Sunday, February 24, 2013

Links for the week ending 24 February 2013

"Syria is always sad, it's always tragic." At Syria Deeply, Karen Leigh interviews Jenan Moussa, a correspondent with Dubai-based Al Aan TV, about her experiences reporting in Syria.

"A Justice Department white paper laying out the circumstances in which the President can kill Americans talks not only about Al Qaeda but also about 'associated forces,' and this type of vagueness could easily increase with the passage of time, if targeted killings were to shift from a policy to a precedent." Amy Davidson at The New Yorker makes a compelling case that an executive "kill list" could include non-combatants like activists and journalists.

The cover story from the newest issue of Mother Jones, by Stephanie Mencimer: "What's It Like to Wake Up From a Tea Party Binge? Just Ask Florida!"

"In Florida, African-American voters who voted absentee were nearly twice as likely to have their ballot rejected as white absentee voters, Herron found." Christie Thompson at ProPublica suggests that increased use of absentee ballots, while it may somewhat ease long voting lines at the polls, will also bring a host of new concerns about voter access.

Following up on last week's incredibly depressing articles about women's health issues in Texas, Jordan Smith at The Austin Chronicle reports on a new poll finding that "73% of all voters believe Texas should fund family planning services, including birth control, for low-income women."

"Very low-income families spend as much as 55 percent of their earnings on transportation." Amy B. Dean at Boston Review convincingly argues that public transit services are an essential part of social justice. (Via Susie Cagle.)

Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic Cities reports on the People's Community Medics, "training citizens in basic first aid techniques to treat gunshot wound victims," in response to both high levels of violent crime and rules that prevent paramedics from going to a shooting scene before being cleared to do so by police.

Great short piece by Dana Goldstein at her blog about the actual demographic realities of the NYT's self-styled Hipsturbia: "American suburbs are not becoming hipper and younger, but are in fact becoming poorer…, browner…, and greyer."

"There is no reason to cover matters of domestic violence in this fashion. Writers can, and should, identify the agent. Identify the action. Identify the acted-upon." Mallory Ortberg at The Gloss for our first link to her of the week.

I am, shall we say, not a huge fan of the "Dear Prudence" advice columns, but Emily Yoffe's full-length piece, "Abusive parents: What do grown children owe the mothers and fathers who made their childhood a living hell?" was pretty damn on target. (Via Els Kushner.)

"When we create a self-brand, we embark on a process that packages, designs, and markets us — human beings — just like other products and commodities." Sarah Banet-Weiser at The Wall Street Journal. (Via Karen Gregory.)

It was Universities Behaving Badly Week in the news! Tressie McMillan Cottom and Natalia Cecire have James "Pragmatic Half-Victories Kept in View the Higher Aspiration" Wagner covered with smart, nuanced critical commentary.

At the Yale Daily News, Nathalie Batraville (with [guy] co-author Alex Lew and contributor Michelle Morgan) raised the alarm about plans by a professor at Yale's medical school to develop with the Department of Defense a training center at Yale for military personnel researching techniques that apparently need to be practiced exclusively on brown people. Wait. What???? (First seen via Aaron Bady.)

Also, ecologist Jacquelyn Gill asks academics, "When someone makes a sexist (or racist, etc.) statement on a society list-serv of a blog, how do you respond? Do you ignore it? Do you call out the person privately? Do you call them out in a response on the list-serv?" This is a sentence I rarely utter in this fallen era, but: There is an excellent discussion in comments. (Via Jenevieve.)

"Today we have at least partial solutions to many natural risks — levees, industrial farming and antibiotics, say — but each solution contributes to new risks — more destructive floods, obesity and drug-resistant diseases — which then have to be managed with new solutions, which then present new risks." Maggie Koerth-Baker is the only reason why I'll send you to the NYT this week. (Though you should totally read that piece about snack food, if you haven't.)

"Jones explains that 'it’s important not to do everything that could be done. I say this not only as an academic, but as someone in the trenches, a patient experiencing the culture of medicine and having to face my own medical decisions.'"Long but quite worthwhile article by Alice Park at Harvard Magazine about the dubious value of common procedures to treat heart disease, and, by extension, the value of many other common medical procedures. (Via Sarah Zhang.)

As long as we're talking dubious medical practices! "In 2009, a decade after the drug was approved, an FDA spokesperson told the BMJ… that clinical trials 'failed to demonstrate any significant difference in rates of hospitalization, complications, or mortality in patients receiving either Tamiflu or placebo.'" Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer at The Atlantic on why you really don't need a prescription for Tamiflu. (Via Julia Belluz.)

