Rina Miller

Weekend Edition host

Rina Miller got her start in radio on accident when she was sent to WCAR in Detroit as a temp employee. Since then, she has gained many years of experience in print and broadcast journalism, including work as a producer and program host at Radio Netherlands and as a reporter for ABC Radio News in New York. She enjoys working in public radio because the listeners are "interested, involved, and informed."

Outside the studio, Rina enjoys watching movies from the 1930s and '40s and absolutely hates karaoke. She has a deep love for animals and urges people to spay or neuter their pets, adopt from shelters and rescues, and purchase only from reputable, responsible breeders.


What three people, alive or dead, would you like to have lunch with? Why?
Dorothy Parker, because her one-liners were the best.
Kurt Vonnegut, because he was the first writer who made me laugh out loud.
Bella Abzug, because she put her courage where her mouth was.
And if there could be a No. 4? George Clooney. You know why.

How did you get involved in radio?
By accident. I was sent to WCAR in Detroit as a temp employee, and loved the environment.

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
Watching 1930s and '40s movies, especially those with Joan Crawford, Bette Davis or Rita Hayworth.

What has been your most memorable experience as a reporter/host/etc.?
Covering the crash of a cargo jet into a high-rise apartment complex in Amsterdam in 1992. The story was more complex than the obvious; many victims were illegal immigrants whose families were reluctant to come forward because they feared deportation. There were many substories that arose from this tragedy.

What one song do you think best summarizes your taste in music?
Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat, sung by Jennifer Warnes.

What is your favorite program on Michigan Radio? Why?
Fresh Air. Terry has an amazing range of guests, so the show's never predictable or stale.

What is one ability or talent you really wish you possessed?
To sing like Etta James.

What do you like best about working in public radio?
The listeners. They're interested, involved and informed.

Is there anyone in the broadcasting industry you find to be particularly admirable or inspiring? Who?
Jon Stewart. He's fearless without being cruel.

If you could interview any contemporary newsmaker, who would it be?
Vladimir Putin

Is there a T.V. show you never miss? If so, which one?
Mad Men

What would your perfect meal consist of?
An Indonesian rice table

What modern convenience would it be most difficult for you to live without?
The Internet

What are people usually very surprised to learn about you?
That I despise karaoke.

What else would you like people to know about you?
That I have a deep love for animals. I urge people to spay or neuter their pets, adopt from shelters and rescues, or purchase only from reputable, responsible breeders.


4:52 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

School district decides against "Beloved" ban

A Michigan school district has decided to keep one of two books it had considered banning from its curriculum.

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison is a novel that deals with slavery. It contains physical and sexual abuse, and the murder of a child by her mother, so her daughter won’t be sent into slavery.

After two parents complained the Plymouth-Canton school superintendent ordered the book removed from an advanced placement English class.

That drew an outcry from the community.

On Friday, the district decided not to ban the book.

Read more
3:02 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Health care advocates urge quick creation of insurance exchange

mconnors Morguefile

A health care advocacy group says it’s in Michigan’s best interest to create a health insurance exchange group right away.

Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network Executive Director Marjorie Mitchell (MICHUHCAN) says lawmakers should not wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

A decision is expected this summer.

"We don't have to agree on everything, but we do need to solve the problems of our people," she says. "Seventeen percent of our gross national product (spent on health care) and  rising is not a sustainable thing."

Mitchell says 1.3 million people in Michigan don’t have health insurance and another 600,000 are underinsured.

If Michigan does not create its own health insurance exchange by January 1, 2013, the federal government could step in to run the program for the state.

"We will be way behind in being prepared to do what needs to be done," Mitchell cautions.

Gov. Snyder is also urging lawmakers to establish the exchange, but is facing resistance from Republicans.

Mitchell says 50 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. result from people who are unable to pay their medical bills. She says many people are forced to turn to emergency rooms when their health deteriorates -- a much more expensive option.

"The Affordable Care Act won't cover everyone, but they will pick up many hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan," she says.

The law often derisively referred to as "Obamacare" by many Republicans has eliminated the donut-hole in prescription coverage for seniors and covers preventive health services without co-payments. It has also allowed parents to provide coverage to their children until they reach age 26.

"We have a responsibility to each other, the same as we do for our roads," Mitchell says. "I don't have children, but I pay for education. I'm proud to pay for other children's education, because that's the future of our country.

Mitchell says with the expansion of Medicaid in 2014, along with subsidies and a health care exchange, Michigan will become more competitive in the marketplace because it will have healthier students and workers.

*Correction - An earlier version of this story stated that the federal government will set up a health care exchange in Michigan if the state does not create one by June. The deadline for state participation in a health care exchange is January 1, 2013. The government could allow more time for an exchange to be established if the state has made progress toward an exchange. More information can be found at HealthCare.gov. The copy has been corrected above.

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4:21 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Ann Arbor posts budget surplus


At a time when many Michigan cities are struggling to stay afloat, Ann Arbor ended its budget year with a surplus.

