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Politics
3:54 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Michigan Senate commitee approves update to funeral protest law

Protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church often stage protests at military funerals
user csuspect Flickr

Michigan lawmakers are working  to fine-tune a law intended to protect both freedom of speech and the dignity of military funerals.

The Grand Rapids Press reports:

The bill on Tuesday cleared the Senate's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee by a 3-0 margin, with two Democratic senators absent.

The original law came in response to members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has staged controversial protests at military funerals. Church members assert that military deaths are God’s punishment for tolerance of gays.

Michigan’s law keeps such protesters at least 500 feet from a funeral ceremony, but lawmakers have said other people could have been affected – such as a person parked near a funeral home with an an anti-war bumper sticker on their car, or someone mowing their lawn near a cemetery.

The new version of the bill which cleared the House would make it clear that the actions must be intended to intimidate, threaten, or harass people attending a funeral, service, viewing, procession, or burial.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the law is in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Westboro members' rights to conduct their controversial protests.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
3:48 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Michigan residents lose confidence in Snyder, survey shows

A graph showing some of the findings from the Fall 2011 State of the State survey
MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Governor Rick Snyder's approval continues to flag among Michigan residents. This according to survey results released today from Michigan State University.

Michigan State University’s ‘State of the State’ poll shows only about one in five residents give the governor an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ rating.  Snyder’s approval rating was about double that when he took office.

Mlive.com reports:

The Fall 2011 State of the State survey conducted by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University found that only 19.3 percent of Michigan residents surveyed rated the governor's performance as excellent or good, continuing a decline in popularity from 44.5 percent just after his election to 31.5 percent in the Spring, 2011 survey.

Charles Ballard is the director of the State of the State survey.   He said Snyder’s support among his Republican base is eroding.

“The percentage of the Republicans who gave either an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’  to Governor Snyder was cut in half.  From the mid-60’s to the low 30’s…that’s a really big drop,” said Ballard. 

Ballard said part of the reason for the decline may be tied to the bitter fight over building a new international bridge in Detroit. 

"Many of those ads specifically said not very nice things about Governor Snyder himself," explained Ballard. "That's very unusual because usually you don’t expect ‘attack ads’ until you are fully within a reelection campaign."

The survey also shows that Michiganders are not pleased with the president or Congress.

A press release from MSU says:

President Obama’s positive reviews dropped as well. The president’s “excellent” or “good” grades fell from 44.5 percent this past spring to 40.5 percent in the latest phone interviews with 807 Michigan residents from Sept. 15 to Nov. 8.

The survey carried a margin of error of 3.45 percent.

The U.S. Congress, too, suffered from low marks among survey respondents. “Congress received
very poor ratings,” [Survey Director Charles] Ballard said. Less than 1 percent of the survey’s respondents awarded Congress an “excellent” or “good” mark. A striking 57.4 percent gave Congress “poor” grades.

Offbeat
8:00 am
Sat December 3, 2011

The holiday season by the numbers

A welcome sign in Santa Claus, Indiana
user Andrew 94 Flickr

We here at Michigan Radio know that nothing conjures the holiday spirit quite like numerical data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Bureau recently released a set of seasonaly-inspired  facts and figures.

Here are some numbers from their list:

  • Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,117); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,481); Santa Claus, Ga. (165); Noel, Mo. (1,832); and — if you know about reindeer — the village of Rudolph, Wis. (439) and Dasher, Ga. (912). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,590) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss. (7,699) and Mount Holly, N.C. (13,656).
  • $27.2 billion---Retail sales by the nation’s department stores in December 2010. This represented a 44 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many holiday-related, registered $18.8 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.
  • 21,891---The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2009. These businesses, which employed 320,721 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts
  • $983 million---The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2011. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($79.7 million worth) during the same period.
  • 88---Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2009. California led the nation with 15 locations.
  • 50 percent---Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2010. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah.
  • $1.5 billion---The value of product shipments of candles in 2009 by the nation’s manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.
  • More than 312 million---The nation’s projected population as we ring in the New Year.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
11:21 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Less money for cities to fix water systems?

