Sunday, June 22, 2014

Links for the week ending 22 June 2014

"And getting the job done—if the job is collecting electronic data, and not, say, figuring out that two disaffected Chechen-Americans were plotting to detonate pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon—is what Alexander has accomplished." At the NYRB, where women are rarer — excuse me, more precious — than rubies, Sue Halpern reviews a small armada of books about the NSA and Edward Snowden.

"Some 2,764 civilians have died from violence in Iraq so far in June, according to Iraq Body Count, which monitors the death toll. That figure is already more than double the 1,027 killed in May and the highest monthly death toll since May 2007, according to the group." Loveday Morris, Liz Sly, and Abigail Hauslohner at The Washington Post.

"There are now two kinds of refugees in Diffa: those fleeing Boko Haram and those fleeing the weather. The chaos wrought by dislocation and some of the world’s worst social indicators renders these communities vulnerable to extremism." So many interesting facts and insights in this very long Eliza Griswold profile of General James B. Linder, head of the United States Special Operations forces in Africa, at the NYT. (Via Sonia Faleiro.)

"'In terms of people’s understanding of what Africa is, it’s a place where people are waiting for the west, and again this narrative is patently false,' argued Olopade. Great piece about journalist Dayo Olopade by Kate Douglas at How We Made It In Africa.

"Now, several days later, I watched these Shuhada Street boys risk death for the sake of a liberty so rudimentary and fundamental that my own children are not even aware of its existence, or its importance, or its simple human beauty: the right to walk down the street." Ayelet Waldman at The Atlantic on the outrages of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian communities.

"I try to say it out loud: I am a Palestinian Jew. But it doesn’t easily roll off my tongue. I am not ready to say it to anyone else – I don’t even know what it means. But in all likelihood, I will become one sooner or later, so I better practice." Dorit Naaman at +927 Magazine. (Via Sarah Schulman.)

"One woman described her TANF enrollment appointment as lasting from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon, and several mentioned they had their TANF benefits cancelled for reasons they couldn’t understand." Olga Khazan at The Atlantic on a new study by the Urban Institute on barriers to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance program.

"When Ashworth asked David whether it was a good enough reason to kill the girl because she was annoying, he replied, 'Well, the way the other boy and I see it, but you don’t, no.' He said the plan was 'actually good to me, and bad, but mostly bad for the real world cause I had a feeling that I’d get arrested.'" Amazing longread at BuzzFeed by Victoria Beale about two fifth graders in rural Washington who planned to kill classmates. (Via Women We Read This Week at Vela.)

"I had spoken several times about his violent ramblings to the campus police and to the university’s office of mental health, and this was what they came up with: I should invite the student to my office and calmly begin a conversation with the following question: 'Do you have a plan to harm yourself or anyone else?'" Julie Schumacher at the NYT. (Via David Hull.)

"Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do)." This piece is a couple of years old, but still worth your time: Courtney Desiree Morris at INCITE! with "Why Misogynists Make Great Informants." (Via Rachel Hartman.)

"This is, in the strictest of senses, showing both sides. But one side is a woman talking about her personal experience, and the other is a man and his supporters saying she’s wrong." Jess Zimmerman at Dame Magazine on apologists for photographer Terry Richardson. (Via Kera Bolonik.)

"In the 19th century shit as a noun was reserved exclusively for men — the 'West Somerset Word-Book' defines it as 'a term of contempt, applied to men only,' as in 'He’s a regular shit.' Now, women too can work, vote, own their own property, and be called a shit." More than a year old, but maybe it's out in paperback now? An excerpt at Salon from Melissa Mohr's book, Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing. (Via Paige Morgan.)

"'Mr. Jacobs,' Rabbi Goldstein continued. 'We hear that DeDe uses disgusting language. Like the s-word.'" So great: DeDe Jacobs-Komisar at The Toast on her yeshivish school days.

"Instead of trying to reverse engineer the teaching profession through complicated evaluations leading to divisive firings, these changes aspire to reboot it from the beginning." Amanda Ripley at Slate on raising the bar to entry for teaching. (Via Jody T.)

"But for the cells that make up all living things, noise — meaning random variability in the outside environment, including fluctuating food sources, pathogens and deadly toxins, or random processes within the cells themselves — can be a matter of life and death." Another fascinating piece from last month at Quanta Magazine, this one on randomness at the cellular level. By Emily Singer.

"On the hottest of days relief came in the form of apocalyptic rain that flooded our roads and basements in minutes. Once, during one of these storms, my mother and I rafted down Main Street in our bathing suits." Short reminisence in the "My Madeleine" column at Intelligent Life by Miriam Toews, worth reading for that image alone.

"On top of the physical sensation, there is a weariness that hovers around what you might call your soul. My brain is tired, my heart is tired. If I knew where to go to officially give up, I would." Molly Pohlig on mental illness at The Toast. (Hat tip to Jill Heather.)

"We were especially frustrated because when his caretaker, Erin, arrived at 9 a.m., she could get him to eat scrambled eggs with cheese, yogurt, cereal—a meal fit for a kid twice his age and size. Why? And why was he suddenly chanting 'Bee-bee, bay-bee' every five minutes?" Kera Bolonik at NY Mag with a happy-ending essay about a Justin Bieber-compass to navigate around a toddler's unexplained medical issues, which, oh yeah, the memories...

"Men take it for granted that the world wants to hear what they’ve got to say, women have to be convinced that anyone besides their immediate family members care." Literary, not literary, I don't much care, but Jennifer Weiner has very smart things to say in conversation with best-interviewer-around Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin. (Hey, someday let's discuss why Weiner drew Rebecca Mead at The New Yorker — because, right, who's going to be more sympathetic to a pop-culture best-selling author than someone whose cultural touchstone is Middlemarch, while John Green drew Margaret Talbot.)

"Sinara threw her two-year-old out the window. 'Parenthood is a prison,' she said. 'I always hated that baby.' That’s the only way to reject institutions, sometimes, is to throw a baby out of the window." Mallory Ortberg, "My Prestigious Literary Novel." At The Toast.

"OHTC disrupted the idea of whiteness I’d developed as innocuous, inoffensive and existing in laugh-track isolation. OHTC did not exist in isolation. Their smiling success was propped up by something—us." Finally, a summer story about race and class by Lauren Quinn at Guernica. (Via Vela.)