Sunday, June 30, 2013

Links for the week ending 30 June 2013

SCOTUS, man. Is it too much to ask that ALL THE NEWS not take place in the same week (that my kids finish school)? Well, let's get at it. "Today a broad majority of the Court reinforced that affirmative action must be strictly reviewed, but it did not outlaw those programs." Amy Howe at the indispensable SCOTUSblog with "The Fisher decision in Plain English."

"The decisions in Vance v. Ball State University (authored by Justice Samuel Alito) and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar (authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy) each watered down the ability for employees to sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of 'race, color, religion, sex or national origin.' Irin Carmon at Salon writes about "How workplace harassers won big."

"Shareholders sue corporations and corporate boards under a pair of laws passed in the 1930s, meaning that their federal statutory rights are no more powerful than those of the merchants who tried to sue Amex under the Sherman Act. So why can’t corporations, as LaCroix suggests, impose mandatory arbitration and class action waivers on shareholders?" Shareholders' rights may not be top on your list of things to worry about these days, but, as Alison Frankel writes at Reuters, last week's Amex decision may mean a reduction in corporate accountability even to their own putative owners.

"…[I]t could also be said that the majority ruling was built more on resentment of a particularly petulant kind: grudging about the need to remember an unpleasant past and to be mindful of the marginalized; offended by the idea that anyone would consider certain parts of the country more racist than others, or, really, that anyone is particularly racist at all these days." Amy Davidson at The New Yorker on the decision that struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act.

"Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law requiring nine states to submit voting law changes to the federal government for pre-clearance, five* are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had already been rejected as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act." Sarah Childress at Frontline on the immediate effects of the VRA decision.

"Pre-clearance was an effective deterrent to discriminatory practices, but threat of swift litigation can also deter those who seek to create barriers to voting. We will need the commitment of an army of civil rights lawyers to begin to bring these cases." Melissa Harris-Perry at MSNBC with a call to lawyer up in the wake of the VRA decision — and a warning that worse decision may come in a case still pending. (Via Dafna Linzer.)

"She clucked like a mother hen, and said, Well, it’s about time people had some sense. You go celebrate tonight, honey. We’re all so happy for you." Before we all give up in utter despair, the one piece of unalloyed good news from This Week In SCOTUS, via an extraordinarily moving personal essay by E.J. Graff at The American Prospect.

"In fact, a coalition of gay rights groups is warning same-sex couples who live in the 35 states that ban gay marriage that they may not be able to access a divorce or be eligible for key federal benefits if they get married in a gay marriage state and then travel home." Uh. Would you believe, mostly unalloyed? By Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News.

"There are currently 96 unpaid special assistant U.S. attorneys working for the department, according to a spokesperson, who said paid assistant U.S attorneys have starting salaries ranging from $44,581 to $117,994." Given all the huge social issues working their way through the U.S. court system these days, isn't it reassuring to know that the sequester has left the Department of Justice advertising for unpaid intern lawyers to do the work? Yeah. By Christie Thompson at ProPublica.

"And it is seeing a court whose secret rulings have in effect created a body of law separate from the one on the books — one that gives U.S. spy agencies the authority to collect bulk information about Americans’ medical care, firearms purchases, credit card usage and other interactions with business and commerce, according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)." By dude Peter Wallsten, Carol D. Leonnig, and Alice Crites for The Washington Post, a look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a body that operates without oversight or accountability. (Via Molly Ball.)

"By 4pm on Monday, after spending 27 consecutive hours inside Sheremetyevo's barely air-conditioned halls, Lidia Kelly, a journalist with Reuters, squinted her eyes in the direction of an overweight senior citizen and asked: 'Wait, is that Julian Assange?'" Some comic relief from Miriam Elder at the Guardian on the hapless journalists trying to catch NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

More drawings from Guantanamo Bay by Molly Crabapple at the Paris Review.

"'I am overwhelmed, honestly,' Davis said after standing for nearly 13 hours to filibuster Senate Bill 5, the abortion legislation. The outpouring of support from protesters at the Capitol and across the nation, she said, 'shows the determination and spirit of Texas women and people who care about Texas women.'" It was only a battle, not the war, that got won, but what a battle it was. Becca Aaronson at The Texas Tribune recaps Tuesday night's bravura performance by reproductive rights advocates at the Texas Capitol. You can learn more about Wendy Davis in this 2011 profile at The Texas Tribune by Emily Ramshaw.

An even more draconian anti-abortion bill passed in Ohio on Friday. On Thursday, Michelle Goldberg described the bill at The Daily Beast. (Via Irin Carmon.)

"If financial relationships influence physicians to choose pricier brand-name drugs that have little benefit over generics, everyone pays the cost – particularly taxpayers, who spent $62 billion last year subsidizing Medicare Part D." Great work by dude Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, and Jennifer LaFleur at ProPublica, matching Medicare prescribing records with payments made to physicians by drug companies.

