Michigan health department head charged with involuntary manslaughter over Flint crisis

June 14, 2017 by  
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Flint , Michigan is still grappling with the aftermath of the water crisis – in March mayor Karen Weaver said it may be over two years before locals will be able to drink water from the tap without using a filter. Now in a breaking development two state officials have been charged with crimes , including the state’s health department head Nick Lyon. His involuntary manslaughter charge makes Lyon the highest-ranking Michigan official charged in connection with the crisis. Lyon and Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical officer, have been charged in connection with the water crisis. Wells was charged with obstruction of justice as well as lying to a police officer, according to the Associated Press. Lyon, Department of Health and Human Services head, was also charged with other crimes in addition to involuntary manslaughter. For starters, he failed to notify the public of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease , according to the charges. Related: Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement 12 people died of Legionnaires’ disease, a serious kind of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria . The bacteria can thrive in mismanaged water systems, according to HuffPost. The publication noted these 12 deaths are the only ones directly connected to the crisis. Legionnaires’ disease isn’t caused from drinking contaminated water, in contrast with the lead poisoning in thousands of children in Flint that happened after they drank the water. Instead, someone who inhales water vapor with the bacteria in it could get the disease. The Department of Health and Human Services apparently knew about the outbreak in 2015, according to emails a watchdog group obtained. The department did notify Governor Rick Snyder’s office, but said the outbreak wasn’t a serious issue. Michigan’s attorney general continues to investigate the Flint lead crisis. Via HuffPost and ClickOnDetroit.com Images via U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Michigan health department head charged with involuntary manslaughter over Flint crisis

‘Eighth natural wonder of the world’ may have been rediscovered after 131 years

June 14, 2017 by  
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131 years ago, the eighth natural wonder of the world was thought to be lost in a volcanic eruption . The exact fate of the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana in New Zealand was unknown, but now two researchers think the terraces may actually have survived, and could even be excavated to dazzle the world once again. During the mid-1800’s, visitors from around the planet came to view the Pink and White Terraces, pools cascading down into Lake Rotomahana. But in 1886, nearby Mount Tarawera erupted, releasing around as much energy as the biggest nuclear weapon ever detonated. Research hinted the terraces were either destroyed or pushed down into the depths of the lake. But independent researchers Rex Bunn and Dr. Sascha Nolden of the Alexander Turnbull Library think otherwise; according to them, the terraces may be preserved just 32 to 49 feet under the surface beneath mud and ash. Related: Scientists find evidence of lost continent beneath Mauritius Bunn told The Guardian the government of the 1800’s never surveyed the area, so we don’t know the exact longitude and latitude of the terraces. But the two researchers drew on unpublished 1859 survey data from 19th century geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter to determine the German-Austrian’s location as he made his field notes to determine where the famed terraces might be today. They think the Pink and White Terraces may be in reasonable condition, able to be restored. Now they hope to begin exploring the site, if they can clinch funding. Bunn told The Guardian, “We want to undertake this work in the public interest. And I have been closely liaising with the ancestral owners of the land, the Tuhourangi Tribal Authority, and they are supportive and delighted with the work.” Nolden and Bunn aren’t the first researchers to think they’ve rediscovered the terraces. GNS Science New Zealand said in 2016 following five years of research, an international team came to the conclusion much of the terraces had been destroyed. But Bunn said he’s talked with GNS and that their conclusions may have rested on 130 years of incorrect cartographical information. Bunn and Nolden’s research was published online this month by the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand . Via The Guardian and IFLScience Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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‘Eighth natural wonder of the world’ may have been rediscovered after 131 years

Detroit debuts brand new 20,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza

June 14, 2017 by  
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Detroit , Michigan is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States for pedestrians . But the city is taking one step to overcome that with the recent opening of a new plaza by the iconic Spirit of Detroit statue. The 20,000 square foot civic square offers space for live performances and art displays, and will host food trucks . The Spirit of Detroit Plaza takes over one block of Woodward Avenue between Jefferson Avenue and Larned Street in front of the statue, which has adorned the area since 1958. The space boasts tables and chairs, colorful paintings on the sidewalk, lights, and planters. It will go through a 90-day trial this summer to see how pedestrians and traffic respond to the newly-created area. Related: America’s first urban ‘agrihood’ feeds 2,000 households for free Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement, “Every world-class city has a central plaza where people can gather and celebrate its civic history, and in front of the Spirit of Detroit is the perfect place for all Detroiters to have the opportunity. We are committed to a Detroit that’s open and accessible to all and this new plaza has been envisioned to celebrate all of the diversities that come together to make us a great city.” Detroit said the new plaza offers “a more direct pedestrian link between Downtown and the Detroit Waterfront.” Vehicles will be redirected onto other nearby streets. The city also said the plaza’s presence could help slash the potential for crashes. The plaza helps simplify an intersection and that fact along with adjusted area traffic signals could even reduce delays on Jefferson Avenue. If the trial goes well, city agencies and the mayor aim to make the plaza permanent. City Planning Director Maurice Cox described the Spirit of Detroit Plaza as a “key piece in making a more vibrant, walkable, diverse downtown.” He appears to have high hopes for the plaza, saying in a statement, “By simplifying the downtown grid and consolidating traffic flow, we are creating a more inviting street and safer pedestrian crossings. And of course, if something changes or the design doesn’t work as well as we expect, we can adjust it or even restore its original design. We expect this will reset expectations for what is possible on neighborhood streets across the city.” Via Curbed Detroit and the City of Detroit Images via Janette Sadik-Khan on Twitter , City of Detroit , and City of Detroit on Twitter

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Detroit debuts brand new 20,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza

These tiny houses help minimum wage workers become homeowners in Detroit

June 7, 2017 by  
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Detroit, Michigan, may have one of the highest rates of poverty in all metro cities in the U.S., but a new initiative launched by local non-profit Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) aims to make it easier for low-income individuals to escape lower class living. The organization is constructing 25 tiny homes which will house tenants who don’t have the funds to rent their own living quarters or purchase a home. Homeless people, students, and low-income seniors will be given priority. A fundraiser was kicked off last week when CCSS invited the public to tour six completed tiny homes . Located in the two vacant blocks between the Lodge and Woodrow Wilson Street, each home will have a unique exterior, and will range in size from 250 to 400 square feet. The development will also be in walking distance to popular social, education, recreational and health services at Cass’ main campus. Said Cass’ executive director, Reverend Faith Fowler, “The structures are being built with the permission of the city, and with the help of professional tradespeople and volunteers . The project is using a rent-to-own model, with rental prices set at $1 per square foot, meaning that a 300-square-foot house would cost $300 in rent per month. Each will have its own basic furnishings and appliances, but no bedroom — so they are not meant for families.” Potential tenants need to meet low-income eligibility requirements and go through an interview and selection process. Rent is capped at no more than one-third of their monthly wages and after a maximum period of seven years, they will officially own the house . The cost of utilities is expected to run around $35 per month. The initiative is applaudable, but there is a catch: tenants are required to attend financial coaching and home maintenance classes once a month. Related: Tiny house startup Getaway to launch off-grid tiny homes in NYC this weekend “It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the environment , as tiny homes have a small carbon footprint. It’s good for the renter to become homeowners because [they will someday have] an asset. It’s good for the neighborhood because 25 more lots will be filled with people and repopulated. It’s good for the city because they’ll become taxpayers. It’s good for the larger community, especially the homeless community, to see that somebody who used to be homeless now is a stakeholder in our neighborhood. So it’s really good on so many levels, and we’re excited about it,” said Fowler. As TreeHugger reports , the tiny house project is primarily funded by private donations and foundations, including the Ford Motor Fund, the RNR Foundation, and the McGregor Fund. Cass’ ultimate goal is to help revitalize the surrounding area. Because there are over 300 vacant properties within a one-mile radius, the non-profit envisions rehabilitating unoccupied buildings for low-income residents and operating on the same rent-to-own basis. Via TreeHugger Images via CassCommunity WordPress , Cass Community Facebook

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These tiny houses help minimum wage workers become homeowners in Detroit

