Behind Glasgow's High Mortality Rate: Best #Cityreads of the Week

A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.

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A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

"Why Is Glasgow the UK's Sickest City?," Lucy Ash, BBC News

Glasgow is internationally renowned for its thriving arts scene and top universities. It boasts handsome Victorian architecture, smart designer shops, fashionable bars and restaurants.

At the same time, this dynamic city also has an unenviable reputation for poor health. Obesity rates are among the highest in the world. Research conducted in 2007 found that nearly one in five potential workers was on incapacity benefit and that Glasgow has a much larger number and a higher proportion of the population claiming sickness-related benefit than any other city in Britain.

What is worse, the city has an alarmingly high mortality rate. A 2011 study compared it with Liverpool and Manchester, which have roughly equal levels of unemployment, deprivation and inequality. It found that residents of Glasgow are about 30% more likely to die young, and 60% of those excess deaths are triggered by just four things - drugs, alcohol, suicide and violence.

"In South L.A., Professional Pallbearers Have an Uplifting Touch," Nita Lelyveld, Los Angeles Times

Before they leave for a service, the men line up for inspection. Ties get straightened. Lint is removed. Collars are smoothed. After each service, they gather to critique each miscue.

They treat pallbearing more as calling than a job that helps make ends meet.

"I think it gives joy to the family to see us perform like that," Beltran said. "And it makes me feel better toward myself. I feel more positive when I'm dressed up like that."

Yarbrough said he felt the same way. "For me personally, it brings a new sense of dignity and respect to my life. It lets me know that in spite of my situation, I'm still able to contribute to somebody else's situation in a positive manner."

"The Unlikely History of the Origins of Modern Maps," Jessica Camille Aguirre, Smithsonian Magazine

One of the main problems with maps has always been their dimensionality. In a purely topographical sense, the thing a map is trying to portray is at least one dimension greater than itself. That conundrum has spurred myriad attempts at a solution and cleaved cartographers for hundreds of years – map projections of Earth are still split between ones that say the planet’s a sphere and ones that describe it as an ellipse.

But topography is only one story of space. Imagine a man standing on a road.  Asked to describe where he is in the world, the man might talk about the slope of the hill he’s standing on or the size of the rocks surrounding him. He might also say he’s on a road, between a cornfield and an orchard on one side and a little village on the other. So without even mentioning the birds he observed flying overheard, or the direction of the wind, or the temperature, or even his latitude and longitude, he’s already got six things describing his world. Human experience of space is too complicated to be reduced to the peaks and valleys of a landscape.

"How City Leaders Aim to Break the Poverty Cycle in South Memphis," Brentin Mock and Cassie Owens, Next City

The U.S. Department of Justice gave the University of Memphis a half-million dollars to study gang activity, work with at-risk youth and help evaluate the action plan as it developed. For a city used to treating crime as a numbers game that could be solved through traditional policing, this was a watershed moment.

“I think as we began to peel the onion, to look at how we could have a greater impact on reducing crime, we had to acknowledge that prevention strategies were the key for this next level of work,” said Memphis Shelby Crime Commissioner Michelle Fowlkes. “We really needed to start looking at the root causes. We couldn’t arrest away crime.”

The plan is a motherboard of sorts for the collaboration that’s happening across sectors, outlining different crime prevention tactics, and tapping outside agencies to assist with implementation to ensure the tactics endure longer than the plan itself.

"On Patrol with North London's Orthodox Jewish Crime Fighters," Tabby Kinder, VICE

For the Shomrim in Stamford Hill, though – the area with the highest concentration of Hasidic Jews in Europe – integration in the non-Jewish community is key. The patrols don't just exist to serve the Orthodox community, Shulem says: “If you look at the results in the last quarter, 55 percent of victims of the crimes we stopped were non-Jewish.”

Last June, amid the rise in Islamaphobic attacks following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, Shomrim met with Muslim community leaders to discuss cooperation between the two communities. The group now includes protection of the Cazenove Road Mosque and Community Centre on its nightly patrols. During the riots in Tottenham in August of 2011, Shomrim provided first aid to injured members of the public (including one young male who had been stabbed numerous times) when London Ambulance Service ambulances were unable to attend without a police escort.

“It’s just all about the local area,” says Shulem. “A crime is a crime and a victim is a victim.”

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