news roundup

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Big profit for General Motors, Chrysler plants to stay open

General Motors beat predictions and posted a profit of $1 billion for the first quarter of 2012. That's down more than 68 percent from the company's first quarter profit from last year, according to the Detroit News.

The Detroit Free Press reports it's the company's ninth straight quarterly profit:

“It’s a long-term path that we’re on to get to the profitability levels that we want,” Dan Ammann, GM’s chief financial officer, told reporters this morning. “This is a solid quarter: revenue growth, profit growth, margin growth, cash flow improvement.”

And with more signs of a humming auto industry, Chrysler says it plans to keep three plants it typically idles during the summer open. From the Detroit News:

Chrysler Group LLC is canceling the traditional summer shutdown at three more of its factories to keep up with demand for its hot-selling cars and crossovers.

The Toledo Supplier Park in Ohio, the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois and Chrysler's plant in Toluca, Mexico, will join Detroit's Jefferson North plant in working through the summer.

Auction for drilling rights coming up

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it's holding an auction in Lansing next week for oil and gas drilling rights on about 108-thousand acres in 23 counties. The DNR says it holds the auctions twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The proceeds from state-owned mineral lease rights go to buy land for public use, maintenance and improvements of state and local parks, and care of state fishery and wildlife habitats.

Cherry retailers look elsewhere for fruit

The bizarre warm weather coupled with a late freeze wiped out a good portion of Michigan's cherry crop, as Bob Allen reported for the Environment Report.

Lizzy Alfs at AnnArbor.com writes that retailers are searching for another supply:

With the majority of Michigan’s expansive cherry crop destroyed by this weather, Cherry Republic President Bob Sutherland said he was forced to think outside the box in order to continue selling his variety of cherry products.

His solution: Ordering millions of cherries from the Lublin region in Poland.

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State board of education sets tougher testing standards for Michigan schools

Yesterday, at their meeting in Lansing, officials from the State board of education raised testing standards for K-12 students in Michigan.

The higher standards, also known as "cut scores," will determine which students are deemed "proficient" on the MEAP test (for K-8 students) and the Michigan Merit Exam (for high school students). More from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber:

Students will be expected to answer about two-thirds of test questions correctly. That’s double the previous test-score cut-off for proficiency.

The tougher standards could result in more schools failing to benchmarks for student achievement. But board members say the test score standards will help better prepare students for college.

Brandon Howell at MLive posted charts on how the new standards will effect the percentage of students categorized as "proficient."

Republican Senate candidates try to stand out in the crowd

The six Republican candidates vying for the nomination to take on Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election held a debate last night. It was hosted by the Gerald R. Ford Republican Women’s Club. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith covered the debate and reported "all six candidates held many of the same views including lower taxes, cuts in federal spending, and repealing President Obama’s healthcare law. The difference was in the degree of conservatism."

The six candidates for the Republican nomination are school-choice advocate Clark Durant, anti-gay activist Gary Glenn, former judge Randy Hekman, former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy, and Brighton businessman Chuck Marino.

Reports of another attack in Ann Arbor

The attack happened early this morning. The Detroit News reports:

Just after midnight, a 20-year-old woman walking near 400 S. First St. was approached from behind by an unknown male. He grabbed her arm and waist, and began fondling her chest and groin area, police said. The woman, who police describe as a non-student, was able to break free from the assailant. The man fled on foot heading north, police said.

Investigators are not saying whether they believe this attack is linked to six others in Ann Arbor, according to the Detroit Free Press

Police have received reports of six attacks from July 15 to July 26 that they believe may have been related. The attacks occurred mostly in the downtown area just off campus. All of the assaults occurred between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. In two cases, both July 18, women were raped. In the other four cases, women were grabbed or fondled, but managed to break free.

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Tougher school testing standards set for approval today

The state Board of Education is meeting today to set increased scoring standards for Michigan's public schools. The vote to increase the standards came last February. Today, the board will consider specifics. More from the Associated Press:

The board today is scheduled to consider new so-called "cut scores" for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests taken by elementary and middle school students and the Michigan Merit Exam taken by high school students.

The board voted in February to raise the scoring standards to better reflect students' preparedness for careers and college. The specific cut score levels could be considered today.

Fewer students in Michigan are expected to be categorized as "proficient" after the cut scores are raised.

Ford CEO worries about consumer demand in Europe amid crisis

Europe's financial crisis is heating up. Paul Krugman, opinion columnist for the New York Times, said of the crisis "this thing could come apart in a matter of days."

The crisis has prompted Ford's European CEO to call for action. From the Associated Press:

Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell is calling on European politicians to make painful decisions sooner rather than later to help the economy recover from an increasingly volatile financial crisis.

Odell said Ford is pressing ahead with new product launches at the Frankfurt Auto Show because the market will need products when the spiraling sovereign debt crisis clears and consumer confidence is restored... Odell told reporters on the sidelines Tuesday that politicians have so far not been able to resolve the issue, and urged them to apply even painful remedies "quickly and robustly."

Get ready for crisp, cold weather this week

It might be time to break out the coats. A blast of arctic air is coming our way. The Weather Underground's Shaun Tanner says a storm will move through the state later today:

A... storm will move into the Great Lakes region late in the day, renewing rain and even the slightest chance of early season snow in the Upper Midwest.

The... storms will precede a blast of Arctic air that will stream into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. This Arctic air will not be as cold as in the Winter, but a definite cooling trend will sweep through much of the northern tier of the country during the second half of the week.

In this morning's news...

Aug 16, 2011
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Fewer Schools Meet Federal Standards

The number of schools in Michigan meeting federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" goals dropped in the last academic year. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Fewer schools in Michigan met federal benchmarks for students’ academic progress this year, and state officials blame the slide on higher standards required by the federal government. Schools need to meet something called “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Failure to do so for multiple years can result in sanctions, including replacing school staff and principals, or closing a school. For the 2010-11 school year, 79 percent of public schools in Michigan made adequate progress. That’s down from 86 percent the year before.

