Oh hai bird flu! Helen Branswell is your non-alarmist source for All Things Pandemic, as usual. Laurie Garrett is your alarmist source, also as usual. And Maryn McKenna at Wired has a handy guide, in case you have trouble telling alarmist and non-alarmist strains apart.
"'If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we'd be out of business in six months to a year.'" Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post with a short profile of doctors who have TOTALLY FORGOTTEN THAT MEDICINE IS ABOUT HELPING PATIENTS, NOT FINANCIAL BUSINESS MODELS. (Oh, whoops. Is that not how the article is framed? I'm sure that was just an oversight on the part of the Post, right?) (Via Suzy Khimm.)
This, on the other hand, is EXACTLY how you do it when you're leading with what actually matters. Sarah Stillman at The New Yorker with a report from Mexico's drug war agonies: "What We Want Is the Head of the Friar." (Via Cora Currier.)
"'This is a religious banner, not a country's flag.'" Another report from Rania Abouzeid, this week at The New Yorker, on the struggle to determine whether Islamists will take control of the Syrian revolution.
Also from Syria, an article at The Atlantic by advocate Lauren Wolfe, director of Women Under Siege, on the systematic use of rape as a weapon in the conflict. (Another cranky editorial aside after attempting to look at the reporting data myself: if your site for the reporting and tracking of rape requires visitors to accept cookies, how are you not needlessly compromising the safety of the people who view this data from the conflict zones???)
Speaking of needless tracking! Kim Zetter at Wired reports from a U.S. district court in Arizona about the federal government's defense of the use of a "stingray" device, which spoofs a cellphone tower and allows the government to collect data about all mobile phones and air cards in the vicinity.
Meanwhile, back in Arkansas, Susan White reports for InsideClimate News about how Exxon is strictly limiting all access to the site of a recent major oil pipeline spill, including no-fly zones and the threatened arrest of a reporter who attempted to speak with an EPA spokesman at the site. (Via Kate Sheppard.)
"The message is clear: whether or not a protest is peaceful and legal is entirely up to the police and judiciary to decide, so if you want to play it safe, stay at home and sign a petition." Laurie Penny at The Guardian explaining why recent austerity measures in the UK have not been met by public protests.
At The New Yorker's new science and technology blog! Maria Bustillos explains how austerity — and its associated global banking shenanigans — appears to have begotten a boom in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that is "mined" using computer power to solve mathematical problems.
In a 2010 interview, Chaz Ebert said that she may be in denial, "but hope is a strategy." So let us strategize for a few minutes. At Foreign Policy, Heather Hurlbut looks at the surprising success of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty in the face of the National Rifle Association's full-bore opposition and concludes that U.N. conventions are an effective "'tool for civil society to beat their governments on the head.'" (Ebert link via Irin Carmon.)
Also this week in hope: Cara Maresca for MSNBC on Connecticut's new gun control law. And Lynn Bartels at The Denver Post on the courage of Colorado lawmakers who introduced gun-control laws: "'If making Colorado safer from gun violence costs me my political career, it's an amazingly small price to pay.'" (First link via Natasha Lennard; second link via Lois Beckett.)
Sort of semi-hopeful? Julia Whitty at Mother Jones explains how the introduction of an invasive European crab species may actually help restore some balance to Cape Cod's degraded salt marshes.
From Melissa Dribben at the Philadelphia Inquirer, a quiet piece that lets its quotes speak for themselves: on white resistance to one small sign that "the language of bigotry is no longer acceptable." (Via Marian Wang.)
"On the job he found out that the district, while ostensibly integrated, was still running separate school buses for black and white students." Julianne Hing looks at the history and culture that underlies — and limits — the Department of Justice's consent decree to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Meridian, Mississippi.
"But on the road to the revolution let us not forget that folks still got to live." Tressie McMillan Cottom writes an excellent piece about how "Don't Go To Graduate School" warnings come from a particular position of racial and class privilege, and don't recognize how expensive credentialing procedures are still a rational choice for people who know they won't get a chance otherwise.
"I define the feminist moment as that moment when that bias registers in your mind as unacceptable, and very importantly, something in you resists." Fascinating interview with feminist blogger and author Rita Banerji at Women's Web. (Via Genderlog India.)
"It might sound like a compliment, but it still counts as sexism." Melanie Tannenbaum at SciAm reruns an essential piece about the steep social costs of "benevolent sexism." (Via Rachel Hartman.)
"'I stand before you as a writer without any ground of being out of which to write: really blown about from country to country, culture to culture till I feel — till I am — nothing.'" An obituary at The Guardian by Janet Watts for the writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. (No beef stroganoff in evidence.)
"She wanted to learn everything. 'How to open the dome! How to fill the instrument with liquid nitrogen! Develop the plates! Reduce the data! Coding!'" From last month, Ann Finkbeiner at Nature displays her eponymous test in action in this profile of pioneering astronomer Andrea Ghez.
"Earlier in the day when he dripped gastric acid on a superworm, it seemed like a friendly thing to do." Mary Roach at Boing Boing, you guys. (That's all I have to say, right? MARY ROACH.)
"In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman called Sebelius's decision 'arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.'" Jessica Dye for Reuters on the ruling that makes emergency contraception pills available without prescription without restrictions on age. (Via Debra Sherman.)
"Unwanted pregnancy feels like womanhood at its most hateful and cowlike — the broodmare inside the bombshell." Molly Crabapple with a powerful piece about abortion at VICE.
"In 2002, the rate of antenatal mothers testing positive — a figure often used by epidemiologists to extrapolate infection rates in general populations — was 8 percent. Anything over 1 percent is considered a generalised epidemic." Nida Najar at Caravan with the story of the one-man battle to reduce HIV infection rates in Nagaland. (Via Ruthie Baron.)
"'Here we are at the end of everything. I have a beard, you have a wig! HAHAHAHAHAHA!'" Joyful essay by Carrie Frye at The Awl about the best of Surrealist friends, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. (Via Nicole Cliffe.)
Finally, Leslie Jamison wins the internets this week with an essay in the Oxford American, "Fog Count," which I could describe as a profile of ultramarathoner Charlie Engle, currently in prison for mortgage fraud, or as a meditation on the way we live now: "because a powerful rhetoric insists that we can only be delivered from our old scars by tolerating new ones." (Via Nicole Cliffe, who was clearly batting 1.000 this week.)