Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto industry, business, and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio.   She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly "bitten by the radio bug," and never recovered.  She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.  Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.   Her coverage of Michigan's Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. 

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. 

ICE SWAT agent preparing for a raid
public domain/Wikimedia

Advocates for undocumented immigrants say a Supreme Court decision hurts millions of families in the U.S.

In a tie vote, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that blocked the president's executive order on immigration.

President Obama wanted to stop deportations of undocumented parents with legal resident children.  

Attorney Ruby Robinson is with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. Robinson says undocumented residents of the U.S. live with tremendous day-to-day insecurity and fear.

General Motors

A law firm is suing General Motors, claiming the automaker's diesel Cruze sedans cheat on emissions tests, just like Volkswagen's diesels. 

Volkswagen is in big trouble for deliberately installing software that turns off emissions controls during normal driving, and on during fuel economy testing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued Volkswagen over the deceit. The Associated Press reports an announcement of a settlement will be made early next week.

Argonne National Laboratory

Good news for Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler from an influential survey of initial quality in cars.  

Renee Stephens of J.D. Power says overall, domestic car owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days than import car owners.

"Domestics actually overtook the import brands this year for only the second time in the history of the study --  the last time was in 2010," says Stephens.

Another surprise was mainstream brands did better than luxury brands. That hasn't happened in the survey since 2006.

Ingham Co. Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings faces 15 charges related to soliticing prostitutes.
CREDIT STEVE CARMODY / MICHIGAN RADIO

Stuart Dunnings, Ingham County's disgraced prosecutor, has filed an application to begin receiving his pension benefits.

Dunnings will officially step down on July 1, after he was accused of paying prostitutes for sex hundreds of times. 

He faces 15 charges in three separate counties. Preliminary exams in the cases have not yet been scheduled.

Dunnings' pension plan, Municipal Employees Retirement System of Michigan (MERS), says it will not disclose how much he will receive.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw and the crew of tug Joyce L. Van Enkevort cut through the ice as they escort motor vessel Algoway through the southeast bend in the lower St. Clair River near Harsens Island, Feb. 2, 2014.
Wikimedia Commons

The state has denied Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun a permit to build a bridge between Algonac  and Harsens Island.

The island in northern Lake St. Clair is currently only accessible by car ferry or boat.  

Most residents don't want a bridge, says Rhonda Wyscaver.  She's lived on the island for 27 years.

"We want to keep the island as peaceful as we can," says Wyscaver, a bartender at Sans Souci Bar.   "It's growing by leaps and bounds as it is.  But, the way we see it, if you want a city life, live in the city."

Only 17 miles from Lake Michigan's shore, Waukesha, Wis. wants to replace its contaminated drinking water with water from the lake.
flickr user Rachel Kramer / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

All eight of the governors of states in the Great Lakes Compact voted Tuesday to approve Waukesha, Wisconsin's application to divert water from Lake Michigan.

The city of Waukesha is 17 miles from the lake, straddling a county that is within the lake's water basin.

That made the city technically eligible to apply for a diversion under the compact, to replace its own water, which is contaminated with radium.

"What this shows is it is not easy to get a diversion of Great Lakes water," said Marc Smith of the National Wildlife Federation.

map of michigan
Screencap from Google Maps / Google / Google

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin will likely find out Tuesday if it can draw water from the Great Lakes to replace its own contaminated water.

Governors from eight Great Lakes states are expected to vote on the request. Any of the states can veto the diversion. Waukesha is the first community to request a diversion since the adoption of the Great Lakes Compact in 2008.

Environmental groups and some elected officials objected to the diversion, saying it could set a bad precedent.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

John Hoadley says he doesn't want people in Michigan trying  what he's seen people do in YouTube videos: mount a remote-controlled gun on a drone, and fly it.

"When we think about the fact that these drones are now potentially flying over our homes or schools where our kids or neighbors are," says the Democratic state representative from Kalamazoo, "it's  appropriate to have a framework that says, while there are very cool pieces of this new technology, it would be inappropriate to have flying guns in the state of Michigan."

Detroit Public Schools

Wytrice Harris is disheartened.

The mother of twins, sophomores at Detroit's Renaissance High, has been working to improve conditions in the district for two years. She hoped for much more from legislation designed to save and reform the city's nearly-bankrupt school system.

"They're just going to prolong the death of DPS," she says flatly.

