#5SmartReads - June 28, 2022
Hitha on medical debt, male contraception, and the economics of ambient music
100 million people. That’s nearly 1/3 of the country’s residents.
What makes this study different is that it investigates the other kinds of debt people have taken on to pay medical bills - credit card debt, loans from family and friends, and payment plans - that haven’t previously been captured in medical debt studies.
"Debt is no longer just a bug in our system. It is one of the main products," said Dr. Rishi Manchanda, who has worked with low-income patients in California for more than a decade and served on the board of the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. "We have a health care system almost perfectly designed to create debt."
Student loan debt dominates the news cycle, but the truth is that so many of our systems designed to help Americans are in fact effective debt generation systems, and true reform has to focus on remaking these systems as well as near-term alleviation of this debt.
And make no mistake - 26 states banning & restricting access to abortion will only grow this number, especially in the states where a significant share of people already have medical debt.
I saw Alison Leiby’s play last Friday (an eerie coincidence), and I think everyone should see it and I hope a streaming service films and airs it.
It delivers some of the truths missing from the conversations we have about abortions (such as 6/10 people seeking abortions are already parents), that people who decide not to have children deserve the dignity and respect that those who do (and both deserve support that we are severely lacking).
And while the show is one of the most important works of art I’ve seen this year, I can also empathize with Alison Leiby on not wanting to be “abortion lady” forever. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what she does next.
EXPLAINER: What’s the impact of a Russian debt default? (Associated Press)
Do you know the last time Russia defaulted on its foreign debt?
It was 1917, after the Bolshevik Revolution. And while Russia claims the sanctions prevent them from paying the $40B in foreign bonds (the country hass $640B in foreign currency and gold). Investors expected this to happen, but I found this article to be a super helpful primer on global debt, and this case in particular.
Long story short - the debt won’t force Russia’s hand on negotiating a withdrawal to resume oil trade, to our great sorrow. But it’s good to understand global economics, especially as it pertains to war.
Inside the Ambient Music Streaming Boom (Pitchfork)
The money generated from so-called mood playlists, in some cases, is higher than any other source of income from a given release, he says. He offers the example of Tarentel, a post-rock band that released a few records with Temporary Residence in the late 1990s and 2000s before fizzling out. Their most popular songs have Spotify play counts in the tens of thousands, with one exception: “Open Letter to Hummingbirds,” a drifting ambient-adjacent instrumental from a relatively obscure 2007 EP, which recently exploded in popularity after showing up on a focus-oriented playlist, collecting nearly 3 million plays. According to deVine, “The revenue generated from that random Tarentel track is several hundred percent greater than the amount of money that band ever made.”
I’m not alone in having found comfort in mood-based ambient playlists, especially for relaxing. And their rise in popularity - and profitability - may be one of the only good news stories I’ve found lately.
Enjoy this random read, and I highly recommend Focus Ragas if you need to hunker down and get things done but want to expose yourself and your kids to South Asian culture.
Why there’s still no new birth control for men (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
I think a lot about Gabrielle Blair’s viral thread about how the onus of birth control should be on the ejaculator, as each sperm ejaculation can result in a pregnancy but those with a uterus can only get pregnant for a certain period of time every month.
It’s infuriating. What’s even more infuriating is that the only birth control options for ejaculators are condoms and vasectomies - and nothing in between.
That’s not for a lack of trying, as there is different forms of contraception under clinical development (a topical gel applied twice a day, a reversible gel injected in the vas Deferens). The latter is one I have my eye on and am hopeful will be approved by the time my kids are teenagers, and I also hope we consider how we deliver contraceptive care between those with uteruses and those who ejaculate, because it’s far from equal right now:
Some parting notes:
my daily planning sheet has helped me stay focused and centered in these crazy times. If you need either of these (or both!), please download and use it. I hope it helps you the way it has helped me.
Here are the 5 things that brought me a sense of peace/fulfillment/motivation yesterday (from this Reel and the planning worksheet)
Meditation: Aditi’s energizing meditation
Book: Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster (I return to specific essays in this book when things feel like they’re going off the rails - highly recommend it!)
Playlist: Focus Ragas
Did you know I’m an author as well? If you’re struggling with balancing life with political engagement, please check out We’re Speaking: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris. And if packing for summer travels is stressing you out, How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip will help you (as will my packing resources page and my old blog).