Sunday, January 19, 2014

Links for the week ending 19 January 2014

"The most glaring omission in Obama's announcement was any recommendation on where Americans' phone records should be kept if they are no longer housed by the government. A presidential review board recommended moving the data to the phone providers or a third party, but both options present obstacles." Julie Pace for the AP on Friday's presidential press conference announcing surveillance reforms.

"On a Guantanamo media tour last week with two other journalists, I took a shot and asked for an interview with a prisoner. The answer was an emphatic no. The military cited the Geneva Conventions to explain why. Article 13 of the third convention, adopted in 1949, says prisoners of war must be protected from 'insults and public curiosity.'" Liz Goodwin reports from Guantanamo for Yahoo News.

"Every two hundred yards is another shanty town -- tents, kids not in school, tiny stoves meant for wood but now burning plastic bags. The refugees know this will kill them. They do it anyway. They have no choice." At Medium, Molly Crabapple visits with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

"'We just want to eat and drink, and we have no money,' he said. 'What have we done to be part of this?' he added, breaking into sobs. 'It is nothing to do with us.'" Liz Sly and dude Ahmed Ramadan at the Washington Post on the reports of starvation deaths among Palestinian refugees on the edge of Damascus.

"He sums up his opinion of the Environmental Protection department’s enforcement efforts quickly. 'If I were to give you one word, it would be "disgraceful,"' Spadaro says. 'They are not an aggressive agency. They don’t do their job of protecting the public.'" Excellent background piece on West Virginia water contamination by Sarah Goodyear at Next City.

"Cece will suffer the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction and incarceration for years to come. This is what I call the ‘invisible shackles of the carceral state.’" At Prison Culture, a repudiation of the word "free" as applied to Cece McDonald and millions of other formerly incarcerated people.

"'It’s not romantic, but it doesn’t matter,' she said. 'I just want people to realize it’s about the alone time with your husband. I understand they are in there for a reason. Obviously they did something wrong. But they are human, too. So are we.'" Kim Severson at the NYT reporting on Mississippi's decision to end the practice of conjugal visits for prison inmates.

"J.P. gently chides his mother for her tendency to assume the worst, and says her worried texts make her sometimes seem like a lunatic. But Norden, who laughs at herself too, can't help it. She never thought the worst could happen to her sons, and it did." Moving piece by Alana Semuels for the Los Angeles Times on the after-effects of terror on one Massachusetts family.

"'I have the benefit of resources here,' Schellenger said. 'They're a few miles down the road, and you might as well be on the other side of the world.'" Short and to the point, Kristen Graham for the Philadelphia Inquirer contrasts the fortunes of an excellent suburban high school with those of schools in Philadelphia itself.

"The effect of '16 and Pregnant' could account for about one-third of the decline during an 18-month period through 2010, the study found. The measured impact on fertility was greatest for black teenagers, who tend to be more likely to have children than their white and Asian counterparts." Annie Lowrey writes for the NYT on the surprising reduction in teen pregnancy rates attributable to a series on MTV.

"'After we got our 10th daughter, we really expected to have a son,' she says. 'But again, a girl came - the 11th. My husband took her and, without my consent, he took her to the midwife, Mrs Song.'" At the South China Morning Post magazine, Korean adoptee Agn├Ęs Dherbeys talks to Korean birth parents. (Via Leta Hong Fincher.)

"But babies are medieval. They are from another time, which hasn't changed and moved on with the West. Everything else has been tinkered with until is it as convenient as possible - except babies." Esther Walker at the Australian publication Women's Agenda, writing about "What no one tells you about motherhood." (Via Emily Gould, who wondered if this was an accurate picture of new motherhood. Those of you who've been around since the mommyblogging days of yore can join me in the resounding chorus of YES.)

