Sunday, August 11, 2013

Links for the week ending 11 August 2013

Fair warning: people who have cheerful stories to tell all appear to be on vacation this month. So abandon hope, all ye who click here. To start: "'Where are we?' Boatright remembers thinking. 'Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?' Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears." Sarah Stillman's enraging, must-read reporting for The New Yorker about "civil forfeiture" — extortion schemes run by law enforcement — in the United States.

"For a while, the residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women." This may be the most horrifying thing you read all year. By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky at VICE. (Hat tip to Jill Heather.)

"It is a sound you hear with your whole body, not just your ears. Limbs and muscles and heart and mind tense as the fast, angry projectile rushes along its arc, a path you can almost picture in your mind’s eye as you hold your breath and wonder where it will fall. It crashes, you exhale, then feel almost guilty for being glad that it exploded somewhere else, perhaps on someone else." Rania Abouzeid reports for The New Yorker from a Syrian family's basement refuge during nightly aerial bombardment.

"Mr Bagash has a question for the person who ordered the drone strike: 'What did my daughter ever do to them? She was only eight years old.' And then a bleak observation. 'They think we're rats. We're not. We're human beings.'" Yalda Hakim at the BBC on American drone attacks in Yemen. (Via Tori Rose DeGhett.)

"…the complete opposite of a generous, confident Ramadan visit of a year ago." From last week, Carol Rosenberg reports on Ramadan at Guantánamo for the Miami Herald.

More "Sketches from the Trial of Bradley Manning," from Molly Crabapple, this time at Paris Review.

"'It’s crazy pants – you can quote me,' said Will McCants, a former State Department adviser on counterterrorism who this month joins the Brookings Saban Center as the director of its project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world." Hannah Allam at McClatchy reports on experts and analysts responding to the temporary closure of nearly two dozen U.S. embassies because of an unspecified terror threat. (Via Loveday Morris.) Her follow-up piece with dude Adam Baron is also worth a read: "Instead, the organization, no longer dependent on the leadership of a single personality, is growing, with authority now spread among leaders not just in Yemen but also in Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Egypt’s Sinai. The branches that operate in those regions aren’t affiliates, the experts say, they’re al Qaida."

"'I’m taking a break from email,' said Levison. 'If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it either.'" From that bastion of the liberal media, Forbes, Kashmir Hill reports on the closure of the encrypted email service used by Edward Snowden. (Via Kim Zetter.) Also Amy Davidson at The New Yorker comments on the same case: "Every time the Administration says not to worry—that surveillance does not 'target' Americans—the word seems to mean less and less, to the point where one expects it to argue that an American does not count as its target—with the legal protections that word implies—unless he is wearing a dartboard with a bull’s eye around his neck."

"The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own." Julia Ioffe on the geopolitical implications of President Obama's decision to cancel a September summit with Vladimir Putin.

"For five years, Vokes had inspected TransCanada projects across North America and, too often for his liking, found they were poorly constructed and didn’t meet engineering codes. He’d tried to get his superiors to address the problems, to no avail, and was fired last year. In East Texas, he found that TransCanada hadn’t changed its way—even on what may be the most controversial pipeline ever proposed for North America. At the Texas Observer, Priscilla Mosqueda reports on the findings of a whistleblower and landowners near the Keystone XL pipeline.

"Two young children in Pennsylvania were banned from talking about fracking for the rest of their lives under a gag order imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company." Suzanne Goldenberg at the Guardian with… seriously, I can't even.

"From the start of Floyd v. City of New York, the mayor’s office has attempted to discredit the assigned judge, Shira Scheindlin, claiming that she regularly rules against the police, since she has decided for against them [sic] in other stop-and-frisk cases." Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman comments for The Nation on a smear campaign against the judge deciding the stop-and-frisk case against the NYPD — and on the importance of empathy in the courts.

"With so much instability in Mexico, Los Zetas were increasingly looking for opportunities to launder illicit earnings through legitimate U.S. businesses. They extorted the vulnerable while rubbing shoulders with the wealthy and politically connected on both sides of the border, looking for enablers to facilitate their laundering of the endless flow of dirty money generated by the insatiable U.S. drug market. People like Tyler Graham." More knock-out reporting from the Texas Observer this week, this one by Melissa del Bosque and Jazmine Ulloa.

"This lack of awareness, coupled with numerous Obamacare regulations — especially the requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay federal fines — is expected to create prime opportunities for illegal scammers and legal products that consumers mistakenly confuse for legitimate health insurance." Kate Pickert at Time on some of the less savory consequences of the Affordable Care Act. (Via Kayla Webley.)

"While there is some evidence that the recent Department of Labor requirement to reveal 401(k) plan fees to participants—something that was not even enacted till last year—has brought expenses down, knowledge does not leave consumers in the driver’s seat. If you discover your company plan is sub-par — the fund choices are poor, or the expenses are too high — all you can do is complain to your human resources department and hope they decide to change plans." Helaine Olen at Salon/Alter Net asks whether 401(k) plans have benefitted anyone in American society besides the financial services industry. (Hat tip to Jody T.)

"'We had no idea what we were takeing. Here your stuff back we hope that you guys can continue to make a difference in peoples live. God bless,' the note read (complete with misspellings)." Your small inoculation against despair from the week. From Christina Sterbenz at Business Insider. (Via Kristen Gwynne.)

"A literate person backed into a corner with something he desperately wanted to prove; that’s what it took to entrench the notion that women’s libido made them into witches, that any woman with a sex drive could be worthy of death. That’s the chaos of history. Catherine Nicholas at The Toast on the foundational text of witch-persecution, the Malleus Maleficarum.

"Perhaps, a more analogous comparison is a witch hunt, suggests anthropologist Gabriella Coleman. 'For me what comes to most to mind as an interesting parallel is the extraordinary and very public demonization of women as witches during [sic],' she said. 'They were burned in very public ritual acts.'" Rebecca Greenfield asks "Are Internet Trolls the Modern Incarnation of Witch Hunters?" in an interesting (if under-proofed) short piece at The Atlantic. (Via Emily Bazelon.)

"The women, like Fernandez, say the former chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee used his significant power and credentials to access military sexual assault survivors, who they say are less likely to complain." From Kyung Lah at CNN, a report on how San Diego's mayor targeted women for sexual harassment. (Via Irin Carmon.)

"After about half an hour of holding the sweet boy’s hand, I suddenly, urgently, needed to let go. I wriggled my fingers free, only to have him clutch them again." At Aeon, Virginia Hughes writes about a study tracking the development of Romanian orphans. (Yes, it is just as depressing as that précis suggests.) (Hat tip to Jody T.)

Roxanne Gay interviews her mother at The Hairpin:
Did you ever regret your decision to stay home?

No. As they say, for women, the choices are often cruel—but in truth, I’ve never felt I sacrificed.


Because the result is good. I did what I wanted to do.

Did you feel independent?

Absolutely. I was. I felt it.
In a perfect world, there would be ten articles like this for every one article about the work/parenting balance for women in the 1%. (As for the 1% article, you guys, don't you think there should have been more inquiry about, you know, cupcakes?)

"Democracy had been saved, and Lamarr—sex pot, shoplifter, crazed aging star—was in no small part responsible." Also at The Hairpin, Helen Anne Petersen on the agony and the ecstasy of Hollywood glamor queen Hedy Lamarr.

"Despite being packaged like a story, sports have no author to blame for plot threads left hanging loose, because that shit is actually happening." Finally, at The Toast, an amazing work of cartoon philosophy by Molly Brooks. On sports.