Sunday, May 11, 2014

Links for the week ending 11 May 2014

"The once graceful historic district has been bombarded into grim lacework by the government. Its streets have been mined, and in some places burned, by fleeing fighters. Its last residents are leaving, except for six Christian families, who survived the siege alongside mainly Sunni fighters and civilians," writes Anne Barnard in the NYT from Homs, Syria.

"Traveling in the front seat of an armored Humvee, the general brushed off questions about a thick black plume of smoke to the south. It would turn out to be a suicide bombing at an army checkpoint that killed two soldiers. The general’s own house in Ramadi had been blown up a week earlier." Loveday Morris reports for The Washington Post from Anbar province in Iraq.

"The flaws in the idea were apparent to planners — the city’s poor would be forced to commute great distances to their jobs, and private developers would be reluctant to build there — but those who were present kept their reservations to themselves, and the belt was added." Ellen Barry reports for the NYT on the ongoing elections in the world's largest democracy, India.

"The 'Bring Back Our Girls' hashtag—retweeted nearly two million times so far by Twitter users including the Vatican, the first lady and celebrities including singers Mary J. Blige and Chris Brown—wasn't created by Ms. Mosley but by Nigerian Ibrahim Musa Abdullahi, a 35-year-old attorney in the capital Abuja who adapted a chant he heard on television there." Elizabeth Williamson, Natalie Andrews, and dude Michael M. Phillips for the Wall Street Journal on a textbook case of hashtag appropriation. (Via Kayla Webley.)

"It was Nigerians who took their good for nothing President to task and challenged him to address the plight of the missing girls. It is in their hands to seek justice for these girls and to ensure that the Nigerian government is held accountable. Your emphasis on U.S. action does more harm to the people you are supposedly trying to help and it only expands and sustain U.S. military might." At, Jumoke Balogun argues that hashtag activism in support of American intervention is the last thing Nigerians need. (Via Jamilah King.)

"Progressives are often perplexed at why blue-collar guys blame their economic frustrations on people of color and not Wall Street or corporate titans. This is a learned response. In the South, especially, ever since Reconstruction threatened to create a biracial democracy responsive to the working classes, economic elites have stoked racial tensions in order to avoid redistributive policies." At Salon, an excerpt from Sheryll Cashin's new book about affirmative action and white, working-class anger. (Via Nikole Hannah-Jones.)

"Like Aziga and Ssenyonga, 52 percent of heterosexual men charged have been black, even though blacks make up only 6 percent of HIV-positive men in Canada. According to Tim McCaskell, of AIDS Action Now, 'The trope of the sexually predatory diseased black immigrant helped marshal racism to harden public opinion behind HIV criminalization.'" At Slate, Sarah Schulman on Canadian law criminalizing nondisclosure of HIV status — and the racism that fuels it.

"The Northwest Territories was fully open for exploration and development, but now, 70 percent of oil and gas contracts went to Inuvialuit businesses—a marked difference from the Alberta Tar Sands region, where First Nations have no ownership stake and also bear the brunt of the industry’s destructive and toxic effects (First Nations communities in the Tar Sands regions exhibit especially high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases)." At n+1 from the end of last month, Audrea Lim reports from the front lines of Canada's "Arctic energy frontier."

"Oil field deaths reached 545 during America's drilling and fracking frenzy from 2008 to 2012, with Texas' 216 reported fatalities leading the nation." Lise Olsen reports for the Houston Chronicle.

"Epidemiologically, MERS is probably like an iceberg, with the severe cases making up the visible tip. But as none of the affected countries have been testing broadly to see how many people have been infected, it’s impossible at this point to even guess at how much lower the real death rate might be." Helen Branswell at Slate (big points to Slate for finding the best woman for the job) telling you what you need to know about the newest worrisome virus on the block. (Via Jody T.)

"The biggest declines happened for conditions that are more likely to be deadly if not caught early — for example, infections from complications of diabetes, heart attacks and cancer." Sabrina Tavernise for the NYT on a new studying showing that death rates in Massachusetts dropped following the institution of mandatory universal health coverage.

"Ever since 1988, the Brazilian constitution has promised free public healthcare to every citizen. '"Health is a private right and a duty of the state,"' said Alexandre Chiavegatto Filho, a health policy professor at the University of Sao Paulo, quoting the statute. 'People do love that phrase. It would be crazy and impossible for any government to change that.'" Olga Khazan at The Atlantic with a fascinating look at how Brazil's immense inequality provides far more relevant lessons for American health care goals than the universal healthcare systems of Europe.

