Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Service oriented

“Defund the police” has become a rallying cry, not to reduce police violence but to redirect money spent on law enforcement toward social services. Minneapolis’s move to reconstitute its police force as a community-led public safety system is the biggest example of this yet. But according to Citylab, at least 15 other cities are also taking steps to divert some of their policing budgets toward social services and neglected communities.

Los Angeles plans to cut up to $150 million from its police budget and redirect it — plus $100 million more — into investments in black communities. In New York, the mayor has committed to shifting police funds into youth and social services when the city’s budget is released in July — a letter from criminal justice employees is asking for a shift of $1 billion. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, a new sales tax that generates $50 million per year was earmarked to hire more cops — now councilmembers want it spent on “violence interrupters, social workers and substance abuse counselors” instead.

black lives matter
A protest in Los Angeles, one of many cities already redirecting some of their police budgets toward social services. Credit: Brett Morrison / Flickr

Advocates argue that these reallocations simply rebalance budgets that put far more money into law enforcement than social and community services. For instance, in St. Louis, one-third of the city’s general fund and one-fifth of its total budget go to the police, but only 2.3 percent is earmarked for mental health services. “We’ve continued to underfund social services and human services,” said St. Louis Councilmembber Megan Ellyia Green, adding that it’s time ”to start to go after the root causes of crime in our city.”

Read more at Citylab

It’s electric

A scientist drives a small spike into the stem of a rhododendron, connects it by wire to an LED light and rubs the leaves together. Let there be light! It sounds too simple to be true, but it works. Leaves gather electrical charges from the air, just like your clothes sometimes do. Those charges are funneled into the plant, turning it into a bright green battery. Now, researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology are working on ways to tap that battery — and help trees create even more static charge.

They’re doing this by adding artificial leaves made of silicon rubber, so that when the wind blows the tree has more leaves to rub together, creating additional electricity. That power can then be channeled out of the tree using common electrical conduits. One tree that the researchers tested in a wind tunnel lit up 150 LED lights once the fake leaves were attached.

Attaching fake leaves to trees is laborious, and large amounts of wind power are probably better harnessed with regular wind turbines. But the researchers say that for certain low-voltage needs — say, powering the lights in a park — trees could provide the electricity needed with minimal infrastructure. One big unknown remains, however: Do the trees need the energy we would be taking from them?

Listen at the BBC

Till death do you part

The U.K. is implementing a long-sought public health solution: It is designating every adult an organ donor unless that person specifically opts out.

organ donors
A 2015 demonstration in London drew attention to the fact that three people die every day in the U.K. while waiting for an organ transplant. Credit: TaylorHerring / Flickr

File this one under no brainers. Over 80 percent of British citizens say they would donate their organs, but fewer than 40 percent have actually registered to do so. In other words, the opt-out model simply gives people what they want without making them take the extra steps to get it. Family consent is still required at the point of transplant, as an added safeguard against unwanted donations. The model has been a success since 2015 in Wales, where consent rates have risen from 58 to 75 percent.

Read more at the Guardian