Offbeat

Seeking Change
6:59 am
Mon January 16, 2012

Teaching Michigan prisoners the art of meditation

missmillions flickr

You might remember the "Three Things" series we aired in 2010… we asked people from all walks of life what we could all do to help the state.  We wanted to air some positive stories in a time when many in the state were facing economic hardship. In 2011, the series morphed into “What’s Working.”  We highlighted various initiatives and projects that were trying to have a positive effect on the state...

Well, for 2012, we’re going to talk with people who are standing apart from the crowd, being and making the kind of change they want to see in the state.  Throughout the year you’ll hear from people making waves and going against the grain.  We’ll ask them why they’re working so hard on their projects, and try to see things from their perspective. This morning we speak with Reverend Sokuzan Robert Brown. He teaches meditation in Michigan prisons.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

Offbeat
11:06 am
Thu January 12, 2012

Forget your conspiracy theories - chaos theory rules the newsroom

A random newsroom is pictured here to protect the chaotic innocents.
Alan Cleaver Flickr

It happens. Sometimes my newsroom misses a story, or we don’t staff a press conference. Every once in a while it’s because we didn’t know about it, but more often than not it’s because we have a small group of reporters to cover the state of Michigan, and we can get spread pretty thin.

Every news director or assignment editor has to pick and choose between coverage opportunities. While the occasional slow news days exist, on most days there are more stories than we can cover and choices are made.

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Offbeat
11:38 am
Wed January 11, 2012

What flavor of ice cream best represents Michigan's outdoors?

Go to this page to suggest an ice cream flavor.
screen shot

The Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company want to create a new ice cream flavor... one that captures the spirit of the Michigan outdoors.

Here's more from the Hudsonville Creamery:

The Department of Natural Resources and Pure Michigan are partnering with Hudsonville Ice Cream to create a unique flavor that best represents all that Michigan State Parks and the great outdoors have to offer.

And it has to be appetizing, so "black fly" and "pine tar" are likely not good options.

You can suggest flavors on their page, or suggest them below.

I believe "Moosetracks," and "Bear Claw" are already taken.

Michigan Supreme Court
1:01 am
Wed January 11, 2012

Michigan Supreme Court to weigh into 911 lawsuit

(LegalJuice.com)

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments today over  whether a wrongful death lawsuit can proceed against a 911 operator.    

In 2006, a 5-year-old boy in Detroit called 911 seeking help for his mother who was unconscious. The first 911 operator who received the boy’s call didn’t believe him and told the boy to stop ‘playing on the phone’.    The operator told the boy she would send a police officer to the house, but she did not.    

A few hours later a second 911 operator accused the boy of playing a prank. The second 911 operator did send a police officer to the home. When the officer arrived, he discovered the boy’s mother dead on the floor.

The family sued claiming wrongful death and emotional distress.   

The 911 operators contended they are protected by laws which give 'immunity' to local governments. But lower state courts disagreed. The Court of Appeals found the 911 operators engaged in "extreme and and outrageous conduct" and so were not entitled to dismissal of the lawsuit.   

Earlier this week, a settlement was approved between one of the 911 operators and the family. An attorney described the settlement as ‘nominal’.

Offbeat
3:56 pm
Tue January 10, 2012

Asian buyers want muskrat furs, Michigan trappers cashing in

user gerrybuckel Flickr

As Asian economies continue to expand, so do the tastes of Asian consumers, and as Maria Amante with the Grand Rapids Press reports, a steady increase in the overseas popularity of coats made from muskrat fur has meant Michigan trappers have been fetching higher prices for their catches.

Amante writes:

Asian countries are buying raw material for fur garments from Michigan trappers, and muskrats — one of the most popular furs with foreign buyers — are among the most abundant fur-bearing animals in the state.

“The Chinese can’t get enough of them,” said Kevin Syperda, owner of Sy’s Fur Shed, a fur buyer in Pierson. “We call (muskrat) the poor man’s mink.”

Syperda says muskrats defy economics: They are in high supply and their demand is high, yet the price for them is going up for the third consecutive year.

Amante explains that "muskrat pelts fetch as much as $10, depending on quality," and that "trappers, on average, catch between 50 and 100 each season."

