Sunday, February 9, 2014

Links for the week ending 9 February 2014

"Thousands of Muslims left Bangui in a massive convoy Friday that was jeered by crowds of Christians. One Muslim who fell off a truck was quickly was quickly killed by the mob. Muslim women who could not get on the trucks tried to hand their children to strangers aboard the vehicles. Krista Larson, West Africa correspondent for the AP, on pogroms in the Central African Republic. On Twitter, Larson links to this background piece by Lousia Lombard at African Arguments.

"Al-Qaeda formally dissociated itself from its onetime affiliate in Iraq and Syria on Monday, culminating months of feuding and exposing the dwindling influence of the group’s leadership over an emerging new generation of radicals." Liz Sly at The Washington Post.

"That incident, and other strikes that have followed, helped fuel anger here over civilian casualties from the U.S. drone campaign and what critics say is an even less-scrutinized problem: the targeting of suspects who are within the reach of the law." Abigail Hauslohner writing about Yemen for The Washington Post, which — you've probably noticed by now! — has a lot of very impressive women on its staff. (Ezra who?)

"'Well, imagine if your cat came to you and started talking,' Kotler explained. 'First of all, it’s a cat, and it’s talking. Second, all these years, the government fed it, gave it water, petted it, and now it’s talking and demanding something. It’s a shock. We have to get used to it.'" Dear god, the quotes in this story by Julia Ioffe at The New Republic on Vladimir Putin's Russia!

"I became a worse person. When criminals exploit a brutal animalistic rule of life in the country, we all become worse, much worse. We become ready for horrible things." Translation of a heartfelt plea to the citizens of Ukraine by Tatiana Chornovil, at Voices of Ukraine. (Via Jim Roberts.)

"In 2006, a senior U.S. official said, the NSA was collecting “closer to 100” percent of Americans’ phone records from a number of U.S. companies under a then-classified program, but as of last summer that share had plummeted to less than 30 percent." Ellen Nakashima for The Washington Post.

"The company documents show that, while Hayes was studying atrazine, Syngenta was studying him, as he had long suspected. Syngenta’s public-relations team had drafted a list of four goals. The first was “discredit Hayes.”" Rachel Aviv's long profile of scientist Tyrone Hayes neatly encapsulates pretty much everything that is wrong with the way we mistake corporate muscle for scientific authority now. (Via Jody T.)

"The report compared what children may be feeling today to the distress suffered by American and Russian children over the threat of the nuclear bomb in the 1950s during the Cold War era, saying that climate change could have the same destructive impact." An op-ed by Marlene Cimons at LiveScience on the mental illness and emotional distress that arrive hand-in-hand with climate change. (Via Allan Margolin.)

"You heard that right. The arms crawl in opposite directions, until they tear away from the body and their insides spill out. And unlike most starfish, the arms don’t regenerate. Stars that came in with symptoms died within 24 hours." ([We pause for a collective intake of breath from all the L'Engle fans.] At PBS News Hour, a transcript of Katie Campbell's report about the massive die-off of starfish along the West Coast.

"It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts." Suzanne Goldenberg for The Guardian.

"Researchers in Atlanta interviewed more than 8,000 inner-city residents and found that about two-thirds said they had been violently attacked and that half knew someone who had been murdered. At least 1 in 3 of those interviewed experienced symptoms consistent with PTSD at some point in their lives – and that’s a 'conservative estimate,' said Dr. Kerry Ressler, the lead investigator on the project." Lois Beckett writing for ProPublica's series on gun violence.

"Robert Akerlof was born in the summer of 1981. The next semester, Yellen taught a class on applied international economics, according to university records. By the next spring, she was back to teaching two courses and published two more papers that year. Yellen earned tenure just after Robert’s first birthday." Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post on Fed chief Janet Yellen's hard road to the top of her profession. (Via Heidi Moore.)

"But having teammates who refuse to wear the T-shirt is only half of the problem with wrapping an identity around desire. Here’s the other: desire is not a fixed or reliable compass. It varies, usually not in a willed way." Great E.J. Graff essay at The Nation making a compelling case for defending and defining gay identity as a choice rather than solely relying on the "born this way" narrative.

"What 'I Forgot to Remember' is, however, is unnervingly honest, straightforward to a degree that makes every other memoir I’ve read seem evasive, self-conscious and preening. It is utterly free of signs that Meck wants her reader to think of the book in a particular way or to view her as a certain type of person." Intriguing review by Laura Miller at Salon of a book about the aftermath of total amnesia.

