Before joining Mother Jones, Benjy reported for Colombia Reports while living in Medellin. He has written for PolicyMic and Wine & Bowties. A slow-travel enthusiast, Benjy also lived in Peru, where he worked in a carpentry shop.
Just how stressful is it to glue yourself to media coverage of a horrific event like the Sandy Hook massacre, the 9/11 attacks, or last year's Boston Marathon bombings? In some cases, it may be more stressful than direct exposure to the event.
That's according to a new study from the University of California-Irvine, which focused on the Boston attacks this past April. In the wake of the bombings, researchers measured symptoms of acute stress reported by people who were either at the event or who had loved ones there. They compared these responses to the responses of people with no connection to the event, but who were exposed to repeated media reports on the bombing. The media junkies were the more stressed-out group, because, the team concluded, the extended exposure kept the acute stressor "active and alive" in their minds.
"We underestimate the role of media exposure to graphic images," says Alison Holman, the study's lead author. "It's not just seeing it once; my concern is the repetitive viewing. If seeing those images over and over produces more rumination or habitual worrying, even at a subconscious level, it could be contributing to mental or physical ailments."
Of all the artists at last month's Treasure Island Music Festival, Danny Brown (born Daniel Sewell) was the only one I was really excited to talk to. This may seem bizarre, given that he's not such a big star as Little Dragon or Disclosure. (I wasn't even going to try for a Thom Yorke interview, and Beck—he insists that photographers sign a waiver that applies "throughout the universe.") But Brown, to my eyes, is the most exciting rapper out there right now.
While his 2011 mixtape, XXX, made him wildly popular in certain corners of the internet, it was Brown's latest record, Old, that ushered Daniel (as he introduces himself) into a new phase of prominence. Music critics like to frame him as two-sided: the sex-and-drug obsessed party mutant vs the dark, meditative poet who came up rough. With Old, Brown strives for three dimensions. And while many rappers are continuously trying to redefine themselves, he manages to exude a unique integrity of character in the face of recent media attention and major internet buzz. "I'm old enough now to where I can handle that," Brown says. "I'm 32. If I was 22, it might have been different." (Thirty-two, by the way, is pretty ancient in the rap world.)
Lost in the clamor for stricter distracted-driving laws, a study from April 2013 found discouraging patterns in the relationship between texting bans and traffic fatalities.
Drivers might dial back their texting when they hear about a ban, but after they succumb to the urge once or twice and get away with it, they determine it's okay and keep doing it.
As one might expect, single occupant vehicle crashes dip noticeably when a state legislature enacts a texting and driving ban. But the change is always short-lived, according to this study, which examined data from every state except Alaska from 2007 through 2010. Within months, the accident rate typically returned to pre-ban levels.
The researchers, Rahi Abouk and Scott Adams of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, attribute this pattern to the "announcement effect," when drivers adjust their behavior to compensate for a perceived law enforcement threat—only to return to old habits when enforcement appears ineffectual. In other words, drivers might dial back their texting when they hear about a ban, but after they succumb to the urge once or twice and get away with it, they determine it's okay and keep doing it.
"It's different than drunk driving," Adams said. Identifying intoxicated drivers is relatively easy, "you can give somebody a breathalyzer, you can have checkpoints." But with texting, "it's really hard [for policemen] to know" if someone's been texting.
No one denies the dangers of texting while driving. In fact, 95 percent of AAA survey (PDF) respondents said texting behind the wheel was a "very" serious threat to their personal safety. But 35 percent of the same respondent group admitted to having read a text or email while driving in the last 30 days. Because Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 send and receive an average of 88 texts per day, and American drivers average nearly 40 miles a day, it makes sense that the Department of Transportation estimates that at any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 people are "using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices" while driving.
State governments have attempted to curb the formation of this lethal habit. Forty-six states have enacted some kind of texting ban, with penalties ranging from a $20 ticket to a $10,000 fine and a year in prison (hey, Alaska!). Unfortunately, enforcement has seen limited success, in part because of how difficult detection is. Likewise, actual cell phone related fatality statistics are vastly underreported for a number of reasons, experts say. And, unless a driver involved in a crash admits to it, investigators may have no reason to suspect cell phone use.
The most effective bans, Adams said, were those enacted earliest. In Washington, where legislators took action in 2007, "people actually took it seriously," at least for a time. Yet the efficacy of that ban decreased with each successive year. Likely, Adams said, because people heard "reports that these things weren't being enforced." In those states slower to legislate, any dip in fatalities evened out within several months.
The good news: fatal car crashes are on the decline. The bad news: fatal car crashes involving cell phone use—anything from texting to talking to reaching for a ringing phone—are on the rise. In fact, the leading cause of death for teenage drivers is now texting, not drinking, with nearly a dozen teens dying each day in a texting-related car crash. Stark figures like this have driven 46 states to pass legislation banning texting and driving. But texting fines vary wildly across the country, and you'll end up paying a little or a lot depending on where you got caught.
In California, the maximum penalty for a first-time offender is just $20, the lowest in the country, while Alaska will slap you with a whopping $10,000 fine and a year in prison. Meanwhile, some states don't allow cops to pull drivers over for texting, but can impose a texting fine on top of another penalty, like speeding. Confused yet? Keep your eyes on the road: we've rounded up maximum first-offense fines for fully licensed drivers in each state (jump down to see the full table), along with a few more sobering stats on using your phone while behind the wheel. Remember: local laws may apply even if there's no statewide ban where you're driving, but to be safe—literally—just don't text and drive.
Images/icons: Texting designed by Collectif Intro from The Noun Project; Flickr/irina slutsky; Flickr/stevendamron.
It's here: the Bay Area's most surreal music gathering, based on the setting alone. Plunked on a landfill island in the middle of San Francisco Bay the Treasure Island Music Festival offers a textured, talented lineup for the weekend of October 19-20. With Atoms for Peace and Beck headlining on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, the fest lacks not for star power. All the buzz around Radiohead's Thom Yorke collaboration with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea is understandable, and Atoms for Peace is sure to deliver a riveting set—but those guys are olddddd, man!
Major Lazer and Animal Collective will also be there, and if you're already going, I hardly have to convince you to see them. For some of us, though, the real excitement will come earlier in the day, with a diverse and youthful sampling of bands that promise to entertain. Here are seven reasons to get yourself to the Island before the big boys go on.