this announcement here:

Update: live-streaming link taken offline after announcement. Click here for more coverage.

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Politics
5:01 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Women Reps in Michigan barred from speaking, one for "vagina" mention

Democratic State Representative Lisa Brown addressing the floor of the assembly
Jeff Winston YouTube

Update 4:57 p.m.

Here is the latest from Rick Pluta:

Two women serving in the state House have been barred from participating in floor debates for one day. The sanction is a punishment for things they said during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.

State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are both Democrats. Brown made a reference to her vagina in a floor statement.

“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but 'no' means 'no.'”

Byrum shouted at the presiding officer after she was not recognized to speak. 

Ari Adler is the spokesman for the House Republican leadership.

“It is the responsibility of every member who serves in the House of Representatives to maintain decorum on the House floor and when they do not do that, there can be actions because of that. And the action today is to not recognize either representative to speak on the House floor," he said.

Brown was speaking during a debate on anti-abortion bills, and has no apologies for what she said.

“I used an anatomically correct word. I said ‘vagina,'" she said.  "Can I not say ‘elbow?' I don’t see what the difference is."

This is the first time in memory that lawmakers have been formally barred from participating in floor debates.

Update 1:10 p.m.

Watch footage of the Lisa Brown speech here:

12:32 p. m.

Two Democratic lawmakers say they have been barred from speaking during House debates.

The House Republican leadership confirms that state Representative Lisa Brown will not be recognized during debates as a sanction for mentioning her vagina during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.

State Representative Barb Byrum also says she has been barred from speaking in the future because of an outburst after she was not called on during the abortion debate.

A House Republican spokesman could not confirm whether that's true.

Politics
4:51 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

INFOGRAPHIC: Size matters in fight over Michigan's emergency manager law

Font size explained
Dario Corsi Redhead Design Studio

Even though they won today, the group hoping to repeal Michigan's emergency manager law could still face a legal challenge in the Michigan Supreme Court.

Those arguing against the emergency manager voter referendum say size matters. And they say the font on the petitions circulated by the group Stand Up for Democracy was too small.

It doesn't matter if they collected more than enough signatures from registered voters in Michigan, the petition's challengers say, the letter of the law must be followed.

And the letter of the law specifies font size.

But if you really want to go there, and yes Michigan, we've gone there, it's not that easy to determine font size these days.

Check out the infographic above for some font-size forensics (the second slide shows the font size in question).

Thanks to Dario Corsi, a graphic illustrator with Redhead Design Studio, for putting this together.

So you be the judge. Clear as day? Or clear as mud?

Economy
3:29 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Babies - the quarter-million dollar investment

Track the changes in costs of child-rearing between 1960 and today.
Expenditures on Children by Families USDA

According to the 2011 Expenditures on Children by Families annual report released by the USDA today, raising a baby born in 2011 will cost a middle-class family about $234,900 in today's currency.

According to the report,

This represents a 3.5 percent increase from 2010. Expenses for transportation, child care, education, and food saw the largest percentage increases related to child rearing from 2010. There were smaller increases in housing, clothing, health care, and miscellaneous expenses on a child during the same period.

The report states that most of this money will fund the child’s housing, child care, education and food expenses through age 17, representing roughly 64 percent of all costs. As the study only follows children from birth through high school, costs associated with pregnancy and post-high school education are omitted from these numbers.

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Environment & Science
2:39 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Cougars on the rise in the Midwest

Wayne Dumbleton Flickr

A study by The Journal of Wildlife Management finds the number of cougars is on the rise in the Midwest. Adam Bump is part of what he calls the "cougar team" with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says cougars are traveling from North and South Dakota into Michigan's Upper Peninsula. But, he says, the cougars are not breeding.

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Arts & Culture
4:06 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Lansing-based group seeks to overtake Grand Rapids’ lip-syncing world record

Part of the 2011 Grand Rapids LipDub.
youtube.com

Last year, Rob Bliss and his social media marketing group Status Creative organized a 5,000 participant video featuring residents of Grand Rapids “lip-dubbing” to a live version of Don McLean’s “Bye Bye, Miss American Pie.”

Not only did the YouTube video go viral with almost 5 million views, but the enormous ensemble also won the Guinness World Record for largest lip dub event.

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Offbeat
2:23 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Do you unplug on vacation?

Traveling by horse and buggy is one way to unplug.
Pete Markham Wikimedia Commons

Michigan State University researchers found that vacationers are increasingly staying connected to the office and social media with cell phones, laptops and tablets while away.

From MSU News:

The study showed that people using smart phones have tripled. The study also revealed that wireless use was higher on vacation (40 percent) than at home (25 percent). Also telling, were figures that show that people used the Web more to plan vacations (80 percent) than for work (70 percent).

