Sunday, October 27, 2013

No links for the week ending 27 October 2013

No links this week, as I took a very peaceful and lovely vacation from the internets. Links will be back next week. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Links for the week ending 20 October 2013

"Women sit on the shoulder, selling tea to travelers from a row of samovars. Above them, pillars of steam vanish into the sky, just as they did in 1746, the year construction on the road began." Ellen Barry with more jaw-droppingly gorgeous writing in this NYT multimedia piece about rural Russia. (Via Erin Cunningham.)

"'I was accidentally raising cockroaches and then I realized they were the easiest and most profitable,' he said." Barbara Demick in another multimedia piece at the LA Times, on cockroach farming. (Trigger warning for COCKROACH FARMING.) (Via Alana Semuels.)

"The United States is loosening controls over military exports, in a shift that former U.S. officials and human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions." Cora Currier at ProPublica.

"The report threatens to definitively refute former C.I.A. personnel who have defended the program’s integrity. But so far, to the consternation of several members of the Intelligence Committee, the Obama Administration, like Bush’s before it, is keeping the damning details from public view." Jane Mayer at The New Yorker on Congressional leaders' battle to disclose a $40 million report on C.I.A. torture practices.

"The women compared politicians’ behavior to kindergarteners or toddlers." In the aftermath of the government shutdown, Molly Ball reports from a focus group of Tennessee women.

Two from Reuters health reporter Kate Kelland. "And there is evidence in tests conducted on sewage samples in some of the country's major cities that the polio virus is starting to spread beyond these isolated pockets and could soon spark fresh polio outbreaks in more densely populated areas." Polio spreading in Pakistan.

And a story for football season: "The difference between the two groups was so marked that a computer program learned to distinguish between ex-football players and healthy volunteers at close to 90 percent accuracy, based just on their frontal lobe activation patterns."

"Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented." Elisabeth Rosenthal at the NYT. I do not know how pharmaceutical executives sleep at night. (Via Kathryn Schulz.)

"We do know, however, that there was no nurse in the building that day, a nurse who, if she or he became aware of Laporshia’s condition, would have known to listen to her lungs with a stethoscope and take appropriate action based upon what she or he heard." Eileen M. DiFranco at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook on the school funding crisis that was a factor in the death of 12-year-old Laporshia Massey. (Hat tip to Sheila Avelin.)

"A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country." Lyndsey Layton at The Washington Post. (Via Mac McClelland.)

"When Hinshaw compared the rollout of these school policies with incidences of A.D.H.D., he found that when a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized-test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward. Nationwide, the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented." Maggie Koerth-Baker at the NYT.

"What does it mean if we decide student data 'the new oil'? What does it mean if we view students (and their data) as a resource to be mined and extracted? What's gained? What's lost? What's depleted? Who profits? Who benefits?" Audrey Watters' recent talk at Columbia University (which, I gotta say, is a sentence that delights me to type and probably delights all of you all who've been hanging around since the mommyblogging days of yore just as much).

"Lisak's research shows almost two-thirds of college rapists rape more than once, which explains why repeat rapists account for 9 out of every 10 rapes on college campuses. Yet only 10 to 25 percent of students found responsible for sexual assault at college are expelled, according to the Center for Public Integrity." Kayla Webley at Marie Claire on the failures of American universities to be forthright — let alone do anything — about the immense problem of rape on campus.

"But we are failing to let men know that when they drink their decision-making skills into oblivion, they can do terrible things." Ann Friedman at NYMag answering that I-can't-even piece at Slate.

"Daisy Coleman is a high school student in Missouri and an advocate for victims of sexual assault." She tells her own story at xoJane.

"The campaigns against both kinds of bad women both share one purpose, then. Both aim to manipulate women into sacrificing their interests in order to preserve the stability of a society that first Communism and then economic liberalization shattered—and to do their part to make sure that the growth on which party rule depends continues." Moira Weigel at The New Inquiry on "leftover women" and "BMW women" in China.