Federal Pilot Program in DPS

All kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Detroit Public Schools will get free breakfast, lunch and snacks starting this fall semester under a federal pilot program. The Associated Press reports:

The district announced the program Tuesday, saying the goal is to "ensure all children receive healthy meals, regardless of income." Most Detroit schoolchildren also meet income rules for free lunch.

The district says the free meals are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Option Program. Michigan is one of three states selected to participate in the pilot program for the 2011-12 school year.

Customer Satisfaction Declines in Detroit Autos

Customers were less satisfied with some Detroit car brands this year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. “Satisfaction declined from last year for Chrysler, Lincoln and Buick. Claus Fornell, founder of the index, says the decline is especially worrisome because satisfaction with most Asian brands rose. He says Detroit could be in trouble again if the trend continues. Not all Detroit car brands declined.  Satisfaction with Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, and Jeep cars rose this year,” Tracy Samilton reports.

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‘Kids-Count’ Report

Two-thirds of all babies born to Michigan women in their early twenties are born out of wedlock, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Human Services. “The reports shows a significant uptick over the past decade in the number of babies born out of wedlock to women in their twenties. The report also indicates Michigan is doing better than many other states in the number of mothers who receive prenatal care and the number of women without a high school education who have children,” Laura Weber reports.

‘Underwear Bomber’ Back in Court

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with 290 people aboard using a bomb hidden in his underwear is due in federal court for a hearing on postponing his trial, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds Is to preside at Thursday's hearing for Umar Abdulmutallab. His trial is scheduled Oct. 4, but a lawyer helping him wants more time after getting more evidence from the government… Prosecutors have urged Edmunds to stick to the October trial date, saying any delays are "needless."Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009.

Brooks’ Budget

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson presented his budget recommendations for the next three years to Oakland County Commissioners last night. Oakland County is the richest county in the state. “Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet. Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs… The Oakland County Commission won’t formally take up the budget until next month, and are slated to vote on in September,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

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MEA to Support Recall Efforts

The state’s largest teachers union says it will help efforts to recall some Republican state lawmakers. “The Michigan Education Association’s main complaints are cuts to school funding and new tenure rules… Members of the MEA say they’re also angry at efforts to force them to pay more for their benefits... The MEA has 157,000 members and a large political action fund,” Rick Pluta reports. Doug Pratt, spokesman for the MEA, says the union has made a strategic decision not to name the lawmakers who will be targets of their recall efforts.

Ford Sued

A technology company has sued Ford Motor Company over patent infringements related to some of Ford’s hottest new products, including Sync, Tracy Samilton reports. From Samilton:

The lawsuit says Eagle Harbor Holdings met with Ford starting in 2000 to discuss using Eagle Harbor’s voice command software and other patented technology. Eagle Harbor's General Counsel, Jeff Harmes, says Ford’s hands-free phone system, Sync, uses some of that technology. But he says Ford broke off talks with Eagle Harbor in 2008… A spokeswoman says Ford hasn’t had the chance to review the lawsuit yet and it would be premature to comment.

August Release for Kilpatrick?

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is expected to be released from prison in early August to give authorities time to arrange transfer of his parole to Texas, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Michigan parole board voted last month to release Kilpatrick from state prison and he was expected to be freed no earlier than July 24. The Michigan Department of Corrections tells The Detroit News for a Wednesday story that details needed to be worked out… He's facing federal charges. Kilpatrick quit office in 2008 when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He was sent to prison in May 2010 by a judge who said the ex-mayor failed to turn over certain assets toward his $1 million restitution.

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Drama in Detroit

It seems to be a case of "he said, she said."

Rochelle Collins, a former executive assistant to the mayor, says she was wrongfully terminated and is seeking a settlement from the city, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press reports that the city says Collins was not terminated, and now the Mayor's office is speaking out.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Mayor Dave Bing’s office launched an unusual preemptive strike today against a potential lawsuit by a former aide, saying her demand for reinstatement to a high-level position and $750,000 amounted to extortion to avoid the release of “salacious details” designed to embarrass the administration.

“We will not be intimidated by such tactics and will vigorously defend any attempt to raid the treasury of the City of Detroit and get a lottery-style payoff,” attorney Sharon McPhail, who is representing the city, told the Free Press.

Saginaw officials could pass "dangerous dogs" ordinance

On the heels of a debate in the State Legislature about pit bulls comes a city ordinance aimed at breeds deemed "dangerous."

Justin Engel reports in the Saginaw News that city officials say their proposed "dangerous dogs" ordinance could have prevented the mauling of a twelve year old boy.

From the Saginaw News:

The Saginaw ordinance, which the council could approve at its June 20 meeting, addresses both pit bull breeds and tethering.

The proposal requires owners of pit bulls — along with Rottweilers, German shepherds, presa canarios and bull mastiffs — to register their animals with the city for a one-time $20 payment or face fines up to $400.

The measure also forbids tethering dogs to objects outdoors “for extended periods” or face additional fines.

Black Bear wandering in Washtenaw County

From the Associated Press:

WEBSTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say they've confirmed that a black bear cub is wandering in Washtenaw County.

AnnArbor.com reported Tuesday that the sheriff's department confirmed the bear sighting in Webster Township near Dexter, about 9 miles northwest of Ann Arbor.

The confirmation comes after three bear sightings Saturday, including two at Hudson Mills Metropark and one at a home near the park.

Authorities are asking anyone that spots the bear to call 911. Since a cub was seen, authorities say a mother bear may also be in the area.

Backpack bomb scare

The backpack was left outside the IRS building in Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

A backpack that set off a bomb scare outside the IRS building on Michigan Avenue in Detroit has been detonated by the Detroit Police Bomb Squad.

