japan

Stateside
5:08 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Governor Snyder leaves for trade mission to China and Japan

Official portrait

Earlier today, Rick Snyder landed in China for his third trade trip since becoming Michigan's governor.

He has scheduled stops in China and Japan during the week-and-a-half-long mission that starts today, and he's accompanied by at least 15 representatives from Michigan companies.

It's all part of the on-going effort to attract Asian investment in Michigan and strengthen trade relationships.

Snyder isn't guaranteeing that jobs will be created from this trip, but says he feels good that new business will occur as a result of the face-to-face meetings.

The Governor is also turning to tourism, putting an emphasis on selling "Pure Michigan" as a destination to Chinese tourists.

The trip is being paid for by donations to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, not by taxpayers.

Tom Watkins has been instrumental in strengthening ties between Michigan and China, and has traveled to China dozens of times since his first trip in 1989. He joined us today to talk about this trade mission.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
1:50 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Will Michigan be the new travel destination for Asians?

A sign promoting the Pure Michigan campaign.
michigan.org

Gov. Rick Snyder is making his way to Asia on Wednesday, in an attempt to sell China and Japan on all things “Pure Michigan.”

This will be Snyder’s third trip to eastern Asia as governor. This time around, the governor is not only attempting to build business relationships with China and Japan, but also trying to pitch the Great Lakes State as a new American destination for Asian tourists.

Expanding the “Pure Michigan” campaign to international tourists is a relatively new endeavor for the state. Just this February, the state allocated an additional $4 million to the program for the sole purpose of bringing in foreign travelers.

And perhaps with good reason. In 2012, Chinese tourists beat out their American and German counterparts as the world’s top international tourist spenders. In just that year, Chinese sightseers spent $104 billion on global travel.

But will Michigan ever bypass popular U.S. travel destinations, like Times Square or San Francisco?

Read more
Politics & Government
8:36 am
Fri August 30, 2013

In this morning's news: Governor Snyder heads to Asia; Detroit bribery, and IDs for immigrants

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Governor Snyder in China next week

Next week Governor Snyder will travel to Asia on a third economic development mission to the region.  MLive.com reports that he will visit China and Japan to “market the state's export offerings, promote Michigan as a tourist destination, and convince Chinese business leaders that Detroit, despite its bankruptcy filing, is still a good place to invest." Funds for the business trip come from the Michigan Economic Growth Foundation.

Building inspectors charged with bribery

Yesterday Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette charged seven Detroit building inspectors with bribery.  Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports that Schuette says “inspectors took bribes to overlook code violations – in some cases, going to the lengths of falsifying architectural plans.” An investigation led by the Southeast Michigan Public Corruption Task Force and the FBI led to yesterday’s charges.

Washtenaw program may provide ID cards for undocumented immigrants

Washtenaw County is considering a program that would issue identification cards to all its residents, including undocumented immigrants.  The Washtenaw County Board Chairman says that while undocumented immigrants are a large group of people affected by the ID program, they would not be the only ones to benefit.  Yousef Rabhi says “it could apply to immigrants; it could apply to folks that are homeless; it could apply to folks that are transgender and who don't believe that the male/female designation on the current state ID is representative of who they really are.”

Politics & Government
4:59 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Is the TPP a threat to U.S. auto makers?

The Detroit Three auto companies could be threatened if Japan joins the TPP
wikimedia commons

On the surface, it sounds like easing trade restrictions with foreign nations could present new opportunities and more business for American companies like the Detroit Three automakers.

But, is there a deeper danger to American jobs in these overseas trade agreements?

Michigan Democratic Congressman Gary Peters voiced his concerns about a new multi-lateral trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Read more
Auto/Economy
10:28 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Robots for the sick and elderly, Toyota unveils a plan

Toyota officials demonstrated their violin playing robot back in December of 2007. The company plans to sell robots that can help the sick and elderly.
screen grab from YouTube video

Officials from Toyota Motor Corporation say the company will start selling robots that help elderly and sick people. The Associated Press reports the company is "aiming for commercial products sometime after 2013."

From the Associated Press:

Toyota unveiled its ambitions for high-tech health care Tuesday, displaying experimental robots that the auto giant says can lift disabled patients from their hospital beds or help them walk.

The company aims to commercialize products such as its "independent walk assist" device sometime after 2013 – seeking to position itself in an industry with great potential in Japan, one of the world's most rapidly aging nations.

