Sunday, May 26, 2013

Links for the week ending 26 May 2013

"'There were so many mistakes with Gitmo. It took years to create a mess this bad; and not just one bad decision, many bad decisions. It's painful,' he told me during one of a series of interviews over the last four years." At Foreign Policy, an epic piece by Michelle Shephard on the doomed quest to close the prison camp at Guantanamo.

Civil war in Syria continues spreading throughout the region. From Beruit, Sara Hussein reports for AFP on Syrian refugees. From the Lebanese side of the border city of Tripoli, Loveday Morris reports for The Washington Post on spillover fighting between Sunni and Alawite Shiite neighborhoods. And, for The New Yorker, Jenna Krajeski reports on car bombs in the Turkish border city of of Reyhanli, host to thousands of Syrian refugees.

"Carbon-dioxide levels have been monitored at the observatory ever since, and they’ve exhibited a pattern that started out as terrifying and may be now described as terrifyingly predictable." Did you all see that stuff last month about how Tylenol may reduce the sense of existential despair? Yeah, you may want to have some Tylenol handy while reading this Elizabeth Kolbert piece in The New Yorker about Keystone XL and crossing the 400 ppm of CO2 mark.

I have heard some traumatic birth stories before, but this blows my mind: "As the floor shook 'like an earthquake' beneath her and ceiling tiles and insulation fell overhead, the 25-year-old huddled with four nurses, braving both the peak contractions of childbirth and the wrath of the worst twister the veteran Oklahoman had ever endured. By JoNel Aleccia for NBC News.

"So, you can try to enforce your basement with steel; ultimately, though, the steel will be anchored to rock that is 'rock' only in the broadest sense of the word." Megan Garber at The Atlantic on why homes in central Oklahoma rarely have basements or underground tornado shelters. (Via Anne Jefferson.)

"'It went from being a benign-looking blip to a supercell in 10 to 15 minutes. All the ingredients were there at the right time.'" Nice short piece by Eryn Brown at the Los Angeles Times on a storm researcher for NOAA in Norman, Oklahoma who tracked the developing tornado on her radar equipment — and then filmed it out her office window.

"Rosen instructed Kim to send him coded signals on his Google account, according to a quote from his e-mail in the affidavit: 'One asterisk means to contact them, or that previously suggested plans for communication are to proceed as agreed; two asterisks means the opposite.'" At The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow takes a closer look at the Justice Department's leaks investigation against a Fox reporter and his contact at the State Department, both of whom would have been better off conducting their meeting in front of some instructional exhibits at the Spy Museum. (Via Jennifer Steinhauer.)

"Serrano did as he was told, but as he took the men’s I.D.’s and wrote their tickets, he told them: 'I’m violating your rights, and you should take my name down. If you ever want to sue, you can use me as a witness.' Moving, must-read long profile of quietly heroic NYPD whistleblower Pedro Serrano, by Jennifer Gonnerman at New York Magazine. (Via Nikole Hannah-Jones.)

"There is a surprisingly rich and dynamic academic literature developing around the concept of 'sousveillance,' a term coined by the University of Toronto professor and inventor Steve Mann to describe privately made recordings that can serve as a counterweight to institutional and government surveillance. Maria Bustillos at The New Yorker on the rise of "Little Brother."

"'There's no freedom of speech in Nuevo Laredo — if they write the truth, they kill them,' one of the men said of the cartels." Molly Hennessy-Fiske at the Los Angeles Times on censorship in the face of drug violence at a Spanish-language newspaper published on both sides of the Mexican-U.S. border. (Via Melissa del Bosque.)

"But then it hits her: If she’s scared as a grown woman, one just under 6 feet tall, how are small children going to feel?" Heartbreaking reporting by Lauren FitzPatrick and Jessica Koscielniak for the Chicago Sun-Times on the dangers that will be facing Chicago schoolchildren when their neighborhood elementary schools close. The first in a multi-part series. (Via Dan Sinker.)