The backpack was found at about 4:30 a.m. at the corner of Third and Michigan, said Detroit Police Inspector Don Johnson. A power source spotted after an X-ray of the bag, prompted authorities to detonate the bag at the scene, versus remove it and detonate it elsewhere, he said.

Johnson, who would not elaborate on what the power source was, said investigators will review surveillance video to determine whether the bag was left accidentally or intentionally.

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Michigan House to release its redistricting plan

The political boundaries in Michigan are being redrawn by the party in power, and Republicans in the State House plan to release their proposed redistricting maps this Friday.

Redrawing political boundaries is required every ten years after the U.S. Census numbers are released.

It's the first time the public will see how some Republicans plan to redraw Michigan's political maps.

Republicans in the State Senate will release their plans later.

Michigan is the only state in the nation to have lost population, so the state will lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the Detroit News:

Congressional districts represented by Democratic U.S. Reps. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Sander Levin of Royal Oak would be merged under a plan Republicans reviewed in late May that was obtained by The Detroit News.

If both wanted to keep their seat, they'd have to run against each other in a Democratic primary. The draft plan would boost GOP majorities in a number of districts, making it easier for Republicans to hold on to their seats.

After the maps are released, the House Redistricting Committee will have hearings, according to a press release by Lund.

The latest U.S. Census numbers show that populations declined in southeast Michigan and grew in the west and other parts of the state.

State Representative Pete Lund (R - Shelby Township) chairman of the House Redistricting Committee was quoted in the News article, "the maps are going to reflect where people have moved. Whatever areas lost population will lose representation, and whatever areas gained population will gain representation."

Ford shares fall after $2 billion judgment in dealer suit An Ohio judge ruled that Ford Motor Company had to pay more than $2 billion in damages to thousands of dealerships. In the class action suit, the dealers contend they were overcharged for trucks they paid for over an 11 year period. From the Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. shares sank early Monday after an Ohio judge said the automaker had to pay nearly $2 billion in damages to thousands of dealerships who participated in a 2002 class-action lawsuit. But the shares pared their losses as several analysts downplayed the news and said Ford can absorb the damages even if loses a planned appeal.

ACLU goes after Livonia's medical marijuana ban

The ACLU will challenge Livonia's medical marijuana ban in court today.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The American Civil Liberties Union will try to convince a Wayne County judge today to strike down a Livonia ordinance that bans medical marijuana in any way, shape or form.

The ACLU of Michigan, arguing on behalf of a medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis, claims that the Livonia measure violates the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which legalized medical marijuana. ACLU Attorney Andy Nickelhoff will present oral arguments at 11 a.m. before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy M. Baxter.

The ACLU is representing Linda and Robert Lott of Birmingham.

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Emergency Manager tosses union contract

Michael Stampfler, the emergency manager of Pontiac, has flexed new muscles given to him by state legislators and Governor Snyder. Under the state's new emergency manager law, emergency managers can eliminate union contracts and strip local officials of their power.

From the Associated Press:

Pontiac has gotten approval to cancel union contract protections for 11 police dispatchers as it shuts down its police department.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday's action will make them the first Michigan public employees to have a contract tossed under the law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March granting expanded powers to state-appointed emergency financial managers.

It's the final move toward eliminating the Pontiac Police Department, which was proposed last year by emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. Services will be handled by the Oakland County sheriff's department to save the cash-strapped city $2 million annually.

Detroit Mayor Bing prepares for layoffs after override of his budget veto

The Detroit City Council voted to override Mayor Bing's veto of the council's budget. Bing thought the council's cuts went too far. The mayor says steep cuts are coming to the city of Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sharply criticized the City Council's override of his budget veto Monday, saying the $50 million in cuts the council restored will close recreation centers, eliminate hundreds of police officers and firefighters and end bus service on Sundays.

"We will have to eliminate a lot of services," said a visibly frustrated Bing, who already cut the budget by $200 million. "People have been complaining for years and years about inadequate services. Another $50 million in cuts is just irresponsible."

A memorial service for Jack Kevorkian

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian died last Friday. Now friends and supporters will hold a public memorial service this Friday in Troy.

From the Associated Press:

The ceremony is being held at 9:30 a.m. at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy, said attorney Mayer Morganroth.

"We weren't going to do anything, but we started getting calls from all across the country and from foreign countries, too," Morganroth told the Detroit Free Press in a story posted Monday on the newspaper's website. "There is just so much interest from people who wanted to do something to remember Jack."

GM Sales

General Motors has released its first quarter-net income… and it’s good news for the automaker.  The Associated Press reports:

General Motors says its first-quarter net income more than tripled on strong car sales in the U.S. and China. The company's first-quarter net income totaled $3.2 billion… one of its best performances since the SUV boom in the early 2000s. It was GM's fifth straight quarterly profit since late 2009, the year it emerged from bankruptcy. Quarterly revenue rose 15 percent to $36.2 billion. Worldwide sales climbed 12 percent, including a 25-percent jump in the U.S.

House Votes on Budget

The state House passed a $33 billion budget bill yesterday. As the Associated Press reports, the measure covers spending for everything except education. From the AP:

Lawmakers were deeply divided Wednesday on the measure, which closes prisons, drops 12,600 families from welfare and cuts senior services.

Majority Republicans say the budget puts the state on sound financial funding without using one-time fixes.

Minority Democrats say the bill cuts important services such as job training.

It includes $7 billion in general fund spending and passed 62-48, largely along party lines.

The bill must be reconciled with spending bills already passed by the Senate.

DPS Gets a New EM

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a new Emergency Financial Manager for the Detroit Public Schools. Snyder announced the appointment of former GM Executive Roy Roberts to replace current Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb yesterday. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports, “Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry. Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a ‘successful businessman and team builder.’ Roberts says he’s genuinely ‘excited’ to tackle the daunting task of improving Detroit schools.” Bobb’s contract expires at the end of June.

