March Recommended Reading

noaaAt 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.

LGBTQ+ Rights:

North Carolina’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ law, explained – German Lopez

“It’s a startling piece of legislation — one that Sarah McBride of the Center for American Progress called “one of the most extreme, anti-LGBT bills we’ve seen yet.” And North Carolina legislators used a dangerous myth to move forward with the law, regardless of the risks. Here’s what the law does:

  1. The statute overturns and bans local laws that don’t conform to the state’s nondiscrimination laws for the workplace and public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, and other places that serve the public). Since the state doesn’t ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace or public accommodations, this effectively forces all cities and counties to keep it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in these settings.
  2. It prohibits transgender people from using bathrooms or locker rooms in schools and government agencies based solely on their gender identity. Instead, they’re forced to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender noted on their birth certificate, which can be changed in North Carolina through an arduous process after gender-affirming surgery but not before then. Public facilities can still build unisex single-person bathrooms to accommodate trans people, but it’s not required.

In other words, the law is a mix of two types of anti-LGBTQ measures: laws that ban local nondiscrimination measures for LGBTQ people and an anti-transgender bathroom bill.”


As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops – Claire Cain Miller

“Women’s median annual earnings stubbornly remain about 20 percent below men’s. Why is progress stalling? It may come down to this troubling reality, new research suggests: Work done by women simply isn’t valued as highly.

That sounds like a truism, but the academic work behind it helps explain the pay gap’s persistence even as the factors long thought to cause it have disappeared. Women, for example, are now better educated than men, have nearly as much work experience and are equally likely to pursue many high-paying careers. No longer can the gap be dismissed with pat observations that women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work.

A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.”

Rape kit system unnecessary since most accusations false, Idaho sheriff says – Associated Press

“Rowland said legislators should let law officers decide which rape kits need testing, the system that is currently in place. He said: ‘The majority of our rapes — not to say that we don’t have rapes, we do — but the majority of our rapes that are called in are actually consensual sex.’

Such claims are part of a larger problem of law enforcement harboring unfair skepticism of victims of rape more so than other crimes, said Ilse Knecht, policy and advocacy director for the Joyful Heart Foundation. ‘It’s hard to know if a claim is false if the kits don’t get tested,” she said. “Each one of these kits represents a survivor. … We need to take their claim seriously, treat them with respect and use the evidence.’ ”


Nation’s Largest Public Schools Have More Police Than Counselors – Kenrya Rankin

“Matt Barnum examined public records for the nation’s ten largest school districts to uncover one important statistic: the ratio of counselors to security personnel. What he found sheds light on where the districts—each of which counts students of color as the majority—choose to invest their time and funds. Of the largest five districts, three have more officers than counselors. They are New York City, Chicago and Miami-Dade. When the scope is widened to the top ten, four fall into the same category.”


I’ve been homeless 3 times. The problem isn’t drugs or mental illness; it’s poverty – Veronica Harnish

“I attended college pay-as-you-go for a couple years while working, then left because I couldn’t afford to continue and knew better than to take on student debt. My moderate savings was destroyed in my 30s by health care costs that insurance wouldn’t cover. Within the past several years, full-time work that pays a subsistence wage has been hard to come by. Now I’m pushing 50, and am aging out of a workforce that for the most part gave me a subsistence-level existence at best.

Three times within the past four years I’ve lived in my 36-year-old car that has more than 400,000 miles on it, because I could not find affordable rental housing or a job that paid a living wage. Though I reside in the Pacific Northwest, the situation is the same all across the country. Impoverished, working single women without children do not get top priority on long waitlists for subsidized housing, rapid rehousing, or other government services or benefits. I don’t have family or a spouse to turn to for help or support. Friends can’t or won’t help for their own various reasons and circumstances. I am totally on my own.”

As Rental Prices Rise, Women Stay In Bad Relationships to Survive – Helen Nianias

“A UK-based homeless charity, Crisis, published a report that found 27 percent of homeless service users claimed that they had formed an unwanted sexual relationship with someone since being homeless, and this was a measure significantly more women than men resorted to. Of 2,040 people polled, 28 percent of surveyed participants currently in a relationship admitted that financial security was a key factor keeping them with their current partner.

Wherever you are in the world, the sheer expense of living is a concern, particularly when many of the best paying jobs are located in major metropolitan areas. Indeed, the proximity of housing to such well paying jobs is part of what drives up rental costs. For instance, the cost of an apartment in Manhattan reached a record high last year. In 2015, Los Angeles had rental vacancies at just 3.3 percent in city of 3.9 million people. In the UK, according to a Shelter study, 352,000 renters were threatened with eviction in 2015.”

Corporate Culture:

Women and Minorities Are Penalized for Promoting Diversity – Stefanie K. Johnson & David R. Hekman

“So why does this happen? We know that in the U.S., there is still a power and status gap between men and women and between whites and nonwhites. High status groups, mainly white men, are given freedom to deviate from the status quo because their competence is assumed based on their membership in the high status group. In contrast, when women and nonwhite leaders advocate for other women and nonwhites, it highlights their low-status demographics, activating the stereotype of incompetence, and leads to worse performance ratings.

