Sunday, September 15, 2013

Links for the week ending 15 September 2013

"Not only were the Easons willing to take Quita, but they would gladly do so through the simple device of a power of attorney document, about 400 words long. The paper is signed by the old parents and the new guardians, and witnessed by a notary. As happened in Quita's case, no lawyers or government authorities are involved. The document is filed nowhere; it functions, in essence, as a receipt." Without question, the most bravura piece of journalism published this week was Megan Twohey's incredible (and incredibly upsetting) five-part piece for Reuters on Internet forums for informally "rehoming" children brought to the United States via international adoption.

"A principal reason Egypt is in its current political mess is that successive regimes—like regimes of poor governance everywhere—have equated shutting down the physicality of dissent with addressing this dissent." Sarah Carr at The Nation on life in Egypt after the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

This week in Better Living Through Chemistry, Deborah MacKenzie reports at New Scientist that U.S. Army scientists have developed a "self-sufficient mobile" unit that can destroy chemical weapons safely. Which may actually come in handy: "U.S., Russia reach agreement on seizure of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal." By Anne Gearan and Loveday Morris at The Washington Post.

"'We are coming together with only one thing in mind: Kill or be killed,' said the doctor, JoséManuel Mireles, 55, who described what is happening as an armed social movement and estimated that thousands of citizen-fighters are pursuing the gangsters into the hills. 'The only training we have is the courage we have inside.'" Stephanie McCrummen reports for The Washington Post about citizen militia groups forming in the cartel-scarred towns of Michoacan. (Via Abigail Hauslohner.)

"Correa-Cabrera said the city has no functional law enforcement authority. It doesn’t have a police department; it was dismantled by the federal government after rampant corruption was found. Hoping to curb the violence, the government sent in the military in June 2011. The soldiers can be seen around town walking or standing on top of blue trucks and holding assault rifles. Gun battles in Matamoros often erupt between the Zetas, Gulf Cartel and federal authorities, sometimes lasting several hours." From María Inés Zamudio at The Chicago Reporter, an expose about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement dumps deportees in the middle of war zones without any way for them to reach family or friends elsewhere in Mexico. (Via Christie Thompson.)

"Those two have been barred from release by an Obama administration executive order, as their disclosure 'could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security,' John Prados, the senior fellow at the archive who handled the FOIA queries, said of the response he got from the NSA." Different NSA, but a striking article by Carol J. Williams at The Los Angeles Times on the continued suppression of evidence in the more than 60-year-old mystery of what caused the plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. (Via Lydia Polgreen.)

By far the most common reason, given by 70-80% of men, for committing a rape was sexual entitlement — 'men’s belief that they have the right to sex, regardless of consent'. The second most common reasons are ‘for fun’ or due to ‘boredom’ followed by anger or ‘as a punishment’."In the same week that four men were convicted in India's most notorious rape and murder case, a new U.N. study finds that "Nearly a quarter of men in the Asia-Pacific region have admitted to committing rape at least once in their life."

"The sidewalk is different from the conversation. (Citizens United was in the context of political speech; nothing of the sort is going on here.) And we’re concerned about the sidewalk’s unconstrained power to rise up and make more money by picking and choosing conversations to feature." From Susan Crawford, an article on her website (that was originally a presentation airing on CSPAN) about why Verizon v. FCC is a critically important case for the future of net neutrality.

"Because the constitutional protection of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that 'no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,' may not apply when it comes to biometric-based fingerprints (things that reflect who we are) as opposed to memory-based passwords and PINs (things we need to know and remember)." Marcia Hofmann writes for Wired on a slight disadvantage to the new fingerprint-unlock option being offered on high-end iPhones. (Via Kim Zetter.)

"Below, on the occasion of Titstaregate, an ode to the long tradition of boob references and booth babes at tech conferences -- a found poem composed entirely of headlines about, quotes from, and sadly-true tales of the bros who help build your Internet." Brilliant work by Megan Garber at The Atlantic. (Via Molly Ball.)

"But please allow me to register my absolute objection to giving this person one red cent of public money in order to help 'fix' anything, unless someone wants to make him write on the chalkboard 576 times that possessive 'its' has no apostrophe—'We started talking and I loved everything about the team and it’s vision'—in which case fine, or indeed, show me to the Kickstarter. " This piece by Maria Bustillos at The Awl was not written about the new "online learning specialist" my kids' school district just hired. But it could have been. [Sigh.]

"He and his classmates had been unwitting guinea pigs in what would have once sounded like a far-fetched feminist fantasy: What if Harvard Business School gave itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success?" Fascinating long article at the NYT by Jodi Kantor. Trigger warning for lots of stories about entitled super-rich assholes, however. (Via Emily Bazelon.)

