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New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Taylor Swift workshop helps fill a blank space for economics students

The University of Delaware's Kathyrn Bender developed a concept that professors could only conjure in their wildest dreams: A Taylor Swift-themed workshop that helps college students better understand data analytics through the music of the world's biggest pop star. Bender, assistant professor of economics in UD's Lerner College of Business and Economics, came up with the idea while teaching her Introduction to Microeconomics class in early October when the discussion turned to MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets. “I noticed in that class there was a lot of excitement, and I had just about everybody’s attention in there, whether they were interested because of football or because of the Taylor Swift aspect. So I thought that was really cool,” Bender said. Using grant money, Bender quickly jumped on the idea and developed a Swift-themed data visualization workshop series entitled “Data Enchanted: Transforming Numbers into Knowledge.” She held three 90-minute workshops during the fall semester, which ran from late October through early December: “Ready for It,” an introduction to Stata; “You Belong with Me,” building and structuring data for analysis; and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” transforming and cleaning data for analysis. The workshops helped UD students learn to utilize Stata, a statistical software package used for data manipulation, visualization and automated reporting. They were an immediate success, as Bender received over 60 applicants, although she was limited to accepting just 32 due to space limitations. Though students don’t earn credit for completing the workshops, just a certificate, Bender said they help fill some gaps that aren’t covered in classes. “I think they’re kind of expected to learn about it, piecing it together from different classes,” Bender said. “This [workshop series] is a way for students to get introduced to thinking about data, how it’s set up, how you can create good visualizations with it … those basics before you get into the analysis.” Making the workshops Swift-themed helped students pick up concepts more easily in a fun environment. Before jumping into data sets, the students make friendship bracelets to the soundtrack of Swift's music. In one session, they pulled Spotify data and statistics to analyze the popularity of Swift’s songs. “We’ve stuck with Taylor Swift songs and albums so far,“ Bender said. “So all the data sets have been very easy for the students to understand as opposed to something that’s not as familiar for them to think about. They know what a song is, they know what the duration of a song is, those things are all very easy to understand. They’re able to practice these new data skills without having to worry about the content as much.” Due to the workshop’s immediate success, Bender is planning on expanding the program during the spring semester. She aims to hold eight workshops, the initial three and then five more, and hopes to make them available for all UD students (they were available only as an undergraduate program in the fall). Reporters who would like to write about the workshop and interview Bender can contact her directly by simply the contact button on her profile. Or, send an email to UD's media relations team.