"As with smoking, there are many corporations that benefit from sleeplessness, he said. While we’re sleeping, we can’t be shopping or working. And what would happen to sales of coffee, energy drinks, and sleeping pills if we all suddenly started getting adequate sleep?" Karen Weintraub at The Boston Globe on a new public health campaign aimed at convincing Americans to get more sleep. (I'm sure the medieval babies, above, will be consulted on this campaign.)

I honestly could not choose between the several great pieces posted this week to Carolyn Y. Johnson's consistently fascinating Science In Mind blog, at Discrimination at Airbnb? A new drug that could erase traumatic memories? Crowdsourced radiation monitoring of Fukushima's effects on the West Coast? Ancient fish fossils revealing the development of limbs from fins? Yes, please.

"To sum up: glass has no minerals, it has no order, it can deform like a liquid on very long timescales, it breaks on short ones. My office window was less solid than it appeared." I think this, by vulcanologist Lynne Elkins, is my favorite of all the Gal Science pieces The Toast has thus far published.

"'He was very focused on the job. He didn’t need to look at the instructions as he worked,' she said. 'When he was finished, you could see he was very happy and proud of himself, and so were we. He almost did a happy dance.'" Delightful story by Laurie Monsebraaten for the Toronto Star. (Via @pourmecoffee.)

"What Doctor Who and Sherlock offer us right now is a chance to see what modern fan fiction would look like if it was written by well-paid, well-respected middle-aged men with a big fat budget. That sort of fanfiction is usually referred to simply as 'fiction'." Wonderfully on-point critique by Laurie Penny at the New Statesman.

"Sometimes I told myself these were my woods, my old running grounds, and so I was obliged to clean them. I also enjoyed the element of absurdity. Picking up condoms, without pay, was funny. (Condoms themselves are funny.)" By far the most original thing I've read all week: Elizabeth Royte at Medium on the adventures of volunteer litter-cleaners in the secluded sex-cruising nooks of a New York City park. (Via Sarah Zhang.)

"Lisa Adams is not a press release, and is not optimized so that a journalist can swoop in, spend a few hours and understand the conversation and the community of sharing, education and support that has grown around her and other cancer patients, families, and other ordinary people." Everyone and their mother had an opinion piece this week about Bill and Emma Keller's ethics-free attacks on Lisa Bonchek Adams. At Medium, Zeynep Tufekci covers all the major points with her usual incisive intelligence.

"The fact that there has been no improvement in thirty-five years can only really mean two things:
1) Those who have promised to bring about change were insincere.
2) Those who have promised to bring about change were not very smart.
You choose.
" Director Lexi Alexander is not pulling any punches talking about how Hollywood treats women, and the result is a must-read.

"Religion. Politics. The Oxford comma. These things should not be discussed in polite company, particularly by people who have strong feelings about them." Callie Leuck at Tin House, giving a fuck about an Oxford comma.

"One would like it to be true; it’s a very nice idea, that there is such a thing as an incorruptible person for whom everything will — everything must — come right in the end." Maria Bustillos at Aeon on royalty, fairy tales, and the literary landscapes of an American childhood. (Which reminds me — who's read through to the [inexcusably out-of-print] very end of Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase series and wants to talk about Aiken and royalty? Ping me!)

" She’s the kind of asshole whose horrible words make you want to be around her more, not less; I wish to master this kind of witchcraft, as I have very little hope of ever becoming genuinely kind in this lifetime." Mallory Ortberg at The Toast on Freaks and Geeks.

"Because as a shy, late bloomer, with a nervous eye twitch, I was not the most cunning linguist when it came to slang for oral sex." Best sentence of the week, by Kate Greathead at The Hairpin.

"Medium cups of coffee ($1.09 each) have been spilled; harsh words have been exchanged. And still — proud, defiant and stuck in their ways — they file in each morning, staging a de facto sit-in amid the McNuggets." Finally, from Sarah Maslin Nir and Jiha Ham at the NYT, the story of the war between a McDonald's in Queens and the gorgeously stubborn elderly Koreans who choose to use it as their daily hangout.