"By painting Rachel Jeantel as the aggressor, as the one prone to telling lies and spreading untruths, it became easy for the white male defense attorney to treat this 19-year-old, working-class black girl, a witness to the murder of her friend, as hostile, as a threat, as the one who needed to be regulated and contained and put in her place. At Salon, Brittney Cooper analyzes the racially charged treatment of a witness at the trial of George Zimmerman.

"When Glascock explains why he keeps collecting military-style guns, he doesn't bring up self-defense or hunting. His eyes light up when he talks about all the fun ways you can customize an AR-15: flashlights, scopes, night vision, even an attachable beer-bottle opener." By Ailsa Chang at WNCW. (Via Lois Beckett.)

"Powerless to achieve external markers of adulthood like marriage or a steady job, they instead measure their progress by cutting ties, turning inward and numbing themselves emotionally. A grim look at the prospects and coping mechanisms of young people with blue-collar backgrounds, by Jennifer M. Silva at the NYT.

"I know this: living without a door changes a person. As a ten-year-old, I learned to be extremely circumspect. Today, I live with the knowledge that my conversations and exchanges are being monitored by someone else against my will. I’ve learned how to go inside myself, the only place that is – for me, right now – truly private." By Jennifer Jeffrey at Medium, a powerful exploration of how NSA surveillance is as personal as it is political. (Hat tip to @sciwo.)

As Nelson Mandela lies gravely ill, Nilanjana Roy writes this this lyrical tribute to the statesman — and the books that helped shaped him — at "The reader of Robben Island."

"There are a thousand pocket worlds in Johannesburg, rubbing up against each other." From Granta's July issue on travel, Lauren Beukes writes about a refugee neighborhood in South Africa's third-largest city. (Via Kate Webb.)

"Because for every sweet, disarming posture guru, there’s someone whose truthy ways will kill you in a sweat lodge." Sally Adee at The Last Word on Nothing writing about standing desks — and the importance of learning to evaluate the difference between snake oil and science.

"It felt almost transgressive to think that I could just build the family I wanted on my own." At The Hairpin, Jia Tolentino interviews a British woman about her decision to have children via an anonymous sperm donor.

"If we were the Doctor, we could bring down the government with the help of a feisty sidekick and a satsuma, but we aren’t, and we don’t have a Tardis, so we have to go the long way round. Laurie Penny on the vehemence of the opposition to the idea that the next Doctor Who should be a woman and/or a person of color.

"Anne of Green Gables is like a rural Canadian book of Genesis with Anne as a more enthusiastic Adam, naming to connect rather than command." Sarah Mesle with a very smart appreciation of L.M. Montgomery's most famous series, at the Los Angeles Review of Books. (Via Nicole Cliffe.)

"You begin to believe that instead of being everywhere like you'd thought, real friends are rare. There should be a click when you meet a real friend, like the sound of a safe being unlocked in a heist movie—all the burglars suddenly elated, the suspense relieved." Finally, Mary Mann on the quest for not love but friendship in the big city.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Links for the week ending 23 June 2013

All NSA, all the time. (I <3 you, faceless government bureaucrats monitoring me on the internets!) "The National Security Agency may keep the e-mails and telephone calls of citizens and legal residents if the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence” or evidence of a crime, according to classified documents that lay out procedures for targeting foreigners and for guarding Americans’ privacy. Ellen Nakashima and dudes Barton Gellman and Greg Miller for The Washington Post on the parameters of the NSA's surveillance programs.

Did you learn something from that article? Appreciate the reporting that got that information to you? "In addition, in several cases, the FBI obtained reporters’ phone records by using this method, including the Post’s Ellen Nakashima and the Times’s Jane Perlez." Marcy Wheeler at The Nation with a brief history of other recent government surveillance programs and the abuses committed under them. (Via Maria Bustillos.)

"They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for 'high-risk persons or behaviors' among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage." Marisa Taylor and dude Jonathan S. Landay for McClatchy on how the Obama Administration's program to crack down on leaks requires government employees to monitor and inform on one another. (Via Cora Currier.)

"Despite the perception that the United States and the Arab and Muslim world operate in opposition to one another, the two regions are inextricably connected via the Arab and Muslim communities who immigrated, or are the descendants of immigrants to the United States." Even if you believe the line that the NSA is only sweeping up the communications of Americans to and from people outside the United States, Anna Lekas Miller reminds us at the Guardian that the vast majority of those are between family and friends. (Via Kristen Gwynne.)

"It’s that in the world’s most surveillance-heavy metropolis, in a city that unironically welcomed tourists to the Olympics with a mascot of a lidless panopticon eyeball dressed as a police officer, it usually doesn’t occur to us to be anything other than compliant." Laurie Penny at The New Statesman.

"Secret government programs that pry into people’s private affairs are bound up with ideas about secrecy and privacy that arose during the process by which the mysterious became secular." Finally, Jill Lepore at The New Yorker with a history of government snooping.

