"A secret CIA agenda was in conflict with the agenda of much of the rest of the U.S. government. And with no one able to explicitly arbitrate this contradiction, the CIA's agenda won out." Sarah Chayes at Foreign Policy on how the CIA destroyed anti-corruption campaigns in Afghanistan. (Via Heather Hurlburt.)
"If there’s any value in the current debate over Ramsey’s 'checkered past,' to me, it is that so many people are daring to suggest that a man who went to prison for a series of violent crimes can be more than that; that people are more than the worst things they have ever done." Essential reading about "Race, Redemption and Charles Ramsey," from Liliana Segura at The Nation.
"For Joe, it could all fall apart tomorrow. He might decide his new life isn’t worth the effort. Or he could do everything right, and still find himself sitting on a bus with the wrong person. He’s not naive enough to think good intentions will protect him." Yvonne Abraham at The Boston Globe on one Boston community organization where former gang members can find refuge. (Via Martine Powers.)
"'We have to encourage prosecutors, DAs, and judges to actually look at cases rather than just push people through the system and assume they're all guilty and deserving of this. So money helps. But I don't think money is the only answer: You also have to be interested in doing the right thing.' Hannah Levintova at Mother Jones on the crisis of public defense in America.
"'You're disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor — that's the policy of the Obama administration?'" It will do your heart good to read this account of righteously pissed-off Reagan-appointed white-guy Judge Edward Korman calling out the administration over its right-wing policies on emergency contraception. By (who else?) Irin Carmon at Salon.
"'I’ll tell you that this has been a healing and exciting experience for us and for a lot of African-American friends we’re working with,' she tells me, with her voice wavering and her default smile widening." Akiba Solomon at Colorlines on the grand opening of an evangelical "crisis pregnancy center" in a poor, black neighborhood of Kansas City, MO.
"Food stamps can't be used to buy diapers. Mothers cannot get diapers from a major federal source of support for poor families, the Women Infants and Children Program, either." Joanne Samuel Goldblum of the National Diaper Bank Network, at CNN.com. (Via E.J. Graff.)
Meanwhile, back in privilege-land, men will now be able to buy Viagra directly online from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. By Linda A. Johnson for the AP. (Via @saltypepper.)
"Flu vaccine experts say H7 viruses appear to be the least immunogenic (immune-response inducing) of the bird flu viruses. In fact, in studies using killed virus vaccine -- the type of vaccine used in seasonal flu shots -- massive doses of serum failed to produce a protective response in most people. Helen Branswell for The Canadian Press delivers bad news about the prospects for a vaccine against the H7N9 bird flu now circulating in China. (Via Laurie Garrett.)
"Instead of an act of bioterrorism, however, it was determined that the anthrax appearance was the result of aural terrorism." At Discover, Rebecca Kreston gives you "a scientific reason to hate drum circles. You're welcome."(Via Maryn McKenna.)
Scicurious outed herself at SciAm this week. You all have been reading her forever, right? If not, hey, why not start with this week's entry in Friday Weird Science: "Are Boobs Better Braless?"
"'That tells you we're not cutting nature at its joints, that it's not an accurate way to categorize,' says Insel." Maia Szalavitz at Time on why the National Institute on Mental Health has announced that it will not use the new edition of the DSM, the mental health diagnostic tome, to guide its research funding.
"Maybe everything isn't hopeless bullshit." Allie Brosh returns to the most-missed place on the internets, Hyperbole and a Half, with a slogan for the ages. Emily Nagoski at the dirty normal calls it "the most amazing pedagogical device in the history of the earth" for teaching about depression.
"Women are looked at. But as an artist, I had permission to look back." Molly Crabapple on drawing, at VICE.
"Do you know how much I read about aging men and their penises and their lust for younger women and their hatred of their castrating wives? I read enough stories about male writing professors having midlife crises and lusting after young students to last me seven lifetimes." Maureen Johnson's fine essay on gendered book covers, accompanied by an absolutely brilliant series of famous book covers redone as they might appear if authored by someone of the opposite gender. If you crave more, here's further discussion of the issue by Allison Flood at The Guardian.
"That’s the way I write. It’s never going to stop. And the more it makes people annoyed the more I will do it. And it’s actually really good writing. I’m a good writer. They should just say that: 'She’s a great writer.' I am." Jamaica Kincaid interviewed by Alyssa Loh at The American Reader. (Via Sarah McCarry.)
Wow, The Hairpin this week. Yi Shun Lai: "For old hands like me, well-meaning bigots are easy to spot, if only because they never know they're doing anything wrong." Nadine Sander-Green: "My parents raised me with such confidence that I didn't notice the years in my late teens when my body ballooned into what my older brother called a big girl figure." And, from Mara Cohen Marks, an incredibly affecting essay: "My Brother, My Mother, and a Call Girl."
Buzzfeed's Jessica Testa with a blazing longform essay about the context behind a televised car chase that led to a live on-air suicide — and her own role in making the video of that suicide go viral: "Why Did Jodon Romero Kill Himself On Live Television?" (Via Susie Cagle.)
"I find Gatsby aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent; I think we kid ourselves about the lessons it contains." Kathryn Schulz with what is likely to be the best takedown of a classic novel you'll read this year.
Finally, for Mother's Day (a holiday which, if you've been around for awhile, you already know what I think about it), the late, great Marjorie Williams at The Washington Post with "A mother's story: The moon to his sun." (Via Elizabeth Lower-Basch.)