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Politics
3:48 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Michigan Congressman Amash sticks to principles, in Boehner's craw

Facebook

With the U.S. House of Representatives starting off a new session today and Senators coming back to work next week, both parties will be eager to make headway on their respective legislative agendas.

For congressional leaders, part of this means making sure their party members fall in line when it's time to vote and don't stray across the aisle.

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Environment
10:57 am
Tue January 17, 2012

Strange winter weather affects some parts of tourist economy

It's been wet enough, just not cold enough.
Patrick Feller Flickr

The arrival of winter in Michigan is not supposed to last long.

The cold snap earlier this week is expected to give way early next week to temperatures back in the forties.

The lack of snow is taking a toll on some parts of the state’s tourism economy.

Forecaster Mike Boguth says northern Michigan might set a record this year for the least amount of snowfall ever. Boguth works at the National Weather Service office in Gaylord.

He says what little snow there is now could melt next week when temperatures rise.

“We don’t see any signs of cold weather coming back after we get by this week.”

Most ski resorts up north opened in December. That’s because nighttime temperatures have been cold enough to make snow.

But for businesses that depend on snowmobile traffic this time of year, things couldn’t be much worse. They’ve had just one weekend of business all winter. That was this past weekend which included the Martin Luther King holiday.

Dave Ramsey owns Beaver Creek Resort near Gaylord. He says just enough snow fell late last week to open the trails.

Still, more than half his cabins were empty this weekend when he would usually have a waiting list.

“Every hotel in Gaylord every motel and little cabin cluster will just about fill to capacity on every major holiday if we have good snow.”

The weather could also create problems for the North America Vasa. The cross-country ski race near Traverse City could draw 1,000 racers the second weekend in February.

The VASA trail has three inches of base but no snow-making capacity.

-Peter Payette for The Environment Report

So what's up with this weather? Wunderground.com's Dr. Jeff Masters explains.

Environment
5:06 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Blown bulb behind Palisades shutdown

NRC

How many nuclear power plant employees does it take to screw in a light bulb? Evidently more than were on hand last September at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in western Michigan. According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, an unplanned reactor shutdown at Palisades last fall can be attributed to a plant worker improperly replacing a light bulb.

From the Freep:

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Auto/Economy
4:55 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

75 years ago: Flint autoworkers clash with police

National Guard troops were called in following a confrontation between strikers and Flint police on Jan. 11, 1937
Library of Congress

Last month, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody visited Flint to report on the 75th anniversary of the start of the Flint sit down strike, a work stoppage at multiple GM facilities beginning in 1936, which Carmody says was "pivotal to the birth of the United Auto Workers," and had profound implications for American organized labor in general.

Carmody writes:

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Offbeat
3:56 pm
Tue January 10, 2012

Asian buyers want muskrat furs, Michigan trappers cashing in

user gerrybuckel Flickr

As Asian economies continue to expand, so do the tastes of Asian consumers, and as Maria Amante with the Grand Rapids Press reports, a steady increase in the overseas popularity of coats made from muskrat fur has meant Michigan trappers have been fetching higher prices for their catches.

Amante writes:

Asian countries are buying raw material for fur garments from Michigan trappers, and muskrats — one of the most popular furs with foreign buyers — are among the most abundant fur-bearing animals in the state.

“The Chinese can’t get enough of them,” said Kevin Syperda, owner of Sy’s Fur Shed, a fur buyer in Pierson. “We call (muskrat) the poor man’s mink.”

Syperda says muskrats defy economics: They are in high supply and their demand is high, yet the price for them is going up for the third consecutive year.

Amante explains that "muskrat pelts fetch as much as $10, depending on quality," and that "trappers, on average, catch between 50 and 100 each season."

For the less-squeamish, the story also includes a slideshow and video of the process of skinning and drying a muskrat pelt.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
5:05 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer says sexism is rampant at the State Capitol

State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D) East Lansing
http://whitmer.senatedems.com/

Michigan State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in today's Detroit Free Press. She writes that Senator Rick Jones' (R-Grand Ledge) comparison of a prominent female public relations professional to a "hooker" is one of many incidents of sexism that she's witnessed in Lansing.

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Politics
4:07 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

ACLU moves forward with challenge to domestic partner benefits ban

Last month, shortly after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a ban on healthcare benefits for the domestic partners of some public employees, the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement decrying the governor's decision and promised to "challenge the constitutionality of the law on behalf of families who will lose their health protections."

Now it looks like they are moving forward with that promise, according to a story from the Associated Press.

The AP reports that the ACLU "says it will file a lawsuit to challenge" the law and that the group "will discuss the case at a news conference Thursday in Detroit."

- John Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Offbeat
4:28 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

Train derails in Kalamazoo, injuries and spills avoided

According to a report by Simon A. Thalmann with the Kalamazoo Gazette, a freight train derailed this morning in Kalamazoo when it encountered a damaged section of track, but Grand Elk Railroad officials say all rail cars remained upright and nothing was spilled as a result of the accident.

