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.   

http://www.courts.mi.gov/courts/michigansupremecourt/ / Michigan Courts

You know how they say 40 is the new 30? According to Michigan's Constitution, 70 is the new senile. 

If you're over the age of 70, you can't be elected or appointed to the bench in this state.

That's a rule that dates back to 1906, according to former Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly, when life expectancies were shorter.

For Kelly, a Democrat, the law means she had to step down when her term ended in January. She's 74. Asked how it feels to be too old to do her job, she laughs.

Andrian Clark / Flickr

We're getting a lot of feedback about last week’s series on the fungal meningitis outbreak in Michigan. Some of you loved the series. Some of you, not so much.

But there is one response that we want to share with you. It’s from Dr. Stephen Andriese, whom our reporter Kate Wells interviewed and quoted in the piece.

Dr. Andriese works at Neuromuscular & Rehabilitation Associates of Northern Michigan, which received and administered some of the contaminated drugs that led to this outbreak.

Just call him “Big Dog.”

That’s allegedly how Highland Park police officer Price Montgomery prefers to be addressed, at least when he’s soliciting $10,000 bribes, or trafficking drugs while wearing his firearm and police badge.

At a press conference Friday morning, the FBI broke the news that it’s arrested four Highland Park police officers, including Montgomery.

They’re in custody and being charged with armed drug trafficking and taking bribes. If convicted, they could face up to 55 years in prison.

mconnors / morguefile.com

This is the second in a two-part series. Click here to hear part one.

More than 240 people in Michigan are sick with fungal meningitis after receiving contaminated back pain injections. 

Now, the victims want justice. They’ve spent weeks in the hospital, racking up massive medical bills.

Those are the lucky ones: 15 Michiganders have died so far in this epidemic.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

This is the first in a two-part series. Click here to hear part two.

Fifteen people from Michigan have died from fungal meningitis, more than in any other state.

It’s tough to know for sure why Michigan wound up with a full third of all cases nationwide. Bad luck? A graying population seeking pain relief medication that, in this case, turned out to be contaminated? Or a bustling, privatized network of pain clinics spread across the state?

A DDOT bus in Detroit. People have been talking about the need for a regional transit authority for many years.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Nobody thought fixing Detroit’s debt woes was gonna be easy.

But these days, it might be especially painful for city workers and their families.

Some 2,000 pink slips have already gone out in the last few years. And now, another 500 cuts are scheduled for February.

It’s already worrying union leaders like Leamon Wilson. The president of the AFSCME Local 312 told the Detroit News that more cuts could cripple the city’s bus service. “You can’t deliver the service…It was already functioning at a bare minimum. I don’t see how anything is going to be functioning.”

kfjmiller / Morgue File

Steve Major doesn’t have a lot of time for breakfast these days.

“I actually had two Reese’s Peanut cups and um, a Mountain Dew,” he laughs, a little bashfully. “I had to meet for an interview at 8 o’clock and I’ve pretty much been up and running around since 6:30 this morning.”

A former law enforcement official and firefighter, Major now runs an emergency vehicle company. Lately though, he’s busy organizing a Michigan memorial procession for the victims of the Connecticut school shooting.

www.victorshope.org

Maybe this will finally do something for Congress’ approval ratings. This week, lawmakers passed a rare, “one-man Dream Act” for a Nigerian student living in Michigan.

Victor Chukwueke (say “chew-KWEK-ay”) was born with a severe genetic disorder that causes facial tumors. Doctors in Nigeria told him there was nothing they could do for his life-threatening condition.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio

These are some wild days in Michigan.

With thousands of protestors at the capitol, Right to Work has become the 1200 lb gorilla in Lansing: it makes the 600 lb gorillas look small.

In other words, with time still left in this lame duck session,  Michiganders could wind up with a whole slew of controversial new laws next year.

Here’s a short list:

photo by Anna Strumillo Phuket - Thailand / www.fotopedia.com

A lot of Michigan seniors are not happy with some of the proposed changes to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The legislature is overhauling Blue Cross, changing it from a charity to a state-tax paying business.

But some seniors say it could make their healthcare bills skyrocket, or even take away some of their health insurance plans all together.

