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Offbeat
1:37 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

In case you missed it...

User cccpstorm Flickr

On Wednesday, Fresh Air interviewed Dr. Gregg Bloche about the dangers that rising health care costs pose to patients and to doctor's adherence to the Hippocratic Oath.

From NPR's website:

In most medical schools, students recite the Hippocratic Oath together to mark the start of their professional careers. The soon-to-be physicians swear to uphold the ethical standards of the medical profession and promise to stand for their patients without compromise.

Though the oath has been rewritten over the centuries, the essence of it has remained the same: "In each house I go, I go only for the good of my patients."

But the principles of the oath, says Dr. Gregg Bloche, are under an "unprecedented threat." In The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche details how doctors are under constant pressure to compromise or ration their care in order to please lawmakers, lawyers and insurance companies.

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Politics
4:48 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Budget protests continue in Lansing

Thousands 6rally on at the state capitol building
(photo by Laura Weber/MPRN)

UPDATE:  A growing number of angry labor-movement supporters are showing up at the state Capitol to protest Republican proposals to tax pensions and limit union control.  A drum circle played on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by thousands of protesters with signs, a 15-foot inflated eagle, and flapping American and U-A-W flags.

There were big, hulking men in hardhats, businesspeople in suits, and young parents pushing strollers.   

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Postal service
4:16 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

No fowarding address: USPS mulls cuts to post office locations

Joey Rozier Flickr

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the U.S. Postal Service is hoping to close a series of post offices around the country to save money. From the article:

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Environment
2:46 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan species affected by power plant emissions

The common loon is one of nine Michigan species vulnerable to mercury poisoning and other toxins from power plants
Andrew Reding flickr

The National Wildlife Foundation has released a report on Michigan wildlife hurt by power plant emissions.

The report says nine species in the state are affected by power plant toxins.  Mercury  is the most dangerous toxin for some species, including the large-mouth bass and the common loon.  

Lee Sprague is on the Tribal Council of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

"What we do know with mercury it really affects all life systems, from the very base of the food chain all the way up."

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Budget Protests
4:21 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Protests to continue in Lansing tomorrow

User P.E.C. Flickr

More protests are planned to take place at the state Capitol tomorrow. From the Daily Tribune:

Opponents of the proposed tax on pensions plan to rally at the state Capitol from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, with speakers between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

"We don't think it's fair the governor increases tax on seniors and the poor while giving breaks to business and cutting services," said Mark Horbeck, of AARP Michigan, a sponsor of the rally. "Seniors and the working poor are going to be asked to pay more taxes. What do they get in return? Less services and a business tax cut."

Other groups expected to attend include the Michigan League for Human Services and the state employee retirement association, as well as lawmakers from both parties, said Horbeck, though he declined to name the lawmakers.

AARP is one of the sponsors of the rally, but the rally was really the brainchild of Mary Lee Woodward of Oxford, a General Motors retiree who launched a Facebook page to protest the proposed tax.

She says she launched the Facebook page as soon as the governor made his budget proposal to the Legislature last month. Other efforts include passing out fliers of the upcoming rally.

Taxing her pension, Woodward says, could force her to choose between her home and her car.

State Sen. John Pappageorge  R-Troy, sits on both the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will deal with both Snyder's tax proposals and spending plans.

He says it's too early to tell whether taxing pensions is an idea that will eventually pass the Legislature.

"There's not sufficient support yet because we haven't had a chance to dig into it yet and see if we like it as is or if we can improve on it," Pappageorge said. "The point is it's just a little too early. You can't just look at pensions, you have to look at the whole picture and see if we're doing this as fairly as possible."

The protest comes just days after the legislature added a $100 expenditure item to the governor's tax code bill, thereby making it impossible for Michigan voters to repeal.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that legislation that included expenditures was immune to repeal by voters.

