Mercedes Mejia

Reporter/Producer

Mercedes Mejia produces interviews for All Things Considered, including the music segment Songs from Studio East. She also produces content for Stateside. Mercedes relocated to Michigan from New Mexico, where she earned her BA in Latin American Studies and Journalism. She began in public radio as a reporter at KUNM in Albuquerque. She brings extensive video production skills from her work at Univision and Edit House Production.

Meritful.com

Founders of a new startup company are trying to help teens create a professional online presence.

The website Meritful.com launched this week. It's sort of a LinkedIn for students.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are among the top sites where teens connect with friends and talk about their lives. But a lot of teenagers also posting embarrassing stories or pictures that can have some unplanned consequences as they apply for colleges, internships, and jobs.

Azarias Reda is one of the founders of Meritful. "In this day in age a digital presence is a very important currency, something that you have to protect and build. And high school really is the time to start," he said.

Listen to full interview above to learn more about the Ann Arbor startup.

MODCaR Facebook

People are making a lot of movies about Detroit these days. More than 60 of those films will be screened this weekend at an outdoor film festival in Detroit's Perrien Park.

Organizers hope to spark conversation about how Detroit is seen by Michiganders, and the rest of the world. 

25 hours, 15 minutes and 45 seconds of film, documentaries and music videos - all about Detroit.

“It’s kind of wild how many [films] have been made in the last 3 or 4 years...I wasn’t aware it was on this scale,” said filmmaker Nicole Macdonald.

Perhaps the most popular event in West Michigan begins Wednesday.  The art competition known as Art Prize runs through October 7th in Grand Rapids.

Now in its third year it’s an even larger event with more prize money for the winners. Brian Burch  is Public Relations Director for Art Prize. He says the visitor just keep showing up.

"This year we'll have about 350, 000 visitors, but that's right from the start. Our first event in 2009 had about 200,000 people. so we just continue to grow," he said.

There are public awards and juried awards that total $560,000.

State of Opportunity / Michigan Radio

Join us this afternoon at 2 p.m. for a special call-in show. We'll examine the disparities that exist in our society, and how they make it more difficult for children to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Michigan Radio reporters are working on a new three-year initiative to explore the issue of children living in poverty here Michigan. State of Opportunity captures the stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet. We’re going beyond the statistics and exploring what it takes to make Michigan a place where our every kid have a chance to build a positive future.

“Our project kind of has two ways at looking at these issues. We look at statistics, we look at data, and we look at trends. But then when we talk to the individuals, the individual stories don’t always match up with those trends,” reporter Dustin Dwyer said.

Reporter Jennifer Guerra is currently working on a documentary about the infant mortality rate in the state. She says the information she found was staggering. “Infant mortality is still a big problem in Michigan. We’re above the national average for the past twenty years,” she said.

This week “anxious” and “eager” go head-to-head, plus the overstated use of the word “literally.”

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, who specializes in linguistics.

“There are people who think that anxious should always mean worried, should be linked with the noun anxiety, and not mean that you’re looking forward to something,” said Curzan.

“You can say, I’m anxious about the test, but you shouldn’t say I’m anxious to read that book,” she said.

Curzan says “anxious” has been used to mean “eager” since about the 18th century.

Listen above to hear two other words that are often interchangeable, "disinterested” and “uninterested. Plus, the interesting use of “literally.”

Muslims hold a vigil in Royal Oak in response to attacks in Libya.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit Muslims held a vigil last night in downtown Royal Oak, in memory of those killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with four Americans and many civilians were killed in Benghazi.

Zanah Ghalawanji is a Syrian American.

"The Muslim community absolutely does not support anything that occurred in Libya. Violence is against our religion. Our religion is all about peace," said Ghalawanji.

Candles burned as Ghalawanji gave words of condolence to the Stevens family.

"We are deeply thankful for the courage and selfless dedication that so many of the U.S. diplomatic corps have shown in Libya, Syria and throughout the region during this turbulent period," said Ghalawanji.

The violence was sparked by a video that makes fun of Islam, and the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

David Sawulski didn't participate in the vigil. But he had a front-row sit at a nearby cafe.

