Short Takes: News From All Over

Preventing Vacant Boxes
By the New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
The United States has become a graveyard for big-box stores. As retailers abandon them for new ‘supercenter’ models, thousands of empty malls and cavernous cubes are blighting the country, with Wal-Mart responsible for more than 300 of them. Some cities are fighting back against the vacant behemoths in innovative ways: Oakdale, California, requires a ‘demolition bond’ to pay the city to demolish vacated sites, and Bozeman, Montana, requires retailers to provide a plan for life after retail. These approaches aren’t without problems, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project argues, but they’re innovative steps to prevent communities from being overrun by empty boxes. [Thanks, Progressive Review.] — Rachel Anderson

Have Golf’s Glory Days Gone By?
By Tony Davis, High Country News
‘Tee time’ may soon go the way of its English homonym as the golf industry loses steam. Tony Davis outlines some possible reasons why developers aren’t planning as many golf courses these days, from the high cost of watering the greens to a waning interest in the leisure sport. He notes that the decline in course-building and rounds played is national, but especially prominent in desert states where demand for water is high. Some industry insiders say it’s only a rough patch, but city planners and a few course owners are beginning to question whether new courses are worth the resources and costs. — Suzanne Lindgren

Codename ‘Turnstile’
By Jason Orton, openDemocracy
Built to house the British government for the nuclear war that never was, Codename ‘Turnstile’ was declassified in late 2004. The bunker was never used, but Jason Orton’s photographs of the site lead the mind to imagine life in the underground city. Brick walls, crumbling tunnels, and fluorescent lights would’ve provided an ersatz landscape to the subterranean new world, equipped with a hospital, telephone exchange, and even a BBC studio. One of Orton’s standout photographs is of a stark white wall holding a lone painting of people in a grassy field — a chilling reminder of what could have been lost. — Rachel Anderson

Dangerous Beauty: The Art of the Shiv
By William Drenttel, Design Observer
When a carpenter’s square can be reconstituted as a deadly prison weapon, or ‘shiv,’ it might be a stretch to see that object as art. Designers Chris Kasabach and Vanessa Sica do just that by presenting their collection of weapons confiscated 20 years ago from inmates of a maximum-security penitentiary in New Jersey. The objects, as photographed by Brett Yasko, take on a disturbing beauty while providing a stark reminder of the violence embedded in prison life. [Thanks, FlakMagazine] — Bennett Gordon

Debunking the ’60s with Ayers and Dohrn
By Laura S. Washington, In These Times
Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers — former members of Students for a Democratic Society and the infamous Weathermen — are traveling the country’s campuses with a new mission: telling students that activism in the ’60s wasn’t all rainbows and flower children. ?The idea is to let today’s movement know that resisting the war back then was a ‘hard-fought slog.’ That might be a helpful reminder for the hundreds of thousands who were discouraged after their pre-Iraq invasion protest came to naught. — Suzanne Lindgren

Health Care: It’s What Ails Us
By Doug Pibel and Sarah van Gelder, Yes!
Plenty of Americans say they’ve had it with a broken health care system and, according to Doug Pibel and Sarah van Gelder of Yes!, that frustration is quickly turning into a call for universal health care. Businesses may soon be singing the same tune, as insurance costs are expected to double in the next ten years. Yet politicians won’t discuss the topic, and that might have something to do with the $183.3 million the health care industry spent on lobbying in the second half of 2005. Despite that weighty influence, Pibel and van Gelder believe that if enough Americans speak up, we can get a universal health care debate on the table. — Suzanne Lindgren

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