Detroit Students Are Suing The State Of Michigan: VICE News Tonight on HBO – Published on Dec 5, 2016

This segment originally aired Nov. 18, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

In September, seven Detroit students filed a lawsuit against Governor Rick Snyder and other state education officials. They argued that the state of Michigan is violating students’ Constitutional rights by depriving them of literacy.

A senior at Osborn Evergreen Academy of Design named Jamarria Hall is currently taking his second year of pre-calculus. Math is his favorite subject, he told VICE News correspondent Jay Caspian Kang in Detroit.

“Really, I don’t think there’s even another teacher probably available to teach the next math class,” Hall said. “And even if it is, it’s probably not even no books for that math class.”

Hall is classmates with one of the unnamed plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Earlier this month, the state filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming there is no fundamental right to literacy.

Watch next: “This principle figured out how to get kids excited about going to school” –



Michigan residents deplore plan to let Nestlé pump water for next to nothing – Jessica Glenzain New York Saturday 5 November 2016 09.00 EDT Last modified on Saturday 5 November 2016 10.41 EDT

In a state still reeling from the Flint crisis the Swiss company would get nearly free access to pump 210m gallons a year for its bottled water business

 Nestlé HQ in Vevey, Switzerland. ‘Why on earth would the state of Michigan … even consider giving MORE water for little or no cost to a foreign corporation with annual profits in the billions?’ Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/AP

Nestlé HQ in Vevey, Switzerland. ‘Why on earth would the state of Michigan … even consider giving MORE water for little or no cost to a foreign corporation with annual profits in the billions?’ Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/AP

Michigan regulators were deluged with angry comments this week, after reports that the state had drafted a permit approval for Nestlé to nearly double the amount of groundwater it pumps from a plant in Evart, Michigan to 210m gallons a year.

The pumping increase is only expected to cost the Swiss food giant $200 a year, and possibly the price of a permit fee, because its bottling plant in Evart is considered a private well under state law, regulators said.

In a statement, Nestlé touted the move as a boon to the state because it is created “some 20 new jobs”. The company is valued at $219bn.

Some local residents were not so enthusiastic.

“Why on earth would the state of Michigan, given our lack of money to address water matters of our own, like Flint, even consider giving MORE water for little or no cost to a foreign corporation with annual profits in the billions?” a man from Ada, Michigan wrote to regulators, who provided the message and others to the Guardian.

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Michigan Dems highlight Flint with unanimous opposition to CR – By Mike Lillis September 28, 2016, 11:58 pm

In parting votes of protest, Michigan’s Democrats on Wednesday unanimously opposed a short-term spending bill in order to send a clear message to GOP leaders heading into the long October recess: Funding for the Flint water crisis should have been part of the package.

“I’m grateful that we made progress, and no ill will toward anyone who worked on the CR. It just should have included Flint,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said after voting against the continuing resolution (CR).

“We talked to each other early on about where we would be on the CR without Flint,” Kildee said of his Michigan colleagues, “so we just stuck with that.”

Although the Democrats, led by Kildee and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had successfully negotiated the authorization of $170 million for Flint in a separate water bill that passed the House hours earlier, Congress must return to that legislation after November’s elections in order to iron out differences between the chambers and get it to the president’s desk.

By contrast, the CR included $500 million in emergency funds to help flood victims in Louisiana and several other states — money that will be available immediately. The Michigan Democrats are crying foul over the discrepancy.

“The money’s not going to come right away to Flint, and we’ve gotta get the money for the people of Flint,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said after opposing the CR.

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This Region Is Twice Flint’s Size—And Its Water Is Also Poisoned – TOM PHILPOTT AUG. 17, 2016 6:00 AM

California’s agriculture boom means nitrate-tainted water for at least 212,000 people.

Farm workers harvest romaine lettuce in California’s Salinas Valley. Nancy Nehring/iStock

In two of California’s most productive farming regions, at least 212,000 people rely on water that’s routinely unsafe to drink, with levels of a toxin  above its federal limit. And even if the pollution source could be stopped tomorrow, these communities—representing a population more than twice as large as that of Flint, Michigan— would endure the effects of past practices for decades. That’s the takeaway of a major new assessment by researchers at the University of California-Davis.

