Tag: good news

A Chanukah Miracle?: Baltimore Citizen’s Patrol Saves Family in San Francisco

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Baltimore’s Shomrim, a sort of volunteer neighborhood watch program for the primarily Jewish neighborhoods in Northwest Baltimore, usually responds to calls about minor neighborhood issues:  broken windows, suspicious strangers, and the like. But this week, one Shomrim dispatcher had to deal with a situation that was far more frightening.   “Like many calls we get, there were kids screaming and a lady crying and at first I couldn’t make out any of the words because she was pretty hysterical,” dispatcher Yitzy Schlieifer told VIN News. Shortly afterward, it became clear that this call was quite different from the ones that Shomrim usually deals with.

Baltimore: Things Are Looking Up

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I like a little good news on a Friday morning, how about you? Well, here’s some:

Maryland is the Nation’s Most Enterprising State

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“The New Normal” sounds a little like one of those insults that’s supposed to trick you into thinking its a compliment — but bear with us. In a new stats-heavy report on the “New Normal” of the nation’s economy, the U.S. Commerce Department argues that the nation is dealing with a new geography of growth, one that doesn’t match up with old ways of understanding how employment, manufacturing, and technology growth actually work. What we need, they argue, is a new multidisciplinary, enterprising approach — and, not coincidentally, they name Maryland as the nation’s top enterprising state.

The Good Stats: When Baltimore Leaves Everyone Else Behind

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Today, the New York Times reports on a study showing that “a centrifugal force… is concentrating the nation’s college graduates into a set of metro areas” — and, as a consequence, leaving others behind.

First things first:  know that Baltimore, a city dominated by its education industry, is benefiting from this trend. A full 35 percent of residents in the Baltimore-Towson region have a college degree, up nearly 25 percent from 1970. That puts us in the top-15 of cities nationwide. And, as the Times reports, cities where college graduates cluster tend to reap the benefits of longer life expectancies, higher average incomes, and fewer single-parent families. Ideally, this is a rising-tide-raises-all-boats situation:  More college graduates leads to higher regional income, which in turn results in a higher tax base and better public services.

But (of course) there’s a dark side to the success that cities like Baltimore, DC, San Jose, and Boston have seen — and it looks like Dayton, Ohio.

As college grads increasingly cluster in certain regions and avoid others, certain cities get left behind. Forty years ago, Dayton and Chicago’s populations had similar rates of college graduation; these days, that gap has widened significantly — and Dayton is just one of the rust belt cities that’s feeling the negative effects.

It can be strange to look at a list like this one and see Baltimore held up as a place that’s doing things right, when our city’s name so often gets used as shorthand for “crime” or “urban decay.” But the New Republic is encouraging residents of Dayton and other areas moving down the educational-attainment ladder to look to places like Baltimore and Pittsburgh as models. Our economy was hit hard by the loss of manufacturing, an economic whammy that the city’s still recovering from. But because those losses happened earlier than the rust belt’s subsequent collapse, Baltimore (and Pittsburgh and Charlotte, etc.) have had more of a chance to rebuild economies based around things like health, higher education, and technology. No one’s arguing that it’s been easy, or that the transition is complete. But Baltimore’s long-term economic transition has been going on for a while — and it seems that finally, people are noticing that we’re doing something right.

PBS Program Trumpets the Good News from Baltimore

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If you happened to spend Earth Day inside watching TV, you might have seen Baltimore showcased in the new episode of PBS’s Earth:  The Operator’s Manual. The episode, “Energy Quest USA,” shone a spotlight on innovative ways that various communities are reducing energy consumption — and it was a very welcome spot of encouraging news amid the general gloominess that’s out there.

The program focused on BNEC, the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge, a grassroots effort that tried to bring energy-saving tips directly to city residents, using a neighbor-to-neighbor communication network. In other words, BNEC neighborhood captains not only set up booths at block parties, they also went door-to-door, handing out energy-efficient light bulbs and even inviting themselves inside homes to give hands-on demonstrations of energy-saving tips. The program capitalizes on the idea that “knowledge about energy savings is contagious,” in the words of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Taking a cue from other cities, BNEC also made saving energy into a competition between neighborhoods — and were surprised to see who ended up winning.

