Tag Archives: The Atlantic

When Cities Fought the Feds Over Apartheid

Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his threat to withhold federal funding from cities deemed as providing sanctuary for immigrants, this time bending language in the law to make it easier for him to penalize recalcitrant jurisdictions. In his May 22 memo to “All Department Grant-Making Components,” Sessions wrote:

Consistent with the Executive Order [13768], statutory authority, and past practice, the Department of Justice will require jurisdictions applying for certain Department grants to certify their compliance with federal law, … as a condition for receiving an award. Any jurisdiction that fails to certify compliance with section 1373 will be ineligible to receive such awards.

And just to show that he’s not playing around, Sessions emphasized in the memo that this threat applies to … Read the rest

Lab Report: New York Prepares Commuters for ‘Summer of Hell’

“Summer of hell”: That’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s term for what New York City-area commuters should expect this summer, as he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo put together contingency plans for Amtrak’s emergency shutdown of Penn Station. Politico reports:

Couching their proposals in biting, and even personal criticism of leaders at Amtrak… the governors made only passing — and passive — reference to their states’ own often-criticized stewardship of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and NJ Transit, both of which have seen better days.

Work for it: President Trump’s budget proposal leaves an opening to introduce work requirements for people who receive federal housing subsidies. The New York Times explores how the work requirement idea hits straight to the core of liberal/conservative value divisions.

Healthy moves: … Read the rest

Why Did The Biggest Whales Get So Big?

Five years ago, on a boat off the southern coast of Sri Lanka, I met the largest animal that exists or has ever existed.

The blue whale grows up to 110 feet in length. Its heart is the size of a small car. Its major artery is big enough that you could wedge a small child into it (although you probably shouldn’t). It’s an avatar of hugeness. And its size is evident if you ever get to see one up close. From the surface, I couldn’t make out the entire animal—just the top of its head as it exposed its blowhole and took a breath. But then, it dove. As its head tilted downwards, its arching back broke the surface of the water in a graceful … Read the rest

San Francisco to Delivery Robots: Get Off the Damn Sidewalk

It was only a matter of time until San Francisco again became Ground Zero in a new battle between the public resources of a community and the private reach of technology companies. This week, city supervisor Norman Yee introduced a bill banning delivery robots from San Francisco’s sidewalks and streets.

These delivery robots are what folks strolling around Washington, D.C., have been seeing in recent weeks: six-wheeled boxes, roughly the size of beer coolers, ambling along city sidewalks, delivering food and other items. If passed, Yee’s legislation would halt all deliveries via robot in the city. Violators could face punishment that includes criminal penalties of up to $1,000 in fines or up to six months’ imprisonment. “Our public spaces should not be commercialized,” said Yee … Read the rest

One Cyclist’s Photographic Trek Through the Rust Belt

When Ken Ashton first participated in the Tour of the Scioto River Valley, he joined about 8,000 cyclists in the two-day Ohio trek from Columbus to Portsmouth and back. That was in 1991; Ashton’s been back almost 30 times. Some others have him beat by decades. The Tour, which started as a father-and-son ride in 1962, is one of the oldest rides in America. There are cyclists in their 70s who still make the journey.

The 212-mile trip is an annual event; this year’s Tour is this weekend, May 20-21. Since the ‘90s, the number of cyclists who make the trip has dipped. (Perhaps a consequence of the Tour’s reputation for always falling on rainy days.) But Ashton says the most striking changes have taken … Read the rest

American Trees Are Moving West, and No One Knows Why

As the consequences of climate change strike across the United States, ecologists have a guiding principle about how they think plants will respond. Cold-adapted plants will survive if they move “up”—that is, as they move further north (away from the tropics) and higher in elevation (away from the warm ground).

A new survey of how tree populations have shifted over the past three decades finds that this effect is already in action. But there’s a twist: Even more than moving poleward, trees are moving west.

About three-quarters of tree species common to eastern American forests—including white oaks, sugar maples, and American hollies—have shifted their population center west since 1980. More than half of the species studied also moved northward during the same period.

These results, … Read the rest

Why High-Tech Urban Farms Won’t Displace Community Gardens

Urban farmers are increasingly leveraging technologies like machine learning and smartphone integration to build high-yield farms in small urban spaces. And while it may seem that those innovations upend the “slow food” idea of working together in the dirt to grow organic zucchini or lettuce, sharing time and crops with neighbors, the success of these higher-tech projects may hinge on the support of local community gardeners.

