Sunday, June 15, 2014

Links for the week ending 15 June 2015

"Iraq was on the brink of falling apart Thursday as al-Qaeda renegades asserted their authority over Sunni areas in the north, Kurds seized control of the city of Kirkuk and the Shiite-led government appealed for volunteers to help defend its shrinking domain." If you've been here awhile, you probably don't need to be told that The Washington Post has a very strong trio of women reporting from the Middle East. This one is from Loveday Morris in Iraq and Liz Sly in Beirut. You wanna stay up to date, I suggest periodically checking for new articles written or co-written by Morris.

"Heeding the call to arms by Ayatollah Sistani, Shiite volunteers rushed to the front lines, reinforcing defenses of the holy city of Samarra 70 miles north of Baghdad, and helping thwart attacks by Sunni fighters of the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in some smaller cities to the east." The NYT has Alissa J. Rubin in Baghdad, reporting here with dudes Suadad Al-Salhy and Rick Galdstone.

"This is the front line of a new war between ISIS and Kurdish forces, only a few hundred yards from the flares of Kirkuk’s lucrative gas fields." Ruth Sherlock reporting with Carol Malouf for the Daily Telegraph.

"Tehran is open to the possibility of working with the United States to support Baghdad, the senior official said." Parisa Hafezi reporting for Reuters. (Via Jenan Moussa.)

"No one pressed for answers about how many U.S. weapons supplied to the Iraqi forces had ended up in insurgents’ hands as Iraqi forces shed their uniforms and fled their posts. Or what the fate will be of the U.S. military assistance program to Iraq, on which American taxpayers have already spent $14 billion." Nancy A. Youssef reporting from Washington, D.C., for McClatchy.

"'I am the Storyteller of Damascus,' Hallak said, chain-smoking, in an interview with The Associated Press in the Syrian capital. 'In these events, many people were harmed. I am one of them.'" Diaa Hadid for the AP.

"But to call the community traumatised was to do it a gross disservice. It missed the point. The town had not been struck down by some psychopathological post-conflict plague. It was still under social and economic siege." From last month at Aeon, Lynne Jones argues that the concept of PTSD can erase the actual ongoing causes of suffering.

"Voter turnout was so abysmally low that Martelly won the presidency with the votes of only 17 percent of the electorate. Essentially, the OAS mission, backed by the international community, installed Martelly as president with utter disregard for democracy and sovereignty in Haiti." Nathalie Baptiste at Foreign Policy In Focus with a short history of international (mostly American) meddling in Haiti's political process. (Via Brian Cocannon.)

"The dissident fetishist takes a brave, principled person, and uses them like a codpiece of competitive virtue." Damn, Molly Crabapple at Vanity Fair.

"Microsoft, one of the world’s largest e-mail providers, is resisting a government search warrant to compel the firm to turn over customer data held in a server located overseas." Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post.

"A federal appeals court has ruled that the warrantless collection of cellphone tower data, which can be used to track the location of a suspect, is unconstitutional without a probable-cause warrant from a court." Kim Zetter at Wired.

"A Pennsylvania mother of seven died in a jail cell where she was serving a two-day sentence for her children’s absence from school, drawing complaints from the judge that sent her there about a broken system that punishes impoverished parents." Maryclaire Dale for the AP.

"But correctional industries, all told, employ only about 60,000 inmates—less than 4 percent of America’s prisoners. Why does a program with proven results remain so marginal? Largely because private-sector companies see inmates doing work that they do, at a fraction of the labor costs, and cry foul." Essential longread from Beth Schwartzapfel at The American Prospect on prison labor and labor rights.

"I’m a white blonde girl who went out and willfully fucked up and committed armed robbery, and I got five years. There were tons of black girls in my prison who were holding onto a bag of dope for a couple of days, and they always seemed to get, like, 10 years. If you ever find yourself in prison and wonder why there’s tension between white and black, shit like that is probably one of the reasons." With all due respect to the legions of folks who write about TV shows for a living, this is the best thing I've seen yet: dude Adam Dawson talks to former incarcerated person Susan K. about Orange Is the New Black. At Washington City Paper. The second part is even better. (Via @pourmecoffee.)