For the less-squeamish, the story also includes a slideshow and video of the process of skinning and drying a muskrat pelt.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Seeking Change
9:23 am
Mon January 9, 2012

Changing America's 'two-party' system

Immortal Poet Flickr

Michigan Radio begins a new program on Morning Edition today. During the new series, Seeking Change, we'll explore the different ways that people are trying to help along change in their communities. This year’s presidential campaign is already taking up hours of air-time. 

Voters are seeing continuous TV ads and the candidates have begun disseminating their messages and campaign promises all over the place. But, Americans Elect wants to change that... at least the length of the campaign “season.” Americans Elect is a non-partisan group that is sick of the two-party system. Supporters would like to create a party by and for the people.

Brian Betts, an Americans Elect delegate, speaks with Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley for the first edition of Seeking Change.

Week in Review
8:00 am
Sat January 7, 2012

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

In this Saturday's Week in Review, Michigan Radio's Rina Miller speaks with Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about the latest national unemployment numbers and what they mean for the 2012 presidential campaign, what to expect from the upcoming North American International Auto Show, and the Michigan ACLU's suit against the state's new ban on health benefits for some public employees' domestic partners.

Offbeat
11:17 am
Thu January 5, 2012

Will.I.Am announces new car company on Tonight Show

The new car the pop star Will.I.Am says he will begin building in East Los Angeles. The car is based on Chrysler parts.
rap-up.com

The front man for the pop music group the Black Eyed Peas, William James Adams, Jr., more commonly known as Will.I.Am, announced that he will start a car company in East Los Angeles, the neighborhood he grew up in.

"I invested my money in building my own vehicle, because I want to bring jobs to the ghetto that I come from, so why not invest like I invested in making a demo to start the Black Eyed Peas," said Adams.

He's not building a car from the ground up - more like modifying a car with existing Chrysler parts.

Here he is announcing the new venture, IAMAUTO, on the Tonight Show (apologies if you have to suffer through a commercial):

Jalopnik, the Gawker website of the automotive world, didn't take the announcement too well.

Here's what Matt Hardigree wrote in his post "Will.I.Am Launches Crappy Car Company":

I didn't watch Leno last night, so all of this is coming via one online report attached to this picture. I'd like to think it's a hoax but it's so bad it seems like it could credibly be a BEP byproduct.

The vehicle will be built using "OEM parts from Chrysler" with a Beats by Dr. Dre audio system. Given he drives a Chrysler 300 in his new video it's likely this is the basis for the car. Lord help us if it's a Chrysler 200.

Will.I.Am wants Leno to test drive the car when it comes out.

Courts
10:13 am
Thu January 5, 2012

Woman sues over wagon accident in Washtenaw County

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - An employee of a Michigan market who was paralyzed from the waist down after being run over by a horse-drawn wagon during a hayride has filed a lawsuit.

AnnArbor.com reports 23-year-old Mary Armbruster of Ann Arbor sued Tuesday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court seeking more than $25,000 from Jenny's Dexter Market in Webster Township.

Armbruster claims the market gave her faulty equipment and didn't fix it when she complained.

Jennifer Lambers, who owns the market, declined to comment to Ann Arbor.com. A telephone listing for the market was busy when called Thursday morning by The Associated Press.

The market is a popular weekend destination in Washtenaw County near Dexter, about 40 miles west of Detroit.

Energy
5:04 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Planned power outage leaves thousands without light, heat in Detroit

Households and businesses in one section of Detroit lost power for a few hours Wednesday morning.

That’s because DTE Energy was performing what it calls “routine maintenance” on some underground power lines.

Mid-morning, generators were still humming at Holbrook Auto Repair in  Highland Park. Manager Jeff Worthy bought them this week, when he found out DTE planned the temporary power outage.

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Offbeat
4:28 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

Train derails in Kalamazoo, injuries and spills avoided

According to a report by Simon A. Thalmann with the Kalamazoo Gazette, a freight train derailed this morning in Kalamazoo when it encountered a damaged section of track, but Grand Elk Railroad officials say all rail cars remained upright and nothing was spilled as a result of the accident.

