More people died in Michigan in 2020 than were born, according to state records, the first time that has happened since at least 1900. Michigan isn't the first state where that's happened, and it won't be the last. The national birth has been falling for years. But experts say that if Michigan can't start bringing in more immigrants and attracting residents from other states the way that places like Texas, Colorado and North Carolina have, it could spell serious problems for the economic future of the state. Preliminary data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows 104,1...
Stories Chosen For You
A book for a young adult audience that the American Library Association described as "the most banned book in the country," is now under scrutiny for rejection from bookshelves at private stores.
A Republican Virginia state delegate has filed a lawsuit against the author and publisher of "Gender Queer," a book about the nonbinary and asexual experience, demanding the Barnes & Noble require parental consent before selling the book to minors. State delegate Tim Anderson and his client Tommy Altman, a state congressional candidate, said on Wednesday that "the Virginia Beach Circuit Court has found probable cause that the books 'Gender Queer' and 'A Court of Mist and Fury' are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors," according to a Fox affiliate. "My client, Tommy Altman, has now directed my office to seek a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools to enjoin them from selling or loaning these books to minors without parent consent," Anderson wrote in a Facebook. "We are in a major fight. Suits like this can be filed all over Virginia. There are dozens of books. Hundreds of schools."
On Monday, Virginia Beach City Public Schools officially banned "Gender Queer" from appearing on school shelves, alleging that the book contains sex acts that aren't suitable for children.
Anderson told a CBS affiliate that "you don't have to learn about your sexuality by having illustration of two minors performing fellatio on each other. That's what Gender Queer has. It has two minors on there hands and knees performing fellatio and it's in vivid, graphic detail."
Emily Klein, a manager at AFK Books & Records, a bookstore in Virginia, told the outlet that she will now require parental consent for the book's sale.
"If the book is explicitly rated 'mature,' we will require parental permission and have a parent present," she said. "We brought it in shortly after its release; then it sold out. Once we heard it was getting banned, we brought it back in because we wanted it to be accessible to the people."
According to Bookriot, neither book contains pornographic content.
The restraining order originally stems from a complaint made earlier this month by Virginia Beach School Board Member Victoria Manning. Back in December, Manning told 10 On Your Side she was also scrutinizing the books "Good Trouble: Lessons from the Civil Rights Playbook" and "Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.
"Gender Queer," written by Maia Kobabe, is just the latest book to be banned across the country. Among those frequently targeted by school boards include "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison; "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas; "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, and "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. According to Pen America, over 1,100 books were banned between July 2021 and March 2022, with a third of the targeted works centering on the LGBTQ+ experience.
Financial documents and whistleblower testimony spotlighted by The Guardian on Friday show that the U.S.-based baby formula producer Abbott used the massive windfall profits it accumulated between 2019 and 2021 to enrich shareholders, even amid a deadly bacteria outbreak that has triggered nationwide outrage and contributed to a formula shortage.
"Abbott detected bacteria eight times as its net profits soared by 94% between 2019 and 2021," The Guardian's Tom Perkins reported. "And just as its tainted formula allegedly began sickening a number of babies, with two deaths reported, the company increased dividends to shareholders by over 25% while announcing a stock buyback program worth $5 billion."
"Abbott chose spending billions on buying back its own stock instead of investing in critical upgrades."
Rakeen Mabud, chief economist at the Groundwork Collaborative, told the newspaper that "Abbott chose to prioritize shareholders by issuing billions of dollars in stock buybacks instead of making productive investments."
"It's important that we have high standards for something as vital as baby formula," Mabud added.
In late February, Abbott recalled a lot of its Similac PM 60/40 powdered formula that was manufactured at a plant in Sturgis, Michigan after an infant who consumed the product died of a cronobacter infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least four infants fell ill after consuming Abbott formula produced at the Sturgis facility, which has since been temporarily shuttered.
Abbott, which has faced a Justice Department complaint and scrutiny from federal regulators, insists that "there is no conclusive evidence to link Abbott's formulas to these infant illnesses." A whistleblower filing dated October 19, 2021 suggests the bacteria outbreak was caused by equipment at the Sturgis plant that was "failing and in need of repair."
"A number of product flow pipes were pitting and leaving pin holes," the complaint reads. "This allowed bacteria to enter the system and, at times, led to bacteria not being adequately cleaned out in clean-in-place ('CIP') washes. This, in turn, caused product flowing through the pipes to pick up the bacteria that was trapped in the defective areas of the pipe."
A footnote of the whistleblower document states that the "complainant was advised by an operator that leadership at the Sturgis site was aware of the failing equipment anywhere from five to seven years from the [bacteria outbreak] occurring."
The outbreak at the Sturgis facility—the largest baby formula plant in the U.S.—has exacerbated a nationwide baby formula shortage and, according to experts and progressive critics, spotlighted the dangers of corporate consolidation.
Abbott produces 43% of all baby formula in the U.S., and four companies—including Abbott—control roughly 90% of the nation's formula market. The concentrated industry has lobbied aggressively to weaken bacteria testing standards.
Earlier this week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)—the chair of the Senate Finance Committee—launched an investigation into Abbott's tax practices, specifically "whether the company used its windfall from Republicans' 2017 tax cuts to enrich executives and shareholders, rather than ensure the safety of the manufacturing plant that produces infant formula."
"I have long been concerned that windfalls from sweeping tax cuts for mega-corporations enacted by the 2017 Republican tax law would be used for padding the pockets of corporate executives and wealthy shareholders," Wyden wrote in a letter to Abbott's CEO on Wednesday.
"It appears my concerns have been validated in this case," the senator added, "as Abbott chose spending billions on buying back its own stock instead of investing in critical upgrades to a plant essential to feeding our nation's infants."
According to a report from NBC, an all-white school board in Shenandoah County, Virginia is giving serious thought to renaming two schools after Confederate generals just two years after the names were changed following the murder of George Floyd.
In 2020 the school board changed the names of Stonewall Jackson High School to Mountain View High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School was renamed Honey Run Elementary School.
Now, under pressure from some parents -- and specifically some alumni of the schools -- the board is reconsidering the change.
According to one board member, the prior decision to make the change was suspicious and needs to be reviewed.
As NBC News writes, Vice Chair Dennis Barlow "characterized those who were in favor of changing the names as outsiders who are 'creepy,' 'elitist' and from 'the dark side,' [and] said the school board's decision was 'undemocratic and unfair.'"
The report notes that not all members of the board are behind restoring the names, with holdover board member Cynthia Walsh stating, "Times have changed, the makeup of our schools has changed. And I sincerely believe that revisiting the name change is not what’s best for kids."
NBC reports the board is taking the suggestion under advisement, adding, "The board decided at the meeting that they would poll constituents on whether they believe the names should be changed back. But the board could not settle on whether to poll only the residents who live within the schools in question, or the whole area."