Sunday, February 2, 2014

Links for the week ending 2 February 2014

"The cheating came to light during an inquiry into illegal drug possession, when investigators discovered that test answers were being sent in text messages to the missile launch officers’ cellphones." Helene Cooper for the NYT on, uh, good times at the nation's nuclear missile-launch sites.

You see somebody on the sidewalk and, slipping on your high-tech spectacles, select the app. Snap a photo of a passerby, then wait a minute as the image is sent up to the company’s database and a match is hunted down. The results load in front of your left eye, a selection of personal details that might include someone’s name, occupation, Facebook and/or Twitter profile, and, conveniently, whether there’s a corresponding entry in the national sex-offender registry." By Betsy Morais at The New Yorker on a new unofficial app for Google Glass.

"The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future." Kate Sheppard and dude Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post on new Snowden documents showing that climate change talks were targeted by NSA spying. Because preventing terrorism, right?

"But the man who’d been the first democratically elected president in the country’s history was confined in a soundproof glass booth, and authorities made major efforts to ensure that whatever he said during his brief appearance went largely unheard." Amina Ismail reports at McClatchy on the beginning of court proceedings against former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

"'That they are dead makes this only more important, what we are doing now,' said Nabil, Kuany’s co-worker and friend. 'Israel tells us that we must either leave here or go to prison, what kind of country asks a person to choose between prison and death?'" Sheera Frenkel at BuzzFeed on the death of a refugee from South Sudan.

"If only 5% of India's more than a billion people are gay, which is probably an underestimate, it would be more than 50 million people, a population as large as that of Rajasthan or Karnataka or France or England." At The Times of India, Judge Leila Seth, mother of Vikram Seth, writes about the recent judgment of India's Supreme Court that re-criminalized homosexuality. (Via Nilanjana Roy.)

"But what does seem clear is that she is being subjected to a double standard. Behavior that would be unremarkable in a man—leaving your kids for prolonged periods in the capable hands of your spouse, as Barack Obama did, as did zillions of other fathers who campaigned for public office—is somehow suspect, even unnatural, in a mother." Excellent essay by Liza Mundy at Politico on the recent attacks on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis's path to career success. (Via Rebecca Traister.)

"The News found that the death rate from all forms of violence in 2010, the most recent year for which comparable data are available on other communities, is higher in Detroit than in any other major U.S. city: 15.7 per 100,000 children." Karen Bouffard for The Detroit News. (Via Lizzie O'Leary.)

"Yet the idea was undeniably appealing. To record the stories of the men and women who had put their lives on the line for the cause of independence, some of whom had committed horrific acts of violence in the process, that was something no one else had done." Truly fascinating longread by Beth McMurtrie at The Chronicle of Higher Education on Boston College's ill-starred oral history archive project on the Troubles in Northern Ireland — and the wide-ranging consequences of its failure. (Link via a very smart commenter at The Toast, which, besides all its other charms, maintains one of the very last worthwhile comment sections on the internets.)

"She had to start to move through the blood and bone and deconstructed human tissue she had seen on the pavement near a store called Sugar Heaven -- no one could process that in 24 hours -- but she was stuck inside a freeze-frame of shock because people kept putting her back in the picture. Her trauma was different." From Bonnie D. Ford at ESPN, a profile of one young, self-effacing Boston University student whose role in the aftermath of the marathon bombing was captured in an iconic photograph.

"'As they were coming in, I said, "Good morning. Praise the Lord. How are you? I need you, gentlemen and ladies, to do a couple things. Housekeeping rules." They said, "What’s that, Sister Laura?" I said, "I need you to take off your hats because it’s disrespect. I need you to turn your phones on vibrate or silent. I need you to keep your guns in your pockets." And they did. They did.'" Another portrait, by Alexa Mills at The Boston Globe, of the Rev. Laura Ahart, a pastor at Boston's Nashua Street Jail. (Via Farah Stockman.)

"The failure of the farmers' agenda is a familiar tale of Washington gridlock, with familiar players: the small group of conservative obstructionists who seemingly control the House, and the policy consequences of a Republican Party at war with itself. But in this case, the people Republicans have antagonized are among their most loyal constituents." Molly Ball at The Atlantic.

