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State of Opportunity

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A pair of Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, the only venomous snake native to Michigan.
Steven Parrish / Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, the University of Michigan

The Eastern Massasauga — the sole rattlesnake to inhabit the state of Michigan — is facing rapid population loss that's prompting national concern for Michigan wildlife.

In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the snake as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act, which would qualify the snake for national funds to help preserve the species. 

Tom Casperson

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, announced early Monday that he will run for the 1st U.S. House District, which represents northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

He is the first Republican to officially announce to succeed Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, who is retiring. Casperson has served almost 11 years in the Michigan Legislature.

stevendepolo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

  A successful program that rewards students with cash for boosting their grades has expanded to a second high school in Westland, Michigan. Bill Gray, a retired school psychologist with Wayne Memorial High School, started the Champions of Wayne program in 2009 with the goal of improving performance of at-risk students.

The program offers mentorship and a $200 reward each semester to each students who successfully increase their grade point averages. 

Flint water treatment plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a full review of the actions taken to address drinking water quality issues in Flint. It is expected to be completed by the end of this week, with results released next week.

EPA regional administrator Susan Hedman said in a Nov. 3 letter to U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, that she was asked by the head of the federal agency to carry out the review.

Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

Connections is a State of Opportunity documentary about the power of networks.

The show looks at the importance of a strong network, and how those who start with sparse networks can start to build more connections.

Many Michiganders believe a full moon causes us to act peculiar – but researchers find no correlation between the full moon and unusual human behavior.
Rachel Kramer / Flickr

Throughout history, humans have often thought the full moon changes a person’s behavior – most notably through Hollywood movies about humans turning into vampires or werewolves. In fact, the word “lunatic” itself derives from the Latin word for moon, “luna.”

And as Dustin Dwyer on our State of Opportunity team points out, some teachers put full-moon days on the calendar -- preparing for squirrelly kids.

getoverit.org

A new study released by the Economic Alliance for Michigan (EAM) says rising health care costs threaten economic growth and the stability of working families.

The report says overall health care spending in the U.S. nearly doubled, from $1.5 to $2.9 trillion between 2001 and 2013. Projected costs are expected to reach $4.8 trillion by 2021.

Wikimedia Commons

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced an ambitious new program today to increase diversity in the pool of students applying for admission.

The program, called Wolverine Pathways, will be launched in January for 7th and 10th grade students in Southfield and Ypsilanti. It will be offered in a series of eight-week sessions throughout the year, and will focus on academics and other activities like field trips, campus visits and internships. 

Ryan Stanton / Flickr Creative Commons / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

UPDATED: 8:35 am on 10/22/2015 The federal government paid at least $1.7 million to 25 Michigan charter schools  that never opened, according to a report released this week by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

The Wisconsin-based media group "conducts in-depth investigations into corruption and the undue influence of corporations on media and democracy," according to their website.

Great Sphinx corn maze on Jacob's Farm near Traverse City.
Jacob's Farm / screen shot YouTube

Each year, tens of thousands of Michiganders flock to nearby farms to make their way through mazes made of corn stalks.

The idea of a maze made of maize began in the early 1990s in Pennsylvania.

According to Lebanon Valley College, farmer Don Frantz created the first American corn maze to attract visitors to his farm:

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

Regular marijuana use is increasing nationwide, and in Michigan, more people are going to jail for it.

Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2008. Proposals for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana have been voted on in 21 Michigan cities since 2011, with 15 communities approving them.

my_southborough / flickr creative commons / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

State Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, has introduced a bill that would reopen the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake.

The juvenile justice facility closed Sept. 30 after being removed from the state's budget in June.

The 60-bed facility treated youth offenders, ages 12-21, with mental illnesses.

Overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Maxey School was one of three remaining state-run juvenile facilities.

Enbridge Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Enbridge Energy and the federal government in a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club over a pipeline running through Michigan state forest land.

According to the Sierra Club, Enbridge ought to have been required to carry out a full environmental impact analysis for the pipeline in 2014 when it took out a new permit. 

Honeycrisp apples are explosively popular.
University of Minnesota

In our little informal apple poll, Michiganders agreed: Honeycrisp apples are the tastiest apple to eat.

Unfortunately, your love for Honeycrisp apples could be the reason why they are so pricey.

Up until 2008, farmers had to pay a royalty on Honeycrisp apple seeds to the University of Minnesota, where they were first developed.

Karen Stintz - Flickr Creative Commons - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Fifth-grade students at Muskegon Middle School will begin receiving drug- and gang-resistance training in November.

The Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T) program aims to deter students from participating in destructive behaviors before they start.

Adam Gerard / Flickr Creative Commons - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Three of the top five most-violent cities in America are in Michigan, according to new FBI statistics released Monday.