Budget Protests
2:31 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Ann Arbor rally one of many against state budget

Brit Satchwell says proposed budget cuts will hurt students
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:31 p.m.:

A spokesperson from the Governor’s office responded via email with the following:

"The proposed budget and tax plan is based on fairness and preserving core safety net services – while improving and strengthening our economy so ALL can prosper and benefit."

2:06 p.m.:

A handful of people gathered in Ann Arbor on Monday to speak against Governor Snyder’s proposed budget for an event organized by Progress Michigan, a progressive organization. The speakers included union representatives, city officials, and individuals.

Lois Richardson is Mayor Pro-Tem of Ypsilanti and voiced criticism of the budget. She says cuts to revenue sharing and historic tax credits will devastate Ypsilanti and other cities. Richardson says the changes will affect everyone in the state of Michigan, not just those who relied directly on the funding.

Brit Satchwell is the President of the Ann Arbor teacher’s union. He says students will feel the cuts the most:

“I’m a sixth grade math teacher and I’m here to tell you, the kids don’t get a makeover year. You don’t get to do sixth grade again because the adults messed it up.”

Satchwell also said school districts like Ann Arbor have already been cutting their budgets for the past few years.

This was one of several events held across the state in preparation for a protest scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

What's Working
12:44 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Helping prisoners adjust to life after release

Tim Pierce, Los Gatos Creative Commons

This Monday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Mary King as part of our year-long “What’s Working” series. King is the community coordinator in Washtenaw County for the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (MPRI). The MPRI aims to increase public safety and reduce crime and recidivism by providing supportive services to citizens recently released from prison. The services provided include assistance with locating housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, transportation, and mental health treatment.

In addition to helping released felons get back on their feet in their communities, Ms. King says the MPRI can produce financial savings for the state by reducing the number of prisons in Michigan. While there are many factors that contribute to fluctuations in the prison population, King says recently there has been a substantial decline in the recidivism rate in Michigan, thanks in part to the MPRI.

“What we do know is that returns to prison for people who have been released – which used to be about one for every two people that were released from prison were back within two years – that number has gone down to one in three.”

Before the MPRI came about, King says different agencies worked in local communities throughout the state to connect returning citizens with services they needed. Unfortunately, these localized efforts often lacked both communication with one another and an understanding of what services were most effective to reduce recidivism, says King.

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Crime
5:10 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Eastern Michigan University suffers security breach of personal information

Over 45 EMU students have been left vulnerable to identity theft
mconnors morgueFile

Officials at Eastern Michigan University are investigating two former student employees who allegedly stole personal information when they worked for the University. At least 45 EMU students could now be vulnerable to identity theft.

Walter Kraft is EMU’s Vice President of Communications and said the university discovered the breach during another investigation. He says the university is working with federal authorities to investigate the breach:

"We’re obviously pursuing it aggressively. Our department of public safety has notified federal authorities that are joining us in the investigation."

Students whose information was compromised have been contacted. EMU officials have not said if the stolen information was used.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Kraft encourages those with questions to visit the University's website for more information.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

State Legislature
4:40 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Emergency Financial Manager controversy continues

The scene in Lansing, from February 26
User P.E.C. Flickr

As protests continue in Madison over a controversial bill removing collecting bargaining rights from some public unions, attention is drifting to Michigan.

Governor Snyder has responded to reports and protests by saying that he does not want to follow Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's example, reiterating in an interview with WXYZ that he is eager to solve problems--including the specifics on $180 million dollars worth of concessions from state employees--through the collective bargaining process, and that he "was hired to solve Michigan's issues."

But whether Governor Snyder wants attention from national media or not, it is happening, including a ten-minute report on last night's Rachel Maddow Show.

But what does the law actually say? What is an Emergency Financial Manager? How are they appointed?

The following is taken from the "Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Public Act 72 of 1990, Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the Appointment of Emergency Financial Managers."

And if the title wasn't a clue, the explanation is a little long.

From the FAQ:

 What triggers the Act?