Now, if your brain is starting to hurt at this point, don’t worry:  contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand this healthcare change stuff. Promise.

(courtesy of KQED)

A Southeast Michigan teacher is back at work today  after the school suspended her for showing a pro-gay video in class.

The trouble started when Susan Johnson allowed a student to play the song “Same Love,” by the artist Mackelmore, in her South Lyon middle school class.

The student asked Johnson if he could play it, and Johnson says she inquired if there was any violence or profanity in the song. She gave him the okay when he told her it was clean. The song’s about supporting same-sex marriage, and includes the following lyrics:

presto44 / Morgue File

Michigan adoption agencies would be able to refuse to place kids with families who violate the agency's religious or moral convictions. 

That's under a new bill proposed in the state legislature.

Private agencies can already use faith-based principles when it comes to adoption, like not placing kids with homosexual parents.

But this bill would make it illegal to deny agencies funding or licenses because of their convictions.

medindia.net

The statistics are scary: some 40,000 women are dying from breast cancer each year.

But some breast cancer survivors are getting double mastectomies they don't need, in the wrong belief it helps keep cancer from coming back.

That's according to a new University of Michigan study. For some survivors, the study says, the fear of cancer returning is so strong, they're getting risky surgeries for some false peace of mind.

If you've survived breast cancer, it can make medical sense to get that cancer-ridden breast removed.

University of Michigan Health Systems

You're an 80-year-old famed neurologist at the University of Michigan. You're a giant in your field, with a list of honors and awards as long as your arm. You're such a big name in Alzheimer's research that major drug companies ask you to run their clinical trials.

And then you blow it all by giving secret information to a hedge fund investor in what the FBI and the SEC are calling most lucrative insider trading scheme ever. 

But, why?

The Money

technico / http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/801913

It seems like every time there's a new state-by-state report about poverty, Michigan gets bad marks.

But in a new study about income inequality, the state's doing better than you might expect.

Here's the good news: half of all states have bigger gaps than we do between their richest and their poorest people.

The bad news: that's because in Michigan, the rich aren't getting that much richer. This decade-long recession hitting the state means everybody, across the income scale, has a harder time.

Photo Courtesy of MSU News

East Lansing is your classic college town: a laid-back mix of beer, bongs and bookstores.  

But with the opening of a $45 million modern art museum, suddenly the international world is paying attention to "good 'ol Michigan State."

As Michigan Radio's Kate Wells reports, some locals like the attention more than others. 

For something right across from a Taco Bell, the Broad art museum sure smells like money.

MSU News

Michigan State University opens its $45 million contemporary art museum this weekend.

But even the building's creators say they're not sure whether the community will like it.

Students already have a nickname for the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum: "the spaceship."

“"It looks pretty spacey,” says student Will Peltier, taking out his ear buds to remark on the building. “Kinda like something that NASA would create. It's like, real sharp looking."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Cash-strapped school districts, heads up: the state's hoping you'll take a page out of Ypsilanti's and Willow Run's book.

On Tuesday, voters approved what school reps (and even some students) say is a critical, if dramatic, step: consolidating districts.

It means big cuts and layoffs, but administrators desperately hope it'll also hit the reset button for two struggling communities. 

The Ann Arbor District Library wants a new building downtown.
AADL / Facebook

Voters in Ann Arbor rejected taxes for public art and a new downtown library. 

People feel like they already pay a lot of property taxes in Ann Arbor.  And while they’re proud of their reputation as a cultured community, they just weren't willing to tack on a couple new millages.

One would have paid for public art. The city's currently funding art installations out of the budget for capital projects. Even some city officials say it's a weird, inflexible system. 

And voters also turned down a $65 million rebuild of the downtown library.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A Wayne County judge says the ACLU can move ahead with its lawsuit against Highland Park schools.

That suit claims children in Highland Park are being denied the "right to read," and that the state is ultimately responsible.  It's getting national attention for what could be wide repercussions. 

Lawyers for the ACLU say the state and the district knew about major problems, like less than 10 percent of Highland Park middle and elementary students testing at grade level in reading or math.  In reading alone, they're often four to eight grade levels behind.

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