Atlanta Must-Reads of the Week: Smallpox, surveillance, dog babies, and turning down

Plus, Bill Torpy on APD’s not-so-happy “Happy” video, and a smart take on the APS-BeltLine dispute
Maryn McKenna

The weekend’s here, so it’s a great time to catch up on these stories about Atlanta or by Atlanta writers.

Maryn McKenna in WIRED on the discovery of misplaced smallpox vials
Atlanta-based journalist and author McKenna specializes in food safety and infectious diseases. She wrote a book about the CDC’s infectious-disease specialists and another on drug-resistant super bugs. When it comes to scary diseases, there is no writer I trust more; she’s always clear-eyed and candid but never alarmist. In a Friday post on her WIRED blog, McKenna discussed the implications of learning that the virus in those vials was viable, and what might happen in case of infection:

If this hypothetical person was vulnerable (possible, because there has been no vaccination in the US general population since the 1970s) and did develop smallpox, it would be exceedingly bad for them: Smallpox killed at least one in four who contracted it. But that person might be the only victim: there is a significant vaccine stockpile, about 220 million doses, that could be deployed to create a cordon sanitaire around the case and choke off any further spread.

Read: Virus Found in Tubes of Smallpox Is Viable

Mayor Kasim Reed in the Wall Street Journal on the future of cities
The ostensible theme of the mayor’s op-ed is an upbeat assertion that city leadership will lead the rest of the country: “People and businesses will turn to cities for leadership, bold thinking, effective services and, yes, hope.”

But what some readers picked up on was an example that hearkens more to futuristic leadership in a Big Brother mode:

Atlanta, for instance, is already using PredPol, predictive technology that helps forecast criminal activity. The result: crime rates that, in many instances, are falling below the 40-year lows we have already seen. In the future, police will perfect the use of predictive analytics to thwart crimes before they occur. We will also see expanded use of video technology, giving public-safety officials a view of every street corner, 24 hours a day.

Read: The Future of Cities as Global Leaders

For more on Reed and surveillance, here’s Jim Galloway on a Reed interview in which the mayor elaborated on the column, stating that in the future the city might know where citizens are “80 to 85 percent of the time.”

Conor Sen and Jared Apperson in Creative Loafing on a possible outcome of the APS/BeltLine dispute
If terms like “tax allocation district” and “school bond revenue” make your eyes glaze over, you might have been skipping all the news coverage of the clash between the city and the BeltLine over payments to Atlanta Public Schools. Sen, a demographer, and Apperson, a Georgia State University grad student, provide context for the dispute and make a strong argument for a compromise between the two parties:

Investing in the Beltline will strengthen the city’s communities, promote socioeconomic integration, and grow jobs. All of these will benefit the city’s schools, meaning that there is a strong case for the school district’s leaders to consider a revised contract. But that decision lies solely with APS and hinges on what leaders believe is best for students. It would be a shame if the Mayor’s short fuse and penchant for intemperate remarks cloud this symbiotic relationship from view and ultimately delay the Beltline – all of the project and everything it entails – from becoming a reality.

Read: Can Everyone Win in the APS-BeltLine Dispute?

Bill Torpy in the AJC on why the APD “Happy” video has some cops unhappy
At times the AJC’s new columnist can wear out his grumpy-guy schtick and over-write, but overall he’s a welcome voice at the paper, providing a mix of attitude and old-school reporting, as in this take on the APD video (which we, admittedly, found as charming as everyone else did.)

Atlanta cops have long complained that APD is a farm team that hires, trains and gives great, real-life experience to young, aspiring officers — who then parlay that into better-paying jobs at suburban forces where there are fewer opportunities for crack-heads to bust their noggins with bricks.

Read: Atlanta Cops: “Happy” video Just Management’s Song and Dance

Rachael Maddux in Matter on why she is not her dog’s “mom”
If you’ve spent five minutes walking through the Grant Park farmers market or lingered on the patio at Park Tavern, you know there is a swath of Atlanta’s population that treats its pets as kids. And stroll down the BeltLine and you cross “families” of couples, dogs, and double-wide strollers. Decatur writer Maddux points out that her dog is neither her child nor an ersatz infant.

When you get a dog people think it’s because you want a baby. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve told someone about how Joe or I reacted to something the dog did, and whoever I’m talking to has said, “Oh, that’s good to know.” And then they pause, because they think I know what they’re trying to say, and I do know but I want to make them say it: “You know, for when you have babies.”

Read: Furbaby Fever

And finally…

VOX puts its explaining journalism muscle behind an explication of Atlanta rapper Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” video:
Read: Turn Down for What: A Guide, by Alex Abad-Santos.