Brainless Decisions

Grind for April 22nd, 2019
“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.”
– Thomas Edison

Big Surprise

The Headline

Washington, DC: A socialist experiment to decrease homelessness doesn’t work as planned

The Grind

In 2016, city officials in Washington, DC decided to offer rental subsidies of up to 175% of fair market rent.

The desperate move, intended to reduce homelessness, made it possible for a low-income individual to rent an apartment going for up to $2,648 per month.

Roughly 70 people took advantage of the opportunity to move into apartments at Sedgwick Gardens – an iconic art deco building located in an affluent neighborhood in northwest Washington.

Most of the new tenants were previously homeless adults who came directly from shelters or from the streets; many struggled with severe behavioral problems and were not ready to live on their own.

In 2018, police responded to 121 complaints at the apartment building (up from 34 in 2016) ranging from opioid abuse and pot smoke to threats of violence and feces in the lobby.
The apartment now has social workers on call at night.

The Details

The failed social experiment at Sedgwick Gardens is part of the district’s “housing first” policy to reduce homelessness. The controversial approach aims to provide long-term housing without checking for addiction or mental illness.

“Housing first and just the voucher works great for some people,” says David Buck, an associate dean at the University of Houston’s College of Medicine. “But for people who are chronically mentally ill or chronically homeless…those people don’t do as well just jumping in.”

Judging by statistics, the “housing first” initiative has not been a success. The number of homeless families dropped 19% from 2017 to 2018, but the number of homeless single adults jumped 5% in 2018.

Statistics from last year suggest there are roughly 7,000 homeless people living in DC. Separate studies suggest the area has experienced the most intense gentrification of any city in the US.

The average 1-bedroom apartment in DC costs over $2,000 per month, and the city would need to build 36,000 units by 2025 just to keep up with the demand.

In spite of its obvious flaws, Democratic lawmakers are still promoting the “housing first” policy.

Last month, Council Member Brianne Nadeau introduced a bill that would force landlords to reserve at least 30% of their rooms for tenants who receive housing assistance.

This bill would exacerbate classist tensions in the city and make it even harder for the average working resident to find a place to live.

Say What??

The Headline

We are officially one step closer to the zombie apocalypse

The Grind

Last March, Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan claimed he could keep a pig’s brain “alive” for 36 hours after the organ was removed from the pig’s body.

The wacky claim was finally confirmed true this week by a detailed report published in the journal Nature.

“These findings demonstrate that under appropriate conditions the isolated, intact large mammalian brain possesses an under-appreciated capacity for restoration of microcirculation and molecular and cellular activity after a prolonged post-mortem interval,” reads the report.

Ethicists are unsure how to proceed with key questions regarding animal welfare and organ donation from patients declared brain-dead.

“For most of human history, death was very simple,” says neuroscientist Christof Koch. “Now, we have to question what is irreversible.”

The Details

In seeking a better understanding of the brain, Sestan and his team spent six years developing a system that would maintain circulation, supply oxygen and nutrients, and deliver protecting preservatives.

“This really was a shot-in-the-dark project,” says researcher Stefano Daniele. “We had no preconceived notion of whether or not this could work.”

The final experiment involved 32 pig heads obtained from a local butcher. The heads were flushed clear of residual blood and heat before being place in specialized tanks.

Four hours after death, the brains were hooked to a system of pumps and catheters.

The complex system, dubbed “BrainEx,” was able to prolong several key functions for 36 hours after death. None of the brains displayed the kind of electrical activity associated with consciousness.

“We found that tissue and cellular structure is preserved and cell death is reduced,” said Sestan. “In addition, some molecular functions were restored…This is not a living brain, but it is a cellularly active brain.”

Did you know… Whispering is more wearing on your voice than a normal speaking tone.