Nissan recalls 1.9M vehicles

DETROIT (AP) — For the fourth time, Nissan is recalling hundreds of thousands of midsize cars in the U.S. and Canada to fix a nagging latch problem that may allow the hood fly open while cars are moving.
The latest recall covers nearly 1.9 million Altimas and includes cars from the 2013 through 2015 model years that were recalled earlier. It’s also been expanded to the 2016 through 2018 model years.
Nissan has said previously that a coating can flake off the secondary hood latch, exposing bare metal. Over time, the metal can rust and cause the secondary latch to stay open. If the main latch isn’t closed and the cars are driven, the secondary latch may not hold the hood down as designed, Nissan said.
Some of the cars were recalled in 2014, with another recall in 2015, both of which involved fixing a lever and adjusting and lubricating the secondary latches. In a 2016 recall, Nissan replaced the latches with new ones.
The company says it has 16 reports of minor crashes and-or injuries due to the problem, all in cars that did not get the replacement latches. There are no reports of crashes or injuries in cars with new latches, Nissan said.

Study: Autonomous vehicles won’t make roads completely safe

DETROIT (AP) — A new study says that while autonomous vehicle technology has great promise to reduce crashes, it may not be able to prevent all mishaps caused by human error.
Auto safety experts say humans cause about 94% of U.S. crashes, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study says computer-controlled robocars will only stop about one-third of them.
The group says that while autonomous vehicles eventually will identify hazards and react faster than humans, and they won’t become distracted or drive drunk, stopping the rest of the crashes will be a lot harder.
“We’re still going to see some issues even if autonomous vehicles might react more quickly than humans do. They’re not going to always be able to react instantaneously,” said Jessica Cicchino, and institute vice president of research and co-author of the study.
The IIHS studied over 5,000 crashes with detailed causes that were collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, separating out those caused by “sensing and perceiving” errors such as driver distraction, impaired visibility or failing to spot hazards until it was too late.
Researchers also separated crashes caused by human “incapacitation” including drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs, those who fell asleep or drivers with medical problems. Self-driving vehicles can prevent those, the study found.
However, the robocars may not be able to prevent the rest, including prediction errors such as misjudging how fast another vehicle is traveling, planning errors including driving too fast for road conditions and execution errors including incorrect evasive maneuvers or other mistakes controlling vehicles.
For example, if a cyclist or another vehicle suddenly veers into the path of an autonomous vehicle, it may not be able to stop fast enough or steer away in time, Cicchino said. “Autonomous vehicles need to not only perceive the world around them perfectly, they need to respond to what’s around them as well,” she said.
Just how many crashes are prevented depends a lot on how autonomous vehicles are programmed, Cicchino said. More crashes would be stopped if the robocars obey all traffic laws including speed limits. But if artificial intelligence allows them to drive and react more like humans, then fewer crashes will be stopped, she said.
“Building self-driving cars that drive as well as people do is a big challenge in itself,” IIHS Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller said in a statement. “But they’d actually need to be better than that to deliver on the promises we’ve all heard.”
Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a group with many self-driving vehicle companies as members, said Thursday that the study incorrectly assumes superior perception and lack of distraction are the only ways autonomous vehicles can drive better than humans.
Autonomous vehicles, for instance, can be programmed to never break traffic laws, which the study blames for 38% of crashes. “The assumption that these behaviors could be altered by passengers in ways that so dramatically reduce safety is inconsistent with what our members tell us about the culture they bring to AV development,” said a statement from the group, which includes Ford, General Motors, Waymo, Lyft, Daimler, Volkswagen and others.
Study numbers show autonomous vehicles would prevent 72% or crashes, the group said, but the vehicles are so complex that the ultimate impact is only a guess.
Yet Missy Cummings, a robotics and human factors professor at Duke University who is familiar with the study, said preventing even one-third of the human-caused crashes is giving technology too much credit. Even vehicles with laser, radar and camera sensors don’t always perform flawlessly in all conditions, she said.

