Sunday, June 2, 2013

Links for the week ending 2 June 2013

"In page after scathing page, they described how he didn't answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders." The most amazing story of the week, from badass AP correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, on the HR woes of the world's largest terrorist organization.

"'If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,' he said. 'If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.'" Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post on the implications of Chinese hacking into U.S. major weapons systems.

"Clarence Martin of the state's Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office said people deserve to know what's in their neighborhoods. But, he added, 'I'm not going to let you tell them.'" From a team of AP reporters including Dina Cappiello and Ramit Plushnick-Masti, an overview of how regulators keep quiet the existence of facilities storing hundreds of thousands of pounds of explosive chemicals — like the ones that blew up in West, Texas — within a quarter-mile of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and residential neighborhoods. (Via Rukmini Callimachi.)

"These are all good ideas, but the first step must be a commitment to ensuring that we don’t have two separate criminal defense systems—one for the rich and one for the poor." From Tamar Birckhead, who was the public defender assigned to shoe-bomber Richard Reid, a compelling argument for why the right to effective legal counsel is essential. (Via Liliana Segura.)

"'If law enforcement had used a Google-style big-data analysis, chances are that they might have prevented the Boston bombing from happening.'" Kim Zetter on which technological solutions failed — and which ones worked — during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

"While the activities of the Agriculture Department don’t always garner a lot of attention, a highly questionable decision it recently made to help wealthy speculators could, over time, cost anyone who buys food." From Lina Khan at Salon, policy decisions being made because… nothing makes for contented citizenry like wildly fluctuating food prices, right? (Via Laurie Garrett.)

"TreviƱo said it was his prerogative as sheriff to move Flores to another position. 'I’m the elected sheriff, and I can assign anywhere I want any time I want.'" Another story of the perils of blowing the whistle on illegal police actions, this one from Hidalgo Co., Texas. By Melissa del Bosque for The Texas Observer.

"Looking on was a stylish 32-year-old woman named Ghazal, who made the startling choice a year ago to give up her job as a United Nations bureaucrat to launch a new career as a party planner, and appears to have made it a roaring, war-time success." Ruth Sherlock for the Telegraph on the people who fiddle while Damascus burns. (Via Erin Cunningham.)

"Now Smithfield's move to eliminate ractopamine from more than half of its operations is likely to intensify questions both about the safety of medicated additives and about the livestock industry's increasing reliance on Big Pharma to help engineer the perfect pig - bigger and cheaper than ever." From P.J. Huffstutter and Lisa Baertlein at Reuters, an analysis of a Chinese company's acquisition of America's largest pork producer — and how it may have depended on the company's willingness to eliminate an FDA-approved pharmaceutical feed additive deemed too dangerous by China. (Via Maryn McKenna.)

"The furor has left many of these scientists confused. They see drones as 'co-scientists,' as Chen put it—friendly and reliable tools that can gather data efficiently and quickly in places scientists just can’t get to." Liz Godwin at Yahoo! News attended the International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems this week.

"The whole idea of the exchanges was to create an even playing field for health insurance plans, where competition could drive down premiums. Sarah Kilff at The Washington Post on the competition that is not shaping up to offer health insurance in New Hampshire.

H7N9 bird flu virus develops resistance to Tamiflu "not infrequently." "And study of other H7 viruses suggest this flu family does not trigger development of high levels of protective antibodies from vaccine." La la la la, I can't hear Helen Branswell for The Canadian Press this week.

On the other hand, good news! Maybe you don't need to have nightmares about "frankenfish" after all, or so says Deborah Zabarenko at Reuters.

"While advocates cheer and politicians congratulate themselves for a new environmentally friendly initiative, it's worth asking if a 'green' transportation system built with underpaid workers in unhealthy conditions is truly sustainable." On the other other hand, your fabulous urban bike-share company employs the same dubious and/or illegal labor practices as any other corporation, reports Sarah Jaffe at In These Times.

"The first stage in the therapy is for the patient to create a computer-based avatar by choosing a face and a voice for the entity they believe is talking to them." Kate Kelland reports from Reuters reports on a study that found schizophrenics could learn to successfully manage their hallucinations of voices using avatars. I am totally picturing the (late, lamented) Glitch avatars in the role.

"The white mothers in my neighborhood not only assumed my mom was my brother’s nanny, but they inquired after her services.." Meagan Hatcher-Mays at Jezebel on why a new Cheerios ad portraying an interracial family eating breakfast is "a big fucking deal." (Via Kate Sheppard.)

"Kids become coders because they are friends with other coders or are born into coder families, which is why the networks can become exclusionary even when there is no explicit racism and sexism involved." Mimi Ito on why Silicon Valley would be better served by reaching beyond its traditional constituency in the U.S. rather than pursuing avenues for importing coding talent from abroad. (Via Audrey Watters.)

"These are monuments to losses that we may not even realize we have sustained. A lovely little piece by Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic Cities on the recent work of Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"This is life in fire country: Looking forward to an app that will warn you when your house might be burning down." Knockout multimedia piece by journalist/cartoonist Susie Cage at Grist, about her family's history with California wildfires.

"'I told her in no uncertain terms that he sounded like a hysterical fanatic and that I couldn’t understand how an educated, highly intelligent person like her could possibly be impressed by him. She told me that I was not able to appreciate his greatness because I had Jewish blood.'" At The New Yorker, Helen Epstein tracks down the "Jewish friend" to whom a German woman's memoir of her Nazi adolescence was addressed. (Via Ruth Graham.)

"But behind closed doors—deep in the annals of my mind, riding back to my Harlem apartment on the subway at night, drunk on whiskey with Andrew at a neighborhood bar—I questioned his motives: Why why why?" Powerful essay about being an Army wife by Simone Gorrindo at Vela. (Via Logan Sachon.)

I’m trying to find a really confident artistic voice before I put myself out there, because it’s so easy for people to squash you. I want to make sure that what I make is something I really have the goods to back up." When (if?) my kids move on from their John-and-Hank-Green obsession, I will heartily endorse them obsessing over Emma Watson and/or Tavi Gevinson, who are both delightful in this conversation at Rookie.

"'I decided to just put myself out there,' she says. 'When I'm in a dress, it's like, "What am I doing in this?" I feel trapped, like I'm in shackles and handcuffs and a straitjacket. So I was just like, F--- it, I'm going to wear what I want. I caught hell for it, but it felt so good being myself.'" Amazing profile of the first major athlete to begin a professional career already out of the closet, women's basketball superstar Brittney Griner, by Kate Fagan at ESPN. (Via E.J. Graff.)

"It's not even remotely like a real class." Maria Bustillos at The Verge loves the MOOC she took on Ancient Greece, but concludes that it's far more useful as adult-ed enrichment than it could be for young students who haven't already acquired critical thinking and research skills.

"The only clear truth each of my jobs has taught me is that the working life—'real' life—is just as important as the writing life. Here’s why: they’re the same thing." Manjula Martin at Virginia Quarterly Review on class, writing, and work. (Via Sarah McCarry.)

"When she wrote him, uncharacteristically down, 'Here I am sixty-one (it looks worse spelled out in words) and only six novels published – no husband, no children,' he wrote back, 'Didn't J. Austen write six novels, and not have a husband or children?'" Petition to make the day of publication of any new article by Carrie Frye at The Awl — like this one on British novelist Barbara Pym — a national holiday. Who's with me?