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Michigan grapples with COVID-19's disproportionate impact on people of color's mental health

COVID-19 has taken a toll on mental health in Michigan and across the world, but new Wayne State University research shows that burden has been heaviest for people of color. WSU researchers Peter Lichtenberg and Wassim Tarraf are examining how race, employment, and socioeconomic status intersect with pandemic-related stress, depression and anxiety. They've used U.S. census data to identify individuals to poll every two weeks about how their mental health has changed throughout the pandemic. "The findings that we have are pretty concerning," Tarraf says. "What we see through the data is a large percent of individuals who do report that they have mental health issues. What’s also concerning is these rates of mental health issues have remained stable over time. … People are not adapting and there are not enough tools for helping them reduce that level of stress. It is worth mentioning that rates are higher for people of color than those reported among whites." Lichtenberg and Tarraf also took stock of the social determinants of health that are affecting their subjects' mental health. "Food insecurity and job loss really stood out to us," Lichtenberg says. "65% of people with food insecurity had mental health issues. The numbers were similar for job loss in the household during the time of COVID-19."
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Former prosecutor and journalist weigh in on the significance of Flint water crisis charges

Noah Hall, a professor of law at Wayne State University, served as special assistant attorney general for the initial investigation of state officials regarding the water crisis. He said he felt the investigation he was part of had made promising progress in court, so when Nessel’s team announced they would shut down existing cases and start anew, he was frustrated and skeptical. But now, he says, he knows he was wrong. “It looks today like my skepticism was not justified and Attorney General Nessel came through on what she promised, which was, when she shut down our investigation and terminated us — myself included — she really was building back a better investigation that was going to do more work and go even further with developing charges. And it looks like that’s exactly what’s happened over the past two years,” Hall said. Snyder faces two misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty, for which he has pleaded not guilty. But other former officials face more serious charges, including former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Nick Lyon and the state’s former Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eden Wells, who have both been charged with nine felony counts of involuntary manslaughter. Hall says these new charges likely draw on decisions the Snyder Administration made back in 2012 and 2013, which set in motion the changes in Flint’s water supply that led to use of the Flint River with a lack of corrosion control. Some critics of the recent charges argue that government leaders and public servants, due to the nature of their jobs, should be permitted some benefit of the doubt, as they may have been using their best judgment to make decisions with the information that was available to them at the time. But Hall says that’s not what he thinks happened in the Flint water crisis, based on his knowledge from the initial investigation. “This was not a simple case of government officials doing the best they could and making a mistake. Quite the opposite,” he said. “These were government officials who intended to advance an agenda, and in advancing that agenda, threatened and ultimately harmed human life.”
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Wayne State produces Its first virtual dance production

Theatre and Dance at Wayne, the producing arm of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University is sharing its first virtual dance production, "Dynamic Perspectives" through its website 5 p.m., Saturday, Jan 23. "Dynamic Perspectives" is a virtual storytelling presentation that combines the work of Dance students from the Fall semester. The presentation is a commemorative reflection on the Wayne State dance community's efforts to navigate the present moment as the world grapples with the impacts of COVID-19. The project is devised, organized, and executed by students in the Virtual Dance Collaboratory (VDC) - a new company created to give students creative space to process, dialogue, and create work about the present moment and future possibilities. VDC is a student-driven collective whose structure has been built from the ground up.
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Michigan is divided. These 7 reforms can curb partisanship, fix government