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Election Results

Voters went to the polls across Michigan yesterday to decide a variety of issues, from school millages, to funding for public safety, transportation, and libraries.

  • In Flint, voters renewed a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers. Flint has struggled with a rising violent crime rate for the past few years. City police have investigated about ninety homicides in the last sixteen months, Steve Carmody reports. But, as Carmody notes, “Flint voters narrowly rejected a millage request that would have reopened the city jail. Budget problems have meant the jail has only been used sporadically since the late 1980’s.”
  • Lansing city residents voted no on a millage that would have kept public safety services from facing deep cuts. The millage would have increased city residents’ property taxes about four percent to raise about $8.5 million over five years, Sarah Alvarez reports. Lansing faces a $20 million dollar budget shortfall next year.
  • Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night, Lindsey Smith reports. More than 34,000 people cast ballots and the millage passed by just 136 votes. The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.
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Election Day

It’s election day in Michigan but, as Steve Carmody reports, very few people expect long lines at polling stations. From Carmody:

There are dozens of school millage votes and school board elections taking place today in Michigan.  But school races rarely draw large crowds of voters.

There are a few communities voting on controversial, or at least well publicized, issues.

Flint voters are casting ballots on two millages.  One would generate $2 million a year to reopen the city jail. The other would continue to fund a dozen police officers.

Lansing voters are deciding if they want to increase their property taxes to trim their city’s projected 20-plus million dollar budget deficit nearly in half.

And in Jackson, voters will decide if they want to merge their city police and fire departments into one public safety department.

Lawmakers Continue Work on Budget

State Senators will take-up Governor Rick Snyder’s tax reform plan at the state Capitol this week. The tax plan would eliminate the unpopular Michigan Business tax and, instead, tax only some corporations and eliminate tax exemptions on certain retiree pensions. Supporters of the plan say it will improve the state economy by helping businesses. Opponents say the plan gives businesses tax breaks on the back of seniors, low income families, and children.

Michigan Gas Prices Hit Record High

Gas prices in the state have never been this high, according to GasBuddy.com. An analyst with GasBuddy says the old record was $4.25 a gallon. Now, prices at the pump in many parts of the state are higher: at $4.29 per gallon or more. It’s predicted that prices could go up even further.

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Still No Deal to Avert Government Shutdown

Less than 24 hours remain for President Obama and Congressional leaders to avert a government shutdown. A deal to fund the federal government through September must be reached by midnight tonight to keep the government fully operating. President Obama and legislative leaders met again last night to narrow their differences over how much to cut the federal budget but no agreement was made. Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush takes a look at what a government shutdown will mean for Michigan.

Redistricting Hearings to Being Next Week

A state House panel will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps with hearings next week focused on results from the 2010 U.S. Census, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

With Republicans controlling all branches of state government, Democrats are worried that new district lines will target a vulnerable Democratic seat like that of US Congressman Gary Peters. The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee is chaired by Republican Representative Pete Lund. Lund said in a statement that he looks forward to the hearings and, "a fair, effective redistricting process for our state."

ACLU Wants to Know More About EFM Bill

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wants to know more about the creation of Michigan’s new Emergency Financial Manager law, Steve Carmody reports. “The legislation gives broad new powers to managers appointed by the state to run financially troubled cities and school districts. Kary Moss is with the ACLU of Michigan. She says the ACLU is filing Freedom of Information requests to learn more about who wrote the law,” Carmody explains.

Twenty-Three Campgrounds To Close

Michigan plans to close twenty-three state forest campgrounds beginning in May. The campgrounds are not state parks but, instead, are camping sites along rivers, lakes and trails. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the campgrounds are being closed because they’re not heavily used and the state doesn’t have the funds to maintain them. The majority of the closings will take place in the Upper Peninsula.

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Report: State Doing Well Collecting Child Support Payments

A new Auditor General’s report says about 70 percent of Michigan children who are eligible for child support do receive the payments. About $3 billion in child support payments were collected over the last two years, Laura Weber reports. Marilyn Stephen, Director of Child Support with the Department of Human Services, told Weber the state’s child support program is a great return on investment for taxpayers, with more than $6 in child support collected for every dollar spent.

Enbridge: Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Cost Half a Billion Dollars

Enbridge Energy says last July's oil spill of at least 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan cost the company $550 million in 2010. The figure comes from an Enbridge report. The $550 million does not include insurance recoveries, fines and penalties. In addition to the spill in Marshall, the Kalamazoo Gazette reports, Enbridge spent $45 million on a spill in Romeoville, Illinois in September. Public officials say they don't know when the Kalamazoo River will reopen for public use.

Residents Learn More About DPS Reorginization

The Detroit Public Schools held the first in a series of parent meetings about a radical plan to close some schools and turn others into charters, Sarah Cwiek reports. From Cwiek:

Most parents who attended the first meeting at Priest Elementary school in southwest Detroit expressed concern and even anger about Bobb’s plan. Many worry what it will mean for their neighborhood schools, student transportation, and special needs students.

Robert Bobb, the Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, has proposed closing six schools and turning up to 45 others into charters. Two more meetings are scheduled for April 12th and 13th.

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Rallies Across the State

Hundreds of union members and their supporters rallied in various cities across the state yesterday. The rallies were organized to both protest what unions call attacks on the middle class and to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The Associated Press reports:

Roughly 200 people gathered at the Capitol on Monday evening…

Several hundred people each turned out at rallies in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Rallies also took place in Escanaba, Saginaw and elsewhere around Michigan.

Michigan unions say they're upset about a new Republican-backed law that lets emergency managers appointed to assist financially struggling communities and schools rescind labor contracts.

The rallies were held Monday to link the fight for collective bargaining to the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn.

