5SR - March 6, 2024

Hitha on sovereign debt, rituals, and the voter turnout gap

Today’s curator is the founder of #5SmartReads, Hitha Palepu. She’s a consummate multihyphenate - CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, author of WE’RE SPEAKING: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris and How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip, and professional speaker. Hitha is an unabashed fan of Taco Bell, Philadelphia sports teams & F1, romance novels, and is a mediocre crafter. She lives in NYC with her husband and two sons.

Things I didn’t know until recently - how sovereign debt and New York are deeply intertwined.

But first - a quick primer:

sovereign debt is a securities market where a country can access capital from private investors. Emerging economies are the ones securing capital in these markets, and many of these loans are restructured.

About half of sovereign debts is governed by New York state law, and said law has significant weaknesses (unequal sharing of creditor losses, the time it takes for a sovereign restructuring).

A new bill has been introduced in the state legislature, but it poses to be as vague as the current status quo despite its good intentions.

Something needs to be done, and the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable (a new group focused on creating sustainable solutions for sovereign debt) has some promising ideas. But their current policy proposals are as vague as the bill introduced in NYS legislature.

This news falls in the ever growing sector of “these problems urgently need solutions but progress is maddeningly slow” (same as yesterday’s read about Prop 1 in California).

I’ve really missed Melissa Benoist on my television screen (and am embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve rewatched my favorite Supergirl episodes since the series wrapped 3 years ago). With her new series Girls On The Bus about to stream on Max, I wanted to revisit one of her last interviews before she took some well-earned time off our screens.

More importantly, I wanted to share some of the best advice she received - advice I certainly needed to be reminded of:

"The best piece of advice I've gotten in recent years, I think, came from [Greg Berlanti and he said it to me numerous times, where he's told me in specific situations where I'll be opening up to him, and he said, 'Melissa, you have to tell people what you need and you have to fight for what you know you need to take care of yourself.' And that sounds like such a simple sentiment, but I think it's easy to take for granted and to overlook that fact….I think, just is applicable to just life in general and I find myself using it all the time now. But it took me a really long time to actually embrace that idea."

My frustration with a lot of reporting on the life sciences sector is the lack of nuance and detail this sector requires.

This is a rare piece that zooms out of individual, serious issues - drug shortages of ADHD medications, new DEA policies on controlled substances and their enforcement, how diagnoses are made, what patients go through - and connects them to show how intertwined these individual issues are, and how well-intentioned policy can often fail those who are the most in need.

It is expensive, difficult, and time consuming to get a drug approved by the FDA (the filing fee along is currently $4M, not to mention the millions in research and development and manufacturing a company spends before getting to this point). These companies should absolutely be audited and inspected to ensure everything they do is above board and in line with regulations. Drug shortages are becoming increasingly common and their own public health risk to patients. We need to find a way to address the latter while keeping the standards of the former issue high.

It’s a both/and. And this piece underscores the urgency and severity of this issue.

When I feel overwhelmed by life and the many things out of my control, I tend to get extra control freaky even though I instinctively know it doesn’t serve me or the people around me.

The intention to regain control is not the wrong one. But instead of trying to assert my dominance over things, I need to shift my attention to re-establishing my rituals and focus on executing them.

“Too much choice is not a good thing. The anxious person is the one who doesn’t know what to do because she can do so many things. The neurotic individual is paralysed by the sense that he can’t make the right decision because another one is always available to him. The apparently limitless options afforded to us by dating apps and social media has not made us more content; it has merely intensified our longing.”

Taking last week off social media and from writing this newsletter allowed me to re-establish the rituals I’d been slipping from - my simple breakfast and supplements in the morning, a midday walk while listening to a book, leaving my phone in another room when I’m with my family. I found such joy in the little things - the feel of the physical books I picked up, the taste of the meals I prepared, a sense of calm and peace that I hadn’t felt in a while.

I want more of this - and I’m going to stay committed to these rituals to help me hold onto this peace, no matter how imperfectly they’re practiced.

This is so depressing - but it’s also a very necessary read, and one that’s helping me plan what’s next for #5SmartReads.

Spoiler alert - it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The current season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is hilarious and brilliant. I especially appreciate the way they showcase the absurdity of voter suppression laws that are increasingly becoming the norm.

The impact, however, is no laughing matter.

“The researchers [Brennan Center for Justice] looked at nearly a billion voter records and compared the rate at which white and nonwhite Americans vote in elections. The study refers to the difference between white voters and other groups as the "turnout gap."

The gap can be wide: In three elections from 2018 to 2022, 43% of eligible white voters cast their ballots every time, while that figure for Black voters was 27%, 21% for Asian American voters and 19% for Hispanic voters, according to the Pew Research Center.

Butt he think tank found that the turnout gap was growing faster in places formerly covered under Section 5 [of the 1965 Voting Rights Act] and that it was growing fastest between white and Black voters in those areas.”

Awareness of this issue is the first necessary step in overcoming it. This is also where local and state laws impact you more than federal law, and I encourage you to examine your own state’s election laws and ways you can get involved as a citizen.

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