Among the conditions specified in the Act are the failure by a unit of local government to pay creditors, the failure to make timely pension contributions, and payless paydays. In addition, certain officials, or residents, of a unit of local government may request a preliminary review under the Act, as may either the State Senate or House of Representatives.

What happens when the Act is triggered?

The State Treasurer conducts a preliminary review of the financial condition of the unit of local government. Once that review is concluded, the State Treasurer reports the result to the Governor. If a serious financial problem is found to exist in the unit of local government, the Governor then appoints a financial review team to conduct a more detailed review of the financial condition of the unit of local government.

What is the purpose of a Financial Review Team?

...[A] Financial Review Team...conduct[s] a more detailed review of the financial condition of the unit of local government. A Financial Review Team generally has 60 days (generally 30 days in the case of school districts) to complete its work and file its report. A Financial Review Team report must reach one of the following three conclusions:

-- A serious financial problem does not exist in the unit of local government, or

-- A serious financial problem exists in the unit of local government, but a Consent Agreement containing a plan to resolve the problem has been adopted, or

-- A local government financial emergency exists because no satisfactory plan exists to resolve the serious financial problem.

If the third conclusion is reached, or if a unit of local government signs, but subsequently violates a Consent Agreement, then a financial emergency is determined to exist in the unit of local government and an Emergency Financial Manager is appointed.

Who appoints Emergency Financial Managers?

For units of local government other than school districts, Emergency Financial Managers are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board, which consists of the State Treasurer, the Director of the Department of Management and Budget, and the Director of the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. Emergency Financial Managers for school districts are appointed by the Governor, subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate

 

New Powers for EMFs

But a bill passed by the Michigan Senate this week expands the Emergency Financial Managers' powers to include ending union-approved contracts. Holland radio station WHTC reports:

After days of debate and protests, the State Senate passes a bill to give more power to emergency financial managers appointed to cities or school districts.  The 26-to-12 vote, which followed party lines, will allow emergency managers to cancel workers union contracts.

Democrats have said passing the bill would undermine collective bargaining in the affected communities or schools, while Republicans contend the legislation would help target municipalities or districts before their financial problems reach critical levels.

Six localities or school districts are currently affected by the law. From the Chicago Tribune:

The current state law related to emergency financial managers is affecting about a half-dozen local communities and schools at this time. Only Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools have state-appointed emergency financial managers in place.

The bill has passed the House and the Senate and is on its way back to the House, where approval is required for some minor changes.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio News

Auto/Economy
2:32 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Highland Park ex-treasurer charged with embezzlment

User the commedian Flickr

A former Highland Park charter school treasurer named Shantell Bell has been charged with embezzlement, the Associated Press reports:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's office says in a release that 37-year-old Shantell Bell was arrested Friday and was expected to be arraigned in Highland Park District Court.

Authorities say a $25,000 check request was made in 2009 for textbooks at George Washington Carver Academy.

The money later was paid to an Ohio title company. Bell's ex-boyfriend reported it to
the school, which contacted Michigan State Police.

Bell no longer works at the school.

Defense attorney Karri Mitchell declined Friday to comment on the case.

Schuette made comments to the Detroit News following the arrest:

"The theft of resources from Michigan's children will not be tolerated" 

"We must root out corruption at all levels of government to ensure the public is served. Nobody will get a free pass when they break the law."

Bell's arraignment was expected to occur this afternoon, in the 30th District Court.

Education
11:05 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Commentary: In defense of teachers

Classrooms could get crowded if cuts go through.
Kevin Wong Flickr

The recent debates about school funding and public employee benefits have teachers in Michigan feeling defensive.  South Lyon East High School Social Studies teacher Keith Kindred has these thoughts:

Last year about this time, I did a commentary for Michigan Radio describing the copious amount of time I had to think while I proctored state proficiency exams given to high school juniors. You may remember I used much of that time to reflect on all the wrath being directed at teachers.