The legislation includes $617 million in funding to split the district in two. One district will deal with paying off debt, and the other will handle day-to-day operations. 

City of Inkster sign.
City of Inkster

The city of Inkster has been released a year early from its consent agreement with the state.

Inkster agreed in 2012 to eliminate a $3.5 million deficit.

Over the next four years, the city privatized and reduced many services, slashed health care benefits for city retirees, laid off staff, and increased fees.

Treasury spokesman Jeremy Sampson praised Inkster's city council and its mayor Byron Nolen for working hard to balance the books.

"This is just an example of the emergency manager process and how it can work," says Sampson.

quadricycle aka pedal trolley, North Carolina
James Willamor / flickr/public domain

Many of Ann Arbor's city council members have done an about-face on a proposed ordinance regulating so-called pedal trolleys, or quadricycles.

The multi-seat open-air vehicles are powered by the customers, who pedal through downtown streets, with a hired driver in front steering and braking.

Initially, the council planned to prohibit customers from bringing alcohol on board. 

But Mayor Chris Taylor says he and six other members of the council believe that can be both safe and fun, with little risk of drunken, rowdy disturbances.

The largest recall in automotive history just got bigger.

General Motors and Ford Motor Company this week recalled nearly four million cars with passenger-side Takata airbags.

Takata airbags can inflate with too much force, especially if the cars have been driven in hot, humid areas for a long time. 

GM issued the recall of "certain 2007-2011 vehicles" grudgingly. The automaker believes its designs protect the airbags from heat and moisture. From its statement:  

Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

Two politicians whose districts include Inkster say the state should forgive the $36 million debt of the city's dissolved school district.

State officials dissolved Inkster Public Schools in 2013 after deciding it had no viable plan to get back in the black.   

Representative Julie Plawecki says the students are doing well in neighboring districts, "however, Inkster still has this debt that they will pay on for years to come, and at the end they're left with nothing, not the land, not the schools, nothing."

Airbags have saved thousands of lives since their introdution, but Takata's airbags are potentially deadly when they deploy
Bee Forks / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Automakers have added another 12 million cars to a massive recall involving defective airbags.

Takata-made airbags can inflate with too much force and explode. Shrapnel from the devices has killed 13 people, 10 of those in the United States. More than 100 people have been injured.

The total number recalled over the defect is now about 36 million cars in the U.S. and 70 million globally. 

Twelve of the fatal accidents have occurred in Honda vehicles. One death occurred in a Ford pickup in Georgia in December, 2015.

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

People who want Enbridge Energy's Line 5 shut down plan to make it an issue at next week's policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The oil pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac, near the island.

Enbridge Energy is the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S history, which happened when the company's Line 6B ruptured near Marshall, Michigan in 2010. 

The massive oil spill dismayed a lot of people, including Republican State Sen. Rick Jones. He says Michigan can't risk having a spill in the Great Lakes.

surgical instrument tray
wikimedia / creative commons

Last fall, operating room nurses at Ann Arbor's Veterans Administration hospital began noticing little specks of particulate matter in surgical instrument trays.

The specks meant that surgery had to be rescheduled or canceled, if a speck-free replacement tray was unavailable. 

Initially attributed solely to a water main break, months later, some surgeries are still being canceled due to particulate matter on the trays, despite the hospital taking a number of steps.

Eric Young is acting director of the Ann Arbor VA. 

West Park, Ann Arbor
matth / public domaine

State environmental officials say 35 private wells on or near Rose Drive in Ann Arbor had no detectable level of 1,4 dioxane after testing water samples.

It's a little bit of good news in the ongoing saga of Ann Arbor's dioxane-contaminated groundwater. 

A plume of water contaminated with the dangerous chemical is slowly moving under the city towards the Huron River.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, by executive order, has re-established the state's commission focusing on reducing lead poisoning among children.

The previous commission was disbanded in 2006 because the state legislature did not renew the statute that created it.

The commission will have a statewide focus.

Snyder says the new commission will focus on the elimination, rather than prevention, of lead poisoning. 

He says the commission will present its report by November, 2016.

motorcycle
Pixabay

An annual report by the Governor's Highway Safety Association finds that motorcyclist traffic fatalities rose 10% across the nation between 2014 and 2015, and the increase was substantially greater in Michigan.

Fatal motorcycle accidents rose 23% in Michigan.

