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Politics & Government
12:15 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Bill protecting Michigan worship services from disruption nears approval

State Rep. Deb Shaughnessy is sponsoring a bill outlawing disruption of worship services.
gophouse.com

Those who disrupt religious services in Michigan could soon face much harsher penalties.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte, intended to prevent disruptions during worship events, cleared the state Senate last week.

From the Associated Press:

The fine for disorderly conduct at a religious service could go as high as $1,000, which is more than the maximum fine for many misdemeanors. A second offense could cost as much as $5,000. A judge could also order at least 100 days of community service.

According to a press release from Shaughnessy's office, the legislation was inspired by a 2008 protest at the Mount Hope Church in Delta Township. As part of the protest, members of a gay-rights anarchist group interrupted a service at the megachurch by throwing flyers, pulling fire alarms and shouting slogans.

The press release quotes Rep. Shaughnessy:

"The right of Michigan residents to gather and worship is not only guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, it is a right that must be respected by those with other beliefs...Nobody should fear disruption of their worship services by political opponents, and this legislation should shield them from such chaos."

The bill is now on Gov. Rick Snyder's desk awaiting approval.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Arts & Culture
3:23 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Detroit skaters going 'Wild in the Streets'

Participants in today's "Wild in the Streets" skateboarding event.
ACLU of Michigan

In Detroit and four other cities around the world today, thousands have dropped everything, grabbed their skateboards, and taken to the streets.

This year, Detroit was selected as a site for the ninth annual skateboarding event called Wild in the Streets. The event is similar to Critical Mass, but on skateboards instead of bicycles, and it is being held today—international Go Skateboarding Day.

According to the event's website,

"The goal of Wild in the Streets is to build community and raise awareness of skateboarding and the needs of skateboarders, and to unite skateboarders through a central cause."

Participants were told by the organizing skateboard company, Emerica, to meet up today at noon in Hart Plaza to begin a 5-mile mass trip around the city. In a media release, the company wrote that participants could find the secret itinerary and directions for the ride once there.

The event will culminate tonight in a benefit concert at Royal Oak’s Modern Skate Park to raise money for Power House Production's Ride It Sculpture Park. The sculpture park, being constructed at East Davison St. and Klinger, near the east end of Davison Highway in Detroit, will serve as a skate park in which the artworks form obstacles for riders.

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Homelessness
11:37 am
Thu June 21, 2012

State hopes to keep Ann Arbor tent city shut for good

John Wagner (left) is a volunteer and supporter of Camp Take Notice. Alonzo Young is a camper. He's been attending classes at Washtenaw Community College.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

State officials are preparing to cordon off a stretch of highway median near Ann Arbor to keep the homeless out.

As AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports, the site is home to Camp Take Notice, a homeless community encampment that is scheduled to be shut down tomorrow. To make sure it remains unoccupied, the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the land, is erecting an 8-foot fence around the 9-acre site.

MDOT and the state housing authority, Stanton says, are working to provide camp residents with rent assistance and, in some cases, help moving into subsidized housing, but authorities have made it clear that residing at the campsite is no longer an option.

From AnnArbor.com:

"We've been hearing from the community and from Camp Take Notice that the homeless have been using this area for a long time as a makeshift home," [an MDOT regional manager, Mark] Sweeney said, adding there have been complaints from nearby residents that the homeless have left the area a mess.

"We really wanted to resolve the issue once and for all," he said. "So after the camp is closed, we'll be closing off the area."

Sweeney added, "It's not against Camp Take Notice specifically, but more to prevent a homeless encampment of any kind in this location."

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia visited Camp Take Notice and spoke with residents about life there. You can see a video of those conversations below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Environment & Science
4:56 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Yesterday's temperatures in Ann Arbor reached 1995 record of 95 degrees

Nickolas Muray flickr Creative Commons

AnnArbor.com reports that the city's 95 degree high yesterday tied with the record-breaking temperature from 17 years ago:

Tuesday’s sweltering heat in Ann Arbor tied the June 19, 1995 high temperature record for 95 degrees, and today has already been declared an ozone action day, said University of Michigan Weather Observer Dennis Kahlbaum.

"Any time we get into the 90s, there’s warnings out for people that may be more susceptible to high temperatures,” Kahlbaum said. “That always goes hand in hand.”

Pollutants are expected to be in the unhealthy range for sensitive groups.

The action day is in effect for the following Michigan counties: Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne.

