Category: Breaking News Written by The Grio
Oprah Winfrey aboard her private jet, photo via Oprah's Twitter account @Oprah.
People are buzzing today about Oprah’s “awkward” moment on Twitter. The “Queen of Talk” recently took to social media to rave about the Microsoft Surface, but wound up sending out the message via her iPad.
“Gotta say love that SURFACE! Have bought 12 already for Christmas gifts. #FavoriteThings,” the talk show host tweeted to more than 14million followers earlier this week.
Her message received more than 400 “retweets” and hundreds of “favorites.”
She also tweeted the things that she loved about the Surface to a fan – also while using Twitter for iPad: “@bmartin2011 they’re different. Picture seems #sharper on Surface. #FavoriteThings” and “@bmartin2011 also keyboard easier for me on Surface. #FavoriteThings.”
The irony in all of this is that in 2010, during an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah’s announced that her “number one favorite thing ever” was the iPad.
“I know it’s wrong to be in love with a thing. But from our very first moment together, I knew it had stolen my heart,” she announced, while dancing around an iPad with angel wings that hung from the ceiling.
By the looks of things, Oprah still adores her iPad.
Whether or not her endorsement of the Microsoft Surface will spike sells this holiday season, has yet to be determined.
Last Updated on Friday, 23 November 2012 08:06
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) – There’s just some things you can’t do without. WWJ’s Rob Sanford reports Detroit firehouses are having problems with keeping supplies of toilet paper and other necessities.
Detroit firefighters say they have a shortage of things like soap, hand towels, and even toilet paper at their firehouses. The reason?
The department is moving to a new purchasing and inventory system to become more efficient in determining needs.
Fire Commissioner Donald Austin tells the Free Press, a temporary lag was caused by a change in purchasing in July. But some say the problem existed even before that time.
The problem is so bad in some places the firefighters have taken collections among themselves to buy some supplies.
Last Updated on Friday, 23 November 2012 07:56
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
NOVI (WWJ) – Millions of shoppers are already out doing their holiday shopping, but not everyone has a clear-cut goal in mind.
Seventeen year-old Lexi Brigham of Canton went out before midnight at 12-Oaks Mall in Novi but didn’t buy a single thing.
“We just thought it would be fun to shop at night. I went last year and I thought it was a lot of fun, so we decided to go this year and work on Christmas presents,” said Brigham.
Brigham said she and her friends will take any excuse to shop at night but she didn’t feel so inclined to buy … just do some late night window shopping.
One person who won’t be out there shopping on Black Friday is Cindy Pasky, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions.
“I am so not going to be early shopping, I am going to spend the weekend putting up the Christmas decorations and making the shopping list and making that a little closer to Christmas,” Pasky said.
Find other Black Friday deals here.
Last Updated on Friday, 23 November 2012 07:45
Category: Breaking News Written by Minehaha Forman
The Detroit City Council on Tuesday delayed a vote on a proposal to sell more than 1,500 city-owned parcels to a developer until Dec.11, pending a public hearing.
The controversial proposal involves selling more than 140 acres of what the city considers “surplus property” to Hantz Woodlands, LLC, for approximately $600,000.
Hantz Group President Mike Score plans to develop the property with a long-term goal to plant and maintain hardwood trees and conduct agricultural research consistent with city ordinances and zoning laws. Under the agreement, Hantz Woodlands would pay a reduced property tax rate and would clear up blight on the purchased property.
The vote was moved back to Dec. 11 pending a public hearing from people who “actually live in the affected area,” Council President Charles Pugh said.
At the public hearing portion of Tuesdays meeting, people who voiced concern about the land sale mostly did not live in the community in which the sale is proposed, council members said.
Council members said they stalled the vote on the land sale because they were not sure if the city had properly contacted residents of the area to inform them of the project.
Critics of the proposal call it a “land grab” that will set a precedent for other deep-pocketed investors to buy up large swaths of the city. Detroit food security activists argue that the land purchase is not fair to city residents who have to go through a different process to buy city land, and favors big money over small farmers in the city who are trying to acquire land.
