Stateside Staff

User: kqedquest / Flickr

More and more of us are choosing to "go green" in our everyday lives. 

We recycle, repurpose, conserve, and reduce our energy use.

But what about when we die? Does it really matter what sort of casket or burial method you choose?

Increasingly, people are deciding yes, it does. And those people are choosing so-called "green burials".

Merilynne Rush is a home funeral guide and a green burial consultant. She says the concept of "green burials" means a natural way of going back to the earth.

"No expensive casket, no non-biodegradable materials, no cement vault, and just being put in the earth," says Rush.

Currently, only one cemetery in Washtenaw County is offering the natural burial. You can find out about upcoming green burials events on the website

* Listen to our conversation with Merilynne Rush above.

3&UP Board Game Lounge
user: 3&UP Board Game Lounge / facebook

Put away your smartphone and tablets! 

Talk face-to-face, play some board games, and connect with one another.That's the message from 3 & Up Lounge in Plymouth.

Angela Space is co-founder of the lounge. She says she and her husband got the idea from a board game cafe in Toronto, which is a popular cafe style in many countries around the world but hasn't caught on in the U.S.

"We've morphed the idea of a board game cafe where you sell sandwiches, grilled cheese and coffee, and really turn it more into a lounge where people first and foremost connect with each other, and secondarily playing together, having fun, laughing and learning," says Space.

Space says people were a little skeptical at first when they walked in the door, but the cafe has invented some funny ways of persuading people to put away their phones and tablets.

"We have an anti-wifi zone. We let people boo each other," says Space.

* Listen to the interview with Angela Space above.

user rob zand / Flickr

A big piece of Detroit's bankruptcy puzzle was put in place today: the newly-created Great Lakes Water Authority, as the city finally came to agreement with Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to create a regional water authority to provide water to some 40% of Michiganders.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek says the agreement stipulates that the rate increases for all the customers will be limited to no more than 4% a year over 10 years. 

That won't necessarily mean that 4% would be the cap of the rates for all communities, since different communities set their own water rates, including taxes and surcharges. 

"How much you will actually spend depends on where you live," says Cwiek.

As Detroit gives up control of direct operation and leases out the assets that are outside the city limit, the revenue of $50 million a year is expected to be committed to capital upgrades for the Detroit water system itself. 

* Listen to the full interview with Sarah Cwiek above.

Barbara Webb (left) sitting with wife Kristen Lasecki
User: I Stand With Barb Webb / facebook

The firing of a pregnant teacher at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills is making headlines.

For nine years, Barb Webb taught chemistry and coached various teams at the all-girls Catholic school.

Webb is a lesbian. She married her wife, Kristen, two years ago. Earlier this year, they found out they were expecting a baby.

Barb Webb's firing has ignited an emotional response on social media.

Many Marian alumnae, parents and supporters spoke out in support of Webb on a Facebook page that has more than 4,000 members.

On other sites, however, there are those who believe Webb violated the teachings of the Catholic Church, and, as such, the Catholic private school was well within its rights to fire her.

Today on Stateside:

  • The Canadians have chosen the team that will actually build the New International Trade Crossing Bridge, and they're setting up shop now in Windsor. What obstacles remain for the new bridge?
  • As college students head back to campus, we look at the long-term effect of debt, whether big debt burdens really pay off down the road, and an individual’s long journey struggling with student loans.
  • Beginning on Sept. 9, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin to apply lamprey-killing pesticides in the Muskegon River.
  • We learned how a summer job on Mackinac Island in 1960 led to a lifelong love affair with the island and its people.
  • We talked to an unconventional balloon sculptor. His work has just been featured in the newest edition of Ripley's "Believe It or Not! Reality Shock!" book and he's in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • A reporter told us what he discovered, as he tracked down the history of a proposed dumping ground for radioactive fracking waste.

* Listen to the full show above.

In late July, Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian officials vowed to move ahead with plans to build the New International Trade Crossing Bridge by appointing the International Bridge Authority in Windsor. 

Detroit Free Press Business Writer John Gallagher has been looking at the progress and the obstacles for the new bridge to Windsor.

He reported that with a new CEO on board and plans to hire staffers moving ahead, the bridge project seemed sure to get built. But there are still unknowns that can delay the completion date targeted around 2020.

One of the main obstacles is the legal challenge raised by the Moroun family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

Sea lamprey
Activistangler.com

Beginning on Sept. 9, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will start to apply lamprey-killing pesticides into the Muskegon River.

The sea lamprey is a blood-sucking eel-like invasive species living in the Great Lakes. The fish is native to the north Atlantic ocean and got into the Great Lakes around 1920. The numbers proliferated since then.

Michael Twohey is a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He says that the lamprey is devastating to the native fish population.