"When the perpetrators of this new kind of melting pot come primarily from the investor class, one winds up with a bland cosmopolitan monoculture that crystallizes the world’s inequities into a snowglobe of Louis Vuitton luggage and Tiffany jewelry, mingling over pan-Asian cuisine cooked by a Frenchman, served on plates made in China, by Mexicans in an anonymous downtown high-rise made of glass and steel." Great book review by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian at The New Inquiry.

From Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones: "Obamacare Doesn't Make Employers Cover Spouses. Does That Matter?" Uh. I'm going to go with "yes" here. (Via Kate Sheppard.)

"So, what did the DSM do for me? I collected diagnoses, but none of them— aside from the one I never officially received — fully described my real problems." Maia Szalavitz at Time looks at the controversies of the DSM 5 — and the larger failures of psychiatry — from a brutally personal standpoint.

"But these studies suggest that for some people — particularly those who are middle-aged or older, or already sick — a bit of extra weight is not particularly harmful, and may even be helpful." Never let it be said that I don't bring you good news! Virginia Hughes reports for Nature on how epidemiologists are battling over a recent meta-analysis throwing received wisdom about being overweight into doubt. Hughes also writes more about the story at National Geographic.

"I’m going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story you’ve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they eat their young if not raised properly; and how, at the end of their lives, they hurl themselves – lemming-like- over cliffs to drown in the surging sea. Best metaphor of the week, by Kameron Hurley in the essay "'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative." At A Dribble of Ink. (Via, well, Jill Heather and Rachel Hartman can battle that one out.)

"Click on our masthead. Look at the photos. Skim the bios. What do you notice?" In the wake of VIDA counts, Lauren Quinn at all-female magazine Vela does a hard reckoning about her own publication's role in marginalizing writers of color.

"'Let's get rid of weddings,' Dinara says. 'Each one is a bloodless war.'" I suspect Jia Tolentino may have the best real-life conversations pretty much ever. At The Billfold.

"Sometimes the hair is all I can think of and sometimes I forget for a few days and then look in the mirror at the tiny whiskers growing out of my chin, my cheeks, my neck, and cannot believe, literally cannot believe, I’ve been walking around like this." Also at The Billfold. I love Logan Sachon so damn much, I can't even stand it.

"They were guys who stayed trying to put a couple dollars together — usually to get high. They were guys for whom the hustle was a way of life, who might get a piece of a job here or there but not keep it for long — but who were still decent enough to look out for the elders on the block, like my mom." Beautiful essay by Carolyn Edgar on her first serious boyfriend. (Via @saltypepper.)

"I had to remind myself to focus on the patient. I was her witness, her advocate, her midwife with a twist. To be any good to her, I would have to be present, not wrapped up in my own hormonal whirlwind." Wrenching and gorgeous, an essay by Patricia O'Connor at Vela about serving as an abortion counselor while struggling with a high-risk pregnancy of her own. (Via John Darnielle.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Links for the week ending 19 May 2013

"But the cost of the move could run as high as $130m, according to government estimates. For the villagers of Newtok, finding the cash, and finding their way through the government bureaucracy, is proving the challenge of their lives." An epic, multi-part story from Alaska by Suzanne Goldenberg on America's first climate refugees, Yup'ik people whose village is predicted to be completely submerged by 2017.

"Outside, the building is shearing away from the pavement, with a crack running horizontally, at some points as wide as the length of one finger." From Louisa Lim at NPR, the relocated survivors of the 2008 Chinese earthquake point to evidence that, thanks to corruption-fueled substandard building practices, their new city is just as much at risk as the old, destroyed one.

