Sunday, April 22, 2012

Links for the week ending 22 April 2012

I wasn't on Twitter much this week — it was spring vacation for my kids — but there is still lots of reading to report from the inexhaustible internets. First, on the second anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico came a flurry of articles looking at the continued damages. At The Nation, Antonia Juhasz writes about "A Hidden Health Crisis." It's long on anecdotes and short on science, but perhaps that's the most important point:
All emphasize the need for additional research, as there is a shocking dearth of long-term studies on the impact of oil spills. It is difficult to get funding for this work, while many experts in the field are employed by the oil industry. When data are acquire, they are often "lost" to litigation culminating in settlements with nondisclosure agreements.
Mother Jones ran a series of articles: Alyssa Battissoni will give you pause while you consider the oyster — the heavy-metal-laden oysters being caught in the Gulf. Julia Whitty covers a new report that finds that dispersants used on the oil as part of the (ahem: irony alert) clean-up efforts actually accelerate the absorption of oil's toxins into the skin. Whitty is also the author of Mother Jones' Fall 2010 special report on the BP disaster, which I recommend if you didn't it catch it the first time around. Finally, also originally from 2010, Christie Wilcox at SciAm reruns her piece about oil spill clean-ups as filtered through the perspective of her grandfather, who has worked in the clean-up business for 30 years.

If the lack of hard data on Deepwater Horizon raises troubling questions about the degree to which industry (and government-directed-by-industry) shackles science, this piece about drugs, cattle, and beef production, by Melody Petersen for The Chronicle of Higher Education, should set off full-scale alarms: "'At the universities, there are certain things you just can't say, because many functions are sponsored by the major agricultural business corporations.'" Warning: this article will not do anything at all to build your confidence in the safety of our food supply.

It wouldn't be another week at the list here if I didn't have articles about privacy and civil liberties to present, right? (Sigh.) Nancy Murray of the ACLU of Massachusetts pulls no punches in this essay about the sentencing of Tarek Mehanna to seventeen and a half years in prison for translating and posting to the internet documents produced by al-Qaeda: "The Mehanna case ruling and sentencing suggest that Muslims do not have the right to protected speech, and that 'venting' can cost them the long years in prison…"

From the particular to the general: at Colorlines, Jamilah King interviews NYU professor Larisa Man about how the latest proposed cybersecurity regulation bill, CISPA, is a menace to communities of color:
Communities of color, immigrant communities and the poor suffer first and most often from government surveillance, and from surveillance on the job. Marginalized people have always relied on private social spaces where folks can vent, discuss, share ideas, and support each other, and now many of those spaces are mediated by digital technology.

Those communities are especially vulnerable if government is invited into private social spaces, because these communities are not treated as if they have inalienable rights, but instead conditional rights to housing, to raise their own children, to bodily autonomy, to life itself.

At Juan Cole's Informed Comment, professor Yfaat Weiss explores who determines national memory — and national amnesia — in a look at how officially sanctioned commemorations of Israel's Independence Day are increasingly insistent about silencing the mirror-image memories of Palestinians, for whom the day marks the destruction of communities.

This is from last week: Alma Guillermoprieto at the NYRB on the substance of the recent Colombian summit (rather than the Secret Service scandal), where she finds that Latin America may be ready to declare a unilateral end to the war on drugs.

At the New Yorker, Jill Lepore takes a long, sober, and wide-ranging look at gun ownership, gun laws, and the historical arc that shows the paths we traveled to arrive at "Stand Your Ground" laws.

From Jane Little at the BBC: the Vatican plans to rein in the United States' largest organization of nuns. "I don't think the bishops have any idea of what they're in for," says Sister Simone Campbell, the head of the affiliated Catholic social justice lobby.

At Mother Jones, co-editors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery write a rollicking assessment of the current state of the GOP. Nothing you haven't already heard, but a fun read. Which you could probably use, if you've made it through all the depressing articles above.

Jocelyn Noveck at the Associated Press says Mommy Wars are so two months ago. Now it's time for the Doggy Wars!

Zeynep Tufekci achieves awesomeness ten different ways in this essay: "Does Facebook Cause Loneliness? Short answer, No. Why Are We Discussing This? Long Answer Below." So many fascinating theoretical constructs proposed here, including "cyberasociality" (people who have trouble converting text-based interactions into visceral sociability), and the idea that
we are shifting from “ascribed ties” –people you inherit as close ties such as your family and your neighbors—to “achieved ties” –people you connect based on shared affinities and with whom you interact using multiple means of communication.
But I also have an enormous fondness for this essay in Rookie: "Breaking Up With Facebook."
But it’s also possible that Facebook contributes to vast amounts of friendship fatigue, that feeling you get when you get worn out by people simply because you are in constant, unrelenting contact with them. Because something we fail to acknowledge right now is that it’s totally possible to run out of things to say.

This was from last week: Michelle Dean at The Rumpus looks at Flannery O'Connor's correspondence (some 300 letters exchanged) with Betty Hester, a clerk at an Atlanta credit bureau who lived "what looked like a simple, quiet, ordinary life, if an unusually lonely one." A lovely glimpse of what intense connection between isolated people looked like in the pre-internet era.

A different kind of isolation: this article in Popular Mechanics by Jennifer Bogo on life at an Antarctic research station is a delight from start to finish. Via Longreads.

From the other end of the planet, another delight: Heather Pringle at the Last Word on Nothing, on the lethal buttercup that Alutiiq peoples used to poison humpback whales in the waters off the Alaska coast.

Fierce, furious piece by Audrey Watters on the Education Innovation Summit this past week, and being there to disagree "because the greater compromise is to walk away and be silent."

Two pieces from Sarah McCarry/The Rejectionist this week. Her article in Glamour on "What I Learned from a Seven-Year Road Trip with the Wrong Guy" is now online (illustrated with perhaps the most puzzling and inappropriate stock image ever, but I'm sure the writer had no say in that matter); and, on her own site, a striking meditation on finding and not finding home.

Jessa Crispin writes about the seductive promise of fugue states: "Another Country, Another Name."

Via @jillheather, Mara Wilson delivers a blistering, hilarious review of the game Top Girl: "the messaging system says that they will give me cash if I find myself a boyfriend." Uh….

Via @paigecmorgan, Karen Gregory at The New Inquiry looks at psychic mediums as the capitalistic expression of the spiritualized self. Fascinating.
Hardly fraudulent, the contemporary psychic practitioner performs an increasingly pervasive form of labor in American society. Part life-coach, part spiritual mentor, their work capitalizes on the conditions of everyday life, particularly as the quest for personal well-being comes to stand in for more structural promises of long-term security.

Deborah Blum on Emily Dickinson, lead poisoning, and our apparently limitless capacity to fail to learn from our own history.

Annalee Newitz at celebrates 4/20 with a look at what cannabis does to your brain.

At Rookie, Jenny Zhang writes a powerful reminiscence of surviving adolescence: "Outsider/Insider.

Via @tallkate, Dispatches from Utopia talks to writers about how they juggle parenting and work. Kate sent me to this interview with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, but the links are all worthwhile.

At the New Yorker, Amy Davidson's "Looking for Etan Patz" is an achingly perfect piece about how those of us who were then children have grown up with his face eternally on our milk cartons: "Looking at the pictures now, I can hardly believe that my child is older than Etan will ever be, because I can hardly believe that I am."

Via Longreads, "Ghosts of Hong Kong" by Daisann McLane. "The most commonly used word in Hong Kong isn’t in Cantonese but English: 'Sorry.'"

And, finally, the most powerful thing I read this week, again from The Rumpus: "What Burns In The Pit," by Ashley Ford.