Supporters of the project say that in a time when the city has no resources to maintain the city’ vacant parcels, any investor willing to clean up the city is welcome.
“Maybe we haven’t done everything we could have done to get input from the community,” said Rob Anderson, Director of the Detroit Planning and Development Department. “But what we have is an individual who is willing to clean this community and pay taxes. I don’t see the down side. It could be a countryside setting right here in the city,” he said.
Councilman James Tate said he was not against the proposal as long as some people, who lived in the Northeast portion of the city where the land is located, supported it too.
“If it helps Detroit, it helps me,” Tate said. “But I have to hear from people who live in the footprint of this project. I would like to see more cooperative relationship between the developer and the community.”
Councilman Gary Brown said he fully supported the project, which he said could “mothball” a large part of the city and take it off the growing list of city concerns.
Councilwoman Brenda Jones and Councilman Andre Spivey both said they wanted to wait to vote on the sale until January so that people have time to buy any lots they may be interested in before Hantz buys up the property.
Anderson said the developer wants the council to vote as soon as possible so that they can get head start of ordering hardwoods for the 2013 growing season.
Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, who chairs the council’s planning and economic development committee, said she was satisfied with the terms of the sale after years of negotiations. “This proposal has been around for a very long time. I’m at a place where I’m ready to move forward,” she said.
Ken Cockrel said he supported the land sale. “From all the letters and emails I have been getting there seems to be a class warfare aspect to this. The reality is, if we want to grow as a city, we want to welcome people who have more than a couple dollars in their pocket.”
The area affected by the sale contains an estimated 1,200 houses, half of which are occupied.
Council members discussed the logistics of having a public hearing favoring only those living in the City’s Northeast communities where the sale would take place.
The City’s Assistant Corporation Counsel Dennis Mazurek said organizing a special public hearing before Dec. 11 for the 600-plus households in the footprint of the land sale would be time consuming.
Pugh brushed off the concerns. “We have volunteers, we have interns, we have the recess,” he said. “Busy, shmizy, we’ll work it out.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:50
Category: Breaking News Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
For the last year we’ve heard all kinds of excuses as to why things have not gotten better in the city. We’ve watched how the leaders of Detroit municipal government went to great lengths to explain why things are not working in Detroit government and who is to blame.
In essence, like a political circus we are told the Detroit City Council is to blame for the ineffective functioning of city government.
In other cases we are informed that it is not the council’s fault but, rather, that of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing whose governance style has faced questioning from the legislative arm of the city.
In other instances we’ve seen the malfunctioning of the entire apparatus of Detroit government laid at the feet of department heads and their archaic departments. They are responsible for some of the mishaps in the city, and the downward spiral of city services, we are made to believe.
But the reality is that in every organization there is a chain of command that accompanies delegated authority. The chain of command clearly stipulates who is responsible for what and when it should be done. There is no room to negotiate mediocrity or incompetence. There is no room to explain the after-effects of a disaster or EMS showing up late that leads to a tragic conclusiion. With the resources in place, the job must be done, period.
So in the case of Detroit government, which stands to run out of money by the end of December, it’s time for leaders at city hall to take charge of the financial crisis and address it head-on. It’s time for them to tell their spin doctors and staffers to stop passing the blame around on their behalf and get to work.
The reality is that Detroit is in dire straits. We either believe it or not. We either step up and address the crisis facing the city, which is directly responsible for the half-baked services residents are receiving, or see Detroit gradually contract.
How long can government leaders in Detroit keep blaming each other for inaction instead of taking the lead? Though the blame-game strategy is an old political tool it should not be played at the expense of those who have to wait for hours for bus on Woodward Avenue to get to their jobs.
If roles were reversed and those who have to wait for hours for bus service rode in swanky city-issued cars, and city officials in turn rode the bus for a month, they would realize the urgency of taking care of the business of the city.
Leadership is not afraid. Leadership means stop blaming and making all the excuses about why you’ve not taken a position or come up with an aggressive solution and take a stance because that’s why you are being paid by taxpayers. I can’t recall how many times at functions I’ve been approached by officials or their representatives trying to spin an issue or tell me who is the roadblock to getting things done. In most of these conversations I hardly hear what they’ve proposed or are pushing. I’d rather sit down and listen to a realistic solution that addresses the fiscal cliff Detroit is facing than waste time listening to why everything isn’t working and who is to blame.