National treasure Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald reports on the results of her Freedom of Information Act request that publicly identifies for the first time the four dozen captives held at Guantánamo as "indefinite detainees," who cannot be tried in a court of law.

There were plenty of good reasons to avoid VICE this week, but Molly Crabapple's sketches from Guantánamo are worth making exceptions for.

"Since FY 2009, there have been 326 substantiated cases of sexually-related offenses against recruits, out of an estimated 9,500 recruiters, Pentagon officials say." Suzy Khimm at MSNBC reporting on an "inappropriate sexual relationship" between an Army recruiter and a 17-year-old recruit, culminating in the murder of the teenager and the suicide of the recruiter.

"Stifled by an increasingly authoritarian government, shut out of the mass media public sphere, unrepresented by spectacularly incompetent opposition parties, people in Turkey who are increasingly worried about the country’s direction and their own lives are trying to find ways to express their discontent and to draw a line in the sand." At DMLcentral, Zeynep Tufekci writes about how Taksim Square's standing man became the focal point of public protest, using mass media — and silence.

"Our relationship with China is too important to allow the human rights agenda to be so unduly influenced by one contingent. The one-child policy and abortions can and should be a part of our human rights agenda, but it should not be the exclusive focus. Or if it is, that consensus should be reached in a more democratic process not just by default because no one paid attention." Surprising piece at China Law & Policy by Elizabeth M. Lynch about the degree to which the story about NYU and activist Chen Guangcheng actually revolves around antiabortion politicians in Congress. (Via Melissa Chan.)

"Since the emergence of the Tea Party, there have been plenty of politicians who have rocketed to sudden stardom, but only Paul has managed to leverage his popularity into actual institutional power. Julia Ioffe's cover-story profile of Rand Paul at The New Republic.

This week in Corporations Have More Rights Than You Do: "Despite dicta in previous Supreme Court cases that suggested arbitration clauses are not enforceable when it is prohibitively expensive for claimants to enforce their rights through the arbitration process, the five justices in the Amex majority held that plaintiffs who sign arbitration agreements don’t have the right to pursue their claims on anything but an individual basis, even if the cost of that pursuit dwarfs their potential recovery." Alison Frankel for Reuters.

"The suit further alleges that the fees reduce the actual wages workers receive—in some cases bringing them below minimum wage, which in Pennsylvania remains at the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour." Sarah Jaffe on a class-action lawsuit (you know, the kind of thing the Supreme Court keeps making it more difficult to do?) against a McDonald's that required its employees to accept payment in the form of a JPMorgan Chase debit card, which accrues fees for every use. (Hat tip to Jill Heather, who practically compiled the list for me this week!)

Further news from the Supreme Court that is more ominous than it appears: "What would it take for Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to side with the court’s liberal justices and a coalition of left-leaning groups — including advocates for sex workers — as they did in a decision released today? Answer: if it’s about resisting the federal government attaching ideological conditions to its funds." Irin Carmon at Salon.

"A number of recent studies on neurobiology and trauma show that the ways in which the brain processes harrowing events accounts for victim behavior that often confounds cops, prosecutors, and juries." Rebecca Ruiz for Slate on why rape victims are so frequently perceived as being unbelievable. (Hat tip to Anne Jefferson.)

"Yet even with relatively low vaccination rates in the United States, infection with the viral strains that cause cancer dropped to 3.6 percent among girls ages 14 to 19 in 2010, from 7.2 percent in 2006, the officials said." On the unexpected effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, by Sabrina Tavernise at the NYT. Worth reading even though I really, really, really think "resistance to the vaccine" is a poor choice of words in context. (Don't worry, she didn't mean that HPV has become resistant to the vaccine.) (Hat tip to @sciwo.)

"As horrible as that moment was — it will live with me forever — I am grateful. We made sure our son was not born only to suffer. He died in a warm and loving place, inside me." Judy Nicastro at The New York Times writes about her late-term abortion, and why the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" create a false opposition. (Via Amy Davidson.)

"The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830." This edition of Seriously, WHAT? of the week brought to you by Jean Twenge at The Atlantic. (Via Jessica Valenti.)

"It is appalling that an institution responsible for preparing young women for adult life has actively opposed our feminist work. I feel like the school is not supporting its girls in a crucial part of their evolution into being strong, assertive, confident women. If that's the case for a well-established girls' school, what hope does this generation of women have in challenging the misogyny that still pervades our society?" All right, the story in this op-ed at the Guardian by 17-year-old Jinan Younis may topple the previously declared winner of the Seriously, WHAT? category this week. (Hat tip to Jill Heather.)

