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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. 

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The woman's husband is among the more than 100 Iraqi nationals living in Michigan who were arrested by Immigrations and Customs agents in June. 

Friday, she sat in the back row of federal district judge Mark Goldsmith's courtroom, listening as the government argued her husband and the others they detained should face immediate deportation, and the ACLU argued that amounts to a death sentence for many -- and is against both U.S. and international law.

She withheld her name, for fear of retaliation in her husband's case, but agreed to tell his story.

flickr

Michigan's tourism industry has a lot of trouble finding seasonal workers.

That's especially true for all the bustling hotels, fudge shops, and other summer-only businesses in northern Michigan.

Monday's announcement by the federal government that it will add more H-2B visas for temporary summer workers could help, at least, a little.

Sasha Kravchenko and Jessica Fry, MSU scientists
Michigan State University

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says proposed cuts to National Institutes of Health grants would be devastating.

He says the U of M could lose $92 million if the cuts go through.

The Trump administration is proposing to strictly cap the amount allowed for overhead, including facilities and administration costs.

A deployed airbag.
Bee Forks / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal judge has chosen a new "special master" to oversee Takata restitution payments. 

That's after the first proposed special master, Robert Mueller, was appointed to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  

Harvard University professor Eric Green will be in charge of disbursing nearly $1 billion in payments to people and companies harmed by Takata's defective airbags. From the court notice:

public domain pictures

It may be audacious, given the current climate in Washington, but U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., has introduced a bill to expand Medicare.

Levin says Medicare should cover vision, dental and hearing problems, which affect many seniors. He says many people don't even realize these conditions are not covered for the elderly, who are the most likely to need treatment for them.

Levin says it's important to improve and expand health insurance in the U.S., not limit it.

Solar panels on a roof
wikimedia commons

Solar roof customers are more than paying their share of maintaining the electric grid, according to a new study commissioned for the Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI).

Michigan's new energy law charges the Michigan Public Service Commission with devising a new rate to compensate people with solar roofs when their extra electricity goes onto the grid. 

A red Dodge RAM pickup
Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler is being sued for an alleged defect in the emissions systems of some trucks that can result in a 25% drop in fuel economy, according to a lawsuit filed by the firm Hagens Berman.

The lawsuit says Fiat Chrysler sold hundreds of thousands of 2013 to 2017 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks with faulty emissions systems. 

Owners who brought their trucks in for a repair of the systems found that the fix resulted in dramatically lower fuel economy.  

Michigan Radio

A new study from Harvard University concludes that there is no "safe" level of air pollution.

Researcher Qian Di and colleagues find that particulate matter and ozone kills thousands of people every year, even at levels below the federal standard.  

James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council says the message for the state is clear: DTE Energy and Consumers Energy should not delay shutting down their remaining coal-burning plants.

wikipedia/creative commons

Small liquor stores are urging the Michigan Liquor Control Commission not to repeal what's known as the "half-mile rule."

The rule has been in place for 40 years.  It keeps new liquor stores from opening within a half mile of existing liquor stores.

Rishi Makkar is a founding member of United Small Business Owners, as well as a liquor store owner in Grand Rapids.

He say the margin of profit on liquor sales is very low, under 15%, and out of that, stores must pay taxes, credit card charges, and other fees.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

President Trump's voter fraud commission has requested voter registration data from all 50 states, and many Secretaries of State are refusing, in full or in part.

But the commission will apparently get the information that is public from Michigan.

woman smoking a joint
miss.libertine / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan voters could soon be deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana if a petition drive to get the question on the 2018 ballot succeeds. 

A new study released by the Governor's Highway Safety Association suggests the state should learn from places recreational pot is already legal.

Lesson number one: don't wait until it's legal to prepare for impacts on impaired driving laws.

medical marijuana billboard that says "high ann arbor"
Emma Winnowiecki / Michigan Radio

State Senator Rick Jones says billboards advertising medical marijuana are sending a harmful message to kids and adults.

"All over the capital city of Lansing as you drive around, you see giant billboards that advertise 'High Michigan," says Jones.  "And they're talking about getting high on medical marijuana.  It would be the same as if you had billboards that said 'get high on opioids' that you take for pain medication."

A Michigan State Police file photo.
Michigan State Police

The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards has released its report with recommendations to improve trust in law enforcement in Michigan.