The toxin in question is nitrate, which leaches into aquifers when farmers apply synthetic nitrogen fertilizers or large amounts of manure to fortify soil. Although probably not as ruinous as lead, the contaminant that fouled Flint’s water, nitrate isn’t something you want to be gulping down on a daily basis. Nitrate-laced water has been linked to a range of health problems, including birth defectsblood problems in babies, and cancers of the ovaries and thyroid.

A third of residents drank the nitrate-laced water available to them, while the rest spent extra money on bottled water, a 2011 study found.

According to the Davis report, nitrate takes a leisurely path from farm soil into the underground water sources that provide both irrigation and drinking water to these regions—taking anywhere from years to millennia. That means the high nitrate concentrations these communities now find in their water are the result of farming decisions made years and even decades ago—and “will persist well into the future,” even if farmers ramp down fertilization rates.

The reality is that the practices are unlikely to change anytime soon. The regions in question are two crucial nodes in California’s industrial-agriculture economy: the Tulare Basin in the southern Central Valley, a massive producer of milk, cattle, oranges, almonds, and pistachios, and the coastal Salinas Valley, which churns out about a half of the leaf lettuce and broccoli grown in the United States, and about a third of the spinach. Together, the two regions produce more than $12 billion in ag commodities and account for 40 percent of the state’s irrigated farmland and half its confined animal operations, according to an earlier Davis report.

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How The Flint Water Crisis Could Send An Entire Generation To Prison – BY CARIMAH TOWNES JAN 22, 2016 10:58 AM



As Flint residents deal with the consequences of poisoned water, lawmakers, activists, and locals are already predicting what the crisis means for the future of the city.

Mayor Karen Weaver has pointed out that the disaster could devastate the juvenile justice system in the future.

“This damage to children is irreversible and can cause effects to a child’s IQ, which will result in learning disabilities…and an increase in the juvenile justice system,” she said when a state of emergency over lead levels was declared in December.

The current juvenile justice system in Flint is already rife with problems. It doesn’t have money to repair a detention center with non-functioning mechanical systems. Teenagers who are 17 years old are tried and sentenced as adults and housed with older offenders. Thousands of kids are arrested in school for minor disciplinary infractions.

With the water crisis still unresolved, experts believe the worst of the physical and psychological damage is still yet to come. And when it does, it will hit the already-troubled system hard.

“When children whose brains are actively developing are impacted by lead poisoning in particular…it can have a very deleterious effect on kids’ IQ and, ultimately, their behavior,” Frank Vandervort, clinical professor of law and co-founder of the Juvenile Justice Clinic at the University of Michigan, told ThinkProgress. “The kids who are likely to come in contact with the juvenile justice system tend to be kids who have had developmental disabilities, who have mental health problems.”

Lead poisoning causes mental retardation, shortened attention spans, and other behavioral disorders in children. It specifically damages the section of the brain that manages impulses and emotions. And recent research has linked childhood lead poisoning to violent crime. A study of children in Chicago found a shocking correlation between aggravated assault rates over time and exposure to lead. A similar study of young adults in Cincinnati who had lead poisoning in their blood as babies and small children, had a higher risk of arrest depending on how much lead they were exposed to.

“Most kids at some point in their adolescence violate a law,” Vandervort continued. “They drink and drive, they drink and are underage, they try marijuana, they smoke cigarettes…shoplift. But the kids who are more apt to be prosecuted are the kids who tend to have more severe problems.”

And for children who are already over-criminalized in Flint’s schools, impaired brain development could make things worse for them.

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EPA regional director resigns in connection to Flint water crisis – Associated Press in Chicago Thursday 21 January 2016 19.03 EST

Susan Hedman, who presided over area that includes Michigan, is stepping down 1 February, the Environmental Protection Agency chief said Thursday

flint river water crisis

A regional director with the US Environmental Protection Agency is resigning in connection with the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy said on Thursday that Susan Hedman is stepping down effective 1 February. Hedman is administrator of EPA’s region 5, which is based in Chicago and includes Michigan.