"So this was five-dollar therapy. I could’ve done better driving fifteen minutes to the local dog track/casino and feeding a five-dollar bill into a psychotherapy themed slot machine called Bonkers! Get three psychotherapist couches in a row and you win." Ali Liebegott at Her Kind. I would totally play that game.

I keep trying to come up with some consistent rule about whether or not I link to interviews in which either the interviewer or the interviewee is a guy. Does the woman have to have at least 50% of the text space? 25%? Would you believe 5%? Well. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, right? So here's Maria Bustillos' very fun and breathless interview with George Saunders at The Awl. And here, further, is Jia Tolentino's really stupendously wonderful interview at The Billfold with Mike the Mailman, "Who Delivers the Mail (For Now)."

I am a helpless sucker for pieces that begin like this one: "There are very few pages in Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery that fail to yield something utterly delightful." By Sarah Marshall at The Hairpin.

I am also a helpless sucker for anything that even casually mentions having been in the actual presence of Miss Piggy. Kate Aurthur at Buzzfeed remembers attending the 1980 Oscars with her mother to represent her late father's work on All That Jazz. (Via Shani O. Hilton.)

This is from the end of January, but I'm slow on the uptake. Long but really rewarding essay at the LARB by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, "When the Lights Shut Off: Kendrick Lamar and the Decline of the Black Blues Narrative." Cultural criticism doesn't get much better than this. (Via Dream Hampton.)

I gather from the Twitters that Mallory Ortberg has recently quit her job, which perhaps explains why she has had a monster week. From last Sunday at TheGloss, "Losing Your Best Friend: A Timeline." Also at TheGloss, "Modern Crime And Punishments." And, finally, Best of Show for the week, at The Hairpin: "Texts From Pride and Prejudice."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Links for the week ending 17 February 2013

If you read one article about meteors over Russia this week (and you should!), make it Elif Batuman's short piece for The New Yorker, which I swear runs its online-only section as a sort of clinic to show the rest of us how to derive meaning on the fly from the events of the day as they happen.

"The issue of whether attorney-client confidences have been breached has overwhelmed these latest Sept. 11 pretrial proceedings." Multiple articles from the redoubtable Carol Rosenberg — who also live-tweeted the emergency landing of the planning carrying Guantánamo journalists this week — at the Miami Herald on the discovery that the rooms in which defense attorneys meet with accused 9/11 plotters sported CIA-planted bugs disguised as smoke detectors.

"Why I'm unfriending you on Facebook." A personal post from The Wall Street Journal's Julia Angwin, whose concerns may be specific to journalists, but are worth considering no matter what you do (or don't do) for a living.

"'They are literally bringing in kitchen sinks.'" Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle on the explosion of biologic evidence seized in criminal investigations — and the degree to which no one has quite figured out how to properly archive that evidence. (Via Pamela Colloff.)

Thorough investigative reporting from Stephanie Simon at Reuters about how the charter school movement in the United States bills itself as being "open to all," but is in many cases relying on exclusionary admissions procedures in order to cherry-pick a higher-achieving student population. (Via Christie Thompson.)

"This is merely a Valentine's Day reflection on state-sanctioned guidelines for proving true love." At Salon, Natasha Lennard on her marriage green card.

"I've seen these gatherings compared to forcing peanut butter on those with allergies." Dahlia Lithwick answering the eternal question, "How are women like peanut butter?" in a piece about diaspora Jews challenging ultra-Orthodox control of Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall. (Via Jill Heather.)

"Maternal mortality rates approaching 1-in-1,000 pregnant women occur in places such as Somalia and Texas." Womens eNews editor Rita Henley Jensen parses a new report from the Texas Department of Health Services and finds an extraordinarily dismal record on women's health even before recent defundings of women's health programs and the state's Planned Parenthood clinics went into effect. Here's another article by Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle from last month, about those recent funding cuts. Taken together, the two pieces are pretty terrifying.

"Lowe's fetus received legal representation, but Lowe did not receive legal counsel until 12 days after she was taken into custody." At Alternet, Kristen Gwynne reports on attempts in several states to bolster fetal-personhood laws by charging pregnant drug-users with child abuse.

"The favourite flavour of hyper-religious hate-mail is the delivery of a set of rosary beads in an unmarked package, which seems an odd message to send: 'Jesus knows where you live.'" Laurie Penny reporting at VICE on how the death of Savita Halappanavar has galvanized Irish activists for women's reproductive rights.