Kathryn Bender
3 min. read

Improving Care for Black Patients With Heart Failure and Hypertension

ChristianaCare’s Center for Heart & Vascular Health has dramatically improved the clinical outcomes of Black patients living with heart failure and hypertension by using a digital hybrid platform that provides patients with a dedicated health coach to ensure their care plan is followed and treatment goals are achieved. Through this innovative approach, ChristianaCare achieved a significant improvement in the number of Black patients adhering to prescribed doses of guideline-directed medical therapy (GDMT) for heart failure. “At ChristianaCare, we are deeply committed to eliminating disparities and achieving health equity in the communities we serve,” said Kirk Garratt, M.D., medical director of the Center for Heart & Vascular Health. “We are proud that we have been able to significantly improve the health outcomes of our patients, especially addressing health disparities in the Black population for patients with heart failure and hypertension.” Approximately 32% of ChristianaCare’s heart failure patient population identify as Black, which is a higher percentage compared to the Black population nationally (12.4%). Historically, Black Americans have experienced racial disparities in heart failure treatment and experience worse patterns of adherence to guideline-directed medical therapy (GDMT) . Additionally, Black Americans have a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease than white Americans. Combining technology and human-powered guidance This novel approach to care is powered by Story Health, a leading health technology services company. Its digital platform and health coaches have been able to deliver superior outcomes for ChristianaCare’s patients regardless of race. Black patients in particular have made remarkable gains: 6 times improvement on target doses of beta blockers (76%). 7 times improvement on target doses ACE/ARB/ARNIs (54%). 2 times improvement on target doses of MRAs (57%). ChristianaCare was also able to achieve improvement in Black patients taking SGLT2 inhibitors, rising from a 32% baseline to 74%. Despite their vital role in treating heart failure, SGLT2 inhibitors are historically underprescribed and see lower adherence – largely due to affordability challenges, as costs can be $500 per month or more. Helping patients overcome cost barriers is critical, which is why the health coaches directly engage with patients to identify those who may need assistance and will work on their behalf to qualify for prescription assistance programs. “Along with their digital platform, the health coaches from Story Health understand the unique needs of our patients and have helped us create deeper, more accessible relationships with our patients to help improve their health and outcomes,” said Sourin Banerji, M.D., medical director of Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory at ChristianaCare. The health coaches serve as an extension of the clinician to identify and resolve challenges such as medication adherence, lab work coordination, transportation arrangement and even prescription assistance that cause disruptions in a patient’s care journey and lead to negative outcomes. Improved control of hypertension In addition to heart failure patients, ChristianaCare’s collaboration with Story Health supported patients with hypertension, delivering significant reductions in blood pressure for those enrolled regardless of race. Among Black patients specifically, there were significant decreases in average absolute systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels (17 mm Hg and 8 mm Hg, respectively) after 120 days, compared to 8 mm Hg and 5 mm Hg decreases for uncontrolled hypertensives in another digital program after 12 months. As a result of this initial success, ChristianaCare’s Center for Virtual Health is expanding the use of this care model beyond cardiology to support all patients in the population. Many of these patients struggle to manage high blood pressure, and the use of a continuous care program will be an important tool to help with medication management and addressing social barriers. “Health equity is an incredibly important initiative, and we see our mission as critical to helping specialty and primary care providers drive more equitable care,” said Story Health Co-founder and President Nita Sommers. “As an industry leader, ChristianaCare understands that every individual deserves compassionate care that is accessible, so we are honored to be working with its cardiology team and now the Center for Virtual Health to improve the health of patients.” ChristianaCare has been recognized numerous times for high-quality heart care. Among the many achievements are the American College of Cardiology HeartCARE National Distinction of Excellence Award for three consecutive years (2020-2023) and being named among Healthgrades top 100 hospitals for heart care in the U.S. for the past two years (2022-2023).

Kirk Garratt, M.D., MSc
3 min. read
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Super Tuesday and Biden’s State of the Union Address - Emory University’s Goizueta Business School Experts Available for Interview

It's going to be a busy week in America when it comes to politics. And if you're covering - we have experts who can help with any of your questions or stories. Tom Smith - Professor in the Practice of Finance - Professor Smith is an expert in labor economics, entertainment and healthcare economics, as well as real estate and urban economies. David Schweidel - Professor of Marketing - Professor Schweidel has been closely researching the impact of AI in society, especially elections. He can speak on the impact AI is expected to have in this year’s elections. Professor Schweidel also has extensive work in election marketing. He researched negative campaign advertising and if a negative tone has a positive impact on election results. Ramnath Chellappa - Professor of Information Systems & Operations Management - Professor Chellappa is available to discuss the economics of information security and privacy. He can also discuss the economics and impact of AI. Raymond Hill  - Professor Emeritus Hill is available to discuss any issues on the economy related to energy. If you are looking to arrange an interview - simply click any of the listed expert's icons to set up a time today or email Kim Speece for assistance.