Economic Outlook in MI Improving

Michigan’s jobs picture is looking a little better, according to a new report out of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan economists say the state is starting 2011 with “robust job growth,” Steve Carmody reports. The Detroit Free Press quotes University of Michigan economist George Fulton as saying, “There appears to be pretty good evidence now that we are back to creating more jobs than we are losing. But, the Free Press notes Fulton also, "cautioned that the state's 10.4% unemployment rate is still high, so many residents won't feel as if a recovery is under way. Fulton expects Michigan's unemployment rate to drop to 9.9% by the last quarter of this year and to reach 9.5% by the end of 2012.”

DSO Musicians to Return to Work

Musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say they will return to work on Thursday. A tentative agreement between the striking musicians and the Orchestra’s management was announced this week. An official ratification vote will come later this week. Musicians had been on strike since October.

In this morning's news...

Mar 29, 2011
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Laws-a-Plenty

Governor Snyder signed a bill yesterday that extends unemployment benefits by 20 weeks to some 35,000 Michiganders. However, the bill also cuts six-weeks of state unemployment benefits for new filers beginning next year. The measure reduces jobless benefits in the state from 26 weeks to 20 weeks as of 2012. Meanwhile, Governor Snyder is scheduled to sign a bill this afternoon that would repeal Michigan’s item pricing law. Snyder first spoke about repealing the state’s law that requires retailers to put price tags on most individual items in his January State of the State address.

Bernero Lays Out Lansing Budget

Lansing Mayor, and former 2010 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Virg Bernero presented his 2012 fiscal year budget last night. Lansing faces a $20 million budget hole next year and Bernero said such a deficit requires a tough and painful response. The Mayor’s budget plan would cut more than 50 Lansing police officers and close three fire stations, Steve Carmody reports.

April 1st Deadline for DSO

Musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say they have been given a Friday deadline to settle a strike with the DSO management, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The players say in a release Monday the orchestra's board has told them that if no contract agreement is reached by Friday the summer performance season "will be lost" and the fall season "would be in serious jeopardy." An orchestra spokeswoman would not comment on whether a deadline has been imposed. Board chair Stanley Frankel says in a statement that the board is "convinced that a settlement is within reach" and that negotiators have been meeting by phone and e-mail.

DSO musicians have been on strike since October of last year.

In this morning's news...

Mar 25, 2011
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Students Protest Budget Cuts

A few hundred college students protested against Governor Snyder’s budget proposal at the state Capitol yesterday. Snyder has called for a 15 percent cut to Michigan’s public colleges and universities. Laura Weber was reporting from Lansing and said although the rally was not the largest that the Capitol has seen in the past couple of weeks it was one of the loudest. Weber reports Governor Snyder would have been able to hear the students across the street in his office.

Michigan State Police Announces Closures

The Michigan State Police announced yesterday that it plans to close 21 posts across the state in order to save money. Closings include posts in Battle Creek, Detroit, and Traverse City. The Associated Press reports:

The changes would take effect with the start of Michigan's next budget year in October. Troopers would be deployed throughout the state mostly from remaining posts and other buildings the state police would call detachments. Some troopers assigned to rural areas would be based from their homes. The state police say it's part of a regional policing plan.

Muslim Group Claims Harassment at Border

An Islamic advocacy group says border agents are harassing and violating the civil rights of scores of American Muslims re-entering the country from Canada, Sarah Hulett reports. The group CAIR is filing complaints with the Department of Homeland Security. As Hulett reports:

Abdulrahman Cherri is a student at the University of Michigan. His fiancé lives in Canada, and he says when he returns to the U.S. from visiting her, his car has been taken apart, and he’s been subjected to invasive full-body searches. He says he’s also been questioned about his religion, even after telling border agents that he’s too busy with school to worship. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says parents have been ordered out of cars at gunpoint and handcuffed while their children watched.

CAIR is also asking the Justice Department to investigate the harassment.

In this morning's news...

Mar 24, 2011
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Debate at State Capitol Over Unemployment Benefit Extension

People who file for jobless benefits next year would be eligible for fewer weeks of payments under a measure approved by the state Legislature. Laura Weber reports:

Lawmakers had to approve a jobless benefits package this week in order for the state to receive federal assistance for the program.

The debate was so contentious in the Senate that leaders ordered the doors locked to keep lawmakers in the chamber.

Democratic Senators are upset that Republicans reduced the total number of weeks that people who become unemployed in the future could receive the benefits.

The measure was approved by the Senate and House and now moves to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

State Jobless Rate Continues Decline

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.4 percent in February. That’s down three-tenths of a point from what it was in January of this year. The number shows about 11,000 more people working in the state in February. Officially, there are 495,000 people in Michigan out of work and looking for a job. There’s another 430,000 people who are either part-timers wishing they had full-time work, or unemployed people who’ve simply quit looking for jobs.

Why the ‘Underwear Bomber’ Targeted Detroit

More details are being learned about why Detroit was chosen as a target in an attempt by an al-Qaida operative to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day in 2009. It appears Detroit was picked because, quite simply, it was a cheap destination. The Associated Press has learned that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had considered attacking an airplane over Houston or Chicago but the plane tickets were too expensive so, instead, he chose Detroit. The AP explains, “the decision shows that al-Qaida's Yemen branch does not share Osama bin Laden's desire to attack symbolic targets.”

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Detailed Census Data released

The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed population numbers for the state yesterday. The numbers spurred a number of stories across the state as cities and counties reflected on what the numbers mean:

Census: Detroit Shrank while the suburbs changed

Census: Lansing population falls 4 percent

New 2010 Census data shows Flint population at 102,434

Ottawa County shines as West Michigan shows relative strength in latest U.S. Census figures

Census 2010: Bay County's population decrease could have been worse

U.S. Census data shows slight growth in Muskegon County during decade of Great Recession

2010 Census data shows Michigan shifting rural

Granholm enjoying post-Governor life

In one of the first interviews since leaving the Governor's office in Michigan, Jennifer Granholm says she's enjoying life as a private citizen.