Recent events in Wisconsin, Ohio, and even here in Michigan suggest I may have been prescient in recognizing how severe the disconnect between teachers and the public had become, but they also prove that my plea fell on deaf ears. Clearly, the anger I observed a year ago was but a preview and, moreover, my attempt to plead for both common sense and common ground was a failure.

So in the spirit of perseverance that all good teachers instill in their students, I want to try again.

Ready? Okay, here goes: Are people insane?

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Offbeat
4:40 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

The scarlet tweet

Rosh Sillars Flickr

This morning, Chrysler's twitter feed featured something that grabbed people's attention, and not in a good way.

The tweet featured an expletive. A bad one. From the Detroit Free Press:

"The official Twitter account of Chrysler brand vehicles dropped the F-bomb this morning in an off-color update from an employee at the automaker’s social media agency."

"The post read: 'I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive) drive.'"

"While the tweet has since been deleted, the original post was retweeted by several people on the popular social network, including Twitter user @tverma29, making it impossible to erase from the Web."

CNET suggested that it might have been Eminem causing the mischief, but it turns out that the offending tweeter worked for Chrysler's social media agency of record. From WXYZ:

"The company says that an investigation determined that an employee of their 'social media agency of record, New Media Strategies' posted the tweet Wednesday morning. That employee, who was not identified, has been terminated.

Which is a shame, because it really seemed like Eminem.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio News

Politics
4:12 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Former U.S. House of Representatives candidate sues Facebook for deactivating account

Moughni sent hundreds of Facebook friend requests, prompting Facebook to shut down his account.
Moughni's campaign Facebook page

A former U.S. House of Representatives candidate is suing Facebook.

Majed Moughni  is a lawyer from Dearborn. He ran during the Republican primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by John Dingell in 2010. His campaign strategy involved using his personal Facebook page to gain as many friends as possible across the voting district. But Facebook shut down his account in June before the August primaries for sending too many friend requests. Moughni says this also shut down his campaign.

Now he’s suing Facebook, but he’s not asking for money. He wants the social media company to stop using an automatic system to delete accounts and to restore his personal page. He says there should a way for Facebook users to appeal account deactivation:

“We think a multi-billion dollar corporation should at least have a live person that you can communicate with, a call-in center, that you can, you know, at least file a petition if your account was wrong deactivated – you should be able to get some recourse.”

Moughni said uprisings in Egypt and Libya prove how important Facebook is. But in his next campaign, he will use more than just Facebook.

UPDATED: According to the DetNews.com, a spokesman for Facebook said the account was disabled by an automated system that "is designed to prevent spammers and fakes from harassing our users and polluting the ecosystem." He also said that the "system always warns a user when they are nearing thresholds that will have features blocked or their account disabled. These warnings come as a pop-up that must be clicked through."

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

Politics
2:22 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Michigan Lawmakers look to change legal notice policies

Legal notices are currently published in newspapers by law
Xandert Morgue File

On Thursday, members of the Michigan State House Committee will discuss two bills that could change how cities and townships publicize legal notices such as public hearings and foreclosures. 

Current laws require all legal notices to be published in local newspapers. But these bills would allow local governments to post the information on their own websites or an online newspaper. Other options include broadcasting the notices on a radio or television station.

Representative Douglas Geiss is the sponsor of one of the bills. He says it’s time for a 21st century update:

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Arts/Culture
8:54 am
Wed March 9, 2011

Michigan Christians and Lent, some lower calorie recipes

Eating fish on lent is a symbol of cutting back - a form of fasting.
User scrappy annie Flickr

For Michigan's Christian population (including around 2 million Catholics), today marks the beginning of Lent.

During Lent, many adherents give up meat and dairy products.

Over at the Detroit News, columnist Kate Lawson is serving up a scrumptious-looking lemony shrimp with asparagus, a seafood recipe for people looking for something tasty and healthy.

