Land O Links

"Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance" -- Will Durant, 20th century American historian.

* The Municipal Employee Retirement System handles pension accounts for more than 700 local governments in Michigan, covering almost 90,000 retirees. Blogger Steve Harry has been looking into changes in the management ranks at MERS. Using the Freedom of Information Act, he obtained the separation agreement for three MERS executives who have left in the last three months under circumstances that aren't exactly clear.

Severance pay for the three – Anne Wagner, Caryn Mateer and Lynda Pittman – totaled about $280,000, Harry advises. Mateer, at MERS expense, also will receive six months of "executive career transition services," Harry writes.

In its most recent financial report, MERS says 176 member units increased their employee contribution rates and another 63 units adopted lower benefits for new hires. Over the last five- and 10-year periods, the MERS investment return has been well below the benchmark 8 percent rate.

MERS' acturial funded ratio was 74.5 percent in 2011. (For point of comparison, MPSERS -- the teacher retirement system that has drawn so much attention in Lansing this year -- had a funded ratio of 71.1 percent at the end of its 2010 fiscal year.)

* In Silicon Valley, an army of tiny start-ups is forming to pose a digital learning challenge to the world of traditional universities:

* Of some interest to Rep. Roy Schmidt: Party-switchers tend to lose support with their voters:

* All of Michigan is a "disaster" area due to drought conditions:

* State governments -- like private employers -- are searching for ways to control health-care costs. One of the major themes now is to find ways to encourage employees to live a healthier lifestyle. One method is to encourage weight loss. An interesting Michigan angle to this is the state's unique law that bans discrimination based on weight. As more effort is made to make people thinner and healthier, will the law come into play?

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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