Fresh off one of the most partisan years ever, 2021 is off to a combative start as politicians continue to squabble and protesters plan armed demonstrations despite bipartisan calls for unity and healing. “Part of the way to reduce partisanship is to create a system where people aren't terrified of being more bipartisan in their political career,” said Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, a political science professor at Wayne State University. On a smaller scale, Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature could promote bipartisanship by giving Democrats a more significant role in legislative oversight committees, according to researchers at Wayne State University. “If you have very small margins… you can control a legislature and you can really run it like some sort of dictatorship,” said Sarbaugh-Thompson. “And as has happened at the national level, oversight tends to be driven by partisanship.” The basic promise of ranked-choice voting is that if a voter’s preferred candidate finishes last or is eliminated from contention, their second choice is counted instead, giving them a continued voice in the outcome of an election. Experts say there is some evidence that such a system can reduce partisanship by encouraging more diverse candidates and alliances with third parties rather than allowing politicians to simply court their bases. “In the current system, especially in multi-candidate races, you end up attacking the person who’s closest to you, in a way, because you can more easily get their voters,” said Kevin Deegan-Krause, a political science professor at Wayne State University who is working with a group called Rank MI Vote on a potential statewide ballot initiative. “With ranked choice voting, you really have an incentive to actually be as nice as you can to the candidate next to you so that you can try and pull their voters over to you,” he said.
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How can America heal from the Trump era? Lessons from Germany’s transformation into a prosperous democracy after Nazi rule

Sylvia Taschka, senior lecturer of history, wrote a piece for The Conversation about the post Trump era. “Comparisons between the United States under Trump and Germany during the Hitler era are once again being made following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Even in the eyes of German history scholars like myself, who had earlier warned of the troubling nature of such analogies, Trump’s strategy to remain in power has undeniably proved that he has fascist traits. True to the fascist playbook, which includes hypernationalism, the glorification of violence and a fealty to anti-democratic leaders that is cultlike, Trump launched a conspiracy theory that the recent election was rigged and incited violence against democratically elected representatives of the American people. This is not to say that Trump has suddenly emerged as a new Hitler. The German dictator’s lust for power was inextricably linked to his racist ideology, which unleashed a global, genocidal war. For Trump, the need to satisfy his own ego seems to be the major motivation of his politics.”
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Law professor: First Amendment doesn’t apply to Trump Twitter ban

Twitter and Facebook suspended the social media accounts of President Donald Trump last week over concerns his messages could incite further violence like the siege on the U.S. Capitol. The president and his allies quickly accused the platforms of silencing free speech. A law expert said the First Amendment doesn’t protect Trump. "In terms of whether they have the power to tell President Trump, ‘sorry we think you've broken our rules, you're booted off.’ They absolutely have the power to do that," said Jonathan Weinberg, professor and associate dean of research at Wayne State University Law School. He said Twitter is well within its legal right to ban Trump from its platform. The same goes for Amazon and others who essentially shut down Parler. "It gets to choose who it does business with and who it doesn't," Weinberg said. He said these actions do not violate anyone's First Amendment rights. "What the law says about your First Amendment rights run against governments,” he said. “They don't run against private companies." Weinberg said in a twist of irony, it was Trump and Republicans who got rid of net neutrality. Weinberg said net neutrality was designed to give people more rights to prevent being silenced by powerful media companies. "The moment President Trump got into office, the Republicans swept that all away,” he said. “They said, 'that's crazy. That's awful. That's communism. Government shouldn't be telling private companies what to do.'"
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A brief history of the term ‘president-elect’ in the United States

Mark Satta, assistant professor of philosophy, wrote an article for The Conversation offering perspective on the term president-elect. “On Jan. 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States. Until then, he is president-elect of the United States. But what exactly does it mean to be president-elect of the United States? As a lawyer and philosopher who studies word meaning, I have researched the meaning and history of the term “president-elect” using publicly available resources like the Corpus of Historical American English – a searchable database of over 400 million words of historical American English text. I’ve also used Founders Online, which makes freely available many documents written by the nation’s founders. “President-elect” is not a term that is legally defined in U.S. law. Rather, the term’s meaning has developed over time through its use by the public. Its use can be traced all the way back to George Washington.”  
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Federal leaders have two options if they want to rein in Trump

