Barack Obama's presidential campaign demonstrated the power of social media as a vehicle for grassroots advocacy, particularly among college students who voted in record numbers. This raises a question central to the future of American democracy: Can social media networks help students to become better citizens?

Civic engagement by Gen-Xers will be the focus of a national conference hosted by Wayne State University Nov. 12 and 13 to determine effective methods for connecting with students. The private conference kicks off "eCitizenship: New Tools, New Strategies, New Spaces," a three-year project sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and The New York Times in partnership with Wayne State's Center for the Study of Citizenship. The center is the official research arm of the project as well as the host location for eCitizenship campuses to collaborate on the study of relationships between social networking and civic engagement.

"The eCitizenship initiative, the largest in the distinguished history of the American Democracy Project (ADP), will explore how social networking and digital media are crucial tools in stimulating civic engagement among college and university students," said Professor Marc Kruman, director of the center and chair of the Department of History. "We're very excited to help lead this initiative and to conduct subsequent research on individual campus programs. We expect that this research will uncover how digital media can be used most effectively to foster undergraduate civic engagement."

Jose Antonio Vargas, technology and innovations editor for the Huffington Post, will be the keynote speaker at the conference. Vargas will give a separate, public address, titled Brave New World of Journalism, at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, in the Law School's Spencer Partrich Auditorium at WSU.

The eCitizenship conference will be held in the university's Bernath Auditorium in the David Adamany Undergraduate Library, 5155 Gullen Mall.

The conference is the seventh initiative of the ADP. Thirty-four colleges and universities have been invited to participate in this national project to study social networking and research new ways for institutions to harness the technology in preparing students to be active and engaged members of society.

The Center for the Study of Citizenship is the premier global institution for the study and promotion of citizenship.

Founded in 2003, the ADP is a multicampus initiative focused on higher education's role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens and producing graduates who are committed to being actively involved in their communities.

In the spirit of an early Thanksgiving, Askar Brands, a local group of restaurants, will provide a tasty dinner for those in need on Sunday November 8, during the third annual Holiday Mercy Dinner at the St. Vincent de Paul Matchen Nutrition Center, an area soup kitchen located at 46408 Woodward Avenue at Judson in Pontiac, Mich.

Papa Romano’s Pizza, Mr. Pita, CJ’s Brewing Company and Stucchi’s Ice Cream, all owned and operated by Askar Brands, will donate and prepare fresh, hot meals to feed about 350 people from 3:30 – 6:30pm.

“The need is greater than ever.  We anticipate about 20% more meals to be served this year,” says Roseann Royle, Director of Development for St. Vincent de Paul.

The menu includes all-time favorites such as Papa Romano’s pizza and salads, fresh pita sandwiches from Mr. Pita, piping hot soups and Pepsi beverages from CJ’s Brewing Company and premium ice cream from Stucchi’s. The event will be staffed by volunteers from the local restaurants and their families.

“This is an annual event for us that we look forward to participating in,” said Casey Askar, chairman and chief executive officer of Askar Brands. “It warms our hearts to be able to make a difference in the lives of those touched by these difficult times. Our franchisees also help out by collecting funds at the local level that are then donated at the telethon.”

Signage and canisters requesting community donations to benefit St. Vincent de Paul will be in participating Papa Romano’s Pizza and Mr. Pita stores throughout metro Detroit starting November 1st.   The funds will then be donated at the WXYZ-TV7 telethon event for St Vincent de Paul on December 3rd by Askar.  Further support will be given by Askar Brands donation of food and beverages to the volunteers for the duration of the telethon.

For more information about the Holiday Mercy Dinner, call (248) 334-7750.

On Bookshelves Now: '365 Days In Detroit'

Angela's Eye

Be sure to check out the latest from the Motown's beloved Wayne State University Press, 'A Motor City Year' showcasing dozens and dozens of metro Detroit landmarks and traditions - as well as oddities- shot by award-winning photographer John Sobczak.

The book, which is divided by the four seasons we've grown to love here as Michiganders, with a foreword by Jeff Daniels, begins with spring and offers up 365 images of the better-known events and landscapes from Comerica City Fest and Eastern Market shopping to some of the more underground notes of interest from tattoo artists and the Michigan Elvisfest. Yes, there is such thing!

Sobczak depicts a wide scope of the heart, soul, beauty and beasts in the hard-to-put-down 9 x 13 inch hardcover book, $39.95. Look for it at Bureau of Urban Living in Detroit (460 West Canfield Street) or online.