"I think it is great. They're supporting the American ambassador and the U.S. by standing here and giving support for some body who has killed who was assisting those people. The ambassador was obviously loved by the Libya people," he said.

The controversial video has sparked violence in several countries.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

On Thursdays we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week, Governor Snyder proposed changes to how Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurance provider, will operate.  Plus, legislation that would help Detroit and other cities provide street lighting seems dead, at least for now.

Paula Poundstone is one of the funniest people in Public Radio. You can hear her test her knowledge of the news, and throw in a few quips on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. This Friday, she’ll be performing at the Ford Community Performing Arts Center.

About thirteen years ago, when Poundstone started with Wait Wait, the show was produced mostly in-studio.

“The show was still really, really fun to do. But it definitely and obviously took on a stronger energy by virtue of having a responsive crowd in from of us, which is really, really fun,” she said.

Poundstone draws comical inspiration from the crowd during her stand-up as well.

“My favorite part of the night is, I do a time honored, ‘where are you from, what do you do for a living?’ And little biographies emerge, and I kind of use that to set my sails for what to talk about,” she said.

Go here to find out more this Friday's event.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Many biologists, politicians, and other say the threat of Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes is cause for concern. The silver carp are especially a nuisance. Those are the ones that can jump as high as 10-feet out of the water. They flop onto boats, and can cause injuries to fishermen.

The Environment Report has been taking a closer look at the effects these fish could have on our rivers and lakes, in the series -- Asian Carp & the Great Lakes.

Rebecca Williams and I took a trip to Eagle Marsh, Indiana. The wetland preserve is located on the southwest border of Fort Wayne. There, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources built what is nearly a 1,200 foot long, 8 foot high chain link fence, designed to block potential advancement of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes.

Here's a video of our trip, plus footage of Asian carp in action, and interviews with experts.

After a review of Allen Park's finances by a state-appointed team, Governor Snyder declared that the city is in a financial emergency. That finding could lead to the appointment of an emergency financial manager to try to get the city on stable financial ground. 

While the Allen Park city council was in favor a state review of the city's finances, the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem opposed the request. Mayor William Matakas says he will advise the council to challenge the state's findings.

You may have noticed more people are saying “you guys” to refer to just about everyone.

“Some speakers use ‘you guys’ but it depends on where you’re from,"  says Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, who specializes in linguistics. "Southerners often use ‘y'all,’ which I think is a very useful pronoun. And in Texas, for some speakers, ‘y’all’ has become singular, and the plural is ‘all y’all.’  In parts of the East Coast, you get ‘youz,’ or ‘youz guys.’ In Pittsburgh they have ‘yinz,’ or ‘younz.'"

User: silatix / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has approved three more ballot proposals which will appear on the November ballot.

The court approved proposals to amend the state constitution to protect collective bargaining rights, the proposal to require two thirds super majorities in the Legislature to increase taxes, and a proposal that would require state wide votes for publicly funded international bridges or tunnels to Canada.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White talks with Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan delegates are at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham is covering the event, and gave us his impressions about this year’s convention.

Graham said there’s some concern about whether there is enough enthusiasm to get the vote out for President Obama this year, as opposed to four years ago.

“Michigan Democrats seem to be convinced that if they can get the vote out, they’ll be doing fine, that Michigan will be a blue state again, and that Barack Obama will be re-elected as President,” he said.

Taboo words can be so powerful they won’t be uttered.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, who specializes in linguistics.

According to Curzan, taboo words tend to cluster around matters such as sex, death, and religion. In fact “occupy” used to be one of those words.

“In the 17th and 18th century this word  fell out of use because it had sexual connotation,” said Curzan.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The Michigan State Fair in Detroit was canceled two years ago due to budget cuts. This year there's a new fair, with a new name and location. It's privately owned and operated.

The Great Lakes State Fair kicked off in Novi today. Oakland County Commissioner Kathy Crawford was at a preview event last night.

“The old state fair the grounds and everything were familiar to me, that’s what I grew up with, so this is new, but at least it’s here, at least we have a semblance of the state fair. And it’s just young, you know, I know it’s going to grow. And we're very excited to welcome everyone to Novi,” she said.