Flickr user Morgin (with modifications made by Michigan Radio) / Flickr via Creative Commons http://bit.ly/1iowB8m

When we asked you to nominate the best Michigan apples on social media, one thing was clear: it's probably not the Red Delicious

The Association of American Universities today announced the appointment of Mary Sue Coleman, former president of the University of Michigan, as its new president, effective June 1, 2016.

Coleman will succeed Hunter R. Rawlings III, who has served as president since June 2011. Rawlings informed the AAU board of directors in May that he would retire from AAU next May.

Cristian Bernal / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Students at Hastings High School have submitted a petition with 304 signatures asking to be allowed to display the Confederate battle flag on school grounds.

A small group of students initiated display of the flag, which they did not understand to be widely perceived as a symbol of racial hatred. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Oakland County Health Division has recorded its first human fatality from West Nile virus in Michigan for 2015. The 81-year-old woman died due to complications from the virus. This was the first death from the virus in Oakland County since 2003.

A Flint resident holds a jug of tainted Flint water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint switched its drinking water source in April of 2014. The city went from Detroit water to water from the Flint River, and there have been problems ever since.

Most recently, residents have been enraged to hear about elevated lead levels in kids. At this point, Flint residents have been unsure about the safety of their water for over a year.

Here's a quick rundown of the problems some Flint residents have been complaining about.  

Many Michigan students finished up their first week of school today. While younger kids might see just another year of quizzes and tests, their parents are taking note of the effects of budget cuts and other administrative changes. We visited local schools to ask parents how things have changed this year.

School Bus
Nicolae Gerasim / Flickr

Michigan prisoners have raised more than $53,000 to help buy children school uniforms and supplies. The program, Dress for Success, is part of the Pathways to Potential project of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 The first human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed for 2015. Three patients in Macomb, Monroe and Ottawa counties have been diagnosed with the disease. Kim Signs, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Human Services, says, "All were men in their 60s who were hospitalized with an illness consistent with West Nile neuroinvasive disease. And all were released and are recovering."

An additional two individuals have tested positive for West Nile virus through blood donation. 

Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

The Macomb Library for the Blind looks more like a combination of a post office and library than just a library. Plastic bins stamped with “US Postal Service” are stacked in the backroom where administrative assistant Kathy Nuss and librarian Anne Mandel run through lists of patron orders. The library ships audiobooks, braille books and descriptive DVDs (films where the action is narrated) to Macomb County residents that can’t make it into the library due to a visual or physical impairment. 

Traverse Area District Library

At the Woodmere branch of the Traverse Area District Library in Traverse City, storytelling doesn’t just mean picture books and reading aloud. It means singing, crafts and sometimes, tackling difficult topics: like sexual abuse.

In April, children’s librarian Catherine Lancaster planned a story time based on Jill Starishevsky’s children’s book “My Body Belongs to Me”, which tells the story of a child inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. The child tells on the adult and is met with praise for being brave.  

Ashley Rose / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

A non-profit agency based in Livingston County wants sexual assault victims to call them first, before the police.

LACASA Center offers medical care, including a rape kit that meets law enforcement standards, counseling, and legal support to victims in a safe and confidential setting. Victims are under no obligation to report their crime to police, but if they choose to do so, LACASA can guide them through a legal process that can be difficult and at times shaming for victims.

Paula Friedrich/Michigan Radio

Dozens of flyers in the front hallway of the newly renovated Pinckney Community Public Library advertise programs: puzzle hour, knitting group, kids yoga, adult Zumba, after-hours movie nights and, of course, book discussion groups. Director Hope Siasoco flits among all of them, calling patrons by name, pointing out the local artwork hanging on the wall and joking that the movie nights are the “cheapest date in town.”

Paula Friedrich/Michigan Radio

There’s a bright blue bus that rumbles through Ypsilanti streets. The words “Start Here. Go Anywhere.” are painted on the outside. On the inside there are shelves of books, two computers, a reading nook and a checkout station.

“We function as a moving block party,” said Mary Garboden, who runs the bookmobile as Ypsilanti District Library’s outreach librarian. At every stop kids run onto the bus, returning DVDs, checking out books or making use of the bus’ internet equipped computers.

Paula Friedrich/Michigan Radio

On a recent Thursday, the Cascade Branch of the Kent District Library in Cascade Township, just outside of Grand Rapids, was bustling – but not just with patrons checking out books.

Toddlers played in KDLville, a learning center that engages kids and their parents through writing, talking, playing, singing, and reading, which all promote literacy. The branch even offers events where patrons can learn how to hula hoop, watch movies on the big screen and get answers to their technology questions without going to the Apple Store.

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