We the people have the power to change nonsensical bills. Here's how.

By now, you've probably heard about North Carolina's HB2 "bathroom bill" — or at least the response to it.

Even if you're not typically someone who follows North Carolina state politics (there are only so many hours in the day), it's likely you've seen stories about musicians like Bruce Springsteen boycotting the state, the NBA moving its 2017 all-star game to Louisiana, a Broadway composer speaking out, or the NCAA adjusting its tournament schedule as a result of the March 2016 law.

In September 2016, the NCAA announced it would move seven championship games out of the state. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.


The part of the law that's received the most focus has to do with whether transgender people should be allowed to use bathrooms that match their gender identity (as they have been, to your knowledge or not, for pretty much forever).

The law's proponents believe trans people should have to use bathrooms that match whatever gender is on their birth certificate — a legal document that is notoriously difficult, and sometimes impossible, to update — which causes a host of issues we've written about before.

North Carolina's Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the controversial bill into law in March 2016. Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images.

In other words, it's a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad law. On top of that, just 32% of the state's voters approve of it, the cancelled events and boycotts aren't exactly helping the state's economy, it's giving the governor headaches in his re-election bid, and lawmakers have had to allocate $500,000 in emergency funding for the law's legal defense.

So, why do legislatures sometimes pass unpopular laws that don't seem to make sense? It's complicated (and very frustrating).

The same goes for questions about why sometimes things that are very popular don't become law no matter how much of a slam dunk they seem. (For example, requiring background checks before purchasing a gun is supported by nearly 90% of Americans, but there's still not been a lot of lawmaking movement on that issue.)

In a 2013 article for the National Review (later republished by The Atlantic), authors Elahe Izadi and Clare Foran explore this issue, landing on something most of us would probably rather not have to deal with: "procedural shenanigans." That phrase, used in the article by an aide to Senator Harry Reid, sums up many of the baffling struggles that exist in the legislative process.

Let's take a look at a real-life example of "procedural shenanigans": our response to the Zika virus.

A real-life example would be something like what's currently going on with Zika funding. Hopefully, we can all agree that the Zika virus is bad (it is), and that the federal government is needed to help fight it (they should). Well, currently, $1.1 billion in funding is being held up in Congress.

Who's fault is this? Well, if you listen to Republicans, it's the Democrats' fault.

But if you ask Democrats, it's the Republicans' fault.

The truth is that this funding is being held up by things that have nothing to do with the Zika virus — they're only tangentially related to the issue. In this case, it's a battle over whether or not we should ban the Confederate flag from flying in veterans' cemeteries (Republicans are against this ban) or if Planned Parenthood should be blocked from receiving additional funding (Democrats are against this block).

Mosquitoes carry the Zika virus. Photo by Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

It's frustrating, but it happens all the time. Legislators will try to hold certain bills hostage to get something else they want. Or maybe they'll try to tack on an amendment designed to torpedo the bill (also known as a poison pill). This is politics as usual, but it's not right.

That's why it's important to hold lawmakers accountable. Whether this is about the bill in North Carolina, the holdup on the Zika funding, or anything else, we have leverage of our own.

Elected officials are meant to represent the views of their constituency. While we can write letters to our state, local, and federal representatives urging votes on clean pieces of legislation, that's not all. We can protest, we can make our voices heard, and we can make it known that we don't stand for a piece of legislation.

A popular hashtag for opponents of HB2 is #WeAreNotThis. Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.

And if that doesn't work, we can vote officials out and try again with someone new. It's easy to feel helpless when it comes to politics, but as a voter, you're anything but.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

It's always a good time to register to vote. If you're not already, take a few moments today to take control of your power.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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