"The ranks of the conventional Syrian army — weary, depleted and demoralized by defections, casualties and more than a year of continuous fighting — are being swelled by the deployment of some 60,000 militia irregulars trained at least in part by Hezbollah and Iranian advisers." Liz Sly at The Washington Post on recent successes by forces loyal to Syrian President Assad in that country's civil war. In the meantime, Abigail Hauslohner reports for The Washington Post from Iraq: "The prospect of a regional power shift driven by the bloody civil war next door, where a mostly Sunni rebel movement is struggling to topple the Shiite-dominated regime, has emboldened Iraq’s Sunni minority to challenge its own Shiite government and amplified fears within Maliki’s administration that Iraq may soon be swept up in a spillover war."

"Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts." The New Yorker turns to its general counsel, Lynn Oberlander, to provide an explanation of why the Justice Department's seizure of phone records from the AP has been greeted by outrage.

"Die from street violence and you may be remembered by a wooden cross and a few teddy bears set to rest on the sidewalk by your neighbors. You may get a t-shirt printed with your name. Die in a terror attack and there will be stone, marble and speeches to remember you with." Ariella Coleman at Next City interrogating what separates the mass shooting at a New Orleans Mother's Day parade from the violence at the Boston Marathon. (Via Sarah Goodyear.)

Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald continues covering the hunger strikes at Guantánamo, including a letter sent this week from twenty human rights groups asking that the policy of force-feeding prisoners be abandoned.

"Texas overall has the highest rate of workplace fatalities in the country and a high rate of fires and explosions, which come with very high costs: The fires and explosions at Texas’s chemical and industrial plants cost as much in property damages as in all other states combined." Bryce Covert at Think Progress reports on the so far inconclusive investigation into the causes of the devastating explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.

"To clarify, Hagel was speaking after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who headed the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, was charged with sexual battery, but before an equal opportunity adviser and coordinator of a sexual harassment-assault prevention program was charged with pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates." Irin Carmon at Salon on the cluster of military sexual assault scandals this week that may finally drive Congress to effect change.

"It’s because one company, Myriad Genetics, owns the patent to the two genes that indicate an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. You read that right: The genes themselves, not the procedure to test for them." Also from Irin Carmon, an eye-opening look at why one company's stock price has gone up in the wake of Angelina Jolie's mastectomy op-ed at the NYT.

"Fortune's account of what occurred inside Ranbaxy and how the FDA responded to it raises serious questions about whether our government can effectively safeguard a drug supply that last year was 84% generic, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, much of that manufactured in distant places." Katherine Eban's incredible piece about fraud in the generic drug industry will make you question the provenance of every medication you've ever taken. Yikes. (Via Maryn McKenna.)

Even if the medications actually are what they say they are, there's no guarantee they're being prescribed correctly and safely. Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein, and Jennifer LaFleur at ProPublica on Medicare data showing that physicians who write tens of thousands of questionable or potentially hazardous prescriptions for elderly patients each year are rarely if ever called to account for their prescribing patterns.

"'It is unusual to have such a degree of uncertainty at this stage in an outbreak,' the European health agency's statement noted. It called the information that has been shared about the cases, including the current Saudi outbreak, 'insufficient.'" Helen Branswell, who is, if you'll remember, your non-alarmist source about this sort of thing, sounding fairly alarmed about the prospects for the spread of a coronavirus that has thus far killed 20 people.

"The battle for this estuary has become far more than a fight about an oyster farm — it’s become a flashpoint in the debate over what we want out of the natural world, and what we can afford." Great illustrated piece by Susie Cagle for Grist on agriculture and conservation at Point Reyes National Seashore.

"'But what's the point of having seven fairy maidens if you can't educate them properly?' he asked me." Leslie T. Chang at China File on the winding down of China's One-Child Policy — and why its end is not likely to result in a baby boom. (Via Angilee Shah.)

"Yet Howard didn’t just belong to the civil rights movement. Like black physicians and midwives before him, he belonged also to the abortion rights movement." At Dissent, Cynthia Greenlee looks at the complex forgotten legacy of Dr. T.R.M. Howard.