Co-author Richard Retting says there could be many factors responsible, including better weather in 2015, along with more vehicles of all kinds on the highways.

But he says Michigan's repeal of its mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 2012 very likely was a factor, too.

2016 GMC Acadia
GM

General Motors says it overstated the fuel economy for three crossovers by 1 to 2 miles per gallon, but says it was a mistake, not an intent to deceive customers. 

The "inadvertent error" means GM overestimated the fuel economy of 170,000 2016 Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave vehicles by about 10%.

GM says the mistake happened when it installed new emissions-related hardware in the cars. New mileage stickers have been issued, and owners are being notified.

Hemingway home
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ernest Hemingway spent his boyhood summers in Michigan, and the last 20 years of his life in Cuba. 

Today, Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, is undergoing a major renovation, overseen by a Michigan construction company known for its historic renovation work.

A string quartet
creative commons

Twenty-nine chamber music ensembles face off this week at the University of Michigan's first M-Prize competition.

Founder Aaron Dworkin says it's a major chamber music competition, both in terms of the number of groups competing and the size of the prize: $100,000.

Dworkin says he hopes to draw attention to how chamber music is evolving. He says it's not just a strings ensemble, or winds.

"You might have euphonium, harp, oboe and spoken word," says Dworkin, "and all acoustic, or are there any parts of that ensemble that engage electronics."

2017 Ford GT
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company received 6,506 applications during its one-month window for people who want to own a 2017 GT supercar. 

But there will only be 500 lucky owners. And it's not first-come, first-serve.

Ford will select who gets one of the cars, giving preference to people who've owned a GT, for example, or those who have a "strategic alliance" with Ford, or – most importantly – people who can generate buzz for the Ford brand.

To boost their chances, quite a few GT hopefuls included videos with their applications. 

Surgery in a Cuban hospital
Michigan State University

Health care is considered a human right in Cuba, and it's free. The country spends far less than the U.S. on health care, yet Cubans have the same life expectancy as Americans.
 
But after students from Michigan State University's medical school were embedded in Cuban clinics and hospitals, they discovered the situation there is ... complicated. 

Let's look at the good aspects of Cuba's system first.

In Cuba, the focus is on primary care, prevention and early treatment

Mercedes Mejia

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton and I were in Havana to cover the connections between Cuba and Michigan and opportunities for the future.

The Michigan Agribusiness Association has been wooing Cuban officials for years now, hoping to sell Michigan-grown produce in a new market.  

wikimedia/creative commons

In 2007, Gordon Food Service of Wyoming, Michigan settled charges of sex discrimination in hiring for entry-level labor jobs at its Grand Rapids and Brighton warehouses.

This year, the company has agreed to pay $1.85 million in back wages and benefits to women denied jobs at those and other warehouses because they couldn't pass a strength test, which the government says was more stringent than the actual  job requirements. In addition, the department says at least one male employee who'd been working at Gordon Foods for over two years failed the test.

Mercedes Mejia

When you think of Cuban exports, you probably think, cigars, sugar, and rum.  But Cuba exports something of much greater value to third-world countries:  doctors.  Cuba has trained 23,000 foreign physicians for free at the Latin American School of Medicine near Havana. 

Dearborn F150 factory
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Ford Motor Company of Dearborn on Thursday reported a record first quarter profit of $2.5 billion, far exceeding analysts' expectations.

General Motors had a good first quarter too, reporting $2 billion in profit, and Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler made $540 million.

All three companies are benefiting from the boom in U.S. sales of SUVs and pickup trucks. 

Gasoline prices remain low, and automakers have made great strides improving fuel economy  for larger vehicles. 

oil field
wikipedia

Eric Kort was looking for methane when he and his team flew a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft over the Bakken formation in May, 2014.

What the University of Michigan climate researcher found was ethane. Lots and lots of ethane.

Kort says the air sample data he collected has solved a mystery. Wwhat caused global ethane emissions to rise between 2009 and 2014, after a significant decline prior to 2009?

Finca Marta organic farm in Cuba
Finca Marta

Michigan agriculture businesses are intrigued by the prospect of doing business in Cuba, after the Obama administration re-established formal ties with the island nation.  

Cuba also sees the U.S. as a potential new market.  

But there are still many obstacles standing in the way of increased agricultural trade.  One of them is the low productivity on the typical Cuban small farm.

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