Yesterday, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community:

“When you go on vacation, do you stay connected to work?”

Responses show the wide range of readers' feelings towards technology-filled vacations.

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Politics
12:56 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Stabenow using farm bill to woo Michigan growers

Senator Debbie Stabenow stopped at Zeeland Farm Services to announce her push for the tax break Monday. ZFS would get the incentive for their investments in bio-based manufacturing.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection this November and is looking to prove her bona fides amongst the state's agriculturally-minded constituents.

According to a story from Bloomberg News, incumbent lawmakers are struggling to find new ways to prove their worth to voters after Congress outlawed earmarks for home-state projects.

Stabenow, Bloomberg writes, is using a $969 billion national farm policy bill she wrote as head of the Senate Agriculture Committee to show Michigan voters ---especially food growers--- that she is working for them.

From Bloomberg News:

[Stabenow] persuaded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to let her bring up the legislation early so she could tout its expanded assistance to farmers -- including Michigan fruit growers, who have suffered crippling crop losses this spring.

Unseasonably-fluctuating temperatures in March and April have been wreaking havoc on Michigan's tart cherry crop, a staple product for some northern parts of the state. The Environment Report's Bob Allen reported in April that Northwest Michigan saw a tart cherry crop loss of 50 percent to 70 percent this year. Other fruits like apples, peaches and plums were also hit hard.

Bloomberg News writes that "cherries and other fruit crops damaged in Michigan would have more protections under the expanded insurance system in the farm bill," and Stabenow would like to make sure farmers know it.

According to Bloomberg, some growers are getting the message:

Ben LaCross, a northern Michigan grower of cherries, apples and plums, told reporters last week that his farm would be in “free fall” without federal assistance, adding that Stabenow’s measure would expand the tools available to help farmers cope with crop failures like the one this year.

“Crop insurance will help keep family businesses like mine in business,” LaCross said.

The farm bill is being debated in the Senate.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
10:01 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Racial achievement gap dwindling in Michigan's charter schools

Henry Ford Academy, a charter school in Dearborn
user OZinOH flickr

Recent state test results for students in third grade through eighth grade show black students in charter schools perform better than those in traditional public schools.

The largest gaps were found in reading scores which showed a difference of 9 percent.

Dan Quisenberry is president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. He said the improving test scores in charter schools narrow the achievement gap between black and white students.

“That's a problem that's plagued our country for far too many years and I think some of it is really just getting after the solutions because it's not easy,” Quisenberry said. “Most of it is an urban issue where there may not be family neighborhood structures, where there may not be as many opportunities.”

Quisenberry said the higher scores are not a result of charter schools being able to reject troublesome students.

“When kids come into a charter school, many times they are a grade to as many as three grade levels behind where they should be. Those are not kids that you're cherry picking in some way even if you could.  What's happening is you're seeing people focusing on students' needs, and achievement scores are rising as a result of it,” he said.

The higher test scores for black charter school students are consistent across grade levels. It is especially prevalent in urban areas in the state.

-Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
3:33 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Detroit Public School attendance below standards, though better than expected

John Bennett Elementary, part of the Detroit Public School district
user Notorious4life Wikipedia commons

Despite last year’s Detroit Public School campaign entitled “Attendance … Every Day, All Day,” the district’s 2010-2011 attendance numbers failed to meet state requirements and will face the loss of $4.2 million in state aid, according to the Detroit News.

Though the lost money will further hurt the state-controlled school district, the Detroit News reports that the damage could have been worse:

In its amended 2011-12 budget, DPS said it expected to pay $21 million to the state for dropping below 75 percent attendance and had budgeted for the expense.

The state informed DPS in March the amount would be closer to $4 million, giving DPS $17 million more money, which was returned to the general fund.

According to its 2011-2012 budget, the district received about $497 million in state funding over the school year, up three percent from the expected amount.

According to the DPS website, each student enrolled above the budgeted number on count days brings $7,550 in state funding.  In order to encourage count day attendance in its 137 schools in the past through ice cream and pizza parties, “dress down” days for schools that require uniforms, and even a 2009 Radio One-sponsored contest in which students attending school could win a plasma TV, laptop computer, iPod nanos, or an American Express gift card.

- Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Guns
12:47 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Gun advocates protest teen's arrest in SE Michigan

Sean Combs was arrested in April while carrying an M-1 rifle in Birmingham
user Curiosandrelics wikimedia commons

A group wielding handguns and rifles is  probably not something you'd expect to see often in the upscale Detroit suburb of Birmingham, but following the recent gun-related arrest of an area teen, gun rights supporters decided to protest there by packing heat in public.

