Sunday, August 4, 2013

Links for the week ending 4 August 2013

I was really not feeling the internets this week, so you'll have to pardon the list for being thinner and more depressing than usual. Bradley Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, but still faces a sentence of up to 136 years in prison after being found guilty of stealing government property and violating the Espionage Act. Journalist Alexa O'Brien has the breakdown of the verdict in chart form here. Kim Zetter writes up the verdict at Wired. At the Guardian, Molly Crabapple describes and illustrates the scene from the courtroom.

"The former high-ranking National Security Agency analyst now sells iPhones. The top intelligence officer at the CIA lives in a motor home outside Yellowstone National Park and spends his days fly-fishing for trout. The FBI translator fled Washington for the West Coast." Emily Wax at The Washington Post on the fate of less well-known government whistleblowers.

"Last month, the White House told ProPublica it was still 'looking into' the apparent massacre. Now it says it has concluded its investigation – but won’t make it public." Chilling short Cora Currier piece at ProPublica about the fate of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the mass graves of surrendering Taliban forces. Note the bit about the end about how the lead investigator was sent to prison…

"The defendants’ opinions and experiences are classified—especially their memories of rendition. Connell added, 'The government can only classify information it owns or controls. By classifying the ‘observations and experiences’ of the military commission defendants, the government is claiming something new and horrifying: the power to own and control the minds of the people it has tortured.'" Molly Crabapple again, this time at Vice, with a long piece about Guantánamo.

"I realized that between heroic resistance to and fatalistic acceptance of oppression, there was ample space for coping strategies and creative improvisation. Much of human life was and is carried on in this fertile middle ground." Lest we labor under the impression that our historical moment is without precedent, Natalie Zemon Davis writes at the NYRB blog about how her career was shaped by the restrictions placed on her after she spoke out about the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952.

"Many of the FBI’s records list only arrests and not the outcomes of those cases, such as convictions. Consumer groups say that missing information often results in job applicants who are wrongfully rejected." While "Ban the Box" may be gaining traction at the state level, a growing number of employers screen applicants via the FBI's highly flawed criminal databases. By Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post.

"Her informal poll shows that upwards of 80% plan to emigrate to a gay-friendly country — they don’t see a future for themselves in their homeland. For as long as they can remember, the crackdown on gays in Russia has been getting worse." Katie Zavadski reporting for Buzzfeed on a new — and illegal — online support group for LGBT Russian teens.

"The stadium, built to hold 60,000, was about half full. So many people tried to leave during Mr. Mugabe’s speech that the police formed a human chain to hold in the crowd and locked the exits to the stadium." Lydia Polgreen reporting for the NYT from the lead-up to last week's elections in Zimbabwe (and its unsurprising conclusion).

"Perhaps the only topic touchier than whether people should abandon their homes is why the problem even exists. West has heard of global warming, but he's not entirely sure it's responsible for the rising water. 'Nobody knows, I don't think. Everybody speculates,' he says. Local authorities rarely, if ever, speak the words 'climate change.'" Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones on ever-rising costs along the Atlantic shoreline, and the perverse climate-denial incentives that guarantee those costs will continue to rise.

"An emerging scientific consensus held that genetic engineering would be required to defeat citrus greening. 'People are either going to drink transgenic orange juice or they’re going to drink apple juice,' one University of Florida scientist told Mr. Kress." In case you are not depressed enough by all the previous links! Amy Harmon gets the full multimedia treatment at the NYT on the controversies surrounding genetically modified organisms — and the coming orange apocalypse.

"Klawock was more accepting — maybe because James' grandfather was so influential. Maybe because it is a rough town where a lot worse things than Apert syndrome can happen to people." Moving story by Kim Murphy for the LA Times about a young boy with severe facial deformities and the Tlingit village in Alaska that sees him as just another member of the community.

"'It’s about . . . masturbation — which is not appropriate for my child to learn at 11,' said Kelly-Ann McMullan-Preiss, 39, of Belle Harbor, who refused to let her son read the book. 'It was like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for kids.'" This week in People Who Have Rocks For Brains, Clare Trapasso reports for the NY Daily News about the banning of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which, coincidentally, my kid just finished reading this week. Spoiler: what upset him were the tragic alcohol-related deaths of so many characters, not the mention of the existence of masturbation.

"In addition to being among the relatively few social spider species, S. sarasinorum also display a curious trait called suicidal maternal care. It’s as cheerful as it sounds: After a few weeks of mothering, female spiders allow themselves to be cannibalized by their offspring." This week in Science Keeps You From Sleeping At Night, Nadia Drake reports from Wired on a study that shows individual spiders may have distinct personalities.

"'It takes you from hand-crafted, artisan skeeviness to big-box commodity creepiness, and enables government-level total awareness for about $500 of off-the-shelf hardware,' O’Connor says." Adrienne Jefferies at The Verge presents "The top 10 new reasons to be afraid of hackers" from the Black Hat and Def Con conferences.

On the other hand, who needs hackers when you can just rely on basic human error? "Now, add this possible breach of privacy to the list: You or your doctor type in an e-mail address incorrectly. That could mean a stranger finds out your test result or learns that a specialist just uploaded a new file from your recent patient visit—just by opening his or her inbox." By Carolyn Y. Johnson at

"Some books require a box of tissues nearby; this one needs a browser window open to Google, or at least a pen to scribble 'Citation needed!' in the margins." Lauren O'Neal reviews a book on hormonal birth control for The New Inquiry, and, in the process, provides a clinic on how to read pop-science critically.

"Let’s assume that all burqas are bad, that this idea of making a niqab ‘cool’ is outrageous and dangerous, that it will stall our evolution into a truly liberal society, that all our daughters will be so inspired by Burka Avenger that they will forever stay covered in black cloth. You know, just like the time every Superman fan grew up into an adult who at the slightest sign of trouble ran into a telephone booth, pulled up a chaddi over his pants and tied a towel around his neck." Funny, thoughtful musings on Pakistani TV's newest animated superhero by Mahvesh Murad at The Ladies Finger.

The Slate pitch to end all Slate pitches: "Boggle Is Better Than Scrabble." By Julia Turner at, of course, Slate.

"nothing is so horrible that you can’t figure out a way to use it to your advantage. We put in all the caveats about easier said than done" Emily Gould and Nicole Cliffe chat at The Toast about King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes.

If you have not been made depressed or angry enough by the list this week, any one of these links will probably do the trick. At The Hairpin, Emma Carmichael asks the eternal question, "Who Has a Woman Problem?"

This profile of the, well, first family of American letters is pretty great even if you (like me) have never voluntarily read a Stephen King novel and never plan to (because, seriously, isn't the real world already scary enough?). By Susan Dominus at the NYT.

"Imagine 'Jaws,' if it were released in 2014." Finally, at the NYT, Heather Havrilesky updates the classic to delightful effect.