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Purple heroin and a new opioid drug may be Michigan's next big threat

Public health authorities have issued warnings about a new drug called purple heroin which is tied to overdoses in the Upper Peninsula and the death of one person in west Michigan. Purple heroin — which gets its name because it is often purple in color — contains the synthetic opioid fentanyl, acetaminophen (the ingredient found in Tylenol), flualprazolam (an illicit sedative similar to Xanax), buspirone (an anti-anxiety drug), niacinamide (a form of Vitamin B) and, most notably, a new drug named brorphine. "We want to try to get ahead of it to make sure … it's not making its way down the state," said Varun Vohra, a director of the Michigan Poison Center at Wayne State University which issued an alert Wednesday. Little is known about brorphine. “Not many people know about it. It was a surprise to us as well," said Vohra. Vohra asks that anyone who needs information on purple heroin or has come across it to call the Michigan Poison Control Center, 800-222-1222. The center is not tied to law enforcement.
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The medical community has failed people of color in the past: these doctors want to build trust

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept through the United States, highlighting racial inequities in healthcare. The numbers of infections and deaths related to COVID-19 are far higher among people of color, especially Black Americans, than among white Americans. Despite these higher risks, Black Americans are less likely to sign up for experimental medical treatments or potential vaccines. To help bridge this gap and champion the interests of Black people and other marginalized groups during the pandemic, the National Medical Association set up an expert task force to vet regulators’ decisions about COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. “We are more interested in efficacy,” said Dr. Bret Hughes, a professor of ophthalmology at Wayne State University and longtime member of the National Medical Association. He added that the process for vetting vaccines and other kinds of medications is very regimented and specific, and has two goals: safety first and then effectiveness. But “there are political groups that are willing to bypass those procedures and say there is a vaccine in order to quell fears. In fact, you can take a vaccine and develop other conditions because there’s more in the vaccine no one is aware of until you get it.” Dr. Rick Baker, a professor of ophthalmology and vice dean for medical education at Wayne State University and a longtime National Medical Association member, said the association will be doing three things in vetting vaccines: making sure whatever is developed is scientifically sound and effective; assessing whether there’s adequate representation of people of color in the trials; and ensuring that the distribution of the vaccine is equitable. In these uncertain times, he added, someone needs to be the trusted messenger, adding that physicians are uniquely qualified to be that messenger. “The message needs to be transmitted from physicians to patients,” he said. “The physician-to-patient relationship is very important.”
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Michigan riding ‘second’ COVID wave that could bring more deaths

Michigan’s battle with the novel coronavirus has taken a sharp turn, with the volume of cases sharply increasing almost daily along with hospitalizations, emergency room visits and deaths. For the past week, there have been over 1,100 newly confirmed cases a day. More than 1,000 people with COVID-19 are now in Michigan hospitals, following a recent low of 500 on Sept. 25. And deaths, which had been low, are creeping up in a likely “second wave” that will bring more cases. The recent rise in COVID-19 infections has not brought with it the volume of deaths suffered last spring. Cases are more widely distributed across the state and therapies and treatments have improved in Michigan, as they have elsewhere. Experts attribute the improved outcomes to a host of factors. Fewer patients spread across more hospitals have allowed for better care. Treatments have changed and some therapies have emerged, like using remdesivir,  which aided in President Trump’s recovery. And after the coronavirus ravaging nursing home residents in Michigan and elsewhere, changes were made to better protect those populations and many more are taking their own precautions, such as wearing masks and avoiding crowds. “All these precautions are definitely helping,” said Dr. Teena Chopra,  a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University who is in charge of infection control at Detroit Medical Center. Chopra said she has noticed that patients she sees at the Detroit Medical Center are younger, by about a decade, than those who were arriving in March and April. That’s made them more resilient to COVID-19. But it doesn’t mean it’s no longer to be feared. “The virus is not going to magically disappear,” Chopra said.
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DOE provides $7 million to Michigan cybersecurity company to protect grid, EVs By Mike Brennan