You can meet and greet the photographer on these days at these locations:

November 7 – John Sobczak at the Henry Ford Museum, 1pm

November 14 – John Sobczak at Barnes & Noble, Royal Oak, 3pm

November 18 – John Sobczak at Detroit Historical Museum, 6pm

November 21 – John Sobczak at Barnes & Noble, Shelby Township, 1pm

November 24 – John Sobczak at Barnes & Noble, Allen Park, 7pm

December 12 – John Sobczak at Barnes & Noble, Rochester Hills, 1pm

December 19 – John Sobczak at Barnes & Noble, Northville, 1pm

Visit here for more information.

Ford Reports a Nearly $1 Billion Profit

Chris Isidore
CNN Money

The only U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy posts an unexpected profit thanks to a big lift from Cash for Clunkers sales.

Ford Motor reported a surprise profit for the third quarter Monday, helped by a bump in sales from the Cash for Clunkers program, a reduced cost structure and problems at its U.S. rivals.

The only major U.S. automaker not to file for bankruptcy this year earned $997 million, or 29 cents a share, compared to a loss of $161 million, or 7 cents a share on that basis a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Ford reported a profit of $873 million, or 26 cents a share, in the period. Analysts had been forecasting a loss of 12 cents a share for the quarter on this basis. Ford said it was the first pre-tax operating profit since the start of 2008.

The company said cost cutting during the past year and an improved outlook for sales leads it to believe Ford will be "solidly profitable" in 2011, excluding special items.

That's the most bullish outlook Ford has offered investors since it started losing money in 2005. The company had previously said it was looking for break-even or better results that year.

Turning the corner. The guidance raised hopes that the company may have turned the corner on nearly five years of losses for its key North American auto operations.

"Our third quarter results clearly show that Ford is making tremendous progress despite the prolonged slump in the global economy," said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally in a statement.

The company said it lowered its structural costs by $1 billion compared to a year earlier, with about half of that improvement coming in North America.

Mulally told investors that the company remains hopeful it could be profitable in 2010, not just by 2011, and that the longer time frame in the new guidance is a way of being cautious.

"The reason we couched it that way is we're just not sure about the strength of the recovery," he said. Mulally said Ford will detail further guidance on 2010 profits when it reports fourth-quarter results in January.

Digesting the details. Results in North America were helped by much stronger sales than a year earlier, particularly in the United States, where the company was one of the prime beneficiaries of the Cash for Clunkers program that gave buyers up to $4,500 if they traded in a gas guzzler for a more fuel efficient vehicle.

Even without the Cash for Clunkers program, which lifted the whole industry out of the doldrums, Ford made gains on many of its rivals during the quarter.

During the quarter, Ford's U.S. market share rose by 2.2 percentage points to 14.6%. Ford benefited from steep market share declines at GM and Chrysler in the wake of their bankruptcies, but it also posted bigger market share gains than Japanese rivals such as Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC).

Shares of Ford (F, Fortune 500) rose about 8% in mid-morning trading Monday following the report.

The company reported overall revenue of $30.9 billion in the quarter, down $800 million from the same period a year ago due to a decrease in revenue at its Ford Credit unit.

Ford said that global auto sales rose $100 million from the third quarter of 2008, to $27.9 billion. It sold 1.23 million vehicles worldwide, up 5% from a year earlier, and its average net pricing also improved along with its sales volume. Auto revenue in North America soared by $2.9 billion, or 27%, to $13.7 billion.

Ford (F, Fortune 500) also said it made money on its auto operations, and that it reported positive cash flow of $1.3 billion from its auto businesses. The company had been burning through significant amounts of cash every quarter since the second quarter of 2007 as it suffered from years of ongoing losses.

"While we still face a challenging road ahead, our [company] transformation plan is working and our underlying business continues to grow stronger," Mulally added.

Ford's automotive unit earned $446 million in the quarter, compared to a loss of $2.9 billion in the year-earlier period, as the company's core auto operations in North America returned to profitability for the first time since the first half of 2005.
Grand Kids Foundation

In a season marked by extraordinary performances on and off the field, Major League baseball players today bestowed their highest honors on two players – St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is Player of the Year and Detroit Tigers centerfielder Curtis Granderson is the Marvin Miller Man of the Year.  The Major League Baseball Players Trust will honor Pujols and Granderson, the top Players Choice Award winners, with donations of $50,000 each to the charities of their choice.

The Awards announcements were made this morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning show during the finale of an exclusive, five-day broadcast special presented by Upper Deck and benefiting the Major League Baseball Players Trust.

