Detroit

While most of you are watching fireworks on Monday night, I’ll be on a plane en route from Beijing to Detroit. This is the first time in my life I will be abroad for the Fourth of July and, yes, it feels very strange. But spending the last two weeks overseas has had the same effect it always does: It’s made me that much more appreciative of the United States.

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The Detroit Free Press recently published an article summarizing the ongoing financial and jurisdictional debate surrounding regional mass transit.  Metropolitan Detroit primarily relies on two major transit agencies—DDOT and SMART—to offer commuting and general mobility to the region’s 4.4 million residents. The major problem is that the dual agencies create higher costs for both, leading to less service and lower quality for riders, plus the potential to miss out on federal funding opportunities. Even more troubling is the inconsistent jurisdictional buy-in for the suburban SMART system.

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Under the Radar

The drab Amtrak depot in Detroit, Michigan, was recently the venue for a truly surreal scene: A Republican governor accepted—gratefully—a check from the Obama administration. This was not just any federal funding, either, but $200 million for that most Europhiliac of abominations: passenger rail. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich, and Florida’s Rick Scott had all rejected the money. But here was Rick Snyder, the state’s new Republican governor, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Carl Levin, John Conyers, and John Dingell, beaming genially and brandishing a giant check.

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More good news from Detroit: General Motors is adding shifts at its Hamtramck factory. It will mean hiring 2500 workers, so that GM can meet the growing demand for Volts, Malibus, and Impalas. And it’s part of broader plan that, GM says, will expand operations at five Michigan plants. Stories like this tell you why President Obama is so eager to talk about U.S. automakers -- and what he has done for them.

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&c

-- My TRB column, on the heartbreaking plight of the moderately rich. -- Steve Kornacki: Gingrich's rehabilitation was always a myth. -- The stealth revolution in open learning. -- Mark Bittman visits Detroit.

Unemployment in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois is falling more quickly than in the rest of the country. The Big Three are hiring again. Does one development have anything to do with the other? Does it mean President Obama can brag about the auto industry rescue package?

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President Obama renewed a call for serious discussion about reforming the nation’s immigration laws in his speech yesterday in El Paso. He enlisted the American public to actively join the push to get Congress to move past the stalled debate and into action. One of the hurdles comprehensive reform faces is the varying impacts of immigration across the nation.

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Now that Census 2010 results are coming out, some places around the country are scratching their heads. They are puzzled by the lower-than-expected population counts and considering mounting challenges to get the official number changed. The state of California thinks the census missed 1.5 million residents.

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Have you ever wondered why someone doesn’t just do something about that big weedy lot on the edge of downtown, or the house up the street that’s been boarded up for years? You might ask your state legislator--though they probably won’t have a good answer.  All over the country, cities grapple with vacant and abandoned land and buildings. The issue is particularly problematic in places--think Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo--that have lost a large portion of their residents and jobs over the decades, but it’s also a growing challenge in parts of the South and West, where the bursting of the rea

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Dobson argues that Bin Laden's death was a victory for Democratic foreign policymakers and helped cement Obama's place in history.

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