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​LANSING – Several Michigan schools are expected to get money to help transition from the traditional school calendar to a year-round calendar as part of a pilot program.

MLive.com reports the State Board of Education is set to approve grant requests for four schools at next week's meeting and two additional schools received money through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help offset their costs.

The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is set to get $750,000; charter school GEE Edmonson Academy in Detroit will get $395,000; and Ypsilanti Community Schools will get $146,000.

Baldwin Community Schools and Madison District Public Schools each received $750,000 through the MEDC.

The MGM Grand Casino in Detroit
Mike Russell

Current and former employees of the Detroit MGM Grand Casino are suing the casino for unfair labor practices.

What could be up to 200 employees claim the casino refused to pay floor supervisors for overtime.

The Fair Labor Standards Act says certain employees who work more than 40 hours a week are entitled to overtime pay.

But the complaint claims the casino hasn't done that.

Megan Bonanni is a lawyer for the employees. She says what the floor supervisors are asking for is only fair.

People voting
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

When you step into the voting booth tomorrow, one of the things you’ll be looking at is Proposal 1.

The proposal asks voters to approve a tax policy change, but the language is very confusing.

Michigan Radio staff have been examining the proposal. Here's a brief summary of their reporting and analysis pieces, to answer questions you might still have before heading to the polls tomorrow.

Mark Brush explained Proposal 1 and tackled these questions:

  • What is the proposal all about?
  • What’s problematic with the language of the proposal?
  • What do “yes” and “no” votes mean?
  • What is "personal property tax"?
  • How will it affect local business and communities?
  • Who’s in favor of a “yes”/"no" vote on the proposal?
  • What will happen if the proposal wins/fails?

©Emantras Inc 2014

There's good news for Michigan students who don't want to dissect animals in the science lab.

The State Board of Education has adopted a policy that schools give students a chance to opt out of animal dissection.

Students who choose not to dissect real animals would instead follow with the class on a computer program.

It's a policy recommendation, not legislation.

John Austin is the president of the board. He said this could potentially save schools money. And he added that most medical schools don't use real animal dissections anymore to teach students.

Crego Park: Now open
User: Kevin Driedger / Flickr

​LANSING (AP) - Lansing's largest park is back open after more than a quarter-century.

The 200-acre Crego Park was closed in 1986 after industrial waste was found on the property.

The Lansing State Journal reports the city quietly reopened the park earlier this summer, but officially marked its rebirth at a ceremony Thursday.

Several current and former city officials, and more than a dozen relatives of ex-Mayor Ralph Crego took part in a ribbon-cutting.

City officials used a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and $250,000 from Lansing's parks millage fund to add a parking area, a fishing pier and a launching facility for canoes and kayaks.

Crego Park was closed after 200 drums of paint sludge and other toxic waste were found on the grounds.

User: Enokson / flick

The school boards in Ann Arbor and nearby Whitmore Lake have voted to pursue Ann Arbor Public Schools' annexation of the much smaller school district to the north of the city.

Over the past few years, Whitmore Lake Public Schools has suffered steep enrollment drops as the community's population declined – and the district is moving grades out of its middle school building this fall to balance its budget.

Voters will decide the question in November. A "yes" vote in both communities would result in annexation next July.

J. Miguel Rodriguez / Flickr

International travelers may soon experience shorter wait times at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

New technology at the airport aims to make the U.S. customs process a little easier.

Thirty new Automated Passport Control kiosks will allow travelers to enter their information at computers, instead of filling out declaration cards.

Kris Grogan is with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He says the new system will help the agency's officers be more effective at their jobs.

Courtesy of Children First

Recent reports show an early uptick in hand, foot and mouth disease.

The Kent County Health Department is seeing an increase of cases of the highly contagious virus, which normally occurs in August.

The virus is most common in children and is spread similarly to the common cold. Symptoms include fever, sore throat and sores on the mouth, hands and feet.

Lisa LaPlante represents the Kent County Health Department. She says the uptick could be attributed to public pools and playgrounds.

courtesy of FreeAmir.org

A Muslim advocacy group is asking the Iranian government to pardon a Michigan it convicted of spying for the U.S. government.

Amir Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Three years ago, he traveled to Iran to visit his extended family. Hekmati is from Flint.

But when he arrived he was arrested and convicted of "cooperating with hostile governments." He's been in prison ever since.

Now, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other other groups are asking the Iranian government to pardon Hekmati.

morguefile

A judge in Washtenaw County today dismissed a lawsuit to prevent oil drilling in Scio Township, near Ann Arbor.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards wants to stop West Bay Exploration from drilling. So it sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for what it calls an "unfair and faulty" permitting process.

But the judge ruled that he had no jurisdiction over the case. He said Ingham County is the appropriate court.

Arthur Siegal represents the non-profit group. He said West Bay could start drilling within a week.

NOAA.gov

Scientists are working to identify a cyanobacteria bloom near the Maumee River. It's a yearly event that occurs during the warm summer months.

Researchers at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory confirmed that the cyanobacteria bloom has been intensifying over the last week.

