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Auto/Economy
8:16 am
Wed July 27, 2011

White House says a deal on fuel economy is close

The Obama administration says it's close to a deal to boost fuel economy with automakers
Scott Ableman Flickr

The Obama administration says it's close to a deal with automakers to boost fuel economy.

Officials familiar with talks between the White House and automakers say recent changes to make it easier for light trucks to become more fuel efficient have lowered the proposal to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Last month, the administration floated a 56.2 mile-per-gallon target.

Michigan lawmakers in a letter to the president last week called the higher proposal "overly aggressive." Automakers have said they'd work to get vehicles averaging 42.6 to 46.7 miles per gallon.

An administration official not authorized to speak about the negotiations said feedback from many manufacturers is positive and discussions are wrapping up.

In 2009, automakers agreed to raise fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Veterans
2:47 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

U.S. gives $1.59 million for Michigan vets programs

Money awarded to help homeless veterans.
user anonymonous Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is giving $1.59 million for programs helping homeless Michigan veterans and their families.

Department Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday that two Michigan nonprofit agencies will help about 545 homeless veteran families.

The program is called Supportive Services for Veteran Families, and the nationwide initiative is awarding about $60 million to 85 agencies in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

The government is giving $999,559 to Southwest Counseling Solutions in Detroit and $590,928 to the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in Wyandotte.

Under the program, the agencies will be able to provide a range of services to eligible very low-income veterans and their families. That can include some financial aid for rent, utilities, deposits and moving costs.

Economy
11:00 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Talks fall through to buy 30 Borders stores

A deal to sell the leases and assets of 30 Borders Book stores to Books-a-Million has fallen through.
Ruthanne Reid Flickr

NEW YORK (AP) - Bookstore chain Books-A-Million Inc. says its last-minute talks to buy the leases and assets of 30 Borders bookstores out of bankruptcy have fallen through.

Borders Group Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, received court approval last week to liquidate its 399 stores. The chain said at the time it was talking to Books-A-Million about buying 30 store leases and inventory.

But Books-A-Million said Tuesday those talks were unsuccessful.

A group led by liquidation firms Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group are now holding going-out-of-business stores at all Borders stores.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-A-Million operates 231 stores in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Borders is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Economy
6:24 am
Tue July 26, 2011

State to receive small business funds

State and federal officials are expected to announce that Michigan will be the first place eligible for loans to small businesses investing in clean energy or located in economically distressed areas.

U.S. Small Business Administration head Karen Mills, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Dow Chemical Co. chief Andrew Liveris and others are scheduled to announce the impact investment program in a Tuesday afternoon conference call.

The initiative will work with private institutional investors to help identify and provide money to private equity fund managers who invest in targeted companies. Federal funds also will be offered to small businesses that get a share of the private investments.

The program is part of President Barack Obama's Start-Up American initiative aimed at spurring high-growth entrepreneurship and the creation of more jobs.

Politics
1:58 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

Airport projects halted in Michigan, other states

Contractors at airports in Traverse City, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek have been ordered to stop work by the FAA.
user thienzieyung Flickr

Update 1:58 p.m.

In a press release, the Federal Aviation Administration says they had to order contractors at airports around the country to stop working after Congress failed to pass legislation that reauthorized funding on 'critical airport modernization projects.'

The deadline for the FAA funding extension passed last Friday night.

U.S. Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood is quoted in the press release:

“Construction workers across America will lose their jobs and local communities will be hurt the longer this goes on. Congress needs to pass an FAA bill to prevent further economic damage,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”
 
“Unless Congress acts quickly, more work on projects critical to our nation’s aviation system will come to a halt. Work is stopping on construction and planning projects, NextGen system testing, and airport certification.  The list goes on and on and this is just the beginning,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
 

Here's a list of airports affected by the stop work orders.

The FAA says "nearly 4,000 FAA personnel, many needed to oversee various aspects of these projects, were furloughed on Saturday" and that the work-stoppage could "significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers."

12:21 p.m.

KALAMZOO, Mich. (AP) - Obama administration officials say contractors have been told to stop work on airport modernization projects across the country including the Kalamazoo, Traverse City and Flint areas because Congress has failed to pass legislation necessary for the work to continue.

Officials said Monday that stop-work orders have been issued for dozens of major projects.

The Federal Aviation Administration says they include a $14.4 million tower construction project at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, an $11 million tower construction project in Traverse City and a $1.9 million tower fire remediation project in Flint.

The House and Senate are at a stalemate over air service subsidies for rural communities and a Republican proposal that would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize, among other issues.