"Latino apprehension about healthcare goes deeper than issues of access. It also partially derives from a long history of preferring non-Western medicine, a cultural uneasiness with the American style of healthcare, and a tradition of privacy and individual pride that makes many Latinos believe we have no need to ask for help." Also at The Atlantic, Amanda Machado explores why Latinos in the U.S. "are the racial and ethnic group least likely to visit the doctor."

"At carbon dioxide levels that are projected for the year 2050, wheat lost more than 9 percent of its zinc content, 5 percent of iron and 6 percent of its protein." Maggie Fox at NBC News on one consequence of climate change: people will have to eat more calories to obtain the same amount of nutrients from common foods. Right, but let's go on blaming school bake sales for obesity, okay?

"The very top of "Big Green" is as white and male as a Tea Party meet-up. It doesn't look like change. It doesn't even look like America. So is it any wonder environmental groups are having trouble connecting with the public on climate change?" Suzanne Goldenberg at The Guardian.

"In the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who writes for five justices, these benedictions are now free and unfettered 'prayer opportunities.' And 'prayer opportunities' are, like 'job creators' and 'freedoms,' what make America great." Dahlia Lithwick at Slate on this week's Supreme Court ruling ensuring that those of us who don't belong to the majority religions in our communities have more opportunities to feel excluded at public functions. Yay!

"Division services like Fair Outcomes and Spliddit offer a mathematical lens through which users can view their own motivations. Will they choose to emphasize envy-freeness or social welfare? If even an envy-free division feels unacceptable to them, are they motivated by vindictiveness?" At Nautilus, Erica Klarreich explains how math can help "set you free — from envy."

"With clumsy and inexact language, or language that chooses to be accurate only at designated moments, the media further clouds what is already the all-too-obscure world of what makes a family and how we get one and, now more than ever, how we keep it stitched together." Jennifer Gilmore at Dame Magazine with a hell of a piece about a celebrity custody battle, journalistic carelessness, and, ultimately, personal heartbreak. (Via Kera Bolonik.)

"She does everything that she didn’t do before. I guess she feels like she has to make up for it. I’m not going to say I’m over it, but I forgave her a long time ago. Now my siblings are the ones who will never let her forget what happened." At Rookie, four teenagers talk about foster care, abuse, and resilience. (Via Suzy Khimm.)

"'I had faith the authorities were going to do something about it,' she says. 'But they got back to me and said there was nothing they could do. The police contacted me at one point and said, "That person who you told us about, he sounds like he’s just concerned. I don’t think you have anything to worry about from him."'" Katie Van Syckle at Cosmopolitan on sexual violence and online harassment at Dartmouth. Tell me, college administrators, why exactly our young people should pay a quarter of a million dollars to run the risk of these kinds of experiences? (Via Maryn McKenna.)

"Her mom, friends, teachers, and coaches rallied around her, told her how much they loved her: 'All that shit that you just wish somebody would have said without there being an explicit reason to.'" From last week, Sandra Allen at BuzzFeed reflects on the homophobic hate crime hoax a troubled high school student staged against herself ten years ago. (Hat tip to Els Kushner.)

"Well, that's the kind of little detail you just know to include when you're a former full-time professional TV critic like I am. I'm in the zone, too. THIS IS WHY I WRITE, I tell myself. FOR THIS FEELING RIGHT HERE. I AM FEELING IT TODAY! HIGH-FIVE!" Heather Havrilesky at The Awl tells you how to be a real writer. For the record, 3:30 p.m. is the point at which I started laughing so hard that I strained something. (Like a real writer would!)

"We have no dominion over what the world will do to us, all of us. What the earth will make of our tinkering and abuse can be modeled by computers but is, in the end, beyond our reckoning, our science. Nature is not simply done to. Nature responds." Extraordinary piece by Eva Saulitis from the March/April issue of Orion, on facing her own death on the banks of a salmon stream. (Via Janine DeBaise.)

"In the immediate aftermath of this failed exchange, I did the only thing I could do: take to my room and fester. I had to figure out what had gone wrong. Soon I had decided the whole project of coming out had been bankrupt – that I had been misled by identity politics into a contraction of the political field to the microuniverse of the bourgeois family. The whole thing had been so petit bourgeois (I thought to myself, petit bourgeoisely) – an embarrassing political miscalculation." Finally, this amazing, wrenching, hilarious piece by Jordana Rosenberg at Avidly: "Gender Trouble on Mother's Day." (Hat tip to Sheila Avelin for this gem.)