August 11, 2017

Returning to the fight to find something smart to read and we’re keeping our cool. No easy feat given the climate change report leaked recently suggests it’s nothing but record-setting high temps from here on out. Maybe devastation is the new black. Let’s see what we can figure out about how we got here.

North Korea WTH (also DJTWTH)

Is there anyone with more than WTH to say about the escalating war of words between North Korea and President Trump? I thought that was the only rational response until NYT’s new(-ish) podcast, The Daily, came to my rescue. The show’s host, Michael Barbora, interviewed former Secretary of Defense William Perry and asked much smarter questions than mine. Listen to the episode, “What a 1999 Meeting with North Korea Tells Us About Today” and have more context for this debate than most all of your friends.

Rolling Stone offers a timeline of events in the region while The Atlantic walks through four options of what might happen next. Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Sudan University in Shanghai, sees little hope for negotiating a deal with China:

Shen also dismissed the notion of a mega-deal between China and the United States, less because it wasn’t feasible than because the goal of such an agreement would be futile. North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program is “impossible to stop,” he told me, “just like it was impossible to stop American nuclear weapons, impossible to stop Chinese nuclear weapons, impossible to stop Israel’s nuclear weapons, Indian nuclear weapons, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.


Poverty Forever

Several outlets have run headlines suggesting the White House is quietly accomplishing many things while everyone else waits for the next presidential tweet to drop. All the policy headlines seem to add up to making it harder and harder to be poor. In an opinion piece for Time, Wes Moore writes “The War on Poverty Has Become a War on the Poor.”

This nation needs a battle plan so our poor citizens can fight their way into prosperity. Instead, after decades of inconsistent policies and disparaging rhetoric, the 45 million Americans living in poverty today are more vulnerable than at any point in this nation’s history.

And the vulnerabilities keep stacking up. Check out The Hill’s report that 81 institutions working to prevent teen pregnancy just learned that their five year grants would be cut off after receiving only three years of funds. The U.S. has a maternal mortality rate higher than any other developed country in the world and complications of unplanned pregnancies is one of the reasons. Then there’s “gutting” the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development as cities across the country face affordable housing shortages. Housing is harder to find, there’s little help available and the plan is to cut more.

If I had more time I’d dig up that quote about, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers…”


The State of the Opioid Crisis

All the speculation over whether or not President Trump would declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency sent me looking for more information. I know it’s bad and people are suffering but I didn’t know what to make of this particular decision. Last February, Frontline took on the question, “How bad is the opioid epidemic?,” and effectively drew a chalk outline around the answer.

By Frankie Leon

One statistic that I had to read and re-read and still don’t quite understand:

12 states have more opioid prescriptions than people

If you read the previous section on poverty, you might be able to predict the states that made the list: Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma… There seems to be a trend but it’s also more widespread than you might think, cutting across demographics and geography.

The Washington Post then answered the question of what a declaration of emergency makes possible. Mostly, more money. States and localities can use the federal government’s Disaster Relief Fund to cover drug treatment and overdose-reversal medication. It could also make it easier to navigate around federal regulations that make it more difficult to get treatment.

If the current crisis is causing death rates comparable to the AIDS epidemic, maybe we should ask how we can improve our response rate this time. That requires federal funds and a strategy. I imagine I’m not alone in feeling this is the right answer even if I am unsure about what strategy would be the most effective. And when I say I “feel” it, I’m telling you that I still experience a wave of sadness whenever I hear a Prince song and am reminded of his loss. Casual attitudes about our prescription habits have delivered people deeper and deeper into a situation that quickly spirals out of their control.

It’s time to confront what we think we know about addicts and people who die from drug overdoses. They look more like us and our family members than we might imagine. The Science of Us has a treatment plan for all of us and it’s a doozy.

Combating the stigma of addiction may require a two-pronged approach, one that requires open discussion about mental-health issues on a policy level, while also forcing us to address our individual prejudices. Recognizing and stopping addiction when it happens is about being more aware and staying connected to one another — and this applies as much to our homes as it does to the communities we live in.

Want to fight fires? Find a way to connect with the people in your community. Follow those ups and downs like you watch what your high school friends are up to on Facebook.