Sunday, July 1, 2012

Links for the week ending 1 July 2012

This week saw the release of several pieces of bravura journalism, jaw-dropping reporting from some very impressive women. But before we get to that, the week's top story: the Supreme Court's upholding of the Affordable Care Act. The glory and most of the column inches may have gone to Chief Justice John Roberts, but Amy Davidson in The New Yorker makes a compelling case for the real hero of the day, the person who may have forced Roberts' hand: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In The Atlantic, Laurie Garrett reminds us that the U.S. has been a force for the establishment of universal health care in other countries ever since the Marshall Plan. "But perhaps it will now be possible for an HIV-infected individual in Mississippi or Alabama to have access, at taxpayers' expense, to the same level of care as the U.S. government supports for comparable individuals in Johannesburg." Ouch.

At nearly 7,000 words, this piece will take you awhile. But Katherine Eban's exposé of the political shenanigans and manufactured Republican outrage driving the Fast and Furious scandal — for that well-known bastion of liberal bias, Fortune — is rock-solid, timely, and infuriating. As the best journalism should be.

More important coverage from the political circus, from Ayesha Rascoe and Emily Stephenson at Reuters. You know all that fracking and its concomitant environmental havoc? Congress would really, really prefer that you not think about whether the natural gas recovered in this way should be largely restricted for domestic use, or sold for much higher prices abroad.

Horrifying. Clara Gutteridge for The Nation reporting: "How the US Rendered, Tortured and Discarded One Innocent Man." I cannot get over the shame of knowing that sentences like "Suleiman joined the growing list of disappeared prisoners held at undisclosed locations with no access to a lawyer, tracked by a handful of global NGOs" are referring to my government and my tax dollars.

Also at The Nation, Liliana Segura explains what the Supreme Court's recent ruling striking down mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles will mean for current inmates sentenced as children, including some of the people profiled in her previous heartbreaking story.

Suzy Khimm at the Washington Post briefly explains the Supreme Court's mixed decision regarding Arizona's immigration law.

Helen Epstein at The New York Review of Books writes about the Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that is New York City's child protection system, and questions whether it does more harm than good for the children trapped inside it.

Irin Carmon was in Kenya last week. She wrote for Salon about the infernal practices at Nairobi's Pumwani public hospital, where women report being held captive after giving birth until their bills are paid, and baby-trafficking allegations are widespread.

Maia Szalavitz at Time on how the the war on drugs encourages HIV infections around the world by making addicts far less likely to seek clean needles.

Trine Tsouderos at the Chicago Tribune reports, "In the last four years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found violations of manufacturing rules in half of the nearly 450 dietary supplement firms it has inspected." Maybe we should skip those vitamins after all, eh? (Via Deborah Blum.)

At ProPublica, Lois Beckett starts off looking for songs from Glee, and ends up digging into "How Mitt Romney Followed Me Around the Internet." (Such a great title, no?) If you see political ads with the little blue triangle on them, you can send them along to ProPublica yourself.

For Reuters, Margot Roosevelt profiles young, struggling voters in Michigan, and finds that Mitt Romney hasn't had much success in convincing him that he should be trusted with their futures..

"Your E-Book Is Reading You." Uh, that's… alarming, isn't it? On the other hand, now I feel better about how long it takes me to get through nonfiction books! By Alexandra Alter for The Wall Street Journal.

Emily Willingham at Double X Science explains how women manage having "a double dose of X." Take extra pride in your "lovely mosaic of genetic expression," my friends.

Deborah Blum at Wired was on a roll this week. First, a piece about lead poisoning in California condors, and, by extension, in a whole lotta other creatures (including hunters and their families). Then, "The Curious Case of the Poisoned Cows," a fascinating discussion of how forage grasses — and plenty of other plants — contain cyanide that may be released when the plant is stressed by, say, drought and heat.

At The Last Word On Nothing, Christie Aschwanden in Colorado writes about the afternoon she spent watching fire toy with her neighborhood and discovering that the potential loss of her houseful of stuff mattered surprisingly little to her.

Also at The Last Word on Nothing, Ann Finkbeiner does not reassure about whether biologists are prepared to make ethical decisions about the potentially destructive implications of their research.

Yeah, I'll be reading this book: Janet Stemwedel at SciAm reviews Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic.

"Where have you gone, Annie Poogootook?" Jasmine Budak at Up Here searches in vain for one of the most celebrated of modern Inuit artists. Via Longreads.

At the Boston Globe, Ruth Graham reconsiders Carol Gilligan's legacy as her signature work, In a Different Voice, is widely agreed to have been "more a call to arms than a work of science."

I still don't think anyone has convinced me to read Sheila Heti's new novel, but Michelle Dean hits this one out of the park about Heti, the Bechdel test, male gatekeeper critics and ambitious female artists. At Slate.

Finally, Nora Ephron's 1996 Wellesley College commencement speech. Just about every sentence of this is worth repeating to yourself at least once. She will be missed.