Kate Wells

Arts, Culture & Education Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering cultural arts, education, and general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

FidlerJan / http://www.morguefile.com/archive/#/?q=obesity

We know there’s a genetic component to obesity, but until now, we didn’t know much about why some people develop complications from that obesity – like diabetes or cardiovascular disease – and others don’t.

Now University of Michigan researchers say they’ve honed in dramatically on which genes determine whether you’re predisposed to becoming obese, as well as those that determine if you’re more likely to develop additional obesity-related complications. 

This could lead to more tailored, personalized ways of treating obesity and its complications in each individual patient.

A private school in Traverse City will now only admit students who are vaccinated.

The Children's House takes infants all the way through seventh graders.

Administrators became worried about the babies earlier this year, when they realized 30% of their students had vaccination waivers.

The ArduCopter from DIY Drones can take pictures in the sky.
DIY Drones

Got a drone you want to test? 

Now you’ve got a place in Michigan to do just that, whether the drone is for military, commercial or academic use.  

G.L. Kohuth / Michigan State University

All of Detroit’s 11,304 backlogged rape kits – discovered abandoned in an evidence locker six years ago – should finally be tested for DNA by the end of this month.

It’s a major milestone, even as the city can’t afford to investigate or prosecute all of these rapes, and has had to look to private foundations to start a $10 million fundraising effort.  

 A former Traverse City high school student who was sexually assaulted by a teacher is now suing the school district for allegedly harassing and ostracizing him after the abuse came to light.  

Keegan Gordon was 15 when he was assaulted by teacher Lisa Placek, 48, who pled guilty to criminal sexual assault and was sentenced to prison in 2012.

She was paroled last month, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Anybody worried about the water coming out of their taps in Flint can get a city employee to come test their water personally – on the city’s dime.

That’s according to about a dozen or so letters the city says it is sending out to people who’ve complained about their water quality in city meetings or in letters to city hall.

ArtPrize

 

If you really, really love history – of if you really, really love Ludington – then having a 19-day event called "History Prize" in the Lake Michigan town of 8,000 sounded like a great idea.  

For less ardent fans, however, the concept of three weeks of exhibits, collections, and "living history" tours put on by historians competing for cash prizes may have been less than thrilling. 

Either way, it's not happening now. At least, not in Ludington.

taxcredits.net

Flint's general fund deficit has gone from $19 million to $9 million in two years, and is on track to being eliminated entirely in five years.

That's according to an audit presented to the city council Monday night.

The second bit of good news for the city's fiscal health was legacy costs.

Andrew Pennebaker / Flickr

A small crowd of Flint residents came out to Monday night's city council meeting to protest what they say is discolored, odorous, unsafe water coming out of their taps. 

"It smells horribly," says Cindy Marshall. "I took a shower the other night and my eyes were blood red and burning. I broke out in a rash and was scratching like crazy just from taking a shower."

Rob Swatski / Flickr

It became a kind of overnight urban legend.

A couple of years ago, Detroit's "50,000 feral dogs" made national headlines, which in turn drew eye rolls from residents sick and tired of seeing their city depicted as an apocalyptic hellscape, especially when that 50,000 number was sketchy at best.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Black women historically have lower rates of breast-feeding than white women do.

An Orgeon-based breast milk company called Medolac said it had a way to help that: it claims its "donor moms" (as the company calls the women it pays for breast milk) report breast-feeding their own kids for longer periods.

One of those women is Andrea Short of Newport, Michigan.

"She was probably four months old when I realized I had an overflow problem," says Short, looking on as her 15-month-old daughter Johanna munches strawberries on the couch.

It’s one of the most anticipated books of 2015. It will keep you up way past your bedtime. And it was written in Ann Arbor coffee shops by University of Michigan MFA grad Rebecca Scherm, in between the freshmen writing classes she teaches at the university.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

The federal government is offering farmers in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan $17 million dollars to cut back on pollution that runs off their farms into Lake Erie. 

That's after toxic bacteria linked to farm runoff shut down Toledo's drinking water for a few days this past summer.

This is a totally voluntary program. If a farmer wants to apply for money to do things like plant strips of grass or cover crops to absorb and filter pollutants, now the pot of potential funding just got a little bigger.

There's money to be made around the passion for Michigan football at Michigan Stadium.
Anthony Gattine / Flickr

One in four young adults between the ages of 18-24 has a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. 

But student athletes are far less likely to seek help than non-athletes, says a 2014 study done by a group called the Healthy Minds Network, which is run by a University of Michigan professor. 

So with funding from the NCAA, the University of Michigan started a pilot program this fall to reduce the stigma around mental health for athletes.

Giulia Barbero / Flickr Creative Commons

That’s the surprisingly sudden, fierce debate that's popped up in Detroit, with the city's Black Mothers Breast Feeding Association publishing a list of concerns this week about a breast milk company’s early plans to recruit moms in the city.