Pujols helped guide the Cardinals to their fourth NL Central Division crown in six years by leading the Majors in home runs for the first time, with 47.   The eight-time Players Choice Award winner finished first among all National Leaguers in runs scored (124), on-base percentage (.443) and slugging percentage (.658), second in doubles (45) and third in batting average (.327), RBI (135) and walks (115).  Pujols, 29, hit above .300 with 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI for the ninth consecutive season.  Pujols has now been honored by his peers with Players Choice Awards as Player of the Year and NL Outstanding Player in 2003, 2008 and 2009, Marvin Miller Man of the Year in 2006 and NL Outstanding Rookie in 2001.

Granderson earned the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, named for the founding executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and awarded to the player whose on-field and off -field performance most inspires others to higher levels of achievement, by displaying as much passion to give back to others as he shows between the lines on the baseball diamond .  In 2008, he established the Grand Kids Foundation to focus on improving opportunities for inner-city youth in the areas of education and youth baseball.  A graduate of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Granderson recently released a children’s book, All You Can Be, which encourages children to chase their dreams.  He is also an active member of the Action Team national youth volunteer program administered by the Players Trust and Volunteers of America, which is inspiring and training the next generation of volunteers in more than 150 high schools across the United States.  Granderson, 28, just completed his fourth full season in the Majors and set a career high in home runs (30), and finished with 157 hits, 91 runs scored, 23 doubles, 8 triples, 20 stolen bases and 71 RBI in 160 games with the Tigers.  

To listen to a podcast of the Players Choice Awards announcements and player interviews, please click here.

Players Choice Awards annually recognize the best player, pitcher, rookie and comeback player in each league.  The Player of the Year and Marvin Miller Man of the Year awards bestow top honors without regard to league. Balloting of all Major League players for the Players Choice Awards was conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.

Players Choice Awards winners will recommend the charities of their choice to receive grants from the Major League Baseball Players Trust totaling $260,000.  Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3.5 million dollars to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.

The 2009 Players Choice Awards finalists are [winners in bold & underlined]:

American League:

Outstanding Rookie: Elvis Andrus (Texas), Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), Jeff Niemann (Tampa Bay)
Comeback Player: Russell Branyan (Seattle), Aaron Hill (Toronto), Scott Podsednik (Chicago White Sox)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Zack Greinke (Kansas City), C.C. Sabathia (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Player: Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Kendry Morales (LA Angels of Anaheim)

National League:

Outstanding Rookie: Chris Coghlan (Florida), Tommy Hanson (Atlanta), J.A. Happ (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Aaron Boone (Houston), Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Nick Johnson (Florida)
Outstanding Pitcher: Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Outstanding Player: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)

Either League:

Man of the Year: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Torii Hunter (LA Angeles of Anaheim), Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
Player of Year: Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)

Erin Rose
Positive Detroit

Adam Richman lands in Detroit, MI, to take on the massive Triple Threat Pork sandwich at Slow's Barbecue, 2 dueling Coney Dog joints (Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island)  and the tackle the Guinness Book of World Record Burger (weighing in at 180 lbs!) at Mallie’s Sports Grill and Bar with the Motor City Metal Jackets.

Tune in for this Episode Wednesday, November 4th at 10 p.m. Est.  Only on the Travel Channel.

Want to reduce stress, wear-and-tear on your car, lessen your carbon footprint and even help save the planet and your wallet? If so, stop by Wayne State University’s Drop Your Drive event to learn more about alternative forms of transit.

The event will feature nonprofit service providers and organizations promoting the use of public transportation in southeast Michigan. Meet representatives from the Detroit Department of Transportation, the SMART, MichiVan, Transportation Riders United, Wheelhouse Detroit and others. This is the perfect place to learn more about alternative forms of transit and to sign up for possible carpooling opportunities.

The Drop your Drive event will be held in Wayne State’s Student Center Building between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4, 2009.

For more details, e-mail Elanette Yehuda, WSU transportation coordinator, at

Coming from me, you’d assume that an item about bicycles would be Minneapolis-related, but it’s not! It’s about Detroit!

Believe it or not, people in the Car Capital of the World love their bikes. And there is a huge movement to create a culture here that is friendlier to two wheels than four.

One such project would develop about 400 miles of bicycle lanes throughout Detroit. All it would take is some paint, new signs and a little cash, said Scott Clein, who heads the Detroit office of Giffels-Webster Engineers.

The firm, along with other key partners, mapped out every one of those miles with the city’s cooperation and a Michigan Department of Transportation grant. Clein and a support staff spent 18 months on the project, studying Detroit and trying to connect its waterways, landmarks and neighborhoods.