The U.S. Department of Energy announced more than $7 million in funding for Michigan-based cybersecurity company, The Dream Team, to develop a first-of-its-kind infrastructure that protects the electric grid from cyber-attacks on electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging systems. Once developed, testing of the electric roadways and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology will be conducted at the American Center for Mobility. The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy contribution of a $4,712,949 grant was supplemented by an industry match contribution of $2,349,135, which can include discounted rates, provided equipment, provided asset availability (time/use). The grant was secured through the combined efforts of DTLLC, the American Center for Mobility and the state of Michigan with additional funding coming from partners including DTE Energy, NextEnergy, University of Michigan Dearborn and Wayne State University among others.
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Degrees deferred: MBA programs adapt to new way of doing business

Once considered the gold standard of career development, the MBA degree faces a new question of relevance. Business schools in Michigan are struggling to sell the master's programs as they face staggering budget cuts and enrollment declines brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased demand in graduate education often coincides with economic uncertainty, but in the case of a global pandemic, experts aren't so sure. At Wayne State University, Kiantee Jones, assistant dean of graduate programs at the Mike Ilitch School of Business, is thinking about recruitment in a new way. While the raw number of MBA applications this fall is up slightly from last year, the number of people moving past the first phase of the process dropped off significantly, Jones said. There are 223 new MBA students at the school this year, compared to 270 last year. The business school's budget for fiscal year 2020-21 hasn't been finalized, but Jones expects a 5 percent cut. Wayne State's niche of part-time, mainly online classes would seem better protected from the pandemic than its competitors' models, but "virtually" attracting new students has been a headache, Jones said. The work- and learn-from-home age caused a disconnect between the school and companies such as Lear Corp., DTE Energy Co. and the automakers, which provide its main pipeline of students. "We used to get flooded with applications," Jones said. "We didn't really have to put forth a great effort. We were invited to corporations. We were setting up tables. We had a really good connection with the employees at these corporations. It was just easier." Jones said since the pandemic started, the business school launched monthly online information sessions and added virtual grad fairs in hopes of keeping students engaged. Jones said she believes the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis are long-term, but like her counterparts at UM and MSU, she remains optimistic about the demand for and value of an MBA degree, even if the program is forced to change permanently.

What are militias and are they legal?

Earlier this week, six men were arrested and charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. Seven other men known to be members or affiliates of the Wolverine Watchmen were charged under Michigan’s antiterrorism act. Two founding members of that group face several counts, including threat of terrorism and gang membership, while the other five face multiple counts, including providing material support for terrorist acts. “Sedition cases are very difficult to prove,” said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and now a law professor at Wayne State University Law School. “Charging the defendants with kidnapping is a much easier road to go down.”
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8 things mental health experts want you to know on World Mental Health Day

According to Jennifer M. Gómez, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development at Wayne State University, having good mental health does not mean you are happy all of the time. She pointed out that a wide range of emotions from sadness to anger to grief are “integral parts to being alive.” Listing many triggers in our environment including Covid-19 and police violence, Gómez noted that reacting happily after experiencing any of those things directly or indirectly would be abnormal. She added, “If you’re struggling, there’s nothing inherently wrong with you.”
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Wayne State Law Professor Bob Sedler speaks with Guy Gordon about the 25th Amendment

Distinguished Professor of Law Robert Sedler talked with WJR’s Guy Gordon about the 25th Amendment and how it pertains to the President of the United States. Sedler said that under the 25th Amendment, sec. 4, the Vice-President and a majority of the cabinet, or "of such other body as Congress may by law provide," transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." At that point, the Vice-President becomes the Acting President. Under this provision, Congress has the power to substitute a commission for the majority of the cabinet. Sedler said that “while Congress has the power to do so, it should not. The Constitution now covers the situation. From a constitutional standpoint (leave politics aside), we must assume that the Vice-President and the cabinet members will act in good faith, and that if such a situation would arise, they would take the necessary action to transfer Presidential power.”
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Legal experts reveal one reason Gov. Whitmer kidnap case is strong