Water at the Senior Citizens' Housing Center in Louisville, NY before it is filtered.
Julie Grant/The Environment Report

by Julie Grant for The Environment Report

When Ernie Runions took the job as maintenance manager at the Senior Citizens Housing Center in Louisville, New York, he didn’t realize how much time he’d be spending in this small room. The water room. It’s filled with water tanks and filters. Runions says the equipment cost about $25,000 and the price tag keeps rising.

“It’s in terrible shape. It keeps falling apart. Every time we fix it, it’s $5,000, $3,000. This place is right in the hole because of that.”

We fill a bucket with the nursing home’s water – before it’s gone through the extensive filtering.

It smells bad, like eggs and iron. It’s got a blackish tint, and it’s got black particles floating in it.

Runions says even after the filtering, the elderly residents don’t want to drink it. It’s high in sodium, which can be bad for their health. And it smells like chlorine, which Runions uses to kill bacteria.

“And they complain. They say the chlorine is making me itch, all the extra chlorine. I’ve got red blotches all over my body, and my doctor says it’s the chlorine from the building.”

Town leaders say that until a few years ago, everyone used well water. And most people had some kind of problem with it. Nearly half the wells tested had coliform bacteria contamination – some suspected sewage was seeping into the wells.

Read more
Politics
4:03 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

What's next for Occupy Detroit? Some members push voter registration

The Occupy Detroit encampment in Grand Circus Park was dismantled earlier this month
user: detdan / flickr.com

While the Occupy Detroit movement has vacated Grand Circus Park for the winter, they are not slowing down in getting their message out, and as the Huffington Post Detroit reports, they are trying out new avenues to make an impact.

The Huffpost's Kate Abbey-Lambertz writes:

Read more
Politics
2:55 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Former acting mayor tapped to serve as Flint emergency manager

Michael Brown was appointed as Flint's emergency manager

According to a report from the Flint Journal, the governor has given the nod to Michael Brown, a former acting mayor of Flint, to act as that city's new emergency manager.

From the Journal:

The appointment was announced this afternoon and is effective Thursday, according to Gov. Rick Snyder's office.

As emergency manager, Brown will have wide-ranging authority to make cuts, impose fees or make other changes to overhaul city government after a state review panel found the city in a financial emergency.

Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody adds more, reporting:

Michael Brown served as Flint’s acting mayor for six months in 2009, between the abrupt resignation of former mayor Don Williamson and the election of his successorDayne Walling.

In naming Brown as Flint’s emergency manager, Governor Snyder praised his “strong track record of serving the Flint-area community” and expressed confidence in Brown’s public, private, and non-profit experience.

In a written statement, Brown said he plans to work “collaboratively” with Flint’s elected officials and community leaders. Flint mayor Dayne Walling issued a statement saying that he looks “forward to working with Mr. Brown to address the community’s priorities and to secure the City’s financial stability."

Flint is facing a multi-million dollar debt. There are now emergency managers calling the shots in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools.  

The state is also looking into a possible “fiscal” problem in Inkster.

Offbeat
3:53 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

Nonprofit, White Stripes bring music to Michigan deaf students

While the Detroit-based rock duo the White Stripes officially broke up early this year, they are still providing inspiration and encouragement to Michigan students, including some from Flint's Michigan School for the Deaf.

According to the Flint Journal, D-Pan (Deaf Professional Artists Network), an Oakland County-based nonprofit, is working to give deaf students the ability to enjoy music and one of the organization's recent projects was to create a music video set to the White Stripes “We’re Going to be Friends” featuring students signing the song's lyrics.

As the Journal reports, the White Stripes were not directly involved with the project, but some D-Pan supporters were personally acquainted with the band, who not only gave D-Pan their blessing  to use the song, but also gave the project a shout out on their website.

Check out the video below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
3:35 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

Kalamazoo Promise scholarship yields mixed results

Six years after Kalamazoo Public schools unveiled the Promise scholarship, the program's administrators say the program has had success, but maintain there is still a lot of work to be done, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The program has provided tuition assistance to more than 2,300 district high school graduates to the tune of over $30 million.

Read more
Culture of class
11:52 am
Mon November 28, 2011

A recap of Michigan Radio's "Culture of Class" series

Word cloud put together with feedback on our "Culture of Class" series.
Sarah Alvarez Michigan Radio

From November 14 through November 23, Michigan Radio reporters explored social class in our society.