Houston superbug problem has been lurking for years, say researchers

May 18, 2017 by  
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Houston has a superbug problem, and it’s been lurking for years. A particularly virulent strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae , a bacteria that’s resistant to a broad spectrum of antibiotics, has a firm foothold on the Texan city, according to new research published in mBio , an online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology . Using genome sequencing, scientists from the Houston Methodist Research Institute found clone type 307 was responsible for more than one-third of resistant K. pneumoniae infections in their system. “Finding the otherwise uncommon strain in our city was a very surprising discovery,” James M. Musser, senior author of the study and chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and Houston Methodist Hospital, said in a statement. “Because K. pneumoniae is a common and important cause of human infections, we urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques.” K. pneumoniae usually resides in the human intestines, where it doesn’t cause disease. When it migrates to other parts of the body, however, the bacteria can trigger infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, or blood septicity. Related: Student discovers a way to destroy superbug bacteria without antibiotics Musser’s team worked with researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago to analyze the genomes of 1,777 K. pneumoniae strains that caused infections in patients at Houston Methodist between September 2011 and May 2015. Clone type 307 emerged as the most abundant strain. But although the organism has been documented in regions of Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, the study marks the first time it’s been singled out for causing such a broad number of infections in one city. Why this strain is so common in Houston is still a mystery, Musser said. “The faster we can successfully identify which antibiotics this strain is sensitive to, the faster a treating physician can target the appropriate therapy to these ill patients,” said S. Wesley Long, primary author of the study and associate director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital. “Our discoveries also give us the tools to begin to understand how the germ is spreading throughout the Houston area.” Earlier this year, an elderly woman in Nevada died from a K. pneumoniae infection after failing to respond to all 26 antibiotics used in the United States. There’s no approved vaccine for the superbug, but scientists are working on it. “Fortunately, the strain 307 identified in our study remains susceptible to certain antibiotics that can be used to successfully treat infected patients,” said Long. + American Society for Microbiology Via CBS News Photos by Unsplash

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Houston superbug problem has been lurking for years, say researchers

Episode 73: Toyota drives employee engagement; women combat climate change

April 28, 2017 by  
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On this week’s podcast: A prelude to the people’s march on climate; Silicon Valley finds a fit in sustainable fashion.

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Episode 73: Toyota drives employee engagement; women combat climate change

Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

April 21, 2017 by  
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You probably haven’t thought about the bird flu in a couple of years, unless you’re a virologist, but a new strain that resurfaced in China has the potential to be pandemic. The H7N9 virus only caused mild illness in poultry until recently, but a genetic change means the new strain is deadly for birds . Now, H7N9 has led to more human deaths this season than any other season since it was detected in people four years ago. Between September and March 1, 162 people perished from H7N9. Human cases have increased since December, with reports from eight different provinces in China. Hong Kong University research lab director Guan Yi told NPR, “We’re trying our best, but we still can’t control this virus. It’s too late for us to eradicate it.” Related: U.S. avian flu outbreak drives up the price of eggs as supplies are threatened The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased surveillance. FAO animal health officer Sophie Von Dobschuetz said China has started intensified observation while the FAO Beijing office has been providing recommendations for the country’s ministry of agriculture . As with past avian flu strains, patients said they were exposed to infected birds or went to live bird markets. Guan is concerned with how rapidly the H7N9 strain is evolving. He said ten years ago chickens were barely affected by the strain, but his lab’s research revealed the new strain can kill every chicken in his lab in 24 hours. There isn’t evidence the new strain will be deadlier in people, but when people do catch the virus from birds over one third of them perish. Guan said China’s government is already investigating vaccinating chickens. “Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it’s easy to diagnose. On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world,” Guan told NPR. “I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years.” Via SciDev.net and NPR Images via CDC Global on Flickr and M M on Flickr

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The profitable hospital system with sustainability in its DNA

April 10, 2017 by  
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Gundersen Health Systems became the first U.S. hospital to reach renewable energy independence, saved $3 million and improved community health.

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The profitable hospital system with sustainability in its DNA

Overdue: The next Copernican mindset shift

April 10, 2017 by  
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Are we wasting time busily shoehorning the uncomfortable realities of Earth system science into increasingly obsolescent economic and business models?

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Overdue: The next Copernican mindset shift

Why companies get their carbon footprints wrong

April 10, 2017 by  
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A new study argues that companies fail to take into account the way emissions fluctuate throughout the day.

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Why companies get their carbon footprints wrong

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