The report states recruits, and police officers, should have more one-on-one interactions with people of different backgrounds - and they should receive more training on mental health issues, de-escalating conflicts, and being aware of unconscious bias.

Macomb Daily

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger faces a new lawsuit, after being sued earlier this year by two former employees who say their firing was in retaliation for blowing the whistle on her unethical behavior.

This time Spranger is being sued for actions she took before taking the oath of office.

Diane Zontini says ten days after the election in November, she caught an associate of Spranger secretly videotaping her as Zontini was conducting private business at the Clerk's office.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie in late July of this year.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan has a draft plan ready for public comment on how it will help keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie.

All Great Lakes states will come up with their own plan.  Those plans will become part of an EPA-led strategy to fight harmful cyanobacteria, which thrives on the high loads of phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie.

Jim Johnson is Director of the Environmental Stewardship Division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

line of chevy volts
Courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is adding to its fleet of automated cars. The company hopes to maintain what it says is a big advantage in a crucial technology of the future.  

GM put 50 self-driving Bolt EVs on public roads late last year.  At GM's Orion Township plant, CEO Mary Barra showed off some of the 130 next-generation self-driving Bolts that will soon be added to the fleet.

a child sitting at a desk hunched over his schoolwork
Taylor International Academy

Taylor International Academy in Southfield closed abruptly last week, 12 days before the end of the school year, after the school board, the principal and other administrators quit.

But even though the school has been struggling financially, that doesn't mean it's completely broke.

Central Michigan University, which chartered the school, will be getting state school aid payments through August for the school.

Tracy Samilton

For most Michigan kids, the school year is over next week. 

But for the 300-some kids at Taylor International Academy in Southfield, it ended twelve days early, after the charter's management company suddenly pulled its staff, including the principal.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station right on Lake Huron in Ontario.
user Cszmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

Thirty-two members of Congress – including Debbie Dingell – have sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to get involved in efforts to stop a nuclear waste storage site.

A Canadian company has proposed a site about a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario.

The Chevrolet Bolt, a long-range electric car
GM

Less than eight months after General Motors made its initial 100% renewable energy commitment, the Detroit automaker's CEO, Mary Barra, says the timeline will be sped up.

"That's a stake that we put in the ground and now we plan to move that back," Barra said at a press conference held prior to GM's annual shareholders meeting.

A spokesman for GM confirmed the plan, but says there is "no new timetable to announce at this point."

DTE Biomass

Most people know DTE Energy as a gas and electric utility that operates in southeast Michigan. 

But the company also has a subsidiary with projects throughout the country that convert landfill gas to renewable energy. 

DTE Biomass has now added two landfill gas-to-energy projects in Texas to its portfolio.

Kevin Dobson, Vice President of DTE Biomass, says landfills produce greenhouse gases from the decomposition of organic waste.  About half is methane.

Upward Bound alum Amy Lehigh, and parent of alum Jackie Allard.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Many programs are on the chopping block in President Trump's proposed budget.

That includes the Upward Bound program, which helps rural low-income kids who are the first in their families to go to college.

Upward Bound is for students in 9th-12th grades, offering field trips along with academic instruction in subjects like math, literature and foreign languages.  Students learn how to study in college, how to take good notes, and what to expect once they get on campus.

wikimedia

Chuck Rizzo, the former CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services, a garbage hauling company, has been indicted along with others on multiple charges after he allegedly used his business to foster a criminal enterprise. 

Rizzo is accused of bribing officials to get hauling contracts, as well as stealing money from his company, which was majority-owned at the time by a private equity firm. 

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
flickr user frankileon / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the state legislature to spend money from an upcoming lawsuit settlement on a public health campaign on opioid addiction. 

Opioids include illegal drugs like heroin as well as prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

Michigan is getting about $860,000 as its share of a national lawsuit settlement with Johnson and Johnson over a botched recall. 

Emilio Labrador / Flickr

New car sales have reached a plateau, according to Michelle Krebs of Autotrader. 

Krebs says May's sales could be flat or just slightly higher compared to last year.  That follows several months of sales being down slightly.

She says one reason is the cost of everything, including a new car, is going up, but incomes aren't.  The average price for a new car is now $30,000. 

"The price of shelter, of health care, of education have gone up even more," says Krebs, "and yet household income has stagnated."

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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.  

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.

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