Conveniently, we can blame all mayoral administrations and city councils that served this city for the past decades for where Detroit is today, but that wouldn’t serve the city well because inasmuch as it is important to know what took place before now, Detroit’s leaders today must show the way to the future. They can’t be stuck in the past.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced an agreement reached with State Treasurer Andy Dillon that, among other things, requires the city to complete reviews of problems in its property tax and assessor’s offices by Dec. 14, case management reform in the law department to be done by Feb. 28, as well as reforms in the police and fire departments, public lightening, income tax and real estate departments by March 31.
The reform agreement, which calls for improvements in Detroit’s tainted contract bidding process also seeks to reduce fraud in the city’s worker compensation system.
But for a city government that has been slow to make progress it makes you wonder if Detroit can address these structural issues to avoid a fiscal cliff by the deadlines set. For the Treasury Department to release proceeds of a $137 million bond sale — currently held in escrow — the city needs to stay afloat, but it must first meet the various timelines of these proposed reforms.
The Detroit Financial Advisory Board has been informed that the city is on the verge of running out of cash to pay its bills by $3-5 million in mid-December alone.
If the blame game is stopped, Detroit can do this. Hiring a restructuring firm to lay out a five-year outlook for the city’s finances and how it can restore its financial stability is crucial, depending on what kind of firm it is. Due diligence must be exercised to ensure that the competent and respected firm is chosen to get this work done.
The agreement also calls for hiring another firm to create a new operational plan for each city department, which is a good idea only if the recommendations of the firm are implemented. If not, it will be a waste of taxpayer money to hire a firm to carry out recommendations only to sit on the shelves in someone’s office as an exhibit.
There’s no time to waste.
Bankole Thompson is editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published in 2010, follows his recent book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with a foreward by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. Thompson is a political news analyst at WDET-101.9FM (NPR affiliate) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. E-mail
or visit his personal page at www.bankolethompson.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 11:27
Category: Breaking News Written by Michigan Chronicle
Gov. Rick Snyder has filed a grant application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) to collaborate with the federal government on a state partnership exchange (SPE).
The governor said, however, that if additional federal deadlines are extended or the Michigan Legislature takes action authorizing a state-based exchange, then Michigan may exercise its option for the proposed MI Health Marketplace. Snyder has not yet filed a declaration letter formally choosing Michigan’s path.
“Ensuring that Michigan residents have the best available quality health care and customer service has been a priority from day one,” Snyder said. “I have felt strongly that a Michigan-run MI Health Marketplace could further accomplish this goal. That said, we must be realistic about how feasible implementing this could be under the current federal timeframes. At this point we’re moving toward a state partnership exchange. However, we will continue to work with our legislative partners and seek more details and clarity from the federal government to make a final determination on Michigan’s path forward, whether that’s a state partnership exchange or state-based exchange.”
Thursday, Nov. 15, was a key funding deadline. There are also multiple operational deadlines, some of which have changed twice in the past week. The next major milestone is now Dec. 14, 2012, when states must declare if they wish to operate their own exchanges. Under current federal rules, all exchanges must be operational on Oct.1, 2013.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 11:20
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
Calvin Johnson can remember watching the Lions on Thanksgiving every year as a child.
He never believed he’d actually be a part of the annual tradition.
Johnson joined Stoney, Bill and Sara for a special Thanksgiving edition of their annual chat before Thursday’s game against Houston and talked about how humbled he has been to partake in such a memorable tradition.
“I’ve been watching this game since I was a little kid,” Johnson said. “I never thought I would have an opportunity to be one of those guys actually out there on the field, playing in front of the whole world watching.”
While Megatron never thought he’d be in this spot, Lions fans never thought this team would be in their position – 4-6 overall – entering the late November classic.
Johnson shares the frustration with the fans, but despite the playoffs being more of a pipe dream than a realistic goal, the wide out refuses to change how he approaches every single week.