Thomas SmithDavid SchweidelRamnath K Chellappa
1 min. read

The science of leap day

The arrival of a leap year brings with it myths, legends and superstitions about its origin. John Gizis, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware, takes part in a Q&A to share the truth and science behind this “extra” day added to the Gregorian calendar every four years. Why do we have leap day? Unfortunately, the amount of time the earth takes to go around the sun is not exactly 365 days. It’s off by about ¼ of a day each year. It would be hard to have a calendar for 365 ¼ days. When was the extra day added to the calendar? Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 46 B.C., which added one extra day every four years. Of course, the year is not exactly 365 ¼ days either, so after a while, that extra time built up. Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar [the current calendar] in 1582 to correct the fact that the calendar had gotten off by about 12 days, enough that it was noticeable. How was it noticeable? The seasons were gradually shifting, so that what we think of as summertime in the northern hemisphere had gradually become more like autumn. The shortest day of the year is Dec. 21. Basically, the shortest day of the year drifted and eventually was in early December. How did they institute the reforms? First, they skipped a couple of weeks, so they returned to the original calendar lining up with the sun and stars as it’s supposed to. Then they instituted a couple of rules to keep this from happening again. Leap year happens in years divisible by four, but every 100 years, there is not a leap year. However, every 400 years, you do have a leap year. This happened in the year 2000. And the next time it will happen most of us won’t be around — 2100 will not be a leap year. What would happen if the extra day had not been introduced? If we didn’t have it at all, we would be off by ¼ of a day every year. The seasons would completely shift through the calendar and anything that ties to the seasons would be affected, like farming. It would create havoc with the time to plant and to harvest crops, for example. You also would lose the meaning behind sayings such as “April showers bring May flowers.” Multiply the 2,000 years since it was introduced by ¼ day per year, and that would be 500 days we would have shifted over history. In the northern hemisphere January would have become summer, then gone back to being winter, then shifted off again. Does adding the extra day make up the difference exactly and keep the astral year in sync with the calendar year? Yes, but this relates to a bigger issue. Astronomers want time to match up so that the positions of the stars match up year after year. Because the length of day changes slightly over time, astronomers sometimes would like to add an extra “leap second” to keep the stars in sync with our time system. But adding a second is an annoyance for computer and tech systems. Did you know that people born on leap day are sometimes called “leaplings?” According to Google, in 2020, there were about 5 million people with Feb. 29 birthdays. Do you think they have any advantages or disadvantages to being born on this day? No, I didn’t know that, and I know someone who refused to be induced on that day because she didn’t want confusion for her child, although I think it might be cool. After all, in this day and age, everyone always knows how old they are. To set up an interview with Gizis, visit his profile and click on the contact button.

John Gizis
3 min. read

Florida measles outbreak highlights the cost of vaccine hesitancy

A measles outbreak that started in a Florida elementary school has spread and is now up to ten cases.  University of Delaware epidemiologist Jennifer Horney can comment on the outbreak as well as the risk to U.S. eradication status for measles and the role that vaccine hesitancy plays in the emergence and reemergence of vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccine hesitancy is relevant in the Florida case, as the state's top health official defied federal guidance to contain it.  Horney has more than 20 years of experience conducting outbreak investigations and providing technical assistance during pandemics to public health groups domestically and internationally. To set up an interview, visit her profile and click the contact button; or, contact UD's media relations office.