Thalmann reports:

"It gets cold and the rail gets brittle," a Grand Elk official said of the section of rail that broke. "The circumstances were right."

A section of rail about 60 feet long broke, with one rail protruding upward and the other snapped and lying in snow.

The train was carrying liquid clay to Graphic Packaging when it derailed at around 10 a.m., according to railroad officials.

Photos of the derailment by the Gazette's Fritz Klug can be found here.

Offbeat
2:08 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Detroit dogs get a big gift to start the new year

Detroit Dog Rescue via Facebook

The Detroit Dog Rescue, an organization devoted to Detroit’s estimated 50,000 stray dogs got a huge boost to start the New Year.

Detroit Dog Rescue received more than $1.5 million from an anonymous donor.

Early this year, Detroit officials quashed an effort to make a TV documentary about the city’s stray dog population.

But out of that effort, the Detroit Dog Rescue was born. The group rescues abandoned dogs from the streets, then works to place them in permanent homes.

Read more
Offbeat
7:18 pm
Mon December 26, 2011

Scone bandits eat Christmas present

When Rhonda Pillote’s brother-in-law received a call that his Christmas gift was incorrectly delivered across the street, he did not rush over.

Two days later he arrived to pick up the package and it was gone.

Pillote, an Ann Arbor resident, sent him  a box of scones, honey and coffee from Zingerman’s.

She says he told her the neighbor ushered him into the kitchen, and announced “Funny thing…we ate it!”

Offbeat
1:01 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Many Michiganders are betting on a 'green' Christmas this year

Feeling lucky?
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

 Shopping malls won’t be the only retailers doing brisk business this weekend.  

The Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries have a combined jackpot of about $300 million.   

Andi Brancato is the Michigan Lottery’s spokeswoman.   She says big jackpots usually draw in people who don’t normally buy lottery tickets.   And Brancato says that’s good news to Michigan’s eleven thousand lottery retailers. 

Offbeat
4:29 pm
Sun December 18, 2011

Tiger cub exhibit called off at West Michigan mall

Flickr/Tambako the Jaguar

A newspaper reports a tiger cub exhibit has closed at a Grand Rapids mall after public complaints and a planned protest. The Grand Rapids Press reported Friday that mall officials canceled the touring display that allows shoppers to play with and be photographed with the cubs for a price.

Sarah Hale tells the newspaper she had planned a protest for Saturday against the exhibit but called it off.

Read more
Offbeat
11:01 am
Wed December 14, 2011

A Yarn Giver (not a Yarn Bomber), strikes in Ann Arbor (SLIDESHOW)

Yarn bombers have been "bombing" all across the country.

They knit their creations around trees, parking meters, light poles, and statues.

In Cincinnati, an entire city bus was "yarn-bombed" (see the slideshow above for a picture of that "bombing").

But along South Ashley Street in Ann Arbor recently, yarn has been put to a different kind of use.

A "yarn giver" has been leaving items for people to discover - or perhaps there are multiple "yarn givers."

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson recently spotted several parking signs draped with scarves.

The note attached to each scarf read "If you are cold take this."

When we came back to take a picture, one scarf was left.

And more than scarves are being left. Last month, my wife found a hat on a fence post along S. Ashley St.

Thinking someone lost it, she took a closer look to discover a note that read "FREE! Handmade wool and alpaca hat for YOU!" (photo in the slideshow).

The discovery totally lifted her spirit, and reminded her of the goodness in people.

Small gestures, either from "yarn-givers" or "layaway-payers," can be especially helpful in a world dominated by news of recession, conflict, and controversy.

Offbeat
2:52 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Wisconsin and Michigan use mitten flap to launch donation drive

"The Wisconsin Mitten" - some say it is a little misshapen. The mitten states are turning attention over their "flap" toward charity.
travelwisconsin.com

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism started using a mitten image to represent the shape of its state.

Michiganders took umbrage. In their mind, there is only one true "Mitten State."

Now, tourism officials in both states are working to convert the light-hearted flap over mittens into a donation drive.

More from the Associated Press:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Tourism officials in Wisconsin and Michigan are trying to parlay their recent dust-up over mittens into a donation drive.

