Sunday Reads — July 17, 2022

Summer may be slower for some, but it’s not been a dull time for new programs, data centers and researchers. This past week brought some help in the fight to prevent suicide and new insight into public approaches to gambling, climate change at home, housing construction and the hunt for alien life. Maybe we can find some answers from other worlds to help us here….

Credit: Pew Charitable Trusts

Dial 988

Many times we have noted Georgia’s dismal record for health care access and mental health, but this is not one of those. Georgia’s had a suicide/mental health care crisis hotline since 2005, and now — unlike nearly 30 other states — it joined the new national 988 crisis call hotline on Saturday. Congress appropriated $105 million for the establishment of the national mental health call line, and other grants are available as well, so the effort will be funded. Each state must take responsibility to make it happen. While Georgia has had a crisis line for a while, it just didn’t always have the services to help a caller. The new laws passed by the legislature in the spring should fix some of that over time.

In the meantime, it’s important to note: There’s one death by suicide every 11 minutes in the US. In 2020, nearly 46,000 Americans died by suicide, a 30% increase in the rate since 2000. An additional 1.2 million adults and 629,000 adolescents attempted suicide in 2020. In 2020, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988.

Catching up

We know how summer days can be – family members are home, there are tons of things to do and you’re traveling fast. Here’s a look at some stories you might have missed this week.

Sports betting picks up steam

The Georgia General Assembly remains a graveyard for legislation on gambling and sports betting. Several data sets and reports came out last week about the effects of betting and the changes in states’ regulations. But the state is becoming an outlier: 30 states are now playing and 5 more are in the process of adding some form. A new survey of the legalities of sports betting by state comes from the Consumer Choice Center, an independent group that “fights for lifestyle freedom, innovative technologies and smart regulation.” Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama remain without sports betting or the proceeds that come from it. It’s legal in Tennessee. And, more Americans are in favor of legalized betting, according to a new poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement. 66% of those participating now approve of legal sports betting, up from 55% in 2017.

Another problem rises: Although the legal age starts at 18 in most states, between 60% and 80% of high school students report having gambled for money in the past year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. The Washington Post-UM poll found roughly 60% of respondents said they were concerned that the increasing availability of sports betting will lead to children gambling. Since we are older than 18, we’ll continue to spend our occasional legal gambling dollar on a lottery ticket (for education). Or maybe Bingo, for charity of course.

Credit: Unsplash

More houses to make homes

By any measure, rents and home prices are rising from inflation, a recession then pandemic construction lull and demand. A multi-faceted report out last week from Up For Growth on “underproduction” in the housing sector puts the shortages front and center with solutions and suggestions for construction and the future. The group focuses on policies and partnerships to “achieve housing equity, eliminate systemic barriers and create more homes.” The comprehensive report drew attention from various news sources and most brought a different point to the table. The full report gives views from different parts of the country along with solutions to save on infrastructure and maintenance while growing tax revenues per acre.

NPR’s story on the report, along with a chart of housing status of more than 300 cities is linked here. One piece of the report looked at 800 cities in the US to analyze the shortage. Savannah ranked 263 and is charted with a 4% surplus with needs met but “situation worsening.” One common problem cited was the lack of new house construction within existing cities to create more walkable neighborhoods near employment. Families are forced to move farther from work and commute, adding transportation needs. That type of migration is already evident around Savannah, which is now surrounded by fast-growing cities of Richmond Hill and Pooler. The migration pits cities and developers and rural homeowners in a battle well-defined in this piece by Zoe Nicholson at savannahnow. The conflicts in Coastal Georgia will grow as housing needs swell in neighboring counties to the west as the giant Hyundai EV development starts to take shape.

Another take on Up For Growth report and the quickly changing environment is from the New York Times, where one chart points out that our northern neighbors in Bluffton-Hilton Head, SC, had a 6.55% housing surplus in 2012 that fell into the a 3.3% shortage by 2019. In Georgia, Gainesville continues to show the greatest needs, along with metro Atlanta. A third article on the report, from Bloomberg, addresses the immediate effects of the pandemic and inflation to the current construction markets. All the perspectives are worth your time if you or someone you know may be thinking about moving.

An enormous mosaic of Stephan’s Quintet is the largest image to date from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The image shows 5 galaxies in action. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. One of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster. More on this photo. Credit: NASA

Your second cup: Looking for life just got easier

This week’s view of a new speck of the universe, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, answers a few questions but sparks a galaxy-load more. One old question gets renewed attention with new data coming in and more telescopes under construction: Is there other life out there? Two researchers say it all goes back to how starlight interacts with a planet’s surface, and now we have a much better view. Here’s the story.


Georgia agency to answer calls for help over new 988 mental health crisis hotline

Pandemic call volume strained Georgia’s crisis line but officials prepare for new surge as national 988 line opens.

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It’s hot. Is that normal or is it climate change?

Do you think hotter daytime temperatures in Georgia are due to climate change? A new tool shows why warmer nighttime weather is even more worrisome.

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Covid cases rise; Georgia health officials warn against complacency

Infections and hospitalizations are rising across Georgia as new subvariant of Covid arrives.

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Textile factory on Ogeechee River linked to 2011 fish kill to close

Milliken purchased the plant about three years after the fish kill, when an estimated 38,000 fish died in the free-flowing blackwater river days in 2011. State regulators eventually determined that then-owner King America had been operating for five years without a permit for its fire retardant line.

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Army Corps postpones dredging until sea turtles finish nesting

A planned dredging operation that was likely to kill sea turtles is rescheduled to a turtle-friendlier season.

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Webb space telescope proves we can look for alien life in distant planets

To detect life on a distant planet, astrobiologists will study starlight that has interacted with a planet’s surface or atmosphere. If the atmosphere or surface was transformed by life, the light may carry a clue, called a “biosignature.”

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Georgia COVID-19 daily statistics

Today’s cases, change, deaths, hospitalizations, testing, vaccination sites and tracker

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