Point: "One explanation for this assumption is that the type of 'serious' journalism that women’s magazines do—an article about the Chinese marriage crisis in Marie Claire, a profile of political brothers Julian and Joaquin Castro in Vogue, a piece about how to spot an ovarian cyst in Cosmo—isn’t respected as much as the 'serious' journalism in men’s magazines." By Jessica Grose at The New Republic. (Via Rebecca Traister.)

Counterpoint: "I hope we can also take this opportunity to question why women’s writing is aligned so heavily with personal essays and service journalism—the forms that are the cheapest and ad-friendliest to produce." Amanda Hess at Slate. (Hat tip to Jody Timmins.)

"Among the lucky candidates: the first female fighter pilot to become an astronaut in nearly two decades. A female helicopter pilot also is in the group. In fact, four of the eight are women, the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected by NASA." At least someone has figured out how to manage gender parity! From Marcia Dunn at the AP.

"While people of color, individually and as groups, have been helped by affirmative action in the subsequent years, data and studies suggest women — white women in particular — have benefited disproportionately." While we wait for the Supreme Court decision that may end affirmative action, Sally Kohn at Time notes how effective the policy has been at helping… white women. (Via Mac McClelland.)

"Losing your homeland is almost like losing an appendage. The phantom ache sometimes becomes too much to bear. The feeling of dislocation all-consuming. But still we keep coming, looking for a better life, hoping the pursuit does not break us beyond repair." Karolina Waclawiak on immigrants at The Rumpus.

"He was still in the habit of waking up at four or five am then, and hours later while I blearily poured myself coffee, he’d cheerily rattle off his latest figures, showing me his equations—what he got if he included all his sick days, or if he took absolutely no vacation days. Then he’d pause, lean back, and announce the point of all his work: 'Only eight hundred more days that I have to go in and deal with all those bastards.'" From two weeks ago at Vela, Amanda Giracca on working, living, and adulthood.

"Any person’s independent productivity depends not upon the head count of her children but the sum of her free hours." Rebecca Mead at The New Yorker, saying things that ought to be — but are, alas, not — obvious. (Hat tip to Jody again!)

"The roadrunner neither smashed into the painting nor fell through it, but ran into it and vanished around the painted bend. When the coyote attempted to follow him, he broke through the painting, plummeted, was smashed up, and then, yet again, as always, he was resurrected. Your door is my wall; your wall is my door." Posted last month at Guernica, an except from Rebcca Solnit's new book, The Faraway Nearby.

Finally, deep thanks to Jill Heather for this gem of a comic about the goddess Anu-Anulan in love. By Emily Carroll.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Links for the week ending 16 June 2013

Another week, another slew of depressing world events. Let's talk about surveillance, baby. Start with "Surveillance: A Taxonomy of Known Knowns and Known Unknowns," by Julia Angwin, who writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal on privacy issues but posts this extraordinarily useful public-service cheat sheet to her own blog.

"If there’s fallout, if there’s blowback, I would absolutely do it again, because I think this information should be public. Whatever part I had in helping to do that I think is a service. At Salon, Irin Carmon interviews documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who was co-credited on both the Guardian's story and the Washington Post story about NSA monitoring of Americans' phone and internet communications.

"But the decision has had lasting repercussions for the dozens of companies that store troves of their users’ personal information and receive these national security requests — it puts them on notice that they need not even try to test their legality." At The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller reports on the 2008 secret court decision that forced Yahoo into cooperating with the surveillance program, Prism.

"But when you go to a news site to read about PRISM — including — you’re watched by dozens of commercial data trackers, mostly marketing or analytics firms and advertising networks. Caitlin Dewey at The Washington Post on the commercial databases that watch your every move online. (Via Dan Sinker.)

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker and Laurie Penny at the New Statesman both unravel some of the underlying power structures fueling surveillance and the response to whistleblowers, taking on class status and patriarchy, respectively.

At The Atlantic, Rebecca J. Rosen offers a useful summary of Daniel J. Solove's argument that the literary model we should turn to in understanding the threat that government surveillance presents is not Orwell's 1984, but Kafka's The Trial.

Lastly, one more explainer: at ProPublica, Quinn Norton describes metadata, message, cryptography — and what you can do if more privacy (er, any privacy) is what you need.Read it; there are lolcats.

"The photocopies of the manual lay in heaps on the floor, in stacks that scaled one wall, like Xeroxed, stapled handouts for a class." Returning to the reasons why government started spying on us in the first place! The AP's Rukmini Callimachi is back this week with more dumpster-dived documents from al-Qaeda in Mali, documents that suggest that the group now possesses and is training members in the use of shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles capable of bringing down a commercial airliner.

Two from Turkey. "'One of my friends saw himself on television. He was kicking a woman who was lying on the ground. "Oh, God," he said, "that can’t be me, I don’t remember kicking this woman, how can a human being act that way?"'" From Elif Batuman at The New Yorker.

