Category: Breaking News Written by Jenée Desmond-Harris , The Root
In recent years we've heard plenty about the most obvious selling point of "Obamacare" -- its extension of health insurance coverage to 30 million people.
But Slate's Matthew Yglesias says a much less noticed provision of the law -- the federal rule requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus starting in 2013 -- is already motivating chains to make strategic business decisions to develop healthier menus that could have a real impact on what we eat. Here's how:
That corporate decision-making is the key to whether the new rule drives meaningful gains in public health. If chains continue to emphasize maximum fat at minimum cost, eating habits probably won't change much. But if the labeling regulations really emphasize the dangers of high-fat foods and the benefits of fruits and vegetables, it could encourage healthier eating.
... Many people, myself included, enjoy cooking as a hobby. And it's common for mass production to coexist indefinitely alongside artisanal methods or hobbies. Neither knitting nor custom-built furniture has vanished from the landscape, but home production of these items isn't economically significant. Living standards improve because mass producers get better at making things, not because people turn backward to inefficient small-scale methods.
Eating is no different. If the worst of fast food is replaced by anything, it will be better fast food. Companies are out there trying to make it happen, and so far they're succeeding in niche markets. Policies forcing more and more obvious disclosure of nutritional information should help the process along by at least creating a situation where firms that succeed in designing more healthful options have a way to credibly turn that into a business advantage.
It very well might not work. But diet and nutrition are arguably more important drivers of health than health care per se, and almost all of us eat more often than we see the doctor. So if a changing regulatory environment does encourage shifts in business models, this relatively undebated element of the new health care law could end up being one of the most significant.
Last Updated on Friday, 21 December 2012 09:28
Category: Breaking News Written by CNN
(CNN) -- Across the nation Friday morning, church bells will toll. Flags will fly at half-staff. Many websites will go silent. And office workers and homemakers, students and nursing home residents, Americans in at least 29 states will stop whatever they're doing to remember the lives snatched when a gunman burst into a Connecticut elementary school exactly a week ago and rained hell.
Alaska, Massachusetts and South Carolina are among states that have declared a moment of silence for 9:30 a.m., marking the hour one week ago that the gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 20 students, six adults then himself dead in Newtown.
Adam Lanza had killed his mother before arriving at the school.
A little over an hour later, one group that has kept mum through all the calls for gun control will break its silence: the National Rifle Association.
The NRA news conference with executive director Wayne LaPierre will begin at 10:45 a.m.
The gun rights organization had initially deactivated its Facebook page, stopped tweeting on its Twitter account and had been issuing a "no comment" to any media outlet, including CNN, seeking a response.
But late Tuesday, the group broke that silence with a statement:
"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters -- and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. ... The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," the group said. Both its Facebook and Twitter presences became active again.
Despite the relative silence early on from the powerful lobbying group's offices in Fairfax, Virginia, the organization is regrouping in anticipation of a massive legislative push for gun control legislation, a gun policy expert said.
Kristin Goss, an associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and author of "Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America," said that strategy is part of the organization's playbook after an incident such as this one.
After such a terrifying event, when there is a national outcry, the NRA typically lays low, Goss said.
"They're used to seeing this cycle, express condolences and hope the attention will shift to a new issue."
Last Updated on Friday, 21 December 2012 09:20
Category: Breaking News Written by Minehaha Forman
DETROIT—In a press conference Wednesday afternoon Mayor Dave Bing announced ten cost saving and revenue collection measures estimated to save the city $50 million annually.
Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin and Finance Director Cheryl Johnson joined Bing on Wednesday as they rolled out a plan to collect on delinquent debts, sell assets, and slice city payroll.
The “revenue enhancement initiative” calls for amnesty on delinquent taxes and fines paid in full during a 30-day window for each amnesty program. Unpaid balances will be referred to an outside collection agency with penalties.
“There are a lot of people who think we haven’t done anything, that we’re just sitting around twiddling our thumbs but we’ve already collected over $11 million year to date and I think we’re going to reach that dollar amount of $50 million,” Bing said.
Martin said the city would likely save more than the estimated amount.
“These are conservative estimates. We hope that we will do much better than we are projecting in thee charts,” Martin said.
Officials estimated the city would collect nearly than 20 million in delinquent property and income taxes, parking judgments, miscellaneous receivables and other debts through “aggressive collections.”
The City plans to collect another $7.2 million through asset sales.
“We are currently negotiating to sell the Veteran Memorial building,” Martin said. “We are in process of identifying … other property that will be sold to raise additional revenue.”