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for the Conversation.” As the world reacts to the Jan. 6 armed attack on the U.S. Capitol encouraged by President Donald Trump, many Americans are wondering what happens next. Members of Congress, high-level officials and even major corporations and business groups have called for Trump’s removal from office. Prominent elected and appointed officials appear to have already sidelined Trump informally. Vice President Mike Pence was reportedly the highest-level official to review the decision to call out the D.C. National Guard to respond to the assault on the Capitol. Informal actions like this may continue, but political leaders are considering more formal options as well. They have two ways to handle it: impeachment and the 25th Amendment.”
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Wayne State, UD-Mercy to host environmental design conference

Wayne State University and the University of Detroit Mercy will co-host the Environmental Design Research Association’s 52nd annual conference May 19-23. Experts from around the world will explore how research, design and relationships between people and environments contribute to the creation of justice. Delivered in a virtual format, EDRA52 will bring together professionals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to examine topics surrounding the conference’s theme of just environments. The global conference features multiple keynote and plenary sessions, social and networking events, educational sessions, workshops and award ceremonies, as well as scholarship opportunities for students. EDRA52’s theme of just environments was developed in December 2019 by faculty from Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture and Wayne State’s College of Engineering. “Attendees will learn that there is great collaboration among the Detroit urban universities, community groups, nonprofits and government organizations,” said Carol Miller, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Healthy Urban Waters at Wayne State: Miller said she believes EDRA52 will appeal to individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, beliefs and disciplines. “EDRA52 Detroit covers technical issues from engineering and science, as well as humanistic issues from psychology, communication and other research areas,” Miller said. “People generally enjoy expanding their range of colleagues and learning from others.”
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Vaccinations begin at Wayne State University

Wayne State University has begun issuing COVID-19 vaccines to medical students and faculty who work on the frontlines. The plan is to inoculate 120 people per day with Moderna and Pfizer vaccines which are being supplied by the Detroit Health Department. “Right now we have people who have been categorized as essential. Those are individuals who are actually touching patients in the hospital,” says Dr. Toni Grant, the Chief Nursing Officer at the Wayne State University Campus Health Center, where the vaccinations are taking place. Grant says these essential workers were emailed a survey to see if they were interested in receiving the vaccination. Those who said they wanted the shot and are eligible for it are being emailed specific instructions on how to schedule an appointment. These emails are coming out in batches, so some may not be able to make their appointment for a couple of weeks. Bill Fulson is a clinical nursing instructor with Wayne State who came into the Health Center to get the vaccine. He says he doesn’t feel any anxiety about receiving the vaccine. “I have no reason to feel not confident,” says Fulson. “I’ve been nursing for 40-something years. So you know when to do things and when not to do things. And this is a must-do for a medical professional.” Grant says the vaccinations are a great opportunity for the Wayne State community. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic but this is also something that none of us have ever gone through before,” she says. ”And to actually see what research and science can do in order to get us through to this particular point, it’s exciting because it’s students, faculty and staff together and able to experience it firsthand.”
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Wayne State STEM Innovation Learning Center opens

The STEM Innovation Learning Center (SILC) is a signature component of Wayne State University’s vision for STEM education through multi-disciplinary learning and community engagement that will build upon WSU’s vision for inclusive innovation across campus. Built with emphasis on technology-rich, collaboration, and “science-on-display” spaces, SILC brings a centralized STEM-focused academic facility to the heart of WSU’s campus – within steps of chemistry, biology, engineering, and physics buildings, as well as the iconic learning spaces of Science Hall and Old Main. The building — which includes 100,000 square feet of flexible classrooms, instructional labs, a maker space, and a 3D printing lab, as well as space that serves as a hub for WK12 outreach programming — is helping to transform WSU’s vision for STEM education and research for current and future Warriors.
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Wayne State hospital students, faculty get COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccine distribution continues to slowly trickle down the ranks as Wayne State University's students and faculty in front-line health professions got their turn Thursday to begin getting inoculating against COVID-19. Wayne State began administering the first dose of the Moderna vaccine to faculty and students who are in active clinical practice and rotations with patients. "We were able to invite individuals to let us know if they were interested in receiving the vaccine. Those that were interested in receiving the vaccine received an invitation to continue to the process," said Toni Grant, chief nursing officer at Wayne State's Campus Health Center. Approximately 2,000 people were identified by Wayne State as having first priority to the vaccine due to constant exposure working in hospitals. Wayne State is able to administer the vaccine in phases under a memorandum of understanding with the Detroit Health Department. "Wayne State is not mandating that anyone received the vaccine, but it is being highly encouraged that they receive it," said Grant. "One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that everyone was well-informed before they even scheduled their appointment, so all the information was actually made available electronically."
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Storming the U.S. Capitol may be new to Americans, but the violence is a familiar theme