"A portable tool that could quickly identify any species anywhere would be a game changer for science." Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing on how Star Trek technology is slowly making itself real via DNA barcoding.

"Sometimes they’re playing tag, but mostly they’re just running, they hardly touch earth, they’re all but airborne. What is it about spring?" Ann Finkbeiner on spring at The Last Word on Nothing.

Has a new messiah been born in the form of an immaculately conceived baby anteater? Lisa Chamoff reports for Greenwich Time. You decide. (Via Emma Carmichael at The Hairpin.)

"The teenage baby sitter has been straddling the fault lines of feminism ever since the term gained popularity just after World War II. Great little piece from Charlotte Alter at The Wall Street Journal making the case for why teenage boys should have babysitting experience. (Via Atossa Abrahamian.)

The headline on this piece pretty much says it all. "So This Is How It Begins: Guy Refuses to Stop Drone-Spying on Seattle Woman." By Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic.

"But the fact of the matter is there was a thing on your face that also had that attention." Hilarious account of the first Google Glass date in Portland, OR, by Taylor Hatmaker for ReadWrite. (Via Amanda Katz.)

If you read Judith Shulevitz's piece on loneliness at TNR, you will probably answer YES to Maria Bustillos at The Hairpin as she explores the eternal question: "Do You Need a Hug?"

"On the drive through Key West, Blume checks in constantly: Do you have on sunblock? Do you need to borrow a hat? Is your seat belt on and secure?" If you really need a hug, maybe you should arrange to interview Judy Blume? At Entertainment Weekly, Sara Vikomerson reports on the upcoming release of the first film based on one of Blume's books. (Via Rebecca Traister.)

This one's for my fellow Ravelers! My local library now has a yarn bombing group. No word yet on whether it has secret plans to yarn-bomb anything quite so epic as this, from Virginia C. McGuire at Mental Floss.

"Savannah is a 26-year-old woman who grew up believing that she was the reincarnation of her dead aunt Laura." Creepy, thoughtful, and funny interview by Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin.

"Provided with a hut or grotto to call his own and a few simple meals a day, a garden hermit might live for years on a picturesque corner of the property." Alice Gregory at The Boston Globe on the 18th century English fashion for purchasing a live person to serve as a garden ornament. (Via Kathryn Schulz.)

"That constraint is so startling to read about today that, in a sense, Fox has written another obituary here—not to a dead language but to a bygone era of problem-solving." A wonderful review of NYT obituary writer Margalit Fox's new book on the decoding of clay tablets from ancient Crete, by Kathryn Schulz at Vulture.

"My youth feels like a ghost town, an abandoned and dilapidated house I don’t have the keys to anymore." Finally, from Lindsay King-Miller (whose Ask a Queer Chick column at The Hairpin is always worth reading), a gorgeous heartbreaker of an essay about the death of a childhood friend. At The Rumpus. (Via Stephen Burt.)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Links for the week ending 12 May 2013

"A secret CIA agenda was in conflict with the agenda of much of the rest of the U.S. government. And with no one able to explicitly arbitrate this contradiction, the CIA's agenda won out." Sarah Chayes at Foreign Policy on how the CIA destroyed anti-corruption campaigns in Afghanistan. (Via Heather Hurlburt.)

"If there’s any value in the current debate over Ramsey’s 'checkered past,' to me, it is that so many people are daring to suggest that a man who went to prison for a series of violent crimes can be more than that; that people are more than the worst things they have ever done." Essential reading about "Race, Redemption and Charles Ramsey," from Liliana Segura at The Nation.

"For Joe, it could all fall apart tomorrow. He might decide his new life isn’t worth the effort. Or he could do everything right, and still find himself sitting on a bus with the wrong person. He’s not naive enough to think good intentions will protect him." Yvonne Abraham at The Boston Globe on one Boston community organization where former gang members can find refuge. (Via Martine Powers.)