This has serious implications. Our set of studies suggest that it’s risky for low-status group members to help others like them. And this can lead to women and minorities choosing not to advocate for other women and minorities once they reach positions of power, as they don’t want to be perceived as incompetent, poor performers.”

Why I’m Genderqueer, Professional and Unafraid – Jacob Tobia

“Now, as a recent graduate confronted with entering the workforce, I find myself having to contend with a much bigger obstacle than frat boys. I have to contend with professionalism.

Professionalism is a funny term, because it masquerades as neutral despite being loaded with immense oppression. As a concept, professionalism is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, imperialist and so much more – and yet people act like professionalism is non-political. Bosses across the country constantly tell their employees to ‘act professionally’ without a second thought. Wear a garment that represents your non-Western culture to work? Your boss may tell you it’s unprofessional. Wear your hair in braids or dreadlocks instead of straightened? That’s probably unprofessional too. Wear shoes that are slightly scuffed because you can’t yet afford new ones? People may not think you’re being professional either.”


In An Unusual Move, The EPA Tries To Pull A Pesticide From Market – Dan Charles

“The agency says that there is now evidence that [flubendiamide] will accumulate in streams and lakes, where it will kill off small, freshwater creatures like snails and crabs that play a crucial role in the entire web of aquatic life. But the real reason that this decision is attracting so much attention is that flubendiamide is just one of thousands of pesticides that the EPA approved on a “conditional” basis, pending the results of further studies that were required to assure that agency of the chemicals’ safety. The pesticide industry fears — and anti-pesticide groups hope — that many other chemicals, also approved conditionally, soon could face increased EPA scrutiny as well.”

Changing Minds:

Growing Up With White Paranoia: Persecution vs. Privilege – Lyz Lenz

“The Bible and the Constitution were spoken in the same breath. We lived on the edge of an apocalypse. Every moment was the end. With every breath we were fighting a battle against a Godless state. Our very lives as Christians were a protest.

We moved seamlessly between destiny and agency. As white, middle-class Americans, it never occurred to us that it could be different, that our perceived persecution was in another sense chosen. No sympathy was allotted to others who were persecuted for their race or sexuality—or for any other religion besides the right one: ours. It took me years to realize we never were in any danger.”

Climate Change:

Why teachers send mixed messages on climate science – Bethany Brookshire

“Climate change is happening. And science teachers are on it. The good news? More middle-science and high-school science teachers are addressing climate change than ever before. The bad news? Some are sending mixed messages about the science, a new study concludes. Many teach that recent increases in temperature may trace largely to people burning fossil fuels. But they also may argue that those increases might be due to natural causes. The problem? Scientific consensus is clear that human actions are the major driver of current changes in global climate. So why would teachers muddy the message? It may be because they don’t fully understand climate science, or just how much scientists agree on the human role in recent changes, the new research suggests.”

NOAA Record Heat for February – Tamino

“It will probably not surprise you that global temperature according to NOAA agrees with that from NASA, that February set a new record for the hottest monthly temperature anomaly on record. … Natural variation took February’s temperature above the trend line, just as it has taken temperature below the trend line, and will again. That’s the way fluctuations are. But it will just as surely bring temperature above the trend line again, and when it does we’re likely to set new records, because the trend keeps going up.”


Everything Is Crumbling – Daniel Engber

[Warning – this article is overly hyperbolic, because overturning old ideas is part of how science works, not part of some huge problem. Still very interesting.]

“For scientists and science journalists, this back and forth is worrying. We’d like to think that a published study has more than even odds of being true. The new study of ego depletion has much higher stakes: Instead of warning us that any single piece of research might be unreliable, the new paper casts a shadow on a fully-formed research literature. Or, to put it another way: It takes aim not at the single paper but at the Big Idea.

Baumeister’s theory of willpower, and his clever means of testing it, have been borne out again and again in empirical studies. The effect has been recreated in hundreds of different ways, and the underlying concept has been verified via meta-analysis. It’s not some crazy new idea, wobbling on a pile of flimsy data; it’s a sturdy edifice of knowledge, built over many years from solid bricks.”


Image Credit: NOAA, via Tamino

One comment on “March Recommended Reading

  1. venice967 says:

    I am appalled by the business going on in NC. It seems that we are heading back into a dark age of discrimination against anyone different from the main line. What has happened??!!! Why all the sudden racism, sexism, and genderism? Maybe this has always been present and all the insecurities of this age have brought the scum to the top, so to speak. Classism has always been around as a convenient way of separating the poor and rich. NIMBY is an example of that. I grew up thinking of homeless people as ‘bums’ or ‘hobos’, never understanding that these people suffered not only from mental illnesses but some from the vagaries of life that cast them into a vast pool of cascading circumstances that contributed to the downward spiral of poverty. And it was also the returning vets from wars we never saw who suffered from PTSD that also caused such an increased number of people who could not function in peacetime. I think it’s good to keep these problems right in front of our eyes and consciousness. It’s so easy to look the other way and tend to our own affairs. Easy, but not right. These things need our attention! And they need our advocation. I would also like to mention a very unpopular issue that needs our attention. Unborn children need our protection from conception onward. I can’t advocate for the rest without including these people as well.


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