McCarthy said she accepted Hedman’s resignation to ensure the regional office remains solely focused on the restoration of Flint’s drinking water.

McCarthy also issued an emergency order requiring Michigan and the city of Flint to take immediate steps after determining that the response by the local governments has been “inadequate to protect human health”.

Meanwhile, Michigan officials say they still aren’t certain whether there’s a link between a drinking water crisis in Flint and an increase in local cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

A report Thursday by the Michigan department of health and human services says nine people died of the bacterial illness between June 2014 and October 2015 in Genesee County, which includes Flint. That’s down from the 10 fatal cases reported earlier this month. Officials say the number was changed after they found some deaths weren’t considered to have been caused by Legionnaires.

Eighty-seven Legionnaires’ disease cases were confirmed between June 2014 and November 2015. About one-third of the infected people’s homes received Flint water, which was found to have elevated lead levels after the city began drawing from the Flint river.

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Alabama, Michigan Governors Vow to Bar Syrian Refugees From Their States – By Daniel Politi NOV. 16 2015 12:08 AM

People disembark from a raft moments after arriving from Turkey on October 15, 2015 in Sikaminias, Greece. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

People disembark from a raft moments after arriving from Turkey on October 15, 2015 in Sikaminias, Greece.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is not waiting for any kind of evidence. Just a hint of a suggestion that one of the people who unleashed terror on Paris on Friday may have entered Europe as a refugee is enough to make him take action.

“After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” Bentley said in a statement. “I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

Sure, no Syrian refugees have been relocated to Alabama so far, but one of the State Department’s nine domestic refugee processing centers is in Mobile and it could theoretically happen. How Bentley plans on stopping the federal government from relocating refugees in Alabama is far from clear, but he seems determined.

And he’s not alone. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder also released a statement Sunday saying that the state would no longer accept Syrian refugees until there is a full review of screening procedures. “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

Earlier in the day, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the United States was not halting its plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year. “We have very expansive screening procedures for all Syrian refugees who have come to the United States,” Rhodes said on NBC. “There’s a very careful vetting process that includes our intelligence community, our national Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, so we can make sure that we’re carefully screening anybody who comes to the United States.”

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Supreme Court sets stage for historic ruling on gay marriage – by Steve Friess January 16, 2015 3:38PM ET

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at Jan 17, 2015 2.35

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear appeals in four same-sex-marriage cases, virtually assuring that it will issue a landmark ruling by the end of June on one of the era’s most contentious and fastest-changing social issues.

In accepting the cases — from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — the stage is set for a final legal battle over whether denying gay couples the ability to legally wed is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The justices are expected to hear oral arguments in April and to decide by the end of June whether every state and U.S. territory must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize such marriages conducted elsewhere.

A decision in favor of equal marriage rights would take its place in the canon of pivotal cases involving human rights, from Brown v. Board of Education in 1952, which forced desegregation, to Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriages.

“What the Loving case did for interracial marriage, we’re hoping these cases will do for same-sex marriage,” said Dana Nessel, an attorney for suburban Detroit couple April DeBoer and Jane Rowse, whose case is now on the Supreme Court docket.

DeBoer v. Snyder, first filed in January 2012, originally sought to force Michigan to allow both women to be legal parents to their four adopted children. It was expanded later that year to demand the legal right to marry. The couple’s case — and similar ones around the nation — was bolstered in June 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The 5-4 decision, written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, asserted that discriminating against same-sex couples who wish to wed is a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

That ruling, in United States v. Windsor, kicked off a winning streak for same-sex marriage advocates through the courts, with dozens of federal district judges and three three-judge panels at federal appellate courts concluding that states may not discriminate either. The number of states where gay couples can legally marry climbed from nine to 36 as of Friday. More than 70 percent of Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Federal judges in all four states under the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — also struck down marriage bans in those states. However, in November a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit upheld the states’ right to bar same-sex marriage, creating a schism between interpretations of Windsor and making Supreme Court mediation inevitable


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Why Jim Harbaugh Came Home to Michigan – By Jonathan Chait December 30, 2014 3:04 p.m. 