"I obtained records, however, from the hospitals in my neighbourhood, which is close to Taksim Square. I was stunned by what I read: each hospital listed hundreds of injuries — ‘A 22-year-old male has lost his left eye due to a plastic bullet … a 19-year-old male is being watched closely with a subdural haematoma diagnosis … trauma in the testicle … trauma of the left eye … has lost all eyesight … maxillo-facial trauma … brain haemorrhage … life-threatening condition…’" From Claire Berlinski at The Spectator. (Via Elif Batuman.)

"A Navy doctor at Guantanamo who refused to have his face photographed and called himself "'Cmdr. SMO," short for Senior Medical Officer, told visiting reporters in September 2010 that one captive hadn't consumed solid food for four years at that point." Carol Rosenberg reports on a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine calling on Navy doctors to halt their facilitation of forced feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo.

"Throngs of photographers clicked their shutters in flurried bursts and reporters bumped elbows at the press tables, as each ribbon-bedecked witness declared that to deprive commanders of the right to adjudicate sex-crimes cases would lead to the breakdown of “good order and discipline” in the ranks, a breakdown that Gillibrand and other women on the committee concluded had long ago occurred, given the statistics offered in the May Pentagon report. For RH Reality Check, Adele M. Stan pulls no punches in reporting on the Senate's conduct over measures to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.

"One ordered mentally challenged inmates to sing “I’m a little teapot” in order to improve their living conditions and get more mental-health treatment. One inmate told DOJ investigators that he had tried, but couldn’t remember the song." By Sarah Childress at Frontline, a report on the abusive — and ineffective — conditions of solitary confinement in prisons in Pennsylvania and around the nation.

Six months later, two stories from the Newtown Bee. By Ana Radelat, on Newtown residents who have become determined lobbyists, "'Before the worries were about drinking and driving and maybe checking the kids for ticks,' Ms Murray said. 'It’s all different now.'" Second, "What the grieving families with whom we share a terrible bond all know is that they did not fail their children in the hours and moments before their deaths. What they now expect is for the government to do its job and to care for families throughout this country – any one of us – who could be the next victims of random and tragic gun violence. " By Gabrielle Giffords and Roxana Green. (Via Jo Ling Kent.)

"There are 600 Filipino teachers who paid up to $8,000 each in fees to work in Baltimore schools. In El Paso, two school administrators were sentenced to probation for their role in a human trafficking case in which 273 Filipinos paid $10,000 apiece for teaching jobs, but arrived to find fewer than 100 positions available." From Farah Stockman at The Boston Globe, a piece that asks the mind-boggling question, "Is your child's teacher a victim of human trafficking?"

"Drought is different along the border." Fascinating piece by Priscilla Mosqueda at The Texas Observer on the failure of South Texas farmland, and the international treaties that govern the uses of the Rio Grande. (Via Melissa del Bosque.)

"We are opening the box on Schrödinger’s cat every time we flip a coin or check the weather, and countless other times during every day. Jennifer Ouellette at Nautilus on how the uncertainty in even large-scale systems ultimately derives from quantum probabilities.

"When it comes to our guilt or innocence as parents, we are at the mercy of chance." Also at Nautilus, an extraordinary essay by Claire Creffield about the moral hazards of parenthood.

"For me there’s a layer of consciousness on it, that really is looking to build gender equity as opposed to gender equality. At Colorlines, Julianne Hing interviews author and publisher Janine Macbeth about engaged fatherhood — and bringing to life books despite a lack of interest from white publishers.

" It deserves to be listed on bridal registries — gay and straight. It could single-spine-edly replace at least a quarter of the sexual self-help section and the world would be better for it. It is a revelation, a story of redemption." At Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory really, really, really recommends Daniel Bergner's new book on women's sexuality.

"If you're confused about how airplanes stay up, you don't fucking e-mail Richard Branson. And if you did, and you didn't hear back, you wouldn't assume that he isn't really committed to making airplanes stay up—or that airplanes aren't really in the sky." Lindy West at Jezebel is really, really, really tired of the gazillion derailing emails demanding that she prove sexism to their respective writers.

"In many, many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie in the theater and see a current movie about a woman — any story about any woman that isn't a documentary or a cartoon — you can't. You cannot. There are not any." Linda Holmes at NPR. (Hat tip to Rachel Hartman.)

"Six Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman," by Renee Lupica for The Hairpin.

"Look to the shawls; let them show you the way." Finally, and I say this as someone could not roll her eyes hard enough at Stevie Nicks back in my angry adolescent years, Jada Yuan's New York Magazine profile of the fairy godmother of rock music is absolutely the best thing you are going to read this week, or possibly ever. (Via Rebecca Traister.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Links for the week ending 9 June 2013

"The arrangement with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, the country's three largest phone companies means, that every time the majority of Americans makes a call, NSA gets a record of the location, the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation, according to people familiar with the matter." The news of the week, as reported first by The Guardian and The Washington Post, here summed up by Siobahn Gorman, Evan Perez, and Janet Hook at The Wall Street Journal.