"Driving is exactly the kind of high-speed, high-stimulus situation in which implicit bias thrives." From last month, Sarah Goodyear at City Lab on a study that found that drivers were less likely to stop for black pedestrians at crosswalks than for white pedestrians.

"The end beneficiary? Wall Street, of course, which has driven the growth of private student loans in order to cut them up into bundles, securitize them and sell them to other financial institutions." Heidi Moore at the Guardian on how predatory private student loans are.

"The situation violates those students’ constitutional right to an equal education, he determined. It is believed to be the first legal opinion to assert that the quality of an education is as important as mere access to schools or sufficient funding." Jennifer Medina at the NYT on a California judge's decision against teacher tenure laws this week.

"Tracking people using their real names—often called 'onboarding'—is a hot trend in Silicon Valley. In 2012, ProPublica documented how political campaigns used onboarding to bombard voters with ads based on their party affiliation and donor history. Since then, Twitter and Facebook have both started offering onboarding services allowing advertisers to find their customers online." Julia Angwin at ProPublica with "Why Online Tracking Is Getting Creepier."

"For us, there is a sociopathic freedom in knowing there is no individual behind the Twitter account. The corporation will not reach out for support in hard times the way an individual person on Twitter may. Laughing with it doesn’t trigger an existential fear that we might be relied on for support, sending vibes or crowdfunds during @dennysdiner’s darkest emotional hour." Excellent essay by Kate Losse at The New Inquiry on "Weird Corporate Twitter." (Via Cam Larios.)

"This is a story about those 'hornets' and that nest, about the extraordinary multifront lobbying campaign waged by one of the most powerful research universities in the country. It was an exercise of muscle along the Massachusetts-Washington axis that did something significant even on gridlocked Capitol Hill — restoring funding for a program axed by the White House." Tracy Jan at The Boston Globe takes a deep look at a single lobbying campaign waged on behalf of MIT.

"But the melanoma capital of the world is welcoming back the sun after a half-century on the outs. The move follows a new understanding of skin cancer and vitamin D." From last week, Jessica Seigel at Nautilus on what remains poorly understood about sun exposure and skin cancer.

"The book is the first to delve deep into the history of an early American same-sex marriage. Cleves sees Drake and Bryant not as an aberration, but as part of a larger history of same-sex partnerships that has yet to be written—one that now exists mainly as clues dropped in family histories and stories told in the archives of local historical societies." Rebecca Onion at The Boston Globe interviews Rachel Hope Cleves about her new book, which sounds fascinating. (Hat tip to Sheila Allen Avelin.)

"But the act of investing in others is not selfless at all. In fact, it's something that requires exchange, not in a one-for-one way, like some therapeutic tennis volley, but as if two people were taking a boat out onto a lake." Thoughtful personal essay by Dayna Evans at The Hairpin.

"'It’s kind of a disharmony in space,' Steinhardt explained this winter in Princeton, carefully handling a plastic model of a quasicrystal that he keeps on his desk." A tale of rocks in a museum box, a secret secret diary, and the possible structures of matter in the solar system. By Natalie Wolchover at Quanta Magazine, which, look at all those women on the masthead! More like this, please! (Via Sarah Lyall.)

"'YA is formulaic, worthless dreck,' she said, transforming into a vampire." If you haven't already read this Kathleen Hale piece on The Great YA Controversy Of (The Second Week of June of) 2014, congratulations, you are about to laugh very hard. (Hat tip to Rachel Hartman and Els Kushner.)

"When you were raised to regard America as a refuge from ignorance and despotism—as many children and grandchildren of immigrants are—there's something perverse about standing in the aisle at Hobby Lobby, contemplating all the varieties of yarn and what you might make of them, and realizing that, if you worked there, you'd have less control over your own healthcare, your own body, your own religious beliefs, and your own procreative decisions than you would over a stupid afghan." Finally, Susan Schorn at The Hairpin with an intricately woven essay on "Hobby Lobby and the Tangled Skein of Reproductive Rights."