Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Tab Roundup

Here are a few things I've been reading lately in the press.

An excellent two-part series from the Pioneer Press on changes in Worthington, Minnesota, because of immigration and population shifts over the last 10 years. A city of about 13,000, Worthington has gone from being almost a hundred percent white to having a population that's 35 percent Latino, with a fair number of African immigrants as well. One effect is that the downtown is bustling, unlike those in many of Minnesota's other small cities. The city also has low crime and low unemployment. The schools are coping creatively with the influx of English language learners, it sounds like. But I can't get over this chart from part 2, which focused on schools:

Pioneer Press graph showing white student enrollment declining and Latino student enrollment increasing so that now there are more Latino students than white in Worthington, Minnesota

This New York Times review of a book with a provocative title: "Is Marriage for White People?" The book is by a Stanford law professor, and the review by an African American studies professor at Princeton. The reviewer writes, the book "doesn’t offer a jeremiad about the decline of black family values in the way of so many others who do little more than regurgitate Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report, 'The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,' which described black family structure as 'a tangle of pathology.' Refreshingly, Banks offers a well-researched and probing discussion of why marriage rates are so low among black Americans."

Debunking the Cul-de-Sac from The Atlantic. It's easy to think that people who live on cul-de-sacs are safer from traffic, but it's not true. A study in California found that the safest cities had one thing in common: They were built before 1930:

These cities were built the old way: along those monotonous grids. In general, they didn’t have fewer accidents overall, but they had far fewer deadly ones. Marshall and Garrick figured that cars (and cars with bikes) must be colliding at lower speeds on these types of street networks. At first glance such tightly interconnected communities might appear more dangerous, with cars traveling from all directions and constantly intersecting with each other. But what if such patterns actually force people to drive slower and pay more attention?
The gist of it is, cul-de-sac residents are safer on their own street, but the dangers of the arterial streets that surround them more than offset that safety.

An NPR story on the possible effects of changing over to truly "smart" cars that don't require driver input. Did you know that 1.5 million Americans have died from car accidents just since 1975; compare this with 1.3 million killed in every war since 1775.

Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer offered this nice breath of air, reminding us all that while things may seem like they're going downhill, if you take even a short long term view, we are generally much better off today than they were, say, 25 years ago. Worldwide numbers on life expectancy, infant mortality, percent of people with access to water, percent of people in extreme poverty, secondary school enrollment, and the number of armed conflicts have all been moving in a good direction. (Well, I would call it good, since I'm not a misanthrope.) Oppenheimer's thoughts make a nice companion piece to the Louis CK bit I wrote about earlier.

Am I the only one who exclaimed aloud (if that's not redundant) over yesterday's Pioneer Press front page?

Pioneer Press front page with large artwork at center of a woman's lower body wearing a miniskirt and red pumps, her legs are made from the text of the story
This type of design-integrated-into-the-story layout is common in the features sections of newspapers, but you don't usually see it on the front page. The story, in case you were wondering, is about the first "slut walk" in the Twin Cities. The walks are a recent reaction by young feminists to the belief that women who dress "suggestively" are asking to be sexually assaulted. The women who organize slut walks say they are reclaiming an offensive word to call attention to its assumptions, as GLBT activists have done with the word "queer." The story, by Richard Chin, does a good job of representing the different opinions on that idea. But I was most interested in the layout, and how it came to be used on the front page. And whether there will be any reader backlash to the headline, especially in the context of the layout.

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