Schools chief warns of K-12 cuts; Whitmer joins marchers

LANSING (AP) — Michigan’s school superintendent said Thursday that K-12 districts are confronting the possibility of staggering spending cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic unless Congress helps fill a nearly $2.4 billion revenue shortfall over this budget year and next.
A divided state Supreme Court, meanwhile, declined to expedite an appeal in the Republican-led Legislature’s lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home restrictions.
SCHOOLS
State Superintendent Michael Rice said the largest reduction in per-student funding under the current finance system came in 2011, at $470. A $1 billion cut to the school aid fund would result in $685 less per pupil, he said.
“Yet the cut could be even greater and substantially greater and much more harmful,” he told reporters.
Districts are facing a July 1 deadline to enact budgets for the coming academic year. The state likely will have to cut their payments without an additional federal relief bill or flexibility to use previously enacted federal aid to fill revenue holes.
“Congress is the only entity that has the capability of substantially sparing our children from very profound cuts,” Rice said.
LAWSUIT
The state high court voted 4-3 to deny lawmakers’ request to bypass the Court of Appeals and hear their suit contesting her use of emergency powers during the pandemic. Whitmer, who effectively won the case in the Court of Claims while the GOP took some comfort from one part of the ruling, had also asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
Justice Richard Bernstein noted that Whitmer earlier this week lifted her stay-home order.
“While recognizing that not all restrictions have been lessened (and acknowledging the possibility of future restrictions being reimplemented), I believe the parties and this Court would benefit most from having the vital constitutional issues of this case fully argued in the Court of Appeals before receiving a final determination from our Court,” he wrote. Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Justices Megan Cavanagh and Elizabeth Clement also agreed to wait.
Three justices, Stephen Markman, David Viviano and Brian Zahra, said the appeals court should be skipped.
WHITMER MARCHES
A mask-wearing Whitmer joined a peaceful march in Highland Park to honor George Floyd, whose death last week at the hands of Minneapolis police has prompted ongoing global protests. She drew criticism from some Republicans for not keeping 6 feet from others after she previously urged conservatives protesting her orders outside the Capitol to do that.
Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said the governor wore a mask even though it is not required outdoors under her latest order. Whitmer did not violate the order, she said, because there is an exception for constitutionally protected expressive activities like peacefully protesting.
In online guidance about the order, however, the governor’s office says people participating in demonstrations must remain 6 feet away from people not in their household. The restriction is not known to have been enforced by police.
Brown said Whitmer attended “to show her support for peaceful demonstrations taking place across America, the need for action and to shine a light on the inequities black Michiganders face every day.”
CASES
The state health department reported 25 additional COVID-19 deaths, including 13 that occurred days or weeks before. The total was 5,595.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases, 318, dropped to the lowest point since March 25.

Michigan Senate: Train police on bias, de-escalation

LANSING (AP) — The Michigan Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would require police to be trained on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques to minimize the use of force, a move made more than a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The legislation would also require, starting in 2022, that officers complete annual continuing education. Michigan is among six states without such a requirement, according to a 2017 report.
“Every parent with a black or brown child in America faces … the constant fear and anxiety that their children will be a victim of the police that we hire to protect and serve. We must change this,” the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, said while choking up.
The measure, which was passed just a week after its introduction in the Republican-led chamber, was sent to the House for further consideration.
It is supported by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who for the first time on Thursday joined a demonstration against police abuses — participating in a “unity march” in Highland Park.
“This is a time for solidarity and for allies to listen, to learn and for every one of us to take action — not just brown and black Michiganders,” she told participants.
“We can’t in one day change someone’s subconscious or their deeply held unconscious biases. But if we can change what goes through an officer’s mind when they encounter one of our community members who doesn’t look like them, we could change the outcome,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang, a Detroit Democrat who was tearful while advocating for the legislation.
The bill would task the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards — a state agency that licenses law enforcement officers — with establishing minimum standards for training in de-escalation techniques, implicit bias, procedural justice and mental health resources available for police. Law enforcement agencies would be required to adopt a written policy saying its officers have an affirmative duty to use de-escalation techniques whenever possible.
Training would include nonlethal methods of applying force, verbal and physical tactics that minimize the need for the use of force, and techniques to recognize people with mental disabilities.
MCOLES disperses court fine revenue to law enforcement agencies for training.
Robert Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said the funding has declined over the years.
Departments do tend to conduct continuing education as their budgets allow, he said.
Police chiefs are “strongly in favor of officer training,” he said. “However, the funding must be provided and the staffing and resources of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards needs to be restored.”