A recent review of delinquent taxes found politically powerful groups owed the city millions in taxes, including the prominent Illitch family that reportedly owes $1.5 million.
Bing vowed to go after all of the city’s debtors no matter what their background.
“It doesn’t matter about the politics for me. If you owe the money we expect you to pay it or we’ll come after you,” Bing said. “We want to be right and our responsibility from this administration is to make the hard choices and do what’s right for the city of Detroit.”
Another $10 million is expected to be saved though 500 layoffs in the coming year. While Bing said he hoped to be able to spare public safety jobs, no city department of off limits.
“It’s across the board, nobody is exempt at this point,” Bing said.
Martin noted that much of the layoffs will “occur through retirement and other attrition.”
The ten-point revenue plan comes days after State officials implemented a panel to review the city finances. The result of the State’s fiscal review could lead to the appointment of an emergency financial manager to take over city finances under Public Act 72.
Bing said Wednesday’s announcement was not in response to the state finance review.
“I think there’s way too much attention given to what we’re trying to do to stave off a financial manager,” He said “I doubt somebody else could come in and do a better job than we.”
The city savings plan is the first in what could be a series of cost saving and collection measures, according to officials. The city’s financial crisis is nothing new, Bing said. The current debt collection process uses archived data to cash in on long-owed bills, some dating decades back.
“I said from day one that the city is in crisis. It hasn’t changed. What we’ve had to do is go in and build a foundation and that’s not an easy thing to do when you’re going back 15, 20 years,” Bind told reporters on Wednesday. “This is the first phase. We may go five, ten different phases as we continue to peel back the onion.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 12:15
Category: Breaking News Written by Michigan Chronicle
LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today signed several bills that will help spur long-term economic growth in Detroit and enhance the quality of life for residents.
“The reinvention of Michigan will not be complete without a strong Detroit,” Snyder said. “These significant steps will help to energize the community by encouraging job creation and improving neighborhoods. We’re working in partnership to ensure a prosperous future for the city and all of southeast Michigan.”
“Both the Regional Transit and Public Lighting legislation are major initiatives within my Restructuring Plan for transforming Detroit,” said City of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. I am extremely pleased with the votes of approval by the legislative body on these two actions, which will lead to improved services for our citizens. In addition, the Eastern Market Bill will increase economic development in the city and enable non-profits to better serve the community and its needs. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I am encouraged by this major step.”
Senate Bills 909, 911, 912, 967 and 445 establish the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties to efficiently integrate all modes of public transportation under one authority and leverage hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment. Enhanced mobility throughout the region will also help to create a new regional identity and culture.
In addition to creating the regional transit authority, SB 909, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, provides for local control in the Authority’s decision making and finances. Under SB 911, sponsored by state Sen. Bert Johnson, the Authority will be able ask local voters to approve a vehicle registration fee to support transit within the region. SB 912, also sponsored by Johnson, makes technical changes to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act in support of the Authority.
SB 967, sponsored by state Sen. Virgil Smith, authorizes the Michigan Department of Transportation or a local road agency to enter into an agreement with the Authority to dedicate a portion of right of way for public transportation. SB 445, sponsored by state Sen. Rebekah Warren, provides a streamlined mechanism for managing funding between MDOT and the Authority.
“Today we are ushering the region into a new era,” Snyder said. “Metro Detroit, including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, is home to nearly half of Michigan’s population. Connecting people with safe, reliable and efficient transit will be instrumental to our ongoing economic comeback. It will provide opportunities for job providers, working families and our young people.”
SBs 909, 911, 912, 976 and 445 are now Public Acts 387, 388, 389, 390 and 391 of 2012.
Snyder also gave approval to three bills creating a Detroit Lighting Authority. The Authority will help revitalize the tens of thousands of lighting fixtures near major population areas and schools throughout the city that are not operational. The city estimates $160 million is needed to repair or replace the lighting system.
House Bill 5688, sponsored by state Rep. Maureen Stapleton, gives the city the power to create the Authority. Its Board will be composed entirely of Detroit residents, the majority of which are professionals. It will consist of two members appointed by the Detroit City Council, as well as two members appointed by Mayor Dave Bing and one chosen by the council from a list prepared by the Mayor. HB 5705 and SB 970, sponsored by state Rep. John Walsh and state Sen. Bert Johnson, respectively, will allow existing Detroit utility taxes to be used to pay back bonds that will fund repairs, while ensuring income tax revenues can support policing in the city.