Jennifer Horney
1 min. read

2024 presidential and Michigan state elections: MSU experts can comment

MSU experts can discuss national political issues to the Supreme Court and constitutional issues to Michigan's state politics and races The 2024 presidential election is in full swing. As President Joe Biden is set to cruise to the Democratic nomination and former President Donald Trump is likely poised to receive the Republican nomination, 2024 is setting up to be a rematch of 2020. Michigan’s primary is now earlier on the calendar, Feb. 27, with the Republicans holding a caucus to award their remaining delegates on March 2. Despite being a presidential election year, Michigan has important statewide elections. An open U.S. Senate seat, vacated by retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow, could tip the balance of power in the Senate, potentially deciding which party holds the majority. Michigan’s seventh and eight congressional races have incumbents leaving office, making those set to be some of the most nationally watched and funded races nationally. The state House currently has an exact bipartisan split, setting up races with very high stakes. Michigan State University experts are available to comment on many issues of the presidential election including: political parties and their evolution, campaign strategy and polling, Trump’s legal troubles and the U.S. Supreme Court, political diversity and messaging and local elections and voting. Additionally, several of these experts can comment on Michigan’s federal and state elections. General presidential and Michigan election issues Corwin Smidt is an associate professor of American politics and research methods in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. He can comment on national elections and polling for the presidential election as well as statewide elections. Contact: smidtc@msu.edu "Michigan continues to trend toward being a battleground state, but right now it looks like a battle of attrition. Donald Trump's poll numbers really haven't improved as much since 2021 as Joe Biden's have declined, but Governor Whitmer's popularity remains high. The state Republican party continues to have fights over its management and will have a contested and possibly divisive Senate primary. Despite this, Republicans have a chance to pick up seats in the US House and state legislature because of Democratic retirements and ongoing redistricting changes." Matt Grossmann is the director of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and a professor of political science. He is an expert on a broad range of topics surrounding the 2024 election, including political parties ,campaigns and elections. He also oversees survey research, candidate development and legislative training at MSU. Additionally, he can discuss Michigan’s primary and elections. Contact: grossm63@msu.edu “The presidential nomination process evolved out of reforms to the delegate selection process for those conventions, which now means delegates are overwhelmingly selected based on presidential primary results. From the voters’ perspective, it often looks like any other election where you select your preferred candidate. But the parties still have power to coordinate their rules and selection procedures. Michigan has an opportunity to set the terms for future elections, showing that it can become engaged, with diverse interests, and earn the right to vote early in the process in 2028. Since Michigan does not have party registration, voters will be able to participate in the primary of their choice, which has provided an incentive for individuals to vote in the contest that presents the most uncertainty.” Read more from Grossmann on MSUToday. Dante Chinni is a research specialist in MSU’s School of Journalism and is the director of the American Communities Project in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He can discuss polling and changes in the parties over time, as well as the voting patterns among groups in specific places. He can also comment on various Michigan political issues. Contact: chinni@msu.edu “In Michigan, and in other states, the 2024 election will be determined by the margin of victory in different kinds of places. Can the Democrats get what they need out of the big city and college town communities, like Wayne, Ingham and Washtenaw counties? Can the Republicans get the numbers they need out of blue-collar middle suburbs, such as Macomb? The turnout and margins in those kinds of places, and others, will determine who wins in November.” Constitutional issues and the Supreme Court Jordan Cash is an assistant professor of political theory and constitutional democracy in James Madison College. He can comment on general requests about the presidency and national elections as well as issues surrounding the Supreme Court. Contact: cashjor1@msu.edu “The 2024 election is already shaping up to be one of the most unusual elections in American history, but one of the most unique aspects is the role that the judiciary is likely to play in the process. With former president and likely Republican nominee Donald Trump facing indictments at both the state and federal levels, the election season is as likely to be punctuated with legal news and updates as it is with campaign speeches and negative advertising. Moreover, the Supreme Court will be