“They are very efficient fish-eating machines. Each one consumes about 40 pounds of lake trout in its lifetime," says Twohey.

That's why the sea lamprey killing is planned for the Muskegon River system, using a chemical called TFM. Twohey says it's remarkably benign to most other creatures. The chemical will kill the sea lamprey larvae and largely leave everything else intact.

"We just can't have a sustainable fishery without sea lamprey control programs," says Twohey.

*Listen to the interview with Michael Twohey above. 

Tim Thurmond and one of his balloon projects
User: Tim Thurmond / facebook

 

What's the first image that comes to mind when you hear "balloon sculpture?"

For most of us, it's a pirate's sword or a wiener dog, maybe made by a clown at a kid's birthday party.

But when you look at the balloon creations by artist Tim Thurmond of Brighton, all of that goes right out the window. His work include the Tardis from "Doctor Who," and a feather dragon that's 43 feet in length with wings that reach about another 15 feet. 

"A lot of this stuff I do is to blow people's mind. My goal is to show people that balloons can be an art form," says Thurmond.

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

You might recall a story last month in which Detroit Free Press reporter Keith Matheny reported that a Pennsylvania oil and gas company planned to ship up to 36 tons of low-level radioactive waste from fracking to a landfill in Wayne County near Belleville.

That news led Gov. Rick Snyder to assemble a panel of experts to take a close look at the state's regulations for this waste, known as "TENORM".

And it sparked a bipartisan reaction. State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and State Rep. Dian Slavens, D-Canton, both proposed bills to ban importation of radioactive fracking waste.

Now, Keith Matheny has been looking at the track record of the proposed dumping ground of this radioactive fracking waste.

Matheny says after reviewing records at both the state level and the federal level, he found a litany of violations going back to the 1980s, and at least 15 violations in the past decade which involve fines of more than $471,000. 

* Listen to the full interview with Keith Matheny above.

User: Max Lib / Flickr

New federal data shows Washington now holds more than $1.1 trillion in student loans taken out by nearly 40 million people.

And that dollar amount is up by more than 112% since 2007.

But should student debt get blamed for a wide range of economic troubles?

Beth Akers says maybe not. Akers is a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy.

In her article, Akers says there are a lot of narratives about how student loan debt is potentially creating a huge drag on economy through reduced consumption, depressed home ownership, and lower rates of entrepreneurship. But she says it's hard to back up that blame. 

User: Mackinac Island - Mackinac.com / facebook

You just never know what that summer job during college might do. It just might affect the course of your life and send you down a path you'd never expect.

Dennis Cawthorne's summer job in 1960 found him on Mackinac Island. He was a kid who was standing on the street and enticing tourists onto horse-drawn tour wagons and taxis.

That humble summer job led to some 50 years of living and working on Mackinac Island for Cawthorne. He has been a lawyer, a state legislator, the chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and much more.

Detroit Federal Courthouse, where the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings are taking place
User: cseeman / Flickr

The historic Detroit bankruptcy trial is in its third day.

The opening salvos have been fired, and they've begun calling witnesses.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes has been at the courthouse. He says that history is unspooling in Judge Steven Rhodes' courtroom, but there’s a distinct lack of public interest.

“You go in the media overflow room, and there’s like two people sitting there … There were protesters the first day, there was none really to speak of the second day,” says Howes.

Yet it’s still a very important proceeding that’s going on here. If the city wants to win the trial and reach the "grand bargain," Howes points out, the bankruptcy team has to prove that it had done its homework and looked into alternatives to raise cash to pay creditors.

“What Syncora and FGIC  (Federal Guaranty Insurance Company) are saying is, (the bankruptcy team) didn’t even do the work. Basically they are saying they are a bunch of lazy people that had a preconceived goal in mind and didn’t even do the basic blocking-and-tackling analysis to get to the conclusion that they drew,” says Howes.

*Listent to the interview with Daniel Howes above.

Today on Stateside:

  • Fifty years ago this week, the Beatles came to Michigan. We talked to the legendary DJ who was onstage at Olympia with the Beatles.
  • John U. Bacon previewed the big Michigan State-Oregon game this weekend.
  • The historic Detroit bankruptcy trial is in its third day. Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes told us where things are now.
  • It’s time for a new round of Pure Michigan advertisements. Has the campaign been worthwhile for Michigan in terms of money spent and money returned from tourism?
  • We found out what's up with those dark and nasty-looking lesions on your tomato plants.
  • We talked to a Democrat who could be on her way to becoming the first female Asian American lawmaker in Michigan.
  • A little sensor can detect vapors from your body that measure health conditions and the environment surrounding you. We talked to the scientist behind the device.

Michigan State football
User: spartanjoe / Flickr

It's a big football weekend for Michigan State University. The No. 7  Spartans head to Oregon to play the No. 3 Ducks on Saturday.

Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon says this one sure is grabbing lots of national attention.

“Many consider this the best non-conference matchup of the entire season, which is saying a lot, and the Spartans haven’t met one of those in quite a while,” says Bacon.

This weekend, Bacon says he’ll mainly watch to see if Michigan state’s defense can stop Oregon’s offense.“(Oregon’s) quarterback is a Heisman Trophy candidate, and if they can stop him, that’s a whole different game,” says Bacon.*Listen to the interview with John U. Bacon above.

User: Jim Sorbie / Flickr

Kids are back in school. Cider mills are opening. And, like it or not, the days are getting shorter.

Must be time to swap out the summer fun Pure Michigan advertisements for fall.

Emily Lawler of MLive said that these commercials will be run in places such as southern Ontaio, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, as well as different parts of Michigan.

According to Lawler, more than $1 million is spent on Pure Michigan campaigns, and some of the fund comes from private sector partners such as Coca Cola and golf associations.

“According to Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s most recent study, for every dollar we spend on Pure Michigan advertising, there’s about $6.66 that comes back returning to our economy,” Lawler added.

*Listen to our interview with Emily Lawler above.

Stephanie Chang (right)
User: Stephanie Chang / facebook

Fresh faces, fresh voices, fresh ideas, and more diversity: That's what both the Democrats and the GOP say they are looking for. They are hoping to attract voters in a nation that is becoming more diverse by the day.

One Michigan candidate could certainly move the meter on diversity in Lansing.

Stephanie Chang won the primary in the Michigan 6th House district in southwest Detroit. The Democrat won it by getting nearly 50% of the vote. In that heavily Democratic district, that seems to set her up to win the seat in November and become the first Asian-American woman to serve in the state legislature.

Her district, Chang says, has a legacy of diverse leadership. Its current state representative is Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American. The district has also elected Latina, Hungarian American and Jewish state representatives.

*Listen to the interview with Stephanie Chang above.

User: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering / Flickr

Imagine being able to wear a small sensor just like a bandage – you don't even know it's there.

That little sensor can detect vapors from your body that could be from anemia, diabetes, or lung disease.

The breakthrough is coming from a team of researchers at the University of Michigan.

Sherman Fan is a professor of biomedical engineering at the university.

Fan says the device is not the same as other wearable technologies like Google Glass, the Apple iWatch, or the FitBit, which conduct blood pressure measurement.

“In our case, we’re measuring vapors, which is a chemical measurement,” says Fan.

Late blight
User: PHOTO/arts Magazine / Flickr

You'll hear gardeners and growers all over Michigan asking that question as they discover dark and nasty-looking lesions on tomato plants and tomatoes.

Turns out, Michigan's tomatoes are catching the very same disease that wiped out the Irish potato crop in the 1840s to catastrophic result. It's called "late blight".

Mary Hausbeck is a professor in the plant pathology department at Michigan State University. Hausbeck says late blight is caused by a microorganism that enjoys cool, wet conditions, and this is exactly the type of weather we’ve had this year.

If we want to use fungicides to protect the plants, Hausbeck recommends using products that list chlorothalonil as the active ingredient and applying at least every seven days.

*Listen to the interview with Mary Hausbeck above.

User: Patrick Julian / facebook/Beyond Olympia Stadium

On Sept. 6, 1964, the Beatles came to Michigan.

The familiar sounds of the Detroit Red Wings playing at Olympia Stadium gave way to something completely different: 30,000 teenagers screaming for John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

They played two shows at Olympia Stadium.

Bob Green was right there, seeing Beatlemania unfold in Detroit.

He was a disc jockey on WKNR, Keener 13, the legendary Detroit radio station. He wasn't just there as the Beatles played Olympia, he was onstage introducing them.

Today on Stateside:

  • Gary Peters has been making climate change an issue in his U.S. Senate campaign. Is that the best way to win in an industrial state like Michigan?
  • A federal judge has given approval for the Detroit Police Department to get out from under a decade of federal oversight.
  • Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris brought a story about an Ann Arbor lawyer’s experience with homelessness.
  • A Michigan company is helping vehicles switch to propane fuel.
  • Writer Josie Schneider tracks the history of fur in Detroit.
  • An architect is campaigning to preserve Michigan's old barns.

* Listen to the full show above.

User: Toby Scott / Flickr

A small Michigan company has a big goal: to retrofit thousands of cars a year to run on propane.

Albert Venezio is the Chairman of Icom North America based in New Hudson. According to Venezio, some of the advantages of running a car on propane include:

  • Approximately 50% emission reduction
  • Zero particulate matter
  • 100% U.S. fuel source
  • 30%-50% reduction in fuel cost
  • Extension of service life in vehicle

User: Frank Deanrdo / Flickr

A federal judge has given approval for the Detroit Police Department to get out from under more than 10 years of federal oversight.

