October Recommended Reading

 At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

Racism:

She was guilty of being a black girl: The mundane terror of police violence in American schools – Brittney Cooper

“Still, there are those who insist that we don’t know the full context. But we do know that this young lady did not do anything violent. We do know that she did not have a weapon. We do know that Ben Fields has been twice sued, once as a member of the police force and once during his time as a school administrator for excessive use of force. He has a documented history of online complaints about his mistreatment of students going back to 2012.

And we should know that this kind of violence is not acceptable. It is not discipline. It is terror and brutalization designed to compel compliance rather than to redirect negative behaviors. It is no way to educate. It is the way a system treats Black students when it decides that they are not worthy of hope, care, dignity or protection. This is the way the system and its arbiters view and treat Black life.”

Sexism:

A New Twist in the Fight Against Sexism in Science – Sarah Zhang

“What’s remarkable is what happened after each of these events occurred, when the hashtags trended and the voices clamored: The people responsible were held accountable for their actions. The Rosetta scientist issued a teary apology. The Nobel laureate lost his honorary professorship. The editor of the Science column is no longer there. The Berkeley astronomer resigned in disgrace.

In isolation, any one of these events could seem like an outlier: just one person getting his due. But taken together, so many and in succession, they suggest something bigger. A conversation about sexism in science broke open this year. Sharp organizing and social media are sparking real change. What was once whispered privately in laboratories and offices is being discussed publicly, loudly, and clearly.”

Even With Hard Evidence Of Gender Bias In STEM Fields, Men Don’t Believe It’s Real – Laurel Raymond

“One landmark study found that science faculty at research universities rate applicants with male names as more competent, more hireable, and more deserving of a higher starting salary than female applicants, even when the resumes are otherwise identical.

Now, a new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) shows another level of bias: Many men don’t believe this is happening. When shown empirical evidence of gender bias against women in the STEM fields, men were far less likely to find the studies convincing or important, according to researchers from Montana State University (MSU), the University of North Florida, and Skidmore College.”

Cuts To Domestic Violence Services Are Placing Victims In Danger – Bryce Covert

“The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) recently released its yearly one-day census of most of the country’s nearly 2,000 domestic violence programs and shelters. Many have cut back on key services and have run out of enough beds to accommodate the massive number of people who need them.

That can leave victims in dangerous situations longer and keeps them from moving into stable, independent living arrangements. “When [victims] come into domestic violence shelters, their situations are more dangerous, likely because they’ve waited longer,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. “They have to wait for services even when they personally feel like they are in crisis.””

Politics:

What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts – Patricia Cohen

“”Most economists today would agree that raising taxes modestly would bring in more revenue” without doing any serious damage to the economy, said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center. The big question is how much is too much, because at some point, higher tax rates would discourage extra investment and work.

All the Republican candidates share the party’s traditional opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy, arguing that it would ruin the economy by sopping up money that would otherwise be used to create jobs. Lowering taxes, they say, will unleash a torrent of economic activity that will in the long run spur growth and revenue.

But most mainstream economists, including some on the conservative side of the divide, concede that even with optimistic projections about growth and spending cuts, the Republican plans would leave a whopping budget gap, requiring more borrowing, not less. Revamping the tax code along these lines would also decrease the share paid by those at the top.”

Climate Change:

Greedland is Melting Away – Coral Davenport, Josh Haner, Larry Buchanan And Derek Watkins

“For years, scientists have studied the impact of the planet’s warming on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. But while researchers have satellite images to track the icebergs that break off, and have created models to simulate the thawing, they have little on-the-ground information and so have trouble predicting precisely how fast sea levels will rise.”

What Is—and Is Not—Considered Settled with Climate Science? – Brenda Ekwurzel

“Three widely accepted scientific understandings in climate science: Carbon dioxide traps heat and exerts major influence on Earth’s temperature when its concentration increases or decreases: upheld since the late 19th century. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Health:

Processed meat and cancer – what you need to know – Casey Dunlop

“In this post, we’ll look at what IARC’s classification actually means, how red and processed meat affect cancer risk, and the likely size of this effect. But before we move on, let’s be clear: yes, a prolonged high-meat diet isn’t terribly good for you. But a steak, bacon sandwich or sausage bap a few times a week probably isn’t much to worry about. And overall the risks are much lower than for other things linked to cancer – such as smoking.”

Meat and tobacco: the difference between risk and strength of evidence – Suzi Gage

“The way this message has been framed in the media is extremely misleading. Comparing meat to tobacco, as most news organisations who’ve chosen to report this have done, makes it seem like a bacon sandwich might be just as harmful as a cigarette. This is absolutely not the case.”