“It’s simply unacceptable that much of Detroit’s light fixtures don’t work,” Snyder said. “This is a long-overdue solution that will get those lights turned back on while maintaining local control and protecting taxpayers, which is important.”
HBs 5688 and 5705 and SB 970 are now PAs 392, 393, and 394 of 2012.
House Bill 5926, now PA 395, sponsored by state Rep. Brad Jacobsen, allows nonprofit organizations like Detroit’s Eastern Market the ability to apply for grants and loans under the Community Revitalization Program. The Michigan Strategic Fund works within the program to issue grants and loans to businesses that go toward building renovations, additional machinery and equipment, architectural or engineering surveys and improving the overall quality of existing business sites. In addition, it allows numerous nonprofit organizations to match federal grant dollars to advance their facilities and accessibility.
“This will help Detroit’s Eastern Market and other nonprofits with growth opportunities so they can continue to serve communities in a positive way,” Snyder said.
A measure also signed allows the Detroit Downtown Development Authority to continue receiving funds to support a proposed $650 million investment project by Olympia Entertainment, which is owned by the Mike Ilitch family. The development project will bring a new home to the Detroit Red Wings as well as residential, office and retail space. The project will have an expected total economic impact of $1 billion in the state. House Bill 5463, now PA 396, and sponsored by state Rep. John Walsh, authorizes the continued use of funding by the DDA for the project and does not require additional revenues.
“This is an exciting project that will create thousands of short and long-term jobs and will help further revitalize downtown Detroit,” Snyder said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:42
Category: News Briefs Written by Marie Osborne, WWJ
OAKLAND COUNTY (WWJ) Seniors in South Oakland County who are faced with having to turn over their car keys now have a new option to remain mobile.
Independent Transportation Network, a national nonprofit transportation network, opened operations earlier this year as the first business of its kind. The New York Times called ITN “A nonprofit that reinvisions the accepted ideas of transit for the elderly.”
Executive Director Lori Fidler said for many seniors a car is a lifeline.
“If you give up your car keys, you give up a life, it’s really difficult to even think about doing the most simple things, grocery shopping, getting your hair done, socializing,” Fidler said.
Seniors can get a ride 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a small fee. Blanch Pollack, 84, of Southfield, said the program has given her a new lease on life. It’s meant as a low-costoption, saying 46 percent of customers have an annual income of less than $25,000.
“I don’t want to curdle up and die, I want to keep going like the Energizer bunny,” Pollack said.
Click here to read more
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:48
Category: Breaking News Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) - Violence on a Detroit city bus leaves one man dead.
Investigators say the incident happened near Woodward and John R, when a man stabbed another passenger on a DDOT bus.
Emergency crews tried to get the victim to the hospital, but he died from his injuries in the ambulance.
Police were able to apprehend the suspect, who took off on foot after the stabbing.
The stabbing reportedly happened after the suspect told the victim he was standing too close to him.
Police did not immediately release information about the victim or the suspect.
An investigation is ongoing
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:35
Category: Breaking News Written by Jenée Desmond-Harris , The Root
(The Root) -- On Wednesday President Obama delivered a firm statement about the policy process his administration will pursue in the wake of Friday's Newtown, Conn., school shooting, which he called a "heartbreaking tragedy."
He announced that he would ask for concrete proposals from a variety of sources, including cabinet officials, to address gun violence. He said that he wanted these recommendations by January, and assured that he would then push specific legislation "without delay," urging Congress to vote on it in a timely manner.
"This is not going to be some Washington commission," he said, announcing that Vice President Joe Biden, who wrote the 1994 crime bill that included the assault-weapon ban, would lead the effort.
The president pointed to what he called a "growing consensus" for gun-violence solutions, including banning the sale of military-style assault weapons, and requiring background checks for gun purchases. "It's encouraging that people of all different backgrounds, beliefs and political persuasions have been willing to challenge old assumptions," he said.
The fact that this problem is complex, he added, can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing, listing instances of deaths due to gun violence even more recent than Friday's tragedy, including a 4-year-old who was the victim of a drive-by shooting in Missouri, who he said was removed from life support yesterday.
"This time," he said, "the words need to lead to action."
Answering questions about the fiscal-cliff negotiations with Republicans, the president was equally blunt in addressing what he said was an unwillingness to compromise, in a rare suggestion that his opponents' criticism of his proposals was personal rather than political. "I don't know how much that just has to do with ... it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But at some point they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters," he said.
Tying his comments back to the Newtown tragedy, he added, "If this past week has done anything, it should give us some perspective."
