Why is this 5K race route so confusing? Because it was drawn by politicians.

Partisan gerrymandering is malicious, bizarre, and surprisingly — legal.

Gerrymandering involves manipulating the boundaries of a voting district to sway the vote a particular way. It's completely legal (though the Supreme Court will have their official say about that) and often used for dubious purposes, allowing elected officials to choose their voters and not the other way around. Racial gerrymandering in particular can diminish the power of people of color to affect change in their communities.

Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.


While partisan gerrymandering is among the primary enemies of American democracy, it can be really hard to get people fired up about lines on a map ... unless those lines are a racecourse.

North Carolina resident John Kennedy saw the effects of gerrymandering in action in the wake of his state's devastating "bathroom bill" that zipped through to the governor's desk.

“I saw how district borders were affecting our ability to make laws,” Kennedy told Runners World. “I was so mad that I couldn’t even find out who my representative was to write to them.”

Kennedy's wife Cinnamon suggested John combine Asheville's active running community with the need to understand these confusing borders by creating a "Gerrymander 5K" run/walk.

Participants in the St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon/Half Marathon and 5k. Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for St. Jude.

But organizing and directing a 5K is expensive and would be time-consuming for a single person to take on. So Kennedy gifted the idea to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

For Alana Pierce, president of the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County, joining forces to bring attention to such a bureaucratic, literally divisive problem was a no-brainer.

"We want to demonstrate what [gerrymandering] is, how it can divide our communities and dilute our vote — no matter what party you're part of," she writes in an email. "Secondarily, this is a fun way to get the attention of  the people who are supposed to be representing us to say that we don't believe this methodology is fair and we don't feel like you are really representing us."

The 5K (3.1 mile) out-and-back route is a portion of the border of North Carolina Districts 10 and 11 in West Asheville. It twists, turns, and juts out around certain homes and buildings. In a word, it's a mess. But what appears chaotic and unorganized is anything but. It was meticulously drawn that way, and this event encourages people of all political parties to start asking, "Why?"

Image via League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County, used with permission.

250 people have registered to run the Nov. 4 race, about 100 more than originally planned.

News of the event has also sparked interest from community groups and organizers outside the area interested in supporting the effort.

"We are also getting a lot of emails from people out of state who are not able to attend but want to support us and/or put on a similar event in their community," Pierce writes.

Proceeds from the 5K's $20 fee will go toward the next Gerrymander 5K, happening in 2018 ahead of the midterm elections, and other regional and state-level leagues working to get the word out about partisan gerrymandering.

Photo by Bill Wechter/AFP/Getty Images.

No matter who wins, the goal is met. People are thinking about gerrymandering and their own districts in a brand-new way.

And, according to Pierce, it's not a moment too soon.

In May, the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina's districts, saying the state violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution by filling two districts with black voters, reducing their voting power. North Carolina redrew the maps using city boundaries and the results of past elections, so while they're no longer explicitly race-based, they're potentially just as bad. That's why Pierce and the League of Women Voters, along with other local and national groups, are working so hard to bring attention to the ruinous effect of partisan redistricting.

The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

"The League, Common Cause and other organizations have been advocating for a non-partisan redistricting committee for a number of years, but since the 2010 census, the redistricting has gone to a new level, as demonstrated by the number of law suits and the Supreme Court ruling on racial gerrymandering," she writes. "Essentially, this event is a way to get our voices heard in a constructive and community-oriented way."

And ... you get a T-shirt. Can't beat that.

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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