In theory, a commitment to building a local food system that meets the needs of urban dwellers without relying on long-distance transportation methods—which can leave a substantial carbon footprint—is great. Many contemporary urban farms are cropping up in direct opposition to large-scale agricultural operations that are perceived as harmful to people and the environment. But in practice, urban farmers … Read the rest

When Artificial Intelligence Rules the City

When we think of the city of the future, we might think about flying cars and scenes from “Star Trek” or “The Jetsons.” But coming new technologies are shaping deeper and more fundamental changes in our cities.

These changes are already well underway. CityLab readers already know how ride-hailing companies are transforming the nature of mobility and car ownership. Cities have overtaken suburbs to become a major center for high tech firms and the talent that drives them. Initiatives like Google’s Sidewalk Labs are attempting to deepen the connection between technology and urbanism and transform the city itself into a platform for new technology and innovation.

A report by a panel of leading experts on technology, business, and cities takes a deep dive into the changes … Read the rest

Who Was the Last Person on Earth Born in the 1700s?

Emma Morano was 117 years old when she died in Italy last month. Toward the end of her long life, she held an auspicious, if lonely, place in human history. She is believed to have been the last person on Earth who was born in the 19th century: November 29, 1899.

Barring planetary catastrophe, it will be some time before the last person who was born in the 20th century is gone.

If someone born in 1999 lives to be 117, like Morano did, that person may live to see the year 2117. Or perhaps even the 2120s, if that person reaches 122 years old: That’s still the record for longevity, held by Jeanne Calment, who was born in 1875 and died in 1997.

We can’t … Read the rest

The Mystery of Off-The-Grid Whale Moms

Thick fog sat over Cape Cod Bay the morning of April 20, so the survey boat had to work by sound. Every so often, the researchers aboard cut their engine and listened for deep blows to track down surfacing right whales. By mid-afternoon, the fog had lifted, and Marilyn Marx could clearly see markings on one nearby whale that made her excited. “Big white scar!” she called down to the others from the boat’s tower. “Could be 1412!”

Just then, a baby whale popped up next to the massive female. The group on the boat let out a unanimous whoop.

Marx, a scientist at the New England Aquarium in Boston, and the others scrambled to get photographs and skin samples of the mother and calf. Earlier … Read the rest

Meet Zuul, Destroyer of Shins—a Dinosaur Named After Ghostbusters

In 2014, a commercial fossil company was digging for tyrannosaur skeletons in a giant Montana quarry when one of its pit-loaders accidentally bumped into the tail of a very different dinosaur. It was an ankylosaur—a low-slung plant-eater with armored plates on its back, and a huge defensive club at the end of its tail. The company was looking for a tyrannosaur, but it ended up finding the thing that smacks tyrannosaurs in the shins.

The specimen was acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and scientists Victoria Arbour and David Evans started examining it last year. They soon realized that it was a new species. Arbour has named a few new ankylosaurs before: Crichtonpelta, after the Jurassic Park author and the Greek word … Read the rest

Lab Report: Immigration and America’s Most Diverse City

Immigration battlefront: Houston has bucked its historic trends to become the most racially and ethnically diverse major city in the U.S.—and now, a major political stage for immigration reform as Texas goes hard on sanctuary cities. The L.A. Times reports:

The story of how [the] city turned from a town of oil industry roughnecks and white blue-collar workers into a major political centrifuge for immigration reform, demographic analysts say, is nothing less than the story of the American city of the future.

Affordability crisis: A New York Times Magazine profile of U.S. families suffering from the burden of housing costs points to an entitlement in the tax code (the “MID” in wonk-speak) as perpetuating the worst shortage of affordable housing the nation has seen … Read the rest

Bangkok’s Street Vendors Are Not the Enemies of Public Space

For a moment, it seemed like Bangkok was going to lose the very street food culture that’s defined the city for decades. Local newspaper The Nation reported last Tuesday that the city was planning to ban food stalls in all 50 of its districts as part of an effort to “clean up” the streets and “return the pavements to the pedestrians.” All would disappear by end of this year—the sweet and sticky aroma of coconut (a staple Thai ingredient), the sizzle of noodles hitting the wok as vendors fire up an order of pad thai, and the chaotic charm that draws some 20 to 30 million international tourists to the city each year.

After a public outcry, garnering media attention across the globe, Thailand’s chief of … Read the rest