Lawson also notes there are very good non-religious reasons for wanting to increase the amount of fish in your diet.

"At my house, we follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recent release of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and eat seafood at least twice each week for heart and brain benefits."

The reasons for eating seafood, and the advantages, are significant. Again, from Health.gov:

"Seafood contributes a range of nutrients, notably the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Moderate evidence shows that consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease."

But there are some concerns over which types of fish to eat, especially for women of child-bearing age and children. The concern is over mercury exposure and some fish can contain higher levels of mercury than others.

The Environmental Protection Agency has some guidelines to help you avoid mercury in fish in its "One Fish, Two Fish, Don't Fish, Do Fish" brochure.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is whipping up vegan recipes for the meat- and dairy-avoiding portion of their readership, including one for baked beans with mint and tomatoes, the kind of dish that goes perfectly with a stack of unleavened bread.

And, at 384 calories per serving, it's pretty healthy.

And, finally, here's chef Bobby Flay with one last seafood recipe for Lent:

Brian Short - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
4:39 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

MEA plans rally in Lansing as Senate considers financial manager bills

A protester at Saturday's MEA-sponsored rally in Lansing
Michigan Education Association

The Michigan Education Association, along with the Working Michigan coalition, is planning a protest rally in the capitol tomorrow. From the MEA's website:

"Working Michigan, a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting working families and Michigan’s Middle Class Dream, will be holding a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 8, to protest the package of "Emergency Financial Manager" bill that is currently in the state Senate."

According to the Detroit News, the state Senate may vote on Tuesday to bestow broad powers to emergency financial managers including the ability "to toss out union contracts and suspend elected officials in communities and school districts that are operating at a deficit."

The MEA is protesting what it calls a series of "attacks on Michigan workers."

What's Working
11:46 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Old prison breathes new life

user djbuchanan / Flickr

For this week’s installment of “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with Judy Krasnow, resident and tour guide of the Armory Arts Village in Jackson. Located in what once served as Michigan’s first penitentiary, the Armory Arts Village is a residential community originally set up to provide living, working, and presentation space for artists.

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Arts/Culture
3:35 pm
Fri March 4, 2011

So-Called 'Ordinary' People: Michigan on the Page Part 2

User b talbot Flickr

Patricia Clark is an award-winning poet, and the former Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids. When I asked her to participate in our web-exclusive “Michigan on the Page” series, Ms. Clark chose a certain author’s first story collection, a writer who—like many recent college graduates—has made her way out of the state to advance her career.

Ms. Clark first encountered Suzanne Rivecca at Grand Valley State University, where she was, Ms. Clark insists, the most talented student she has seen there.

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Sports
1:33 pm
Fri March 4, 2011

Michigan high school player dies after winning shot

User shockmotion Flickr

The Associated Press and USAToday are reporting that a 16 year old Fennville student died last night after making a game-making layup. From the AP:

The Fennville Schools superintendent says the basketball player who died last night after making a game-winning shot was "the quintessential all-American kid."

It's still not clear what caused the death of 16-year-old Wes Leonard, who collapsed on the court after making a last-second layup in Fenville's 57-55 win over Bridgman. The victory capped Fenville's undefeated season.

Leonard fell to the ground after teammates and fans rushed the court. Rescuers performed CPR, but he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

The junior was also the quarterback of the school's football team.

Grief counselors are on hand at the school today.

Arts/Culture
3:40 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Robocop reboot?

RoboCop Speaks to Detroit from Peter Weller

 

Deadline New York reports that MGM is talking to director Jose Padilha about rebooting the Robocop movie series:

MGM is negotiating with Brazilian director Jose Padilha to direct Robocop, the remake of the futuristic 1987 film originally helmed by Paul Verhoeven. The original was about a cop who was near death and was drafted to become a powerful cyborg cop, until suppressed memories of his past life come back to haunt him. Peter Weller played the character in the original him in the original and the 1990 sequel.

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