Mayor John Hieftje says Ann Arbor was not immune to the downturn in the economy, including the loss of property values and state revenue sharing.

But the city posted a nearly $1 million surplus in its general fund budget last year -- more than expected.

Hieftje says Ann Arbor has about 300 fewer employees today than it did a decade ago. The city didn't fill many vacant positions and cut upper and mid-level management jobs. 

Read more
4:04 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Flint emergency manager sets monthly meetings with council, public


Flint’s emergency manager has signed an executive order creating monthly meetings with the city council. The meetings will include time for public comment.

Gov. Snyder appointed Michael Brown as Flint’s emergency manager in late November.

The move stripped the mayor and city council of their powers and ended council meetings.

The city will start monthly meetings in February, but the only role the council will have will be to call the meeting to order and adjourn it.

The emergency manager will conduct all business.

Read more
9:54 am
Thu January 12, 2012

Online work trend taking hold in Michigan

jdurham Morguefile

Working online from home is growing in popularity in Michigan.

A nonprofit group says about 47% of adults in the state say they telework now, or would like to.

Eric Frederick is with “Connect Michigan.”

He says teleworkers tend to be better-educated. He also says the trend is growing with people 55 and older – including retirees who want to supplement their income.

And Frederick says as more businesses expand their online presence, they’re looking for employees.

Read more
The law
9:18 am
Thu January 12, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Michigan church school teacher

A Michigan woman who taught at a religious school has lost her discrimination claim at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cheryl Perich  taught math, social studies and other classes at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford. She also taught a religion class and sometimes led prayers.

When Perich tried to return after medical leave in 2004, she was told a substitute teacher had been hired to finish the school year. She argued, and was fired for insubordination.

So Perich sued, claiming protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read more
1:39 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Ford recalls some older-model Freestars, Montereys and Escapes

Ford is recalling its 2004-2005 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans and 2001-2002 Ford Escape SUVs.
Wikimedia commons

Ford is recalling almost a half million minivans and SUVs.

One recall is for about 245,000 Ford Escapes from model years 2001 and 2002. The automaker says possible corrosion in the automatic braking system could lead to an electrical short.

"In some cases, the module could also overheat, resulting in some smoke and potentially a fire," says Dan Pierce, Ford’s safety communications manager.

Pierce says there have been a few reports of fires, but no accidents or injuries.

Read more
3:03 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Study: Online school scores lag behind traditional public schools

jdurham Morguefile

A new report finds students who attend online schools in Michigan are not performing as well on standardized tests as those in traditional public schools. 

The National Education Policy Center found about 27 percent of online schools met federal achievement standards in the last school year. That compares to about 51 percent at brick-and-mortar schools.

The study says the largest growing subgroup of public charter schools is virtual -- or online -- schools.

Western Michigan University education professor Gary Miron co-authored the study.

Read more
4:35 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Some arrest records could be kept private at judges' discretion

holder Morguefile

Proposed legislation in Michigan would let some people keep their arrest record private --  if they go into a diversion program.

The state Senate is considering a package of bills that would let a judge decide whether certain court records would be closed to the public.

"If someone is picked up for substance abuse, domestic violence or parental kidnapping, there are diversion programs to change somebody's life," says Rick Jones, a co-sponsor of the measures.

1:05 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

GM to modify its electric Volt to help prevent battery fires

General Motors says it will modify all of its Volt models. The announcement comes after federal side-crash tests resulted in three battery fires.

The fires occurred up to three weeks after the tests when coolant leaked into the cars' batteries.

There has been no recall of  GM’s electric Volt, but the automaker is voluntarily asking owners to bring their cars in for a fix.

"We've added some structure that allows the load to be spread, so it doesn't cause intrusion into the battery pack or coolant leak," says Mary Barra,  GM’s senior vice president of Global Product Development.

GM sold about 8,000 Volts in the U.S. over the past two years. No fires have been reported by customers.

Volt owners will be notified when dealers get the repair parts – probably in February. GM says the modification should not take more than a day and a loaner car will be provided.

4:07 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Pontiac mayor says consultant status not a conflict

The mayor of Pontiac says his position as a paid consultant to the city’s emergency manager is not a conflict of interest.

Leon Jukowski was elected in 2009, even though the city was already being run by an emergency manager.

He has no power, but the city does pay Jukowski $50,000 a year to be a consultant.

Pontiac resident Quincy Stewart says that’s a conflict. He wants to recall the mayor and has 180 days to collect 3,200 signatures to put the question before voters.

Jukowski says it’s not a conflict, and that emergency managers often get outside help.

Read more
2:05 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

U.S. vehicle sales continue to rise

Consumers appear to be more confident in the economy, and it showed in the salesrooms of American car companies last year.  

Chrysler saw the biggest improvement, with sales up 26 percent over 2010.

The company says its Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 200 sedan were the most popular of the 16 new or revamped models it rolled out.

Ford sales rose 11 percent, driven by demand for its trucks and SUVs.

General Motors reports a 14 percent increase for 2010 bolstered by its passenger car sales, including the new Cruze and Sonic.