Even living in a time of isolation, the shockwaves that spread across the nation Wednesday were seismic. After insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, the first breach of its kind in more than two centuries, an insistence also arrived that the events were like something from another country. Strain of Violence raises the question is violence as American as apple pie? Kidada Williams, a Wayne State University historian who studies violence, would say yes. “Some scholars have argued that slavery and settler colonialism are the down-payment of the Revolution; they’re the down payment on American success,” said Williams in an interview with the Inquirer Thursday. “If you’re able to achieve significant success using violence, why would you use any other tactics?” Williams, who is writing a book on Black families who were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan amid Reconstruction, said the insurrection reminded her of the Civil War: The rebels were upset over election results, white progressives responded as a matter of preserving the country. The level of surprise this week at the attack at the Capitol, she said, reflects a deep belief in American exceptionalism that sidesteps our history of violence to focus on victories. America, she explained, erases its body count. “The federal government is expert at destabilizing movements that it perceives as a threat,” said Williams, who pointed to the American Indian Movement and the Black Power Movement. “The White Power movement has only recently been seen as a threat.”
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Wayne State Word Warriors present list of long-lost words to revive in 2021

What would you call someone who gives you their opinion on something about which they know… nothing? While a few expletives may come to mind, you can say this about them: They are being ultracrepidarian. That adjective — it’s also a noun — is one of ten words compiled by Wayne State University’s Word Warriors, whose mission is to revive English words that have fallen out of usage over time. Chris Williams is the assistant director for editorial services for WSU’s Office of Marketing and Communications. He’s also the chief Word Warrior. He says his team regularly sifts through words submitted by people around the world. “People who follow us on Facebook or just know of the website can submit a word,” Williams says. “We look at that word and see if it meets our criteria.” And what are the criteria? “They need to be words that have fallen out of use,” he says. “If we see that trend has gone down in the last 50 to 100 years, that’s a nice note that this a word worth recognizing.” Williams says they prefer not to highlight slang words, and they must be English. When they find one that meets the criteria, he says it’s a good feeling. “There’s almost like a little tingle,” he says. “Like, that’s a good word, I haven’t heard it before or heard it in a long time.”
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Anagapesis, blatteroon on Wayne State's list of words to revive

Bored of the same old words? A team at Wayne State University released its annual list Wednesday of long-forgotten words to add to your vocabulary in 2021. The 12th annual WSU Word Warriors list includes 10 words that show no signs of anagapesis (loss of feelings for someone who was formerly loved) toward the English language – and may rejuvenate a love for words in others. From residents of Detroit to coast-dwelling paralians (someone who lives by the sea), participants from around the globe submitted words throughout the year. Far from a group of ultracrepidarians (expressing opinions on matters outside the scope of one’s knowledge or expertise), the Word Warriors once again proved themselves knowledgeable about the language. “Each year, I’m surprised by the variety of the submissions we receive from around the world,” Chris Williams, head of the Word Warriors program, said in a statement. “Our Word Warriors once again provided a batch of words that make our language richer. The English language is so versatile and unique, and we’ve ended up with another list of 10 great words.”
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Health experts answer your questions about COVID-19 vaccines

