Sunday, September 1, 2013

Links for the week ending 1 September 2013

"'You know what we forgot to do today?' Dr. Rami told a colleague reclining on a thin mattress. 'Send the tractor to dig more graves. We'll need about 10 by tomorrow, and then another 20 or 30.'" The incomparable Rania Abouzeid is reporting from Salma in northern Syria for Al Jazeera America. You should be reading her work.

"In the central city of Homs, where government forces have made significant advances into rebel-held territory in recent months, government forces have spent the past two days vacating known military facilities and moving into civilian buildings, said Abu Emad, a resident and activist." From Liz Sly and Loveday Morris at The Washington Post.

"The scenes were reminiscent of the bombings that have plagued Iraq for years — an ominous parallel for Lebanon, which has a history of targeted political assassinations and sectarian clashes but where religiously motivated bomb attacks aimed at civilians have been rare." Also from Loveday Morris at The Washington Post, a report from the car bombings of mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon.

"They show how the NSA infiltrated the Europeans' internal computer network between New York and Washington, used US embassies abroad to intercept communications and eavesdropped on video conferences of UN diplomats. The surveillance is intensive and well-organized -- and it has little or nothing to do with counter-terrorism." From Laura Poitras and dudes Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark at DER SPEIGEL, reporting on what leaked NSA documents reveal about American surveillance of its allies.

"The next chapter of Manning’s story may start a discussion not about Iraq but about our prisons at home. If she were to sue for the right to treatment for her gender dysphoria, she might just win." Excellent short piece by Margaret Talbot about Chelsea Manning's prospects for treatment of gender dysphoria in the military prison system. At The New Yorker.

"Governments regard the increasingly transitory nature of populations as compromising national security—and in the twenty-first century, national security prerogatives usually win." From earlier this summer at Dissent, Atossa Araxia Abrahamian reviews a book on the history of denaturalization — stripping American citizenship — in the United States.

"We are walking off our jobs because we don't know how we are going to survive on these jobs. We're on strike because we can't afford not to strike." At the Guardian, Willietta Dukes explains why she is going on strike from her $7.85/hour job at a North Carolina Burger King. Also at the Guardian, Karen McVeigh provides more background about the fast-food workers' strike: "Clark, 47, is paid less per hour in real terms than the lowest paid US workers were half a century ago, when, on 28 August 1963, hundreds of thousands of citizens flooded into Washington for the historic march for freedom and jobs for black Americans."

" At the macro level, this means we lost an enormous amount of cognitive ability during the recession. Millions of people had less bandwidth to give to their children, or to remember to take their medication." From Emily Badger at The Atlantic, an incisive look at new research showing how the experience of poverty drains the brain's ability to perform cognitive tasks.

"The belief that shareholders come first is not codified by statute. Rather, it was introduced by a handful of free-market academics in the 1970s and then picked up by business leaders and the media until it became an oft-repeated mantra in the corporate world." Jia Lynn Yang at The Washington Post looks at how IBM has changed over the years, and finds in its corporate history an illuminating example of how American companies have decoupled themselves from any responsibility to their communities, their employees, or society as a whole.

"But worse, the financial sector no longer serves its proper purpose: to enable productive real-sector investment. The credit tightening, despite huge spreads, of the last four years offers broad evidence. Instead the industry has become a mechanism for the systematic concentration of income and wealth." From that pinko commie stronghold, the Harvard Business Review, dude Chris Meyer and Julia Kirby offer an instructive opinion on what should be important when choosing a new head of the Federal Reserve.

" At White Plains Hospital, a patient with private insurance from Aetna was charged $91 for one unit of Hospira IV that cost the hospital 86 cents, according to a hospital spokeswoman, Eliza O’Neill. Ms. O’Neill defended the markup as 'consistent with industry standards.'" Blistering piece by Nina Bernstein at the NYT, exploring the insanities of American health care pricing via the widely-varying prices levied against a single group of tourists struck by food-poisoning in upstate New York.

"Prior to telemedical abortions, there were six clinics offering abortion services in Iowa. Now nine additional clinics provide telemedical abortion services, usually in rural and underserved areas." From Kelly Bourdet at Motherboard, a look at the future of telemedicine and reproductive health — and the obstacles being thrown in its way.

"The fire is burning hotter and faster than any in modern Sierra Nevada history, firefighters say. Officials say it is the California wildfire they have warned about for years, as modern firefighting techniques have snuffed out forest fires, allowing fuel to build up on the mountain floor. 'This is it. This is the big one,' Yosemite Fire Chief Kelly Martin said." Diana Marcum, Samantha Schaefer, and dude Joseph Serna reporting on the Rim fire for the LA Times. Marcum and Schaefer have more background on the fire here.

"For nearly three decades, an earnest man named Narendra Dabholkar traveled from village to village in India, waging a personal war against the spirit world." My personal nominee for best lede of the week, from Ellen Barry at the NYT. Such quietly beautiful writing here!

"When the children of south Tel Aviv head back to school on Tuesday, kindergarteners will attend facilities that are segregated by race. The children of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa will go to their kindergartens and all the other kids will go to their own." The WTF of the week, from Lisa Goldman at The Daily Beast.

"She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially." I am seriously too old to give a shit about anything that happens at the VMAs, but this essay by Tressie McMillan Cottom should not be missed.

"I don't think that women of any color need to be respectable to be valuable. I want feminism to be a movement that doesn't infantilize people who are already disenfranchised by assuming that the way people speak is an indication of the worth of what they're saying. We’re all women, and if we’re talking about being allies, that means working together for more than one set of causes." Trenchant essay by Mikki Kendall at xoJane on next steps for would-be allies after #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.

"There is no lobby for the homely. How do you change a discriminatory behavior that, even though unfair, is obviously deep, hard to pin down, and largely unconscious—and affects people who would be hurt even to admit they’re in the stigmatized category?" From last week at The Boston Globe, Ruth Graham explores "beauty bias" and possible ways to diminish its power.

Speaking of beauty. From Sarah Larson at The New Yorker, an appreciation of Linda Ronstadt that's practically perfect, except for how it forgot to mention this. (Via Rebecca Jeschke.)

"The rational explanation of the sweater curse is that a handmade sweater is typically thick, elastic, and clingy: it suggests that the woman who is making it wants to surround its recipient and enclose him." Also at The New Yorker, an essay on the literary history of knitting by Alison Lurie, from a forthcoming book which we will be passing from hand to hand as soon as its released, I predict. (Via Jody T.)

"This is the key that I wish I could embody: the one that gives you a different way of reading the map or cracking the code, that opens a door in the wall you never even knew was there." Finally, at The Toast from Kate Angus, some "Thoughts About Keys." (Once you're there, poke around — I could have picked any number of pieces from The Toast this week.)