Sunday, December 1, 2013

Links for the week ending 1 December 2013

"They were shooting guns and canons as a celebration, which alerted us because we didn’t know who they were shooting at. So Massasoit gathered up some 90 warriors and showed up at Plymouth prepared to engage, if that was what was happening, if they were taking any of our people. They didn’t know. It was a fact-finding mission." Ramona Peters of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe talks to Gale Courey Toensing about what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. At Indian Country Today Media Network. (Via Jody T.)

"Big Friday didn’t stick, but the idea behind it did, in Philadelphia and, eventually, beyond. A few decades later, when the term came to describe a day when retailers’ ledgers shifted “into the black” for the year—a connotation also pushed by marketers—people assumed that had always been the connotation." At The New Yorker, Amy Merrick with the local roots and packaged mythology of the term "Black Friday." (Via the lovely folks at Big Blue Marble Book Store in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia.)

"One tech startup called Drawbridge claims to have found a way to link a person’s laptop and mobile device by analyzing their movements online, enabling advertisers to reach the same consumer whether they’re on their work computer or smartphone." Anne Flaherty for the AP putting rather a new twist on "He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake." Happy Orwellian Shopping Season!

"Written as an agency mission statement with broad goals, the five-page document said that existing American laws were not adequate to meet the needs of the N.S.A. to conduct broad surveillance in what it cited as 'the golden age of Sigint,' or signals intelligence." From the previous week, dude James Risen and Laura Poitras at the NYT on the N.S.A. setting expansive goals for its ability to collect data from worldwide computer networks.

"Hundreds of al-Qaeda members streamed across Iran’s borders. Many were caught and identified. The most dangerous, including Osama bin Laden’s relatives, were imprisoned. Low-level fighters were returned to their home countries - but not before Zarif secretly shared their identities, finger prints, passports and other information with the U.S. government." Dafna Linzer at MSNBC on the ten wasted years that didn't have to precede the nuclear agreement with Iran.

"Like all good revolutionaries, Michael Needham had a sterling upbringing, the kind that allows a young man to pursue ideological purity free from worry about consequence or reality." Julia Ioffe's long takedown of the Heritage Foundation wunderkind blamed (or credited, depending on your point of view) with setting that, ahem, august institution on its head.

"Members of Cairo's gay community, strongly divided along class lines, never visible, never able to publicly protest the latest police violation of its own, seek each other out in the few public venues that allow them to gather." Sarah Carr at Mada Masr on the recent bust of a gay party in Cairo, and what it reveals about culture policing in unsettled times.

"But Natalie Angier’s fascinating statistical and narrative portraits of the contemporary American household – declining birth rates; even more sharply declining marriage rates; 41 percent of babies born to unmarried parents, a fourfold increase since 1970 – offer some context for the sense of dislocation and alienation that, as much as anything else, seems to be driving the resistance to making contraception coverage, without a co-pay, a required part of employer-provided health insurance." Very smart piece by Linda Greenhouse at the NYT on the battle against contraceptive coverage as a battle against modernity. (Via Irin Carmon.)

"Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as 'a new tyranny', urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff. More world leaders like this guy, please. By Naomi O'Leary for Reuters. (Via Jim Roberts.)

"'It is as if with this generous gesture the sheikh is saying that we need to be tolerant of other religions as in the end we all serve one God,' Aivazyan said." Today in Rich Dude Does Something That Doesn't Suck, by Mariam Harutyunyan for AFP. (Via Erin Cunningham.)

"'Here there's not a plant that survives except hashish. It's a gift from God. Can we oppose God?' Afif asks with a laugh." War is always good news for somebody, and Syria's civil war has been great news for Lebanon's cannabis growers, reports Rana Moussaoui for AFP. (Via Sara Hussein.)

'Compared to the privations of living in Kandahar, these guys in Syria are tweeting pictures of KitKat bars and Red Bull drinks. They know they are going to die, martyr themselves for jihad, but they are saying that on the way, you might as well "have a break, have a KitKat".' Ruth Sherlock reports for The Telegraph on the snack foods of choice for today's jihadist on social media. (Via Liz Sly.)

"Now 15 months old, her son, Ryhan, shouts 'dad' when his mum opens up her computer, in anticipation of one of the Skype chats that are their only contact with Zia, 30." At the Guardian, Emma Graham-Harrison reports on American military veterans separated indefinitely from their husbands by very long waits for visas permitting the immigration of Afghani men who served U.S. military forces as translators. (Hat Tip to @sciwo.)

"The officer, equipped with scare pistol armed with blanks, an array of firecrackers, an air horn and a paintball gun, spends his nights and days herding polar bears out of town and back on to the tundra." Suzanne Goldenberg reports for the Guardian on the arrival of desperate polar bears in the remote town of Churchill, Manitoba.

"A geographical analysis reveals that about 15 times as many people in the Philippines die during the year after a typhoon than are killed outright by the storm. That could add another 78,000 to Haiyan's toll, and virtually all will be baby girls." Eye-opening piece by Debora MacKenzie for New Scientist on how gender preference surfaces in the hard economic times following the aftermath of a typhoon.

"Data for the years 2007 to 2010 show the average weight of American women 20 years and older is 166.2 pounds—greater than the weight at which emergency contraceptive pills that use levonorgestrel begin to lose their effectiveness. The average weight of non-Hispanic black women aged 20 to 39 is 186 pounds, well above the weight at which these pills are completely ineffective." Molly Redden at Mother Jones. (Unclear to me from the article whether these are absolute numbers or if they are dependent on BMI — whether a 6'1" woman weighing 176 pounds would have the same risk of failure as a 5'5" woman weighing the same, in other words. Until you see a definitive answer to that question, I suppose you'd better assume that the morning-after pill is ineffective at that weight no matter what your height.)

"If American citizens are to have any chance of speaking truth to power, they will need to have a better handle on the truth part." Essential essay by Belle Boggs at Slate on the failures of science education in the United States. (Via Jody T.)

"In a post-antibiotic era, would you mess around with power tools? Let your kid climb a tree? Have another child?" You should probably plan ahead for how you will regain your will to live after reading this Maryn McKenna piece at Medium on the post-antibiotics future.

"Moral idiocy explains the feeling I’ve always had when being hit on, that the person is talking to himself, not me; that he’s seeing only his needs in a mirror." Ann Finkbeiner at The Last Word on Nothing on sexual harassment… and Kant. (Via @sciwo.)

"There was a time when 'ally' was the antonym of 'opponent' and the synonym of 'advocate,' but more and more it appears that being an ally requires little more than a disavowal of the advocate/opponent dichotomy. If it requires anything at all, it requires only a sort of 'fine by me' indifference." Great little essay by Leigh Johnson called "Tolerance Is Not A Virtue." (Via Rhonda Armstrong.)

"Not only does the story differ markedly from Parker’s other late-career stories, but it is differently written." Galya Diment on the long-forgotten plagiarism scandal of "Lolita" — the short story Dorothy Parker published in The New Yorker not long before Nabokov's book was published. (Via Maud Newton.)

"Sure, the apartment’s rent-controlled, but the rent is controlled by another damn wizard. One month I have to pay him in rubies held in the mouth of a robin; the next I have to fight through a Minotaur maze in order to bring him the scent of freshly baked bread." Oh my god, Mallory Ortberg (here at The Toast with her contribution to the leaving-New-York-City genre) would make Dorothy Parker purple with plagiaristic desire.

"Another reason may have been that most of Kearney’s athletes were afraid to speak up. Often they were the first in their families to go to college, and if they quit the team, they would lose their scholarships, dashing not just their own hopes but those of their parents and their communities. And they didn’t see themselves winning against the brilliant, beloved Bev Kearney. 'Who would have believed us?' asked one former sprinter." Finally, a wrenching and brilliant profile of former University of Texas track-and-field coach Bev Kearney, fired for an affair with a student. By Mimi Swartz at Texas Monthly back in October. (Via The Riveter magazine.)