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Release of report on oversight of Michigan charter schools

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School commissioned the Citizens Research Council (CRC) of Michigan to review the scope and degree of oversight of Michigan’s charter schools and their authorizers. The report, titled “Improving Oversight of Michigan Charter Schools and Their Authorizers,” focuses on the inadequacy of public oversight of charter school authorizers, the entities that are charged under Michigan law with authorizing and overseeing the performance of charter schools in the state. The Levin Center requested the report as part of its ongoing mission to promote effective oversight at all levels of government – federal, state, and local. The Levin Center and the CRC will present the report at a briefing on Wednesday, Feb. 26,  at noon at Wayne State University’s Law School. Speakers include Eric Lupher, president of the CRC of Michigan, and Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center at Wayne Law.  
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More Michigan grandparents are raising grandkids

A proposed change in state law would take the first steps in formalizing support for a growing number of Michiganders raising their grandchildren. State representatives Kathy Crawford and Frank Liberti have sponsored legislation that would take first steps to better recognize and support older Michiganders raising grandchildren. Both bills are before the House’s Families, Children, and Seniors Committee, which Crawford chairs. The state, Crawford said, is already behind in recognizing the critical and exhausting work of grandparents thrust back into full-time parenting. And their numbers are growing. Twice as many grandparents today in Michigan report raising or helping to raise grandchildren than a generation ago — an estimated 120,206 Michiganders in 2019 compared to 58,220 in 1987, according to the survey, called the Older Michigander Needs & Solutions Assessment. Tom Jankowski, associate director for research at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, developed questions for the report. The language about caregiving for grandchildren shifted slightly between the first and second surveys, he cautioned. Still, he said, the questions were close enough to roughly capture how the caregiving landscape has grown over time. Child care is expensive, meaning that Michigan’s poorest families often turn to grandparents for help, said Jankowski. Those growing numbers, along with Michigan’s demographic shift toward an older population — 2.4 million Michiganders age 60 or older last year compared to 1.5 million in 1987 — show the stark challenge facing so many families across the state. 
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Federal restrictions limit marijuana research in Michigan

Randall Commissaris, a Wayne State University associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is studying the effects of using marijuana or alcohol when driving vehicles. Wayne State has several research projects underway, including the one by Commissaris, who runs a driving safety lab in the college of pharmacy and is studying the reaction time of people under the influence of marijuana or alcohol. Commissaris said the driving simulation places subjects in a 2001 Chevy Impala and presents a road filled with obstacles to drive around. "We collect data in a flight data-type recorder and look at driving performance using cannabis and while drinking," he said. "We worked with medical marijuana patients for two years, but in December 2018 when recreational became legal we started working with them." Under the influence or marijuana or alcohol, the reaction time is longer, but much of it depends with how much is consumed and their tolerance level. "We are still studying everything, but we are seeing a greater tolerance level with marijuana than alcohol," he said. "If the subject has a history with marijuana they are less affected in the driving test. There is a little evidence of that with alcohol but more with marijuana." Commissaris said Wayne State is planning to begin studies on edible cannabis products. "There is not enough research on cannabis," he said. "We want to do more, but it is complicated because the products and plants are highly variable in concentration." Another study is being conducted by Christine Rabinak, an associate professor in the WSU pharmacy college, who is conducting a study on the use of cannabis on (post-traumatic stress disorder) patients.
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Bug burgers? Crickets replace cows in the future of sustainable food

Does the thought of eating bugs make you cringe? You’re not alone, especially in further north areas like Michigan. “We have these harsh winters, [so] insects aren’t available,” says Julie Lesnik, an anthropology professor at Wayne State University who specializes in the evolution of the human diet and using insects as a food source. “It’s not a part of a lot of traditional diets in higher latitudes. “This isn’t just something that primitive people eat, this is a food resource that has been smartly used for millions of years and in a lot of ways we are silly for ignoring it.” But Lesnik makes the argument that eating — and farming — insects may make sense for a growing population where our food system leads to growing inequity, hunger and obesity. Bugs are also an environmentally-friendly food source and rich in nutrients, and a culture built around it with recipes and even a business in metro Detroit. WDET’s Anna Sysling spoke to Lesnik on the colonialist history of our bug aversion, the case for an insect-based farming system and how you can start dabbling in this diet.
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Congress fixes – just a bit – the unpopular, ‘unfair’ rule that stopped injured service members from suing for damages

Robert M. Ackerman, professor of law, wrote an article for The Conversation about recent legislation addressing the law barring members of the military from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield. Ackerman wrote: “The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.” The new law does not cover everyone. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers. And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.
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Weinstein trial begs a question: Why is the pain of women and minorities often ignored?