"Over the three years that I've being following Qatar Airways, I have met Swedish girls my own age who are terrified to talk about their work, even anonymously. Swedish girls who have grown up with freedom of the press, employment laws and freedom of speech but who wouldn't even dare reply to an email from a journalist to say 'no, thank you'." From Swedish newspaper Expressen, Johanna Karlsson documents the Orwellian ordeal of working for Qatar Airways. (Hat tip to Jill Heather.)

"And once you reach this pinnacle of saving virtue, how long would it take you to reach your goal of $2.2mn for retirement? Only a mere 110 years. " At The Guardian, Heidi Moore is very funny on the disconnect between retirement advice and, you know, math.

"Shanghai and three cities in Zhejiang Province, the hardest hit by the current outbreak of H7N9, have now temporarily shut their live markets. Officials from one of these cities, Hangzhou, say they want to make the closure permanent, and switch to frozen, centrally slaughtered poultry." Deborah MacKenzie at New Scientist informing us that apparently we are all going to die of bird flu because Chinese consumers prefer live poultry markets to industrial slaughterhouses. (Via Maryn McKenna.)

"People have quite informed gut reactions, but still seem to lack solid evidence to show the technique does or doesn’t hold up. It’s exciting and nerve wracking, but even those with doubts don’t seem ready to dismiss it outright. This is how science works: people turn to the experiments to smash or solidify their doubts. Many are scurrying to recreate those in their laboratories, which should bring some clarity to the situation." Carolyn Y. Johnson at with a follow-up to her story about creating stem cells in an acid bath.

"So ISEE-3 will pass by us, ready to talk with us, but in the 30 years since it departed Earth we've lost the ability to speak its language." The most melancholy space-exploration news you'll read this week, from Emily Lakdawalla for The Planetary Society. (Via Cam Larios.)

"The letter contained no information regarding the availability of complimentary lollipops." Merrill Markoe mines for comedy gold at Time on "concierge" physician practices.

"But the thing is I’ve read many of these articles that claim to show that there are race-based genetic differences or that racial differences in health can be explained genetically and there’s so many flaws in them. Just simple flaws, like not defining what the scientist means by race." Whip-smart interview with UPENN professor Dorothy Roberts by Brown undergraduate Sophia Seawell for Bluestockings Magazine. Kids these days! (Via Cory Ellen.)

"In China, your freedom is always limited, but this limitation applies to almost everyone. If someone does injustice to you, though, you have to find a way to avenge yourself—even by illegal measures. In a sense, injustice is more personal." Emily Parker interviews novelist Yiyun Li at Guernica.

"The letter was from a 14 year old Harlemite named Gwendolyn Smith who bravely wrote to the NAACP in 1940 to tell them about her rape at the hands of a white doctor." Prison Culture transcribes and reprints this letter, saying, "This Too is Black History." The last line is the worst heartbreak of all.

"Because of my familiarity with what many of the different therapeutic and palliative care options entailed—medically, ethically, personally—it was clear to me that what we were dealing with was choosing an end-of-life care plan for our son." Phoebe Day Danziger at Slate. (Via Jody T.)

"I’ve never watched a Woody Allen movie. My parents refused to rent them after he began a 'relationship' with Soon-Yi Previn and their explanation stuck with me through adulthood." As far as I'm concerned, that marked the moment at which we learned that we should pull out the groggers whenever Woody Allen's name is mentioned, so here's to Jessica Valenti's parents. (At The Nation.)

"In order to even tell their stories, they have to learn a new language, putting vague, undefined feelings into unfamiliar words. The whole drama plays out in a grown-up context, which means the grown-up always has the upper hand. Neutrality never even has a chance." By Natalie Shure at The Atlantic. (Via Nicole Cliffe at The Toast.)

"But of course, if we speak to our pets in baby talk or simplified language, then it’s only logical to assume that when we anthropomorphize our pets, they’d speak back to us the same way. So doge and its predecessor LOLcat tell us nothing at all about dogs or cats but everything in terms of how we’re talking to pets and to each other on the internet. Linguist Gretchen McCulloch explains Doge to you at The Toast. (Category: "Magic.")

"Could you own more never-opened jams? You could own more never-opened jams." Mallory Ortberg takes on her parents' refrigerator, at The Toast. If you don't scroll down through the comments until you reach the part where her entire extended family (including her GRANDMOTHER) chimes in, I do not even understand why you are on the internet.

"I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones." Finally, at The Believer, a long but extraordinarily nuanced and rewarding essay from Leslie Jamison that will stick with you long after you have finished reading it. (Hat tip to Jill Heather.)