Sunday, May 25, 2014

Links for the week ending 25 May 2014

Oh, look, another entitled white dude with parental fundage and a gun massacred people. Ain't it great that the powers-that-be collect data on every move we make online — but white dudes who rant about hating and/or killing women (or racial/ethnic/religious minorities, for that matter) on YouTube are not treated with the same controlling dystopian force that meets a teenage black kid trying to get to school in the morning? What is even the point of linking to news stories about it? There is nothing here you don't already know twenty times over. But, here, if you never saw this essay the first time, it's worth a read: I am not a puzzle box," by Felicity Shoulders. (Via @saltypepper.) And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Alas, Ta-Nehisi Coates is a dude, and thus beyond the purview of this here project. But! Tressie McMillan Cottom — who, like Coates, is one of the few truly essential public intellectuals at work in America today — is at her blog this week riffing on Coates' piece and writing about why more equal access to education is not going to undo the effects of structural racism: "No matter what black college grads do, they are more sensitive than non-blacks to every negative macro labor market trend. They are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, and hold low quality jobs even when they have STEM degrees."

"You might never have heard of petcoke before, but it’s a term that some people in the industrial Midwest have become all too familiar with in the last couple of years. It’s short for petroleum coke, and it’s a dusty byproduct of the tar-sands oil refining process." While we're thinking about structural racism in general and Chicago neighborhoods in particular, Sarah Goodyear's article at Citylab seems all too relevant.

"While the jail initially said there had been no health concerns, multiple inmates say they suffered problems ranging from minor rashes to respiratory infections and fainting spells. Prisoners also described a policy implemented after the spill, which could land someone in solitary confinement for asking to see a nurse too many times." Christie Thompson at ThinkProgress on how incarcerated West Virginia prisoners during the recent chemical spill that contaminated Charleston's water supply. (Hat tip to Sheila Avelin.)

"The European Union is pressing the Obama administration to expand U.S. fracking, offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration under the terms of a secret negotiation text obtained by The Huffington Post." Dude Zach Carter and Kate Sheppard reporting on why you can expect more and worse resource-extraction pollution in your neighborhood.

"Now—three months after a violent uprising in which Ukrainians were united perhaps by only one thing: revulsion at the tyranny of the corrupt oligarchy that has dominated the country since independence— the billionaire is also the strong frontrunner in presidential elections scheduled for this Sunday, May 25." Excellent profile of Petro Poroshenko by Sarah A. Topol at Politico.

"'You have taken away my right to make sure that my grandchildren know that this tragedy must never repeat itself.'" At The New Yorker, Natalia Antelava on the suppression of observance of the seventieth anniversary of the mass deportations of Crimean Tatars.

"Egypt’s scorching summer heat and dwindling natural-gas supplies are expected to trigger nationwide blackouts at about the same time that Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the popular former defense minister who led the coup against Morsi in July, is widely anticipated to assume the presidency after elections this weekend." Erin Cunningham at The Washington Post.

"Virtually every one said he had to pay recruitment fees of up to a year’s wages to get his job and had never been reimbursed. N.Y.U.’s list of labor values said that contractors are supposed to pay back all such fees. " Ariel Kaminer and dude Sean O'Driscoll at the NYT on NYU's deal with the devil to build its new campus in Abu Dhabi.

"'The government of Nigeria is not serious,' he said. 'Had it been their children, they would have gone to get these girls.'" Alexis Okeowo reporting for The New Yorker.

"One year she managed to make offerings at the spot where her son, Wang Nan, died on the sidewalk beside the Avenue of Heavenly Peace. The next year she was forbidden to leave her home. To this day, a closed-circuit camera is trained upon that spot, awaiting her return." Chilling account at The Washington Post by Louisa Lim about the risks of telling stories about 1989 in China. Her book comes out next month; I'll be looking for it.

"Such attitudes are leading to a new gender wealth gap in the market-reform era. Evidence is found in legal setbacks to married women's property rights, a sharply widening gender income gap, report of an 'epidemic of domestic violence', as well as the orchestrated state media campaign to stigmatise single, educated women in their late 20s as 'leftover' women." Leta Hong Fincher at The Guardian on the complex interplay between growing gender inequality and the real estate boom in China.

"The Justice Department has indicted five members of the Chinese military on charges of hacking into computers and stealing valuable trade secrets from leading steel, nuclear plant and solar power firms, marking the first time that the United States has leveled such criminal charges against a foreign country." Ellen Nakashima and dude William Wan at The Washington Post.

"But China also uses panda loans (as well as the trade deals themselves) to exert political pressure on countries. " Oh, dear. Maybe you wanna plan that trip to the National Zoo soon, suggests Dara Lind at Vox. (Via Sarah Kliff.)

"So the Bryans delivered their girls in the District. It was a two-hour drive from home, friends and family, but it’s a place that offers the surest way for Lily Mae and Mia Lynn to have two mothers in the eyes of the law." Carol Morello at The Washington Post on why lesbian couples are choosing to give birth in Washington, D.C. And, no, it's not so that their newborns can go visit the pandas. (Via Katie Zezima.)

"Our repeated attempts since 2010 to seek funding through federal grant mechanisms have been rejected." Harvard researchers Michelle Holmes and Wendy Chen making an op-ed pitch for funding their study asking whether aspirin might be an effective weapon against breast cancer. Is this the future of scientific research? Oy.

"Here, Nyhan decided to apply it in an unrelated context: Could recalling a time when you felt good about yourself make you more broad-minded about highly politicized issues, like the Iraq surge or global warming?" Maria Konnikova at The New Yorker on the futility of reality-based arguments. (Via Kate Sheppard.)