"This Administration seems to have forgotten that Americans have a perfect right to keep secrets." Is there anyone better than The New Yorker's Amy Davidson at articulating the heart of the matter within a few hours of news breaking?

"Metadata, she pointed out, can be so revelatory about whom reporters talk to in order to get sensitive stories that it can make more traditional tools in leak investigations, like search warrants and subpoenas, look quaint." Jane Meyer, also at The New Yorker.

"Now that Americans know they are being subjected to wholesale interception of their communications, we need a new Church Committee to investigate and limit the NSA’s powers." At Bloomberg, Cardozo School of Law professor Susan Crawford makes the case for Congressional action about NSA overreach.

"And citizens deserve the most full-throated defense of public affairs reporting and open government we can muster." UW professor Kathleen Bartzen Culver writes about a proposal in the Wisconsin state legislature prohibiting public universities from having anything to do with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. (Via Deborah Blum.)

Without investigative journalism, you get this: "Perhaps one of the most striking attempts to pierce and criticize the veil of censorship on Turkish media came from a quiz show host, Ali İhsan Varol, whose “Guess the Word” program airs on weeknights." From Zeynep Tufekci at her blog. (Hat tip to Jill Heather.)

"Around one, a tremendous racket broke out as people all over the city started beating on cymbals, pots, pans, and metal street signs; I saw one man looking around in vain for a stick, and then cheerfully starting to bang his head against a metal storefront shutter." The inimitable Elif Batuman describes the scene from Istanbul protests for The New Yorker.

"'We don’t force-feed right now at Gitmo,' the Marine general said. Instead, he adopted the Guantánamo euphemism that what troops down there are actually doing is 'enterally feeding' the hunger striker, a military medial [sic] term for the tube-snaking procedure." Carol Rosenberg for The Miami Herald. Also read this fascinating interview at Poynter with Rosenberg, who has been covering the Guantánamo story for twelve years. "'The only people who have been at Gitmo longer than me are the prisoners.'"

"Street after deserted street lay in ruins, windows blown out, facades crumpled and trees blackened and burnt. The dome of the local mosque was damaged by rocket fire, and the walls of a church smashed open." Mariam Karouny reports for Reuters on the capture by Syrian government forces of the border town of Qusair from rebels.

"Kalkyi was uneducated. The Chinese government shut down Tibetan-language schools in the 1990s, so she never learned how to write, and she never attended the Chinese-language schools the government opened in their place." Some seriously badass reporting from China by Reuters' Sui-Lee Wee on young Tibetan mothers who set themselves on fire to protest Chinese repression. (Via Jim Roberts.)

In a week that saw the announcement that Philadelphia will be laying off 20% of its public school teachers this summer, Rania Khalek points out: "Education privatization advocates and prison industry profiteers share the same target demographic: poor communities of color." (Via Audrey Watters.)

"Now Wall Street’s invasion of the cul-de-sac is about to enter a second phase as the money men offer income-starved retail investors new securities–REITs and bonds–backed by single-family rental homes." From Morgan Brennan at Forbes, a report on Wall Street's latest scheme to securitize everything, in this case, foreclosed homes rehabbed and placed on the rental market. What could go wrong? (Via Jo Ling Kent.)

The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4 percent of donations raised to direct cash aid. Some charities give even less. Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients. Six spent nothing at all on direct cash aid." From Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart at, respectively, the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, a multi-part blockbuster series about fraudulent charities that rake in cash for their owners and telemarketing solicitors. (Via Martine Powers.)

"The high price paid for colonoscopies mostly results not from top-notch patient care, according to interviews with health care experts and economists, but from business plans seeking to maximize revenue; haggling between hospitals and insurers that have no relation to the actual costs of performing the procedure; and lobbying, marketing and turf battles among specialists that increase patient fees. " From Elizabeth Rosenthal at The New York Times, inflated prices for one common medical procedure are a symptom of how utterly dysfunctional a supposedly free-market health care system is. (Old blog-buddies should carefully scan the names here to spot one of our own!)

"Brannock’s occupational therapist even baked her a footlong dragonfly cookie, colorfully frosted." On the other hand, this profile of the final marathon bombing victim released from the hospital by the Boston Globe's Bella English shows American medicine at its finest.

Can you imagine how the corporate leadership at Target would freak out if we tried this in the U.S.? "The maternity package - a gift from the government - is available to all expectant mothers. It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress." On how Finland has achieved one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates, by Helena Lee for the BBC.

"'The exciting thing about these results is the second we turn on the light, the animal stops doing the abnormal thing. It’s immediate,' said Ann Graybiel, a neuroscientist at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT." For The Boston Globe, Carolyn Y. Johnson reports on a new study in which scientists stopped mice from engaging in OCD behaviors with a flash of light.

