Sunday, September 16, 2012

Links for the week ending 16 September 2012

Anti-American protests erupted all over the Middle East this week. Reuters reporter Hadeel Al Shalchi was on the ground in Benghazi and provided a detailed account of the events that began with the destruction of the U.S. consulate there and the deaths of four American diplomats: "In Libya, deadly fury took U.S. envoys by surprise." Also, Michelle Shephard at the Toronto Star reports on the suggestion that the deaths in Benghazi were part of an organized plot by a small band of Al Qaeda-linked militants rather than a result of spontaneous mob violence. Erin Cunningham at GlobalPost reports that the protests have spread to 20 countries and involve a lot more than just anger about the YouTube video blamed with sparking the violence. And national security analyst Heather Hurlburt writes at The American Prospect that these protests do not signal the end of the Arab Spring, but do mean that it's "time to move on from the images of cuddly protesters."

But for all the violence that made headlines elsewhere in the Middle East, what is happening in Syria is more massive and deadlier. As PBS's Frontline begins a new season, Azmat Khan looks at "Syria's Shocking Civilian Death Toll."

Lena Groeger and Cora Currier at ProPublica have collated four years of statements by Obama Administration officials about drone strikes. It is an incredible piece of data mining, and essential to understanding why anti-Americanism in Pakistan and the Middle East seems to constantly renew itself. (Though of course the offensive YouTube film produced by a Coptic Christian felon in Californian has not helped matters any.)

For The Guardian, Emma Graham-Harrison profiles a group of skateboarding (!) child hustlers who were blown apart by a suicide bomber near NATO headquarters in Kabul. I cannot recommend this piece highly enough, though I also guarantee that it will break your heart.

Back in the U.S., on incomes spiraling lower and lower among the formerly middle class: "of the three million people who lost a full-time job they'd held for more than three years and found a new one, fewer than half were making as much as they once had." By Allison Linn for NBC News.

In possibly related news, "Southern whites troubled by Romney's wealth, religion." By Margot Roosevelt for Reuters.

In the long term, these are the numbers that make current Republican rhetoric a suicide strategy. "Democrats See Arizona Gain as Backlash Drives Hispanic Voters," by Amanda J. Crawford for Bloomberg.

At The American Prospect, Tracie McMillan has another article based on reporting she did for her book: "Farm-labor contractors give American produce growers what companies like China's Foxconn offer to Apple: a way to outsource a costly and complicated part of the business, often saving money in the process and creating a firewall between the brand and the working conditions under which its products are made."

Meet "The Norma Rae of Fashion Interns," Diana Wang, who initiated what is now a class-action lawsuit against the Hearst Corporation alleging that unpaid internships at Hearst's magazines violate state and federal labor laws. By Kayleen Schaefer for New York Magazine.

Liliana Segura at The Nation writes about the case of Terrance Williams, sentenced to death for two murders by a jury who was not informed that the victims had repeatedly sexually abused the then-teenager. The Pennsylvania pardons board meets tomorrow. If it does not issue a pardon, Williams will be executed on 3 October.

By Jamie Stengle (and coauthor Nomaan Merchant) for the AP, an awful story from Texas about the murder of 16-year-old Shania Gray by the man charged with with raping her while she babysat his children, a crime that was scheduled to go to trial next month. Gah, stories like this one are why I can't say that I'm 100 percent against the death penalty.

Last week we read about urban street harassment. This week at Women's Media Center, Holly Kearl talks to Native American women about the street harassment they experience both on the reservation and off.

"'You show me a business person who cares about his federal tax rate more than his customers, and I'll show you Darwin at work.'" Suzy Khimm at the Washington Post reports from NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg's well-received recent speech suggesting that debates about tax rates are a sideshow from the real business of growing business.

Also from Suzy Khimm, a very important explainer about the sequester, which (I didn't know what it was, either) is going to automatically cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget between 2013 and 2021 if Congress doesn't get its act together.