From the Detroit News:

Granholm — after getting to avoid the airport security line as governor — now faces the same indignities as all frequent travelers do.

"I got the whole pat-down today, but it is what it is," she said with a laugh.

Granholm relishes her new quieter life. "I kind of like being low-key. I kind of like being able to wear sunglasses again," she said.

She ate lunch on Cosi and was glued to her BlackBerry — and no one bothered her. "It's a beautiful thing," she said. "I am enjoying life."

Granholm and her husband, Daniel Mulhern, are moving to California, temporarily they say, before moving back to Michigan. Both will be teaching at U.C. Berkeley  and they're working on a book together.

Granholm says she won't engage in criticizing her successor, Governor Rick Snyder.

Republicans will start to redraw political districts in Michigan

The U.S. Census numbers are in hand, now its time for politicians to re-draw some fancy lines for new political districts. MLive's Peter Luke says Republicans are wasting no time in redrawing political boundaries for Congressional and State legislative seats.

From M-Live:

Republicans, who have a 9-6 edge in congressional seats, likely will seek to put two or more Democratic incumbents — say U.S. Reps. Dale Kildee, Sander Levin and Gary Peters — in the same district.

The process could give some Republicans heartburn as well. The 1st Congressional District currently represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, extends from Ironwood to Bay City and will require about 55,000 more residents in the northern Lower Peninsula from districts held by fellow Republicans.

Giving Benishek Grand Traverse County, for example, shifts the 4th Congressional District of U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, somewhere else.

In this morning's news...

Mar 15, 2011
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Protests to Continue in Lansing

More demonstrations are expected at the state Capitol today, this time from members of AARP Michigan. The group will protest Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal that would get rid of the income tax exemption for pensions.  The Detroit Free Press reports that AARP Michigan has arranged to transport 400 seniors to the rally. AARP Michigan spokesman Mark Hornbeck told the Free Press he wouldn’t be surprised if over 1,000 attend the protest

Japanese crisis raises questions about nuclear power in  U.S.

The nuclear accidents in Japan, following Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, are raising questions about the future of around 20 planned new nuclear power plants in the U.S, including one in Michigan. Steve Carmody reports:

DTE’s proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant has the potential of helping Michigan meet its future energy needs, as well as its construction generating billions of dollars for the state’s economy. But like 19 other proposed nuclear projects, its future appears murky in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis. 

A DTE spokesman says it’s “way too early” to speculate on how the events in Japan may affect the utility’s application for Fermi 3. 

Plans for new nuclear power plants all but dried up after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and it was only recently that interest in developing alternative energy sources renewed interest in nuclear power.

Holder, Sebelius in Detroit

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be at Wayne State University in Detroit today. They’re attending a regional summit that will discuss Medicare fraud prevention. The AP reports:

Waste and fraud cost the federal Medicare program and Medicaid, its state counterpart, an estimated $54 billion in 2009. Holder said at a December summit in Boston that the Obama administration's crackdown on health care fraud has recovered $4 billion in Massachusetts alone over two years.

In this morning's news...

Mar 14, 2011

Protests Scheduled Over Snyder Budget

Groups across the state are planning protests today over Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal. Demonstrations are planned for cities including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor. Protestors will include state workers, small business owners, and retirees, the Associated Press reports:

A press release issued by the liberal group Progress Michigan says Snyder's proposal is "an attack on Michigan families and their future." Snyder says his budget represents "shared sacrifice" and puts Michigan on the path to a better future because it solves the state's budget ills. His $45.9 billion proposal includes spending cuts for schools and would eliminate many personal tax breaks while slashing business taxes. The state is facing an estimated $1.4 billion shortfall.

Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami Threaten Car Exports

Some car plants in Japan remain closed as a result of last week’s massive earthquake and tsunami.  Japanese carmakers say it’s too early to know if the disaster will hurt their exports to the U.S., Tracy Samilton reports. Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Honda suspended most of their operations in Japan after the disaster.

March Madness

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament bracket was released yesterday. Seven Big Ten teams made the cut. No. 8 seed the University of Michigan will play No. 9 seed Tennessee on Friday. Michigan State University earned a No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 seed UCLA on Thursday. Oakland University also made the tournament. Oakland will play the Texas Longhorns on Friday.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Protests, Vote Planned on Emergency Financial Manager Bill

The state Senate is planning a vote today on a measure that would give more power to state-appointed emergency financial managers. Opponents of the bill including teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees plan to protest today at the Capitol. Unions are particularly opposed to a part of the legislation that would allow emergency managers to vacate bargained contracts, Rick Pluta reports. Union leaders say they hope for a big enough turnout at the Capitol to persuade Senate leaders to delay a vote on the legislation.

‘Asian Carp Czar’ Returns to MI

John Goss, the Obama Administration’s so-called “Asian carp Czar, will be in Michigan today to talk about long-term strategy for keeping the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Federal officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also attend the meeting. The Corps wants to spend the next five years developing a plan to keep the carp of the Lakes. But, many say that’s not fast enough. Last week, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp announced legislation to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways.

Embridge to Step Up Clean-up Efforts

It’s been 8 months since a broken Enbridge Energy pipeline leaked more than 800,000 gallons of oil near Marshall, Michigan. Winter weather has reduced the size of the cleanup response but now, Steve Carmody reports, the next phase of the cleanup is about to begin. Enbridge says it will focus this Spring on removing oil that is still resting on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Slow and Slippery Commute

Freezing rain across parts of mid and southeast Michigan has led to a slow and sometimes dangerous commute this morning. There were numerous closures of lanes on freeways from Brighton to the metro-Detroit area. The National Weather Service in White Lake Township says the freezing rain is expected to change to rain by noon, the AP reports. A Winter Weather advisory is in effect for parts of the state. Temperatures are expected to reach the 40s today.