Patients Assume ‘Breakthrough’ Drugs Are Better – Sarah Wickline Wallan

“The breakthrough designation gets awarded based on preliminary evidence, which can include changes in surrogate markers of disease that do not always translate into meaningful clinical benefit, Ross and Redberg added, suggesting that even when the designation is based on clinical outcomes, many of those benefits will not be confirmed in subsequent, larger-scale clinical trials.”

“Health” Supplements Send 23,000 to Emergency Rooms in the U.S Each Year – Gene Emery

“The supplements include herbal products, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other complementary nutrition products hawked for a wide range of uses, often with little or no testing to back up claims. The new study “illustrates the idea that something that’s ‘natural’ is not necessarily safe, and these products do not come without risk,” Dr. Curtis Haas, director of pharmacy for the University of Rochester Medical Center and a past president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, told Reuters Health.”

Drug companies aren’t telling you the whole truth – Rob Waters

“Bottom line: studies showing that antidepressants worked got published; studies showing they didn’t went unpublished and few people knew they existed.

The study caused a bit of a stir. Jeffrey Drazen, the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, where Turner’s review was published, told me then it was evidence of “publication bias”—the tendency for positive, but not negative, findings to make their way into print. Despite the best efforts of journal editors to publish a balance of findings, Drazen told me, “what’s reported is really a much more rosy situation than actually exists.”

OK, you may be saying, but this is six-year old news, and by now things must have changed. Two recent studies suggest that when it comes to publication bias, in fact, things have not changed much at all.”

Religion:

White evangelical church-goers think their ‘science’ is better than the science those stupid scientists say is science – Fred Clark

“Here’s Pew’s own headline: “Highly religious Americans are less likely than others to see conflict between faith and science.” That’s not true. That’s not what Pew’s own survey shows. But this weird, distorting spin on the survey is being widely repeated. Here’s the headline at Christianity Today: “Churchgoers Least Likely to See Science and Religion in Conflict.”

Again, no. That is not at all what the survey shows.What the survey shows, rather, is that Churchgoers Are More Likely to Redefine Science as That Which Does Not Conflict With Their Religion. Or, in other words, that Real, True Christians also imagine they alone possess the Real, True Science.”

Science:

21764634350_8d9c3239b2_kRelive Our One Giant Leap in an Archive of Thousands of Apollo Photographs – Phil Plait

“If we can put a man on the Moon, why can’t we put 8,400 hi-res scans of the Apollo mission photographs taken by the astronauts themselves on Flickr? Oh wait. We can. And Kipp Teague did.

Teague is a network and IT director at Lynchburg College, and he and I have two things in common: We’re both University of Virginia alumni (wahoowa!), and we’re both unabashed fans of the Apollo Moon missions. But where I will sometimes write about the missions and talk about how they’re real, he went way, way farther: He rescanned more than 8,000 original photographs taken by the astronauts using their chest-mounted Hasselblad cameras, creating a huge archive on Flickr showcasing the epic journey to the Moon and back.”

The complex nature of GMOs calls for a new conversation – Maywa Montenegro

“GMOs, in sum, point us to deeper issues that underlie the entire food system. A nonreductionist evaluation of GMOs can push us toward thinking about effects at multiple scales and time spans. Such an evaluation can get us to think deeply about who benefits from technologies, who controls their availability and access, and who makes such decisions. We get to think about the entanglements of politics, the media and public interest in shaping scientific validity and consensus. In short, we are invited to think socially and ecologically — indeed agroecologically — about the utility and value of engineered seeds.”

Writing:

Narrative X-Rays: Looking at Stories’ Structural Skeletons – Julia Rosen

“Structuring long-form nonfiction writing defies simple rules. Sometimes, you should start at the beginning of a story; other times, the middle or even the end. Sometimes you should follow a single narrative as it unfolds; other times, two or more tales tango through an article. The only hard and fast rule seems to be: Do what works. Do whatever will convey the information you want to share while also giving readers the feeling that they’re on a journey—one that might continue beyond the final sentence. …

To beginners, the whole process can sound, well, a little magical. What if we don’t know how to conquer our unruly notes? Or more importantly, what if we can’t recognize the right organizational pattern when we see it? Part of the problem is that there are as many successful structures as there are compelling stories. But that’s also part of the solution: By examining a range of stories, not only can you build a repertoire of possible choices, but you can also develop a sense of which narrative choices work, and why. So we’ve asked four long-form writers to reverse engineer some of their favorite tales—their own and those by other writers—to expose their narrative skeletons.”

 

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