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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.

Read more
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

Environment & Science
12:16 pm
Mon June 4, 2012

Duck Lake Fire 72% contained

Remains of the Rainbow Lodge near the mouth of the Two Hearted River.
Michigan DNR/facebook

In a progress report released yesterday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that workers had contained 72 percent of the Duck Lake Fire after nearly an inch of rainfall on Saturday.

The fire, caused by a lightning strike 11 days ago, now covers 21,135 acres in Luce County. The perimeter of the fire is 44 miles long. Fifteen of those miles remain uncontained.

Out of the 141 structures within the fire’s perimeter, 136 have been lost. The DNR reported the completed property damage assessment as follows:

  • 49 homes/cabins (including a store and a motel)
  • 23 garages
  • 38 sheds/outbuildings
  • 26 campers

Stretching 11 miles south of the Lake Superior shoreline, the fire is about 14 miles north of Newberry and seven miles west of Tahquamenon Falls State Park campgrounds.

Click here to see the DNR's most up-to-date map of the fire perimeter.

The next chance of rain in the area is Wednesday.

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
10:46 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Beavers return to Belle Isle

Belle Isle Park
Patricia Drury/flickr

After years of rumors, it’s official - beavers are back on Belle Isle.

It’s been about 100 years since the animals left the 985-acre island on the Detroit River, driven away by trappings and human development. In recent years, any time someone thought they spotted a beaver in the area, park officials always deemed the animal a muskrat or raccoon caught in a case of mistaken identity.

That is, until last week when a park visitor snapped a cell phone photo of a beaver swimming in the Blue Heron Lagoon.

John Hartig of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge told The Detroit News that the Belle Isle beavers may have come from a family of beavers spotted at the nearby Conners Creek Power Plant four years ago.

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Health
8:55 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Medicaid policymakers are committed to preserving health care safety net

State Medicaid policymakers should not try to block patient access to emergency rooms in the name of cost savings.  That's according to Doctor Brad Uren. He's president-elect of the Michigan College of Emergency Physicians.

He's responding to a recent controversial rule in Washington State that would deny payment to emergency rooms for certain Medicaid patients.  Some of these patients may have alarming symptoms but are later diagnosed with non-urgent conditions.  After political push-back, the state held off on these so called "retrospective denials."

Doctor Uren thinks Medicaid policymakers in the state are committed to protecting the health care safety net.  He thinks it's unlikely these denials will occur in Michigan.

"Fortunately in the State of Michigan, we've enjoyed a good working relationship with the Michigan Department of Community Health and Medicaid, and I believe that everyone at the administration level is really working to protect the safety net.  They understand the facts, and that is that emergency care is not often administered to people that don't require emergency care."

National data suggest that 8-percent of emergency room patients don't have urgent conditions.  It's thought that some of these patients may report not having regular access to primary doctors.

- Nishant Sekaran, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
1:56 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Four-year-olds too young to start kindergarten, say Michigan lawmakers

For now, four-year-olds in Michigan can enroll in kindergarten as long as they turn five by December 1, but that may change over the next few years as legislators consider when kids are socially mature enough to enter school.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would gradually change the age requirement of kindergarten enrollees over the course of three years.

Read more
Camp Take Notice
11:22 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Alternative housing for residents of tent city

Tent city in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 Residents of a tent city near Ann Arbor could soon have more permanent housing arrangements.

The state's affordable housing agency is working to find places to live for the roughly five dozen people who live at "Camp Take Notice."

Sally Harrison is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). She says this effort is part of a broader initiative to end homelessness in Michigan by 2017.

"For some people who can get into apartments and housing immediately, we will do that immediately, because we have rental assistance available," says Harrison.

She says that for those campers who need more assistance to get housed, they will be relocated to hotels and shelter beds.

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Auto
10:42 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Toyota sales recover strongly in May as overall U.S. sales rise

Chrysler Media

Toyota reported a sales increase in May of 87% compared to the same month a year ago - when the company's vehicle production had plummeted due to the tsunami hitting Japan in March.  

There were more selling days this month than last May, but it is still a robust recovery from the disaster, which reduced inventories on Toyota dealer lots and sent some customers to other car companies.

Toyota remains number three in overall sales in the U.S., however, just behind Ford, which saw its sales increase 13% in May.

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Politics
2:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan school districts could get more money in next budget

Hundreds of school districts that now get the minimum amount of state aid would get $120 more per student this fall under a compromise reached by state lawmakers. A conference committee has voted today to raise the minimum per-pupil grant. The school aid budget now goes to the state House and Senate, which are expected to pass it later today.

Politics
12:07 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan lawmakers hope to pass state budget today

A view of the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are working to pass the final pieces of the 2012-13 budget, but differences are still being worked out on funding for universities and public schools.

If the budget is finished today as planned, the Legislature will meet its goal of passing a budget by June 1.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to reach a compromise on the K-12 budget soon.

The two chambers are having trouble reaching an agreement on kindergarten funding. Differences on the higher education budget include whether Michigan State University must give up its requirement that all students get health coverage and whether the University of Michigan must report more on stem cell research.

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