Let There Be Light: Italy’s right-wing anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has clashed with the Vatican before over migration and other social issues. Now Cardinal Konrad Krajewski has drawn Salvini’s ire (and broken the law) by climbing down a manhole and restoring electricity to some 450 homeless people, including 100 children, living in a disused state-owned building near a Rome cathedral. The building has been home to Italians who had lost their own homes and migrants since 2013. It had been without power since May 6 because some 300,000 euro in electricity bills had not been paid. The 55-year-old cardinal, whose main job is to distribute the pope’s charity funds, broke a police seal to reconnect electrical circuit breakers. “What can I say? It was a particularly desperate situation. I repeat: I assume all the responsibility. If a fine arrives, I’ll pay it,” Krajewski said. (Reuters)
Keep Your Country Close And Leaders Who Agree With You Closer: Hungary’s president Viktor Orban had a formal meeting Monday with a US president at the White House for the first time in over 20 years. President Bill Clinton had invited Orban for a visit in 1998, when the Hungarian leader was a 35-year-old reformist and anti-Soviet activist who had helped his country transition out of communism. The Obama administration limited diplomatic ties with Hungary over concern that Orban was undermining democratic values. Now Orban is one of Europe’s most prominent nationalists who, according to one biographer, runs Hungary like a “soft autocracy,” alarming the European Union. Under Orban, Hungary has rewritten its constitution to strengthen his control over parliament, and gerrymandered the country’s electoral map. His party, which controls parliament, has weakened the courts. Orban supporters control most of the media. Critics are either ignored or vilified, and his administration has cracked down on nonprofits that support migrants and minorities. Some analysts say the Hungarian leader has found a kindred spirit in fellow nationalist Donald Trump. (NPR)
A Six Feet Oversight & A Deathly Letter of Recommendation: A 42-year-old male nurse in Germany is thought to have killed as many as 300 patients under his care between 2000 and 2005. Officials at the Oldenburg hospital where Niels Hogel was working became suspicious about the number of deaths when Hogel was on duty. They barred him from contact with patients and were eventually able to push him out. But they sent him off to his next job at the intensive care unit of Delmenhorst hospital with a solid letter of reference describing him as someone who worked “independently and conscientiously,” handled crisis situations “with consideration,” and was “technically correct.” Within four months his patients started dying. It took over ten years for authorities to conduct a full investigation, including exhuming over 130 bodies in Germany, Poland and Turkey. How Hogel was able to kill uninterrupted for so long raises uncomfortable questions for Germany, including whether the same deference to hierarchy and predilection for procedure that once facilitated Nazi-era crimes was operative. (NYT)
Living In The Grapevine: A new study finds that people spend an average of 52 minutes per day talking to someone about someone else who is not present — in other words, gossiping. However, it also found the vast majority of gossip wasn’t trash talk, but nonjudgmental chitchat. The study was conducted by a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, who focuses on how people’s social interactions are related to their health and well-being. She and her colleagues analyzed snippets of conversations from people who had agreed to wear a portable recording device for two to five days. The findings are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. (NPR)
Capitalist Communes: Since the launch of WeWork in 2010, then WeLive in 2016, the concept of shared working and living spaces has gone mainstream. The co-founder says the company isn’t just simply “building a workspace” but is “building a new infrastructure to rebuild social fabric and … the potential for human connection.” The CEO and co-founder of Tribe, a co-living space with seven locations in Brooklyn, says his motto is “We help you make friends.” “New York can be an extremely isolating place, especially if you are here for a new job,” he says. A co-living space can provide residents, particularly recent transplants, with a premade social fabric.
The concept may have started as an oddity but it has become a fixture in cities like New York, Washington DC, Austin, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, all places that attract young transplants. Hundreds of competitors have launched in cities across the country, with most promoting themselves as incubators of meaningful human interaction. The idea isn’t for everyone. Experts say it can work well for those who, in general, are under 35 and socially and financially equipped to fit in. For the chronically lonely, another expert says placing someone whose brain is in overdrive into a social setting with strangers “could actually make things worse.” (Vox)