Thalmann reports:

"It gets cold and the rail gets brittle," a Grand Elk official said of the section of rail that broke. "The circumstances were right."

A section of rail about 60 feet long broke, with one rail protruding upward and the other snapped and lying in snow.

The train was carrying liquid clay to Graphic Packaging when it derailed at around 10 a.m., according to railroad officials.

Photos of the derailment by the Gazette's Fritz Klug can be found here.

Politics
3:37 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

Republican state lawmakers propose reductions in Michigan university boards

Some Republican state lawmakers are questioning whether each state university in Michigan needs its own board of trustees.

State Rep. Bill Rogers is sponsoring a proposal to evaluate the need for separate boards.  Rogers said  it's part of an effort to make college education less expensive and more efficient.

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said  having separate boards allows universities to make quick decisions.

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Environment
9:00 am
Tue January 3, 2012

Michigan homeowners improve on energy efficiency

The team installs the blower door test.
Photo by Meg Cramer

by Tanya Ott for The Environment Report

It’s cold outside… and maybe inside, if your house isn’t properly insulated. Home energy efficiency is a big issue and a new study gives Michigan kudos for making it a priority.

Randy Rice has lived in his Southgate, Michigan house for 13 years. He’s lived there – and often shivers there…

“Certainly believe that the air was leaking upstairs. We could feel some breezes. I just saw dollars flying out the window.”

Rice replaced the windows five years ago and it helped… but he still worries about leaks around the windows. So he called in...

“Amanda Godward, with Ecotelligent Homes. I’m the owner and energy auditor.”

Godward’s first step is to interview customers like Randy Rice. She takes house measurements, checks out insulations in the attic and windows. Then…. she goes all high tech with the “thermal infrared scan.”

“We use this to find flaws in the insulation, in the walls, without having to do any destructive testing.”

She turns on a fan that pulls all of the air out of the room. It creates a vacuum so cold air from the outside is pulled inside. She can see, on a scanner, all the little cracks and holes where air is sneaking in.

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2011
12:00 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

A look back: Michigan Radio's coverage of the economy and housing

Image by John Klein Wilson Michigan Radio

As 2011 comes to an end, we look back at some of the economic and housing stories we covered in the last year. The housing slide slowed in the last year, but Michigan was still near the top of the home foreclosure list. The decrease in home values continued to have grave implications for local governments reliant on property taxes (One caller described the fall in housing prices in his six-word story, "$80,000 to $11,000, Northwest Detroit").

In six words or less, here's how people categorized their housing experiences in Michigan:

And here's a small sampling of Michigan Radio stories about the economy and housing:

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2011
2:53 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

A look back: Michigan Radio's arts and culture coverage

Image by John Wilson Michigan Radio

As part of Michigan Radio's end-of-year look back at some of the more notable stories, here's a collection of 2011 arts and culture stories that we feel deserve another look:

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2011
4:06 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

A look back: Detroit

user steveburt1947 / Flickr

Michigan Radio is giving 2011 a sendoff by taking a look back at some of the year's popular and important stories. As part of this retrospective series, here's a small collection of stories we covered about Detroit. You can also weigh in. Tell us your pick for the most important Detroit story this year (if you want to peruse all the stories we've covered in Detroit, you can find them organized under our Detroit tag):

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Workers compensation
4:07 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Michigan workers' comp: quick facts and possible changes

user gadgetgirl Flickr

Potential large-scale changes to Michigan's workers' compensation laws now hinge on a stroke of Governor Rick Snyder's pen.

The Associated Press reports that Snyder "will likely support the bill pending final review."

In case you haven't been keeping up on the issue, here's a list of important facts about workers' compensation in Michigan from Changing Gears Public Insight Analyst, Sarah Alvarez.

We've also highlighted one of the more controversial changes that could take effect should the governor sign off on the bill.

5 things to know about workers' compensation:

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Politics
3:47 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Detroit councilman Gary Brown says "stop the bleeding"

Gary Brown, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem .
Courtesy of Detroit City Council website

The state Department of Treasury continues its review of the City of Detroit’s finances.

While Governor Rick Snyder insists he doesn’t want to see Detroit under and emergency manager…the city doesn’t seem to be making much headway in fixing its financial issues.

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem, Gary Brown has some ideas on how the city can save money and cut spending. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

 

Politics
5:21 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Lesbian family addresses Troy Mayor, city council (VIDEO)

A lesbian family addresses Troy Mayor Janice Daniels at a city council meeting on December 5, 2011.
screen grab from YouTube video

Last week, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that Troy Mayor Janice Daniels faced protesters outside a city council meeting who were angered over homophobic remarks Daniels posted on Facebook before she was elected Mayor.

A video making rounds on the Internet shows that inside the council chambers, Daniels heard cordial but tough comments from a local family, a married lesbian couple and their daughters.