I frankly can’t fathom biking around Detroit. Like, can you see one of Eight Mile’s four lanes (in each direction) or one of Telegraph Rd’s four lanes (in each direction) being a bike lane? Or turning the dividing section in the middle of those roads into a bike highway (except that would totally screw with the Michigan Left)?

This is Eight Mile Rd, just east of Telegraph, looking back west. Four lanes in both directions, a boulevard in the middle, and a “Michigan left” just ahead of you.



Over the past weekend, an estimated 2,000 cyclists came to the city for the 8th annual Tour De Troit – nearly double the number that showed up last year. Its goal is in part is to raise funds for the Corktown-Mexicantown Greenlink, which could link these key communities to the Detroit riverfront.

One great example already exists. The Dequindre Cut Greenway, an urban recreational path, officially opened in May. The 1.2-mile greenway, developed through a public, nonprofit and private partnership, offers a pedestrian link between the Riverfront, Eastern Market and many of the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Formerly a Grand Truck Railroad line, the Dequindre Cut is a below-street level path that features a 20-foot-wide paved pathway, which includes separate lanes for pedestrian and bicycle or rollerblading traffic.

I must see this on my next trip home. Even though it’s waaaay on the east side, and my folks live waaaaay on the west side, and I’ll surely have to drive to it.

The comments are good, too. I appreciated the discussion about the appropriateness of spending money on these types of projects (and the sources of funding) given the financial difficulties the city faces.

Simply reading Detroit bikers comment on where they live and ride reminds me of the scale of the area we’re talking about. From my parents’ house in the northest/westest corner of the city to most points downtown or on the east side is 15+ miles. 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis gets you to the I-494/I-694 loop that generally separates the first-ring and second-ring suburbs. Detroit is just so much bigger.

This also reminds me that I haven’t spent any of my adult life in Detroit (except for that one year I was unemployed, which didn’t count). I have no desire to move back, but I really wonder what it would be like to live and work downtown or somewhere else that’s not the suburbs where the Catholic schools I attended are. What would it be like to live in a part of Detroit that actually mirrors many of the things that I like best about Minneapolis?

This article has kind of blown my mind grapes.

Grand Kids Foundation

All public elementary school libraries in Michigan soon will be receiving a copy of Detroit Tigers’ Curtis Granderson’s new book.  Granderson and publisher Triumph Books are proud to donate a copy of Granderson’s book All You Can Be to every public elementary school library in Michigan.  The illustrations in this book were contributed by fourth grade students from across Michigan.

Earlier this year, with the help from the Michigan Department of Education, the Grand Kids Foundation and Triumph Books held a contest inviting fourth graders across the state to submit their artwork through their school for consideration to be included in the book.  The theme for the artwork was:  How do you see yourself when you are in high school and how is education important in helping you become that person?   There were hundreds of submissions and Granderson chose 29 of them to be in his book.  Those students whose artwork was chosen received a free copy of the book, autographed by Granderson.

“Our many fine teachers throughout the state, along with other educators and administrators, are always looking for new and refreshing ways to motivate students and create enthusiasm for the joy of learning,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan.  “All You Can Be takes a unique approach to student involvement in this adventure by giving them the opportunity to create their own artwork, illustrating the importance that education plays in achieving their goals for the future.

“I’d like to thank Curtis for his generosity not only to school libraries, but for his overall commitment to education,” Flanagan said.

With special input from the Michigan Department of Education, Granderson, his mother, Mary Granderson (herself, a retired school teacher), and Detroit News writer Terry Foster, All You Can Be is the latest effort from Triumph Books to help children get excited about learning - in this case helping them realize  that the things they are taught every day have very real applications later in life.

“There was one simple thing I wanted to achieve with All You Can Be – to make learning fun for school children,” said Granderson.  “My mother, Mary, co-author, Terry Foster, and I truly feel we have accomplished what we set out to do, which was to make learning fun through using creative and different ways to get Michigan’s elementary school students thinking about their future.”

Granderson grew up on the south side of Chicago. He loved sports and was determined to become a successful athlete. But perhaps because both of his parents were teachers, he had an even stronger desire to succeed in the classroom. He loved learning for its own sake, and from an early age the importance of education. Now an established Major League baseball All-Star, Granderson has not forgotten the lessons he learned growing up. These are lessons not only about the importance of education, but also about working hard to attain goals; and lessons about character, integrity, and personal responsibility.