The federal criminal case against six of 13 suspects accused of plotting to abduct and possibly harm Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer contains a legal nuance that former officials from the U.S. Department of Justice say make conviction more likely. Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at Wayne State University, agreed. "It's much easier to prove a kidnapping charge, so much easier." He cited the high-profile Hutaree militia case from 2010, when nine people from the so-called "Christian Patriot" movement were arrested after raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. They faced federal charges of seditious conspiracy along with a series of weapons charges after, authorities said, they plotted to kill police and then attack the funerals and kill more police.
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Sean Anderson Foundation donates $10,000 for Wayne State's HIGH Program

The Sean Anderson Foundation has donated $10,000 to benefit the Wayne State University HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program. These emergency resources will benefit the program, which has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Big Sean, a native Detroiter, established the Sean Anderson Foundation to provide better opportunities for those in need. Big Sean previously exemplified his commitment to assisting young people’s lives when the foundation created a $25,000 endowment for HIGH Program in 2016. Wayne State first lady Jacqueline Wilson founded the HIGH Program in 2013, when she met a medical student who had experienced homelessness while attending school. The HIGH Program offers a strategic response to the homelessness issue on Wayne State’s campus. The program assists financially challenged, precariously housed, and homeless students reach their goal of earning their college degree.
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The new rules of engagement

Online learning during the coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a particular challenge for some lower-income students and students of color, whose communities have been hit hardest by the virus. Technical and personal challenges can make it difficult to connect with their classmates, literally and figuratively. If students are logging on with data plans and phones, have little privacy, or are caring for others, turning on cameras for online classes can be awkward, even impossible. At Wayne State University, which has a similarly diverse student body, Karen Myhr, an associate professor of biology, has also been thinking about inclusivity. Many of her students are considered at risk academically, she says: Low test scores placed them in her course, called “An Introduction to Life,” instead of in a more advanced biology sequence. Even in normal times, she says, her students have needed a lot of support. To help them build connections, virtually, she has grouped them into teams of their choice, and then put those teams into private channels online. Her five undergraduate learning assistants can enter. But she stays out, knowing that having the professor listen to their conversation could cause some to freeze up. Instead, she monitors their written work, which is done through collaborative online software. A typical online class might include a few minutes of instruction, followed by group work, and a debrief, as she shares examples of what they came up with in their teams.
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Woke fashion: Environment and the industry

While there are a lot of efforts being made by different companies and designers, the fact that being sustainable has become trendy does lead to some companies thinking the sustainable label, with little follow through, is good enough. Take for instance, H&M, which has a sustainable brand but since they aren’t cutting back on any of their other inventory, it just creates more waste, which ends up in landfills and further enhances the problem. H&M – the definition of fast fashion – also has a recycling initiative, which then gives customers a 15 percent off coupon for their next in-store purchase for every bag dropped off. “Who doesn't love a discount? But what does that do? That entices you to buy more.” said Monika Jonevski, who teaches fashion merchandising at Wayne State University. “Then that's just feeding into the cycle…you can buy a $5 t-shirt at H&M…But then you wash it a few times, it's going to turn into like sandpaper and shrink. Then you buy another and then you buy another and buy another. In the end, it's the same cost of spending a little bit more for a shirt that is well made and not harmful to the environment.” Jonevski has been front-and-center of sustainable fashion over the last decade. She was with Adidas when a push came for the company to work with recycled plastic from the ocean to create outsoles on footwear, something they began in 2016 through their partnership with the advocacy group Parley for the Oceans. As of March 2018, the shoe company had sold one million pairs of shoes made from ocean trash, made possible by a yarn developed by the advocacy group that turns the ocean plastic into a polymer that’s used to contract the knitted footwear. Each shoe uses an average of 11 plastic bottles per pair. Jonevski was also with Adidas when they worked with fashion designer Stella McCartney, who Jonevski called a game changer in terms of sustainability. That partnership unveiled a tennis dress made from cellulose-blended yarn and Bolt’s Microsilk in 2019.
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Paramilitary movement: Welcome to the militia