UAW President Blasts Snyder

Bob King, President of the UAW, says Governor Snyder’s budget proposal is an attack on workers, seniors and the poor in Michigan. “This governor has talked nicely, but these actions suggest he’s same agenda with every other Republican across this country" King said at a press conference yesterday. King says Snyder’s proposal to eliminate an income tax credit for the working poor, to cut the child care subsidy for low-income families, and to tax pensions are key examples, Sarah Hulett reports.

Asian Carp Legislation

Members of Congress from the Great Lakes region say it’s taking too long to come up with an action plan to stop the spread of Asian Carp. They are now calling for work on that plan to speed things up, Steve Carmody reports:

The US Army Corps of Engineers wants to spend the next five years developing a plan to keep the carp out of the Great Lake but that’s not fast enough for Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow

 “We have to have a sense of urgency about it.  The Army Corps is studying this issue now, but it’s going to take them several years… we don’t have several years.  We need to get this done as quickly as possible,” Stabenow said.

Recently, Illinois politicians have fought efforts to close canals linking Lake Michigan to carp infested waters near Chicago. But Illinois Senator Dick Durbin supports expediting a carp action plan, making its passage more probable.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Supreme Court Puts Michigan Law in Jeopardy

Michigan’s law barring protesters from funerals might be vulnerable after yesterday's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Steve Carmody reports:

The nation’s highest court ruled in favor of an anti-gay group that pickets at military funerals. Michigan, like dozens of other states, passed a law in 2006 to prevent the protests from disrupting funerals here. At the time, the states were trying to prevent a fundamentalist Christian Church from Kansas from picketing military funerals.

New Poll: Snyder Popularity Decreasing

A new poll shows Governor Rick Snyder’s popularity among likely Michigan voters is down from January. The poll, released by ERIC-MRA, shows 44 percent of likely Michigan voters had a favorable view of the governor. Twenty-seven percent had an unfavorable opinion. That’s compared to January of this year when EPIC-MRA found 59 percent of likely Michigan voters viewed Snyder favorably and 8 percent unfavorably.

Same-Sex Health Benefits

Republicans in the state Senate have begun the process of reversing the policy of extending benefits to the unmarried live-in partners of state workers – including those in same-sex relationships, Rick Pluta reports. A resolution was approved yesterday by a Senate subcommittee that would reject the domestic partner benefits awarded in a decision earlier this year by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, the Associated Press explains. A vote on the Senate floor is expected next week.

Facelift for Cobo Center

Detroit’s Cobo Center will undergo a $221 million renovation. Cobo Center’s general manager says the three year project will allow Cobo to better accommodate the needs of the annual North American International Auto Show. The project will be ready by 2014. It’s the first major overhaul of the convention center since 1989.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Lawmakers to Dig into Budget Proposal

Michigan lawmakers will be in Lansing today pouring over Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal. Legislative committees are scheduled to hear details about Snyder's tax restructuring plan and proposed cuts to higher education, the Associated Press reports. The state faces a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. Meanwhile, the Governor spent yesterday defending some of the more controversial proposals in his budget including the taxing of public and private pensions.

Auto Sales Increase

Auto sales rose by 27 percent last month. General Motors and Toyota had the strongest sales. GM saw gains for several reasons, Tracy Samilton reports:

  • Last February GM’s sales were weak, so this February looks much better in comparison
  • The company increased incentives in February
  • It’s easier for GM customers to get financing now that GM has its own finance arm, GM Financial

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians, who’ve been on strike since last Fall, say they are willing to return to work without a contract. The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration, Sarah Cwiek reports. DSO officials did not immediately respond to the offer. But they issued a statement saying they “welcome receiving the union’s proposal.”

The end of Borders

Borders Book Group Inc. can't pay its bills.

Several reports say the company is expected to file for bankruptcy sometime this week. From Reuters:

Bookseller Borders Group Inc is reviewing bids from liquidators to close hundreds of stores as it works out the final details of its impending bankruptcy filing, according to people close to the talks. The review is part of its plan to close about 200 of its 650 stores, which are a mix of Borders superstores and smaller Waldenbooks shops, these people said. The store closings will remove weak stores that have bled the retail chain's cash in recent years and provide immediate funds from the sale of inventory.

A Border's spokesman is quoted in the report saying, "Borders will not comment or speculate upon Borders' future course. If and when the company has something to disclose, it will do so."

President's Obama's Budget proposal and Michigan

President Obama released his budget proposal to Congress yesterday saying "Even as we cut out things that we can afford to do without, we have a responsibility to invest in those areas that will have the biggest impact in our future."

The Detroit Free Press says the President's budget is a "mixed bag" for Michigan. On the up side, the budget continues to invest in advanced vehicle technology research, it asks that a $7,500 rebate be put in place to encourage electric vehicle purchases (instead of a tax credit), and it would help the state avoid a big payment it owes the federal government for borrowing money to cover unemployment benefits.

And the down side? From the Freep: 

...it cuts in half a program to help poor people pay energy bills, cuts community block grants and Great Lakes restoration funding and ends plans to build an amphibious Marine Corps vehicle that could have created hundreds of Michigan jobs. 

A big day for Flint

The city of Flint will likely find out today whether it can go to the bond market to cover it's $17 million budget deficit.

The State Administrative Board is meeting today at 11 a.m. to decide the city's fate.

If the plan is not approved, the State of Michigan may eventually have to take over the city's finances.

City Administrator Greg Eason told WJRT

"This stabilization bond is critical to the survival of the city over the next three to five years."

School Bus
Nicolae Gerasim / Flickr

Government Releases Report on Toyota

A government investigation into safety problems with Toyota vehicles found there were no electronic flaws that would account for sudden, unintentional acceleration. As the Associated Press reports:

Transportation officials and engineers with NASA say two mechanical safety defects previously identified by the government - sticking accelerator pedals and gas pedals that can become trapped in floor mats - are the only known causes for the reports of runaway Toyotas. Toyota has recalled more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 for a series of safety issues.