Do you read breathless media coverage of new evolutionary psychology research? (Are you on the internet? Then the answer is almost certainly yes.) Arm yourself against sketchy, stereotype-laden science with Kate Clancy's excellent piece about how to critically evaluate work in that field. At SciAm.

"Most people who are optimistic will still think they have a lower chance of being hit by a helicopter." Also at SciAm, Scicurious looks at the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in helping you predict outcomes, like whether or not you're likely to get hit by a helicopter while sunbathing on your roof!

Oddly, dopamine is never mentioned in this article about the sinking of the Bounty, a wooden square-rigged ship originally built for the Marlon Brando film Mutiny on the Bounty, 100 miles off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy. By Kathryn Miles for Outside. (Via Jill Heather.)

As someone who gave up cycling out of sheer cowardice after I became a parent, I heartily applaud this piece by Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic Cities about new bicycle maps developed by the city of Austin, TX, based on how peaceful — or traffic-imperiled — a road is.

Two pieces about the mashup of pop culture and religious separatist culture: at The Hairpin, Esther Werdiger writes about the Hasidic pop star for the Lady Gaga-era. At the Paris Review, Racher Yoder writes about how contemporary Amish romance novels stack up to the book she obsessed over as a child, Martyr's Mirror: The Stories of Seventeen Centuries of Christian Martyrdom from the Time of Christ to A.D. 1660. (And you thought your childhood reading was heavy.)

"A pin is a picture taken out of context with a short description that belittles your life choices." Very funny "Revised Pinterest FAQs" by Dana Norris at The Rumpus.

This week in You People Are Not Making My Life Any Easier By Publishing Good Stuff On The Weekends After I Thought I Had This Post Written, Maria Bustillos writes about the shutting down of Intrade in the U.S., "Place Your Bets (Oh Wait, You Can't)."

Every week in YPANMMLAEBPGSOTWAITIHTPW (deep breath), Mallory Ortberg at The Gloss: "Don't Forget Not To Murder Your Girlfriend This Weekend."

I haven't gotten a chance to read through this one yet, but I trust Lucy Pigpuppet when she tells me it's fabulous, especially because every sentence my eye happens to fall on while I'm trying to type this is a wonder. Hilary Mantel at the London Review of Books on "Royal Bodies."

The usual sharp, thoughtful work from Kathryn Schulz, here at Vulture reviewing Amity Gaige's new novel, Schroeder, which turns a Clark Rockefeller sort of story into "homage to Lolita… so complete as to be fractal."

"It isn't easy to even think about Edna St. Vincent Millay's body of work without thinking about her — well — actual body. This is entirely her doing." Kate Bolick at Poetry Foundation on how the life and the work of the poet became one in the public eye.

Finally, Lili Loofbourow wins the internet with this amazing (and very long!) essay on the forgotten bestselling literary foremother of… Gollum. As my grandmother in-law used to say (in her thick Bronx accent), "So. Who knew?" At the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Links for the week ending 10 February 2012

My arms still ache from shoveling, so we start the list this week with "Naming Nemo: how The Weather Channel took storm names away from the government." By Adrienne Jeffries at The Verge.

AP West Africa bureau chief Rukimini Callimachi has been filing incredible stories from Mali all week. Here's one of the most powerful. "The love story in this fabled desert outpost began over the phone, when he dialed the wrong number. It nearly ended with the couple's death at the hands of Islamic extremists who considered their romance 'haram" — forbidden."

But this is a close second, on the secret spiriting away of Timbuktu's ancient manuscripts before the Islamist invaders arrived: "'These manuscripts represent who we are… I saved these books in the name of Timbuktu first, because I am from Timbuktu. Then I did it for my country. And also for all of humanity. Because knowledge is for all of humanity.'"

Time's Rania Abouzeid reports from Syria on a coordinated push by rebel factions to take control of Idlib province under the guidance of a Shari'a court led by an organization designated as terrorists by the United States.

"When and on what basis will any of us get a 'so-called' in front of our nationality?" Amy Davidson at The New Yorker makes every word count in this short piece about proposed C.I.A. director John Brennan's appearance before the Senate.

At ProPublica, Nikole Hannah-Jones continues her must-read series on fair housing with a look at the prospects for a Supreme Court decision that might eviscerate the government's ability to show evidence of racial discrimination in renting and lending.

Also at ProPublica, Lois Beckett reports that state Democratic parties are considering their compiled voter data to commercial companies, like retailers and credit card companies. At least, they were until that article came out!