“We’ve just got to come out every day,” Johnson said. “You can’t change the way we’ve been approaching it as far as the workman’s attitude and putting good work in at practice. The thing is that work we put into in practice has to translate to the field. We can’t have lapses.”
But the Lions have had lapses. The most critical of them may have come in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s contest with Green Bay, as Detroit blew a late advantage and fell 21-20.
“Every loss is tough, but especially since it’s so fresh in my mind, it was tough,” Johnson said. “We were right there where we wanted to be at the end of the game. We just didn’t close it out like we needed to.”
It didn’t help that Johnson’s position mate – receiver Titus Young – has become more of a detriment than a help to the squad and has been deactivated for Thursday’s showdown with the 9-1 Texans.
“It was just a culmination of things, with [Sunday’s performance] being one of them,” Johnson said. “A culmination of things from last year and now. Coach had to make a move.”
While No. 81 supported the decision to give Young the week off, he and his fellow wide outs won’t shun their teammate when he returns to Allen Park for practice – whenever that happens.
“The whole team has to come together, but especially with him being in our room,” Johnson said. “Definitely, we take that upon our shoulders to do something there. There’s only so much you can do for somebody, but you definitely don’t leave him out there for the wolves. You definitely take him under your arms and let you know he has a home with us as far as the receivers go no, matter how else everyone else feels.”
If Johnson needs show Young an example of how to act on and off the field, he might be able to use Thursday’s game film. There, Megatron can show his understudy a gifted receiver by the name of Johnson who has become the model for leadership and talent in the league.
The only problem is that this Johnson is wearing the road whites.
Houston wide out Andre Johnson, a 10-year veteran, will look to add to his 60-catch, 870-yard total against the Lions. It wouldn’t surprise Calvin one bit if Andre gives him a spirited battle for top player named Johnson on the field on Thursday.
“I’ve been watching Andre for a long time,” Johnson said. “He’s one of those that, if you’re going to model yourself after, he’s a good guy to model yourself after. It’s just the way he conducts himself on the field, the way he plays and the physical presence he brings to the game.”
That won’t be any extra motivation for Calvin or the Lions, however. That’s because the added emphasis of being in the national spotlight is already there.
“It’s just a great opportunity,” Johnson said. “-I’m looking forward to it every year. Even though we have three games in 12 days, it’s a highlight of the year. It’s easy to get up for.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 10:14
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
DEARBORN (WWJ) - An estimated 1.34 million Michigan residents will travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday period, up seven percent from last year, says AAA Michigan.
They join 43.6 million Americans who will travel nationally, up 0.7 percent, according to AAA’s survey. The holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
“We continue to see an uptick in the number of Michigan residents who travel,” AAA Michigan President Steve Wagner said in a statement. “Our residents will be taking to the roads and skies, and they are savvy travelers. They continue to look for ways to economize their travel budgets so they can be with family and friends.”
Vehicle travel remains the most popular form of Thanksgiving transportation. Eighty-nine percent of Michigan travelers will go by vehicle, down slightly from last year’s ninety percent. Nationally, 90 percent of holiday travelers will go by vehicle, an increase of 0.6 percent. Michigan travelers can expect to pay about $3.56 per gallon for gas, 9.7 cents higher than last year.
In Michigan, nearly eight percent of travelers will go by air, on par with last year, while the remaining nearly three percent will go by train or bus.
The Thanksgiving holiday is unique falling on a Thursday every year, with many off from work the Friday after. The Wednesday before the holiday is expected to be the busiest travel day. The majority of travelers surveyed plan to leave that Wednesday, with 36 percent planning to return the following Sunday. Another 25 percent expect to return on Monday, Nov. 26.
While many travelers stay with family or friends during the holiday, those needing hotel rooms will find rates for lodgings down one percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average $143 per night, compared to $145 last year.
Based on a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this holiday will be 588 miles, down 16.7 percent. Median spending is expected to be $498, down 10 percent from last year.
Thanksgiving holiday travel is typically less expensive than other holiday travel because of the emphasis on the Thanksgiving meal and family gatherings.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Thanksgiving airfares are expected to be lower than last year, with the average lowest round-trip rate of $188 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, an 11 percent drop from last year. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $47, compared to $37 last year.