We looked at how social class is defined, how people relate to it, and the diverse ways it affects our daily lives.

In case you missed any of these stories, here is a brief rundown of the topics we explored.

Read more
Environment
9:56 am
Tue November 22, 2011

Yoga retreat & trout fishermen at odds over dam removal

Dave Smethurst of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited says the dam at Golden Lotus Yoga Retreat is ruining the fishing in certain stretches of the Pigeon River.
Photo by Bob Allen

A small but notorious dam on one of northern Michigan's prettiest trout streams might soon come down. But what fishermen value about the Pigeon River is at odds with how the owners of the dam view it.

Owners at Golden Lotus yoga retreat have twice made big mistakes operating their dam over the last quarter century. And each time, muck from the pond behind the dam surged downstream. It smothered river life, and killed tens of thousands of trout.

Dave Smethurst has been fishing, hunting and hiking in the Pigeon River State Forest for the last 40 years. And both times the dam failed, he was there to witness the destruction.

"To see my river, and for trout fishermen rivers are very personal, to see my river devoid of life for several miles, it just wrenches your gut.”

Smethurst is on the board of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. T.U. is party to a lawsuit by the state of Michigan against Golden Lotus. The organization has been pushing for the entire dam to come out.

Read more
Investigative
9:26 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Losing Benefits? We're looking for people losing government benefits. Know anybody?

Michigan Radio's Michigan Watch is working with the online magazine Bridge on a new project.

We'd like to hear from people who will be affected by the change to Michigan's cash assistance program, and learning more about these stories.

Are you, or do you know somebody, losing benefits because of the new four-year lifetime limit?

Education
12:52 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Michigan universities among the top for international students

University of Michigan student union
Wikimedia Commons

According to Open Doors 2011, an annual report put out by the Institute of International Education with support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, two Michigan universities placed in the top 10 in terms of international student enrollment.

The University of Michigan came in at number eight with 5,995 enrolled international students in the 2010/11 academic year, while Michigan State was ninth on the list with 5,784.

The report shows a total number of 723,277 international students attending U.S. colleges and universities during the 2010/11 school year, a five percent increase over the previous year.

A press release form the IIE says:

This is the fifth consecutive year that Open Doors figures show growth in the total number of international students, and there are now 32 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than there were a decade ago. The 2010/11 rate of growth is stronger than the three percent increase in total international enrollment reported the previous year, and the six percent increase in new international student enrollment this past year shows more robust new growth than the one percent increase the prior year.

Increased numbers of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level, largely accounts for the growth this past year.

Included in the report is an assessment of possible positive economic results created by the increase in foriegn students:

International students contribute over $21 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher education is among the United States' top service sector exports, as international students provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying family members, and other miscellaneous items.

Open Doors reports that more than 60% of all international students receive the majority of their funds from personal and family sources. When other sources of foreign funding are included, such as assistance from their home country governments or universities, over 70% of all international students' primary funding comes from sources outside of the United States.

As part of our Changing Gears series, Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez considers some impacts more international students could have on the Midwest as a whole.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Thoughts on Class
8:07 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Nicole Smith

Age: 24

Occupation: Office manager

Self-identified class: Middle

Thoughts on Class
8:04 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Marion Griffin

Age: 33

Occupation: Maintenance supervisor

Self-identified class: Middle

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Thoughts on Class
8:02 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Bill Holsinger-Robinson

Age: 42

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Self-identified class: Middle to middle-upper

Thoughts on Class
7:58 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Alexis Rangel

Age: 23

Occupation: Program coordinator

Self-identified class: Lower

Thoughts on Class
7:56 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Gladys Peeples-Burks

Age: 83

Occupation: Retired educator

Self-identified class: Middle

Read more
Thoughts on Class
7:49 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Dustin Miller

Age: Not given

Occupation: Cook

Self-identified class: Middle

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Thoughts on Class
7:30 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Rikka Bos

Age: 32

Occupation: Marketing for a charitable organization

Self-identified class: Working poor
 

Thoughts on Class
7:29 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Bob Becker

Age: 65

Occupation: Principal IT consultant

Self-identified class: Middle-upper

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