critical as it has heard or will likely be hearing cases surrounding whether states can disqualify Trump from the ballot under the 14th Amendment and whether he has absolute immunity from when he was president. When we also consider that President Joe Biden is facing his own investigations from House Republicans, the election seems poised to not only raise the political stakes but also considerable constitutional and legal questions.” Read more from Cash about presidential elections on MSUToday. Brian Kalt is a professor of law and the Harold Norris Faculty Scholar in the College of Law. He can comment on 20th Amendment issues, the electoral college and presidential prosecution and immunities. Contact: kalt@law.msu.edu “A lot of constitutional law questions that seemed purely theoretical are now front and center in our election campaign. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will move quickly and provide some clarity and certainty on these issues so that when November rolls around, voters can make a fully informed choice.” Ryan Black is a professor of American politics in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science, and a faculty affiliate in the College of Law. His expertise includes public opinion and the Supreme Court, and he can speak to appointments and vacancies. Contact: rcblack@msu.edu “Results of the 2024 election have the potential to profoundly shift the center of gravity in the politics of appointments to the federal judiciary, which includes, most importantly, the Supreme Court. There is no doubt that a president's most enduring legacy is who they put on the High Court, but confirmation politics today make the partisan makeup of the Senate a prominent roadblock in a president’s path to success.” Erica Frantz is an associate professor of comparative politics in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. She is a specialist on issues and themes relating to authoritarianism. Contact: frantzer@msu.edu “Today’s democracies typically fall apart at the hands of their elected leaders, such that elections are critical focal points for understanding democratic trajectories. Importantly, research shows that where leaders come to power backed by personalist parties – or parties that are synonymous with the leader’s persona – the risk of democratic erosion increases substantially. For the U.S., this implies that the more the Republican Party becomes indistinguishable from Trump, the more American democracy is vulnerable to collapse from within should Trump return to the presidency.” Political messaging and diversity Dustin Carnahan is an associate professor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. His work focuses on how exposure to political information influences people’s attitudes, beliefs and decisions. His recent research focuses on how people come to encounter and believe misinformation and the effectiveness of messages designed to correct misinformed beliefs. Contact: carnaha9@msu.edu “While research suggests that political misinformation does not have a profound impact on voters’ decisions, the proliferation of misinformation can have more subtle effects on voters and elections – such as fostering toxic discourse around issues and candidates, promoting political polarization and distracting from more substantive matters. Concerns around misinformation are likely to be of great interest during the upcoming election cycle as advances in AI technology pose significant challenges to voters’ ability to identify what is real and what is fake.” Eric Juenke is an associate professor of American politics in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. He can comment on issues relating to minority candidates, specifically the candidacy and election of minority candidates. Additionally, he teaches in the Chicano/Latino Studies program. Contact: juenke@msu.edu “While we do seem to have a rematch at the top of the ticket, with a vice president who is a woman of color and another vice president who has yet to be announced but could also be a woman candidate, we will be seeing a continued diverse candidate pool this cycle, I expect. It’s still early yet in the congressional races, but there should be a number of high-profile races in the country and in Michigan that should highlight a more diverse candidate pool. While the parties still have a long, long way to go in recruiting and supporting women and racial and ethnic minority candidates to run for office, the trajectory is positive.” Daniel Bergan is an associate professor and the director of master’s studies in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, who also has an appointment in James Madison College. His research focuses on constituent communications with policymakers. Contact: bergan@msu.edu “When communicating with a policymaker, especially one with whom you disagree, you want to prevent them from discounting your opinion. One way to do this is by citing quality evidence to support your position. When contacting a policymaker about an issue, be aware that they may discount your opinion if they disagree. But note also that carefully crafted communications can convey your position without being written off — and could improve how accurately the policymaker understands public attitudes about public policies.” Read more from Bergan on MSUToday. Importance of local elections