Militia members who belong to paramilitary organizations formed originally as part of a far-right patriot movement that is traditionally anti-government. Members believe the Constitution gives them legal authority to act under both federal and state laws and the Second Amendment – to take back the country as they see fit. And many members are prepared to act if they think their beliefs are infringed upon. They believe the Constitution gives them that authority – even though experts say they have no more legal right than any other citizen. Actually, that's not what the Constitution means, according to constitutional scholar Robert Sedler of Wayne State University Law School. “Do not be put off by the term militia. In the Constitution, it deals with the National Guard. At that time it meant every able-bodied man, for a national guard,” Sedler explained. “They are private citizens. They have no legal status. “It's very clear – they can call themselves militia, but it's not a real militia. Only the state National Guard is a true militia,” Sedler clarified. “They cannot say they are like law enforcement, and they cannot protect other citizens or their land,” and to do so is illegal.
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WSU Police Dept. spearheads national de-escalation training initiative

A National De-escalation Training Center (NDTC) has been established to teach law-enforcement personnel innovative and nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts with the public, and the Wayne State University Police Department has been selected as the center's regional headquarters. Was Wayne State chosen because of Detroit's enduring reputation for crime and violence? Because the city is nearly 80 percent African American? Because of our history of fierce run-ins between civilians and police? None of the above, according to Dr. Patrick Guarnieri, the Florida-based chairman, CEO, and creator of the NDTC program. It was selected because of Wayne State's national reputation as a major urban research university. And because of WSU Police Chief Anthony Holt. "It was originally going to start elsewhere," says Guarnieri, former director of training for the National Intelligence Program at the University of South Florida. "But as we were forming it and weighing our options, Wayne State provided the most amenable campus for what we wanted to do, to set up regional centers across the United States and have the headquarters co-located with a university. "Chief Holt gets the credit for this," says Guarnieri. "Oh, God, what a great human being. It's because of his perspective on progressive and innovative policing and [WSU President M.] Roy Wilson's perspective on community police relations. "This is not a 'one-size-fits-all' training," says Holt, a stalwart on WSU's force for more than four decades. "The goal is to reduce the number of incidents where force comes into play. That horrible incident in Minneapolis could possibly change the whole scope of the culture of law enforcement. You've got to look deep within your organization. When you talk about community policing, now you've got to take a deep dive into it."
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Wayne State University completes STEM Innovation Learning Center

Wayne State University has completed construction on the STEM Innovation Learning Center, and commemorated the occasion with an interactive virtual celebration complete with live remarks, a 3D tour, drone flyover and more. The facility, made possible by a $14.75 million commitment from the state of Michigan and bond proceeds to WSU, will serve as a campus hub for interdisciplinary teaching, learning and innovation. The building features 100,000 square feet of flexible classrooms, instructional labs, a maker space, and 3D printing lab with state-of-the-art technology to support hands-on and project-based learning. “The STEM Innovation Learning Center will provide countless educational and research opportunities for students and faculty from across campus,” said Wayne State University President M. Wilson. “In supporting this project, the state of Michigan has also invested in talent and workforce development, and this facility will benefit Wayne State — and the city of Detroit — for generations to come.” In keeping with the university’s current health and safety guidelines, the STEM Innovation Learning Center opened with limited access and will initially be used for space necessary for essential student support services. In the future, it will play a crucial role in achieving Wayne State’s vision for STEM education and research, as well as supporting K-12 students from the greater Detroit area with experiences and exposure to hands-on, creative learning to ignite their interest in science and technology. “Detroit is and always has been a center for innovation in Michigan, and this new facility will provide a crucial resource to Wayne State students and Detroit-area K-12 students who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “This is exactly what we need to attract more talent and investment to our state and build a strong workforce. I applaud Wayne State University for their dedication to Detroit-area students, and look forward to working with them moving forward.”
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Army sees sharp increase in suicides during coronavirus pandemic

