Sunday, March 16, 2014

Links for the week ending 16 March 2014

I'm sure it will be outdated by the time you read it, but as of yesterday, CNN's Faith Karimi and Barbara Starr were reporting on the latest developments in the probable hijacking and subsequent disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

"'If we, Russians, let him win here, he will win in proving that we are nothing but zombies, a bunch of sheep who follow without questioning.' And then, before he finished his thought, Semenov buried his head in his big hands and broke into tears." Natalia Antelava reporting from Crimea for The New Yorker.

"What Moscow liberals are discovering is how quickly the ground has shifted beneath their feet since Putin came back to power in 2012, how futile and pathetic their resistance, and how easily wartime mobilization can steamroll them into nonexistence, in a way it couldn’t when Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008." A deeply despairing post from Julia Ioffe at The New Republic about where Putin's Russia is heading.

"About 4,000 women disappeared in Mexico in 2011-2012, mostly in Chihuahua and the State of Mexico, according to the National Observatory Against Femicide." Anahi Rama and Lizbeth Diaz at Reuters on pandemic levels of violence against Mexican women. (Via Melissa del Bosque.)

"'There is an alarming number of children seeking asylum. The U.S. government estimates this year there could be as many as 60,000 children in federal custody,' said Leslie Velez, a lead author of the new UNHCR report 'Children on the Run,' released by the agency’s Washington, D.C., office, which covers the United States and the Caribbean." Melissa del Bosque for The Texas Observer.

"Two hours later, after the fighters had left, it was finally safe for Bior and other survivors to come out of the water. But by that time, he said, eight children had drowned in their mothers' arms." Robyn Dixon reporting for the LAT on the ethnic cleansing that overtook South Sudan starting in December.

"Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has publicly denied allegations of ill treatment and torture at the country’s detention facilities. But the accusations of abuse have been widely documented by human rights organizations in recent months and corroborated by detainee accounts." Erin Cunningham at The Washington Post on mass incarcerations in Egypt.

"It was in September that the interrogators broke his leg. Two weeks later, Zhou started slipping into unconsciousness. Only then, he says, did they let him go to a hospital under the false name of Wang Yan, with the story that he had fallen in the bathroom." Gillian Wong for the AP on torture committed during anti-corruption crackdowns conducted internally by China's Communist Party.

"Ahmed Belbacha, 44, became the first prisoner released from the Pentagon detention center this year. The U.S. never charged him with a crime across 12 years in custody, but an Algerian court convicted him of terror-related charges in 2009 and issued a 20-year sentence while he was at Guantánamo. Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald reporting from Guantánamo.

"'What I take away from it is how prisoners are looked at as commodities,' she says. 'It's all about how the private prisons can make the most money.'" Rina Palta at NPR reports on a new study showing that for-profit prisons contain an even higher percentage of people of color than their public counterparts.

"That’s what I’m thinking about a lot, how we name anti-blackness and anti-black racism as the foundation of punishment in the juvenile and adult legal systems, that we can’t separate those things out. I want to find a way to address that in a more transparent and real way." Interview at the Children and Family Justice Center's blog with Chicago advocate Mariame Kaba.

"Under current mandatory minimum guidelines, a drug offender convicted of possessing 500 grams of cocaine or 28 grams of crack would face a term of 63 to 78 months. Holder is proposing that the time in such a case be reduced to 51 to 63 months." Sari Horowitz at The Washington Post, on the not-exactly-game-changing sentencing reforms proposed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

"The study also shed light on why people get into sex work. Pimps and sex workers often said they were encouraged by their families to do so, and many cited poverty as a major factor in their decisions." Annie Lowrey at the NYT on a new report by the Urban Institute (which does amazing work) on the sex economy in seven major U.S. cities.

"Six percent of the men admitted to rape, or attempted rape. Of the rapists, 63 percent were serial offenders. In all, the serial rapists accounted for 439 of the 483 rapes." Claire Gordon at Al Jazeera America on the shocking percentage of campus rapes committed by repeat offenders. (Dear admissions committees, maybe start screening out likely rapists?)

"When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it." I feel lucky to have caught this very smart piece from last December on its second go-round on Twitter this week: Tressie McMillan Cottom at Slate on the disincentives and barriers colleges have to teaching about structural inequalities — like racism — especially when taught by members of marginalized groups.

"The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that he favors ending the National Security Agency’s widespread collection of U.S. citizens’ phone data, making him the first of the four leaders of the congressional intelligence panels to do so." Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post.