Sarah Reckhow is a professor of American politics in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. She can comment on topics related to education policy in the presidential election. She is a specialist on local elections and school board elections. Contact: reckhow@msu.edu “Partisan polarization is having a growing impact on education politics, and we can see growing disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on key issues such as school choice and curriculum. This polarization is playing a role in elections, even nonpartisan school board elections, and it will be an important trend to watch in 2024.” Erin Kramer is the community liaison coordinator for MSU Community and Student Relations. She also advises MSUVote to support students and the local community voting. She can comment on efforts to promote voting efforts and resources that can be offered by universities and municipalities. Contact: kramere6@msu.edu “Michigan State University is home to MSUvote, an Initiative that strives to support students in their civic engagement. Student participation in voting is both a right and a responsibility. MSUvote is committed to getting out the vote,getting out the vote, reducing barriers to registration, and supporting all educational initiatives. Over the years, Michigan State has been fortunate to work with the East Lansing, Lansing, Meridian Township, and Bath Clerks to support our students in exercising their right to vote. Participation is foundational to the function of democracy, and we are committed to supporting students in that activity. MSUvote has hosted registration rallies, absentee parties, and worked to facilitate awareness of elections through multiple campus channels over the years to support participation and education. This year, the MSU STEM Building will be home to one of East Lansing’s Early Voting Centers, it will be operating Saturday Feb. 17 through Sunday Feb. 25.” Top issues for voters David Ortega is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where he is also a faculty laureate. He can comment on consumer, producer and agribusiness decisions that affect the agricultural and food sectors, including the cost of food, which remains a concern for many Americans. Contact: dlortega@msu.edu “Persistent high food prices are a constant reminder of the economic difficulties facing voters. Although overall inflation has cooled and grocery price increases have moderated, food costs 25% more today than it did four years ago. And given the frequent nature of grocery shopping, food costs have a disproportionate impact on how voters perceive inflation.” Robert Brathwaite is the associate dean for research and an associate professor with a specialization in international relations in James Madison College. He can comment on foreign conflict and relations, including how it will impact U.S. policy and the presidential election. Contact: brathwa1@msu.edu “As the war between Russia and Ukraine approaches it two-year mark, the political and economic ramifications of this conflict are becoming more profound. Some political dynamics to watch this year associated with this conflict include changes in NATO’s military posture, political unity of the European Union, deepening Sino-Russian strategic cooperation, and the 2024 US presidential election. This conflict will also impact important global economic trends this year that include global energy supplies, food security, technology export controls, and the role of the US dollar in the global economy. More importantly, this ongoing conflict is a catalyst to evolving changes in the global security architecture with costs and consequences that are unknown.” Jason Miller is the interim chairperson of them Department of Supply Chain Management and the Eli Broad Professor in Supply Chain Management in the Broad College of Business. He can comment on various supply chain issues such as the impact of Suez Canal diversions on disruptions and inflation as well as the impact of tariffs on U.S. firms and consumers, as foreign conflict and trade are top of mind this presidential election. Contact: mill2831@broad.msu.edu “Business leader across industries ranging from manufacturing and mining to retailing are closely watching the 2024 election cycle, as the outcome could substantially shape the business landscape in the form of tariffs, foreign policy toward China and Russia, and the extent of military escalation in the Mideast. All of these policies affect strategic, long-term decisions regarding global sourcing, market entry strategies, and capacity and demand planning.” Antonio Doblas Madrid is an associate professor in the Department of Economics in the College of Social Science. He can comment on the economy and the effect of inflation, which remains a top issue for voters this year. Contact: doblasma@msu.edu “The economy and inflation is an issue on the minds of many Americans.Forecasters and market-based measures of expectations both predict that inflation is likely to continue falling gradually in 2024, to about 2.5%. Thus, the inflation shock that hit the economy is expected to continue fading, although it may take some time to go that last mile from 3% to 2%. The Fed also appears to be quite optimistic on inflation, given its latest forward guidance.” Read more from Doblas Madrid on the economy and inflation on MSUToday.

