"In a conflict in which some 6,000 people continue to die every month and a third or more of the population have been forced to leave their homes, the problem of basic security has almost completely supplanted the aspirations of a once-peaceful protest movement trying to take on an autocratic, militarized, and sectarian regime." Sarah Birke on al-Qaeda's influence on the Syrian war, at the NYRB.
"Using the name so generically and broadly is a deliberate decision not to understand who our enemies are, or to care—if they don’t like us, they are Al Qaeda, and we can stop listening." At The New Yorker, Amy Davidson's spot-on commentary about the Benghazi story and the slow creep of the label "Al Qaeda."
"The Obama administration sent three ethnic Uighur Muslim captives from Guantánamo to Slovakia, the Defense Department said Tuesday, ending one of the saddest and longest-running chapters of unlawful detention at the U.S. prison camps in Cuba." Carol Rosenberg at The Miami Herald.
"The Obama campaign’s tactics illuminate something that is often missed in our discussions of data-mining and marketing—the fact that governments and politicians are major clients of marketing agencies and data brokers." Alice E. Marwick at the NYRB, and how nice to see a list of sources in which women are equally represented!
"But Educational Credit said Ms. Schaffer was spending too much on food by dining out. According to Ms. Schaffer, that was a reference to the $12 she spent at McDonald’s." Natalie Kitroeff at the NYT on the agency that disputes bankruptcy filings for people carrying federally backed student loans.
"His clients pay $45 for a three-hour tour and explore some of Detroit's most famously blighted structures: the Packard Automotive Plant, the train station and the East Grand Boulevard Methodist Church, which features peeling paint and vast balconies." Alana Semuels at the LAT on Detroit's thriving ruin-porn tourism industry.
"When the conservatives are less offensive than feminists, we have a problem. Feminists are supposed to be on our side, and we can’t trust them either." Interview with Mikki Kendall by Kathleen Jercich at In These Times. (Via Nicole Cliffe at The Toast.)
"How do you casually mention you're keeping an eye out for signs that your friend who died is doing great in the afterlife?" Sweetly moving little essay by Jennifer Bendery at The Huffington Post.
"However much the public had tried to situate Tonya and Nancy as enemies, they remained united, if only in their representation of the sport’s old guard, and of the last gasp of a period during which skaters could just possibly be seen as women and not as girls." Sarah Marshall at The Believer lengthily re-examining the old scandal of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. (Also via Nicole Cliffe at The Toast.)
"But it’s not so clear cut. It turns out that neither the researchers nor their reviewers actually watched the programs in their study. Instead, the 60 participants evaluated summaries of the shows written by anonymous contributors to tv.com." Entertaining takedown of "The Hannah Montana Hypothesis" by Jessica Seigel as part of the best-of-2013 roundup at Nautilus.
"This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them." At The Rumpus, an interview with Edwige Danticat by Kima Jones in which the questions are just as brilliant as the answers.
"That Mitchison's life and works should have been so unfairly relegated to secret history drove home my feeling of books as points of divergence to alternate timelines; that having read The Hobbit rather than Travel Light at that fragile, formative moment of being a child in Lebanon standing at a crossroads of languages, religions and literary traditions nudged me into a different life." Amal El-Mohtar at NPR with a wonderful essay on the immensely formative nature of one's childhood reading. (Via Rachel Hartman.)
"But then I remember that it’s really none of my business, and that being a woman today still means learning how to rehabilitate junk patriarchal traditions in the manner of your choosing, and that the 'Is This Feminist' question almost always says less about the person in question than it does about the person writing from behind the screen." Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin.
"There’s a book inside of you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry." Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.
"Undertaking a hoax must be similar to embarking on any other creative project: In the beginning perfection seems possible, a destination you might reach by keeping to a direct, straight line." Finally, in case you missed it the first time (as I did), Carrie Frye at The Awl (where this reader, for one, sorely misses her editorial presence) with a piece from last February: "How To Give Birth To A Rabbit."