Roads and airports will be busy – AAA advises travelers to allow extra time to get to their destination. The holiday coincides with Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season, with an estimated 700,000 hunters expected to be on the roads Nov. 15 through Nov. 30.
During last year’s holiday period, there were seven fatal crashes resulting in seven fatalities on Michigan roads. Two of those were not wearing seat belts. None of the crashes involved alcohol.
Holiday motorists should also make sure their vehicles are winter ready and carry a winter emergency kit – including snow brush, shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, first aid kit and gloves, hats and blankets. Motorists should also keep their gas tank near full to prevent fuel line freeze-up during winter weather.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 09:59
Category: News Briefs Written by Amber Bogins
Photo Credit: iStock
LANSING (WWJ) - Michigan State Police say nearly 100 agencies in 20 counties will be conducting extra patrols over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 21 through Nov. 25, to ensure motorists are driving safe and sober this holiday.
Police say patrols will especially be beefed up the night before Thanksgiving, which is unofficially known as the “biggest bar night of the year.”
Last year, 166 people were arrested for alcohol-related offenses between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, according to police, and 51 of those motorists had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or higher.
On an average Wednesday night in November, police say about 74 people are arrested for alcohol-related offenses.
“Thanksgiving is one the busiest travel times of the year and we want to make sure everyone gets to their holiday gatherings safely,” said Michael Prince, Director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “Extra officers will be out strictly enforcing drunk driving laws. Motorists need to designate a sober driver before drinking or take a cab or bus home.”
Agencies in the following counties are participating in the Thanksgiving drunk driving patrols: Berrien, Calhoun, Chippewa, Delta, Genesee, Houghton, Ingham, Jackson, Kent, Macomb, Marquette, Monroe, Oakland, Ogemaw, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wayne.
During last year’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend, seven people were killed on Michigan roadways. According to police, none of those deaths were alcohol-related and two of the victims were not wearing a seat belt.
Macomb County Sheriff Tony Wickersham told WWJ Newsradio 950 the public can help police as well, by keeping an eye out for anyone they believe may be driving under the influence.
“We ask that the public provide some valuable information — the make, model of the car, a license plate and direction of travel,” Wickersham said. “But we do warn the public, you know, don’t engage, don’t try to stop (them); just be a good witness for us and provide us the information.”
A motorist convicted of drunk driving can expect to face serious consequences including:
Up to 93 days in jail
Up to a $500 fine
Up to 360 hours of community service
180 days driving suspension
Six points on a driver’s license
In addition, they will be subject to a $1,000 fee for two consecutive years, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs. Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension.
Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher, including increased fines, longer jail time, a one-year license suspension and the possibility of a restricted driver’s license with the use of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 09:51
Category: Breaking News Written by WWJ
LANSING (WWJ) - Should Michigan residents get a tax credit for a child before it is born?
State lawmakers discussed legislation at a House Tax Policy Committee on Tuesday that would allow a fetus of at least 12-weeks to qualify as a dependent for state income tax purposes.
Current state law allows parents to claim a $3,700 tax deduction for a dependent. WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick says House Bills 5684 and 5685 will extend that tax exemption to expecting parents.
Dan Jarvis, for the Michigan Family Forum, said Michigan would be the first in the nation to implement such a policy.
“It changes the definition of what a dependent is, and again, if there are expenses associated with children who are born, clearly there are expenses associated with the pregnancy as well. So, this is to help offset those expenses,” Jarvis said.
Opponents of the legislation, like the Michigan National Organization for Women, say the bill has a hidden agenda.
“These bills would be a first step toward establishing fetal personhood and banning abortion,” said Mary Pollock, with Michigan NOW. “They want fetal personhood and they want to put a fetus’ rights above a mother’s rights.”
Supporters like Jarvis, however, say that’s not the case.
“There is no abortion agenda here, really. It’s about tax credits for young families who are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
The fetus tax credit, which could ould cost the state $5 million to $10 million a year in revenue, is currently pending in a house committee.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 09:43
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