Politics
7:11 am
Mon July 25, 2011

MI Congressmen Benishek, Clarke going on road

U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek and Hansen Clarke of Michigan have announced plans to tour together in each other's districts. The joint tours will be focused on ways to promote job creation in northern Michigan and Detroit.

Both are freshmen in Congress.

Benishek is a Republican from Crystal Falls whose district encompasses parts of the northern Lower Peninsula and all of the Upper Peninsula. Clarke is a Democrat from Detroit, and his district includes a portion of his home city and a number of its suburban communities.

Benishek and Clarke's offices say the lawmakers are planning to embark on the first joint tour in the U.P. on July 29. Benishek then will travel with Clarke in Detroit on Aug. 12.

Politics
3:29 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

AP: Federal officials subpoena Flint city records

Officials in Flint have been asked to produce documents and audio and video recordings as part of a federal probe into at least $1.3 million in grant spending by the city.

The Flint Journal is reporting through a Freedom of Information Act request that it has learned federal officials have subpoenaed the records from four city departments.

Documents, check stubs and e-mails from the past two years are being sought. Federal authorities also conducted a May 25 raid at Flint City Hall.

Many of the records requested pertain to city economic development workers and personnel files of two administrators. The newspaper says both administrators cited the investigation and declined to comment.

A federal grand jury was convened July 6.

Mayor Dayne Walling says the city is cooperating in the probe.

Politics
6:35 am
Fri July 22, 2011

New law requires earlier DNA tests for inmates

Michigan prison inmates will have to submit to DNA testing soon after they're locked up rather than waiting until just before they're released under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The state began collecting inmates' DNA samples in 1994, but inmates currently aren't required to provide a sample until they're released on parole, placed in a halfway house or discharged after serving their full sentences.

Supporters say the new law Snyder signed Thursday will help police solve cold cases sooner by giving them the ability to match inmates' DNA to unsolved crimes while they're still in prison.

Prison inmates now will have to give a DNA sample within three months of incarceration.

Auto/Economy
3:20 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

U.S. government ends Chrysler investment; Fiat takes over

The U.S. government is no longer invested in Chrysler.
Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Treasury Department says it has ended its investment in Chrysler LLC after Italian automaker Fiat SpA purchased the U.S. government's remaining holdings in the auto company.

Fiat paid $560 million to the Treasury Department for the government's 98,000 shares. Fiat has run the company since it emerged from bankruptcy protection in June 2009.

Treasury provided a total of $12.5 billion to Chrysler and its financing arm after the recession hampered auto sales and sent Chrysler and General Motors to the brink of collapse. The funds came from the government's $700 billion bank bailout fund.

Since then, $11.2 billion of the assistance has been repaid, Treasury says. Chrysler repaid $5.1 billion in loans from the government in May. Treasury said it likely won't recover the remaining $1.3 billion.

Auto/Economy
12:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

UAW chief to push for bigger profit-sharing checks

In a 2007 photo from left, Bob King (current UAW President) is with Ron Gettelfinger, (former UAW President), Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, and Alan Mulally, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company.
Ford Motor Company

DETROIT (AP) - The head of the United Auto Workers union says if his members agree to profit-sharing instead of pay raises from Detroit's automakers, the companies will have to write bigger checks than they do now.

UAW workers at General Motors got $4,300 profit-sharing checks this year, while Ford paid out $5,000 and Chrysler paid $750.

President Bob King has told The Associated Press that profit-sharing or other flexible methods of compensation will be discussed when the union formally begins contract talks with the Big Three next week.

Yet King, who has preached cooperation with the companies over confrontation, said that while he wants workers to be fairly compensated, he also wants deals that keep down the companies' fixed costs so they are competitive with foreign-based automakers.

Investigative
3:15 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Club promises inquiry into fatal boat race mishap

The sponsor of a boat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island says it will investigate the capsizing of a sailing vessel that caused the deaths of two crew members during a storm in northern Lake Michigan.

Race chairman Greg Freeman said Tuesday that the Chicago Yacht Club commodore will establish a review board. Speaking online with reporters, he said the club wants to understand what happened and look for ways to improve safety guidelines.

The 35-foot boat WingNuts from Saginaw overturned during fierce gusts around midnight Sunday about 13 miles off Charlevoix.

Fifty-one-year-old skipper Mark Morley and 40-year-old crew member Suzanne Bickel died. A rival boat rescued the other six crew members.

Freeman says the storm arose after the race was well under way, so postponing it wasn't an option.

Environment
1:25 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Smoke from Canadian fires seen across parts of UP

Smoke from Canadian fires is covering parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
mainfr4me Flickr

Police say a layer of smoke covering parts of Michigan's central and western Upper Peninsula is from forest fires burning in Ontario, Canada.

