Sunday, March 30, 2014

Links for the week ending 30 March 2014

"The account by Mr Salam intimately details, for the first time, how at the beginning of the uprising in 2011 the Syrian leadership decided to create a paramilitary force - secretly commanded by them - that could attack anti-government protesters." Salwa Amor and Ruth Sherlock at The Daily Telegraph.

"'No way that he can rule Syria,' says Hadian, referring to the Syrian president. Hadian insists this is a position with widespread support among Iranians, but, he says, 'there are powerful groups who would think otherwise.'" Deborah Amos reports for NPR on the prospects for continued Iranian support of the Syrian government.

"An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 people to death in the largest capital punishment case on record in Egypt, judicial authorities said Monday." Abigail Hauslohner and Lara El Gibaly for The Washington Post. Louisa Loveluck comments on at The New York Times: "The trial and its aftermath reveal the fault lines in Egypt’s escalating crackdown against political opposition that may yet provoke a stinging response from the very forces it was meant to eliminate."

"The decision on Thursday to release Mr. Hakamada, thought to be the world’s longest serving death row inmate, underscored the dark side of a criminal justice system that boasts a near-100 percent conviction rate and immediately led to calls for reform." From Hiroko Tabuchi at the NYT, a dark look at justice and capital punishment in Japan.

"Years go by, and you still have no idea why this happened to you. You have never been charged with a crime." The ACLU presents a comic explainer about the No Fly List, by Jen Sorensen. (Via Jody T.)

"Polk was not alone. Her kit on the shelf was just one of 11,304 in Detroit’s backlog of untested rape kits." Emily Orley at BuzzFeed reports on one dedicated Wayne County prosecutor's grant-funded quest to work through every single one of those kits. (Via Roxanne Gay.)

"Taylor was charged with two felony counts of child abuse for leaving her six-month-old and two-year-old in a car with the windows cracked last Thursday for at least 45 minutes as she sat in an interview for a potential job." This is the most heartbreaking story I've read in a long time. By Annie-Rose Strasser at ThinkProgress. (Via Irin Carmon.)

"Alexander’s plight reveals the unique vulnerabilities faced by Black women in the face of domestic violence, as well as their tragic invisibility in public awareness and advocacy around domestic violence, mass incarceration and Black-on-Black crime." Incisive analysis of the Marissa Alexander case and what it reveals about the "Overpolicing and Underprotection of Black Women" by Priscilla A. Ocen and KimberlĂ© Crenshaw at Ebony. (Via @prisonculture.)

"In early 2007, a Lowndes County grand jury indicted Gibbs, a 16-year-old black teen, for 'depraved heart murder' — defined under Mississippi law as an act 'eminently dangerous to others…regardless of human life.' By smoking crack during her pregnancy, the indictment said, Gibbs had 'unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously' caused the death of her baby. The maximum sentence: life in prison." Nina Martin, from two weeks ago at ProPublica. (Via Beth Schwartzapfel.)

"Jones wanted to help men like himself, and West Baltimore has no shortage of them. More than half the prison population released in Maryland returns every year to the neighborhoods around the center. They come out burdened not only by their records but by family estrangement and debt. Child-support arrearages are allowed to accumulate in prison, and about 3,000 men who live near the center owe more than $50 million in back child support." So many insights in this excellent longread from Monica B. Potts at The American Prospect, profiling one released felon's journey through an employment-training program whose inflexible, even abusive, policies are designed to mimic the conditions its clients will find in the world of low-wage work.

"Brooks finally made it to a foreclosure workshop in late February, where more than a dozen distressed homeowners sat around a conference table upstairs from a food pantry—all African-American men and women living in Prince George’s County." At MSNBC, Suzy Khimm looks at one mother's struggle to avoid foreclosure after losing her job last summer — and how Congress has made that struggle so much more difficult.

"We’ve had audience members say, 'You should talk to boys around the drug scene and who’re on drugs.' And I would say, 'You don’t even know that we didn’t.'" At Colorlines, Carla Murphy interviews Nicole Murphy, the producer of a film series that asks black boys ages 9-13 to describe what they think about love. (Via Julianne Hing.)

"What are we to make of this particular line of scholarship--so individualistic in nature, so far from a structural critique--gaining such favor in these times of gross inequity? If education is 'the civil rights issue' of our time--as so many reform entities, including those supporting the scholarship in question, often claim--what are we to make of a research agenda that explicitly names as its foundation a text steeped in eugenic thinking?" You're not wrong if you suspect I've included this piece out of schadenfreude, but it's still worth a read. Lauren Anderson at Education Week. (Via Tressie McMillan Cottom.)