Anne P. DePrince, professor of psychology at the University of Denver, and Jennifer M. Gómez, Wayne State University assistant professor, wrote a Conversation piece about the trial of media mogul Harvey Weinstein and the painful effects on women and minorities. “For months, he (Weinstein) has presented his pain to us, granting a hospital-room interview to catalog his suffering and using a walker on his way in and out of the courthouse. His defense team has argued he deserves your sympathy. They asked the judge to let Weinstein’s surgeon testify to confirm their client is “hurt and enfeebled. These requests for your compassion are reminders that sympathy is not automatic. Not everyone gets our sympathy when they show us their pain. Whose pain, then, are we most likely to see, believe and ultimately award our sympathy? And what do those tendencies mean for health outcomes and courtroom justice? As trauma psychologists, we have spent a great deal of time researching the impact of violence and how survivors are treated when they disclose. In studying trauma and intimate violence, we have learned much about whose pain is believed or disbelieved. Studies suggest there is bias against women and ethnic minorities in both the health care and criminal justice systems. Pain bias in the health care system.”
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Michigan workers should get Election Day off, Benson says

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is urging businesses to give their workers the day off on Election Day by making it a company holiday. Benson said she’s encouraging Michigan companies to give employees the day off work on Nov. 3, so they can vote and work as poll workers. She praised Wayne State University for recently announcing such a move, MLive.com reported. Keith E. Whitfield, Wayne State’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said that Nov. 3 will be a university holiday, with no classes held and only essential employees reporting to work. “We hope that faculty, staff and students will take advantage of the Election Day holiday to exercise their civic duty and participate in these important national elections,” Whitfield wrote.
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Wayne State researchers receive grant to develop new treatments for Barth syndrome

A team from Wayne State University, led by Miriam Greenberg, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recently received a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to work on potential new targets for treating Barth syndrome (BTHS). The four-year, nearly $1.5 million award, aims to identify specific metabolites as candidates for new treatments for Barth syndrome and other cardiomyopathies. Barth syndrome is a rare and life-threatening, X-linked genetic disorder that primarily affects males and is passed from mother to son; women who are carriers do not show symptoms of the disorder. Fifty percent of children born to a mother who is a carrier will inherit the defective gene, and all daughters born to an affected man will be carriers. BTHS is caused by a mutation in the tafazzin gene that results in decreased production of cardiolipin, an essential lipid for energy metabolism. According to Greenberg, BTHS causes numerous pathologies, including cardiomyopathy, a disorder of the heart muscle; neutropenia, a reduction in the number of white blood cells; hypotonia, reduced muscle tone; undeveloped skeletal muscles and muscle weakness; delayed growth; decreased stamina; physical disability; and methylglutaconic aciduria, an increase in an organic acid that is characteristic of abnormal mitochondrial function.
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Well, impeachment didn’t work – how else can Congress keep President Trump in check?

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article about President Trump’s future during post-impeachment, and what measures may be taken regarding oversight of the executive branch. “Oversight is one way to ensure government transparency. The Constitution authorizes Congress to exercise oversight as part of the carefully crafted balance of powers among the three branches of government. Impeachment is an important check on presidential power. However, it is the most rarely used of the multiple tools Congress has to review, monitor and supervise the executive branch and its implementation of public policy. Congress can also exercise oversight through the power of the purse, which allows it to withhold or limit funding. And it can use its power to organize the executive branch, which it uses to create and abolish federal agencies. In addition, Congress makes laws, confirms officials and conducts investigations.”
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Wayne State to observe Election Day as a holiday

The day of the next general election will be an official holiday at Wayne State University. “I’m very pleased to announce that this year, Wayne State University has officially declared Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, a university holiday,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson on Thursday. “This means there will be no classes, and the university will be closed, with the exception of essential personnel who must report to work. This holiday will afford faculty, staff and students the liberty to put their civic duty first.” The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne Law also is now home to the first-ever polling location on campus. Keith was a longtime federal judge who died last year at 96 and was known as a champion of civil and voting rights. The WSU Student Senate took action on a new polling site after students said the off-campus location was a barrier to voting in 2016.
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Packing ethics into medical students’ global health trips

