Sunday, June 29, 2014

No links for the week ending 29 June 2014

No post this week. I'll be back next week with links. As always, thanks for reading, whatever it is you read!

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.)

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."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

No links for the week ending 8 June 2014

End-of-school madness being what it is, I had no time whatsoever for the internets this week. I will be moving to a more sporadic and reduced schedule for the summer, but intend to be back at full strength this fall. In the meantime, please go on sending me links even if you don't see me around on Twitter — I'll see them eventually, and be grateful that you passed them along.

As ever, thanks for reading! And have a great summer.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Links for the week ending 1 June 2014

"Every day, Mr. Nasr, 68, a Transportation Ministry employee, pads around his offices in the Ottoman-era building, where light filters through red, yellow and blue stained glass. He imagines the past — the few short years a century ago when the place bustled with travelers headed for Mecca." Lovely color piece from Anne Barnard at the NYT on the lost railway culture of Syria and the greater region.

"He has also received marriage proposals, which he declines. One woman asked whether electricity was working in Syria so she could bring a hair curler. 'Advice to people who want to come is, Don’t bring your hair curlers,' he said." Also at the NYT, Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura talks to Westerners who have traveled to Syria to become jihadis.

"That’s partly because stigma, like all vulnerability in the rural north, doesn’t affect only the girl who has been assaulted." BuzzFeed's Jina Moore reporting from Nigeria, where contingency plans are being drawn up to address the needs of the kidnapped Chibok teenage girls, should they be successfully rescued.

"Violent extremism entices those who long to lash out at a system they believe has cheated them, but lack they courage to think for themselves, beyond the easy answers they are offered by pedlars of hate. Misogynist extremism is no different." Laurie Penny at the New Statesman.

"The experience of feeling simultaneously threatened and unable to speak, of feeling as if I would be persecuting this man who was committing a sexual impropriety were I to pipe up and tell him to knock it off, was unsettlingly familiar. " Sasha Weiss at The New Yorker.

"Women who have experienced this can recognize that placating these men is a rational choice, a form of self-defense to protect against setting off an aggressor. But to male bystanders, it often looks like a warm welcome, and that helps to shift blame in the public eye from the harasser and onto his target, who’s failed to respond with the type of masculine bravado that men more easily recognize. " Amanda Hess at Slate. (Via Jody T.)

" Let’s talk about how many conventions have been forced to use disturbingly careful language to basically say, Don’t assault people. Let’s talk about how much pushback statements like that have gotten from people whining, 'Aw, c’mon, can’t I assault someone just a little?'" N.K. Jemison's speech at Wiscon 38, republished on her blog. (Via Rachel Hartman.)

"Bookstores are a privilege. They’re not accessible to everyone, and when they are accessible, they’re not always worth it. Why would I or anyone else want to spend time in a shop where my presence isn’t welcomed?" Kelly Jensen at Bookriot making an important argument (sez someone who grew up in a bookstore desert). (Via Malindo Lo.)

"Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up." From the Fall, 1990, issue of the Paris Review, an interview with Maya Angelou.

"In the city’s post-Katrina reform frenzy, New Orleans has shut down all but five of its traditional public schools, kicked out tenured teachers, and replaced schools with charters and a predominantly black teaching force with young, overwhelmingly white recruits from the controversial education reform and teaching training program Teach for America." Julianne Hing at Colorlines on a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the school systems of Newark, Chicago, and New Orleans. (Via Carla Murphy.)

"Each morning around 6, Mary Ellen Snodgrass swallows a computer chip. It’s embedded in one of her pills and roughly the size of a grain of sand. " Ariana Eunjung Cha at The Washington Post. (Via Katie Zezima.)

"The problem with these philosophies isn’t that they seek to abolish, or challenge, the state; it’s that, in their current incarnation, they appeal mostly to individuals like Gogulski, who by accident of birth start off on top of the global pile. They aren’t solutions that management consultants would characterize as 'scalable'; rather, they’re limited, solipsistic. That makes ideologies like Gogulski’s more symbolic than globally meaningful." Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on an intentionally stateless person in Bratislava.

"To know a lot of smart, complicated adults is to know a lot of escapists and a lot of social media/booze/TV addicts and a lot of moms who obsess about every dimension of their kids' development and a lot of hothouse flowers with insanely complicated, expensive needs." Heather Havrilesky hits this particular edition of Ask Polly out of the park. At The Awl.

"There was a spelling bee in which anybody who participated was given extra credit. And I figured I could make up for some bad homework grades. I won the spelling bee, and I kept going along." Sarah Kilff at Vox with a delightful interview with five former champions of the National Spelling Bee.

"Ayn Rand's Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone" is worth it for the tags alone. From Mallory Ortberg at The Toast, of course.

"Ninety-five-year-old Beverly Wilson was the only one who had been alive during the trial, though she didn’t remember much about 1925 except her parents arguing—not about theology or science but whether to name her baby brother 'Evolution.'" Finally, at the Oxford American, a wonderful piece by Rachael Maddux about Dayton, Tennessee, where the Scopes trial took place.