"'We have to encourage prosecutors, DAs, and judges to actually look at cases rather than just push people through the system and assume they're all guilty and deserving of this. So money helps. But I don't think money is the only answer: You also have to be interested in doing the right thing.' Hannah Levintova at Mother Jones on the crisis of public defense in America.

"'You're disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor — that's the policy of the Obama administration?'" It will do your heart good to read this account of righteously pissed-off Reagan-appointed white-guy Judge Edward Korman calling out the administration over its right-wing policies on emergency contraception. By (who else?) Irin Carmon at Salon.

"'I’ll tell you that this has been a healing and exciting experience for us and for a lot of African-American friends we’re working with,' she tells me, with her voice wavering and her default smile widening." Akiba Solomon at Colorlines on the grand opening of an evangelical "crisis pregnancy center" in a poor, black neighborhood of Kansas City, MO.

"Food stamps can't be used to buy diapers. Mothers cannot get diapers from a major federal source of support for poor families, the Women Infants and Children Program, either." Joanne Samuel Goldblum of the National Diaper Bank Network, at (Via E.J. Graff.)

Meanwhile, back in privilege-land, men will now be able to buy Viagra directly online from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. By Linda A. Johnson for the AP. (Via @saltypepper.)

"Flu vaccine experts say H7 viruses appear to be the least immunogenic (immune-response inducing) of the bird flu viruses. In fact, in studies using killed virus vaccine -- the type of vaccine used in seasonal flu shots -- massive doses of serum failed to produce a protective response in most people. Helen Branswell for The Canadian Press delivers bad news about the prospects for a vaccine against the H7N9 bird flu now circulating in China. (Via Laurie Garrett.)

"Instead of an act of bioterrorism, however, it was determined that the anthrax appearance was the result of aural terrorism." At Discover, Rebecca Kreston gives you "a scientific reason to hate drum circles. You're welcome."(Via Maryn McKenna.)

Scicurious outed herself at SciAm this week. You all have been reading her forever, right? If not, hey, why not start with this week's entry in Friday Weird Science: "Are Boobs Better Braless?"

"'That tells you we're not cutting nature at its joints, that it's not an accurate way to categorize,' says Insel." Maia Szalavitz at Time on why the National Institute on Mental Health has announced that it will not use the new edition of the DSM, the mental health diagnostic tome, to guide its research funding.

"Maybe everything isn't hopeless bullshit." Allie Brosh returns to the most-missed place on the internets, Hyperbole and a Half, with a slogan for the ages. Emily Nagoski at the dirty normal calls it "the most amazing pedagogical device in the history of the earth" for teaching about depression.

"Women are looked at. But as an artist, I had permission to look back." Molly Crabapple on drawing, at VICE.

"Do you know how much I read about aging men and their penises and their lust for younger women and their hatred of their castrating wives? I read enough stories about male writing professors having midlife crises and lusting after young students to last me seven lifetimes." Maureen Johnson's fine essay on gendered book covers, accompanied by an absolutely brilliant series of famous book covers redone as they might appear if authored by someone of the opposite gender. If you crave more, here's further discussion of the issue by Allison Flood at The Guardian.

"That’s the way I write. It’s never going to stop. And the more it makes people annoyed the more I will do it. And it’s actually really good writing. I’m a good writer. They should just say that: 'She’s a great writer.' I am." Jamaica Kincaid interviewed by Alyssa Loh at The American Reader. (Via Sarah McCarry.)

Wow, The Hairpin this week. Yi Shun Lai: "For old hands like me, well-meaning bigots are easy to spot, if only because they never know they're doing anything wrong." Nadine Sander-Green: "My parents raised me with such confidence that I didn't notice the years in my late teens when my body ballooned into what my older brother called a big girl figure." And, from Mara Cohen Marks, an incredibly affecting essay: "My Brother, My Mother, and a Call Girl."