The fair is located at the Suburban Collection Showplace, in Novi. It has all the essentials - livestock and agriculture exhibits, a midway with rides, games and food, and daily circus performances.

Visitors say it’s pretty good, so far.

"My favorite thing about the state fair is the circus,” said 12-year-old Kera Stoehr. "Because, I want to be an acrobat when I get older."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Three ballot proposals will appear on the November ballot. But four others are in limbo until the Michigan Supreme Court rules on them.

Depending upon how the court rules, voters could find themselves with up to seven questions to answer on the ballot. You can read more about the seven proposals here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's All Things Considered host, Jennifer White talks with reporter Steve Carmody. He's been covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

More than 100 Michigan delegates are at the GOP convention. Among the delegation is Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette. Also in the mix are Republican Party members from around the state.

"The primary focus for a lot of the delegates is obviously, get Mitt Romney elected...but when you get away from the simple politics, the main thrust of what the delegates are most concerned about is jobs. They say, the economy and bringing more jobs to Michigan is their primary concern," Carmody said.

The big question is whether Michigan could play a bigger role in the election than previously thought. Carmody said:

"The Republicans here insist that it is a swing state, and that it will play a pivotal role. Of course, others cite different polls that show that there is a much wider gap in Michigan than there are in other swing states."

For example, "Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey was talking to the Michigan delegation, and he said that Michigan is, as he described it, 'a state of consequence,' which means it is a swing state.  That if Michigan does turn out and vote for Mitt Romney that would put Mitt Romney over the top as president. And he said it’s up to people in that room, the Michigan delegation, to make sure that they do get out the Republican vote.  He said this morning that, you don’t want to wake up the next day and find out that Mitt Romney fell one percentage point short in Michigan and that cost him the election," said Carmody.

Listeners have pointed out that more people are using the word "so" in speech.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, who specializes in linguistics.

Curzan says, "These little words are called discourse markers. They're the words that help us organize conversations. Words like so, well, and you know, I mean."

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond / pisab.org

Race issues can be difficult to talk about. People often focus on differences, rather than what they have in common.

This weekend, The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, is holding a two-day workshop in Ann Arbor called, “Undoing Racism.” Friday is the last day to register for the workshop, at the Ann Arbor Community Center.

Rachael Ibrahim is a volunteer community organizer and one of the event trainers. She says the workshop is open to everyone.

“Students, parents, teachers, administration, it’s an important conversation for everybody because there is no one who can escape racism. It exists everywhere, whether we see it or feel it, it exists," she said. "So this conversation is important for everybody."

As an African American women, Ibrahim says she personally sees many inequities that need to be addressed. “Whether we’re talking about health care, whether we’re talking about the rate in which people are incarcerated… if we look at education… and we see some trends, then there is something important to look at when we can see the disparities among people of color,” she said.

Logan Chadde / Michigan Radio

The Book of Jonah is the new album from Nadir Omowale.  It’s a blend of soul music, rock, funk and blues. While there are songs about love and relationships, themes of social and political consciousness carry through the album.

“I never felt like I had to fashion myself into one particular style. I grew up on Prince and The Time and Cameo and all that good stuff, and so funk is all deep within my soul. And I grew up in a small town in east Tennessee, so there were country music influences, there was a lot of Van Halen and rock and roll and so I love all of that music," Nadir told Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Religious themes are also found in his work. Nadir says growing up within a Baptist family in Tennessee has influenced him greatly.  Although his new album is not as political as his last, Distorted Soul 2.0, he says his interest in politics and culture continues.

"And it's really inspired by a lot of the struggles that we've dealt with here in Michigan, and in Detroit especially, and what I've seen over the last couple of years is so much positive energy building as we're moving forward," said Nadir.

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about Nadir's newest album The Book of Jonah, including the song he wrote with guitarist and singer Mayaeni, titled 95 Miles Down the Road.

And click on the video below to see Nadir performing in our studio:

CedarBendDrive/flickr

It was a busy day for lawmakers at the State Capital on Wednesday. They came in from summer recess for a one day session.