Don Johnson is GM’s vice president for U.S. Sales Operations. He says the company predicts more growth next year, but is keeping an eye out for bumps in the road:

"Clearly we have to, as always, keep our eye on oil and gas prices, and on the political environment as we prepare for an election in November.”

Altogether, U.S. automakers sold nearly 6 million vehicles in 2011.

4:00 pm
Fri December 30, 2011

Wider range of fireworks become legal on New Year's Day

The New Year’s celebration in Michigan may be louder than usual. That’s because the state’s new fireworks law goes into effect at midnight on New Year’s Day.

Andy Webb owns Captain Boom Fireworks in Otsego. He says the new law expands what consumers can buy.

"It's things that go up in the air and go boom," Webb says. "Single-shot artillery shells or reloadable artillery shells, bottle rockets, Roman candles, some multi-shot repeaters and firecrackers."

He says consumer-grade fireworks are safe if handled properly.

Read more
1:15 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

New housing market improves, but builders say financing still difficult

matthew_hull Morguefile

New home sales rose slightly across the nation and in Michigan this year. But one industry group says lenders are still keeping a tight grip on their money.

More than 7,000 new homes will be built in Michigan this year, but that’s still far below construction numbers from just a decade ago.

Michigan Association of Home Builders CEO Bob Filka says more than 25,000 homes were built every year in Michigan before the housing bubble and the economy collapsed.

Filka says the buyers are there, but the banks are still reluctant to finance.

Read more
5:13 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

Michigan lawmakers to work on new autism coverage plan

tangle_eye Morguefile

Michigan lawmakers will try again to come up with legislation to make autism treatment available under employer-sponsored health plans.

Business and insurance groups opposed earlier attempts because they said it was an unfunded mandate that would raise their costs.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the plan will probably include a tax credit to employers who offer autism coverage.

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1:11 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

Newly unemployed can apply for benefits online, even during holidays

State offices will be closed the next two Fridays and Mondays for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but people who’ve lost their jobs can still apply for unemployment benefits online.

The automated system --  known as MARVIN  -- is available for people who need to file unemployment claims.

Applicants  must first create a free online account, and they can do that from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday  and and from eight to three on most Saturdays.  Those already in the system can track their account at the same site.

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5:29 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

For sale: Pontiac City Hall, golf course and cemeteries


Pontiac’s emergency manager says he wants the option to sell some of the city’s assets, including city hall, the golf course, police station and two fire station.

And, if the state changes its law, a couple of cemeteries.

Leon Jukowski is still the city’s mayor. He says while there’s sentimental value attached to some of the places, the city needs all the financial help it can get.

Read more
4:59 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Michigan sees 4th-highest increase in poverty in the nation

Greengobbler Morguefile

Michigan had the second-highest drop in median income in the nation over the past four years.

It also had the fourth-highest increase in family poverty.

That’s according to the Michigan League for Human Services.

President Gilda Jacobs says homelessness is increasing --  in part because rental costs have gone up more than 25 percent over the past decade.

Jacobs says the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is now about $745 -- out of reach for many Michigan residents.

Read more
4:17 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Michigan's Hartland Township ends its water fluoridation program

Xenia Morguefile

Hartland Township in Livingston County has voted to immediately stop adding fluoride to its water system.  The decision came after a long debate over rumored health risks and government control of water additives.

Trustee Glenn Harper brought the issue to the board. He called it a health hazard and says people should decide individually whether to use it.

Trustee Joe Colaianne voted against stopping fluoridation. The final vote was 5-2.

Hartland Township’s water system serves fewer than 400 private customers. But one of those customers is the school system, which has more than 3,100 students.

"They'll be in a situation where their dentist will prescribe fluoride supplements, which of course is additional costs to the patients," says Tom Kochheiser of the Michigan Dental Association.

Kochheiser says studies show communities without fluoridated water show a 20 to 40 percent increase in tooth decay.

He also says rumors about health problems caused by fluoride -- such as kidney problems -- are based on what he calls “junk science” and have been refuted by the Centers for Disease Control.

The federal government says fluoridation is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. But earlier this year, the government said a new review shows some Americans may be getting too much fluoride.

Kochheiser says most communities are limiting fluoride at .7 parts per million, down from a previous recommendation of 1.2 parts per million.

1:00 am
Sun December 18, 2011

Farmers markets: Not just fair-weather fare anymore

kakiski Morguefile

Winter farmers markets are growing in popularity in Michigan.

In 2010, there were 19. This year, there are 33 winter markets.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan says Michigan is one of the top 10 states leading the trend.

She says more farmers are using hoop houses to extend their growing season. Hoop houses can be full-sized greenhouses or simple row covers.

"They protect the crop. A farmer can get in earlier in the season and stay in later," Merrigan says. "That  helps with the farmers markets in the winter, by the way. They're also important with pest management and nutrient management, so they're good for the environment."

Merrigan also says more food assistance recipients are using their benefits at farmers markets to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

The USDA offers a farmers market locator tool on its website.