Tag Archives: Weekend Reads

Weekend Long Reads: The Kids Are Eating a Lot More Pizza

by Kevin Schofield


This weekend’s “long read” is a report from a 20-year study on the food consumption habits of American youth. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHANES) has been collecting data since 1999, in two-year intervals, on what foods kids are eating, broken out across four categories: unprocessed and minimally processed; processed culinary ingredients such as oils; processed foods like cheeses; and “ultraprocessed” foods such as fast food, sweetened beverages, and store-bought ready-to-heat dishes.

In their most recent cohort, 2017–2018, they found that over two-thirds of the calories consumed by youth are from ultraprocessed food, up from 61.4% in 1999. The ready-to-heat/eat category jumped from 2.2% all the way up to 11.1%; that includes store-bought pizza, hamburgers, and sandwiches, and pizza alone is now over 5% of kids’ total calorie consumption.

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Weekend Long Reads: Long COVID

by Kevin Schofield


This weekend’s main “long read” deals with a scary topic: “long COVID.” This is how the medical community has come to refer to incidents where a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 initially seems to recover but continues to suffer ongoing symptoms for weeks or even months. Doctors have established two categories of long COVID: “ongoing symptomatic COVID” (OSC), in which symptoms continue on for four to 12 weeks after the initial illness; and “post-COVID syndrome” for symptoms that persist after 12 weeks.

Long COVID is still an emerging phenomenon since COVID-19 has barely been around long enough to start to complete longitudinal studies, but by existing estimates, 10% or more of the general population who contract COVID-19 will have some form of long COVID to follow, and the percentage is much higher in some high-risk populations (including those hospitalized with COVID-19). But little is still known about exactly what the risk factors are for long COVID, and how they compare to COVID-19 itself.

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Weekend Long Reads: Philadelphia’s Basic Systems Repair Program

by Kevin Schofield


This weekend’s “long read” is a study on Philadelphia’s Basic Systems Repair Program — and the surprising impact that it had.

The Basic Systems Repair Program is a grant program run by the City that makes awards of up to $20,000 to low-income homeowners for structural repairs of electrical, plumbing, heating, and roof damage to their homes. To enroll in the program, homeowners must apply, meet the income qualifications (the same as for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 vouchers), and then be placed on a waiting list — currently for up to three years.

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Weekend Long Reads: Bitterness Isn’t All Bad

by Kevin Schofield


This weekend’s “long read” is a collection of three shorter reads: a trio of research papers on COVID-19. The virus — and the vaccines — have now been around long enough that the medical research community has large and diverse enough data sets to start to really understand this virus. Along the way, researchers are discovering some fascinating and mystifying things. 

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Weekend Long Reads: A Watershed Ruling on Homelessness

by Kevin Schofield


On Tuesday, April 20, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter of the Central District of California issued a ruling that is likely to become a watershed moment in the United States’ response to homelessness.

In March of last year, the LA Alliance for Human Rights and several individuals sued the City and County of Los Angeles, alleging that they had not only fundamentally failed to address the homeless emergency in Los Angeles but had in fact contributed to creating it over the course of several decades. The complaint they filed reads more like what we might imagine the authors of the “Seattle is Dying” video would have written about Los Angeles: public health hazards, accumulating trash, rising crime, blocked sidewalks, local government leaders unwilling or unable to rise to the challenge of dealing with it. But Judge Carter had his own ideas, and over the last year has fully immersed himself in the issues and the situation on the ground.

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Weekend Long Reads: Why the CDC ‘Paused’ the Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine

by Kevin Schofield


Earlier this week Carolyn Bick wrote an excellent article on the CDC’s decision to “pause” use of the COVID vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson after reports of a handful of cases of blood clots in the several days following vaccination. This week’s Long Reads dives into the science of why the CDC made that controversial move, and what happens next.

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Weekend Long Reads: Life Without Parole

by Kevin Schofield


This week’s long read is hot off the presses: a Washington State Supreme Court ruling from this past Thursday. By a 5-4 vote, the Court ruled that a state law requiring a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for any adult convicted of aggravated first degree murder is unconstitutional when applied to individuals aged 19 or 20, because it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Underlying this case, and several that preceded it, are two ongoing societal debates: What makes a punishment “cruel,” and at what point does someone cross over from juvenile to adult?

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Weekend Reads: Fluoride is the Word

by Kevin Schofield


This week we dive into another scientific controversy: fluoridated drinking water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers it one of the 10great public health achievements of the 20th century, and yet others decry it as an attempt by the government to poison us (a conspiracy theory mocked in the movie Dr. Strangelove). What’s the truth? A recent research paper from Sweden tries to get to the bottom of this.

The benefit of fluoridation is in its well-documented ability to strengthen tooth enamel and this prevent tooth decay and cavities — also the reason why fluoride is added to toothpaste. The downside is that in large enough concentrations fluoride can impair cognitive development or, in the extreme, be lethal. The question is really whether a dose that is large enough to improve dental health is small enough to avoid the negative effects. 

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