Sunday, September 29, 2013

Links for the week ending 29 September 2013

"On that day, unless Congress were to raise the debt ceiling, the Treasury would have only $30 billion cash on hand, putting the United States on the precipice of an unprecedented default, the department said on Wednesday." History will think kindly of us for tolerating such shenanigans, I'm sure. By Annie Lowrey in the NYT.

"Republicans who once worked out legislative language with the help of Heritage's distinguished Ph.D.s felt whiplash seeing the group cheerlead for collapse. Heritage was supposed to be above politics, they grumbled. Heritage was supposed to be about serious ideas, not tactical fights. White papers, not political campaigns -- and certainly not campaigns against Republicans." If schaudenfraude makes you feel better, you may appreciate this Molly Ball piece in The Atlantic about in-fighting between the Republican party and its premier think tank.

"Do people really think that a Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign is a good idea—for the Democratic Party, our collective sanity, even for her?" Amy Davidson at The New Yorker reminding you that 2016 is not going to save our souls no matter how much we loved that BlackBerry meme.

"'I believe it is in the nation’s best interests to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it, yes,' Alexander said." Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post on Senate questioning of the director of the NSA. (Via Lois Beckett.)

"The 'extended border,' as defined by law and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, stretches 100 miles from a border crossing and authorizes agents with 'reasonable suspicion' to conduct warrantless searches." At Al Jazeera America, Michelle Garcia writes a strong piece about how drug-smuggling border enforcement and asset forfeiture have combined to make the roads of South Texas unsafe for ordinary people going about their day. (Via Melissa del Bosque.)

"Out on the street, you might have heard the excited whispers of, 'Obama is going to pay for my birth control!' issuing from the lips of many American women. You like what you hear, but is it even true? And, if it is, what does that mean for you?" Serious no-irony-whatsoever News You Can Use from Kate Hakala at Refinery29, explaining what the Affordable Care Act does — and doesn't — mean for your access to birth control. (Via Kelly Bourdet.)

"I really hope that they'll understand that these late abortion decisions are carefully made by these women. They have been thought out, wrestled with, agonized over. They are never casual. And the need for late-term abortions will never go away." Gut-punch interview at The Hairpin by Jia Tolentino with Dr. Susan Robinson, "One of the Last Four Doctors in America to Openly Provide Third-Trimester Abortions."

"Unlike nearly every other medical procedure offered in the US , egg donors take on their physical burden without knowing the risks involved — largely because the medical community has never studied them." From this summer, fascinating longread from Hyphen magazine by Teresa Chin on the demand for Asian-American egg donors — and the complete unknowns about how the procedures involved in egg donation may affect the donors' health or future fertility.

"The broader message that the Capobiancos and their legal team are sending, however, is to make an example of Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation." And also this interview with Meagan Hatcher-Mays on the "Baby Veronica" case at The Toast.

"The case of Quebec and the ballot mandated xenophobia that has produced the proposed charter suggests a deep and troubling move away from the principles of multiculturalism that Canada and Canadians have been so proud of." Rafia Zakaria at Al Jazeera on proposed legislation in Quebec that would forbid public employes from wearing most "religious symbols" while on the job.

"I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle ejected from the realm of justice for the purpose of stoking the production of the sewing industry; until they start treating us like humans." Grim description of the conditions that have led Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot to begin a hunger strike in a Russian penal colony. At the Guardian; translated by Bela Shayevich. (Via Molly Crabapple.)

"The hurt in my community runs deep. The Islam we know and practice values the integrity of human life above all. It places a premium on compassion, and helping those less fortunate." At Quartz, a short essay about the loss of eight members of Nairobi's small Ismaili Muslim community in the terrorist attack at Westgate mall, by Neelam Verjee.

"Today, we don’t worry much about nuclear war. But it’s normal now for any American of any age to 'realize you can be shot,' in the words of the Washington Post, 'and think through how you will react to the situation.'" Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic on the normalization of "lockdown drills" in schools across the U.S.