Sean Combs, 18, was arrested in April while strolling down Old Woodward Ave. with an M-1 rifle. Combs faces misdemeanor charges of brandishing a weapon, resisting and obstructing police, and disturbing the peace, but his supporters say he was within his rights to openly carry the weapon.

As the Detroit News reports, gun advocates gathered last night in Birmingham and packed a town commission meeting with their firearms on full display, even though the commission had no plans to discuss Combs' case.

From the News:

Gun enthusiasts and supporters of "open carry" flocked to the regularly scheduled meeting of the commission, which was not expected to take action or address the charges, to voice their opposition...

"Why ruin the life of an 18-year-old man for the actions of an overzealous police officer?" said John Roshek, president of the Citizens League for Self Defense, a group that works to educate people on their Second Amendment rights and open carry...

In April, Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt acknowledged the constitutionality of Combs' decision to carry his gun, but said "this guy was creating a disturbance and he wouldn't cooperate."

Birmingham Mayor Mark Mickita said he appreciates public input, the News writes, but maintained that "the issue has gone to the courts."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Arts & Culture
4:59 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Michigan medical illustrator 'deceived eyes’ in free time

Gerald Hodge The Trompe l'Oeil Society of Artists

Gerald P. Hodge, a well-known medical and biological illustrator, died in his Ann Arbor home on Thursday at the age of 91. In addition to drawing for medical journals and founding the Master of Fine Arts program in medical and biological illustration at the University of Michigan, Hodge was one of the seven members of the Trompe l'Oeil Society of Artists.

Hodge drew and painted intricate still life images, often depicting nostalgic mementos like ticket stubs and seashells. To see more examples of Hodge's artwork, visit the Trompe l'Oeil Society of Artists website.

The art style trompe l'oeil , French for “deceive the eye,” is known for images and sculptures that appear to exhibit greater dimensions or photo-realism. Hodge taught workshops on mastering this art of optical illusion at the Scottsdale Artists' School in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In an artist’s statement on the society’s website, Gerard wrote that his experience teaching at the University of Michigan prepared him for producing trompe l'oeil artwork.

“My paintings are carefully designed," Hodge wrote, "and I try and go beyond photographic appearances by adding contrast, adding to or eliminating details, making shadows more important, and by slightly changing the shapes and colors of my subject matter in order to enhance the design and quality of my paintings.”

Follow the links for more modern examples of trompe l'oeil artwork and Hodge’s full obituary.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
12:02 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

U.S. Forest Service restoring endangered butterfly habitat in West Michigan

user Hollingsworth, J & K wkimedia commons

The Karner blue butterfly, an endangered species native to parts of the Midwest, including Michigan, is getting some help from the U.S. environmental authorities.

The Associated Press reports:

The U.S. Forest Service is restoring a savannah-type landscape in the southern part of the Manistee National Forest to create habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Officials say the work will take place this summer in Muskegon and Oceana counties. The goal is to create a grassy environment that will promote growth of colorful lupine plants, on which the butterflies feed during their caterpillar stage.

Other species that thrive in such a setting include Hill's thistle, the golden-winged warbler, dusted skipper, and eastern box turtle. It's also good for game species such as wild turkey, white-tailed deer and ruffed grouse.

The Forest Service will remove some trees and set controlled fires to develop the savannah habitat. It also will close many unauthorized "two-track" roads that cause erosion.

More information about efforts to protect the Karner blue can be found on the Environment Report, or if you are feeling festive, consider attending the Karner Blue Butterfly Festival  this summer in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
3:55 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

Michigan House committee approves stricter abortion rules

A set of bills aiming to more strictly regulate abortion providers in Michigan is on the way to the state House floor after clearing committee by a wide margin. 

Update 5:19 p.m. -From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta:

The measures are backed by the Catholic Church and by the anti-abortion group Right to Life. Ed Rivet of Right to Life says critics are mis-representing their motives. He says the purpose is to ensure women have safe facilities 

“Every time we’ve  done this either women are going to die, or they’re going to be denied access to abortion and neither of those is true," Rivet said. "Those threats are always veiled, empty threats that never come true. The fact that 28 out of 32 abortion clinics in Michigan are not inspected or licensed is a fact.”

3:55 p.m.

The Detroit News reports that House Bills 5711-13 would make abortion providers follow new guidelines when handling the remains of aborted fetuses and require facilities where abortions are performed to seek the same licensing as surgery facilities, even if they only administer oral abortion medications. The bills would also make it a criminal act to coerce a woman into having an abortion. 

From the News:

In written testimony, the head of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan said the bills place "burdensome requirements" on women's health care clinics that only dispense oral abortion medication to upgrade their facilities to handle surgical abortions they do not perform.

"Women rightfully don't turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care or cancer treatments," said Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan. "Politicians should not be involved in a woman's personal medical decisions about her pregnancy."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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