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State of Opportunity

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Auto/Economy
1:44 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

GM extends summer shutdown at Volt factory

user Mariordo wikimedia commons

GM is planning to extend a production slowdown for its extended-range electric car, the Chevy Volt.

Last month, Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported that GM was halting production of the Volt for five weeks in March and April to reduce inventory, in part because of lower-than-anticipated demand.

Samilton wrote:

The car has been highly praised, but it’s expensive.  Even with a $7,500 federal rebate, the Volt still costs about $32,000.  Meanwhile, people can buy a highly fuel-efficient regular car for much less – including GM’s own Chevy Cruze, which costs about $19,000.

Additionally, the Volt facility was scheduled to be shut down for two weeks in July---a common practice for car factories---but GM has now extended that period to three weeks, again citing a need to reduce inventory.

But according to the Associated Press, "a spokeswoman says the company sold a record number of the electric cars in March and may cancel the extra week if strong sales continue."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
12:00 pm
Sat March 31, 2012

Vets warn: Lilies are toxic to cats

user mike73/morguefile

Lilies are popular home decorations this time of year. But the plants are highly toxic to cats.

Ingesting any part of a lily can cause kidney failure in cats, and can be fatal without emergency treatment.

Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and a lack of appetite.

Dr. Jennifer Aschenbrener is a veterinarian with Irwin Avenue Animal Hospital in Albion. She says it’s important to contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten part of a lily.

"They will most likely have you try to get induced emesis, which is vomiting, which also can be done at the vet clinic. Basically the biggest thing is to get the lily out of the system," she says. "Without treatment, and sometimes even with treatment, it can be fatal. So it’s very serious."

That’s not the only harmful Easter tradition. Local animal advocates are warning against giving bunnies, chicks, and ducks as presents. Many of the animals end up in shelters once the novelty wears off. 

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
9:00 am
Tue March 27, 2012

A salmon balancing act for Lake Michigan fishery managers

The Desperado heads out at sunrise to go after Pacific salmon in Lake Michigan.
Photo by Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

by Peter Payette for The Environment Report

The people who manage salmon in Lake Michigan will have to decide soon how many fish to put into the lake.  The salmon fishery is a manmade industry in the Great Lakes.  It’s produced by planting millions and millions of fish in the lakes.  But keeping the salmon population in balance with the food supply is a challenge these days.  And some scientists are raising new questions about the salmon’s demise in Lake Huron and whether that can be stopped in Lake Michigan.  

Salmon were brought in from the Pacific Ocean.

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Politics
1:27 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Pontiac EM says no to Silverdome tax break

user Alex simple wikimedia commons

Lou Schimmel, Pontiac's state-appointed Emergency Manager, has denied a tax-break request from the owners of the Pontiac Silverdome.

The former home of the Detroit Lions is owned by Triple Investment Group who were seeking a special break to make improvements to the stadium, but as the Associated Press reports, the work they were planning wasn't what Schimmel had in mind:

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Politics
4:27 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Crowd rallies in Ann Arbor against contraception mandate

Catholic clergy and school children were part of the crowd outside the federal building

More than two hundred people gathered today in front of Ann Arbor's Federal Building. They were protesting a recent federal mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services that requires all employer healthcare plans to provide contraceptive services.

Seven similar rallies were also held in Michigan, along with more than 100 others across the country organized by Catholic pro-life groups.

Christen Houck is a student at the University of Michigan.

"This mandate is unconstitutional based on the fact that it goes against people's religious consciences," she says. "That's something that we really need to protect. I do not think this is an issue about contraception, but it's really about religious freedom."

Twenty-eight states, including Michigan, already require coverage of contraceptives in employer healthcare plans. Michigan’s law includes a broad religious exemption.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
10:57 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Freedom of Information Act exemption for elected officials is called into question

Michigan’s governor and legislative members are not subject to state open-records law, but Democrats in the State Senate are trying to change that.

Gretchen Whitmer is the Democratic Senate leader. She thinks requiring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is an important step towards promoting honesty from elected officials.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring ethical conduct by people in the legislature and setting a standard that’s very clear, and a system that is transparent," says Whitmer.

Her request comes a few days after emails were released by the Oakland County Democratic Party, which suggest the county’s redistricting process was motivated by partisan goals.

