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What Americans hear about social justice at church - and what they do about it

By R. Khari Brown, assoicate professor of sociology, and Ronald Brown, associate professor of political science.  On June 5, 2020, it had been just over a week since a white Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin, killed George Floyd, an unarmed, African American man. Protests were underway outside Central United Methodist Church, an interracial church in downtown Detroit with a long history of activism on civil rights, peace, immigrant rights and poverty issues. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the church was no longer holding in-person worship services. But anyone walking into its sanctuary that day would have seen long red flags behind the pastor’s lectern, displaying the words “peace” and “love.” A banner reading “Michigan Says No! To War” hung alongside pictures of civil rights icons Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as labor-rights activist Cesar Chavez. In line with her church’s activist tradition, senior pastor Jill Hardt Zundell stood outside the building and preached about her church’s commitment to eradicating anti-Black racism to her congregants and all that passed by.
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Jail vending machine provides naloxone to discharged inmates

A jail in southeastern Michigan has a vending machine that dispenses kits designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Naloxone nasal rescue kits are available free of charge to inmates being discharged from the Oakland County Jail in Pontiac. As part of the release process, deputies advise discharged inmates they can take the kits for personal use or for a family member who may be dependent on opioids. The narcan project is through Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and its Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.   
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Archeologists dug up MOCAD site: Here's what they found

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit partnered with Wayne State University's anthropology department to conduct an excavation on the museum's grounds as part of an ongoing art exhibit entitled "All Monsters" by Chicago native Jan Tichy. Random household items, including pieces of a clay pot and an old medicine bottle, were unearthed by Wayne State students and will be transformed into works of art. The exhibit is located in artist Mike Kelley's "Mobile Homestead," a full-scale replica of Kelley's 1950's ranch-style home in Detroit, which sits on a plot adjacent to the archeological site that was once a women's prison and a place that housed homeless women and children. Wayne State University professor of anthropology Krysta Ryzewski said the team wanted to incorporate the land's history into the exhibit. "He (Tichy) though that archaeology might be a really interesting way to connect with the art that's on display in his part of the homestead," she said. "So we thought it might be a way to dig underground and bring up the stories of this property and the people who used to live here and utilize the space and many of those people are not known to Detroit's history...We are literally excavating other histories that have been rendered inaccessible because of the changes to the landscape and Detroit over time." 
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How public health shifted away from the public, and why it might be shifting back

These days, public health crises are common. The Flint water crisis made global news, highlighting how attempts to cut costs on basic services like clean water led to high levels of led in the water. Crisis lead levels in water, breathing unclean air and not having access to safe areas to play are a daily reality for many. And when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, many public officials were caught off guard. According to some recent scholarship, public health programs once focused more on public infrastructure and the health of the most vulnerable in society. Tricia Miranda-Hartsuff, a public health associate professor at Wayne State University, says the public health field is now changing to focus on larger structural issues, including institutional racism and poverty that can help create trauma. “What we saw with COVID was this exaggeration of health disparities that had already been prevalent,” she said. “We already knew that certain populations had less access to care, had poorer quality of care.”
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7 tips to stay healthy over the holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and, perhaps, the most stressful. For some reason, the impending holidays may only conjure anticipation of family, fun, and good fun, but for others, it also brings trepidation about staying healthy when routines are upended, treats beckon around every corner, and the pandemic is still around. Local experts shared their best tips on juggling the season’s demands while keeping your mental and physical health intact. “Be thoughtful about how you spend your time and where you put your energy,” said Erika Bocknek, a professor of counseling psychology at Wayne State University. “Meaningful interactions are more important than box-checking…Try not to let your investment in the holidays detract from being a healthy, whole person.”
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Director Michael J. Barnes talks the holiday magic of The Snow Queen at the Hilberry in Detroit

The Snow Queen opens this weekend at The Hilberry Theatre to bring magic and fun for the holiday season to Detroit. The play runs from Nov. 19 to Dec. 11. "The Snow Queen is a really love adaptation of the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. In it, we follow Gerda as she goes on a quest to find her friend Kai, who has been taken by the Snow Queen," said director Michael J. Barnes. "It shows how the innocence of a child is able to overcome hurdles to renew a love and friendship that can last a lifetime after it has been taken by the adults.  

In other states, some schools have found creative ways to forgive debt and help students return

One of Ashley Ramirez's biggest goals in 2016 was to finish her college degree. She'd started college at Wayne State University a decade prior, but had gotten overwhelmed. Not only was she taking classes there, but she was also in barber school and working at the same time. Ramirez ended up on academic probation, and owed the university money. She wasn't sure if she'd ever become eligible to reenroll. Through the Warrior Way Back program, which forgives up to $1,500 in unpaid direct-to-school debt, Ramirez was able to reenroll in classes, and access resources like academic advising and counseling. Ramirez finished her bachelor's degree in May, and is now enrolled in the MBA program. "I would've eventually decided to go back. But would I have been able to go back? I don't know," she said. "What I do know is that the Warrior Way Back program opened up access. And when I say access, I mean the ability to be able to have a dialogue to figure out where I am and what I can do to actually finish this goal." Since launching in 2018, Warrior Way Back has enrolled over 260 students, and inspired similar programs at other schools. The average age of students participating is 39, although students as old as 63 and as young as 23 have participated; 75% have been Black, and over 50% have been identified as high-need.
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Everything you need to know about newly available COVID-19 vaccines for kids

Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Wayne State University, joins Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today in a conversation about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children. "The availability of the vaccine for children is really, really good news. It's definitely a game-changer...Parents have been patient and now is the time that they can actually go in to get their kids vaccinated...the reactions we see include things like soreness after the injection, systemic signs like headache, malaise, and joint and muscle aches - that resolve relatively quickly. Kids are very resilient. In fact, we see very, very few kids needing to follow up at a pediatrician as a result of any adverse events..." said Dr. Kilgore. "I always weigh the risks and benefits of anything, including vaccinations. One of the things we can tell parents is that overall, over the last several months, we've had a relatively conservative rollout of the vaccines. We started with the older adults, working our way down to younger adults and teenagers. And through that experience, we've been able to learn that the mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine have been safe for adults, and now we have a lot of additional real-world experience with hundreds of thousands of older children who have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. What this is all telling us is that we haven't seen any unusual signals that would make us worry as we start to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11. The risks of not getting vaccinated are substantial." 

New sources sought for rare earth elements to stop reliance on China

By Lily Bohlke  Michigan researchers have received a $3.1 million grant to study potential new sources of rare earth metals and how to process them. Rare earth metals are a set of 17 elements found in the earth’s crust, and are a key component of many high-tech processes from military technology to electronic devices, batteries for electric cars and magnets in wind turbines. The U.S. relies on China for 80% of our rare earth metals, and the prices have spiked over the last year. The lead researchers for the project are Matthew Allen, chair and professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Timothy Dittrich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. “After we recover the rare earth elements, instead of just putting them in a hazardous-waste landfill, we’re also looking at ways to use those for building materials and other uses so that we don’t have these other problems that we’re creating as we’re recovering rare earth elements,” said Dittrich. 
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Which Michigan drivers are eligible for controversial MCCA refund checks?

By Kim Russell  Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) to use a $5 billion surplus in its fund to give drivers a refund check, and the association agreed. The refund will come in the form of checks sent to insured drivers, even if they chose not to buy MCCA coverage last year, with the idea being that all Michigan drivers previously contributed to the base amount in the fund. Gov. Whitmer has emphasized that the surplus exists because of overpayments, but director of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services Anita Fox says it is also in large part due to investment returns and cuts. Attorney Wayne Miller, a professor at Wayne State University Law School, has represented crash victims as they fight for care and says concerns that the refund could put their futures at risk are legitimate. “I think people don’t understand what is at stake. They look at it as, hey, it’s found money” Miller said. “Of course, nothing is free and there are reasons that surplus existed.”  

New type of nerve cell discovered in the retina

Scientists at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah have discovered a new type of nerve cell, or neuron, in the retina. The discovery marks a notable development for the field as scientists work toward a better understanding of the central nervous system by identifying all classes of neurons and their connections. The research team named their discovery the Campana cell after its shape, which resembles a hand bell. The published research study, “An uncommon neuronal class conveys visual signals from rods and cones to retinal ganglion cells,” was authored by Tushar Ganjawala, a Ph.D. student in the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and co-authors Brent K Young, Charu Ramakrishnan, Ping Wang, Karl Deisseroth, and Ning Tian. The work was supported by an NIH Core Grant, and an Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY, to the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Utah, and the Department of Ophthalmology of Wayne State University School of Medicine; additional support was provided by the Ligon Research Center of Vision, Kresge Eye Institute, and the Dryer Foundation. 

Gig-economy rise prompts FTC chief’s call to alter antitrust law

Gig-economy rise prompts FTC chief’s call to alter antitrust law  Gig-economy workers fighting for higher pay and better working conditions through protests and grassroots organizing campaigns face yet another obstacle in their campaigns: U. S. antitrust law. Federal statutes aimed at promoting competition and preventing monopolies leave out gig workers, classified as independent contractors, from protections for unionizing or other group actions. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan is pushing to change that through legislation or joint guidance with the U.S. Justice Department, which would be a more straightforward, if legally risky, way of clarifying that current antitrust exemptions for traditional unions can extend to gig workers. The FTCs push joins an ongoing tug-of-war in the U.S. among gig companies, lawmakers, regulators, academics, and legal advocates over the employment status of app-based workers for Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., DoorDash Inc., and others. Companies themselves may not bring suits against workers for antitrust violations, but they have attempted to further insulate themselves from worker activity, said Sanjukta Paul, an assistant professor of law at Wayne State University.  
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Wayne State receives $3.1 million grant to seek alternative sources of rare earth elements

A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Wayne State University have been awarded a $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ERCD program to seek alternative sources of rare earth elements critical to advanced military and consumer technologies. The project, Rare Earths from U.S. Extractions – or REUSE – will focus on both basic and related applied research in science and engineering with the goal of developing a U.S. rare earth element supply chain as well as a process of handling waste streams. REUSE is led by two principal investigators, Matthew J. Allen, chair and professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Timothy M. Dittrich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.    
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New guidelines help doctors diagnose chest pain – but only if you act