The two federal consent decrees date back to 2003.

They were imposed after allegations that Detroit police subjected citizens to excessive force, false arrests and illegal detentions.

The DPD reports fatal shootings and use of force rates are both way down. And they've totally ended the practice of arresting and detaining witnesses.

The department now begins to transition out of federal oversight with an end date in 2016.

An old barn
User: kendoman26 / Flickr

When is an old structure worth saving? And when does that structure become something that’s dangerous and needs to be torn down?

Those questions are being asked after the city of Ann Arbor recently tore down a 19th century farmhouse and barn that it had purchased in 2003. Some would say it's ironic that the barn was located next to the city's recycling center.

Architect Chuck Bultman is with the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and the National Barn Alliance.

Bultman said it’s unfortunate that some barns are ordered to be torn down, just because "tearing down" is the safest answer.

Dittrich Furs today
User: Jamie / Flickr

When the French built Fort Pontchartrain on the banks of the Detroit River in 1701, there was a very big reason why: fur.

The trappers who brought their pelts to the fort gave Detroit its first industry.

In the 300-plus years since, Detroit's fur industry has seen good times and bad. And it is still standing in 2014.

Writer Josie Schneider tracked this history in her story for Hour Detroit magazine called Passion for Pelts. In her piece, Schneider stated that the fur industry literally formed the city of Detroit.

Homeless man
SamPac / creative commons

When you see people who are homeless, especially young people, it can be easy to make assumptions about their lives. At least that’s what Robert Sporny says.

And he says your assumptions about homeless youth are probably wrong. As a baby, he was adopted, and his childhood with his adopted family was difficult. 

There was alcoholism and abuse in the family. On the last day of high school, at age 17, Sporny decided to permanently leave the situation.

“And I got on my bicycle and basically rode all the way across town to a friend’s house," Sporny said.

Gary Peters
User: Gary Peters / facebook

It's a tight race as Democrat Gary Peters fights to succeed Carl Levin in the United States Senate. The latest Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll shows Peters with a six-point lead over Republican challenger Terri Lynn Land.

It has become clear that Congressman Peters has decided to make climate change one of the central issues of his campaign.

Andrew Restuccia reported on the Peters "Green Theme" for Politico.

Restuccia said it’s unusual for political candidates to make climate change one of their campaign focuses, especially in such a tight race, and Michigan in particular.

User: lanier67 / Flickr

Have you ever noticed there are certain places where smokers seem to congregate? How about mental health agencies? People with mental illness are far more likely to smoke than the rest of the population.

Part of the problem is that smoking has been seen as therapeutic for people with anxiety or schizophrenia. But advocates in northern Michigan say the short-term effects of nicotine don't outweigh the long-term consequences of smoking.

And they say it’s time to help a vulnerable population quit.

Interlochen Public Radio’s Linda Stephan reported on the initiative.

*Listen to the full story above.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

The official name for it is the “plan confirmation hearing.” The commonly used term is “Detroit’s bankruptcy trial.” And it begins today.

Stephen Henderson is the editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press. He joined Stateside today to talk about what will be decided and the big questions in the trial.

“(The central question) really has to do with the grand bargain,” says Henderson, “which brings into the bankruptcy proceeding more than $700 million from people who have nothing to do with this proceeding.”

user: Kate Henderson / Flickr

One of Michigan's leading quilting shows is canceling its October date.

For 15 years, the Keepers of Quilting Traditions show in Durand has been considered one of the best in the state, and a major draw for the small mid-Michigan town.

Loretta Rolfes, secretary of the group, says they have struggled to keep a quality show over the past couple of years, and there are just not enough hands to get everything done this year.

Last year, the Keepers of Quilting Traditions show in Durand saw over 700 attendees. Rolfes says some young people are interested in quilting, but busy lifestyles prevent them from doing crafts like this.

“We want to keep that interest alive,” says Rolfes.

* Listen to our conversation with Loretta Rolfes above.

(courtesy of KQED)

What makes a teacher great?

And how should we measure a teacher's success and effectiveness?

These are questions that take up a lot of the debate about education in Michigan. We've got policymakers, educators, politicians and parents all weighing in, and the resulting conversation is often loud and unproductive.

Education writer Elizabeth Green explores these challenging questions, and looks at how we are preparing teachers for the realities of the classroom.

Green’s new book is Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach it to Everyone). She says great teachers are not born, but trained.

“By assuming (some teachers are born great, and some teachers aren’t), we fail to prepare teachers with the specialized knowledge that nobody is born knowing how to do. And as a result, we leave students vulnerable to teachers who haven’t learned the basic things they need to know to help students learn,” says Green.

* Listen to the full interview with Elizabeth Green above.

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