Legislation attempting to lift this thirty-six year old exemption is not new. It has been introduced several times before, most recently in the 2009 term. At that time, it was sponsored primarily by Republican representatives, who were in the minority.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Legal Issues
10:17 am
Fri March 23, 2012

University of Michigan hosts panel on life sentences for juveniles

The State Prison in Jackson, Michigan
Andrew Jameson wikimedia commons

The University of Michigan Law School hosted a panel on life sentences for juveniles on Monday.  

In Michigan, a first-degree murder conviction results in an automatic life sentence for anyone 14 or older. There are currently 359 people in the state serving life without parole for crimes committed as minors. Michigan is one of 11 states with this type of law.

Austin Land works at a law firm that focuses on these kind of cases. He says these convictions are a human rights violation, because children are not able to fully participate in the adult criminal system. 

"Children have adolescent brains, they are risk-prone, and they lack adult faculties of judgment," Land said . "This all affects their ability to participate in their own defense, their ability to plea bargain."

On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments for a pair of cases involving men who were fourteen when they were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Defendants claim this violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment. ’ 

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
2:54 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Arctic fox captured near Lansing

A wild arctic fox in northern Manitoba
Ansgar Walk wikimedia commons

It may feel like it's already summer outside but that didn't stop a little piece of the arctic from visiting central Michigan.

After several days of sightings in and around  the town of Portland, just northwest of Lansing,  local authorities captured a loose arctic fox as he woke from a nap on a baseball diamond.

The fox's origin is unclear but aside from being about 1,000 miles south of its natural habitat, local law enforcement believes it must have been  a domesticated pet based on its friendly demeanor, the Lansing State Journal writes.

From the LSJ's Tom Thelen:

“We were receiving calls about it for about a week,” said Portland police chief Bob Bauer. “People were seeing at in various parts of the city...We believe that it either escaped or was turned loose,” said Bauer. “It was not afraid of anyone. In fact, it would coming running out to people and some of them were scared by the way it ran up to them.”

Thelen reports that authorities found an owner of another arctic fox in nearby Lake Odessa who agreed to care for the captured animal.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
2:46 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

UM study finds increase in global warming belief

wikimedia commons

The number of Americans who believe in global warming is once again on the rise, moving from 58 percent in 2010 to 62 percent last year.

That's according to survey results released last month by U of M's Ford School of Public Policy. The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and published by the Brookings Institute, shows that a higher percentage of Americans accepted the science of climate change in 2011 than anytime since the fall of 2009.

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Offbeat
3:17 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Spring is here, time to grow a face gourd?

Two gourd portraits. The right shows the gourd's natural color wile the left has been stained with tea
Tim Anderson/instructables.com

If you're anything like the folks here at Michigan Radio, the recent (and ongoing) spate of unseasonably warm weather through much of the state has probably inspired you to run from the radio station screaming and throwing off layers spend more time outdoors.

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Crime
1:15 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Supreme Court cases could determine the fate of Michigan's youngest criminals

Andrew Bardwell wikimedia commons

Michigan has one of the country's highest numbers of "juvenile lifers"---prisoners sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed as minors---359 total.

That includes six who were only 14 when they committed their crimes.

These numbers come from an in-depth report from John Barnes at MLive.com.

Barnes profiled those six, including TJ Tremble, who has spent half his life, 14 years, in a state prison following a murder conviction. Tremble has no hope of release because of a mandatory life sentence.

Now, for the youngest of young offenders at least, there could be a path toward release. That's because of a pair of upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases involving young offenders.

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Environment
11:05 am
Tue March 13, 2012

Small wind project in northern Michigan faces hurdles

Steve Smiley, project manager for the Northport turbine, on the ridge where the windmill will be built.
Photo by Bob Allen/Interlochen Public Radio

by Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Big wind farms generate not just power but a lot of controversy. There’s been quite a debate in northern Michigan recently about the effects on safety, health, property values and the landscape. Smaller scale projects called community wind are designed to avoid those criticisms. But there are still roadblocks.

Northport is a picturesque village that sits near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. For the past two years, a group of residents there, mostly retirees, has been working to put up one small wind turbine.

Doug McInnis says the opportunity just about fell into their laps.

“There was this unique spot. There was a hill. And it’s near right where you want to put the energy. We’re right near a substation. I mean all these things come together and it just says, hey, this is a natural.”

The village owns the hill that rises just behind its new sewage treatment plant. From the hilltop, the turbine will supply half the electricity for the plant. It will be a fraction of the size of new commercial turbines.