Chest pain is about more than pain in the chest. But when it comes on suddenly, experts behind new guidelines on evaluating and diagnosing it don’t want you pondering nuances. They want you to act – now. “The most important thing people need to know about chest pain is that if experience it, they should call 911,” said Dr. Phillip Levy, a professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president for research at Wayne State University. “People shouldn’t waste time trying to self-diagnose. They should immediately go to the nearest hospital. And if they’re going to go to the nearest hospital to get evaluated for chest pain, ideally it should be by ambulance.” Levy helped lead the committee that wrote the new guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology.  
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Health experts explain why drinking a gallon of water a day is too much

Hydration is important for health, but drinking a gallon of water a day is unnecessary. “Just like caloric intake and energy expenditure, there is no magical ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the daily water requirements that everyone needs to ‘stay healthy,’” says Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sport science at the College of Education, Wayne State University. “Although ‘Gallon Challenges’ and ‘8 x 8’ glasses per day recommendations are widely touted by both lay people and health professionals alike, the science behind these recommendations is largely mythical but widely propagated through clever marketing — think bottled water, oxygenated water, vitamin water, alkaline water, etc. — rather than clinical evidence.” 
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Dual degree: Corporate law student seeks to impact community

By Sheila Pursglove  Involved in his family’s commercial real estate business from a young age, Basem Younis learned early on that he had an affinity for numbers. He went on to earn an undergrad degree in accounting and finance from Wayne State University, remaining a Wayne Warrior for JD and MBA studies. His parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon and Syria in pursuit of an American education and the American Dream, always emphasized that education is a powerful and essential tool for nurturing positive change in society.  “They taught me higher education is an avenue to access the type of opportunities that would allow me to help nurture the communities that helped nurture me,” Younis says.  “My undergraduate career helped me realize small businesses are catalysts for thriving communities, as it had proven to be for my parents and my community. Given that many business decisions are influenced in some manner by the law, I decided a formal understanding of the law is essential to meaningfully influence the course of businesses.” Choosing Wayne Law was an easy decision for pursuing a JD/MBA dual degree, he adds. 

Fast food burgers, fries, and pizza may leave you full of phthalates

By Huanjia Zhang   As Americans devour a fast-food burger in the car or gobble up a chicken burrito in front of the TV, some may bite into phthalates, according to a new study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. This is the first study to directly measure the amount of phthalates present in common fast foods in the U.S. and adds to mounting evidence linking phthalate exposure to fast food consumption. Phthalates are a group of synthetic chemicals widely used to make plastic more flexible, and are ubiquitous in a host of plastic products, ranging from toys to personal care products. Phthalates have been shown in human and animal studies to disrupt the endocrine system. Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of eight phthalates in children’s toys and child-care products in 2017, the plastic industry is able to replace the prohibited phthalates with slightly tweaked plasticizer chemicals. “A chemical isn’t a problem until it’s proven dangerous,” said Douglas Ruden, a toxicologist who studies phthalates at Wayne State University, who noted the ongoing tug-of-war between scientists trying to assess the health and safety of potentially harmful new plasticizers and their evolving successors. 

How Wayne State's medical school became the first in the U.S. to require plant-based nutrition education

By Megan Edwards  Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit is the first college in the United States to introduce a mandatory plant-based nutrition unit into their curriculum for first-year medical students. The four-week “Rooting for Wellness” learning module, launched in 2019, utilizes recorded lectures, online quizzes, cooking demonstrations, guest lecture panels, and a vegan community fair to teach students about the critical connection between nutrition and disease prevention. The curriculum’s creators recently published a report in the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention about the success of the program and how other universities can follow their lead.  “I’ve always been passionate about community advocacy, nutrition, and the promotion of preventive medicine, but was disappointed by how sparingly these topics were covered in med school,” said Lakshman Mulpuri, a co-founder of Rooting for Wellness and student at the university. “I was in awe of the incredible stories of patients who had empowered themselves with a whole-food, plant-based diet. I knew that these stories and the science behind them needed to be shared with my fellow fledgling physicians.” 
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Phoenix rising? Pontiac on the edge of a recovery

One hundred years ago, riding north up Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac was a voyage from one successful urban landscape to another. Fast forward to 2021, and Pontiac is struggling to reinvent itself after decades of poverty and decay. As quickly as Pontiac shot to stardom so too did its urban light dim, a victim of changing ideas of urban living and changing fortunes to the American automobile industry. Just as Detroit has begun to reinvent itself in the last decade as a model of urban renewal, so too is Pontiac working to develop itself as a new and vibrant city. Some believe the key to turn Pontiac into a city people want to come to is a mix of both private and public sector growth. Carolyn Loh, professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, notes that one of Pontiac’s biggest challenges is “the hollowing out of the city government that has happened over long periods to time, exacerbated by periods of emergency management…So if you offer people the choice of where they can live, if you have a city that can’t fulfill the mandates of city government, it’s a less desirable place to live…”