Prices and overseas sales plans are still undecided.

Several years ago, the company demonstrated a violin playing robot:

The 1.5-metre tall Violin-playing Robot, equipped with a total of 17 joints in each of its hands and arms, uses precise control and coordination to achieve human-like agility. It could also be used to assist with domestic duties or nursing and medical care.

Here's a video of Toyota's robot playing Pomp and Circumstance:

News Roundup
9:25 am
Fri September 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Snyder wrapping up in Asia, highlights mining in the U.P. as one business opportunity

Governor Rick Snyder is wrapping up his trip in Asia with a visit to Seoul, South Korea. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports the governor is expected to sign an agreement with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the province will work together to establish trade.

Of his visit to China, Snyder said he was surprised by the positive response he received from businesses. "Many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business," Snyder said. He pointed to mining copper or other deposits in the U.P. as one business opportunity for Chinese companies.

Welfare recipients file class action lawsuit against state

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that places tighter limits on cash assistance benefits to the poor. It puts a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance payments from the state.

For some, that cap starts tomorrow (October 1).

Some recipients facing the cap have filed a class action lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

The lawsuit, filed against Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, said immediate intervention is needed to prevent more than 25,000 parents and children from losing benefits. The welfare recipients from Saginaw, Genesee and Macomb counties asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation Sept. 6 and said the state would offer exemptions to those with disabilities that prevent them from working.

Cost of new cars higher as a result of price fixing? The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division announced that several Japanese executives have plead guilty in a price-fixing scheme: 

Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., a supplier of automotive wire harnesses and related products, headquartered in Tokyo, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $200 million fine for its role in a criminal price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of parts to automobile manufacturers...  Three executives, who are Japanese nationals, have also agreed to plead guilty and to serve prison time in the United States ranging from a year and a day to 18 months. 

DOJ officials say these are the first charges "as a result of its ongoing international cartel investigation of price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry."

Trade Mission
12:12 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Snyder: Tokyo visit welcome chance to show support

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder has left Japan, and is now in China. Beijing is the second stop on his four-city Asian trade mission.

Snyder said the Tokyo visit was a welcome chance to show some support for Japan.

"Because they're still recovering from March 11thin terms of the tsunami and earthquake, and they're a great people, and they really appreciate the outpouring of support from Michigan after that happened," said Snyder.

Michigan already has about 500 Japanese companies doing business in the state.

Snyder said there are even more opportunities to increase trade with Japan. That's in part because some Japanese companies are considering an increase in overseas production after the tsunami.

Snyder goes to Shanghai next, then Seoul, before returning to Michigan on Saturday.

Trade Mission
3:09 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

New Michigan-Japanese partnership to add jobs in Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

On his trade mission to Asia, Governor Snyder praised a business partnership between a Japanese company and the Michigan Molecular Institute (MMI).

The partnership between Japan's ECO Research Institute (ERI) and MMI is expected to bring around 30 new jobs to Midland.

Snyder made his comments at the Japan Midwest U.S. Annual Conference today praising the partnership "as an example of the economic and technological benefits that Michigan and Japan stand to gain through greater cooperation."

The two companies will form a new company called ECO Bio Plastics Midland Inc. The new company will produce bio-plastic pellets made of compound  mixes of plastics and micron-sized dry powder made from shredded paper.

These pellets will be used as packaging materials, food service products, heat insulation applications, and toys.

The Midland Daily News quoted James Plonka, president and CEO of Michigan Molecular Institute:

Plonka noted EBP has chosen a site for the new Midland facility, with the expectation to break ground before November and to begin production next summer.

“Midland is a good location for the demonstration facility for a couple reasons,” Plonka said. “First, because of the paper shredding services provided by the Arnold Center, Midland, is an excellent source of paper feedstock. And secondly, some of the most innovative plastics research in the world occurs in Midland. It’s a natural fit.

The plan calls for the initial paper-plastic composite production facility to produce 10 million pounds per year, with the ability to grow to 100 million pounds per year, Plonka said.

Economy
12:59 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Snyder in Tokyo: Michigan retooled for trade

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has told a Tokyo audience of Midwestern and Japanese business and political leaders that Michigan is "a very different place" than it was when he
took office in January.