State maps show that Leelanau Township has the best sites for wind energy in the Lower Peninsula.

McInnis says the group wants to do something now that will benefit their community for years to come.

“People are concerned about the future generations. And if we don’t start thinking and moving in other directions I don’t know what’s going to happen. It ain’t gonna be good.”

Read more
Education
3:43 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

U of M announces Dr. Sanjay Gupta as spring commencement speaker

user Dnd523 wikimedia commons

The University of Michigan has announced the speaker for its Ann Arbor commencement ceremony next month.

According to a press release from the university, graduates will hear an address from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent at CNN, a practicing surgeon, and a UM alumnus who was raised in Novi.

The U of M press release describes Gupta as:

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Environment
1:32 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Gas company plans new pipeline under St. Clair River

Bluewater Gas Storage plans to build a pipeline under the St. Clair River
user cseeman Flickr

Plans are underway for a natural gas company to construct a pipeline under the St. Clair River into Canada, stretching some 1,500 feet.

More from the Associated Press:

"A bike path in Marysville will be closed to the public as Bluewater Gas Storage LLC conducts the work. The project is expected to last about a month. The bike path will be used as a staging area, rather than using people's yards or driveways."

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Education
4:15 pm
Sat March 10, 2012

Group wants "tuition equality" for undocumented students

A group of students at the University of Michigan want to make higher education more accessible for undocumented Michigan residents.

Freshman Daniel Morales recently petitioned the U of M Board of Regents for policy changes that would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from Michigan high schools to pay in-state tuition.

Morales was an undocumented resident when he was first accepted to U of M.

He was told he would have to pay international tuition despite growing up in Michigan. He was also not allowed to apply for financial aid. Morales says that U of M's tuition policies are unjust.

"This is a civil rights fight in which we are restraining a certain population fo our community because of something that is not within their control. What they can control is how they do in school, and these are students who are getting into one of the most competitive universities."

Federal law guarantees undocumented students access to public education from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Universities set their own tuition policies.

Western Michigan University already charges in-state tuition for undocumented Michigan students.

Cancer & Environment
5:27 pm
Fri March 9, 2012

A roundup of stories in our "Cancer & Environment" series

John Klein Wilson Michigan Radio

This past week, Michigan Radio's The Environment Report brought us a special series looking at the connections between cancer and the environment.

Producers looked at our current understanding of how the chemicals in our lives affect us, how neighbors in the White Lake area in West Michigan are mapping cancers, how some mothers in St. Clair County are asking why their children developed a rare type of cancer, how fights over potential carcinogens play out in court, and what scientists are doing to unlock the secrets of our genes.

They also collected stories of courage and warmth from those people affected by cancer around Michigan and posted their stories on a Tumblr page.

And finally, people were invited to ask questions in a "live-chat" with a noted expert on how some toxic substances might affect our health, Dr. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas.

Here is a roundup of the stories produced for this series:

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Environment
11:50 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Live Web Chat: Talking about cancer in our lives

Clockwise from top left: Carol and Loren Schultz, Karrie Martin, Amy Lobsiger with her partner Dan Sicko, Jason Ratliff with his father

Welcome to our live Web chat with the producers of our week-long series "Cancer & Environment: Searching for Answers."

Dr. Arnold Schecter will also join us today at 12:30 p.m.

He's a professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at the University of Texas Dallas, and he's been studying the health effects of toxic substances for over 30 years.

If you have any questions or comments for the producers, simply type them into the chat box below. We will try to address them in the order they are submitted. Or you can just sit back and watch the discussion.

Thanks for participating!

Cancer and Environment
11:22 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Your Story: One woman's experience with cancer while pregnant

A healthy mother with her son

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life?

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Cancer and Environment
12:00 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Your Story: A son fondly remembers times spent in the Michigan woods with his father

Jason with his father in 1981

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here.  How has cancer affected your life?

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Offbeat
3:09 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Twelve bucks for a Snickers? I'll see you in court!

J.D. Redding wikimedia commons

A Livonia man has filed suit against a Detroit-area AMC movie theater over what he believes to be excessively high snack bar prices.

David Ashenfelter of the the Detroit Free Press reports that Joshua Thompson, a security technician and movie buff decided to pursue legal action after paying $8 for a Coke and a box of Goobers candy at the AMC Livonia theater recently.

According to Ashenfelter,  Thompson is seeking refunds for concession stand customers along with payment of a civil penalty by the theater for what he considers to be a violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

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