Step-by-step process: Michigan High School Athletic Association issues, updates guidelines in last week for return to high school sports

By STEVE BROWNLEE
Journal Sports Editor
EAST LANSING — The Michigan High School Athletic Association — the governing body for high school sports in the state — has issued and updated guidelines for returning to school sports during the past week.
The MHSAA is made up of more than 1,500 public and private schools in Michigan, including about 750 high schools.
Guidelines were first issued last Friday, then updated Tuesday for high schools, middle schools and junior highs to reintroduce competitive sports that were suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. All winter sports still conducting tournaments, including hockey and boys and girls basketball, had their seasons ended, while spring sports were subsequently suspended. The end of those seasons was made official on April 3.
Because of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Safer-At-Home order that was originally effective through June 12, no school facilities could be used, indoors or outdoors, until then. That included organized on-site athletic activities, both conditioning and competition, unless the order was lifted or it expired.
Her order was amended on Monday, making for more possible activity, including use of outdoor school facilities.
Return-to-activity recommendations to be implemented locally by school district leaders were issued by the MHSAA in conjunction with the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Sports Medicine Advisory Committees.
“We were excited and encouraged by Gov. Whitmer’s announcements Monday,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said in the Tuesday news release. “The opportunity for outside gatherings of up to 100 allowed us to rework a number of guidelines that we had published (last) Friday as part of the MHSAA/NFHS reopening document.
“Our schools have been cautiously eager to take this long-awaited first step. We will continue to provide updates in accordance with the governor’s directives for reopening the state, always prioritizing safety for all involved in school sports programs.”
First, a district must declare its facilities open to students and staff and its 2019-20 school year must have ended based on its last originally scheduled school day.
Outdoor groups of up to 100 are now allowed with social distancing by Whitmer’s new order, but competition still isn’t allowed at this point. Workouts and practices are allowed, though, with the under-100 limit and physical distancing.
Use of restrooms and other indoor facilities has been strongly discouraged except with proper cleaning and physical distancing.
Balls may be used among groups of participants, but participants should clean such common equipment as permitted and continue to social distance and maintain proper hygiene, including washing hands and not touching their faces.
The MHSAA said on Tuesday that the most accurate answer to the question “What step are schools on?” is Step 2 for outdoor activities — thanks to the ability to have gatherings of up to 100 participants — while indoor activities will start at Step 1 if gatherings of only 10 or fewer are allowed. Guidelines will continue to be updated based on directives from Whitmer’s office.
The 12-page “MHSAA/NFHS Guidance to Re-Opening School Sports” also includes plans and strategies from the state of Michigan, federal government, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
The guidelines recommend a three-step process to return to full athletic participation, each step including five major areas — preworkout-contest screening of athletes and coaches for sickness, limitations on participant numbers who are involved in a gathering, proper cleaning of facilities, use of equipment during activity, and best practices for keeping participants safely hydrated.
The plan also places sports into categories based on the risk for transmitting the virus — low, moderate or high — with these steps adjusted to their level of risk.
“The MHSAA and its Representative Council believe restarting school sports is essential to the physical and mental well-being of students, and the guidelines outlined for schools … provide the ‘how’ for schools to return to athletics when they’ve received the go-ahead from state and county health officials,” Uyl said last week.
“We are thankful for our state government, state education and health departments, our medical partners and the NFHS for their guidance … and we will continue to follow and pass on their recommendations as we prepare our schools to bring back this part of student life that’s been sorely missed.”
When the MHSAA recommendations were issued a week ago, only individual, outdoor recreational activities were allowed athletically, including walking, hiking and running, per a Whitmer executive order.
Voluntary virtual — not in-person — communication and instruction from coaches to any number of students is permitted by the MHSAA in all sports throughout the summer.
Guidelines were aimed to provide direction for schools as they continue to limit potential exposure to respiratory droplets, which has shown to be the primary avenue for transferring coronavirus. Specifically, the MHSAA/NFHS plan addresses social distancing, use of cloth and other face coverings, event scheduling and transportation, and the possibility that schools may have to break from or completely discontinue activity, including competition during the fall or winter, because of new outbreaks.
The original document in full is available from the MHSAA website at https://www.mhsaa.com/Portals/0/Documents/AD%20Forms/Guidance%205-29-20.pdf.
Tuesday’s update is available at https://www.mhsaa.com/Portals/0/Documents/AD%20Forms/MHSAA%20Summer%20Guidance%20Update%201.pdf.
The MHSAA said it will provide further updates online available at https://www.mhsaa.com/coronavirus.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

