Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 22, 2017

Breast cancer, fundraising

The game raised more than $300,000, including ticket and concessions sales, for the Young Survivors Coalition, an organization dedicated to helping young women with breast cancer. The total broke the game’s previous fundraising record of $215,000, set in 2016.

The bipartisan lawmakers’ team was made up of three senators and 11 House members, according to the official roster. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Reps. Martha Roby, R-Ala., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., served as captains. Moore Capito took home the award for most valuable player on the lawmakers’ team.

The press team had 23 players, including four from PBS NewsHour, and was captained by Amy
Walter of the Cook Political Report and Mikayla Bouchard of the New York Times. Tamara Keith of NPR was named MVP of the press team.

Urban living, families

Should cities try to keep families around? Some urbanophiles argue that they’re not worth it. Families cost cities more in services, spend less in the economy, and produce less tax revenue than affluent young single professionals. Cities that want to grow fast do it by building studios and one-bedrooms and drawing on endlessly renewable mobs of Youngs.

But few city leaders take that attitude. They see families as an important source of economic stability (hot industries come and go) and social vibrancy. You can read a lament about DC here, one about Denver here, one about Seattle here.

All these articles go on and on about amenities families enjoy, but the root of the problem is that families need bigger homes, while developers have every incentive to squeeze in as many small homes as possible, to maximize their profit per square foot. Unless cities step in, that’s what developers will keep doing.

Yet somehow, Vancouver has thousands of families with children living in its downtown. I asked urbanist Brent Toderian, who was Vancouver’s Chief Planner from 2006 to 2012, how the city did it. He says that there are three elements of family-friendly city design: bigger housing, amenities for families, and a safe, welcoming public realm. 

Health, Antibiotics

What Roberts has just done, in an action that he and people who support him have performed hundreds of times, is to return to a practice that was abandoned more than 40 years ago. He has sampled the environment, hoping to find in the dirtiest, most germ-filled places an answer to one of the most pressing problems of our day.

Drug resistance—the ability of bacteria to defend themselves against the compounds we use to kill them—has impaired the effectiveness of almost every antibiotic produced since the first ones were developed, in the 1940s. At least 700,000 people are estimated to die worldwide every year from infections that no longer respond to antibiotics. That toll could balloon to more than 10 million a year by 2050 if we can’t slow the spread of resistance or find new drugs; routine surgeries and minor injuries will become life-threatening.

Yet making the necessary changes to stave off this catastrophe seems to be beyond us. We continue to take antibiotics with abandon (nearly a third of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. aren’t actually needed) and feed huge quantities of them to farm animals. And pharmaceutical companies—daunted by how quickly resistance can undermine drugs that may take a decade and a billion dollars to develop—are not rushing to fill the gap.

Elections, redistricting

Americans are fed up with gerrymandering. The most recent Harris poll shows that 74 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of independents believe that politicians shouldn’t have a hand in drawing lines that benefit them.

Despite public opposition across the political spectrum, politicians have taken a stronger and stronger hand in line-drawing, resulting in gerrymandered maps that are more and more extreme. The problems continue to mount: A combination of “Big Data,” single-party control of state governments, and polarized politics have allowed paid political operatives to craft increasingly surgical gerrymanders far more potent than their precursors, locking in lopsided maps that are deeply unrepresentative of the electorate. 

The good news is that the Supreme Court has the chance to take a major bite out of extreme gerrymandering this fall when it hears Gill v. Whitford, an appeal of a landmark decision striking down a Wisconsin state assembly map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Culture, well-being

Despite – or perhaps because of – its prevalence in culture, carpe diem has been sabotaged by the language of the advertising slogan and the hashtag: ‘Just do it’ or ‘Yolo’ (you only live once). Krznaric argues that this has helped strip the concept of its true meaning. “The hijack of carpe diem is the existential crime of the century – and one that we have barely noticed,” he writes.

“Consumer culture has captured seizing the day,” he tells BBC Culture. “That idea that instead of just doing it, we just buy it instead: shopping is the second most popular leisure activity in the Western world, beaten only by television. Instead of seizing the day, we’re really seizing the credit card.”

Carpe diem has also been hijacked by our culture of hyper-scheduled living, argues Krznaric. “‘Just do it’ becomes ‘just plan it’ – people are filling up their electronic calendars weeks in advance with no free weekends. In terms of cultural history, most people are unaware that their spontaneity has been stolen from them over the past half a millennium.”

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