"Though the bill is currently known as the 'Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,' it’s becoming clear that if some House Republicans had their way, they would like to call it the 'Hungry, Healthy-Free Kids Act.' The new object, at least in the House, is to ensure that less food, and less healthy food, finds its way to fewer kids." The previously cited article notwithstanding, it sure is satisfying to see Dahlia Lithwick and Amy Woolard refusing to pull punches at Slate.

"Government officials had estimated as many 60,000 unaccompanied kids—the majority of them from Central America—would be apprehended at the border this year, but now officials predict it will be 70,000 or more." Melissa del Bosque for the Texas Observer with a short piece that sketches the outlines of tremendous human suffering, particularly when you read in an earlier article that "U.S. asylum law doesn’t recognize poverty and violence as credible claims for asylum."

"It is a war that the island’s holiday industry wants to remember and forget simultaneously. Since the conflict ended, Sri Lankans themselves have established a macabre domestic tourist trail in silence." From the previous week, Kim Wall at Vice on the rapid transformation of former Tamil strongholds into sites for triumphal Sinhalese tourism. (Via Louisa Loveluck.)

"You’ll smell the molasses as you walk through the exhibit anchored by a 35-foot tall sphinx made of what the artist has called “blood sugar” and sculpted into the shape of a naked mammy. You’ll also see white people. Lots of white people." Fascinating piece by Jamilah King at Colorlines on the racial politics of art and museum-going in the United States. (Via Julianne Hing.)

"This is the catalogue author’s one and only piece of presented evidenced which he claims indicates a female scribe and possible female illuminator." By Whitney Burkhalter at The Toast, the best piece on controversies involving sexism and medieval art that you will read all week.

"'Why should the individual who has been wronged bear the burden to police the system and then spend years of her life, emotional and financial capital trying to enforce the laws of the land? I am convinced that equality will never be realized as long as the victim has to police the system, be the whistleblower and then spend an average of ten years navigating a complicated legal system at great personal and financial cost.'" Rebecca Greenfield at The Hairpin with the money quote from her mom on the latter's years spent pursuing a gender discrimination case.

"Rather, what troubles him is the potential exploitation of face recognition to identify ordinary and unwitting citizens as they go about their lives in public. Online, we are all tracked. But to Dr. Atick, the street remains a haven, and he frets that he may have abetted a technology that could upend the social order." At the NYT from last Sunday, Natasha Singer on the terrifying promise of facial recognition technology.

"This is because all computers are reliably this bad: the ones in hospitals and governments and banks, the ones in your phone, the ones that control light switches and smart meters and air traffic control systems. Industrial computers that maintain infrastructure and manufacturing are even worse." If you appreciate the chance to laugh all the way to the apocalypse, this piece by Quinn Norton at Medium is for you.

"I want to encourage the building of technologies that see students’ lives and learning not as a resource to be extracted but as something they themselves can control and cultivate." Notes from a talk on education technology by Audrey Watters. At her blog.

"O.K., well, let’s—no, Paula, go right ahead. You just root around in your bag and shout, 'I’m coming!' when it rings? O.K., well, Paula, that’s interesting, but it’s not a solution." Sarah Miller killing it at The New Yorker with "Turning Your Cell Phone Off For Folks Born Before 1950."

"Our youngest had his 13th birthday the other day and I got a wonderful text from my dad saying, 'All I remember about turning 13 is being allowed to smoke in the bomb shelter.'" Tracey Thorn at the New Statesman. I hope the musical icons of today's teens write half so well in thirty years as my icons do. (See also: Kristin Hersh.)

"The sexually fluid and gender fluid don’t necessarily stand up with the rest of the TV-friendly, marriage-campaigning queers and say, 'I’ve always been this way.' I understand that descriptors like that align with how many people have experienced their gender and sexuality, but I have always experienced these parts of me as mutable things that I had some degree of choice in expressing." Great piece by Jade Sylvan at The Toast.

"'Well what did you study?' she booms, her voice a constant invite to a party you didn’t know you even wanted to attend. And just like that, she has the resident’s full attention once more." At Colorlines, Carla Murphy profiles young labor organizer Michelle Crentsil, who amazes the reader more with each successive paragraph.

"Pietro was a humble man who lived in an enchanting region famed throughout the land for its delicious and abundant hazelnuts. Times were hard and chocolatey delights were not for the common people. Still, he dreamed of a magic formula that would enable everyone to enjoy his sweet treats." Dany Mitzman at the BBC on the "modern fairy tale" — and the reality — of the history of Nutella. Is it lunchtime yet? (Hat tip to Els Kushner.)

"I will be there on opening night to see The Fault in Our Stars movie, largely because I am the parent to a pre-teen girl who wants to see it. But when you write your articles about him and YA lit, do a better job. Do it in a way that doesn't diminish the accomplishments of all the other authors working hard out there to reach teen audiences." On-point rant by Karen Jensen at Teen Librarian's Toolbox. (Hat tip to Els Kushner, another badass teen librarian!)

"The story’s first-person narrator, Breq, speaks a language that doesn't make gender distinctions, and, consequently, refers to all characters by the same default pronoun, rendered she in English." Linguist Gretchen McCulloch with an illuminating analysis of this year's winner of the Nebula Award — and how it reflects the real world. At Slate. (Hat tip to Rachel Hartman.)

"In the drugstore I run into ninety-year-old Vera, a Trotskyist from way back who lives in a fourth-floor walk-up in my neighborhood, and whose voice is always pitched at the level of soapbox urgency." Finally, from last year, but they retweeted it this week, don't ask me why — the inimitable Vivian Gornick at The Paris Review.