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Over the past couple of weeks, a wide array of national sportswriters weighed in on the prospect that Jim Harbaugh would accept a job as football coach at the University of Michigan. They universally dismissed the notion, often ridiculing it as preposterous. This conclusion followed naturally from their assumption that college football is merely a business, and a minor-league business at that. And so for a coach to spurn the highest level of that business for a miniature version would make as much sense as turning down major-league baseball to remain in AAA.

Harbaugh turned down the NFL to coach at his alma mater. He didn’t do it for the money: Harbaugh was the hottest coaching commodity in the league, and NFL franchises waved considerably larger sums than what he signed for at Michigan, but he accepted the Michigan job before a bidding war could even commence. He did it because there is a culture of college sports in the United States that, unfathomable though it may be to those outside it, has important meaning to those within it.

Jim Harbaugh was the star quarterback at Michigan when I was 12, 13, and 14 years old, which gave him a special and affixed role in the firmament of a teenage mind. The figure who held that role in Harbaugh’s own mind was Rick Leach. When Harbaugh was 12, Leach was Michigan’s star quarterback, and Harbaugh the ballboy, and his father an assistant coach. Here is a ten-second clip of Leach scoring a touchdown in 1977, after which young Jim Harbaugh scurries onto the field to bask in his glory.

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Climate change emerges as priority for black and Hispanic voters – by Alexandra Tempus NOV 2 1:45 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at Nov 3, 2014 1.15

It is a point noted with some morbid curiosity year after year — climate change ranks low on the list of Americans’ priorities. But this version of the story tends to exclude the concerns of those whose interests are often marginalized at the polls and left out of legislation: people of color.

Studies show dealing with climate change is a high priority for nonwhite voters. Richard Drew / AP

According to the number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight (using data from the Pew Research Center), in 2014, more than 40 percent of nonwhite Americans believe global warming should be a “top priority” for their government, while that number for their white counterparts barely tops 20 percent.

This discrepancy may factor in a number of elections this year, especially in some battleground states with significant minority populations where climate change has emerged as a major policy issue.

In Michigan, where Democrat Gary Peters and Republican Terri Lynn Land are vying for an open Senate seat, Peters has made climate change one of the central issues of his campaign. The Great Lakes, an economic engine for the state, is threatened by warming in number of ways, including reduced water levels due to evaporation.

“Michigan is on the front lines of climate change,” Peters told The Washington Post.

And while Florida’s incumbent governor, Republican Rick Scott, doubts the human contribution to climate change, his Democratic challenger, former Florida governor (and former Republican) Charlie Crist has promised to make the issue a focus of his administration. Crist has called the multi-coastal, multi-cultural, low-lying state, “the epicenter of this debate.”

As Democrats in swing states, both Peters and Crist will need strong support from minority voters. In the Sunshine State, where the race is neck-and-neck, black voters have been called Crist’s “most crucial” bloc. Peters, who recently polled 15 points ahead of Land, represents Michigan’s 14th congressional district, one of the state’s two majority-minority districts, in the U.S. House.

Ifeoma Ike, co-founder of grassroots organizing group Black & Brown People Vote, recalled the history of the environmental justice movement, pointing out that people of color are disproportionately hurt by climate change in many ways. Minority populations in dense, urban “heat zones,” she said, suffer most from climbing temperatures. As a result, what makes for good politics in minority communities is also changing.

“I think we’re starting see more progressive and millennial groups of color target their resources and their energy towards [the climate] fight,” Ike said.

These races in Florida and Michigan are two of a handful in which California billionaire Tom Steyer’s organization, NextGen Climate, has focused its efforts to elect candidates who are strong on climate issues — as well as taking aim at those who are deemed “climate deniers.” This midterm cycle, NextGen has targeted “a million of what it calls ‘climate voters’ in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire,” according to The New York Times.

Though minority voters are still likely to favor Democrats regardless of a candidate’s climate stance, FiveThirtyEight found that even when controlling for party, nonwhites care more about the issue. Between 2007 and 2013, an average of 50 percent of nonwhite Democrats cited climate change as a top priority. Among white Democrats, that number is less than 40 percent.

Ike conceded that climate change might not yet be the single, determining factor in elections, but added, “I do think it’s increasingly going to be a major issue.”

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