Out of that meeting, Gov. Snyder is expected to sign legislation that will require teachers and school employees to pay more for health insurance and pensions.

Michigan Radio is thrilled to welcome Detroit radio personality and Emmy Award winning news anchor Cynthia Canty to host a new local talk show. “Stateside with Cynthia Canty” will premiere on Thursday, Sept. 6. The show will feature a mix of interviews, features and listener call-in segments.

A lifelong resident of metro Detroit, Canty brings perspective to the project from 32 years of experience in Detroit radio and television. She has served as a popular radio host, television news anchor, producer, and as a general assignment, medical, and consumer reporter.

“For me, the magic of broadcast journalism has always been discovering stories to share with the audience,” said Canty. “Whether it is learning about peoples’ struggles and victories, interviewing notables in politics, business, the arts, health and science, or lighter fare such as sampling life on a local ostrich farm, I’ve loved covering the rich stories of Michigan over the years. I am excited beyond words to join the Michigan Radio team in creating Stateside to share these stories in the thoughtful, in-depth style of public radio.”

Click on the video below to hear Canty's thoughts on Michigan Radio's newest show:

Courtesy: www.london2012.com

With the London games behind us, cities across the country are welcoming back their hometown Olympians. This week, Canton, Michigan welcomed home swimmer Allison Schmitt.

At 22, Schmitt won three gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  She won gold in the women's 200m freestyle with an Olympic record time.

A Wayne County Circuit judge has ruled that some Detroit schools will remain in a new district for low-performing schools despite a ballot proposal challenging a state law that allowed the move, according to an Associated Press report.

The judge told emergency manager Roy Roberts today that the Detroit Board of Education regains academic control of remaining schools in the district pending the November election outcome on Michigan's emergency manager law.

Until then, state-appointed managers of financially distressed cities and school districts have to operate under the law's predecessor, which gives them only financial oversight.

Board members sought to reverse Roberts' movement of 15 schools into the Education Achievement Authority, claiming it falls under their academic control.

Detroit Public Schools Board President, LaMar Lemmons talks with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about today's hearing and what steps the board will take next.

If something can happen “on purpose,” then why not “on accident.” If you’re over 40, you probably say, “by accident.”

This week on That’s What They Say, we explore prepositions and other grammar oddities. Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, who specializes in linguistics.

The Ambassador Bridge.
Lester Graham

The question of whether to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario has been the source of ongoing conflict between Gov. Snyder and Matty Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge Company.

Reporter Lester Graham, with Michigan Watch, will bring us a special five-part series on the debate about building a new bridge. The series begins on Monday August 13.

CedarBendDrive/flickr

Every Thursday, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks Michigan politics with Susan Demas, Political Analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week, Michigan's primary election results were not very surprising, but Sikkema says, it's an unusual election year, nonetheless. Plus, they explore what happens next, now that Public Act 4, Michigan's Emergency Manger Law is suspended.

kelbycarr/flickr

When a person decides to enter politics, they may be a little lost about how get their foot in the door. They might not know what holding office really requires.

The Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University works to help up-and-comers get a handle on the world of politics.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The referendum on Public Act 4, Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law is now slated to appear on the November ballot. Once the question is formally placed on the ballot, PA4 would be suspended.

Gov. Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette both say that the state will then revert to Public Act 72, the Emergency Financial Manager Law for cities and schools currently under state control.

But Flint’s City Council President, Scott Kincaid says Flint doesn’t need an emergency financial manager.

Joyce Parker

The Highland Park School District in Wayne County faces major financial problems. Emergency Manager Joyce Parker has selected a charter school provider, The Leona Group LLC, to operate the district’s schools starting this fall.

The decision to turn the district over to a charter operator is not without controversy. Parker says she considered several options, such as consolidating the school district with other districts and even bankruptcy.

Parker says the district is no longer eligible for state funding and adds she needed to make sure students were able to start classes in September.

“The charter district system is one that would allow financial resources in the form of state aid to come into the new system to support educating the students.”

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