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:28
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) - It’s looking like a white Christmas is pretty much a sure thing in parts of northern Michigan, where a Winter Storm Warning takes effect Thursday morning.
AccuWeather’s Dave Bowers said storm in the southern plains will be cutting up though the western Great Lakes, putting down a mantle of heavy snow from Colorado all the way to northern Michigan.
Bowers said the Upper Peninsula, as well as northern and northwestern parts of lower Michigan, will see easily 6 to 12 inches; some spots could end up with more than a foot of snow.
“They’re gonna get hammered up there. It’ll actually be blizzard conditions for a time because on the back side of that storm the wind is going to be very, very strong,” Bowers said.
That National Weather Service says Thursday afternoon into Friday morning, heavy, wet snow will occur in the greatest amounts will be in the higher terrain from the Huron Mountains to Ishpeming, Negaunee and Gwinn. Winds out of the north could gust up to 40 mph late Thursday afternoon through early Friday morning, mainly near Lake Superior, resulting in areas of blowing snow
The combination of snow and blowing snow will result in very difficult driving conditions. with reduced visibilities and snow-covered roadways in upper Michigan. The Winter Storm Warning will be in effect from 7 a.m. Thursday until 1 p.m. Friday.
Here in metro Detroit, Bower said we will see rain on Thursday which could change to snow Thursday night, leaving a coating of maybe inch. Snow showers and strong winds are in the forecast for Friday and, according to Bowers, there’s about a 50-50 we’ll have a white Christmas this year in Southeast Michigan.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 03:11
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
Southfield (WWJ)- Thousands of students will have an extra long holiday break after school administrators in at least two Michigan counties decided to cancel classes because of talk surrounding the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world.
Five districts in Lapeer County and 20 districts in Genesee County posted announcements Wednesday evening cancelling classes Thursday and Friday.
“Given the recent events in Connecticut, there have been numerous rumors circulating in our district, and in neighboring districts, about potential threats of violence against students. Additionally, rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicted end of the world on Friday have also surfaced,” a letter from Matt Wandrie, Superintendent
of Lapeer Community Schools said.
“These rumors of violence have been thoroughly investigated and determined to be false. There have been no credible threats made against any of our students. However, these rumors have been a serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Therefore, given the significant disruption to the teaching and learning process, I have decided, along with my fellow superintendents of Lapeer County, to cancel school for both Thursday, December 20th, and Friday, December 21st,” the letter said.
All after school extracurricular events, programs and athletic contests and practices are also cancelled.
Wandrie’s letter weconcluded by saying although administrators are reluctant to cancel school because the rumors are unsubstantiated, they felt it was ”the most appropriate decision given the gravity of recent events and our present circumstances.”
In other districts, such as Fraser and Livonia, extra police officers will be patrolling near schools.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 03:04
Category: Breaking News Written by Minehaha Forman
While Mich. Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday rejected legislation that would have allowed concealed pistols in schools, he approved two other gun-related bills.
Snyder signed House Bill 5225 and Senate Bill 984, designed to “streamline” the gun purchasing process and eliminate restrictions on interstate rifle and shotgun transactions to states contiguous to Michigan.
Under HB 5225, sponsored by State Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-Dewitt,
the process of purchasing a handgun is streamlined, allowing a person to obtain a permit to purchase at any law enforcement agency formerly restricted to one’s local police or sheriff’s department.
The bill also extends the time of a gun purchase permit from by 20 days and eliminates the purchase permit requirement for handguns sold through federally licensed firearms dealers.
The second bill, SB 984, allows Michigan residents to buy guns in any state that conforms to the Federal Gun Control Act, not just those states bordering to Michigan.
Snyder said his decision to veto HB 59, the concealed handgun bill,
was due to the bill's failure to let public spaces such as schools, day care centers and hospitals opt out of the new concealed carry provisions.
Under the current version of HB 59, only private institutions can opt out of concealed weapons provisions.
Snyder said he wouldn’t sign the bill until it was altered to address these issues and restrict open carry in such spaces, which currently is legal in Michigan.
"While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security," Snyder said in a statement. "These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so."
The Governor said more thoughtful gun legislation was only a part of addressing the problem if violence in schools.
He called for a “thoughtful review” of efforts to address mental health issues including partnerships between state health agencies aimed to “identify gaps” in mental health services.
"This type of violence often leaves society with more questions than answers," Snyder said of the Sandy Hook massacre that shook the nation last week. "The reasons for such appalling acts usually are numerous and complex.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 13:00
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