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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. 

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The law firm that previously sued Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, and Fiat Chrysler for alleged cheating on diesel emissions says General Motors did the same thing.

Hagens Berman has sued GM on behalf of a potential class of approximately 700,000 owners of Chevy and GMC diesel trucks, claiming the automaker cheated to bypass federal standards for allowable emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx.)

The U.S. EPA says the pollutants are linked to asthma, heart disease, smog and global warming, among other ills.

automotiveauto.info

President Trump followed up on a key campaign promise last week and formally notified Congress of his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Some economists say there's more of a downside than an upside to opening up the landmark deal, especially for Michigan.

Charles Ballard is an economist at Michigan State University. "My advice to anybody talking about renegotiating NAFTA, if you have to use a scalpel, use a scalpel.  Please don't use a meat ax," Ballard said.

babeltravel/Flickr

GM is abandoning its 2015 plan to invest a billion dollars in India.  The automaker says it will continue to build cars at its Indian factories, but will export them to other countries.  Its brands will not be on the showroom floors of India.

The about-face makes sense to Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book.  She says the Indian car market is slowing, and Indian consumers rarely buy GM's most profitable vehicles - SUVs and trucks.  Instead, they tend to purchase very small vehicles, and GM makes next to no money selling those.

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Six people who were arrested at a recent Flint town hall meeting will not face state charges.

The Genesee County prosecutor has declined to file charges, but the protesters could still be prosecuted by the city for misdemeanors.

Attorney Greg Gibbs of the ACLU represents five of the six people involved.  

The meeting was held in a church, and the arrests happened after one of them complained that town hall meetings should not be held in churches.

Gibbs says the arrests were wrong.  

Smokestacks at a coal-burning power plant
Michigan Radio

DTE Energy will close its last coal-burning plant by 2040, and reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

The decision comes in spite of the Trump administration's decision to slam the brakes on the Clean Power Plan, which would have allowed the U.S. EPA to regulate carbon emissions for the first time.

While the president and top administration officials continue denying the causal connection between carbon emissions from human activity and climate change, many corporations, including utilities like DTE, have accepted it as fact.

Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

Governor Snyder got one really good grade, two really bad grades, and a handful of middling grades on his environmental report card from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters this year.

The non-partisan group has Republicans and Democrats on its board.

The report card gives Snyder some credit for taking steps to ameliorate the Flint water crisis, but says the government-caused debacle remains a shameful failing of leadership on his watch. Snyder got an "F" in the new-this-year category of Flint water crisis.

Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Sterling Heights that sought to avoid the city paying part of the estimated $70 million tab for repairing a massive sinkhole in Macomb County.

Sterling Heights is one of ten cities in the sinkhole's drainage district.

Candice Miller is head of the County Public Works Department. She says the lawsuit had stopped a crucial bond sale in its tracks. Now the sale can happen.

Eastern Michigan University
F. Delventhal / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Contract talks between Eastern Michigan University and its part-time faculty are already heating up. That's even though the current contract doesn't end until August 31.

Daric Thorne is President of the EMU Federation of Teachers union. He says there's been progress on some issues.

But he says Eastern will not drop its proposal to cut wages for newly hired part-time faculty by 25%. Thorne says even at the current wage, many instructors can't make a living teaching solely at EMU.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

President Donald Trump's proposed budget calls for cutting money for cleaning up Superfund sites by a third. 

But the EPA's new head, Scott Pruitt, has told employees that he's going to make Superfund cleanups a priority.

Activists fighting for the cleanup of a Superfund site along the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan hope Pruitt will get some more money so he can keep the promise.  It's one of the most polluted Superfund sites in the state.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Republican State Senator John Proos says Governor Rick Snyder's proposed budget has some misguided priorities.

He says the budget allocates $100 more  per K-12 student for 2018 - and $1,480 more per prison inmate. 

Proos claims the extra prison money is essentially for overhead - covering the cost of empty beds as the inmate population shrinks.   Michigan's prison population is projected to shrink from approximately 42,333 in 2016-17 to 40,415 in 2017-2018.

Macomb County

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has agreed to let a move of some of her departments take place -- but only after she was sued by the county. 

Spranger has been butting heads with Macomb County officials and getting into trouble ever since she took office in January.  

The former anti-government activist lost access to her county-owned computer for weeks, after she was caught letting friends, who were not county employees, use it. 

Tinker A.F. base

A civil rights group says it's unconstitutional for the Michigan Secretary of State to suspend the drivers licenses of people who are too poor to pay their fines. 

Screen grab taken from Karen Spranger's Facebook page

Macomb County's new Clerk is a political neophyte who has stumbled into controversy after controversy since she took office five months ago. 

A map showing cities sending a bus to People's Climate March.
Michigan Climate Action Network

Several hundred people from Michigan got on buses today to ride all night to Washington, D.C., to attend the 2017 People's Climate March.

Andrew Sarpolis with the Sierra Club organized the bus leaving from Detroit. He says many of the buses sold out early.

"Flint filled up almost a month ago," he says. "Our bus filled up a week in advance, and I believe the Ann Arbor bus as well, so all across the board, we're really seeing a lot of interest in going to this march."

This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

A group hopes to get a ballot question before voters that would ban Enbridge from transporting oil through its Line 5 pipelines, which run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Attorney Jeffrey Hank is with the group, Keep Our Lakes Great.

