BlackBox Radio

October 24, 2005

Local Headlines 10-24

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 1:53 pm

As expected, the UAW concessions to GM on health care costs are serving as ammunition for other automobile manufacturers to press for similar concessions. David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said that Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Group will demand similar deals on health care from the UAW and will likely get them.

Meanwhile, GM’s spinoff auto-parts company, Delphi, which declared bankruptcy two weeks ago, has asked for further concessions from its union employees while refusing to reduce expensive golden parachutes for executives. According to the Free Press, in addition to a pay cut that will make Delphi wages comparable to those at McDonald’s, Delphi is also proposing ending cost of living increases and claiming the right to close, sell off, or consolidate most of its US plants in the next 3 years.


The Detroit News reports that the FBI will build a new $65 million dollar headquarters in downtown Detroit, tripling its office space when the 11-acre facility opens in 2008. In the 4 years since September 11th, 2001, the FBI headquarters in Detroit has more than tripled the number of agents assigned to counterterrorism, becoming one of the nation’s largest anti-terror units.

Most of the investigative efforts are focused on Metro Detroit’s large Arab-American population. More than 100 agents, analysts and task force officers are assigned to terror-related squads.

In recent weeks, the FBI has interviewed at least 20 Arab-Americans and immigrants in Michigan, questioning them about donations they made to the Missouri-based charity Islamic American Relief Agency. Last year, Treasury Secretary John Snow claimed the group’s international office in Sudan was providing direct financial support to Osama bin Laden and other terrorist groups and froze the charity’s assets. The FBI in Detroit — which covers all of Michigan — is currently working on more than 300 terror investigations.


A recent article in the Ann Arbor News touted Ann Arbor’s acquisition of a prototype hydrogen fuel-cell car manufactured by the Ford Motor company. Ann Arbor is one of 6 cities nationwide chosen to field-test the million dollar vehicles.

In describing the supposed benefits of fuel cell cars, the article said the vehicles will be quote “Quiet, pollution-free and run on the most plentiful element in the universe”, and goes on to say the prototype vehicle could be laying the groundwork for transportation in a time when fossil fuels are depleted.

However, these claims may be premature. In addition to being prohibitively expensive, cars run on hydrogen fuel cells as currently envisioned may end up creating as much pollution as current vehicles and will actually prolong Americans’ dependence on fossil fuels.

At present, renewable sources of hydrogen, such as solar energy and windpower, exist only in a few demonstration experiments that are decades away from commercial use. That means that the hydrogen used in fuel cell cars will be generated through other means. Currently, 95% of hydrogen in this country comes from natural gas.

Most of the interests in hydrogen technology are owned by oil and energy companies. Energy companies have also received the lion’s share of funding for hydrogen research, employing scientists at many universities including, as the News article points out, the University of Michigan.

John Heywood, director of MIT’s Sloan Automotive Lab, says a system that extracts hydrogen from oil and natural gas and stores it in fuel cells would actually be no more energy efficient than America’s present gasoline-based system. “If the hydrogen does not come from renewable sources,” Heywood says, “then it is simply not worth doing, environmentally or economically.”


The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Advocacy Initiative, TAKE FIVE FOR KIDS, recently sent an alert concerning the proposed spending cuts being deliberated in the US House and Senate.

Included is a requirement to potentially cut $10 billion dollars from Medicaid, a move that poses a substantial threat to the health of Michigan’s children. Most of the cuts are to preventive and diagnostic programs, a shortsighted move that may result in larger emergency care costs. The cuts will also require cost-sharing, or copays, for services and prescription drugs. Even nominal copays can be unaffordable for a low-income family, says the group.

29% of Michigan’s children are enrolled in Medicaid. It costs Michigan just over $1,000 dollars per year for each Medicaid-eligible child, compared to almost $5,000 dollars per year per adult. It is estimated that 1 in 13 Michigan children is

The organization is asking concerned citizens to contact their Senators and Congresspeople and encourage them to keep children in mind before making decisions on Medicaid cuts. For more information, contact the Children’s Advocacy Initiative at 734-615-5379.


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