"Jailing us would be cheap—generally speaking, the student-loan-debt population is already literate, so we wouldn’t need education classes, although woodshop or small engine repair would be handy." A modest proposal from Michelle Crouch at The Billfold.

"Have you always lived your life the way you Prancercise?" Still loving Jia Tolentino's interviews, this week at The Hairpin with a 61-year-old Florida woman who invented an exercise routine inspired by, you know, horses.

"Google tells me that your wife earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate, and built an impressive resume in research, conference planning and social action. Do you still think of her graduate studies as a waste of time? At The Washington Post, Phyllis Richman finally writes back to the Harvard professor who in 1961 asked her to write a letter to the admissions committee explaining "how you might plan to combine a professional life in city planning with your responsibilities to your husband and a possible future family?" (Via Virginia C. McGuire.)

"'This is Ghandi, I hope everybody here knows who Ghandi is,' one of them said, bewilderingly, at the start of a narcoleptic speech entirely free of politics or cryptography, the single message of which was: 'We're a-gonna get rich, boys.'" Maria Bustillos attends the Bitcoin 2013 conference and reports back for The Awl.

"Each of the two-dozen boats at the party had a name—Bayesian Conspiracy, Snuggly Nemo, Magic Carpet, Mini-ocracy—and each name a personality to match, conveyed by the resident boaters’ choice of drug, beverage, or degree of exhibitionism." Amazing piece by Atossa Abrahamian at n+1on the libertarian utopianism that calls itself Seasteading (also check the photo at the top, which is credited to — you guessed it — Liz Henry).

"By this rationale, to stand among the top ranks of American literature (that is, make it into the Room) you must write in a certain way, but a woman who does so engages in a form of literary transvestism that may dazzle lesser critics but is not going to pass muster with Adam Kirsch, thank you very much." Ferocious and wonderful Laura Miller piece at Salon on the (male) critical response to Rachel Kushner's novel The Flamethrowers. (Via Cheryl Strayed.)

"'Colombia, Magical Realism' was unveiled in April and will run in thirty countries. According to its website, the slogan is built onto the campaign behind 'The Answer is Colombia,' and was “conceived to pique foreign tourist’s interest in having "different", "magic", "unique" and "surprising" experiences.'" Finally, at Guernica, Nina Martyris on Colombia's new tourism campaign — and its roots in the work of its favorite son, Gabriel García Márquez. (Via Nilanjana Roy.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Links for the week ending 2 June 2013

"In page after scathing page, they described how he didn't answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders." The most amazing story of the week, from badass AP correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, on the HR woes of the world's largest terrorist organization.

"'If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,' he said. 'If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.'" Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post on the implications of Chinese hacking into U.S. major weapons systems.

"Clarence Martin of the state's Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office said people deserve to know what's in their neighborhoods. But, he added, 'I'm not going to let you tell them.'" From a team of AP reporters including Dina Cappiello and Ramit Plushnick-Masti, an overview of how regulators keep quiet the existence of facilities storing hundreds of thousands of pounds of explosive chemicals — like the ones that blew up in West, Texas — within a quarter-mile of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and residential neighborhoods. (Via Rukmini Callimachi.)

"These are all good ideas, but the first step must be a commitment to ensuring that we don’t have two separate criminal defense systems—one for the rich and one for the poor." From Tamar Birckhead, who was the public defender assigned to shoe-bomber Richard Reid, a compelling argument for why the right to effective legal counsel is essential. (Via Liliana Segura.)

"'If law enforcement had used a Google-style big-data analysis, chances are that they might have prevented the Boston bombing from happening.'" Kim Zetter on which technological solutions failed — and which ones worked — during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

"While the activities of the Agriculture Department don’t always garner a lot of attention, a highly questionable decision it recently made to help wealthy speculators could, over time, cost anyone who buys food." From Lina Khan at Salon, policy decisions being made because… nothing makes for contented citizenry like wildly fluctuating food prices, right? (Via Laurie Garrett.)

"Treviño said it was his prerogative as sheriff to move Flores to another position. 'I’m the elected sheriff, and I can assign anywhere I want any time I want.'" Another story of the perils of blowing the whistle on illegal police actions, this one from Hidalgo Co., Texas. By Melissa del Bosque for The Texas Observer.

"Looking on was a stylish 32-year-old woman named Ghazal, who made the startling choice a year ago to give up her job as a United Nations bureaucrat to launch a new career as a party planner, and appears to have made it a roaring, war-time success." Ruth Sherlock for the Telegraph on the people who fiddle while Damascus burns. (Via Erin Cunningham.)

"Now Smithfield's move to eliminate ractopamine from more than half of its operations is likely to intensify questions both about the safety of medicated additives and about the livestock industry's increasing reliance on Big Pharma to help engineer the perfect pig - bigger and cheaper than ever." From P.J. Huffstutter and Lisa Baertlein at Reuters, an analysis of a Chinese company's acquisition of America's largest pork producer — and how it may have depended on the company's willingness to eliminate an FDA-approved pharmaceutical feed additive deemed too dangerous by China. (Via Maryn McKenna.)