Bill to Eliminate EITC Introduced

A bill that would eliminate a tax credit for low-income workers in Michigan has been introduced in the state Senate. Republican state Senator Roger Kahn introduced the measure yesterday that would end the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. Many Republicans in the state House support eliminating the tax credit. Opponents say an elimination of the credit would be the same as a tax increase on the state’s working poor.

Bobb to Testify at Capitol

Robert Bobb, the Detroit Public Schools financial manager, will in Lansing today. Bobb will testify before a joint session of the state House and Senate education committees. It’s expected he’ll talk about the districts educational and financial turnaround plans. Bobb has been the financial manager of the district since 2009.

Count Day

Today is ‘Count Day’ for public school districts across the state. Count days are important to every school district’s bottom line because the total number of students on the days helps determine how much state money the district gets year-round, Lindsay Smith reports.

Police in Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is expected to reveal his plan for getting police officials to live in Detroit this morning. As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Detroit had a residency requirement until 1999, when the state Legislature outlawed it. Now more than half the officers on the police force live outside the city limits. Mayor Bing has said he believes neighborhoods are safer when the cops who patrol them live there too.

Not all police officials agree with Mayor Bing and say they can live outside city limits and still be effective for the residents of Detroit.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more Mayor Bing's proposal later today.

A replacement for the Michigan State Fair?

The Michigan State Fair was canceled in 2009 after budget cuts and declining attendance. Now the Associated Press is reporting that another cast aside in Michigan might fill the gap.

The AP reports that the "Great Lakes Agricultural Fair" would be held in and around the Pontiac Silverdome and would be run without any state funding. From the AP:

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters are expected to be among those on hand Monday to unveil plans for the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair…The annual festival would feature a farm market, live animals and musical performances.

Ford to increase production

If the amount of Super Bowl ads from car makers didn't clue you in, here's another sign that automakers are expecting much better sales this year. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford Motor Company plans to boost factory production in the U.S.:

Ford Motor Co. says it will increase U.S. factory production by 13% in the first quarter due to higher sales. Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales, says Ford is studying additional shifts at plants that are now running on overtime. The Dearborn-based automaker said retail sales to individual buyers rose 27% in January. Global marketing chief Jim Farley said to expect further increases through the year.

NMU Classes Resume

Northern Michigan University is open today, following yesterday’s closure of the university due to what was being called a, “serious threat.” The threat came from a blog post, but in a statement released last night, school officials said an investigation, “revealed no evidence that the anonymous blog post originated on campus. It was discovered tonight that similarly worded messages have been directed at several other U.S. universities, recently and in a previous year.”

Weather Continues to Keep Schools (and State Legislature) Closed

The massive winter storm that hit much of Michigan this week might be long-gone, but the remnants of the storm remain. Snow, ice, and cold-temperatures have led many school districts to remain closed for a second day in a row, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools. Meanwhile, state lawmakers aren’t ones to be left out: sessions in both the state House and Senate have been canceled today due to the weather.

Michigan Students Return from Egypt

Students from universities across the state are returning to the U.S. from Egypt as unrest in that country continues. Michigan universities have canceled their study abroad programs in Egypt and have been coordinating with the State department to bring students back to the U.S., Bridget Bodnar reports.

National Weather Service

Gearing up for snow

People in the state are gearing up for the coming storm that's expected to dump around a foot of snow in the region in less than 24 hours. Survival instincts are kicking in as people flock to grocery stores, gas stations, and hardware stores. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports some plow drivers are getting their sleep now in anticipation of staying up for the next couple of days. Andy Northey, the owner of R & A Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping in Plainwell, said:

"We're not going to be able to keep up with all the snow that’s expected," said Northey, whose company clears snow from residential and commercial properties from Allegan to Kalamazoo to Battle Creek. "Absolutely no way."

The Detroit News reports that Delta airlines is allowing people to change their flight plans without charging an extra fee:

Delta and other airlines encouraged passengers to change their travel dates. Anyone scheduled to fly this week can switch their flight to a time through Feb. 8 without incurring a fee, said Delta. The waiver involved Michigan and 19 other states expected to be hammered by the storm. The states range from Nebraska to Maine, and Wisconsin to Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the southern part of Michigan as the dense snow band travels across the state. The warning takes effect around 5 p.m. for the western part of the state and around 7 p.m. for the eastern half. The warning will last through much of the day tomorrow.

Snyder releases report on state's finances

Governor Rick Snyder released the "Citizen's Guide to Financial Health" yesterday around 3 p.m. The Governor said the report is "a plain-English, easy-to-understand look at Michigan's financial situation and the challenges ahead."

One of the more controversial parts of the report said that state employees are over-compensated compared to their private sector counterparts. Many state employees and union members are disputing the numbers in the report. The Detroit Free Press said that Snyder called the report a 'call to action':

"Here are the facts; let's solve the problem," he told 430 people who attended the Business Leaders for Michigan Summit in Lansing. "Now we can have an intelligent discussion about what we need to have to put the state on the road to success."

Snyder is expected to release his budget proposal for the state's next fiscal year on February 17th.

Red Cross looking for blood

Bad winter weather has hampered the Red Cross' blood supply. They've made pleas before, and now with a big storm bearing down on the Midwest, they're renewing those pleas. Monica Stoneking, communications manager for the American Red Cross, was quoted in today's Bay City Times:

"Those who live in the path of the storm are asked to schedule a donation time when it is safe to travel," Stoneking said. "All blood types are needed, but there is a special need for donors with O-Negative and B-Negative blood."

The Red Cross says 18,000 expected blood donations have gone uncollected over the last several weeks due to bad winter weather.

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