A statement released Monday by Snyder's office says the Republican governor told the annual meeting of the Japan Midwest U.S. Association that legislative and policy changes should "open new doors for trade" between Michigan and Japan. Changes cited by Snyder include repealing the Michigan Business Tax and adopting a two-year balanced budget.

Snyder's eight-day, three country trade mission that began Sunday includes stops in Japan, China and South Korea.

The international trade trip is Snyder's first as governor. The former Gateway computer executive and venture capitalist took office Jan. 1.

Auto/Economy
12:14 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Car production in Japan could return to normal earlier than expected

Car production in Japan could return to normal earlier than expected.

From the Associated Press:

A report says Toyota's global car production, disrupted by parts shortages after Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, will likely return to normal two to three months earlier
than expected.

Japan's top business daily Nikkei said Tuesday that Toyota's output will normalize earlier than the end of this year as parts shortages are easing. It didn't cite any sources.Toyota said last month its worldwide production will likely return to normal levels by November or December.

Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto could not confirm the report.

The disasters destroyed many factories in northeastern Japan, causing severe parts shortages for Toyota and other automakers. The supply crisis has cost the company production of 400,000 vehicles in Japan, and 100,000 overseas.

Auto/Economy
3:30 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

Report: Japanese automakers check exports for radiation

The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Crippled nuclear power plants have fueled worries of radiation exposure.
Douglas Sprott Flickr

From the Associated Press:

An auto industry group says Japanese automakers have begun checking the level of radiation on cars to be exported from Japan amid a nuclear leak crisis.

Hirokazu Furukawa, a spokesman for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, said Friday the move was to ease worries among foreign consumers about radiation leaking from a tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant in northern Japan.

The automakers will inspect radiation inside a car and on its tires before shipment.

No radiation has been detected on cars to be exported from Japan, Furukawa said. Automakers are currently checking the level of radiation on cars to be shipped from eight ports.

Furukawa said around 10 cars out every 5,000 are being checked for radiation.

Auto/Economy
3:25 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Toyota announces more production cuts at North American plants

Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, after the earthquake. Toyota announced more production cuts today.
Takashi Nakano vis user tex texin Flickr

Parts shortages from Japan continue as Toyota announces more production cuts - from the Associated Press:

Toyota is extending production cuts at its North American factories through May because of parts shortages from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The company says production will be suspended in North America on Mondays and Fridays from April 26 through June 3. During the same period, plants will run at half capacity on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Toyota also said Tuesday that U.S. production will be suspended the week of May 30 after the Memorial Day holiday. Canadian production will be suspended the week of May 23 in conjunction with Victoria Day.

Plans after June 3 will be announced later. Toyota says no workers will be laid off.

The company last week announced Monday and Friday suspensions from April 15 to 25.

Detroit has the "Big Three," but Japan has the "Big Five" (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, and Mazda).

This info-graphic from the Globe and Mail captures how interconnected the Japanese auto economy is to the rest of the world.

Environment
9:50 am
Tue March 29, 2011

Congress to hear testimony about nuclear power plant safety on Tuesday

Fermi II is one of three nuclear power plants in Michigan
Nuclear Regulatory Agency

Congress will hear testimony on Tuesday morning from experts in nuclear energy to determine what lessons can be learned from the crisis in Japan.

Dave Lochbaum is the director of the Nuclear Power Project, part of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He says the United States needs to be prepared for disaster "not on bright sunny days, but on days when the infrastructure may be damaged or compromised and impede the ability of people to get out of harm’s way."

Lochbaum says U.S. plants are at risk for the same problems that nuclear plants in Japan are facing:

“It’s U.S. reactor technology that was used there, under similar regulations that are here in the United States, so faced with similar challenges, we’d probably experience similar outcomes and I think the United States and Congress more broadly will take steps to better protect Americans from that outcome. ”

There are three nuclear power plants in Michigan

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Auto
7:00 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Plant shutdowns in Japan continue to disrupt U.S. auto industry

Ofunato, Japan: March 15th, 2011
Fox News Insider Flickr

The auto industry disruptions triggered by Japan's earthquake and tsunami are about to get worse, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

In the weeks ahead, car buyers will have difficulty finding the model they want in certain colors, thousands of auto plant workers will likely be told to stay home, and companies such as Toyota, Honda and others will lose billions of dollars in revenue. More than two weeks since the natural disaster, inventories of crucial car supplies - from computer chips to paint pigments – are dwindling fast as Japanese factories that make them struggle to restart.