"The furor has left many of these scientists confused. They see drones as 'co-scientists,' as Chen put it—friendly and reliable tools that can gather data efficiently and quickly in places scientists just can’t get to." Liz Godwin at Yahoo! News attended the International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems this week.

"The whole idea of the exchanges was to create an even playing field for health insurance plans, where competition could drive down premiums. Sarah Kilff at The Washington Post on the competition that is not shaping up to offer health insurance in New Hampshire.

H7N9 bird flu virus develops resistance to Tamiflu "not infrequently." "And study of other H7 viruses suggest this flu family does not trigger development of high levels of protective antibodies from vaccine." La la la la, I can't hear Helen Branswell for The Canadian Press this week.

On the other hand, good news! Maybe you don't need to have nightmares about "frankenfish" after all, or so says Deborah Zabarenko at Reuters.

"While advocates cheer and politicians congratulate themselves for a new environmentally friendly initiative, it's worth asking if a 'green' transportation system built with underpaid workers in unhealthy conditions is truly sustainable." On the other other hand, your fabulous urban bike-share company employs the same dubious and/or illegal labor practices as any other corporation, reports Sarah Jaffe at In These Times.

"The first stage in the therapy is for the patient to create a computer-based avatar by choosing a face and a voice for the entity they believe is talking to them." Kate Kelland reports from Reuters reports on a study that found schizophrenics could learn to successfully manage their hallucinations of voices using avatars. I am totally picturing the (late, lamented) Glitch avatars in the role.

"The white mothers in my neighborhood not only assumed my mom was my brother’s nanny, but they inquired after her services.." Meagan Hatcher-Mays at Jezebel on why a new Cheerios ad portraying an interracial family eating breakfast is "a big fucking deal." (Via Kate Sheppard.)

"Kids become coders because they are friends with other coders or are born into coder families, which is why the networks can become exclusionary even when there is no explicit racism and sexism involved." Mimi Ito on why Silicon Valley would be better served by reaching beyond its traditional constituency in the U.S. rather than pursuing avenues for importing coding talent from abroad. (Via Audrey Watters.)

"These are monuments to losses that we may not even realize we have sustained. A lovely little piece by Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic Cities on the recent work of Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"This is life in fire country: Looking forward to an app that will warn you when your house might be burning down." Knockout multimedia piece by journalist/cartoonist Susie Cage at Grist, about her family's history with California wildfires.

"'I told her in no uncertain terms that he sounded like a hysterical fanatic and that I couldn’t understand how an educated, highly intelligent person like her could possibly be impressed by him. She told me that I was not able to appreciate his greatness because I had Jewish blood.'" At The New Yorker, Helen Epstein tracks down the "Jewish friend" to whom a German woman's memoir of her Nazi adolescence was addressed. (Via Ruth Graham.)

"But behind closed doors—deep in the annals of my mind, riding back to my Harlem apartment on the subway at night, drunk on whiskey with Andrew at a neighborhood bar—I questioned his motives: Why why why?" Powerful essay about being an Army wife by Simone Gorrindo at Vela. (Via Logan Sachon.)

I’m trying to find a really confident artistic voice before I put myself out there, because it’s so easy for people to squash you. I want to make sure that what I make is something I really have the goods to back up." When (if?) my kids move on from their John-and-Hank-Green obsession, I will heartily endorse them obsessing over Emma Watson and/or Tavi Gevinson, who are both delightful in this conversation at Rookie.

"'I decided to just put myself out there,' she says. 'When I'm in a dress, it's like, "What am I doing in this?" I feel trapped, like I'm in shackles and handcuffs and a straitjacket. So I was just like, F--- it, I'm going to wear what I want. I caught hell for it, but it felt so good being myself.'" Amazing profile of the first major athlete to begin a professional career already out of the closet, women's basketball superstar Brittney Griner, by Kate Fagan at ESPN. (Via E.J. Graff.)

"It's not even remotely like a real class." Maria Bustillos at The Verge loves the MOOC she took on Ancient Greece, but concludes that it's far more useful as adult-ed enrichment than it could be for young students who haven't already acquired critical thinking and research skills.

"The only clear truth each of my jobs has taught me is that the working life—'real' life—is just as important as the writing life. Here’s why: they’re the same thing." Manjula Martin at Virginia Quarterly Review on class, writing, and work. (Via Sarah McCarry.)

"When she wrote him, uncharacteristically down, 'Here I am sixty-one (it looks worse spelled out in words) and only six novels published – no husband, no children,' he wrote back, 'Didn't J. Austen write six novels, and not have a husband or children?'" Petition to make the day of publication of any new article by Carrie Frye at The Awl — like this one on British novelist Barbara Pym — a national holiday. Who's with me?