Sentinel spiders are new superhero to scientists

By NATALIE SPRATT

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists have discovered an environmental contaminant in a creature that many people would like to avoid: spiders.

That discovery made in the Upper Peninsula puts spiders in the role of environmental sentinels — guardians that help scientists understand where to concentrate cleanup efforts.

A study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry looked at a heavily polluted area of the Manistique River. Scientists studied spiders there because of their place in the food web and their ability to accumulate PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in measurable quantities without harming themselves.

The findings suggest that spiders living along riverbanks “may be useful sentinels of relative PCB availability to aquatic and riparian food webs in aquatic ecosystems like rivermouths,” the study said. Continue reading

March 3, 2017 CNS Budget

March 3, 2017

To: CNS Editors

From: Perry Parks, Eric Freedman and Sheila Schimpf

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Pechulano Ali, (517) 940-2313, pechulan@msu.edu.

For other issues contact Perry Parks, perryrobertparks@gmail.com, (517) 388-8627.

MICHIGAN JOURNALISM HALL OF FAME AHEAD: The annual induction dinner begins at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 9, at MSU’s Kellogg Center. This year’s inductees are: Patricia Anstett (Detroit Free Press);  Steven Cain (South Lyon Herald/Whitmore Lake News, Grand Haven Daily Tribune, Ypsilanti Press, Detroit News and Ann Arbor News); John Gallagher (Detroit Free Press); David Gilkey (National Public Radio and Detroit Free Press); and Mary Kramer (Crain’s Detroit Business, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Ann Arbor News, Kalamazoo Gazette, Buffalo Courier-Express and Greenwich Time in Connecticut).

Make online reservations at http://j-school.jrn.msu.edu/halloffame/. For more information, call Kareen at 517-353-6431.

SPRING BREAK AHEAD: There will be no CNS file on Friday, March 10, because of the MSU spring break. Regular files will resume on Friday, March 17. Continue reading

Debates persist on best way to assess schools

By LAINA STEBBINS

Capital News Service

LANSING — What’s the best way to measure school performance?

Standardized testing? Which tests? How often?

Michigan is awash in contentious disputes over whether to repeal the basis for its standardized tests (Michigan’s Common Core standards), questions about the Common Core-based testing system, threats to close low-performing schools, the possibility of cuts in federal education funding and debates about the very effectiveness of statewide standardized testing

Education experts remain at odds over what educational success in Michigan would look like, how to best measure that success and how to achieve it.

Tim Webster, superintendent of Reed City Area Schools, said there needs to be better consensus on testing policies and priorities about which assessments schools should focus on. Continue reading

Fluctuating weather complicates harvesting for farmers

By LAURA BOHANNON

Capital News Service

LANSING — As the weather continues to fluctuate around the state, farmers are being forced to adapt to changing conditions.

Amanda Shreve, the program director for the Michigan Farmers Market Association, said farmers can adapt to virtually any weather condition. She also said that as a result of warmer weather for longer periods throughout the year, farmers markets open earlier in the year and close later than they used to.

“We used to have a general farmers market season of July – September, but now we see a lot of markets starting in May and going all the way through October or November,” Shreve said.

Some crops come in early as a result of the warmer temperatures, too. Maple syrup is set to come in about a month early, said Savannah Halleaux, a public affairs officer for Michigan’s Federal Service Agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Continue reading

State, schools track bullying of minorities in Trump era

By CHAO YAN
Capital News Service

LANSING — The Department of Civil Rights is working with local school districts to deal with racial and ethnic bias incidents arising after the November election.

In November, Civil Rights and the state Department of Education released a statement encouraging schools to review and revise their harassment policies and increase dialogue about diversity.

The election of Donald Trump as president was followed by high-profile incidents of intimidation that matched his political statements. Such rhetoric allows for more harassment to happen, said Roberto Torres, the executive director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan.

Some people see Trump’s statements on immigrants as permission for them to unleash long-held biases. Continue reading

New Adrian representative is working for her community

By CAITLIN TAYLOR
Capital News Service

LANSING — Bronna Kahle’s campaign for state representative came full circle when she was sworn in at a ceremony in her hometown of Adrian, rather than the state capital.

“A lot of people do that in Lansing,” said Kahle, R-Adrian. “But I just had to do it in Adrian. I’m representing Lenawee County.”

Over 100 people watched as Kahle took the oath of office administered by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in an Adrian College lecture hall in mid-December. Looking into the audience, she said it was humbling to recognize everyone in the room who helped with her campaign.

“I remember when I did that with that person, I remember when they made phone calls — oh, they hosted a coffee with me,” Kahle said in her Lansing office, gesturing toward the community members she recalled sitting in her swearing-in crowd. “I am honored to serve these people.” Continue reading

Common Core defenders call out misconceptions

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service

LANSING — As bills to repeal Common Core school standards move through the Legislature, educators are trying to correct misconceptions they believe may have motivated the legislation.

The Common Core state standards – which set out what K-12 students should know at specific grade levels – were implemented across Michigan after the State Board of Education’s unanimous approval in 2010.

The proposal would terminate the current academic standards and replace them with standards used by Massachusetts schools from 2008-2009.

Supporters of the repeal, including 29 House members, say this switch would bring Michigan up to par with Massachusetts’ consistently high educational attainment scores – although after 2009, that state did join Michigan and 43 other states in implementing Common Core standards. Continue reading

Environmentalists wonder about impact of brownfield bills

By ISAAC CONSTANS
Capital News Service

LANSING– For once, many environmental advocates would rather that investors not go green.

Rather than developing new properties, environmentalists prefer brownfields sites that are contaminated and require clean-up. They say legislation that passed the Senate might encourage more urban redevelopment and less expansion outwards.

Under the proposal, five brownfield transformation projects would be eligible for tax benefits for decontaminating and preparing new structures on polluted land.

Whether in the form of grants or tax relief, such incentives are imperative to facilitate purchasing of brownfields, said Carrie Geyer, a supervisor of the Brownfield Redevelopment Unit of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Continue reading

Optimism in urban communities over new brownfield legislation

By ISAAC CONSTANS
Capital News Service

LANSING– After passing through the Senate, legislation to help cities rebuild from urban decay has been met with enthusiasm, but also questions, in local communities.

The bills would provide tax relief for developers building on previously contaminated and blighted land, known as brownfields. Such projects have clean-up costs, and developers would not ordinarily undertake them without financial assistance, according to proponents.

Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, the primary sponsor for the package, said that communities could benefit greatly from the investments.

“When you develop economically in a community, you get people moving back in again,” Horn said. “So now you have a tax base, and you have people with higher expectations, so you have growth on that site and all around. You kind of regrow your city from the inside out.” Continue reading

Bill would “level playing field” in human trafficking cases

By LAURA BOHANNON
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan ranks seventh nationally in reports of human trafficking, and a lawmaker wants to give prosecutors more tools to combat those crimes.

Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, has introduced a bill that would allow certified experts to testify about telltale signs of deviant social behavior demonstrated by human trafficking victims.

Bringing in experts to testify about a victim’s behavior allows judges and juries to receive informed opinion that the victim has, in fact, been subject to human trafficking.

Human trafficking is defined as forcing or deceiving a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline website, which is run by Polaris, a nonprofit group fighting slavery. Continue reading