The U.S. Army has seen a worrisome increase in soldier deaths by suicide since March, raising questions about whether troops feeling isolated due to the coronavirus pandemic may be a contributing factor. The total rate of suicides is especially troubling to the Army because for active duty soldiers alone it was 36 per 100,000 so far in 2020 compared to 30.6 the year before. For the total Army forces, including guard and reserve forces, there were 200 suicides by August 31 of this year compared to 166 for the same period in 2019. The highest number of suicides occurred in July with 35 cases, or more than one suicide every day. Army and defense officials privately say they cannot definitively prove that the stress caused by troops feeling isolated during the pandemic played a role. But they believe it may be due to the time frame in which the increase has occurred. Arash Javanbakht, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University, told CNN that the pandemic is likely a factor contributing to the increase in suicides in combination with a list of other factors that come with serving in the military. "When it comes to the military population, there's a higher level of stress. This is a high stress job and situation and there's a higher level of trauma, PTSD, depression, substance use, as well as medical conditions which are already there" regardless of the pandemic, he said.

Wayne State archivists partner with College of Education to incorporate archival materials into K–12 curricula

The Wayne State University College of Education and Walter P. Reuther Library Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs were recently awarded a joint $83,100 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the grant-making affiliate of the National Archives and Records Administration. The two-year funding will support the ongoing partnership, “Bridging the Gap: Archives in the Classroom and Community,” which partners archivists and teaching students to bring community-based primary source materials into K–12 classrooms. The project originated five years ago when, as part of an effort to expand collaboration beyond the university’s history department, Reuther archivists considered where their collections might fit into other research areas. “I'm surrounded with the theories of education and education reform,” Daniel Golodner, archivist for the American Federation of Teachers historical collection, told LJ. “So I had the idea: Why aren't we reaching out to those who actually teach?” Wayne State’s College of Education, which offers bachelor's, master's, education specialist, and doctoral degree programs for teachers in 37 program areas, was an ideal place to start. Golodner and Outreach Archivist Meghan Courtney began working with Min Yu and Christopher B. Crowley, both assistant professors of Teacher Education at the College of Education.
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Michigan’s effort to end gerrymandering revives a practice rooted in ancient Athens

John Rothchild, professor of law, wrote an article for The Conversation. “Michigan has embarked on an experiment in democratic governance using a technique employed in Athens 2,500 years ago but little used since: the selection of government officials by lottery rather than by appointment or election. The 13 officials selected by lot in August make up Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. By November 2021, the group will draw election districts used to elect officials to the Michigan Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. The redistricting process occurs every 10 years, after the Census Bureau determines how many representatives are allocated to each state. Historically, state legislatures have been responsible for redistricting. But throughout U.S. history gerrymandering – drawing election districts to favor the political party that controls the state legislature – has characterized the redistricting process…Michigan’s commission, created by a 2018 ballot initiative, is unique. As a professor who teaches constitutional law and, occasionally, ancient Athenian law, I am fascinated by the fact that Michigan’s seemingly novel experiment in governance is based on a process that is thousands of years old.”
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Civil rights report lays out ways Michigan schools can level playing field

Michigan schools need more money and less competition to better provide adequate education to all children, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Michigan Commission on Civil Rights. The report calls for changes to the way Michigan funds its K-12 education system, including a weighted funding formula that provides more money to schools with large numbers of students who live in poverty, have special needs or are learning to speak English for the first time. The report isn't binding, but it will be forwarded to policymakers in Lansing and elsewhere with a series of recommendations to make education in Michigan more equitable. Some of the proposals have been suggested before and others are sure to be controversial, including changes to Proposal A, an amendment to the state Constitution that lowered property taxes for schools in exchange for increasing the state sales tax. The proposal helped reduce the funding gap between Michigan's wealthiest schools and its poorest schools, but over time, it slowed the growth of Michigan school funding. "Michigan ranks a dismal 49th among the states in real per-pupil funding growth from 2005 to 2014, with an actual 7% reduction over that period," according to Michael Addonizio of Wayne State University, who testified at one of the meetings. Addonizio noted that in the 1980s, Michigan and Massachusetts funded education at nearly equal levels. Today, Massachusetts spends about 30% more funding than Michigan does. “Year after year, Massachusetts is at or near the top in all testing categories for fourth grade and eighth grade reading and math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” Addonizio said.