"Reiteration of good intentions, but declaration of unusually brave and unbridled honesty forthcoming about the certain failure of Wendy Davis, a woman political person who mainly focuses on woman political things, like abortions and abortions." Writing an article about Wendy Davis' gubernatorial campaign? Andrea Grimes at RH Reality Check has you covered. (Via Melissa del Bosque.)

"Because there are so many uninsured Texans, so few of whom are eligible for Medicaid, and because the state decided not to expand Medicaid coverage, the Kaiser report estimates that 27 percent of uninsured adults in Texas will not have coverage options available to them under the Affordable Care Act. That includes 91 percent of uninsured adults whose incomes are below the poverty line." Becca Aaronson at The Texas Tribune.

"Dr. Lehman hopes eventually to set up a more efficient breast clinic, where women waiting to be seen would sort themselves into 'more and less worrisome groups' by matching their symptoms to images on a laminated card. The images would include photographs of bulging tumors in the breast so that someone like Ms. Namata could move to a high-priority group." Not pinkwashing: this article at the NYT by Denise Grady that focuses on a 48-year-old Ugandan woman's experience with advanced breast cancer. (Via Annie Lowrey.)

"Yet he received a text stating 'Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have right to remain.'" Your WTF of the week, on private government contractors sending threatening text messages to immigrants in the UK. From Felicity Morse at The Independent.

"Juárez seemed like 'a hell on Earth but also a heaven,' she says. 'It was the first place that opened its arms to my husband and me and allowed us to be together, to make a life for ourselves without worrying about one of us being taken away. The Spanish word I feel for Juárez means something like "love" in English, but also something more. The word is cariño.'" Moving piece by Debbie Nathan at The Austin Chronicle on "The Real Housewives of Ciudad Juárez." (Via Jordan Smith.)

"Those are not puppy-dog, crushed-out eyes staring up at you. These are eyes hungry for a professional break. These people are not trying to sleep with you. They are trying to get hired by you." Laura Helmuth at Slate sums up and draws some valuable conclusions from the sexual harassment scandal at Scientific American.

"Decapitation, But Not Cannibalism, Might Transmit Memories". Best headline of the week, if not the decade. From Sarah Zhang at Nautilus. (Non-trigger warning: she's talking about flatworms.)

"The skull was found in Dmanisi, Georgia, near four others from roughly the same time period that incorporate a broad spectrum of bone structure, bolstering the argument that scholars may have underestimated the natural diversity that existed within a single species of early humans. " Carolyn Y. Johnson at

"For the first hundred years of cinema, when images were captured on celluloid and processed photochemically, disregard for black skin and its subtle shadings was inscribed in the technology itself, from how film-stock emulsions and light meters were calibrated, to the models used as standards for adjusting color and tone." Fascinating piece by Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post on how the shift to digital filmmaking undergirds a new wave of nuanced and diverse portrayal of African-Americans at the movies. (Via Laura Helmuth.)

"Having spent eighteen years behind bars—twelve of them on death row— for a crime he did not commit , Anthony Graves could be forgiven for making a few impulse buys with the $1.45 million he was awarded in 2011 by the Texas Legislature for his wrongful incarceration." From Pamela Colloff at Texas Monthly, one man's gratitude to the law school professor who helped set him free.

"And yet discourse after discourse finds a way to rank us, divide us, and create measurements of status linked to race. What use are these artificial layers of status and privilege, when there are seven billion of us in the exact same condition? Scared, fragile, and — above all — temporary?" Finally, there's a lot I'd argue with in this book review by Maria Bustillos at the LARB (particularly in the case of the Phoenix Tso piece; I'd argue that a stranger with whom you have not already made friendly eye contact who interrupts your reading for any reason — except maybe to inform you that you are about to be attacked by wolves? — deserves a "fuck you" even if he is not being a racist fuck). But it is absolutely worth your time to read and maybe argue with yourself.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Links for the week ending 13 October 2013

Shutdown news:
"When army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appeared on television in July this year to announce the end of Mursi's presidency and plans for elections, it was widely assumed that Egypt's military leaders were the prime movers behind the country's counter revolution. But dozens of interviews with officials from the army, state security and police, as well as diplomats and politicians, show the Interior Ministry was the key force behind removing Egypt's first democratically elected president." Bombshell reporting from Asma Alsharif and Yasmine Saleh at Reuters. (Via Liz Sly.)