Michigan State University athlete tests positive for coronavirus after father dies

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State says a student-athlete’s father died of COVID-19 and the athlete tested positive but remained asymptomatic.
Athletic director Bill Beekman was part of a video conference Thursday to discuss the school’s plans to have athletes back on campus. When asked if any athlete or athletic department personnel had tested positive in the past three months, Beekman said nobody that he was aware of — but that he might not necessarily have all the information.
Dr. Jeffrey Kovan, the school’s director of sports medicine, was also part of the video conference. He quickly said that one student-athlete had tested positive, his father died, and his mother and sister also tested positive. Kovan said the athlete was asymptomatic and retested negative a few weeks later. His identity nor sport was revealed.
Michigan State athletes can begin returning to campus June 15 in preparation for voluntary workouts. Football, basketball and volleyball players will be the first to undergo testing.

Central Michigan University receives NCAA waiver for cutbacks in sports

MOUNT PLEASANT (AP) — Central Michigan says it has received a waiver from the NCAA regarding the minimum Division I sports sponsorship requirements.
Division I schools are not supposed to have fewer than six sports for male athletes. CMU announced last month it was dropping men’s track and field, citing university-wide budget cuts. That leaves the school with five men’s teams — baseball, basketball, cross country, football and wrestling.
“This waiver has been granted for the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 academic years,” athletic director Michael Alford said in a statement.

Whitmer backs police changes after deaths of Floyd, others

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Wednesday for policy changes to prevent police abuses following the killings of George Floyd and other black people, backing continuing education for officers in Michigan and legislation that would require training on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques.
She also urged law enforcement agencies to implement policies so officers must intervene if they see a colleague doing something inappropriate or illegal.
In a statement, Whitmer said the police slayings of Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia “were a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against black Americans.”
She urged police departments to toughen their training and policies, and said she will partner with the Legislature and law enforcement to enact bills.
Whitmer did not immediately push for changes on the use of force, however.
“We recognize the shortcomings of the systems in place today — systems that have left black, Latino and other communities of color feeling underserved, even threatened by law enforcement,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, who is African American.
Even before the Democratic governor’s announcement, a Republican-led Senate committee planned to hold a hearing on a Democratic-sponsored bill that would, starting in 2022, require officers to complete training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques and mental health screening.
Some Michigan police departments already mandate some form of such training, but Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor said it should be universal.
The panel and full Senate prepared to quickly pass the measure today, just a week after its introduction.
House Democrats on Wednesday unsuccessfully tried amending a coronavirus spending bill to prohibit officers that receive hazard pay from using knee holds and choke holds as restraint practices.
Floyd died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
“This would be but a small first step on the long path towards achieving justice and effectuating change,” said Rep. Abdullah Hammoud of Dearborn.
Since Floyd’s death last week in Minneapolis, there have been several protests across Michigan against police abuses and racial injustice, with some cities instituting curfews to stop property damage and violence and deploying tear gas to disperse crowds.
In Detroit, police chief James Craig allowed protesters to march beyond a curfew during a sixth straight day of demonstrations, calling it “discretionary” after 127 people were arrested Tuesday, mostly for violating the curfew. He said it was a “day of unity, a day of celebration” as prosecutors charged three more officers in Floyd’s death.
“They’re peaceful as everybody can see,” Craig told reporters. “There’s no problems. They want their voices heard, and we support that. We’re making the decision to support them.”
In Grand Rapids, police chief Eric Payne and Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young took knees with protesters. In Lansing, demonstrators lay face down with their hands behind their backs on the street in front of the state Capitol.