Because parts and supplies are shipped by slow-moving boats, the real drop-off has yet to be felt by factories in the U.S., Europe and Asia. That will come by the middle of April.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton first reported on how the natural disasters in Japan could disrupt the U.S. auto industry on March 11th.

Read more
On the Radio
4:47 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

In case you missed it...

user cpstorm wikimedia commons

The Lesson of the Cherry Blossom - NPR's Morning Edition

Cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington D.C. They will be at their peak around the end of this month. The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. were first planted in 1912 after the people of Japan gave them to the U.S. as a gift of friendship, according to the National Park Service.

The flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant in Japan. It symbolizes the Buddhist notion of impermanence in life.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer visited with James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art at the Freer Gallery and the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Ulak visits Japan regularly for his work. He was there just days before the disaster struck.

Ulak spoke with Wertheimer about the symbolism of the cherry tree to the Japanese people and about the artwork at the museum. Artwork that depicts the Matsushima region, a place of great beauty and a place that inspires the Japanese people.

Ulak says the devastation of this area would be comparable to the United States losing the Grand Canyon. From NPR.org:

The bay has been long known as one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Its views of blue water, craggy rocks and twisted pine trees have attracted visitors and artists for centuries.

Read more
News Roundup
9:00 am
Tue March 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Winter's not over yet

Much of Michigan is under a winter storm warning as cold air and moisture head our way. The storm, which will bring snow, sleet, ice, and rain, is expected to start tonight around 7 or 8pm. The National Weather Service (NWS) says the winter storm warnings and watches are in effect until Wednesday night:

Significant icing of power lines and tree limbs is possible tonight and Wednesday. Roads will likely become ice covered...making travel dangerous by the Wednesday morning commute.

City leaders react to Governor Snyder's revenue sharing plan

Governor Rick Snyder unveiled his ideas for sharing state revenue with local governments yesterday. As Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta reported, Snyder's plan would "withhold some state aid to local governments unless they make plans to consolidate services and make their finances more open."

Snyder also called for labor negotiation and pension reforms at the local level.

The Detroit Free Press has reaction from some local leaders:

Robert Cannon, supervisor of Clinton Township, said his community has made some of the changes Snyder recommends. But he doesn't like linking revenue sharing to the outcome of bargaining with employee unions...

Royal Oak City Manager Don Johnson said his city has accomplished some of what Gov. Rick Snyder wants to see in trimming the cost of government...

"Some of our groups have been very cooperative, others not so much, but more and more they're coming to terms with economic realities," Johnson said.

Although he agrees with most of Snyder's plan, he said it may be difficult for some to achieve the results the governor wants.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the reduction would be "a serious impediment to our progress," noting that the city has whittled down an accumulated deficit of $330 million to $150 million.

"I recognize the need for shared sacrifice. However the state must step up to provide local governments like Detroit the tools we need to make the fundamental changes necessary," Bing said in a statement.

Automakers feeling ripple effect from Japan disaster

A new report from IHS Global Insight says every major automaker will be affected by the disaster in Japan in the coming month.

From the Detroit News:

"It is not a matter of if, but when," said Michael Robinet, IHS's Director of Automotive Forecast, in an analysis of the impact of the disaster that halted domestic vehicle production and affected the parts supply chain.

The ripple effect is already being felt at plants around the world but Robinet expects the impact to grow in the coming weeks and months because many automakers rely on Japanese-sourced components such as semi-conductors, integrated circuits, sensors and LCD displays.

Many of those parts were in short supply before the disaster.

Offbeat
1:37 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

In case you missed it...

User cccpstorm Flickr

On Wednesday, Fresh Air interviewed Dr. Gregg Bloche about the dangers that rising health care costs pose to patients and to doctor's adherence to the Hippocratic Oath.

From NPR's website:

In most medical schools, students recite the Hippocratic Oath together to mark the start of their professional careers. The soon-to-be physicians swear to uphold the ethical standards of the medical profession and promise to stand for their patients without compromise.

Though the oath has been rewritten over the centuries, the essence of it has remained the same: "In each house I go, I go only for the good of my patients."

But the principles of the oath, says Dr. Gregg Bloche, are under an "unprecedented threat." In The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche details how doctors are under constant pressure to compromise or ration their care in order to please lawmakers, lawyers and insurance companies.