"It isn't that she doesn't have any interests beyond her education campaign; it's just that 'a normal teenager' in Swat isn't defined by Justin Bieber and Twilight. If you really want to get her animated, talk about the one subject that can make almost any Pakistani turn into a bit of a teenager: cricket." Charming, inspirational, and heartbreaking in equal measure, Kamila Shamsie's visit with Malala Yousafzai at The Guardian. (Via Nilanjana Roy.)

"Meem is 9 years old and works as a sewing helper in a garment factory. For a few days this summer, she was also my boss." Raveena Aulakh at The Toronto Star. (Via @pourmecoffee.)

"When the morgue was done with her body, Giorgio and other detectives at the Thirty-fourth Precinct paid for a gravestone and for a proper funeral with bagpipes, as well as for that white dress. ('I said, "We’ll never see her in the dress, but please put it on top of her so she’ll know,"' Giorgio told the Times. 'We are her family …. We are burying our baby.') " Achingly good Amy Davidson piece at The New Yorker about persistence in solving the decades-old puzzle of a child's death.

"The suit alleges that U.N. officials falsely claimed that peacekeepers had been tested for cholera and none had come back positive, and barred Haitian health officials from the camp in late October. The suit also alleges that the U.N. issued a false statement that its septic tanks were up to U.S. EPA standards, and that an official told a reporter that a pipe carrying sewage was carrying only kitchen waste." Anna Schecter at NBC News. (Via Yamiche Alcindor.)

"'Most have never met a funding source they do not like,' says Phillip Rogaway, a computer scientist at the University of California, Davis, who has sworn not to accept NSA funding and is critical of other researchers’ silence. 'And most of us have little sense of social responsibility.'" Ann Finkbeiner at Nature examines mathematicians' lack of interest in the ethical issues involved in doing NSA-supported research.

"I know that these East Germans were asking themselves if they were doing their jobs well when they should have been asking whether they should be doing their jobs at all." Thoughtful personal essay from Quinn Norton at Medium on visiting the Stasi Museum in Berlin.

"Administrators can also upload certain details that students or parents may be comfortable sharing with teachers, but not with unknown technology vendors. InBloom’s data elements, for instance, include family relationships ('foster parent' or 'father’s significant other') and reasons for enrollment changes ('withdrawn due to illness' or 'leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident')." At the NYT, Natasha Singer reports companies that look to harvest and profit from schoolchildren's personal data.

"'It’s a much bigger, more powerful question to ask, If today we are using management techniques that were also used on slave plantations,' she says, 'how much more careful do we need to be? How much more do we need to think about our responsibility to people?'" Katie Johnson at Forbes talks to Caitlin Rosenthal about her book on the plantation roots of many common business practices. (Hat tip to Rachel Hartman and Sheila Avelin.)

"Another solution may be to eat our way through them. At Piraino's lab in Italy, researchers are looking at how to make jellyfish more palatable: to livestock — and to humans." At NBC News, Nidhi Subbaraman writes about the coming "jellypocalypse," which sounds like a culinary, er, delight. (Via Jim Roberts.)

"This means that my chances of being harmed by a mammogram are far greater than my likelihood of being helped." Christie Aschwanden at The Washington Post.

"But there is a deep principle of quantum mechanics, known as the Unitarity Principle, which states that information about a system, including a quantum wavelike universe, is never lost. This principle guaranteed that the mark of the entanglement of our universe with others is preserved somewhere in today’s sky." Amazing essay about searching for evidence of the multiverse by physics professor Laura Mersini-Houghton.