"I’ve carried that key chain ever since, the only thing I have left from his long-dismantled life. My totem says nothing about my belief in astrology, although you might be forgiven for making that assumption." Also at The Atlantic, a teaser essay from Jennifer Ouellete's new book, Me, Myself & Why: Searching for the Science of Self.

"A team of Boston and Japanese researchers stunned the scientific world Wednesday by revealing a remarkably simple and unexpected way to create stem cells able to give rise to any tissue in the body." Carolyn Y. Johnson at

Via Jill Heather, this excellent short guide to novel flu viruses by Dr. Judy Stone at SciAm blogs.

"Around a year ago, the Department of Defense released directive 3000.09: 'Autonomy in Weapons Systems.' The 15-page document defines an autonomous weapon — what Gubrud would call a killer robot — as a weapon that 'once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator.'" Adrienne Jeffries at The Verge on the prospects for killer robots.

Sometimes human beings use their creative powers for good instead of evil. Behold: the peanut butter and jellyfish. Spotted by Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin, where they appreciate the accurate measurement of "peanutbutterocity (see fig 2b)."

"But history is not a toy. It’s not a private amusement. And those of us who engage with the past know how important it is and how enjoyable it can be to learn about it and from it. These accounts piss me off because they undermine an enterprise I value. Excellent call-to-arms against enterprises like @HistoryInPics, by Sarah Werner, at her blog.

"Reading a book like Cuisine and Empire enriches the process by which you understand the world, both as you consider the grand sweep of history and assess your own troubled emotions regarding Hormel canned chili. All people are located within a dense web of spatial, financial, and cultural skeins that will dictate what they eat and how they prepare it." Book review and personal essay in one, this excellent piece by Lydia Kiesling at The Millions is required reading if you're interested in food, history, and culture.

"According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace." Stinging critique of "Do what you love" by Miya Tokumitsu at Jacobin.

"I still don’t see how a satisfying explanation alters the fact of the felt lack or deprivation and the subsequent depleted behaviour in the world. You are still and always will be deprived of that notional love and safety you were supposed to have in order to be a balanced person. Anyway, don’t we all know by now that we’re none of us sufficiently or properly loved, one way or another? So why am I or is she or he in such a state about it?" Jenny Diski at the LRB with the best statement of perplexity I have ever read.

"Your smile widens, your ears ring, your heart swells with the praise. You’re only going to hear more of that from their mouths today. You don’t know it, yet, but you’re only going to hear more of that from their mouths forever." Very sweet remembrance of "Your Third Grade Chinese New Year" by Charlene Cheung at The Toast.

"In feminism, if we want to create loving community, we have to talk, not assume." A Storify of Latoya Peterson's responses to the latest instance of White Women Behaving Badly on the Internet.

Not a Storify, but. Two tweets from education reporter Dana Goldstein on Pete Seeger.

"What makes me leery about Goldberg’s piece is that it is in many ways disingenuously framed as if all of this discussion isn’t also about massive amounts of cultural capital. Reading Goldberg’s piece, I’m struck by the fact that all of this is also about people on all sides fighting for bits of influence which translate into cold, hard cash in the form of future assignments and writing gigs." Very smart piece by Yasmin Nair at her blog on what's behind the hashtag feminism wars. (Via @prisonculture.)

"She isn't willing to give her real name, at least not publicly; she's afraid of the professional repercussions. This is a theme that will come up again and again over the course of our interview, and every subsequent conversation: weighing the toll of harassment against the cost of confronting it." Rachel Edidin at Kotaku on harassment in the video game industry. (Via Anita Sarkeesian.)

"The sexual preferences of the desperate are complicated." Oh my god, this cartoon from Shing Yin Khor at The Toast about trying to turn a stuffed animal into an emergency vibrator.

Finally. I hear there's some sort of sporting event taking place today? Here is some reading for it. Amy Davidson makes it into the print version of The New Yorker with this piece on Seattle Seahawks quarterback Richard Sherman. And, from Marin Cogan at ESPN, a compelling longread about the Super Bowl Halftime Nipplegate.