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steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The next few months may prove pivotal to plans for Midland-based Dow Chemical and DuPont to merge.

The two rival chemical industry giants announced their $130 billion merger plans a year ago. It’s among several proposed mergers in the industry.

The Dow-DuPont merger has yet to win the blessing of government regulators. It’s also drawn the attention of Congress and several state attorneys general.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s hospital administrators are concerned what will happen if Congress repeals Obamacare in 2017.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act tops the agenda for Republicans after the new congress is sworn in during the first week in January. 

But the Michigan Health and Hospital Association is concerned what will happen if Obamacare is repealed without a replacement strategy ready to take its place.

The association points out, between 2010 and 2019, Michigan hospitals will lose about $7 billion in reduced Medicare reimbursements.  

FLICKR USER TONY WEBSTER/FLICKR

Starting today, Michigan’s Amber Alert will only be issued for cases of child abductions.

Det/Sgt Sarah Krebs is the Amber Alert coordinator. She says the change is intended to stress the urgency of the alert.

“Unfortunately, when you have a broad set of criteria, you’re going to be putting out more Amber Alerts,” says Krebs. “That’s why we want to reserve it for those really crucial cases, those being children abducted by strangers.”

Detroit Lions

The season is on the line for the Detroit Lions as they take on the Green Bay Packers Sunday night.

The Lions have only defeated one team with a winning record this season. But they could still sew up the NFC North division title by defeating the Packers. That would give the Lions a home playoff game.

It didn’t need to come down to this game. The Packers are riding a five game winning streak after struggling for the first half of the season. Meanwhile, the Lions have lost their last two games, setting up Sunday’s decisive matchup.

A $1.8 million grant is going to help protect the Huron River satershed.

The money is coming through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Meghan Prindle is the Community and Landowner Outreach Coordinator for the Legacy Land Conservancy. She says the grant will help with several problems, including fertilizer runoff and erosion.

“This is largely going to take the form of reaching out to landowners and trying to help them tap into federal program funding,” says Prindle.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Lake Superior State University’s annual list of "banned words and phrases" is heavy with contributions linked to the 2016 presidential campaign.    

LSSU has been turning out its year-end tongue-in-cheek list of overused words and phrases for 42 years.

University spokesman John Shibley says it’s not surprising people from across the country turned to bruising election rhetoric for words and phrases that have been so overused they should be banned. 

Under Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit has used federal anti-blight funds for an aggressive demolition campaign.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

We now know the contents of two federal subpoenas issued to the Detroit agencies running the city’s building demolitions program, but they don’t tell us much more than we already knew about an ongoing investigation.

The Detroit Land Bank and Building Authorities received the subpoenas in May.

They demanded the agencies turn over basically everything they have related to federally funded demolition contracts since the start of 2014.

Fraser home falling into the second sinkhole the city has seen in 12 years.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Households affected by a sinkhole in suburban Detroit may get some bad news from their insurance companies.

Barry Feldman is a Southfield attorney specializing in insurance litigation. He says damage from the Fraser sinkhole might not be covered by homeowners' insurance.

"As a general rule," Feldman said, "these homeowners' policies have exclusions for damaged caused, and this is the key phrase, 'directly or indirectly,' by water, mud, earth movement and so forth."

New Years Eve is almost here – in preparation, Cheers! takes us to a tire shop for a tequila recipe. And, we talk with the Superintendent of Holland Public Schools, a district negatively impacted by school choice.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s minimum wage workforce gets a pay raise on New Year’s Day.

The state’s minimum wage is increasing to $8.90 on Sunday, that’s up from the current $8.50 per hour.   

Wendy Block is with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.   She says many hourly workers were already making at least that much.

“The economy has obviously helped tremendously in terms of that upward pressure on wages and really helped employees to be able to earn a higher minimum wage, or a higher wage than they would than what is mandated under state law,” says Block.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The threat of hackers grew in 2016 for many Michigan businesses.

So-called "ransom-ware" attacks also became more common. 

In one example, the Lansing Board of Water & Light paid a $25,000 ransom after a hacker got into the utility’s internal communications system. 

Zara Smith is with the Michigan Small Business Development Center.  

Her group has been changing its approach as the cyber threats have grown and evolved.

“So that again we can reach as many as possible businesses and help them not be the next victim,” says Smith. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan motorists will see state taxes on gasoline and diesel jump this weekend.

On New Year’s Day, the gas tax is rising 7.3 cents a gallon.  The diesel tax is increasing by 11 cents.  The increase will give Michigan the 5th highest gas tax in the nation.   

The tax increase, along with state auto fees, will help fund desperately needed road repair and improvements across the state.

Denise Donahue is the director of the County Road Association of Michigan.  She says it’s important for motorists to see the money being used to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads.

John Auchter / www.auchtoon.com

ARTIST'S POV:

Here's hoping we get on the right side of history sooner rather than later in the new year. Cheers!

John Auchter is an editorial cartoonist. Views expressed in his cartoons are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

Many Flint residents still rely on bottled water.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A judge has appointed a mediator in a federal case that could dramatically change how the state of Michigan responds to the Flint water crisis.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Lawson ordered the state to immediately begin delivering safe bottled water to Flint residents. Right now the state provides water and filters but residents have to pick it up or call a hotline to get it delivered.

