Sunday, December 8, 2013

Links for the week ending 8 December 2013

"'Nelson Mandela, there is no one like you,' they sang, stamping their feet in unison to a praise song usually sung in joy. But in the midnight darkness, sadness tinged the melody." The NYT's excellent South Africa correspondent Lydia Polgreen situates Nelson Mandela's death at a difficult moment for the nation. For more on Mandela's life and leadership, two from The New Yorker: Nadine Gordimer, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

"Neither man was ever charged with a crime during a decade of detention at Guantánamo; their lawyers said each man opposed return to his homeland." Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald on the forced repatriation of two prisoners to the Algeria each had fled decades before.

"This is especially true in cases like Barnes’, Price said, in which prison officials decide complicated legal questions such as whether an inmate is fit to parent. 'You would never trust your child’s guardianship issues to a bureaucrat in the Bureau of Prisons,' she said. 'They have no competence or expertise in this.'" Christie Thompson at ProPublica on the stonewalling of "compassionate release" programs for nonviolent offenders with terminal illnesses or family tragedies.

"We asked Regan if she actually saw prison officials opening up McDonald’s sugar packets and pouring the sugar inside her wound. 'Yeah,' she said, adding that she was worried if it was sanitary." Investigation by Al Jazeera America into Arizona's privatized prison health care system by Abigail Leonard and dude Adam May.

"The codeine that costs $20 and the bag of IV fluid that costs $137 at California Pacific are charged at $1 and $16 at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, across town. But U.C.S.F. Medical Center charges $1,600 for an amniocentesis, which costs $687 at California Pacific." Another piece from Elisabeth Rosenthal at the NYT on the, you know, completely rational and efficient behavior of the market-based health-care system.

"Over months and years, her research into the epidemic took her across much of rural China. What she found astounded her: villages with infection rates of 20, 30, 40% or more; whole communities of AIDS orphans, zero treatment options, and little awareness of what was sickening and killing a generation of farmers." Kathleen McLaughlin at BuzzFeed on the retired OB-GYN who exposed an AIDS epidemic spread by for-profit blood donation centers. (Via Miriam Elder.)

"The risk with LA-MRSA is not that you’ll cook your food insufficiently, swallow the still-living organisms, and get a gastrointestinal illness; the risk, instead, is that the organism will spread to surfaces in your kitchen, and thence to your skin, and cause either a skin infection that is drug-resistant, or a much more serious illness." More cheerful news from Maryn McKenna, on multidrug-resistant staph on poultry in the UK.

"In the short term, I am the kind of person for whom the Obamacare mandate is a pain in the neck." Margaret Talbot writes for The New Yorker about the cancellation of her family's insurance policy — and what she hopes society is getting in return.

"The simple way to put it is that Luciano drove too fast, and may not have pulled the brakes. But he never should have been driving at all. This was his second shift of the day, only his second as an engineer ever. And he wasn’t well; this was, again, 1918, and he and his family had been hit by the Spanish-influenza pandemic. His baby had just died. He was twenty-three years old, and hadn’t been sleeping." Also at The New Yorker, a masterful Amy Davidson essay comparing last week's fatal Metro-North crash with a terrible train accident in 1918 Brooklyn.

"At her new school, Amanda told none of her first-grade classmates what she had experienced. 'I just tried to make friends and pretend that never happened,' she said. 'I still do that now.'" Meghan Hoyer at USA Today analyzes the demographics of the victims in mass killings, and finds that one-third of them are children. (Via Yamiche Alcindor.)

"But it’s becoming increasingly clear that most of sequestration will stay in place in 2014 and 2015. Restoring $60-$80 billion in funding would reverse only a fraction of the total cuts scheduled to take effect, preserving about $150 billion in cuts over the next two years." Suzy Khimm at MSNBC on "Why budget cuts are here to stay."

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is preparing for a scenario in which some 200,000 people leave for neighboring countries next year, factoring in long-standing concerns about security surrounding elections as the current military mission winds down. But the number could be much higher if the U.S. pulls out completely." Margherita Stancati and dude Nathan Hodge at on the possibility of a total U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Via Maria Abi-Habib.)

"Blackstone, on the other hand, doesn't have a problem fronting the money, given its $3.6 billion credit line arranged by Deutsche Bank. This money has allowed it to outbid families who have to secure traditional financing. It's also paved the way for the company to purchase a lot of homes very quickly, shocking local markets and driving prices up in a way that pushes even more families out of the game." Laura Gottesdiener at Mother Jones on the new overlords of single-family rental homes. What could go wrong?

"One of the few women in the group is wearing a black T-shirt and short black pants, her hair gathered in a loose, messy ponytail. A mask covers the bottom half of her face. She digs through the muddy scraps with her bare hands, heaving chunks of bamboo out of the way with strength you wouldn’t guess she had." Very moving piece by Amy Dempsey at the Toronto Star on grief and survival in the communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. (Via Michelle Shephard.)

"An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as 'freeriders' – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned." Suzanne Goldenberg and dude Ed Pilkington on the worst people in the entire world at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

"I felt a space in me, a wide vacuous space whose sides stretched out, up, around me. It was empty in that space, a kind of soundless empty I’d never felt before." Lauren Quinn at Vela Magazine writing about an abortion.

"Consider the case of eyeglasses. Graham Pullin, in his book 'Design Meets Disability,' shows how eyeglasses have moved culturally from being a medical aid to a fashion accessory. People who use them are getting 'assistance' in a very dependent way, but their cultural register has no stigma attached to it, the way that hearing aids still do." I'm seriously loving The Atlantic's stuff on design, accessibility, and aging, both this interview with Abler's Sara Hendren by Rebecca Rosen, and this post by Emma Green on tricycles and the untapped potential of refrigerators to help the elderly stay independent longer.

"Critics of the media circus surrounding PISA Day, like the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented think tank, contend that politicians, business leaders, and journalists like to focus on PISA rankings because PISA is the test on which American students do the worst—and thus the results paint a portrait of failing American schools that are responsible for our economic woes." Smart Dana Goldstein piece at Slate on the latest hand-wringing over how American teens performed on an international reading, math, and science exam.

"And it’s fine that she’s utilitarian about it? Yeah, totally. It’s like the way you'd go to a doctor. You get more of that in Latin America, like, 'I’m Catholic, but when I’m sick or when my husband is cheating on me, I go see this other lady.' So that's why people don't claim it on the census too much. It fits in this gray area of spirituality and functional service." Jia Tolentino with another one in her interview series, this one with Santeria priest Caridad, who answers questions from readers in the comments.

Finally, two incredible (and depressing, but then you didn't come here looking for cute animal gifs) longreads. "We Are Disposable," from the Texas Observer's Melissa del Bosque, on maquiladora workers making consumer goods without any effective worker safety regulations or enforcement. And, at The American Prospect last month, "The People's Court," by Kat Aaron — a look at American poverty and inequality through the lens of Detroit's 36th District Court (via Annie Lowrey).