"But Teach for America aspires to close the achievement gap by training teachers that are significantly better than educators already in the system. Can simply being 'at least as effective as other teachers' really be cited as success?" Also at The Atlantic, recent Teach for America participant Olivia Blanchard critiques her experience after a year spent in the Atlanta public schools. (Via Audrey Watters.)

"'I don’t have the best vocabulary. I don’t have all the academic skills that I wish I had to give to her,' said Adams, a gentle young woman who dropped out of high school to work for McDonald’s. She said her home visitor, the research coordinator from Suskind’s office, encouraged her to read to her daughter, and 'maybe if I don’t know a word, just try to get through it the best I can.… It really gave me a lot of courage and a lot of strength to feel that I am teaching her.'" At the Hechinger Report, a moving look by Sara Neufeld at an experiment being run by a pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago. (Via Jody T.)

"He scored in the 98th percentile on standardized tests and had a D average. One night after class he had to walk from the school (on 35th) to his aunt’s apartment (over 100 blocks away); by the time he arrived at the apartment, the aunt had already gone to work, so he had to sleep on the stoop until 4am. I don’t know if the program did him any good." Also from Chicago. By Erika Price at The Toast.

"I asked them how they made the transition from social-media interaction to real-world interaction. They blinked. 'You talk to them on Facebook; you do chat with them,' Melissa said." Warning: this longread on teenagers, porn, and social media by Nancy Jo Sales at Vanity Fair will induce despair.

"The research concluded that in societies where the experience of actual nature is becoming scarce, and life is increasingly virtual, the consumption of ‘green products’, especially those that evoke virtual contact with nature, can provide surrogate experiences." A short essay by Sue Thomas at Aeon which may also produce some despair — or an intense desire to download nature photos to your phone. Whichever.

"I wanted the thing that prevents her from publishing her grand theory not to be misogyny but her own perfectionism. I feel like that's a much more realistic character flaw. It's also something that holds women back from presenting their ideas in the world, often because they wait until it's perfect. It doesn't stop men from bringing forth all kinds of half-assed and ill-formed notions, but it seems to stop women." Great little interview with Elizabeth Gilbert by Maggie Caldwell at Mother Jones.

"Sure, she said, she and her family enjoy cycling. But the enjoyment, she said, is secondary; because the bicycle is a primary mode of transportation, it’s a necessity that her child learn to bike safely. 'It’s recreation for you all in America,' Saraber said. 'For us, it’s a way of life.'" By Martine Powers at The Boston Globe, a report from Boston engineering students' encounter with Dutch bicycle culture.

"Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at, we're shutting them off." Wild cheering for this announcement by Suzanne LaBarre, which I dearly hope sparks a trend for publications no matter what their focus. (Via Rachel Hartman.)

"One day, perhaps, we will get better at discriminating and dare only to take from it what we want. Yet so much of what we find on the Internet is by happy accident. If we don’t click, what joys will we miss? It’s a new temptation, I think, and our ability to resist is very low." Trenchant short piece by Jenny Diski.

"Virginia Woolf was a hundred feet tall and menstruated knives, which was fairly unusual for Chinese women of her day." Also: "Hush, little baby, don’t say a word/Ever; your sister is talking" Mallory Ortberg. Enough said.

"So, you subscribed to The New Quandary and now it just lies around your house unread, accruing coffee rim stains? Spare yourself the monthly guilt trip. Instead of delivering The New Quandary to your home, we’ll mail your issues to locations where you are likely to read it." Catherine Sylvain at The Toast with "Thank You For Subscribing To My Literary Magazine."

"But not all writers of peculiarly enthusiastic letters to the editor are fake. I know because I spoke with four of them: two women who published glowing letters about Kerry Washington in the October 2013 issue of Vanity Fair, and two men who recently published letters in People." Finally, from Ruth Graham at The Awl, "Meet The People Who Still Write Letters To The Editor." Spoiler: those people are awesome. (I'm pretty sure the only letter to the editor I ever wrote got published because I was nine years old and wrote it on Snoopy stationery, but what a thrill it was, anyway. Maybe internet comments would be better if we had to write them on Snoopy stationery?)