“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
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” – http://bit.ly/2g2geVl
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
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.
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.
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.
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 tworegions 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”