This is the fifth air quality alert for Washtenaw County so far this year, with other recent ones occurring on Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday’s heat felt a bit hotter than the actual temperature because of the 98 degree heat index.

As the hot weather continues today, here are some tips from the CDC about how to stay safe in extreme heat.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
3:10 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

More funding, celebrity attention bolster Grand Rapids Public Schools’ music program

Barry Manilow, seen with students whose schools received instruments from The Barry Manilow Music Project, which launched in Grand Rapids last Thursday.
The Barry Manilow Music Project Facebook

On June 18, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education approved next year’s budget for their district.  MLive reports that although the 2012-2013 budget includes $9 million in cuts due to decreased enrollment, board members voted to allocate $990,000 to hire 11 more teachers to support increased arts education.

These additional teachers will facilitate full-year—as opposed to semester-long—art and music instruction for the district’s elementary school students.

In addition to the financial boost, students in Grand Rapids schools have also received attention from celebrities this month.

On June 14, students from City and Creston high schools in Grand Rapids accompanied the British-American rock band Foreigner on stage at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park Amphitheater singing their hit, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” 

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Offbeat
2:41 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Ten signs it's summertime in Michigan

A summertime view from Marquette Park on Mackinac Island
user Notorious4Life Wikimedia Commons

Detroit Free Press columnist Ron Dzwonkowski offers 10 ways we can tell another Michigan summer is upon us.

Here's the list:

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Education
12:59 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Detroit school for teen moms celebrates graduates 1 year after facing closure (Video)

A year after students rallied and, in some cases, got arrested to save their school from closure, the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens recently celebrated the graduation of its senior class, capped off with some national media attention.

Rachel Maddow featured the graduates in her "Best New Thing in the World Today" segment (see below).

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported last June, the Catherine Ferguson Academy was one of several Detroit public schools slated to close due to budgetary concerns, but it was saved at the eleventh hour when education officials agreed to turn it over to a charter organization.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics & Government
12:25 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

State wants to see Wayne Co. books before okaying deficit plan

State Treasurer Andy Dillon
Associated Press

Before giving Wayne County the go-ahead on an unorthodox deficit reduction plan, the state wants peruse the county's books.

According to John Wisely at the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon is taking bids from accounting firms to perform the audit. Auditors would look at discrepancies in spending and budgeting along with the timing of certain transactions.

Officials in Lansing are on the lookout for anything fishy because the plan would involve state money.

More from the Freep:

Last month, the county proposed eliminating its deficit by sending unused state grant money, for things like roads and mental health programs, back to the state. It wants the state to return a similar amount to the county unrestricted, meaning it could be used to eliminate the deficit instead of funding the programs spelled out in the legislation.

Wayne County has a cumulative deficit of $155 million and faces declining revenues in its latest budget cycle.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Health
11:05 am
Wed June 20, 2012

U.S. Health Secretary, speaking in Detroit, plans health center expansions

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Pete Souza whitehouse.gov

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Detroit this morning to announce an expansion of community health centers in over 40 states, along with Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

From the Associated Press:

Sebelius announced $128.6 million in awards Wednesday at Covenant Community Care in Detroit.

The grants are from the Affordable Care Act and will go to 219 health centers, increasing access to more than 1.25 million additional patients.

About 5,640 doctor, nurse, dental provider and support staff jobs are expected to be created.

Last month, the department announced $21 million in grants for expansion projects at five community health centers in Kansas and nearly $3.5 million for two centers in Utah.

Sebelius says the health care law is making "community health centers stronger and ensuring more Americans get the care they need."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
3:26 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Possible signs of Asian carp found near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

A survey recently conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed positive evidence for genetic material from silver carp in southwest Chicago. 

The May 22 test showed 17 positive identifications for the DNA of silver carp in 112 sites sampled in Lake Calumet and Little Calumet River through a process called "eDNA," or environmental DNA testing. The test involves filtering water samples for fragments of DNA shed by target species.

Genetic material left from carp tissue, mucus, feces or urine is not a certain indication of the presence of a live Asian carp; the DNA found in testing could have come from dead fish or water from another source.

Researchers also tested for bighead carp in the area, another species of Asian carp, though all results were negative. 

The AP reports:

Jared Teutsch, water policy advocate for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in a statement Monday the findings mean "another year of worry" about Asian carp.

Bighead and silver carp were imported from Asia. They have migrated up the Mississippi River and its tributaries. An electric barrier is meant to block them.

Dozens of water samples taken beyond the barrier in recent years have contained Asian carp DNA, although just one actual carp has been found there.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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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