People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline rallied in Grand Rapids Thursday. They want people to move money out of banks that support the project.

“We’re in front of this Chase bank right here,” Manistee resident Kareen Lewis said to the crowd of a few dozen people.

“We’re trying to bring awareness to divesting from anybody who is supporting that Dakota Access Pipeline,” she said.

Matthileo / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

A new state law bans the use of restraint or isolation to discipline students.

  

The law was recommended by a task force looking at reforms in special education. Students with physical or developmental disabilities are more likely to face the use of restraint or seclusion.

  

Advocates for special education students say harsh disciplinary measures have been used by teachers and administrators who did not know how to handle students with disabilities. Calley says the new law shows times are changing.

Stage for "The Drop" New Year's Eve celebration at Campus Martius in Detroit.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Thousands of people are expected to be in downtown Detroit to watch the "D" drop on New Year's Eve this Saturday.

Jerrid Mooney co-founded The Drop: the Meridian Motor City NYE celebration seven years ago.

He said if the weather forecast holds, this year's event will be one of the warmest since the "D" drop began.

“We've had negative temperatures, snow storms, and it didn't affect the crowd then, it's certainly not going to affect it this weekend,” Mooney said.

Today, we visit the Michigan company overseeing a construction project at Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway's Cuban home. And, we hear from a program empowering girls to be the future of the STEM industry.

Liana Aghajanian / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Watered-down legislation aimed at protecting animals from abuse was signed into law yesterday by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. 

Under the new law, animal shelters are allowed to perform criminal background checks on people who want to adopt pets. And the shelters can choose to deny an animal to people who have been convicted of animal abuse in the past five years.

It's not clear there's anything preventing shelters from taking those actions already.

Earlier versions of the bills would have required the background check and prohibited the adoption.

Gov. Snyder speaks at United Shore Financial Services in 2013, when the company announced it was adding 600 new jobs.
YouTube screengrab

A Metro Detroit-based mortgage lender has reached a $48 million settlement with the federal government.

Troy-based United Shore Financial Services was certified to make direct loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage insurance program.

But according to the U.S. Justice Department, USFS knowingly violated a number of FHA program rules, and signed off on hundreds of bad loans between 2006 and 2011—leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Plastic bag caught in a tree.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is signing bills into law while Governor Rick Snyder is out of the state for the winter holidays. One of the laws he signed preempts local ordinances that ban or restrict plastic bags used by retailers.

Business groups say a patchwork of local rules on plastic bags would place a burden on retailers.

But local government officials say it should be up to them to decide how to handle litter and other problems with the common use of plastic bags. 

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center / via Facebook

A $50,000 grant will boost an effort to welcome immigrants in some Michigan communities.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan awarded the money to the Welcoming Michigan initiative.

Welcoming Michigan fosters connections between new immigrants and longtime residents, helping to integrate them fully into receiving communities. The program also helps local governments and groups serve immigrant communities.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has signed a bill making it illegal to financially benefit by selling or distributing a fetus or any fetal tissue – a practice that's already illegal.

Andy / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Need for scholarships for former foster kids is running higher than funds available.

Michigan's Fostering Futures Scholarship Fund helps people who've aged out of foster care pay for college. It supplements other financial support students receive.

To be eligible for a grant, a student must have been in Michigan foster care after their 13th birthday because of child abuse or neglect.

Today, we hear from a rapper using rhyme to challenge the stigma around mental illness, and we learn why some governments aim to use "Nudge Units" to answer the age-old question, "What's the harm?" when creating new public policies.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A new study shows Michigan’s skin cancer death rate is rising.

The study’s author suggests better education is needed. 

About 9,000 people die of melanoma every year in the United States. 

Dr. Robert Dellavalle is a public health professor at the University of Colorado-Denver. He examined the rates of diagnosis of melanoma and mortality rates across the U.S. between 2003 and 2013.

House Democrats

“Well, that was fast.”

That’s how twenty-two year-old Lauren Plawecki began her farewell speech a few weeks ago.

Plawecki took over for her mother after she passed away suddenly in June. Plawecki says she took the position in part to finish some of the work her mother started.

“I knew that she had a lot of things in the works,” she said. “I mean I was there when she was working on them, I wanted to be the person that could see them across the finish line.”

Trumbullplex Archives

The massive fire that killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship, an Oakland, California warehouse art space, has put similar venues under the microscope in cities nationwide.

That includes Detroit. The city has many informal, DIY spaces for creative people. And at least one of them, the Trumbullplex, was visited by a city fire marshal last week.

Timeline of Value-Based Insurance Design research and implementation, before the approval of new federal pilot-programs
Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at UM

The U.S. Department of Defense and Medicare are set to launch pilot programs to test a healthcare policy idea conceived at the University of Michigan.

So-called Value-Based Insurance Design, or V-BID, ditches a uniform co-pay structure in favor of lowering costs for medical care deemed to be of high value to patients.

LucasTheExperience / Flickr

A Republican blogger and activist from West Michigan is headed to jail. Last month a jury found Brandon Hall guilty of 10 felony counts for forging signatures on election petitions in 2012.

Hall admitted to using different pens and hands to forge the signatures to get a judicial candidate on the ballot.

The Grand Haven Tribune reports the 27-year-old Grand Haven man called his actions "the most ignorant thing I've ever done."

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