To date, tens of thousands of Michigan residents have received the new COVID-19 vaccines, an inoculation rate far below the original projected goal of elected officials. The slow rollout has concerned citizens and public health experts alike, and speed isn’t the only issue facing distribution efforts: Vaccine hesitancy is proving to be a major hurdle as well. Concerns about vaccine safety are coming from various groups, including anti-vaxxers who view this moment as an opportunity to promote their anti-science agenda. While others simply don’t trust the development process, Black Americans have expressed legitimate skepticism of the vaccine based on the fact that the Black community has been historically taken advantage of when it comes to the medical system, as evidenced by the Tuskegee syphilis study among other things. Dr. M Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University, and Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor & director of research at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the principal investigator at Henry Ford Health System’s testing of Moderna’s vaccine trial, participated in a discussion and responded to listener’s questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
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School budgets have held up better than expected in some states, but looming cuts will hurt learning long after pandemic ends

Michael Addonizio, professor of educational leadership and policy studies, wrote a piece for The Conversation on the budget challenges facing school budgets. “The year 2020 may prove to be pivotal in the history of U.S. public education. Many children have gone missing from school completely since March, and millions more are struggling with wholly inadequate online learning experiences. Lower-income and minority children are particularly hard-hit. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep inequities across our public schools. Merely restoring school budgets to their prepandemic levels will not be enough to address them after this long period of limited learning. So far, most states have avoided deep education budget cuts this school year. However, they project revenue shortfalls for the 2021-22 school year.”
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What's the word? Wayne State University has new list of obscure words worth using

Wayne State University is out with its annual list of long forgotten words worthy of a second chance. So if you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, you can simply say you have Dysania [di-SANE-nee-ah]. Engaging in a lot of fruitless activity during the pandemic, that’s footling [FOO-tuh-ling]. And there's snollygoster [SNOL-lee-gos-tur] , a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially politician. There are seven other words on the list that quite frankly are as hard to pronounce as their meanings are obscure. But they are worth checking out. Wayne State researchers hope their list will encourage more people to search the linguistic cellar for more expressive language. “Each year, I’m surprised by the variety of the submissions we receive from around the world,” says Chris Williams, assistant director of editorial services for Wayne State Marketing and Communications, and head of WSU’s Word Warriors program. “Our Word Warriors once again provided a batch of words that make our language richer.” Wayne State University has been compiling an annual list of eminently useful words for the past 12 years.
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How kids can benefit from mindfulness training

Hilary Marusak, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, wrote an article for The Conversation on the benefit of mindfulness training., ”Now that 2021 is here, many are looking for new ways to manage stress. Although mindfulness and meditation are not new – there is evidence suggesting that humans have been practicing meditation for more than 5,000 years – many are turning to these techniques to improve overall well-being. Mindfulness is a technique that involves paying attention to what’s happening now in the present moment, in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner. There are mindfulness apps for managing stress, anxiety, chronic pain, weight loss, better sleep and quitting smoking.”
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How Drs. Joseph and Renuka Roche pinpointed a potential treatment for Covid-19

At first, Joseph and Renuka (“Ray”) Roche just followed the news about the coronavirus, like everyone else. After all, they’re not epidemiologists. He is a physical therapist. She is an occupational therapist. So to the Roches, back in January, the novel coronavirus landed somewhere between curiosity and concern. Nearly a year later, the Roches are still a little bit surprised how much of their problem this really is. Because while the nation hinges its hopes on the vaccine news out of companies like Pfizer and Moderna, the Roches came up with a distinctly different approach to the battle against Covid-19. They’ve isolated a potential explanation for the array of symptoms associated with the disease. And they’ve pinpointed an existing drug that could help mitigate these symptoms — but that hardly anyone is talking about. The Roches’ titles are as long as their road to Michigan. Joseph is the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Wayne State University. Ray is an assistant professor of occupational therapy (with a focus on developmental neurology) at Eastern Michigan University.