"This fall, I begin my 25th year as a professor at Colby College, where I spent the first 12 years of my teaching life as a man, and the last 13 as a woman." Jennifer Finney Boylan reflects on her experiences in the classroom from both sides of the gender divide. At the NYT. (Via @TSZuska.)

"Teaching is not just a matter of presenting the material—I have to create a culture in which students feel empowered to learn and are motivated to do work that they find boring or terrifying. I enjoy that challenge as well as seeing students be successful." This interview of her mom by Anne Helen Petersen at The Hairpin is, uh, clearly written for an audience of people who do not have children. Fair warning: the rest of us may find it far more bittersweet than it understands itself to be.

"The math can work like this: Instead of offering, say, $12,000 to an especially needy student, a school might choose to leverage its aid by giving $3,000 discounts to four students with less need, each of whom scored high on the SAT, who together will bring in more tuition dollars than the needier student." From Marian Wang at ProPublica, a look at how public universities have increasingly turned their backs on qualified needy students.

She thought they didn't do much for their workers, despite collecting millions in dues. When LeGrand first received a text message from Zucker encouraging her to attend a unionizing meeting, her grandmother spoke up. No way should LeGrand go. She could lose her job, and then where would they be?" I am such a sucker for stories in which the pivotal moment involves persuading a stern grandmother. By the always-interesting Alana Semuel at the LA Times.

"Ayinde Grimes splits the crowd on the sidewalk as he and a friend window-shop in Georgetown one afternoon. People break a wide arc around the tall teen from Anacostia, strolling on Wisconsin Avenue with his afro bouncing and his black-power medallion swinging." Lovely lede in this piece by DeNeen L. Brown at The Washington Post about teenage boys in the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict, negotiating the hazards of how they are publicly perceived. (Via Nikole Hannah-Jones.)

"'We tried to ignore it, but sometimes we caught ourselves repeating what history said, mumbling along, brainwashed: I am nothing. We drank too much, smoked too much, were abusive to ourselves, to each other. We were bewildered. There is a great darkness bearing down on our lives, and no one acknowledges it.'" A quote from Jesmyn Ward's newly released memoir Men We Reaped, at the NYT in an article by Laura Tillman. (Via Jamilah King.)

In related news: "These numbers suggest, quite plainly, that the people shaping the literary conversation are not reading diversely. If they are reading diversely, it’s a well-kept secret. Editors are not expanding their editorial missions. They are explicitly and directly responsible for the narrowness and whiteness of the literary conversation." Roxanne Gay at The Nation on the paltry number of reviews of books by writers of color. She'll be addressing that lack by reviewing some under-exposed books for the next two weeks, if you want to follow along.

"He was thrilled to learn that I was half-Pakistani, but on discovering that the only nationality I held was British his face fell. ‘If you had a disabled child, would you abandon it?’ he asked. ‘If not, then you should not abandon Pakistan either. It is your identity and you should have the ID card to say so.’" At Aeon, a long essay by Samira Shackle about privileged Pakistani young people struggling with issues of identity.

"But my mother’s tale is one of triumph. On the last night of her life, she rang my paternal aunt Tazeen and said 'All these years I was turned into a housewife and made useless! I should have been a writer!'" Extraordinarily moving essay by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose at Businessworld on the importance of feminist presses, in India and elsewhere. (Via Nilanjana Roy.)

"In the late 1910s, she and other reformers drafted a bill to create a nationwide network of home-visiting programs and maternal and child health clinics modeled on the programs in New York. But the American Medical Association (AMA)—backed by powerful Republicans averse to spending money on social welfare—claimed the program was tantamount to Bolshevism." It's the annual piece-by-a-woman at The New York Review of Books! So don't miss Helen Epstein's account of the public health triumphs of Sara Josephine Baker, M.D.

Two from The Boston Globe's stand-out young science reporter, Carolyn Y. Johnson. First, a long and entirely awesome interview with author Deborah Gewertz on instant noodles as "an instrument of 'capitalist provisioning' that informs our sense of where we fit in the world economically." Second, on the confirmation that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has become the first human artifact to enter interstellar space.

At the Rumpus, from Yumi Sakugawa, an ethereal and unresolved illustrated fable: "Once upon a time two planets fell out of love."

"She mostly just went to her classes, and never stumbled into anyone profoundly good-looking and secretly sensitive in the hallways. She did make some friends, eventually. They were nice." Oh, nothing, just Mallory Ortberg at The Toast quietly demolishing the past several decades of books for kids and teens.