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  • Lessenberry on the battle to ban the Metro Times

    Turns out, our very own Jack Lessenberry knows the Grosse Pointer seeking to ban the MT: Ten years or so ago, a woman named Andrea Lavigne sat in on some media survey classes I was teaching at Wayne State University. She was in her late 30s or early 40s, and seemed to be searching for answers. She wanted to know how the media work, and told me she was a Maoist. This fascinated me, because I thought authentic Maoists were almost as rare as passenger pigeons. Chairman Mao, we now know, starved to death and slaughtered tens of millions of his own citizens, and kept China economically and intellectually backward. Intrigued, I got together one night before class with her and another Maoist, to find out what they were all about. Alas, they spouted a form of primitive, grade-school Marxism. They seemed to have very little historical knowledge of Communism or what it had actually been like. Yes. A Maoist. Read the full story at Michigan Radio here.

    The post Lessenberry on the battle to ban the Metro Times appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit residents sue incinerator owner over ‘noxious odors and contaminants’

    A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the owner of Detroit’s municipal solid waste incinerator Monday, accusing the company of nuisance and gross negligence violations According to the complaint filed by Detroit-based Liddle & Dubin P.C., “On occasions too numerous to list, Plaintiffs’ property including Plaintiffs’ neighborhood, residences and yards were physically invaded by noxious odors and contaminants … As a direct and proximate result of the Defendant’s’ negligence in operating and/or maintaining the facility, Plaintiffs’ property has been invaded by noxious odors.” The eight-page complaint charges that local property values have dropped due to the incinerator’s presence, “and has interfered with Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property.” The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, seeks a financial award in excess of $25,000 and all costs and attorney fees related to the case. In an email, a spokesperson for the company says, “Detroit Renewable Power is reviewing the complaint filed today,” but declined further comment. The suit comes weeks after a Metro Times’ cover story earlier this month found a growing number of odor complaints from nearby residents since Detroit Renewable Power LLC (DRP) took control of the facility in 2010. The investigation found a spike in citations from the Michigan Department […]

    The post Detroit residents sue incinerator owner over ‘noxious odors and contaminants’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Winners announced for the ‘High Times’ Medical Cannabis Cup

    The High Times Medical Cannabis Cup is more than just a celebration — although with the recent shift in attitudes toward marijuana legalization, there certainly is much to celebrate.  HT‘s Danny Danko described it as “just like any other harvest festival or a county fair where people bring their best produce, their best pigs and horses and cows, and they compete with each other for bragging rights, basically.” Here are a list of winners from this year’s Cannabis Cup, who did indeed walk home with some well-deserved bragging rights — if anyone knows their marijuana it’s High Times: Indica 1ST - Oasis Medical Seeds - Paris OG 2ND - Herbal Solutions - Alien Dawg F2 3RD - Herban Legendz, LLC - Grape OX Sativa 1ST - Arborside Compassion - CATFISH 2ND - Organibliss - Ghost Train Haze #1 3RD - We Grow Education and Collective Centers - MelonGum Hybrid 1ST - Herbal Solutions - Gorilla Glue 2ND - Pure West Compassion Club - Death Star 3RD - Kushman Veganics for Buds & Roses - Veganic Candyland Concentrate 1ST - Mr. B’s Extracts - Raskal’s Lemon 2ND - 710 Savant - Kosher Kush Dewaxed 3RD - Oasis Medical / Vader Extracts / Dab Vader - Candy Jack Shatter Non-Solvent Hash 1ST - NLG - Jedi Kush Ice Wax 2ND - Arborside Compassion - HeadCandy Kush Hash 3RD - New World Seeds Resource […]

    The post Winners announced for the ‘High Times’ Medical Cannabis Cup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro­Choice Initiative

    So is the title of the press release we received this morning from The Satanic Temple. You may recall our interview with Doug Mesner from earlier this year. The Satanic Temple is, perhaps, best known for trying to build a child-friendly monument to satan in OKC: How Mesner and TST are rocking the Hobby Lobby ruling is interesting: The Satanic Temple Leverages Hobby Lobby Ruling to Claim Exemption From State Mandated ProLife Materials Reads the next line of the press release. And then their website: A number of states require that abortion providers give information to patients that maybe inaccurate or misleading. Demands that members of the Satanic Temple, or those who share our beliefs, be subjected against our will to anything but the best scientific understanding are a violation of our religious beliefs. Thanks to rulings such as Hobby Lobby, we can take a stand against these practices. Mesner points out how the Hobby Lobby ruling bolsters their position: While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact. This was made clear when […]

    The post Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro­Choice Initiative appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio

    On Saturday we set out to check out the High Times Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio, Mich. — High Times did hold a Cannabis Cup in the Motor City back in 2011, but Detroit police flexing their muscles and making arrests at that event may have been to blame, at least partially, for the choice of a new host city. The event was held this year at the Auto City Speedway, (also known as “B.F.E.” to Detroiters). Nevertheless, the prospect of stopping at the Torch for the best burger in the Genessee County was compelling — and anyway, this was the Cannabis Cup we were talking about. Was it really going to be “work?” It turned out, just a little bit. An inexplicable lack of an on-site ATM meant hiking quite a ways up the road to the nearest gas station, and then waiting for an attendant to restock the ATM with cash. We spoke with plenty of Cannabis Cup attendees at the gas station — everybody knows that the local gas station is a stoner’s best-friend. The two-day festival, for which one-day tickets were sold for $40, was divided into two sections — a general area and a medicating […]