First off, yes: you can sell breast milk.

This week, the White House rolled out a proposal to provide free community college tuition to qualifying students, which could remove financial barriers to post-secondary education in Michigan, where just one in three people has an associate’s degree or higher.

Before we dive too far in, here are the “buts.”

karamanislaw.com

Federal agents seized roughly $18 million from three of the owners of the Massachusetts pharmacy responsible for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.

Right now, it’s still unclear whether that money will actually wind up in a proposed $135 million victim compensation fund.

Twenty-three of the 64 people killed nationwide in the outbreak were from Michigan.

Atlantic Council / Flickr

Five new members of Michigan's congressional delegation were sworn into office today: Democrats Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence, and Republicans Dave Trott, Mike Bishop and John Moolenaar.

We spoke with Dingell about how she’ll differ from her husband, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, John Dingell; how Michigan will do now that giants like Dingell and Senator Carl Levin have retired; and how she wants to convince weary, skeptical voters that Michigan's five freshmen actually will be bipartisan.

Joe Gratz / Flickr

Oh, this one is low.

Apparently someone is calling around pretending to be from the Third Judicial Circuit court in Wayne County.

The scammer tells marks they’ve missed jury duty, and they can either pay a $500 fine - (Right now! Over the phone! How convenient!) - or the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.

Photo courtesy of Brit Bennett

More than a million people know how Brit Bennett feels about being black in nice little liberal enclaves of progressive white people.

Basically, confused. And grateful. And more than a little tired.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last month the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of eight Highland Park students was thrown out by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision.

The suit says the schools didn’t provide students with even basic literacy or math skills, and that therefore the state and the district should be held responsible for that failure.

But the court of appeals tossed the suit, basically because of three points.

Released by the family

Update 4:30 pm: 

Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint's disrict,  says news of Hekmati's hunger strike is worrying, but:

"I understand that he’s sitting there in the lonely and quiet of his own cell feeling like he’s isolated, where he can't see all the ongoing efforts on his case, where he would feel like he could do something to call attention to his case. He’s doing what I think he thinks he can do.

"We literally work on this case every single day. Our main goal, and hopefully Amir hears this, our main goal is to keep his case in frontal lobe of everyone who is paying attention to Iran, so that if a moment occurs when Iran see it’s in their interested to make a gesture towards the international community, they will see that the release of Amir Hekmati would be a tangible gesture that demonstrates that they are truly serious about becoming a member of the international community. "

Michigan Radio has learned that Amir Hekmati, the US citizen and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Iran for 3 years on charges of spying, which he denies, has sent a letter to President Obama describing his fading hopes for release and begging that his own fate not be tied to nuclear negotiations. 

His sister Sarah Hekmati has confirmed to Michigan Radio that he has also launched a hunger strike. 

The full letter is below: 

Michigan State Police

Detroit-area residents are getting a reported $246 million in federal recovery money after the August floods.

FEMA has approved $141 million in grants, while businesses will get another $104 million in low-interest loans.

But others are still waiting.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Is everybody at Grand Valley State University just ridiculously friendly and cheery? Is this a thing?

Even in the student club for women who have an extremely high risk of breast cancer, meetings are less Lifetime-movies-about-sadness-and-sisterhood and more like Legally Blonde: a dozen women laughing self-consciously through dance aerobics in leggings and breast-cancer pink tank tops.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About 20% of Michigan’s inmates suffer from some kind of mental health condition.

So if the state could divert people away from prison and into treatment, the prison population would drop.

That’s the thinking behind a “diversion” program being tested in a few areas of Michigan.

Jake Neher / MPRN

What is the Education Achievement Authority?

Opened in the fall of 2012, the idea was to create a bold new kind of school district that was run by the state and less restricted by administrative red tape, in order to do some radical turn-around work in some of Michigan’s worst schools.

Two separate investigations are looking into reports of patient and staff abuse at the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital.  

The state-run hospital has been embroiled in controversy since a patient died from a lack of oxygen in March.

Meanwhile, staff at the hospital are being repeatedly injured by violent patients, says AFSCME's Stacie Dineen.

user krossbow / Flickr

It's not every EMU Regents meeting that ends with students and community members staging "die-ins" and screaming "Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!" as the college president leans over them, asking them to calm down and get up off the floor. 

But that's what happened Friday. 

Sono Tamaki / flickr

University of Michigan researchers say a woman's weight during pregnancy may have a much bigger impact on her infant than previously understood.

A study that looked at 1.8 million live single births in Sweden found that women who had a BMI of 35 or higher had twice the infant mortality rates of women who were not obese.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

“Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!”

Dozens of chanting protestors overwhelmed the Eastern Michigan University regents meeting with Friday afternoon, with a handful of people lying down on the carpet in front of the regents table.

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