Sunday, May 19, 2013

Links for the week ending 19 May 2013

"But the cost of the move could run as high as $130m, according to government estimates. For the villagers of Newtok, finding the cash, and finding their way through the government bureaucracy, is proving the challenge of their lives." An epic, multi-part story from Alaska by Suzanne Goldenberg on America's first climate refugees, Yup'ik people whose village is predicted to be completely submerged by 2017.

"Outside, the building is shearing away from the pavement, with a crack running horizontally, at some points as wide as the length of one finger." From Louisa Lim at NPR, the relocated survivors of the 2008 Chinese earthquake point to evidence that, thanks to corruption-fueled substandard building practices, their new city is just as much at risk as the old, destroyed one.

"The ranks of the conventional Syrian army — weary, depleted and demoralized by defections, casualties and more than a year of continuous fighting — are being swelled by the deployment of some 60,000 militia irregulars trained at least in part by Hezbollah and Iranian advisers." Liz Sly at The Washington Post on recent successes by forces loyal to Syrian President Assad in that country's civil war. In the meantime, Abigail Hauslohner reports for The Washington Post from Iraq: "The prospect of a regional power shift driven by the bloody civil war next door, where a mostly Sunni rebel movement is struggling to topple the Shiite-dominated regime, has emboldened Iraq’s Sunni minority to challenge its own Shiite government and amplified fears within Maliki’s administration that Iraq may soon be swept up in a spillover war."

"Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts." The New Yorker turns to its general counsel, Lynn Oberlander, to provide an explanation of why the Justice Department's seizure of phone records from the AP has been greeted by outrage.

"Die from street violence and you may be remembered by a wooden cross and a few teddy bears set to rest on the sidewalk by your neighbors. You may get a t-shirt printed with your name. Die in a terror attack and there will be stone, marble and speeches to remember you with." Ariella Coleman at Next City interrogating what separates the mass shooting at a New Orleans Mother's Day parade from the violence at the Boston Marathon. (Via Sarah Goodyear.)

Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald continues covering the hunger strikes at Guantánamo, including a letter sent this week from twenty human rights groups asking that the policy of force-feeding prisoners be abandoned.

"Texas overall has the highest rate of workplace fatalities in the country and a high rate of fires and explosions, which come with very high costs: The fires and explosions at Texas’s chemical and industrial plants cost as much in property damages as in all other states combined." Bryce Covert at Think Progress reports on the so far inconclusive investigation into the causes of the devastating explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.

"To clarify, Hagel was speaking after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who headed the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, was charged with sexual battery, but before an equal opportunity adviser and coordinator of a sexual harassment-assault prevention program was charged with pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates." Irin Carmon at Salon on the cluster of military sexual assault scandals this week that may finally drive Congress to effect change.

"It’s because one company, Myriad Genetics, owns the patent to the two genes that indicate an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. You read that right: The genes themselves, not the procedure to test for them." Also from Irin Carmon, an eye-opening look at why one company's stock price has gone up in the wake of Angelina Jolie's mastectomy op-ed at the NYT.

"Fortune's account of what occurred inside Ranbaxy and how the FDA responded to it raises serious questions about whether our government can effectively safeguard a drug supply that last year was 84% generic, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, much of that manufactured in distant places." Katherine Eban's incredible piece about fraud in the generic drug industry will make you question the provenance of every medication you've ever taken. Yikes. (Via Maryn McKenna.)

Even if the medications actually are what they say they are, there's no guarantee they're being prescribed correctly and safely. Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein, and Jennifer LaFleur at ProPublica on Medicare data showing that physicians who write tens of thousands of questionable or potentially hazardous prescriptions for elderly patients each year are rarely if ever called to account for their prescribing patterns.

"'It is unusual to have such a degree of uncertainty at this stage in an outbreak,' the European health agency's statement noted. It called the information that has been shared about the cases, including the current Saudi outbreak, 'insufficient.'" Helen Branswell, who is, if you'll remember, your non-alarmist source about this sort of thing, sounding fairly alarmed about the prospects for the spread of a coronavirus that has thus far killed 20 people.

"The battle for this estuary has become far more than a fight about an oyster farm — it’s become a flashpoint in the debate over what we want out of the natural world, and what we can afford." Great illustrated piece by Susie Cagle for Grist on agriculture and conservation at Point Reyes National Seashore.

"'But what's the point of having seven fairy maidens if you can't educate them properly?' he asked me." Leslie T. Chang at China File on the winding down of China's One-Child Policy — and why its end is not likely to result in a baby boom. (Via Angilee Shah.)

"Yet Howard didn’t just belong to the civil rights movement. Like black physicians and midwives before him, he belonged also to the abortion rights movement." At Dissent, Cynthia Greenlee looks at the complex forgotten legacy of Dr. T.R.M. Howard.

"A portable tool that could quickly identify any species anywhere would be a game changer for science." Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing on how Star Trek technology is slowly making itself real via DNA barcoding.

"Sometimes they’re playing tag, but mostly they’re just running, they hardly touch earth, they’re all but airborne. What is it about spring?" Ann Finkbeiner on spring at The Last Word on Nothing.

Has a new messiah been born in the form of an immaculately conceived baby anteater? Lisa Chamoff reports for Greenwich Time. You decide. (Via Emma Carmichael at The Hairpin.)

"The teenage baby sitter has been straddling the fault lines of feminism ever since the term gained popularity just after World War II. Great little piece from Charlotte Alter at The Wall Street Journal making the case for why teenage boys should have babysitting experience. (Via Atossa Abrahamian.)

The headline on this piece pretty much says it all. "So This Is How It Begins: Guy Refuses to Stop Drone-Spying on Seattle Woman." By Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic.

"But the fact of the matter is there was a thing on your face that also had that attention." Hilarious account of the first Google Glass date in Portland, OR, by Taylor Hatmaker for ReadWrite. (Via Amanda Katz.)

If you read Judith Shulevitz's piece on loneliness at TNR, you will probably answer YES to Maria Bustillos at The Hairpin as she explores the eternal question: "Do You Need a Hug?"

"On the drive through Key West, Blume checks in constantly: Do you have on sunblock? Do you need to borrow a hat? Is your seat belt on and secure?" If you really need a hug, maybe you should arrange to interview Judy Blume? At Entertainment Weekly, Sara Vikomerson reports on the upcoming release of the first film based on one of Blume's books. (Via Rebecca Traister.)

This one's for my fellow Ravelers! My local library now has a yarn bombing group. No word yet on whether it has secret plans to yarn-bomb anything quite so epic as this, from Virginia C. McGuire at Mental Floss.

"Savannah is a 26-year-old woman who grew up believing that she was the reincarnation of her dead aunt Laura." Creepy, thoughtful, and funny interview by Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin.

"Provided with a hut or grotto to call his own and a few simple meals a day, a garden hermit might live for years on a picturesque corner of the property." Alice Gregory at The Boston Globe on the 18th century English fashion for purchasing a live person to serve as a garden ornament. (Via Kathryn Schulz.)

"That constraint is so startling to read about today that, in a sense, Fox has written another obituary here—not to a dead language but to a bygone era of problem-solving." A wonderful review of NYT obituary writer Margalit Fox's new book on the decoding of clay tablets from ancient Crete, by Kathryn Schulz at Vulture.

"My youth feels like a ghost town, an abandoned and dilapidated house I don’t have the keys to anymore." Finally, from Lindsay King-Miller (whose Ask a Queer Chick column at The Hairpin is always worth reading), a gorgeous heartbreaker of an essay about the death of a childhood friend. At The Rumpus. (Via Stephen Burt.)