Hank says while there are other efforts underway, including studies assessing the risks of the pipeline and alternatives to it, "we can't dawdle. After Flint and all these other lessons, we've seen we can't just sit around. So if the state doesn't do something, we're going to put the question before voters."

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Two Michigan Senators plan to introduce bills to criminalize the practice of genital mutilation of minor girls under state law.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime under federal law.  The U.S. Justice Department this week brought the first-ever charges under the law against two Detroit-area doctors and a third person.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44,  Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, are charged with performing FGM on minor girls out of Fakrhuddin Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Michigan.

Tracy Samilton

Despite heavy storms Thursday night, about 150 people showed up for a town hall meeting in Flint, after  city leaders announced that Flint will continue to get its drinking water from Detroit - instead of from a new pipeline called the KWA.

Some people at the town hall told the mayor and other officials they don't trust them to do the right thing.

After being warned, several people were arrested for shouting, booing, and using foul and abusive language.

Others lined up at the microphones to ask for more information about how the decision was reached.
 

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

"Michigan is going to control its own energy future."

That's Michigan Agency for Energy Executive Director Valerie Brader, describing the benefits of the state's new energy law, which goes into effect tomorrow.

The law removes the cap on how much utilities can use energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet the state's energy needs, says Brader.

She says energy efficiency projects have already saved the state $4 billion since 2008, and there's the potential for even more, especially if energy efficiency is the cheapest way to meet demand for power. 

The Onion

Fake news has become ubiquitous, and it's more sophisticated and thus harder to spot, say communications experts at the University of Michigan.

In response, they'll offer a free online course on Friday, "Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts" on the edX website, which universities use to offer free classes to the public.

Brian Weeks teaches communication studies.  He says it's good news that Google and Facebook are launching new tools to help people try to determine if something is true.  But he thinks the best strategy is citizen education.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has no current plan to close its Region 5 branch office in Chicago, and calls a Chicago Sun-Times newspaper story reporting the possibility an "unsubstantiated rumor." 

But despite saying the story "has no merit," there's clearly a reason for the rumor.

An EPA official says the agency may merge two of its branch offices, but hasn't decided if it will, let alone which ones. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit's Board of Police Commissioners has passed a resolution asking U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to continue using consent decrees to control police abuses. 

The U.S. Justice Department uses consent decrees to eliminate patterns of abusive practices by police.

But Sessions says consent decrees can reduce morale among officers, and make them less effective at reducing crime. Sessions has asked for a review of all current consent decrees over police departments. 

Marijuana
USFWS

Bills to legalize recreational marijuana for adults were introduced in the Canadian Parliament Thursday. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says no matter what Canada does, it's not going to change anything at the Michigan border.

The agency says its officers are highly trained to detect the illegal importation of narcotics. So anyone hoping to buy marijuana in Windsor, Sarnia, or Sault Ste. Marie and return to the U.S. with it could face fines and arrest. 

Michigan Attorney General's office

A judge in the criminal sex abuse case against former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar has issued a new order to prohibit attorneys and witnesses from speaking publicly about the case.

The judge says it's necessary to prevent a "carnival atmosphere" and an unfair trial for Nassar.

Nassar is accused of sexually abusing girls he was treating.

Nassar also faces civil lawsuits filed by  more than 80 other women who say he sexually abused them.

Attorneys for those women say the gag order also applies to them, and is unconstitutional.

MGoBlue screen shot

The man who led the University of Michigan's hockey program for 33 years is retiring.

77-year-old Red Berenson says he was getting questions on the recruiting trail about how long he'd remain head coach – and it seemed the right time to "get out of the way."

He says he'll play a distant role as an advisor when it comes time to choose his replacement.

Detroit Police Department pledges cooperation with UM Innocence Clinic.
maxpixel

The Detroit Police Department will cooperate with the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, helping find evidence for the clinic  to investigate possible cases of wrongful conviction.

The agreement was the result of a meeting between Police Chief James Craig and Innocence Clinic staff. 

Craig asked for the meeting after reading about one of the clinic's cases in the newspaper.  That particular case may involve evidence that was falsified by police.

Most of us don't think about how much electricity costs at different times of the day. But the state's two largest utilities are planning to change that.

When it's really, really hot and humid out, what do lots of people do when they get home? They turn on, or turn up, the air conditioning.

There are big spikes in electricity demand on the hottest summer days, between 2:00 in the afternoon to 7:00 in the evening.

pixanay

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, remains the law of the land for now.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

The Michigan Agri-Business Association, a trade group representing agricultural interests, is launching a campaign to educate farmers about best practices to keep chemical fertilizers and manure from flowing into streams and rivers that lead into Lake Erie.

The fertilizers and manure contain nutrients that encourage the growth of toxic cyanobacteria. 

needle
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A jury in Tennessee has found the owner of a Massachusetts lab that sold contaminated steroids not guilty of second degree murder.  

But the jury did find Barry Cadden guilty on multiple racketeering and mail fraud counts.  

Hundreds of people around the country were sickened when their doctors injected them with steroids produced by Cadden's compounding pharmacy.  The steroid medicine was tainted with a fungus. 

A hunter with a rifle.
m01229 / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal judge says ET Rover Pipeline can immediately seize land from 58 private property owners in Lenawee, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties.

The company said delay would add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of building the new natural gas pipeline.

One of the properties affected by the order is Post 46 Hunting and Fishing Club, which owns 90 acres of wooded land in Pinckney.

Board member Brad Coy says workers have already started to prepare a path for the pipeline.

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