Medical trainees want to help in less-resourced countries. But short-term programs can misread local needs, overburden hosts, and send students into situations they're not prepared to handle. Here’s how leaders are ensuring ethical, effective experiences. Programs that want to provide effective, ethical experiences should avoid veering toward "volun-tourism," experts say. Instead, they should build solid, respectful partnerships with local communities. Some call this “fair trade education,” borrowing from the “fair trade” concept that promotes equity between producers, who are often from lower-income places, and consumers in higher-income nations. To make sure it was achieving this and other goals, Wayne State University School of Medicine paused its student-run global health trips a few months ago. Until then, the school’s World Health Student Organization would raise funds, buy medicines, and travel to sites in less-resourced countries. “The students would create pop-up clinics” and organize trips with the help of U.S. nongovernmental organizations, explains Ijeoma Opara, MD, who codirects Wayne State’s new interdisciplinary Global Health Alliance (GHA). “It was students’ responsibility to arrange faculty to accompany them on travel as well as faculty in the host country to provide oversight.” Now, though, the school is working on extensive changes. “We want to focus on structured, competency-based learning experiences as well as on developing strong, long-term, bidirectional relationships with faculty leadership in host countries,” says Opara. “Hosts should be fully engaged in program design and defining intended outcomes. Only they really know their resources, their needs, and their capacity." At Wayne State, predeparture trainings include lessons in the history, language, and culture of destinations, combined with modules from the University of Minnesota’s Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety program. Students’ failure to understand local values can inadvertently cause problems for both patients and providers, notes Kristiana Kaufmann, M.D., who codirects the school’s GHA program with Opara.
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Taking zinc can shorten your cold. Thank a 91-year-old scientist for the discovery

The common cold is a top reason for missed work and school days. Most of us have two or three colds per year, each lasting at least a week. There's no real cure, but studies from the last several years show that some supplement containing zinc can help shorten the duration of cold symptoms by up to 40% — depending on the amount of the mineral in each dose and what it's combined with. Zinc has an interesting back story. It wasn't even acknowledged as an essential mineral for human health until the 1970s. But that changed thanks to the work of Dr. Ananda Prasad — a 91-year-old doctor who, decades ago, had a hunch that led to a better understanding of zinc's role in immunity. Back in the 1960s Prasad was studying a group of young men in Egypt who had not grown to normal heights and remained underdeveloped in other ways, too. Prasad wondered if the problem might be a lack of zinc. When Prasad gave them zinc supplements, the men grew significantly taller. "I couldn't believe it," he says. Prasad had never expected such significant growth. Some scientists challenged his findings, at the time, questioning the idea that zinc deficiency could even occur in humans. "It was controversial," Prasad says. But he pressed on with his research and  began to document the ways zinc influences immunity. Eventually, in the 1970's, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) declared zinc an essential mineral, fundamental to many aspects of cell metabolism. NAS established a recommended daily allowance, which is the daily amount that's sufficient for good nutrition. Prasad says he felt vindicated by this action. "Absolutely," Prasad told us from his home in Michigan, where he's a researcher and professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine. What came next in his career may be just as surprising. Prasad had demonstrated that zinc had an effect on immunity — so he figured that it might help against a ubiquitous scourge — the common cold.
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Detroit nurse shares story of health scare to stress importance of self-care to next generation

Donulae Knuckles is known as “Nurse Knuckles,” and when she’s teaching, her most important lesson comes from when she suddenly found herself as the patient. Local 4 spoke with Knuckles on National Wear Red Day, which is designed to raise awareness for women’s cardiovascular health. Knuckles is a Detroit mother of five and a registered nurse for the past 23 years. She’s a PhD student, a graduate teaching assistant and an advocate for the American Heart Association. At the Wayne State College of Nursing, Knuckles teaches the next generation of nurses to care for the whole patient -- body, mind and spirit. She wants them to care for themselves, too. “It has become my passion and my purpose in this life,” Knuckles said. “This is what I do. I love it.”
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Vote now: Should Michigan's primary election be held before Super Tuesday?

The Iowa Caucus debacle is raising new questions about how the political parties should structure their elections to nominate a presidential candidate. So we're asking: Should Michigan's primary election be held before Super Tuesday? Not everyone thinks that by taking part earlier in the process a state has more influence on who will win. “The conventional thinking is that you are better off if you have your primary earlier, but that depends on the number of candidates in a race at a given time,” said Wayne State University Professor Marick Masters. Masters says even with our primary happening March 10, Michigan is important because it has 16 electoral votes and only 7 other states have more.
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Wayne State University unveils on-campus polling location in time for March primary