"It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand." Your WTF of the week by DN Lee, deleted from SciAm blogs but reposted at Isis the Scientist. (Via Anne Jefferson.) "When we consider the demographic projections in this country in relation to our clamor to lead the world in scientific discovery, scholars like Danielle are providing a national service. We can’t win the future of STEM without winning it through black and brown girls and boys." For trenchant commentary, Tressie McMillan Cottom.

"Another day one of the teachers flies up a stone wall twenty feet high. He runs straight at it and then leaps, touches it once with one foot, touches it again with another, and there he is, looking down at us and laughing." From the Travel issue of Granta, writer Catherine Chung describes four weeks at a kung fu school at the legendary Wudang Mountain. (Via Maud Newton.)

"With more time now to read and write and enjoy the company of others, she nevertheless wrote to her brother, 'I Injoy all the Agreable conversation I can come at Properly, but I find Litle, very Litle, Equal to that I have a Right to by Nature but am deprived of by Provedence.'" Jenny McPhee reviews Jill Lepore's new book on Jane Franklin, sister to Benjamin. At Bookslut. (Via Heather Havrilesky.)

"Honesty, in Munro's work, is not the best policy: it is not a policy at all, but an essential element, like air. The characters must get hold of at least some of it, by fair means or foul, or - they feel - they will go under." From 2008 at The Guardian, Margaret Atwood on new Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.

"I am a celebrity magnet. They keep finding me, lured by something deep within my DNA that makes them want to revolve for one fleeting moment in my orbit." At The Toast, Joyce Millman recounts many and various celebrity encounters. Hilarity ensues. Also there is a stuffed Snoopy. REPRESENT if you're old enough that your most beloved stuffed creature was a stuffed Snoopy.

"Shall I draft my email now? Do I dare to send a pitch?
I shall wear mismatched pajamas, and seek my niche.
Cleolinda Jones with "Thirteen Ways of Pitching to The Toast." (Important background by Mallory Ortberg here.)

"The world's pre-eminent drag queen might not consider drag his greatest passion, but he's still a big believer in its power. 'All things to do with drag are inherently therapeutic because the realization of your own insanity is the beginning of sanity,' he says. 'You have to go into this complete artifice to figure out who you really are.'" From September but just ungated to the open internets, Mac McClelland profiles RuPaul for Rolling Stone.

"She was right. I was angry; I wanted to be gone. It’s important to know when it’s time to turn in your kazoo." Finally, a masterful short piece by Amy Poehler, also at The New Yorker, on a summer job scooping ice cream. (Via Sonia Faleiro.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Links for the week ending 6 October 2013

"Every state in the Deep South, with the exception of Arkansas, has rejected the expansion. Opponents of the expansion say they are against it on exclusively economic grounds, and that the demographics of the South — with its large share of poor blacks — make it easy to say race is an issue when it is not." From Sabrina Tavernise and dude Robert Gebeloff at the NYT, a look at the demographic make-up of the millions of impoverished Americans who will not qualify for coverage under the ACA, thanks to political maneuvering at the state level. (Via Gwen Ifill.)

Oh, hey. Did you hear about this government shutdown thing? Pick your angle. Hungry women, children, and infants. Students forced out of higher education. No mortgage loans. Economic distress for the communities that rely on national park tourism. The CDC won't be tracking the start of flu season. Federal employees going without paychecks. Conferences and hearings scrambling to cover for furloughed experts. The imminent closing of the Antarctic research station. And finally, this wonderful meta-story on the coverage of the shutdown by Megan Garber at The Atlantic: "PandaCam, the Star of the Shutdown."

"As terrified civilians hid in toilet stalls, behind mannequins, in ventilation shafts and underneath food court tables, the assailants began a high-stakes game of 20 Questions to separate Muslims from those they consider infidels." The AP's standout Africa correspondent Rukmini Callimachi reports on what the Westgate attack in Nairobi reveals about al-Qaida's shifting tactics.

"Ask them why they are venturing out, and Damascenes and newcomers offer similar answers: They do not necessarily feel safer; they are simply used to danger and sick of distorting their lives to avoid it." At the NYT, Anne Barnard talks to people in Damascus. (Via Rania Abouzeid.)

Two stories from BuzzFeed calling into question the accuracy of some reporting on the Syrian war. From Sheera Frenkel, "The Sex Jihad That Never Happened." From Rosie Gray, a look at the murky background of Mint Press News, a putatively progressive news outlet that reported that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons.

"Pudgy-cheeked and bubbling with enthusiasm, 37-year-old Rizvi has been hard at work since she organized the martyrs' conference I attended, setting up MWM units around Rawalpindi where women are taught about campaigning." Amie Ferris-Rotman writes for Foreign Policy about the surprising reach of Shiite women's political organizing in Pakistan.

"Worse still are the implications on a larger scale: when corporations seek to profit from prisons, it creates a powerful financial incentive, not just to push for policies that fuel mass incarceration but to cut corners in the services they’ve been hired to provide. Liliana Segura at The Nation on the big business of private prisons.

"If conscience clauses—as expressed in statutes that allow large entities to impose their religious preferences upon smaller ones—are the vehicle by which we are going to end-run the most fundamental aspects of the social welfare state, lets at least start from the basic principle that all of us have a conscience, and take it from there." Thoughtful Dahlia Lithwick piece at Slate about the privileging of institutional "conscience."(Via Emily Bazelon.)

" Federal wiretap law exempts interception of communication if it is necessary in a service provider’s “ordinary course of business,” which Google said included scanning e-mail. That argument did not fly with Judge Koh." A wiretapping case against Google can go forward, reports Claire Cain Miller at the NYT. (Via Cora Currier.)

"Instead, Judge Joyce Karlin sentenced Du to time served, plus 300 hours of community service and five years’ probation. It was one of the most lenient sentences handed down for a gun-related crime in Los Angeles County that year." From last week at the LARB, Rachel Monroe reviews Brenda Stevenson's new book, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots. (Via Ruth Graham.)

"I never witnessed him with his gun, but I remember when he told me how he was 'dealing with busing.' He was so gleeful that the kids looked scared. I left his house that day feeling sick. I don’t think I really believed that racism was 'that big of a deal' before that day. It had seemed abstract, harmless, and deep in the past." At Belt Magazine, an essay by Amanda Shaffer called, "Busing: A White Girl's Tale." This may be the only time in the history of this project that I recommend you read the comments. (Via Stephen Burt.)

"It should prompt us to ask why we want students to have access—or not—to computers. Whose goals do computers meet? Apple’s? Pearson’s? The Department of Education’s? Or students’?" This week in Entirely Awesome, badass ed-tech journalist Audrey Watters makes her debut in The Atlantic with an essay about the "hacking" of iPads by students in Los Angeles public schools.

"This is the way a functional community protects itself. When some of its members are under threat, whoever happens to be nearby rises to the occasion and begins to repair the damage immediately. It’s like the way white blood cells respond to an attack on the immune system." At The Atlantic Cities, Sarah Goodyear examines a single case of random violence in a New York City park to show what went right in its aftermath.

"The challenge of designing after disasters – or with disasters in mind – is to balance both, to build safe places where people might actually be willing to live." Also from The Atlantic Cities, Emily Badger looks at the award winners in a contest to design disaster-resistant homes.

"But California is going in the opposite direction, with two bills that could lead to the one of the biggest expansions of access to abortion in the United States since the FDA approved mifepristone, aka the abortion pill, in 2000." By Nina Martin for ProPublica. (Via Cora Currier.)

"She couldn’t keep up her oxygen levels. They sat my husband and I down and said, 'We have one more thing we can do.' They wanted to put her on an ECMO, a heart and lung bypass machine, to let her heart and lungs rest. They said, 'Your child is most likely not going to survive.'" Maryn McKenna at DoubleXScience talks to two mothers whose newborns contracted whooping cough.

"Other women chimed in to say that their teachers were the ones who teased them the most. In one physics class, the teacher announced that the boys would be graded on the 'boy curve,' while the one girl would be graded on the 'girl curve'; when asked why, the teacher explained that he couldn’t reasonably expect a girl to compete in physics on equal terms with boys. " Fascinating longread at the NYT: nearly 40 years after walking away from her own dream to pursue a career in physics, Eileen Pollack looks at the barriers that still exist to keep women out of science.

"Two and a half years ago, biology researchers at MIT were discussing their work with an outside advisory committee. What could help you in your job, they were asked. One simple answer came from the women in the room: child care." In related news, Carolyn Y. Johnson reports for The Boston Globe on MIT's new onsite childcare initiative. (Trigger warning for evidence that David H. Koch occasionally does something defensible with his money.)

"Here’s another way to look at it: 52 of my 136 articles quote no women at all. Zero. And although 63 percent of the articles I wrote mentioned at least one woman — even those articles mentioned more men. Yikes." Journalist Adrienne LaFrance writes an essay at Medium about examining unintentional gender bias in her own reporting. (Via Christie Thompson.)

"The laws were passed, seduction laws and age of consent laws, but it was harder for black women to use those laws, because they all rest on a requirement of prior chastity; the white women’s club members and people who supported these laws often bought into not only the myth of the black male rapist but also the idea that black women didn’t have moral virtue to defend." Sara Mayeux interviews Estelle Freedman at The Hairpin about the historical basis — and racist overtones — of the movement against sexual violence.

"Danish women are less likely to be financially dependent on men and therefore feel less pressure to 'settle' or change their behavior by, in Roosh’s words, 'adopting a pleasing figure or style that’s more likely to attract men.' Imagine that." At Dissent, Katie J.M. Baker delightfully dissects the disappointment of a pick-up artist in Denmark.

"ONCE UPON a time in Western culture, what made you queer wasn’t the sex of the person you desired; it was, rather, the sex you appeared to be." At Newsweek, E.J. Graff makes a compelling case for why the next goal of the gay rights movement should be a less stringent policing of gender expression for everyone.

"I began to notice that the punk crows would also sometimes leave little crushed-up bits of peanut behind after they ate — these, Noisy could eat. It seemed like Noisy had some kind of disability, and that it had found caretakers among these dirty, funny-looking punk crows." Analee Newitz at io9 finds evidence that the crows on her balcony have formed their own social safety net.

"Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel." New study finds that, ahem, literary fiction makes you more empathetic. By Pam Belluck at the NYT. Next up will undoubtedly be a study assessing the validity of their distinction between literary and popular fiction, nu? (Via Sonia Faleiro.)

"The best latkes south of the Mason-Dixon Line; latkes that straightened your tongue out so that you said 'latkes' RIGHT; latkes that made you want to hop on a plane and personally visit the ruins of the shtetl that had made their existence possible. Now, they’re not exactly a go-to, like macaroni and cheese, or my grandma’s mustards. In fact, you could probably only get them on request, and the request will earn you a strange look and a chuckle. But when you can get them, they are perfect and unquestionably authentic, because my grandmother’s Jewish employer taught her to make them." Wonderful essay by Shafiqah Hudson on racism and cultural transmission through surprising paths.

"'The young people should rock bands,' she said, banging her fist on the table so emphatically her coffee spilled a little. They laughed a little then, because she was so full of life, just as her cup was full of coffee." You guys, whenever your will to live is slipping, remember that someday The Portable Mallory Ortberg will exist, and isn't that worth living for?

For those of you with more short-term will-to-live issues, Allie Brosh's book will be out later this month. And here's a new Hyperbole and a Half post, to celebrate.

"For reasons I can't explain -- I was still struggling to understand my first iPhone -- I blurted out, 'Hey, are you Siri?'" CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz stumbles upon the closely guarded real identity of the voice for the original iteration of Siri, and the result is the best thing I read all week. (Via Lois Beckett.)