Read more
News Roundup
8:22 am
Fri March 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

President Obama orders review of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

In light of the unfolding crisis at the crippled nuclear reactors in Japan, U.S. officials say they will review the safety of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S.  There are four nuclear reactors operating in Michigan (Fermi 2, Palisades, and D.C. Cook Unit 1 and Unit 2).

From the Associated Press:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the safety of all U.S. nuclear plants following what U.S. officials are calling the dangerous and complicated situation at Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

President Barack Obama took the rare step and called upon the independent commission to conduct the review.

"When we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people," Obama said Thursday.

The nuclear industry agreed a review is a good idea. Anthony Pietrangelo of the Nuclear Energy Institute said they will look at the events that unfolded in Japan and "we will learn from them, we will get that operating experience, we will apply it and try to make our units even safer than they are today."

GM Halts Production at truck plant after parts shortage from Japan

Tremors are being felt in the auto industry after the Japanese earthquake.

From the Associated Press:

A shortage of parts from Japan will force General Motors Co. to halt production at its pickup plant in Shreveport, La., next week, the company said Thursday.

It's the first time a U.S.-based automaker will stop production in North America over parts shortages caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota Motor Co. and Subaru have already slowed North American production to conserve parts that they normally import from that nation.

Reuters reported earlier this week that some automakers in Europe might be affected as well.

Tough night for MSU at NCAA Tourney

The Michigan State men's basketball team lost last night to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament 78-76.

The Spartans pulled close at the end of the game after trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half.

The Lansing State Journal:

"We got off to such a bad start," a red-eyed Izzo said afterward. "And yet I'm so proud of these guys. They've been knocked down so many times this year."

Down two with the ball, MSU senior guard Kalin Lucas was called for traveling with 0.2 of a second left on the clock, erasing a late chance at a halfcourt shot to win it.

After struggling through his worst offensive night in several weeks, Lucas got MSU within three points with a free throw and 42.2 seconds left. Lucas missed the second free throw that would have cut it to two.

The men's basketball teams at the University of Michigan and Oakland University play today.

News Roundup
8:22 am
Thu March 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

U.S. has bleaker outlook on nuclear crisis in Japan

In another sign that U.S. officials differ from their Japanese counterparts on the nuclear crisis unfolding there, U.S. officials have authorized the evacuation of American citizens.

From the Associated Press:

The United States has authorized the first evacuations of Americans out of Japan, taking a tougher stand on the deepening nuclear crisis and warning U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to any part of the country as unpredictable weather and wind conditions risked spreading radioactive contamination.

The AP reports the "authorized departure offers voluntary evacuation to family members and dependents of U.S. personnel in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya and affects some 600 people."

Protests in Lansing

In one of the larger protests at the Michigan Capitol this year, around 3,000 union supporters, school teachers, seniors, students, and others spoke out against bills in the Michigan legislature. The Lansing State Journal reports that 11 people were arrested after a 2 1/2 sit-in in the Capitol. MPRN's Laura Weber described some of the people she saw at the protest this way, "there were big, hulking men in hard hats, business people in suits, and young parents pushing strollers."   One of the more controversial bills, one that gives power to Emergency Financial Managers to end void union contracts, was signed into law yesterday by Governor Snyder. Scott Davis of the Lansing State Journal reported: 

In their biggest show of force yet this year, union members descended on the Capitol in a show of unity to protest several bills moving through the Legislature. It was the latest in a series of union-led protests in recent weeks - and a reflection of the ongoing battle by public worker unions in Wisconsin."It's beautiful," Joe Bowen, a retired automotive worker who traveled to the rally from Saginaw, said of the show of unity. "It sends a message that it's not fair. They are trying to pinch unions."

 

Michigan's Hoop Dreams

The NCAA men's basketball tournament begins today and three teams in Michigan are hoping to advance.

Michigan State University plays UCLA tonight at 9:15 (TBS); the University of Michigan plays Tennessee tomorrow at 12:30 (truTV); and Oakland University plays Texas tomorrow at noon (CBS).

Science/Medicine
12:29 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan pharmacies see uptick in interest in anti-radiation medication

Potassium iodide
(Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Japanese nuclear crisis began, the handful of pharmacies in Michigan that stock anti-radiation medicine are seeing an uptick in demand.   

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