The two states' tourism departments got into a good-natured battle last week over whose state has the better claim to looking like a mitten. Now the states are trying to capitalize on the publicity with the Great Lakes Mitten Campaign, an effort to collect mittens for charities.

Wisconsin officials are urging people to drop off mittens at state travel centers around the state and participating chambers of commerce through Jan. 15. The mittens then will be donated to local charities.

Michigan officials, meanwhile, are asking people to donate mittens directly to their favorite charities.

Offbeat
2:58 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Strangers pay off layaway bills at Grand Rapids area Kmart store

The layaway bills included plenty of Christmas presents, including kids toys and clothing.
jimmiehomeschoolmom's Creative Commons

Strangers have paid off more than 30 layaway bills at a Kmart near Grand Rapids in the last week.

Dan Veenstra has been working there for more than 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it.  “In the past we’ve had people come in that want to pay on somebody’s layaway - it’s usually a friend or neighbor or a family member. But it’s never been strangers like this,” Veenstra said.

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What's Working
6:00 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Help for four-legged family members

Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, Mich. offers pet food and supplies to families who are having financial difficulties. The pet food pantry helps families keep their pets and reduces the number of animals in need of new homes.

As part of our What’s Working series, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley speaks with Debra Carmody, executive director of Cascades Humane Society, about the pet food pantry program. 

Sixty-two percent of US households have at least one pet. Yearly pet care costs can range from $500 to $800—an expense that might be out of reach for families that are forced to downsize. “When you see people coming to our agency and they have to relinquish their pets, it’s heartbreaking,” Carmody says. 

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Offbeat
2:35 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Out of tune: a roundup of 9 campaign song gaffes

Kid Rock in his "Born Free" video. Republican Presidential hopeful has adopted the song as his campaign ballad.
screen grab from YouTube video

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is sticking to his Michigan roots, at least in his choice of campaign song.

Romney has chosen "Born Free" by Detroit-area rocker Kid Rock to serve as the theme music for his bid for the Republican nomination.

While a post on Kid Rock's website seems to give at least tacit approval to Romney's use of the song, things don't always go so smoothly for candidates when choosing their soundtracks.

Michigan Radio has put together a list of controversies, disputes, and gaffes related to campaign songs:

  1. In what might be deemed a classic of campaign song missteps, Bruce Springsteen was none too happy when Ronald Reagan praised "Born in the U.S.A" during his 1984 campaign, as told by CNN.
  2. Earlier this year, Rolling Stone reported that Republican primary contender Michelle Bachmann drew the ire of Tom Petty for using his song "American Girl" to tout her patriotism and her position as the only woman in the Republican field.
  3. Apparently, Bachmann didn't learn anything from President George W. Bush who was scolded by Petty back in 2000 for using "I Won't Back Down" without permission.
  4. A post from mentalfloss.com reports that in 2008, John McCain had a heap of campaign song troubles, receiving cease and desist requests from John Mellencamp, Boston, Foo Fighters, and Jackson Browne in response to his use of their songs.
  5. McCain's running-mate Sarah Palin also took heat for using "Barracuda" by Heart as her intro music at the Republican National Convention. As Rolling Stone reports, a press release from the band said the song was written as "a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women" and that the band found "irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."
  6. In a more creative, but no less artist-angering effort, Bob Dole rewrote the lyrics to the 1960's Sam & Dave hit "Soul Man,"  to create the eponymous "Dole Man," before being threatened by the song's rights-holders (again from mentalfloss.com)
  7. Not to be accused of partisanship, however, Sam Moore of the above mentioned duo took issue with Barack Obama's use of the group's song "Hold On, I'm Comin.'" As Mother Jones reports, Moore was nonplussed by the politicization of a song about "gettin girls."
  8. While not technically a campaign song per se, Herman Cain became the punch-line of more than a few jokes (many of them made by the Daily Show's John Stewart) for quoting the theme song of the Pokemon movie during his speeches.
  9. If the above stories show that misuse of music by political candidates is an increasingly-common occurrence, then at least, as the Washington Post reports, Charlie Christ had the decency to record a video apology to David Byrne of the Talking Heads for his unauthorized use of the song "Road to Nowhere."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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