"Once a life is saved, what do you do with it?" At Colorlines, Jamilah King reports from the epicenter of Chicago's gun violence, where no single solution can possibly address the magnitude and urgency of the problem.

"Russia, true to its traditional desire to homogenize and its obsession with unity, is signaling which of its minorities are no longer welcome — ostensibly for the good of the majority." Julia Ioffe at the New Republic on Russia's proposed new law banning "homosexual propaganda among minors."

As immigration reform proposals circulate in Congress, Liz Goodwin at Yahoo! News profiles six immigrants who received green cards under the 1986 amnesty program.

"We are hired as adjunct lecturers and it is important that you remember that." Karen Gregory's syllabus for her labor studies class got coverage in The Billfold this week, but she has a follow-up worth reading on her tumblr.

"A proposal by the Prince George's County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system." Wait. What? Ovetta Wiggins for The Washington Post.

"Rosemary Learns Hearing. Again." Ann Finkbeiner at The Last Word On Nothing with the best closing paragraph you will read all month.

Also at The Last Word On Nothing, Erika Check Hayden on unintentionally "agreeing" to become a research subject — along with her newborn daughter.

"Even in America, where abortion is mostly legal, cases like Halappanavar's are a known reality in Catholic hospitals." Irin Carmon at Salon on the growing number of conflicts between best medical care practices for pregnant women and the clergy-run "ethics committees" who have the power to dictate treatment decisions in Catholic hospitals.

"Theoretically, a person could walk down Twin Oaks’ gravel driveway with nothing but the clothes on her back and, if accepted for membership, end up with a room, three mostly-organic meals a day, and health care." At Cluster Mag, a wonderful profile by Rachel Monroe of Twin Oaks, "the anti-hippie commune" near Charlottesville, Virginia. (Via Logan Sachon at The Billfold.)

"'It's like going into a new venture — flying into the world. That's exactly how I think of getting married,' Bill says. 'It's like two eagles flying into the sky together.'" Your box-of-tissues story of the week, from Ellen McCarthy at The Washington Post: "When Bill met Shelly." (Via Kate Sheppard.)

"Monogamy was hard, and divorce was brutal. Could anyone be blamed for hoping a marriage contract came with a line-item veto?" From D Magazine, Sarah Hepola on the surprises she finds on the dating scene back in her hometown, Dallas. (Via Mike Dang at's excellent "What is the best sentence you read all week?")

"I haven't spent my entire feminism waiting to 'stylishly signal' (gross, so gross) that femininity is a construct but also totally cute and young." Sarah Nicole Prickett at VICE.

Excerpt from Jeanne Theoharis' new biography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks at WomenseNews.

Yeah, yeah, I've already linked to interviews with both Katherine Boo and Ursula LeGuin, but here are new ones, and they haven't run out of insights yet, so. Here's Boo at the NYT on her reading: "But as a child I treasured the idea of this infinitely just place called Idaville." And LeGuin from two weeks ago at The Millions: "The fiction of my time is about dysfunctional American suburban families."

"'I could tell even from the first version that it was a very serious piece of experimental archaeology, which no scholar who was not a hairdresser — in other words, no scholar — would have been able to write.'" This is pretty much the best thing I have ever read, ever. Abigail Pesta at the Wall Street Journal on Janet Stephens, "hairdo archeologist." I sure the hell hope Pesta is readying a New Yorker-length profile on Ms. Stephens, if not a full-scale biography because I WANT TO KNOW HOW SHE GOT TO BE SO AWESOME.

And finally, because my arms still hurt, Amy Jean Porter at The Awl: "Before the Storm."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Links for the week ending 3 February 2013

Lots of news of the war in Mali this week. At The New York Times (reiterating the usual clear-cookie advice), Lydia Polgreen reports from Timbuktu about the city's relief after being liberated by French and Malian troops. (Warning: opens with a grim couple of paragraphs about the amputation of an accused thief's hand.) Lest you feel like cheering, Rukmini Callimachi reports for the AP, also from Timbuktu, that captured Islamist rebels describe having underwent "waterboarding" torture at the hands of Malian troops. Meanwhile, at Foreign Policy, political scientist Laura Seay warns against relying on talk-show pundits for information about the conflict: "Mali Is Not a Stan."

It's hard to make sense of the chaos in Egypt at the moment, but Abigail Hauslohner at The Washington Post will at least keep you informed of latest developments.