Segregation Down in Baltimore (and U.S.). But…

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A group of economists who’ve been studying racial segregation for decades released a report on Monday trumpeting “The End of the Segregated Century.”  After poring over census results, the researchers concluded that our cities are more integrated than ever before; that all-white neighborhoods “are effectively extinct,” and that there is significantly less housing discrimination than fifty years ago.

The cities showing the greatest decline in segregation were those with large Latino populations, including Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. On the whole, Rust Belt cities (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis) saw a lesser decline in segregation. Baltimore was somewhere in the middle. While Dallas’s “dissimiarity index” (which measures how many people live near people of the same race) declined by nearly 40 points since 1970, Baltimore’s dipped by less than 20 points.

But that’s not to say that segregation is no longer a problem. Critics of the study point out that “the average black resident still lives in a neighborhood that is 45 percent black and 36 percent white. At the same time, the average white lives in a neighborhood that is 78 percent white and 7 percent black. Black segregation levels are even higher for children, signaling the continued separation of black and white families across communities with different levels of resources available for schools and other services important for nurturing the next generation.” In other words, we still have a long way to go.

One last surprising finding from the study: Suburbs are often more integrated than cities.

Cautious Good News For Maryland’s Economy in 2012

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Some good news, for once:  Maryland’s unemployment rate dropped below seven percent last month, and economists are predicting a (slightly) brighter 2012.

Of course, considering bleak recent months, almost anything could be an improvement.  2011 did see job growth overall, but it was a kind of growth that economists called “anemic.” Since the recession began four years ago, the state has added nearly 100,000 people to its unemployment rolls.  (About 207,000 Marylanders are currently unemployed.)  The 2,000 new jobs added in November put a dent in that number, but just barely.

Still, there is some reason for guarded optimism.  Maryland has had three straight months of job growth, for one.  For another, despite the fact that the state’s economic health is deeply entwined with that of the federal government, recent plans for federal cutbacks may not be as harmful to Maryland as you might think.  That’s because the private sector has been fueling the job growth around the state, in such industries as education and health services, hospitality, and construction.  (Meanwhile, 2,300 government jobs were cut.)  In all, about 22,000 jobs have been added by Maryland employers so far this year.

And as for next year? Some economists estimate a slightly-better job base increase of about 20 to 27,000 more jobs next year.  However, those are at best educated guesses.  “I think most folks that are making these projections are using a pencil with a big eraser on it,”  regional economist Gary D. Keith of M&T Bank told the Baltimore Sun. “There’s a lot of balls in the air relative to what we typically look at when we forecast.”

Scuba Diving Leads to "Unprecedented" Improvement in Paralyzed Vets

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Sometimes I just want to slap Science on the back and tell it that it’s doing a great job. Like today, for example, when I heard about an experimental treatment for vets with spinal cord injuries that’s being run by Johns Hopkins. The study’s participants gained an “unprecedented” restoration of neurological function, but not a new drug or an innovative surgery. Their breakthrough therapy was scuba diving.

The first germ of the idea came from Cody Unser, a young woman who was paralyzed from the chest down as a teenager. Fortunately enough, Unser was also the member of a prominent (and wealthy) auto-racing family, so when she noticed that she regained some feeling in her legs while scuba-diving, she was able to sponsor this pilot study through her foundation. The next thing you know, the Hopkins researchers were flying to the Caribbean with ten wheelchair-dependent vets, ready to embark on a series of dives. And though the study only examined a small number of people, the results were striking:  the vets showed significant gains in muscle movement, increased sensitivity to sensation, and large reductions in PTSD and OCD symptoms. (Healthy controls who dove along with the vets showed no neurologic changes.)

The researchers are still trying to explain just how and why the underwater experience had such a restorative effect. Was it the buoyancy? The increased oxygenation of tissues from pressurized air? The beautiful Caribbean waters? Sure, there are plenty of questions to be answered, and more studies to do. But for right now, we’re just happy to hear that there’s hope for those with  spinal cord injuries. Good job, Science.

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