Michigan State Police say Tuesday that people in the area have been calling in reports to public safety officials with concerns about the smoke.

Planes flying for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been checking for smoke, and pilots report it's blowing across Lake Superior.

Police say there are no reports of fires in the Upper Peninsula.

Economy
12:47 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP analysis: Economic stress rises in Midwest

WASHINGTON (AP) - Counties in the Midwest and South that have a high number of autoworkers have seen a jump in economic stress levels, according to an Associated Press monthly analysis.

But Midwestern states also have seen the largest decreases in economic stress since the recession ended. That's primarily because of growth in manufacturing. Ohio has added 7,600 factory jobs in the past year.

The AP's Stress index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signifies more economic stress.

Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11. By that standard, about a quarter of the nation's 3,141 counties were stressed in May, roughly the same as in April.

Great Lakes
11:24 am
Mon July 18, 2011

Coast Guard: 2 boaters found 'unresponsive'

DETROIT (AP) - The Coast Guard says divers have found two people missing since their boat capsized in Lake Michigan during the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race and that the two are "unresponsive."

The Coast Guard did not indicate in its news release whether the two boaters were alive or dead.

Authorities say a Charlevoix County dive team recovered the two boaters about eight hours after the reports the boat had flipped.

The boaters' names have not been released.

The other six people aboard the sailboat WingNuts were rescued. The boat capsized early Monday near the Fox Islands, west of Charlevoix during the Chicago Yacht Club race.

Politics
5:32 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Longtime Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee retiring

Rep. Dale Kildee, (D) MI
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

UPDATE:

A number of Michigan politicians are responding to the news of Rep. Dale Kildee's retirement.

Here's the response from Mayor Dayne Walling of Flint:

"Congressman Kildee is an exemplary public servant with a distinguished record of accomplishments that is unmatched in Flint's history."

"Congressman Kildee has been a leader in education, human rights, and social justice. Our community has benefitted time and time again from his wisdom, dedication and hard work."

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Weather
12:51 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Power restoration nearly done after Monday storms

Around 218,000 customers lost power in Monday's storms.
Christoper Sessums Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

Economy
12:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Russian steelmaker gets US loan for Michigan plant

Making steel at the Severstal North America plant in Dearborn.
Severstal North America

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department says it has loaned $730 million to the North American arm of one of Russia's largest steel companies to modernize its Detroit-area plant.

The government and Severstal North America on Wednesday officially announced plans to upgrade and expand facilities in Dearborn that make steel for the auto industry. They say the project will employ around 2,500 construction workers and create 260 factory jobs.

The money comes from a $25 billion low-interest loan program created in 2007 to help car companies retool older factories to build green cars.

Severstal bought the Dearborn factory in 2004.

State Law
7:52 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Snyder signs Michigan film incentive measure

Governor Rick Snyder (MI-R)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation allowing more flexibility for Michigan's movie and film incentive program.

The legislation that Snyder announced signing Tuesday gives the Michigan Film Office the ability to negotiate the size of the credits it offers to movie, television and video game producers.

The incentives offered can be lower than the 42 percent subsidy now provided automatically when a project is approved for credits.

Supporters of the change say the current system may provide more taxpayer support for projects than necessary.

The state's movie and film credit program will be capped at $25 million in the fiscal year that starts in October. The state's current incentive program is not capped and offers some of the most generous credits in the nation.

Election 2012
6:51 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Stabenow has $4M on hand for re-election race

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D)
Studio08Denver Flickr

A campaign finance document U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is filing with the Federal Elections Commission shows the Michigan Democrat has $4 million in the bank for next year's re-election race. The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a copy of Stabenow's July quarterly report. It's due to the FEC by Friday.

The report says Stabenow raised $1.46 million in the period that ran from April 1 to June 30 and has $4.08 million on hand in the run for her third term in the Senate.

Former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy are in the race on the GOP side. A number of high-profile Republicans have decided against challenging Stabenow. They include ex-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

Sports
8:07 pm
Sun July 10, 2011

Americans beat Brazil in dramatic World Cup game

Originally published on Sun July 10, 2011 3:11 pm

An hour after the game, Abby Wambach was still at a loss for words.

Amazing. Riveting. Dramatic.

Take your pick, any one of them will do.

The Americans are into the semifinals after one of the most thrilling games in the history of the World Cup — men's or women's — beating Brazil 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie. Wambach tied it with a magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute, and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians again.

"I'm at a loss, and I literally cannot believe what just happened," Wambach said. "But we've got two games left."

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