Buzzfeed's Jessica Testa with a blazing longform essay about the context behind a televised car chase that led to a live on-air suicide — and her own role in making the video of that suicide go viral: "Why Did Jodon Romero Kill Himself On Live Television?" (Via Susie Cagle.)

"I find Gatsby aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent; I think we kid ourselves about the lessons it contains." Kathryn Schulz with what is likely to be the best takedown of a classic novel you'll read this year.

Finally, for Mother's Day (a holiday which, if you've been around for awhile, you already know what I think about it), the late, great Marjorie Williams at The Washington Post with "A mother's story: The moon to his sun." (Via Elizabeth Lower-Basch.)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Links for the week ending 5 May 2013

The internet was off its game this week, so here's an abbreviated list for your reading perusal.

From Mac McClelland at Mother Jones, an incredible piece about schizophrenia, violence, the defunding of treatment of the severely mentally ill — and her own extended family's tragedies.

"At least four of the captives being force-fed at Guantánamo were cleared for release years ago." The lede on this Carol Rosenberg story at the Miami Herald says it all.

Another profile in courage from the Mexican drug wars: "The Priest Who Travels With Bodyguards," by Melissa del Bosque for The Texas Observer.

"'We didn't hate white people,' she said softly. 'We didn't even know any. We hated the system. That's what we were protesting about.'" At The New Yorker, Charlayne Hunter-Gault writes about the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Children's Crusade.

"'And that's when I realized: We are crushing whatever little destruction the bombers caused — we are crushing it.'" Profile of five blue-collar childhood friends from Stoneham, MA, who were wounded together and swear to recover together. By Sarah Schweitzer and Patricia Wen for The Boston Globe.

"'Mom,' he cried, 'it will be my last call — I'm dying for sure. I am sorry. I tried my best. I cannot breathe.'" Sarah Stillman at The New Yorker on the Bangladesh garment-factory disasters.

"Lawyer Robert Miller has visited five prisons and 17 jails in his lifetime, but he has reviewed only three of them on Yelp." From Caitlin Dewey at The Washington Post. (Via Sarah Zhang.)

From Wendy Kaufman at NPR, a story on how Harvey Mudd College is addressing the computer science gender gap with one brilliantly simple solution: different introductory classes for students with computer experience versus those that have none. (Via Jennifer 8 Lee.)

"Celebrities post banalities because they know people will find it interesting, and teenagers post banalities because they don't know yet that people won't." Great piece by Helena Fitzgerald at The New Inquiry on #followateen. (Via Shani O. Hilton.)

"The Victorian marriage plot is not about celebrating love, but rather about working through a terrifying, risky switch to a brand new idea about marriage." Fascinating essay by Talia Schaffer at Berfrois on how gay marriage is a natural step in a transformation of marriage that has been underway since the 17th century. (Via Maryn McKenna.)

Should you take that criticism seriously? Consult Ann Friedman's Disapproval Matrix to help you decide. (Via Cheryl Strayed.)

Moving piece at Columbia Journalism Review by Sara Morrison on the astonishing body of work produced over the all-too-brief career of multimedia journalist Jessica Lum, who died a few months ago at the age of 25. (Via Marian Wang.)

Heather Havrilesky's Ask Polly column was genuinely great answering the eternal question of how to handle it when one's best friend falls in love with one's sister. At The Awl.

"Though she's unfailingly polite, being in the spotlight makes Ms. Harris uncomfortable. It still surprises her when she's recognized by strangers—'I look like everybody's aunt,' she says, accurately." Alexandra Alter at The Wall Street Journal with a wonderful article about the travails of a best-selling genre author: "How to Kill a Vampire (Series)." (Via Rachel Hartman.)

"At night we dreamed the same dreams of being created, or sea voyages, of hands to smooth our hair." Jia Tolentino single-handedly redeems the internets this week with "The Love Song of the Banana With Dreadlocks." At The Billfold.