Also known as blue-green algae, it can be harmful to the aquatic environment and to people. People shouldn't swim in a bloom- it can cause skin rashes or even severe stomach problems.

Tim Davis is a research biologist with the lab. 

Citizen groups are suing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over an air permit it granted to a Dearborn steel plant.

Two months ago, the MDEQ issued the permit to the Severstal plant. It allowed the facility to continue polluting at levels that had previously been cited by the state.

Gaurav Pandit

Feral cats have become a serious problem in Genesee County.

The cats can be seen all over the county's towns.

Cats can reproduce up to four times a year with an average litter of six. So officials and animal activists have been pushing residents to spay and neuter their cats. 

Jody Maddock is the program director for Adopt-a-Pet in Fenton. She said the problem has really gotten out of hand.

Renisha McBride.
Family photo

DETROIT (AP) - Jury selection starts today in Detroit in the trial of a 55-year-old man who shot to death a young woman who had been knocking on his door in the wee hours of the morning in November.

Prosecutors say Theodore Wafer grabbed his shotgun, opened the front door of his Dearborn Heights home and blasted 19-year-old Renisha McBride in the face.
 

McBride was drunk but unarmed when she had gone to get help after crashing her car.

Wafer claims McBride was aggressive and violent and that he acted in self-defense.

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit turns 313 years old next week. The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a week's worth of programming beginning tomorrow. 

July 24th marks the day when the French explorer Antoine Cadillac landed on what would later become the city of Detroit.

Each day the group will host a different event- including storytelling, a classic car show, and film screenings.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Society. He said celebrating the city is especially important now.

"And based on Detroit’s history of being a hard-working, very creative and entrepreneurial town, I have every reason to believe that we’re reinventing ourselves again," said Sadler. 

Some of the events include: Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit is America’s Motor City, The Streets of Old Detroit, and one of the newer exhibits, the Gallery of Innovation. 

The Detroit Historical Museum is in Midtown Detroit. All of the week's events are free.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

wikimedia commons

The number of younger men diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer has been rising sharply over the past two decades.

Prostate cancer has generally been associated with aging. But researchers at the University of Michigan say it's time to rethink that.

Dr. Kathleen Cooney is professor of internal medicine and urology at the university. She said there could also be a genetic factor that makes some men more susceptible to the disease earlier in their lives.

Laura Robinson

Exploratory oil drilling could come to Scio Township, near Ann Arbor, soon. But a community group has a filed a lawsuit to try to prevent it.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards filed the lawsuit against the oil company, West Bay Exploration, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The group claims that DEQ did not follow its own rules meaningfully when considering the drilling permit.

Laura Robinson heads the group.  

Michigan Shakespeare Festival

This Thursday marks the opening night of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

The festival has been based in Jackson for its 20 years of performances.

But that will soon change.

The group has partnered with a theater in Canton, west of Detroit, to reach a broader audience.

Starting next year, the festival will expand to host three weeks of performances at The Village Theater at Cherry Hill.

Janice L. Blixt is the artistic director for the festival. She says they're excited to share these works with as many people as possible.

University of Michigan

A group of doctors and researchers is getting in on the Ann Arbor Art Fair fun this week. 

The program is called Bioartography. Faculty and staff across the university submit images of cells and tissue from their research labs.

The images are photoshopped to add bright colors and patterns. The winning prints are then sold. All proceeds go to help graduate students and post-docs travel to medical conferences.

Dr. Deborah Gumucio helped develop the fundraiser in 2005. She said roughly $40,000 to $50,000 has been collected over the past nine years. That's been enough to give more than 80 students $500 travel awards.  

"It’s really important to get out to the public to tell them about what we do," said Gumucio. "How our work with the fruit fly and work with yeast, for example, can make huge differences in human health."

The prints are a representation of the intersection between art and science. 

They will be sold at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this week. They're also for sale online. 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

World Resources Institute

You might recall that earlier this year Michigan’s attorney general filed charges against two energy giants.

Encana Oil and Gas USA and Chesapeake Energy were accused of colluding to lower the price of land leases for oil and gas exploration.

Last Friday, a Michigan Cheboygan County District Court judge ruled that Chesapeake Energy Corp must face a criminal trial, citing evidence of a conspiracy between the companies.

Reuters quoted Judge Maria Barton of Michigan’s Cheboygan County District Court:

"The direct and circumstantial evidence established that the parties did in fact strike an agreement to bid-rig the State sale." 

Part of that evidence could have come from Encana Oil. That company struck a plea deal with the State of Michigan in exchange for its help in Michigan's anti-trust case Chesapeake Energy. Encana also agreed to pay a $5 million fine.

This past May, MPRN's Rick Pluta reported:

 If Encana lives up to its end of the bargain, the state will drop other criminal charges at a sentencing hearing in 11 months.

Chesapeake Energy is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas.

Jeff Insko

A proposed natural gas pipeline could run through Michigan on its way to the Canadian border.

ET Rover, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, is planning a pipeline that would run through about 180 miles of Michigan. Some of it would track the same route as the controversial Enbridge 6-B pipeline that was recently replaced.