Corwin Smidt
10 min. read

Ask the expert: What an earlier primary means for Michigan and the 2024 election

The 2024 presidential election is underway with the first contests being Iowa and New Hampshire. While Iowa holds caucuses, New Hampshire holds an open primary — illustrating that the way states assign their delegates isn’t always the same. For this election, Michigan’s contests are now sooner, on Feb. 27 and March 2 — with Michigan Republicans now holding both a primary and caucus. So, how does it all work? Matt Grossmann is the director of Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, as well as a professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. Grossmann is an expert in both state and national politics. He answers questions about how to understand different systems and the role Michigan will play in 2024. How do the presidential primaries work for Republicans and Democrats? Officially, Democrats and Republicans select their nominees at national conventions this summer. The presidential nomination process evolved out of reforms to the delegate selection process for those conventions, which now means delegates are overwhelmingly selected based on presidential primary results. From the voter’s perspective, it often looks like any other election where you select your preferred candidate. But the parties still have power to coordinate their rules and selection procedures. That means there are still party differences, such as which states are allowed to go earlier in the process and whether the state winner gets all of the delegates from that state. Usually, the winner is determined when all other candidates drop out after it becomes infeasible for them to gain enough delegates to win. Officially, the winner needs to accumulate a majority of delegates. But the winners will likely be clear after most states vote early in the process. How does a caucus work? A caucus is a party meeting that can include the selection of delegates. The Iowa caucuses evolved out of a three-round process for selecting delegates to county conventions to select delegates to the state convention, who select delegates to the national convention. Caucuses now play a smaller role in the process, with most delegates selected by primaries. How delegates are awarded differs by state. How is a general primary different from a caucus and why does format vary by state? A primary is a normal election to select a party nominee, but the presidential primaries officially select delegates affiliated with the candidates. To organize a primary for delegate selection, a state party has to coordinate with the rules of their state and their national party. States often like to go early in the process (while several candidates are still in the race and they might influence other states), but the national parties set the rules on whether those voting early are selecting delegates to the national convention. This year, the Democratic Party approved Michigan moving earlier in the process and the Michigan Legislature (controlled by Democrats) moved our election date earlier in the process. But there is not really a contest on the Democratic side. Republicans had to adapt to this process because their national party did not approve a move earlier in the process. Why do Michigan Republicans have a hybrid caucus this election and how does it work? Michigan Republicans are trying to adapt to their national party rules and the state government-held election (coordinated by Democrats). There are also parts of the party that would like voters to have less of a role in nominating candidates compared to those more involved in party organizing and activism. The idea behind a hybrid system is to have a meaningful election where voters have a role in selecting the nominee, but official delegate selection can still conform to national rules and enable party activists to have a role in the process. What are the important dates in Michigan’s voting process? Both parties will hold their primaries on Tuesday, Feb. 27 and the Republicans will have their caucus on Saturday, March 2, which awards most of the party’s delegates. Michigan voters who want to participate must ensure they are registered for the primary by Monday, Feb. 12. Absentee ballots requested by mail must be done so by Friday, Feb. 23. It is also important to know that Michigan now has early in-person voting, which communities must start by Saturday, Feb. 17. Will Michigan’s earlier primary date have a significant effect on the presidential race? On the Democratic side, there is not much of a race against the incumbent president. But Michigan has an opportunity to set the terms for future elections, showing that it can become engaged, with diverse interests, and earn the right to vote early in the process in 2028. On the Republican side, it will depend on whether candidates other than Donald Trump remain in the process and how viable they are by the time Michiganders vote. Since Michigan does not have party registration, voters will be able to participate in the primary of their choice, which has provided an incentive for individuals to vote in the contest that presents the most uncertainty. What are some fun facts about previous presidential primaries? Barak Obama was not on the primary ballot in 2008 because Michigan jumped in line, holding a primary before national party rules allowed it on the Democratic side. Eventually, the delegates were still seated — but only after it was clear that they would not put Hillary Clinton over Obama. In 2016, Bernie Sanders unexpectedly defeated Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary, prolonging the Democratic contest, in part because many Democratic-leaning voters decided to vote in the Republican contest. John McCain won the 2000 Michigan Republican primary over George W. Bush — Michigan was one of only seven states where McCain won over Bush. Election season is here - and if you have any questions about primaries and the long road to November's election - then let us help. Matt Grossman is available to speak with media regarding this interesting and important topic - simply connect with  Jack Harrison, Public Relations Coordinator today.

