Julie Turkewitz and Vivian Yee of The New York Times cover the many current forms of student activism against gun violence from protests to walkouts to marches on state capitals across the country. The article emphasizes the fervent hope and determination of students to become the generation that achieves meaningful change on gun safety. “Some of the students of Toms River, N.J., also spent part of Presidents’ Day, a school holiday, massed on the steps of the squat, red brick public library. A young man who described himself as a 16-year-old junior led the crowd in chants of, ‘Enough is enough! Enough is enough!’ ‘This is what it’s come to,” he said. “In this country, kids are typically expected to take a back seat to what goes on in politics and policy, and what’s going on right now — it can’t happen like that any longer.’ The adults who “have the responsibility to take care of these things” have failed, he said. “It’s our generation’s responsibility.’” High school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and other schools traveled to Tallahassee this week to advocate for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, however the Florida House voted against opening debate on such a bill (36 in favor of opening debate, 71 opposed). A Florida Senate committee is considering a proposal to put armed law enforcement personnel in every school in the state. Senate Republicans are expected to propose a package of gun-control bills later this week, potentially raising the purchasing age for semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, banning bump stocks, and expand the state’s powers of involuntary commitment for people exhibiting signs of mental illness.
Reflecting on the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and similar mass shootings involving young men, comedian and author Michael Ian Black writes about the “brokenness” of boys in an Op-Ed in the New York Times. He observes that while in a number of respects girls seem to be thriving in the face of many obstacles, boys are not. He argues that girls have benefited from the movement in recent decades to redefine what it means to be female, while boys have been left behind, stuck in outdated models. “No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to ‘be a man’ — we no longer even know what that means,” Black writes. Men and boys feel isolated, confused, and conflicted, he says. “Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others.”
The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik examines the “great crime decline” since the 1990s and the consequences for those communities still experiencing high levels of violence today: "It isn’t that poor neighborhoods produce violent crime. The problem is, rather, “that concentrated poverty tends to slowly tear apart the social fabric of neighborhoods.” Restore the social fabric first, and the crime ends not long after. The city was won back block by block… The price of crime is paid, above all, by the trauma of kids whose parents can’t buy their way out of its presence. “Local violence does not make children less intelligent,” Sharkey says. “Rather, it occupies their minds.” Thinking about a threat leaves you less room to think about anything else. The social cost of street crime, therefore, is far higher than the price of lives lost and bodies maimed; it can maim minds, too.”
Vox reports that civil penalties collected by the Environmental Protection Agency from polluters plummeted by more than half during Trump’s first year in office, a clear sign that the agency is backing away from enforcement.
The Oregon legislature banned anyone with a domestic violence conviction from owning a gun, closing a loophole in a 2015 law that allowed abusers who are not married to or cohabitating with their victims to hold on to their guns after domestic violence convictions. Governor Kate Brown said she will sign the bill into law.
With graphics and a haunting soundtrack, The Washington Post explains how the synthetic drug fentanyl made its way onto our streets, causing spikes in deaths from drug overdoses, especially in the Northeast, Appalachia and the Midwest.
States that provide greater access to buprenorphine, a medication that treats opioid addiction, appear to have lower rates of deaths from opioid misuse, German Lopez writes in Vox. He examines a map by Avalere Health that provides a state-by-state look at death rates from opioids, along with number buprenorphine providers, that illustrates the connection. Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, a program offering addiction treatment to people in jails and prisons appears to have reduced deaths from drug overdoses after release, according to STAT.
In an interview with NPR, Professor Virginia Eubanks discussed the problems raised by using algorithms to administer public services, particularly how the use of algorithms outsources difficult decisions about benefits and cutoffs from caseworkers to machines and can be especially harmful to people who need those services the most.
While death rates from drug overdoses remain highest among White people, they increased disproportionately among people of color in 2016, particularly Black people, according to a recent analysis by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust. The analysis found that deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide for all groups surged 11 percent from 2015 to 2016 to 142,000 deaths. The analysis is based on TFAH’s 2017 report Pain in the Nation.
Next week, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is expected to review eight bills that would address various aspects of the opioid epidemic. The proposed bills include cracking down on importation of synthetic opioids, expanding access to addiction treatment and medication-assisted treatment via telemedicine, and funding research on non-addictive medications at the National Institutes of Health.
Transgender youth and their allies with the GenderCool Project are sharing their stories of inspiration and strength to help shift the narrative to focus on—as they put it—“who we are, not what we are.” On their website and in media appearances, the youth and their friends and families are talking about their dreams and talents—celebrating who they are as kids. The movement comes in response to the focus on subjects like bullying, suicide, and other struggles that often accompany discussions about gender transitions, the New York Times reports.
The Trump administration proposed expanding access to short-term, ‘barebones’ health insurance plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections, such as coverage for preexisting conditions and access to essential health benefits. Meanwhile, Idaho officials have cleared the way for insurance plans to be sold in the state that do not comply with ACA regulations. Insurers would be able to sell plans that provide minimal coverage (for instance, not covering maternity care or other essential health benefits), discriminate against people with preexisting medical conditions, and reinstate caps on benefits. So far, Blue Cross of Idaho, one of the largest insurers in Idaho, announced that it hopes to begin offering noncompliant plans in early March. If the Trump administration doesn’t challenge Idaho’s new policy, other states that have resisted implementing the Affordable Care Act are likely to follow suit.