Panel OKs $1.2B coronavirus bill; visitation rules relaxed

LANSING (AP) — Michigan lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday that would allocate more than $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding, including $200 million to help small businesses restart as stay-at-home restrictions are loosened.
The state, meanwhile, relaxed rules so people can visit patients in hospitals and accompany them to physicians’ offices as long as they are screened. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rescinded an order that allowed governments to delay responses to public-records requests during the emergency, effective June 11.
BUDGET BILL
The $1.2 billion supplemental budget legislation unanimously cleared the House Appropriations Committee, which added $700 million that was not included in a Senate-passed version. The measure would set aside $500 million in case the unemployment benefits fund drops below a certain balance and allocate $200 million to businesses — $188 million to qualifying small businesses with 500 or fewer workers and $12 million to agriculture processing plants.
Grants would be capped at $1,000 per plant employee and $5,000 per small business.
The federal funding also would be used to give a $3 an hour raise to nursing home employees and home care workers, up to $1,000 in bonus pay for first responders and grants to child care providers to reduce costs. There also is money to provide testing supplies and personal protective equipment for nursing, home health and day care facilities.
The Republican-controlled House held off on voting as discussions continued with the Democratic governor.
VISITATION
State Department and Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued exceptions to allow visitors inside hospitals, outpatient clinics and doctor’s offices. There must be designated entrances, screening for COVID-19 symptoms and mask requirements. People are strongly discouraged from visiting those at risk of severe virus complications, such as older adults and patients with underlying conditions.
Hospitals also must make available onsite and offsite alternatives to in-person visits like video or audio calls.
“Sometimes a visitor can be just the medicine a hospitalized patient needs to help them through their recovery,” Gordon said in a statement.
FOIA
In early April, Whitmer issued an order suspending strict deadlines for complying with Freedom of Information Act requests to account for public employees not working in person. She also let governments defer responses by up to two months if COVID-19 or related response efforts interfere.
On Wednesday, she extended the order by six days and repealed it starting June 11.
CASES
The state reported 17 additional coronavirus-related deaths, for a total of 5,570. There were 304 more cases, raising the total to about 58,000. The seven-day rolling average of new cases was the lowest since late March, when cases were surging and the governor issued stay-at-home and other orders to curb the spread.
ELECTIONS
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, urged Congress to give the state more funding to hold August and November elections during the pandemic. She testified remotely to a House Judiciary subcommittee that while Michigan received $11.2 million for elections from a federal relief bill, it is “not enough to fill the $40 million gap that these new challenges create for our state.”
Benson’s appearance came a day after Whitmer spoke to another House panel.

Ex-UAW president pleads guilty to living high life on dues

By ED WHITE
Associated Press
DETROIT — A former president of the United Auto Workers pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring with others to embezzle dues to pay for golf trips, expensive meals and stays at California villas — the most significant conviction yet in a scandal that has roiled the union.
Gary Jones, who appeared by video in federal court in Detroit, acknowledged that he falsified expenses from 2012 to 2017 when he was a regional UAW director in St. Louis. He was promoted to president in 2018 but quit after 17 months as the federal investigation intensified.
Ten union officials and a late official’s spouse have pleaded guilty since 2017, although not all the crimes were connected. The first wave of convictions, which included some Fiat Chrysler employees, involved money from a Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center in Detroit.
Jones, 63, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in the use of more than $1 million.
“I apologize to my UAW family for the betrayal of their trust and pray they’ll forgive me,” Jones said in court, quoting the Bible as he also apologized to his personal family.
Guidelines call for a sentence of 46 to 57 months in prison. But Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey said the government could ask for a lighter punishment on Oct. 6 if Jones provides “substantial assistance,” a signal that investigators aren’t finished.
The UAW, based in Detroit, has about 400,000 members and is best known for representing workers at Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor.
Jones and other officials set up accounts that were supposed to be used for legitimate union conference expenses in California. Instead, according to the government, they used the money to pay for “private villas, high-end liquor and meal expenses, golfing apparel, golf clubs and green fees.”
The UAW vigorously defended Jones, even criticizing the government when agents searched his Detroit-area home last August. But the support eventually faded.
Jones “and others abused their high-ranking positions and violated the trust of our members. Their actions were selfish, immoral, and against everything we stand for as a union,” Rory Gamble, the current president, said Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said he’s shifting his focus to “reforming the UAW” and wants to meet with Gamble as soon as possible. Separately, he told The Detroit News that he’s talked to the U.S. Justice Department about a lawsuit that could lead to the government taking control of union operations.
Some rank-and-file members have called for the direct election of union leaders as a result of the corruption.

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap