Sunday, December 15, 2013

Links for the week ending 15 December 2013

Have you already read "Invisible Child," Andrea Elliott's epic five-part NYT multimedia exploration of the world of a homeless child in Brooklyn? If not, that's as far as you need to look this week. Like the nice man said, everything else is commentary.

(If you're looking for ways to help after reading, NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan includes the address of the Legal Aid Society fund to help Dasani and her siblings, and the email address of the woman coordinating efforts to help residents of the decrepit homeless shelter described in the piece.)

Elliott's work was the most essential, but it was not the most bravura reporting published this week. That distinction goes to the AP's West Africa bureau chief Rukmini Callimachi, on ethnic cleansing by Mali's armed forces in Timbuktu. "We found the first body almost by accident, after our car got stuck in the sand." Incredible work.

"Targeted killing and military intervention to remove Al Qaeda leaders weakens the government that needs to compete with extremist militants not just militarily, but in meeting citizens’ needs and providing legitimacy in daily life. Given that, such killings may be creating a cycle in which the government grows less effective and militants more extreme over time." If you can manage one more longread this week, this analysis of how the United States has defined war since 9/11 — and how that definition needs re-examination — is very much worth your time. By Heather Hurlburt at Democracy.

"'This isn’t the NSA asking for information,' said Markey, who is planning to introduce legislation this month to restrict law enforcement’s use of consumers’ phone data, including ensuring that tower dumps are narrowly focused. 'It’s your neighborhood police department requesting your mobile phone data. So there are serious questions about how law enforcement handles the information of innocent people swept up in these digital dragnets.'" Another week, another article about some other government entity that's surveilling you, this one by Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post.

"Along with reading and math, when schools gag their students’ speech, they are teaching them a lesson. Children who are censored grow up to become adults who censor or who tolerate censorship." Of course, that's probably the point of those who wish to censor children, but still this essay by Sonja West at Slate on censorship in schools is worth a read.

"China may force some two dozen correspondents from The New York Times and Bloomberg News to leave the country by the end of the year, apparently in response to their investigative reports on the familial wealth of the Chinese leadership." Emily Parker at the New Republic on how Western journalists self-censor in China. (Via David Hull.)

"Facebook studies this because the more its engineers understand about self-censorship, the more precisely they can fine-tune their system to minimize self-censorship’s prevalence. This goal—designing Facebook to decrease self-censorship—is explicit in the paper." On the other hand… Jennifer Golbeck at Slate on how FB tracks what you decide not to post.

"'If I were a retired public-sector pensioner, I'd be worried today,' said Olivia Mitchell, a professor at the Wharton School of Business and the director of the Pension Research Council. Alana Semuels at the LA Times on the implications of the Detroit bankruptcy ruling for other struggling cities — and their former and current employees — around the country.

"The initiative would require most private and all public health insurance plans to offer a separate rider for an abortion. And a person would have to buy that rider before knowing if they needed an abortion. They would not be able to buy the rider after getting pregnant by any means, including rape or incest." Kathleen Gray at the Detroit Free Press on an anti-abortion law that passed the Michigan legislature this week.

"Congress’s top budget negotiators have reached an agreement that would fund the government for the next two years—this time without the partisan rancor and drama that have poisoned budget talks since 2011." This is what passes for good news these days. By Suzy Khimm for MSNBC.

"People are lining up behind a velvet rope to get their picture with the cutout, which has developed a fold in the torso and no longer stands up on its own. Hillary needs our support, or she will literally fall over." Comedy gold in this piece by Molly Ball at The Atlantic on Ready for Hillary, the super PAC.

"Ukraine stands at the very heart of Putin’s project to revive his country’s imperial reach." Short piece by Miriam Elder at BuzzFeed on why thousands of people are protesting in the Ukraine's capitol city.

"The investigation began after the Massachusetts man was found unresponsive in a car after it went off the road. There was no sign of trauma and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. " There are always so many candidates for Medical Freak-Out of The Week, but, as a New Englander, I gotta go with this one: Beth Daley at on the discovery that Lyme disease can cause sudden death due to heart inflammation.

"During the nursery stage, the baby elephants follow their human family, respond to tone of voice, etc. The keepers treat them only with tender loving care, as would their elephant family, because with elephants one reaps what one sows, and since they have very long memories, they must never be ill-treated in any way. Our keepers never carry even a twig." Look, I have brought you photos of baby animals! ORPHANED, TRAUMATIZED BABY ANIMALS. At National Geographic, an interview with Kenyan Daphne Sheldrick, who has made a life's work out of raising baby elephants traumatized and orphaned by poachers. (Via Maud Newton.)

"In a context in which being a man is good and being friendly is being womanly, each time a man tries to form intimate bonds with another man, he potentially loses status." Lisa Wade at Salon on masculinity's friend problem. (Via Elizabeth Gilbert.)

"Then you assemble oranges, apples and pears into pretty piles, making sure to remove the tops off a couple of each with a paring knife so that the ghosts can eat them. Apparently spirits can move through space and time but peel is impregnable." Missed this last month: Mary H.K. Choi at Aeon on a Korean picnic in a California cemetery.

Linking to this interview with Sarah McCarry at The Rumpus because we all love The Rejectionist, right, but also because maybe you'll read her description of The Saskiad (one of my very favorite novels ever) and look it up someday, which will make me very happy even though it was written by a dude.

"And the serpent – which was more subtle than all the other beasts of the field – said Seems pretty unfair there’s a WHOLE WORD you can’t use, and of the white people many nodden their heads at the rightness thereof." The peerless Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.