June Recommended Reading

flags_viaMaiaWeinstockAt 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.

This one, though, is a little bit different. Usually I put the things I’ve read into categories only and leave it for you to decide which you’d like to look at. This time I’ve put them in an order that reflects things I want to say about the tragedy of this month, but better than I could, and all together more clearly. Continue reading

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December 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.

Continue reading

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.”

 

September 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:

Cops: Texas Man Vandalized His Own Truck, Blamed It On Black Lives Matter – Caitlin Cruz

“A disabled veteran told Whitney, Texas, police on Sept. 8 that his pickup truck was vandalized by Black Lives Matter activists. As a result, he raised almost $6,000 from the public for repairs, according to a report from Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW.

But footage from the television station’s initial report told police a different story. On Friday police arrested Scott Lattin on suspicion of making a false police report.”

Sexism:

New Census Data Shows The Gender Wage Gap Hasn’t Improved In 7 Years – Bryce Covert

“The average woman working full time, year round in 2014 made just 79 percent of what a similar man made, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. That’s not statistically different than last year’s 78 percent figure, and there hasn’t been a significant reduction of the wage gap since 2007.

Men earned $50,400 at the median in 2014, while women earned $39,600. both not stat from 2013. Neither gender has seen a significant increase in their median earnings since 2009, and women’s 2014 median earnings were not statistically different than what they made in 2007.”

Online posts about killing feminists prompt University of Toronto to increase campus security – Tristin Hopper

In the letter, Regehr says the university was the target of ‘anonymous threats made on a public blog,’ but provides no details. However, a later statement by CUPE 3902, the union representing University of Toronto academic staff, said the posts ‘were gendered threats made specifically toward women and feminists.’

‘We can also add that the threats specifically encourage violence and target our members in their workplaces,’ it reads. ‘Specifically mentioned are those working in Sociology and Women’s Studies classrooms.’ ”

Classism:

Wages Have Been Stagnant For 40 Years But It’s Not The Fault Of American Workers – Bryce Covert

“Stagnating wages aren’t workers’ fault. ‘People have been told that the economy isn’t doing well and therefore that’s why people haven’t done well,’ Lawrence Mishel, president of EPI and a co-author of the report, told ThinkProgress. But economic growth has kept increasing at a healthy rate. ‘Everybody’s wages could have grown substantially. But they didn’t.’

This isn’t accidental, either. ‘We haven’t been in an economic tsunami where people aren’t able to move ahead,’ Mishel said. ‘This is a man-made phenomenon.’ ”

Climate Change:

Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years – Suzanne Goldenberg and Helena Bengtsson

“The secretive funders behind America’s conservative movement directed around $125m (£82m) over three years to groups spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking Barack Obama’s climate change plan, according to an analysis of tax records. The amount is close to half of the anonymous funding disbursed to rightwing groups, underlining the importance of the climate issue to US conservatives. The anonymous cash flow came from two secretive organisations – the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund – that have been called the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement.”

How I Came To Jesus On Global Warming — Dan Vergano

“It took a jolt from someone I trusted before my mind started to change. Jim, another aerospace engineer, had started working with the Energy Department, which funded climate scientists. He had quickly discovered that these researchers were not the addled souls of our imagination, but a crusty and sharp-minded breed (something that I can attest, after two decades of interviewing them, is still true).

So, when I casually voiced something sarcastic about global warming, Jim said: ‘Have you checked the data?’ In engineering speak that translates as, ‘Dude, are you high?’

That stung. Not enough to actually engage seriously with the idea that I might be wrong. But enough to open the door to real thought.”

Environment:

“A Big Deal… A Big Move”: the U.S. Wind Industry’s New Plan for Protecting Bats – John Rogers

“The new voluntary industry guidelines involve wind project operators operating their wind turbines differently when they’re not generating power during peak bat migration time. Wind turbines can pose threats to bats at wind speeds that are too low for generating electricity. Under this agreement, turbines will have their blades turned, such that they spin very slowly, or not at all, when they’re not needed.”