The company has sent out about 15,000 letters to landowners on and around the proposed line, asking for permission to do land surveys.

ET Rover will then submit a plan to the federal government for review. Vicki Granado is the company's spokesperson.

"It’s important to Energy Transfer that we reach out and communicate and meet people and we talk to them," said Granadao.  "It’s also important that as we do work in these communities, that we are very respectful of people’s property and of all of the environmental concerns."

Jeff Insko is a landowner in Oakland County whose backyard was torn up for the Line 6B project.

"The prospect of having to go through it all over again is utterly demoralizing," said Insko. "People are disheartened and some of them are angry; some of them are stubborn and ready to fight."

ET Rover will hold an open house tonight in Fenton to update residents on the proposal.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

mich.gov / Michigan Government

In Detroit, the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes is three times the national average.

Data from the state Department of Community Health show a maternal death rate that is even higher than countries like Libya and Vietnam.

High poverty and limited access to health care are the main culprits. Women living in poverty are less likely to receive consistent medical care before and during pregnancy, which can lead to complications during childbirth.

Ford Motor Company

People may talk about wanting to be environmentally friendly but, when it comes to buying new cars, the data show they aren't spending their green on being green.

Car buyers don’t actually end up buying hybrids and electrics even though they say it’s important to them.

"Hybrids and plugins tend to be more expensive," says Sonari Glinton, NPR’s auto reporter. The advance drive market [hybrids, electric vehicles, plugin hybrids] has accounted for 3.6% of the market in the first half of 2014, a decline when compared to 3.8 % in the first half of 2013. Glinton says this market plateau is partially because shoppers are acclimating to higher gas prices. He thinks the other reason is "the novelty of these [hybrid] cars has worn off, so it's not like there's a big new electric car that people are like 'oh I gotta go out and buy that car.' "

Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters is giving the Michigan Legislature a grade of "incomplete" for its current session.

The group's scorecard grades lawmakers on their votes related to energy, land and water issues.

This year, the League says there's been little progress on bills related to those issues.

Jack Schmitt is the Deputy Director of the League's Michigan chapter. He says that means efforts to improve the environment have stalled.

user: dbphotography / Flickr

This week, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra explored language and discrimination. She talked to Robin Queen, a linguist who teaches a class about it at the University of Michigan.

From Guerra's story:

Queen says people often think there's one right way to speak, what linguists call Standard American English, or "The Standard," and everyone else is doing it wrong.

"Who gets to decide they can police someone else's language?" asks Queen. "I mean, when did we get to this point that shaming people for their language is fine?"

Remember the George Zimmerman trial last year? You probably read headlines about it somewhere, or maybe watched coverage of it on TV.

If you got to hear any of the testimony, you may remember Rachel Jeantel. She's a young, African-American woman who was the primary witness for the prosecution, and was on the phone with Trayvon Martin on the day he died. 

When Jeantel began speaking, people both in and out of the courtroom focused on the way she spoke.

Why? 

Check out Guerra's piece. You can watch testimony from the Zimmerman trial and read about a study from MSU on language and discrimination that has some surprising results. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sean_Marshall/ flickr

Three demolished General Motors plants could get state approval for cleanup, starting next year.

The Racer Trust took over all of GM's shut down sites after the company's bankruptcy in 2009. Now the trust is awaiting approval from the Department of Environmental Quality for a remediation plan for the Lansing-area properties.

The goal is to redevelop them for other uses, like industrial parks or housing units.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

There are more than 12,000 vacant lots in Flint, and Genesee county is trying to change that.

Edible Flint is a non-profit organization that helps residents turn these vacant lots into urban gardens.

The group offers classes, resources and helping hands to get new gardeners started.

This year the group will host its sixth annual Food Garden Tour.

The tour will provide transportation to 15 gardens around the city that showcase different techniques of local growers.

Deb Hamilton is with Edible Flint.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The deadline to register to vote in Michigan's primary is today.

On Aug. 5, Michiganders will vote in the party primaries for state House and Senate seats.

But turnout has been historically low in the primaries.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

This week, the Environment Report is taking a look at Michigan’s silent poison — arsenic.

Federal standards allow public drinking water supplies to have arsenic levels of up to 10 parts per billion (ppb), but these standards do not apply to private well owners (that's left up to the well owner to determine).

And in counties throughout Michigan, some wells have much higher levels of arsenic than this "maximum contaminant level" set by the EPA.

Higher levels of arsenic in drinking water have been linked to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, among others.

But are lower levels of arsenic a threat to human health?

It may only be July, but Michigan has already begun its search for this year's official Christmas tree.

People can nominate their picks for trees that could fit the bill.

Usually 10 to 15 trees are nominated, and the one that's chosen must be easy to access.

But the process isn't a quick one.

The search begins in the summer to allow enough time to prepare, choose, harvest, and transport the tree to the Capitol.

Lauren Leeds is a spokeswoman for the state. She says cutting down these trees often also helps the surrounding area.

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