5 min. read

Ask the expert: 2024 economic outlook

Although the economy has improved since the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation has been a challenge for many Americans throughout 2023 and the economy remains a top issue ahead of the 2024 election. Experts are already making predictions about interest rates, inflation and the market for next year. Antonio Doblas Madrid is an associate professor in the Department of Economics in Michigan State University’s College of Social Science. He reflects on the economy this past year and answers questions about what you can anticipate about the economy in 2024. What are a few of the most memorable economic events of 2023? The economy in 2023 reminds me of Rocky Balboa, the boxer with a strong chin from the Rocky films who, despite getting hit over and over, keeps moving forward. A year ago, the consensus prediction among investors and professional forecasters was slower growth and higher unemployment. Inflation was still above 6%, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates to one of the highest rates in 40 years, and the stock market ended 2022 in the red. Many observers said a ‘soft landing’ was a pipe dream and a recession inevitable. The year 2023 brought its own set of challenges. To name a few, a debt ceiling standoff started in January and continued until May, bringing the government dizzyingly close to default and causing a ratings downgrade. In March, the failure of Silicon Valley Bank started a crisis that, had it not been contained by a historic expansion of deposit guarantees, would have spread through the system and taken down the economy. A war broke out in Gaza. A large-scale auto workers strike temporarily shut down large parts of the sector. And the economy of China, a major trading partner, decelerated. Given all this, it is remarkable how good the numbers look right now. Inflation has steadily fallen to around 3% and is now within striking distance of the 2% target. The most recent gross domestic product, or GDP, report shows a robust 3% year-on-year growth rate, the unemployment rate remains at 3.7%, and the stock market has made a roaring comeback. The numbers look stronger than those of other major advanced economies, such as the eurozone, the United Kingdom, Japan or Canada. However, it is too early for a victory parade. The fight against inflation is not over, monetary policy has long and variable lags and, even in a strong economy, many people are struggling. But, thus far, it is hard to imagine a softer landing than 2023. What’s expected to happen with the economy in 2024? With the usual caveat that even the best predictions have a margin of error, professional forecasters see the economy still growing in 2024, albeit more slowly. The numbers hover around 1.5% for real GDP growth and 4% for the rate of unemployment. This paints a picture of moderate growth, and a labor market that, while no longer crushing records, is still within the range of what can be called full employment. What’s predicted to happen with inflation? Forecasters and market-based measures of expectations both predict that inflation is likely to continue falling gradually in 2024, to about 2.5%. Thus, the inflation shock that hit the economy is expected to continue fading, although it may take some time to go that last mile from 3% to 2%. The Fed also appears to be quite optimistic on inflation, given its latest forward guidance. What will happen with interest rates in the new year? The Fed expects inflation to fall quickly, so quickly, in fact, that it has started to reverse the hawkish policy of the last two years in its forward guidance. This means that, although the Fed has not lowered interest rates yet, it has started talking about the possibility of rate cuts — three of them — in 2024. With the economy still at full employment, this clearly means that the Fed is expecting inflation to continue to fall. How could the presidential election affect the economy? There is a popular belief that election uncertainty is detrimental to the economy, but we do not really see that in the GDP data. Growth rates in presidential election years are not lower than average. On average over the last few decades, there is a small negative effect on the stock market in election years, but it disappears in the 12 months following the election, regardless of which party is elected. What economic words of wisdom can you share for 2024? It seems to me that the perception of the economy is worse than the reality. So, I would recommend stepping away from the noise and looking at the data for some objective measures. As far as saving for retirement goes, I think mainstream financial advice is solid. So, listen to your financial advisor if you have one. If you don’t, that’s okay, it is not that hard. There are many free tools, like retirement calculators, to help you figure out how much to set aside monthly. Take advantage of employer-provided and tax incentives. Invest mostly in stocks when young, gradually switching to fixed income as you age. For equities, follow a passive strategy. Buy and hold index funds. Do not try to pick stocks or time the market. If you are at the fixed-income stage, you may want to open a high-interest CD to lock in a high rate before the Fed starts cutting rates again. Finally, set up your contributions automatically draw, stop thinking about money for a few months and invest instead in nonfinancial assets, like relationships and health. Looking to know more about the economic outlook for 2024 or do you want to connect with Antonio Doblas Madrid? To schedule an interview - simply contact Jack Harrison, Public Relations Coordinator today.

4 min. read

Church Mutual® shares the importance of carbon monoxide safety with PropertyCasualty360 readers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 Americans visit the emergency room every year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. However, by taking protective measures, it can be preventable. Eric Spacek, assistant vice president - Risk Control, shares with readers how to keep facilities safe from the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Eric Spacek, J.D.
1 min. read