Media:

Book Publishing, Not Fact-Checking – Kate Newman

“Fact-checking dates back to the founding of Time in 1923, and has a strong tradition at places like Mother Jones and The New Yorker. (The Atlantic checks every article in print.) But it’s becoming less and less common even in the magazine world. Silverman suggests this is in part due to the Internet and the drive for quick content production. ‘Fact-checkers don’t increase content production,’ he said. ‘Arguably, they slow it.’

What many readers don’t realize is that fact-checking has never been standard practice in the book-publishing world at all.”

Politics:

Stop Comparing Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders – Nate Silver

“Trump is a much greater threat to his party establishment. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that Sanders is as threatening to the Democratic establishment as Trump is to the Republican one. Sanders’s policy positions, as I’ve mentioned, are about 95 percent the same as those of a typical liberal Democrat in Congress. And where they diverge, they push Democrats further to the left in a fairly predictable way,3 acting as a ‘supersized’ or slightly exaggerated version of the Democratic agenda. Indeed, while Sanders lacks support from elected Democratic officials, he has some backing from other influential constituencies within the party, such as some labor unions and liberal media outlets.”

Religion:

Everything That Claims to be Christian – Shaun King

“Without fail, the people who harass me daily (I don’t mean genuine critiques) with the ugliest racist words and threats, all claim to be Christian. The people who openly hate Latino immigrants and even state that they’d like to shoot and kill them almost always claim to be Christians. The people who make life difficult, daily, and mock my LGBT friends, are almost always Christians. Those who are calling the Black Lives Matter movement a ‘terrorist organization’ or a hate group…so-called Christians.

For me, I’m at a point where I just don’t want to be anything that those people claim to be and here’s the greater point that I want to make…

We can’t both be Christians.”

Medicine:

The Human Cost of a Misleading Drug-Safety Study – David Dobbs

“Count this as shocking but unsurprising, for GSK has been admonished and fined many times since 2001, including once for $3 billion, for exaggerating Paxil’s safety and marketing it improperly for use in adolescents. Yet this BMJ study deals an especially sharp blow, for it’s only rarely that researchers are able to crack open the tightly sealed file cabinets of drugmakers and look at raw trial data. This illustrates why they want to do so: It appears to be a direct demonstration of how a company and researchers can misinterpret the data to make a bad drug look good.”

Science:

Perplexing Pluto: New ‘Snakeskin’ Image and More from New Horizons – NASA

“The newest high-resolution images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons are both dazzling and mystifying, revealing a multitude of previously unseen topographic and compositional details. The image below — showing an area near the line that separates day from night — captures a vast rippling landscape of strange, aligned linear ridges that has astonished New Horizons team members.

‘It’s a unique and perplexing landscape stretching over hundreds of miles,’ said William McKinnon, New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team deputy lead from Washington University in St. Louis. ‘It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology. This’ll really take time to figure out.’ ”

August 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.

LGBTQ Rights:

When Public Servants Refuse to Serve the Public – Garrett Epps

“Is it possible to agree on what religious freedom is not? It’s not a right to wear a Marine uniform but refuse to fight. It’s not a right to be a county clerk and decide which citizens you will serve and which you won’t. Religious “accommodation” doesn’t mean what Liberty Counsel thinks it means. If a person can perform the duties of a job with some adjustment for religious belief, that’s an accommodation. If they’re not willing to do the job, they have to leave. That’s not just a requirement of law; honor requires it as well.

Government in particular has an obligation to dismiss any employee who claims a right to discriminate against citizens. It’s not good enough to say, “Go to another county if you want a license.” It’s not good enough to say, “I won’t let anyone get married.” Those aren’t a clerk’s decisions to make.”

Racism:

Black American lives are being erased. The victors still rewrite history. – Lindy West

“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with paying tribute to a big, beautiful lion whose life was sacrificed on the altar of white male insecurity. There is nothing intrinsically wrong, I suppose, with devoting column inches to an apparently dangerous racist publicly confirming that he is a dangerous racist. But we must remember that when we use the phrase “History is written by the victors”, we are talking about moments like this. This is what that looks like. The victors (ie the beneficiaries of the status quo) are writing history, in front of our eyes, in real time – deciding what will endure and what will fade away. This isn’t necessarily an overt, explicit or even conscious process – it’s often just a series of seemingly innocuous choices that add up to a slow, grinding erasure.”