    The post Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list

    Yes, it’s true. Forbes says Detroit is one of America’s most creative cities: “We ranked these places based on four metrics: activity per capita on project-funding platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo and music sites Bandcamp and ReverbNation. The goal was to capture organic creativity, since many artistic and musical types have “day jobs” outside of creative pursuits.” The Forbes list sandwiches #9 Detroit between #8 Seattle and #10 Oakland, Calif. If you are watching the art and culture explosion happening right now in Detroit, you probably think we should rank higher than #2 Boston and #1 San Francisco, if only for the fact that it’s actually affordable to create here and there is space for everyone to be creative. But hey, those metrics weren’t part of the equation. And there’s always next year.

    The post ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

Numbers games

Why media shouldn't accept Detroit statistics at face value.

Journalists tend to love numbers. As subjective as anyone's perceptions may be, numbers tend to give the perception of objectivity. If a reporter writes that a band is popular, then the editor wants to know how many records they sold last quarter, or how many people showed up at their last show, or how many girls screamed and fainted when the musicians walked by.

And when someone publishes a Top 10 list, we absolutely go crazy. Even when a list is much longer we'll pick the Top 10 just to make it manageable. And when some study comes up with statistics about a city, it can become gospel truth in people's minds.

Detroit's been on the receiving end of numerous lists and studies that play into perceptions about the city. Those conclusions seem to verify perceptions people already have so there is little motivation for anybody to question them. For instance, in October Forbes magazine listed Detroit as the most dangerous city in the nation, based on an analysis of FBI crime statistics. The rest of the media ate it up.

About a year ago the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund released a report claiming in one bullet point that 47 percent of Detroiters are functionally illiterate. This was actually a rehash of a 1998 report from the National Institute for Literacy. Still the media ran with this "new" data, and CBS Detroit, Fox Nation, the Huffington Post and even African-American news website The Root piled on — as did the UK's Daily Mail. Forbes magazine reported it too, then backtracked and ran a story questioning the report and pointing out that the "statistic" has been a staple of white supremacist websites for at least a decade. 

Danny Devries, a data analyst at Data Driven Detroit (D3), took on the myth in a December D3 staff blog post after a caller repeated it to him while he was on WDET-FM's The Craig Fahle Show in December.

"I had seen this 47 percent functional illiteracy rate bouncing around the media for a while," Devries wrote in an e-mail to me recently. "That number just seemed so high. I did some digging and realized the methodology for determining the illiteracy rate for Detroit just wasn't accurate. There was too much extrapolation to determine a specific rate for Detroit based on a national survey from 1993 of 26,000 people. All of this isn't to say that functional illiteracy isn't an issue, but it deserves fair treatment. Throwing around this '47 percent' number isn't doing anyone any favors."

The question is why did these arguably responsible newsrooms take the bait like a big, fat bass going after a juicy nightcrawler? Mostly they took it hook, line and sinker. Devries got into that in his D3 blog post in December.

"Dissecting the origin of this statistic is more about the poor data literacy of some of our news agencies than it is about Detroit's literacy rates," wrote Devries. "Many of them referred to the report as a 'new study,' missing the important detail that the research is far from new. The 47 percent Detroit literacy rate is the result of a 1998 analysis by the National Institute for Literacy, performed on data from the National Adult Literacy Survey, published in 1993. That's right: those 'alarming new statistics' are based on data almost two decades old. Almost all of the media coverage neglected to communicate that fact."

Apparently the cutbacks in newsroom funding are having an effect on the reliability of information reported. But where is reliable information on the adult illiteracy rate in Detroit? The truth is that we don't know. Even the original data from 1993 came with a warning that the information was only reliable at the county level. The most useful information I could find came from the National Center for Education Statistics, which reported in 2003 that the functional illiteracy level for Wayne County is 12 percent. The only way Detroit could be at 47 percent illiteracy while the county is at 12 percent would be if there was zero illiteracy in Wayne County outside of Detroit. By comparison Washtenaw County's functional illiteracy rate was reported to be 6 percent; Oakland's and Macomb's at 7 percent each. The entire state of Michigan came in at 8 percent.

So let's get back to that Forbes list. Is Detroit the most dangerous city in the country? As commendable as Forbes was in debunking the illiteracy rate myth, they regularly fall into the same trap with statistics. For some perspective, let's consider a report by Zack Taylor, a Toronto-based planning consultant who wrote a study ("Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: A Critical Examination of City Ranking Studies") on the shortcomings of highly publicized city rankings. Taylor's conclusion for journalists is "Be skeptical" when publicizing these rankings. After all, people believe this stuff and it becomes the basis of opinions that can turn into municipal policies.

Is Detroit the most dangerous city in the nation? Not so says a D3 blog post titled "Apples to apples, Detroit ranks 17th not first in crime, or ten reasons not to trust top ten lists." Among the things pointed out here is "Forbes uses the FBI's Uniform Crime Report data in exactly the way that the FBI advises it should not be used: to rank locales." It goes on to point out that the FBI data is incomplete, particularly because cities voluntarily report these statistics and some cities aren't included, like Chicago. So if Chicago happened to be the most dangerous city in the country no one would know based on the Forbes list or the FBI list.

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