A reminder that the easiest way to keep on top of war news is to read Torie Rose DeGhett's excellent This Week in War round-up. That's where I found Ann Jones' piece in Guernica, "Counting Down to 2014 in Afghanistan." "Washington has long appeared to be fighting its own war in defense of a form of government and a set of long-discredited government officials that ordinary Afghans would never have chose for themselves and have no power to replace."

"With Just a Mobile Phone, even the most humble pastoralist is able to partake in the world of e-finance, zinging his meagre shillings across the country to relatives wherever they may be. Poverty Over. With Just a Mobile Phone." Stinging satire of the African diaspora's triumphant return home by an anonymous woman for the Guardian.

This week in You Have To Be Fucking Kidding Me, Batsheva Sobelman for the Los Angeles Times on coercive long-term birth-control treatments administered to Ethiopian immigrants as a condition of their admittance to Israel.

Also this week in YHTBFKM, the Miami Herald's indefatigable Carol Rosenberg reports from the ongoing censorship circus that is the trial against 9/11 conspirators at Guantánamo. The lede says it all: "The military judge presiding at the Sept. 11 trial Thursday ordered the government to unplug any outside censors who can reach into his courtroom and silence the war crimes tribunal."

Monica Davey for The New York Times on the limits of municipal gun-control laws in Chicago: "Some 7,640 people currently hold a firearms permit, but nearly that many illicit weapons were confiscated from the city's streets during last year alone."

Kim Zetter reports for Wired on new amendments proposed to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act following the suicide of Aaron Swartz earlier this year, which would "exclude breaches of terms of service and user agreements from the law." Includes a link for contacting your lawmaker about supporting the amendments.

At Colorlines, Julianne Hing offers a list of six things you can do to get involved in shaping the debate on proposed immigration reform.

Sociologist Erin Hatton writes about the gendered history of the temporary labor industry — "jobs designed for 'Never-Never Girls' rather than valued employees" — at the NYT's Opinionator blog.

"It's not even a flashcard approach; it's a series of lacunae, startlingly free of insight or context, mentioning not one single book or author, and only one political or religious figure (George Washington) in the nine minutes I watched. I've seen more informative cereal boxes." Maria Bustillos at The Awl with a wide-ranging (and very quotable) conversation about MOOCs and the future of a college education. (My kids are currently advocating for primary education to be replaced by six hours of VlogBrothers' Crash Course per day, to which I say: nice try, kids.)

At Vice, a personal essay by Molly Crabapple about having been a light-skinned, mixed-race, angry 12-year-old: "Anything I know about swagger, I learned as a twelve-year-old in a room full of adults who'd labelled me profoundly troubled. Don't give them satisfaction. Keep your back straight. Meet their eyes."

Activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns testifying at Feministing: "The other voices are those of fifty-five Catholic high-school students from Louisiana and their chaperones beginning their trip home from the 2013 'March for Life' in Washington. I am standing in the middle of their reserved car. I am about to tell them that I had an abortion, and I am about to tell them why." (Via Cory Ellen Gatrall.)

Billfold editor Logan Sachon and pseudonymous "Martha Kaplan" are having a conversation about depression and money that's really worth eavesdropping on.

This… may be the most awesome use of epidemiological statistical analysis of all time: Hilary Parker at New York Magazine examines the relative risk of being named Hilary/Hillary and concludes that she bears "the most poisoned woman's name in recorded history in the U.S."

"'Oh God. The internet!'" Hilarious (ahem) interview with Jamaica Kincaid by Hannah Levintova at Mother Jones.

"It was a direct round-trip flight plan: no layovers, no re-routes, just on 7,000-mile round trip between Logan International Airport and the Arctic Circle." Martine Powers for the Boston Globe on what scientists have learned about avian migration patterns while trying to avert airport bird strikes. (Via Amanda Katz.)

"'My family has been blowing glass in Hebron for around 700 years.'" Fascinating profile of Hebron's amazing traditional glassblowers, by Gail Simmons for an oil company PR magazine. (Wait. What? Read it anyway.) Via Sara Hussein.

In the most recent issue of New England Review, Anne Raeff on growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust and her parents' complicated German heritage and personal histories. (Via Longreads.)

"There is something you haven't noticed yet. What is it? IT CAN BE VERY SMALL." Finally, a reminder that not every intersection of the internets and education must result in a venture-capitalist scheme. Lynda Barry is posting to her tumblr notes from the class she's teaching at UW-Madison this semester. Featuring the most beautiful handouts ever in the history of university education. (Via Maria Popova, and someday someone is going to explain to me why cutting and pasting some complicated little icon is a better idea than just typing "via.")