Take a look:

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
2:07 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

$3.6 million in federal funds to fix Michigan road

According to a press release from the office of Michigan Senator Carl Levin, the federal Department of Transportation has granted $3.6 million to the St. Clair County Road Commission for repairs on a section of Smiths Creek Road. Work will take place on a 2.6 mile stretch of the road and will include replacement of a bridge spanning the Pine River.

From the press release:

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Environment
3:02 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Kennecott mine opponents to appeal judge's go-ahead ruling

Drilling began at the Eagle Mine this past September. This aerial photo was taken in September of 2011.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

Four groups are planning to appeal a recent court ruling that cleared the way for Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. to go ahead with mining operations in the U.P., the Associated Press reports:

The opposition coalition was filing paperwork Monday asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn a decision last month by Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield. She ruled that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality acted properly by issuing Kennecott a permit for the project in northwestern Marquette County.

Last month, Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams explored some of the possible environmental effects the mine could create and spoke with  opponents and representatives of the mining company:

Michelle Halley is an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation. It’s one of the groups that challenged (the initial) permit. She says they’re concerned about the type of mining that will happen in the Eagle Mine. It’s sometimes called sulfide mining.

“The rock at Eagle is extremely acid producing, very high in sulfides and so once that rock is exposed to air and water, there’s really no debate it will begin producing acid.”

That acid is sulfuric acid. According to the Environmental Protection Agency... that acid can cause heavy metals to leach from rocks. The resulting fluid can be highly toxic to people and wildlife.

This is called acid mine drainage. On its website, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company says there is a risk that it can happen. But the company says it’s taking a number of steps to reduce that risk.

Matt Johnson is with Kennecott. He says the company will use a state of the art water treatment plant to purify the mine water using reverse osmosis.

“The entire mine site is designed to control water with water protection in mind. Which is why it’s the company’s commitment not to discharge any water back into the environment until it meets safe drinking quality water (sic) standards.”

And he says the state is also requiring them to do that.

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush followed up with an examination of what the state might gain financially from the project.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Occupy Movement
1:56 pm
Fri December 9, 2011

Occupy Lansing leaves park, plans to continue activities

An occupier in Lansing on October 1. Protesters have broken camp in Lansing.
Peace Education Center Flickr

Occupiers in Lansing have become the latest group in the Occupy movement to pack up their camp for the winter. The Lansing State Journal reports that tents and other shelters have been cleared from Reutter Park in downtown Lansing.

More from the LSJ:

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Offbeat
2:35 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Out of tune: a roundup of 9 campaign song gaffes

Kid Rock in his "Born Free" video. Republican Presidential hopeful has adopted the song as his campaign ballad.
screen grab from YouTube video

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is sticking to his Michigan roots, at least in his choice of campaign song.

Romney has chosen "Born Free" by Detroit-area rocker Kid Rock to serve as the theme music for his bid for the Republican nomination.

While a post on Kid Rock's website seems to give at least tacit approval to Romney's use of the song, things don't always go so smoothly for candidates when choosing their soundtracks.

Michigan Radio has put together a list of controversies, disputes, and gaffes related to campaign songs:

  1. In what might be deemed a classic of campaign song missteps, Bruce Springsteen was none too happy when Ronald Reagan praised "Born in the U.S.A" during his 1984 campaign, as told by CNN.
  2. Earlier this year, Rolling Stone reported that Republican primary contender Michelle Bachmann drew the ire of Tom Petty for using his song "American Girl" to tout her patriotism and her position as the only woman in the Republican field.
  3. Apparently, Bachmann didn't learn anything from President George W. Bush who was scolded by Petty back in 2000 for using "I Won't Back Down" without permission.
  4. A post from mentalfloss.com reports that in 2008, John McCain had a heap of campaign song troubles, receiving cease and desist requests from John Mellencamp, Boston, Foo Fighters, and Jackson Browne in response to his use of their songs.
  5. McCain's running-mate Sarah Palin also took heat for using "Barracuda" by Heart as her intro music at the Republican National Convention. As Rolling Stone reports, a press release from the band said the song was written as "a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women" and that the band found "irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."
  6. In a more creative, but no less artist-angering effort, Bob Dole rewrote the lyrics to the 1960's Sam & Dave hit "Soul Man,"  to create the eponymous "Dole Man," before being threatened by the song's rights-holders (again from mentalfloss.com)
  7. Not to be accused of partisanship, however, Sam Moore of the above mentioned duo took issue with Barack Obama's use of the group's song "Hold On, I'm Comin.'" As Mother Jones reports, Moore was nonplussed by the politicization of a song about "gettin girls."
  8. While not technically a campaign song per se, Herman Cain became the punch-line of more than a few jokes (many of them made by the Daily Show's John Stewart) for quoting the theme song of the Pokemon movie during his speeches.
  9. If the above stories show that misuse of music by political candidates is an increasingly-common occurrence, then at least, as the Washington Post reports, Charlie Christ had the decency to record a video apology to David Byrne of the Talking Heads for his unauthorized use of the song "Road to Nowhere."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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