It's not a week without new abortion restrictions, right? From Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones, a report from the Virginia Board of Health's Friday meeting that may end up shutting down all of Virginia's abortion clinics.

If you're wondering why anti-abortion zealots engage in such tactics, Irin Carmon at Salon has your answer: attempts to change a woman's choice don't work to lower abortion rates. But severe restrictions on abortion access do.

On the other hand, this is so many different kinds of awesome I can't even stand it. Nashville mayor Karl Dean has decided that his first pick for "citywide read" is… Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. By Betsy Phillips (who is, herself, so many different kinds of awesome) for the Nashville Scene.

Climate change! Still the funniest joke EVER; or, don't I link to a piece with this title at least once a month? "In U.S., 2012 so far is hottest year on record." By Deborah Zabarenko at Reuters. But no problem! We'll just crank up the AC, right? Er. "Climate change challenges power plant operations," by Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post, on how the hydroelectric grid is faltering under relentless drought in parts of the nation.

At Yale Environment 360, Elizabeth Kolbert reports from the slopes of the Peruvian Andes, where climate change threatens to decimate species in one of the most incredibly diverse places on earth. Can the trees migrate up slopes in time?

Wired's Maryn McKenna spent the week at a conference sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology. Pick your poison: "The Outdoors Hates You: More New Tick-Borne Diseases," "E.Coli Behaving Badly: Hospitals, Travel, Food," "'Superbug' NDM-1 Found In US Cat," and finally, "Drug Resistance in Food: Chicken, Shrimp, Even Lettuce."

After those last links, I would like to be vaccinated for ALL THE THINGS. But Liz Szabo at USA Today explains that, at least when it comes to whooping cough vaccine, the formulation in use since the 1990s loses its effectiveness after only a few years, and is in need of redevelopment.

"For-profit school degrees cost on average three to four times what students would pay for equivalent degrees at community colleges and public universities," writes Julianne Hing in a look at how racially stratified higher education has become, with black, Latino, and Native American students disproportionately attending for-profit schools. But the situation is only going to intensify, as Nanette Asimov writes for the San Francisco Chronicle about how California's community college system is set to ration access to courses to certain set categories of students.

Tami Winfrey Harris at Clutch Magazine takes on white feminist criticism of Michelle Obama's "Mom-in-Chief" speech: "A Black Mom-in-Chief is Revolutionary."

At the Women Under Siege Project, Jamia Wilson writes a moving piece about how she came to learn of her own mother's history with sexualized violence in the struggle for civil rights, and places it in a wider global context.

""I am not a Puzzle Box." Absolutely spot-on metaphor and analysis of geek culture misogyny from Felicity Shoulders. Via the Geek Feminism Wiki.

From Decca Aitkenhead at The Guardian, an, er, buzzworthy history of the vibrator. (Sorry.)

Apparently Bambi should have been a movie about killer whales? Kate Kelland at Reuters (with the most wince-worthy title of the week, which I'm sure she didn't write) on how postmenopausal killer whales are apparently the key to their adult sons' survival.

Via @jillheather, GrrlScientist at The Guardian on the story of a bald eagle who was fitted with a 3-D printed beak extension after her original beak was shot off by a poacher.

So glad that Annie Murphy Paul covered this study, because it was KILLING me not to be able to mention it this week. You guys: watching an old, familiar, favorite TV rerun restores mood and mental focus after a long day. Why are my kids watching that episode of Fetch for the 495th time after school? Now you know. It's SCIENCE!

You think this piece is going to remain in the realm of "amusing, absurd," and then it blows you away with how smart and serious it really is: Nicola Twilley at Edible Geography with "Syrup Stockpiles, Wine Lakes, Butter Mountains, and Other Strategic Food Reserves."

The Billfold has really been killing it lately. Colleen Hubbard with "They Called Her the Homeless Woman Who Lived With Us (I Called Her Gabrielle)."

And finally at The Hairpin: "Numbers About My Mother." Melissa Chandler with a simultaneously lyrical and tough-minded mediation on the attempted suicide of her mother.