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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. 

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.

Reporters getting a closer look at the Chevy Bolt concept.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Update, March 15, 2017:

Published reports indicate President Donald Trump will announce a re-opening of the mid-term review process for fuel economy regulations for 2022-2025, rather than an automatic relaxing of the fuel economy regulations that were established by the Obama administration during its completed mid-term review process.

Fiat Chrysler will bus some of its Michigan hourly workers to the Trump event in Willow Run today.  The workers will receive their regular pay. 

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President Donald Trump is scheduled to appear at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti on Wednesday.  The center is a federally-designed testing site for autonomous cars.

While there, Trump could announce a new policy to relax fuel economy regulations on the auto industry. 

Automakers have asked to be let off the hook for fuel economy regulations that take effect between 2022 and 2025, and it appears the President plans to do just that. 

State Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston plans to ditch an idea to use grades to describe the performance of individual schools in Michigan, under the state's draft plan to comply with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

That's after many groups protested the grades idea.
 

Chris Wigent is with the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

He says grades don't give much detail, and they can be misleading. But he likes the idea of presenting information about schools on what he calls a "dashboard."

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

Michigan has a new law directing the Michigan Department of Transportation to increase speed limits to 75 miles an hour on up to 600 miles of rural highways in the state.

Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says there's decades of research proving that more people will die as a result.

For every five miles' increase in the speed limit on interstates and highways, says Rader, fatal crashes increase 8%.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

A mistake in a newspaper report brought frightened medical marijuana users to the Livingston County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night.

The report wrongly said sheriffs are planning to use a state grant for unannounced spot checks at patients' homes.

Because of the stigma of being a medical marijuana user, many people who spoke at the meeting would identify themselves only by first name, like Denise from Hartland.

She says spot checks of patients violate the Fourth Amendment, "our right to not being searched and seized in our own homes."

creative commons

A new report from advocacy group The Education Trust shows a large gap in six-year university graduation rates between African-American students and white students.

The Education Trust is a national non-profit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, particularly for students of color and low-income students.

The Michigan Union covered in blooming ivy
Wikimedia Commons

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is suing the University of Michigan for taking too long to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Attorney Patrick Wright says his group wanted all emails sent by UM President Mark Schlissel that mentioned the word "Trump."

That's after Schissell publicly disparaged Donald Trump's campaign after he was elected, saying it was based on hate. 

Wright says the University eventually provided four emails, claiming exceptions to several others - but it took 100 days.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nick Lyon, head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, has written a letter to McLaren Hospital in Flint, demanding it provide more information on efforts to respond to hospital-acquired Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of pneumonia.

A major outbreak of Legionnaires' was linked to McLaren Hospital in 2014 and 2015, and two more hospital-acquired cases occurred at the hospital in late 2016.

Lisa Pugliano Mrowiec

Port Huron residents will continue to see big flares burning across the river in Sarnia, Ontario this week.

Imperial Oil spokesman John Harding says last Thursday, a mechanical failure forced the shutdown of several processing units.  

The company used flares to burn off the released gas and chemicals.

Harding says, "You need to continue to flare during the restart process as well," so flaring will continue for at least the next few days.

Harding says there was – and is – no emergency.

user Werwin15 / Creative Commons

More than 70% of the tenants at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit left after the city ordered them out a week ago due to building violations.

The converted auto factory is – or was – home to a major artists community in Detroit.

Eric Novak is the project manager for the Russell Industrial Center.  

He says they'll try to get people to move back, but it could take a long time because some had to sign new one-year leases elsewhere.

Lisa Pugliano Mrowiac

Thursday's fire at a Sarnia chemical plant left some St. Clair County residents frightened and desperate for information, says St. Clair County Emergency Manager Jeff Friedland.

But it wasn't until two hours after the fire broke out that he was given any information about the fire.

In the meantime, people in Port Huron, some of whom were 400 yards away from the fire, were wildly speculating on social media and wondering if they should evacuate.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Ypsilanti Mayor Amanda Edmonds is denouncing recent arrests made by immigration agents in the city.

She says residents witnessed at least two people being arrested by ICE this week. Mlive reports four people were detained.

Monique Owens

Detroit police officer Monique Owens has great memories of Eastpointe from when she was a kid growing up in Detroit. 

“We used to go Eastland Mall when I was little,” she reminisces, “and we used to go to the Hostess Bakery right here in Eastpointe, and it was just - it was just a happy city. 

user Werwin15 / Creative Commons

One of the largest hubs for artists in the Midwest may soon be abandoned, at least temporarily, after Detroit's Building Department ordered all tenants in the Russell Industrial Center to immediately vacate the premises, due to building code violations.

Jimi Custer owns a video production company, The Afterhours Network, that operates out of the Center, as well as Channel 313.tv.

He says the notice was a complete surprise.

"I came to my work today and all of a sudden I can't do my business," says Custer.  "Now I've got to figure out where I'm going to relocate."

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Students at Michigan State University can no longer have message whiteboards mounted on their dorm doors, starting this fall. Misuse of the whiteboards has made them more trouble than they're worth.

Kat Cooper is Director of Communications for Residential Services at MSU.  She says too often, students would scrawl offensive comments on the whiteboards. 

"Racist, sexist, anything in that category. Those have happened. There's been issues with them for a long time," says Cooper. "People write things on them that really aren't not part of our value set at MSU."

wikipedia

The faculty union at Eastern Michigan University has filed a grievance against the university's administration over a controversial online degree program. 

Many faculty members are outraged, according to faculty union leaders, that they weren't consulted before the university contracted with an outside group called Academic Partnerships. 

The incomplete Wayne County jail.
Wayne County

Robin Boyle is astonished at the pace of development in metro Detroit -- development that is largely the result of public-private partnerships.

But the professor of urban studies at Wayne State University worries it's all happening too fast.

Take the proposed land swap between businessman Dan Gilbert and Wayne County.  The deal would let Gilbert build a major league soccer stadium on the site of the county's partly-finished jail - and in return Gilbert would build the county a new jail for $300 million. 

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