All of the net proceeds from the public sale of the books will go to Granderson’s foundation: Grand Kids Foundation, whose funds go towards purchasing school supplies for needy families/kids; books and supplies for schools that do not get the funding they always need; establishing baseball programs as well as providing equipment and facilities in some of Michigan’s inner cities; and eventually a scholarship program for graduating high school seniors.

List of students whose artwork was selected:

Lindsey Lammlin, Minges Brook Elementary (Battle Creek)

Breanna Schwartz, Madison Academy (Flint)

Kate Nawrocki, All Saints Academy (Grand Rapids)

Sklyer Kochan, Harvey-Swanson Elementary (Ortonville)

Carson Render, Creekside Elementary (Hartland)

Kerryn Taylor, Central Elementary (Flushing)

Kody Beauchaine, Autrain-Onota Elementary (Deerton)

Lily Atkinson, Lake Hills Elementary (Spring Lake)

Naiya Taylor, Stark School of Technology (Detroit)

Gracie Butler, Trinity Lutheran School (Jackson)

Cruz Rodriguez, Oakridge Upper Elementary (Muskegon)

Megan Pietila, Southwest Elementary (Howell)

Chloe Smith, Byron Center Christian School (Byron Center)

Kelsey Hessbrook, North Elementary (Ithaca)

Ally Estes, New Haven Elementary (New Haven)

Gavin Walters, Brummer Elementary (South Lyon)

Raisa Zahir, Westlake Elementary (Battle Creek)

Jonathon Forbush, Kennedy Elementary (Warren)

Reyah Spikener, The Bates Academy (Detroit)

Rachel Yang, Wood Creek Magnet School (Lansing)

Sydney Knisley, Angell School (Berkley)

Ina Gjoka, New Haven Elementary (New Haven)

Danielle Anderson, North Elementary (Ithaca)

Ashley Hann, Hutchings Elementary (Howell)

Julia Boudreau, Seymour Elementary (Flushing)

Autumn Petrick, St. Joseph School (St. Johns)

Tereon Rutherford, Warren Charter Academy (Detroit)

Savanna Wirth, Minges Brook Elementary (Battle Creek)

Katie Crawford, St. Charles Elementary (St. Charles)
Rhonda Welsh

Detroit’s WJBK Fox 2 news reporter Lee Thomas has the rare skin disease vitiligo. His face is a mottled combination of chocolate brown and nearly pearlescent, pale pink. Thomas typically wears make-up on air to limit distractions when reporting the news. But, his beauty is undeniable.

Even when reporting the most mundane story he exudes effervescence. When he first shared his struggle with Detroit area viewers on-air, it resulted in an outpouring of support. And during speaking engagements like his recent TEDx Detroit talk, he inspired and radiated positive vibes.

While Thomas may be the Detroit area’s most famous vitiligo sufferer, the world’s most famous sufferer (albeit with strong Detroit ties) is the late Michael Joseph Jackson. A rare skin disease is not the only trait Thomas and Jackson share. In the posthumously produced This Is It, Jackson inspired and radiated positive vibes.

The documentary begins with accounts of dancers and background singers sharing their lifelong dreams of performing with Michael Jackson. It progresses through approximately two hours of concert rehearsal footage. The high-energy “The Way You Make Me Feel”, the way cool “Smooth Criminal” number featuring Humphery Bogart and Rita Hayworth and his breath-taking duet with Judith Hill “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” These are highlights of the documentary produced and directed by Kenny Ortega.

But, it’s Michael Jackson. We expect to see good dancing, hear great singing and experience dazzling production. He is casually styled throughout most of the film and while not quite barefaced -- virtually. His face and hands exhibit that pearlescent, pale pink that appears to be a trademark of vitiligo. What is disarming about the film is Michael Jackson’s sheer, undeniable beauty. His absolute joie de vivre on the stage was evident even while he conserved his voice and energy during rehearsal.

It’s easy to forget about the allegations and scandals that plagued his life. It’s almost impossible to imagine the loneliness and depression that haunted him. And it’s tempting to believe that he may have experienced a much, less painful life if he’d let us in on one of his most painful secrets, vitiligo, from the outset.

Would we have given him the outpouring of support that Lee Thomas received when he went on camera without his makeup the first time? Would we have embraced him as his skin began to morph before our eyes? Would he have felt loved and supported unconditionally and not just as an outgrowth of his staggering talent? Are these questions far too simplistic?

Michael Joseph Jackson had a gorgeous gift. His music and movement lifted our spirits and warmed our hearts for over four decades. This film proves that he is gone too soon. But although he has departed, his beauty remains.