"You know those ubiquitous BuzzFeed quizzes? The ones trying to help you determine what brand of peanut butter or which Game of Thrones character you are? Well it’s hard not to walk out of oral argument this morning in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius without being forced to confront a similar, but perhaps more awkward, question: What kind of contraceptive method are you?" Oh my god, this Dahlia Lithwick piece in which she assigns a contraceptive method to every member of the Supreme Court will make you laugh so much that you'll almost forget that said court is going to find that corporations can have religious beliefs and those beliefs have more legal standing than women's lives. At Slate. (Via Jody T.)

"There is an emerging consensus from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill that the government’s mass collection of data about Americans’ phone calls must end." Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post.

"When McPherson woke up, he was still sitting upright in his heavy wooden chair. But their house in a rural enclave about an hour's drive north from Seattle had been pushed 150 yards. His chair was crushed around him. A ceiling beam lay across his lap." Haunting piece by Maria L. La Ganga and dude Matt Pearce about the victims of the Washington mudslide. At the LAT. (Via Alana Semuels.)

"The type of oil that spilled — a marine fuel oil known as RMG 380 — is black, sticky and particularly heavy. That means that instead of evaporating from the surface of the water like gasoline would, much of it will sink, persisting in the environment for months or even years." Neena Satija reports for The Texas Tribune about an oil spill fouling Galveston Bay, including the spill's likely effects on the bay's fishing industries.

"Moreover, trees in the infamous Red Forest—an area where all of the pine trees turned a reddish color and then died shortly after the accident—did not seem to be decaying, even 15 to 20 years after the meltdown." Runner-up for Creepiest Science Article of the Week, on decomposition in the forests around Chernobyl, by Rachel Nuwer at Smithsonian. (Hat tip to Jenny F. Scientist.)

"NEITHER dead or alive, knife-wound or gunshot victims will be cooled down and placed in suspended animation later this month, as a groundbreaking emergency technique is tested out for the first time." Yeah, this is the Creepiest Science Article of the Week. By Helen Thomson for New Scientist. (Via Amanda Katz.)

"Two years ago, a cancer scientist who formerly worked at the pharmaceutical company Amgen disclosed that his team was able to successfully repeat only 6 of 53 landmark research studies that had been cited hundreds of times." Another fascinating piece on the process of science by Carolyn Y. Johnson at

"U.S. interconnection markets are at the moment perfectly engineered to raise revenue for Comcast and AT&T, at the same time that these companies are spending no more than 15 percent of that revenue on their infrastructure." Susan Crawford at Bloomberg View.

"Exactly. ‘Oh you must hate your job so much that you have to like dissociate yourself from it.’ But the thing is, most people do! The idea that your entire individual identity is based on your work identity is something that is relatively new." Really fascinating interview at The Billfold, where Melissa Gira Grant talks to Meaghan O'Connell about sex work as a labor issue.

"The things that differentiated this gathering from a high school cafeteria were small: the thin kid wearing a parka inside who came up, bashful, for a full plate of food three times; the kids who wrapped up food in tin foil or took it away with them in to-go containers." Rachel Kincaid at Autostraddle with a moving longread about Detroit's Ruth Ellis Center for LGBT youth.

"Part of the reason I went through such a rough patch last year was I went away to finish revising my novel for my publisher; I wanted to get away from all the "distractions" of being home, but it turns out those "distractions" are often the things that keep me from falling apart." The last in Sarah McCarry's series of interviews with writers on working and depression, this one with Cristina Moracho.

"In time I saw that this stuckness, rather than any physical pain, was what made me so reluctant to try. I wondered how many times I’d overlooked powerlessness as the source of my discomfort. I philosophized: was it wiser, in general, to make peace with impotence or resist it by any means possible?" This piece by Melinda Misener at The Hairpin is absolutely guaranteed to be the most profound thing you read about pull-ups (the exercise, not the toddler-wear) in this week — or any other.

"MACBETH: feel like we’ve already killed a lot of my friends
LADY MACBETH: then we could throw a PARTY and make out
Yeah. Mallory Ortberg continues the Dirtbag Shakespeare series at The Toast.

"People hurt and wound each other, and don’t understand, and betray, and all those things. And also emotional sympathies just dry up and die as we change, and they are as mysterious in friendship as in love. I mean, it’s a relationship like any other. " At The Believer, Madeleine Schwartz interviews 78-year-old writer Vivian Gornick.

Ahem. "March Madness: Tournament of Upper-Middle Class Afflictions." By Jessica Hagy at Medium. You're welcome. (Via Garance Francke-Ruta.)

"In the course of seven weeks, Waterson interviewed a hundred and twenty-seven families about their reaction to articles that begin with a wryly affectionate parenting anecdote, segue into a dry cataloguing of sociological research enlivened with alternately sarcastic and tender asides, and end with another wryly affectionate anecdote that aims to add a touch of irony or, failing at that, sentimentality." Finally (and in lieu of that Hanna Rosin takedown — I know I promised, but life — and, more specifically, this afternoon — is too short to hate-link, I've decided), Sarah Miller at The New Yorker with "New Parenting Study Released." (Via Amanda Brokaw.)