"By focusing on legible seats of power, activist groups and outraged political players have largely sidestepped the question of how surveilled subjects uphold—cannot but uphold—their position as surveilled. It is perhaps unbearable to consider that modes of surveillance undergird the way we live in contemporary capitalism." Natasha Lennard at The New Inquiry.

"Fortunately, WIRED is here with a solution: Cover your camera lens with a sticker." Fight the power, thanks to Kim Zetter at Wired.

"Bitcoin thieves, as a rule, don’t get caught, which made the hypothetical threat more serious. The chance of being apprehended for stealing cryptocurrency is so low that the usual disincentive to commit theft is almost nonexistent." Congratulations! You've made it to the non-depressing portion of this week's list! Reward yourself with Maria Bustillos' wonderful piece at The New Yorker on the media misidentification of the still-mysterious inventor of Bitcoin.

"The difficulty of sorting out visionary ideas from crackpot ones—or even outright fraud—has long been part of science, especially at the cutting edge." At, Carolyn Y. Johnson continues her great series of posts examining the continuing controversy over possibly fraudulent stem cell research as a viewfinder onto the process by which science is made.

"It’s a part of the brain that’s particularly active when you’re reading. In fact, you’re using it right now. Across fonts, across languages, across systems of writing, injuring this area would take away your ability to read or even recognize words." Super-interesting Gal Science piece at The Toast by neuroscientist Sarah Hillenbrand.

"After months of inaction, the Senate might finally act to restore federal unemployment benefits as a small handful of Republicans broke from their party to support a new bipartisan compromise." Suzy Khimm at MSNBC.

"The tenth and final recommendation, 'Be critical of the commercial advertisement of food products,' is particularly unusual in the world of dietary guidelines." Mia MacDonald and Judy Bankman at Civil Eats on Brazil's new, plainspoken, and refreshingly direct anti-obesity recommendations.

"Her husband, a ramrod straight-standing white-haired man recently retired from a government job, demonstrates a unique talent for being able to stare out at the horizon without moving or speaking for hours at a time. I spend the next few days considering his inner monologue, wondering exactly what I am watching him see." This piece by Caity Weaver at Gawker from last month about a week on a Paula Deen cruise is a thoughtful, funny delight from start to finish.

"Or, they can complete reams of paperwork and secure a bureaucratic certification called a HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) plan – originally a safety procedure created for NASA space flights and now applied in an unwieldy way to the food industry – which verifies that the preparation process is safe." Eveline Chao at Open City on the battle between Chinatown's roast ducks and NYC's Department of Health inspectors — and the economic disparities ABC health grades have introduced into the city's wildly diverse restaurant scene.

"It outsources the emotional and practical needs of the oft-fetishized, urban-renewing 'creative' workforce to a downwardly mobile middle class, reducing workers’ personality traits and educations to a series of plot points intended to telegraph a zombified bohemianism for the benefit of the rich." BOOM. Molly Osberg at The Awl with reflections on being a barista through a Brooklyn neighborhood's transition to hipsterhood. (Warning, though: The Awl has definitely become a place where you should skip the comments, unless you really wanna watch some guy evaluate a piece according to the degree by which he'd enjoy having the author as a girlfriend. Thanks, bro!)

"The bar counter of a pub is possibly the only place in Britain where the natives feel comfortable about shedding their natural reserve and engaging in conversation with strangers." On the other hand! The Toast has intensely awesome comment sections where a lovely soul linked to this 79-page .pdf 18-year-old anthropological study of the etiquette and rituals of British pubs, by Kate Fox. If this doesn't cheer you up simply by existing, try reading it from start to finish in one sitting. You will almost certainly feel better. (I did.)

"I’ve been written to at least a dozen times since by various organizations and colleges running drag balls, asking advice or asking for use of our photos. I can let them use the pictures all they want, but I don’t really have any wisdom. What can I say, really? Be a popular white kid? Pretty much good advice for anything." Okay, this piece at The Toast by Whitney Reynolds on going to her high school prom (in central Tennessee, no less!) in drag is guaranteed to cheer you up.

"Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you can conjure one yourself, then wish it senseless and inert when you have done with it." At The Toast, good advice from Mallory Ortberg, "A Solitary Witch." (Oh my god, the tags.)

"Languages are made up of dialects. They fit together like jigsaw puzzles: remove one or two pieces and you'll still be able to see the whole image, but the picture is incomplete nonetheless and you're definitely not getting more than $0.50 for it at a garage sale." Finally, this perfect piece by Kory Stamper at on why we should probably cut it the hell out what with being the grammar police, okay? (Grateful hat tip to Els Kushner!)