Wayne State University has established a polling location to serve Detroit's Precinct 149, a little over a month before the presidential primary election March 10. All voters of Precinct 149 will now cast ballots at the university's polling location inside the Wayne State Law School, 471 West Palmer. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson joined university officials and Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey for the announcement Wednesday afternoon at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. In November, Wayne State University was recognized for student voting engagement, with a student rate of over 50 percent, earning the university a platinum seal — one of 61 institutions in the country to do so. Student voting at Wayne State increased to 53 percent in 2018 following the midterm elections, up from 27 percent in 2013, while the national average institutional voting rate was 39 percent in 2018, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. The university Board of Governors also declared Election Day in November a campus holiday, canceling classes and making it easier for students, staff, and faculty to hit the polls. “The university has gone to considerable measures to ensure every student’s voice is heard,” Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said. “This student-led initiative celebrates the life and legacy of Judge Damon Keith by making voting and civic engagement more accessible to campus residents. I believe (Keith) would be delighted with today’s announcement.”

‘Detroiter’ Mitt Romney breaks with party on impeachment vote

President Donald Trump has been acquitted of two impeachment charges. The hearings have been endowed with an air of inevitability. But the predictable partisan conclusion of this process was upset by Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) surprising break from party lines. Romney made history with his vote to remove the president from office on the charge of abuse of power, making him the first senator to vote in favor of impeaching a president from his own party. “There are areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans. It’s hard to imagine that happening during a presidential election year,” says Marc Kruman, founding director of the Center for the Study of Citizenship and professor of history. Ultimately the Utah senator’s vote didn’t impact President Trump’s swift acquittal, but it did raise questions regarding the state of American politics and the role of congress moving forward. He says this impeachment process has, not surprisingly, been viewed through the lens of partisan politics. The unwillingness of elected officials to see beyond party has left American democracy in a fragile state, says Kruman. In order to restore some type of order he says there has to be a move toward compromise and consensus. “There are, in fact, areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans that they should work on. It’s hard to imagine that happening during a presidential election year.”
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Opinion: A shorthand history of U.S.-Iran relations

Frederic S. Pearson, professor of political science and director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, wrote an op-ed tracing the U.S.-Iran relations. “The up-and-down U.S.-Iranian relationship, at times teetering on the brink of war, is highly complicated and fraught with historical memories; it cannot be characterized simply as black and white/good and evil. Recent developments indicate that with the crackdown on Iran and its militias, as well as Washington’s blow to Kurdish forces in Syria with the green light to Turkish occupation of their zones, the U.S. has essentially weakened the two most effective anti-ISIS forces, while stirring up massive anti-American popular responses in Iran, Iraq and Yemen.”
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Get ready to eat bugs if you want to live beyond 2050

By 2050 there will be an estimated 10 billion humans living on this planet. That's not just a lot of mouths to feed, those folks will be, on average, wealthier than today's population with a taste for the foods found in regions like the U.S. and Western Europe. We simply don't have the capability, the land or production resources to ensure that many people can eat a cheeseburger whenever the mood strikes. Luckily, researchers from around the globe are working on alternative protein sources to supplement our existing beef, pork and chicken. Julie Lesnik, a biological anthropologist at Wayne State University, advocates that we look to get our meat from smaller, more resource-efficient animals than cattle -- specifically, crickets. She points out that, per kilogram, crickets offer roughly the same amount of protein as beef as well as significantly more micronutrients since you're consuming the exoskeleton as well. She also notes that given their diminutive stature and affinity for cramped dark places, crickets require far less arable land than cattle do, citing a 2013 report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. "When we're thinking about why we don't eat insects, it's really a story of Europe, and that Europe being in high latitudes, insects aren't available year-round," Lesnick continued. "Eating insects in the summer can give a reprieve from hunting, but it's nutritionally redundant, so it's not an important resource."
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Puerto Rico earthquakes imperil island’s indigenous heritage

Jorge L. Chinea, professor of history and director of the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, wrote a piece for The Conversation examining the indigenous heritage of Puerto Rico and the major challenges facing the island. “Tremors and aftershocks are still rocking Puerto Rico, weeks after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake toppled buildings, killed at least one person and injured another eight on Jan. 7. Families have begun leaving the island because it won’t stop shaking. For many on the island, the devastation is a reminder of September 2017 when Hurricane Maria killed 3,000 people and as many as 200,000 Puerto Ricans were forced to hastily relocate to the mainland United States. These major disasters have ravaged the island’s cultural heritage, too. Numerous historic landmarks – including a 2,000-year-old archaeological site containing priceless evidence of the island’s earliest dwellers, the Taíno people – have been destroyed. As a historian of colonial Latin America born in Puerto Rico, I recognize that between the 15th-century Spanish colonization and the 1898 U.S. annexation of the island, the Taíno’s story has been all but erased from the historic record.”