Tracking Police Violence A Year After Ferguson – Donovan X. Ramsey

“Over the past few months, The Guardian and The Washington Post have published reporting projects that measure the number of civilians killed by police. The Guardian’s count for 2015 stands at 690, and the Post’s, which tracks deaths from police shootings in particular, is at 581. Both projects rely on data provided by news outlets, research groups, and the open-source reporting projects Fatal Encounters and Killed By Police. The Guardian’s and Post’s projects have captured the public’s attention, but Sabol says they lack the rigor needed to provide lasting answers. The projects are, after all, works of journalism designed to offer estimates based on available data, not official measurements.”

Sexism:

Why Can’t the FBI Identify Serial Rapists? – T. Christian Miller

“That’s what’s striking about ViCAP today: the paucity of information it contains. Only about 1,400 police agencies in the U.S., out of roughly 18,000, participate in the system. The database receives reports from far less than 1 percent of the violent crimes committed annually. It’s not even clear how many crimes the database has helped solve. The FBI does not release any figures. A review in the 1990s found it had linked only 33 crimes in 12 years.

Canadian authorities built on the original ViCAP framework to develop a modern and sophisticated system capable of identifying patterns and linking crimes. It has proven particularly successful at analyzing sexual-assault cases. But three decades and an estimated $30 million later, the FBI’s system remains stuck in the past, the John Henry of data mining. ViCAP was supposed to revolutionize American law enforcement. That revolution never came.”

It’s Weird How People Correct Me When They Think I’m a Woman – Jef Rouner

“It went on and on and on. I even saw one person (who I blocked because I don’t need to see this sort of nuttiness) on a friend’s Facebook share refer to my work as “typical white women liberal logic”, whatever the heck that means. Time after time, I was assumed to be a woman, and those who did so were usually the ones who immediately tried to mansplain away every seed of logic and well-sourced information that I had planted.”

To Have and to Hold: Reproduction, marriage, and the Constitution – Jill Lepore

“The coincidence of the fiftieth anniversary of the Court’s ruling in Griswold and its anticipated decision in Obergefell makes this, inescapably, an occasion for considering the past half century of legal reasoning about reproductive and gay rights. The cases that link Griswold to Obergefell are the product of political movements that have been closely allied, both philosophically and historically. That sex and marriage can be separated from reproduction is fundamental to both movements, and to their legal claims. Still, there’s a difference between the arguments of political movements and appeals to the Constitution. Good political arguments are expansive: they broaden and deepen the understanding of citizens and of legislators. Bad political arguments are as frothy as soapsuds: they get bigger and bigger, until they pop. But both good and bad constitutional arguments are more like blown-in insulation: they fill every last nook of a very cramped space, and then they harden. Over time, arguments based on a right to privacy have tended to weaken and crack; arguments based on equality have grown only stronger.”

‘This isn’t right’: New York City rape victim blasts police who asked if she was a drunk ‘party girl’- David Ferguson

“Having to recite her story repeatedly to openly skeptical police officials was a humiliating and degrading ordeal, Ellett said. “I had to keep retelling my story to a dude who didn’t even care, and who kept asking me to prove that I wasn’t some whore who forgot that I said that this guy could have sex with me,” she recounted.

She was then taken to the city’s Fifth Precinct headquarters where five more male police officials interrogated her. “[The officer] said, ‘Maybe you led him to believe it was okay in some way?’ I kept repeating myself and I got so frustrated. He told me, ‘If it’s his word against yours it’s gonna be years of an uphill legal battle, a lot more strife.’ He was basically deterring me from doing anything about it. I just asked him, ‘Well isn’t rape a crime? Isn’t it a felony?’” she said.”

Classism:

The Teen Who Exposed a Professor’s Myth – Ben Collins

“The theory picked up traction over the last decade, but seemed to reach an unexpected fever pitch in the last few months. Explainer websites this year used it to highlight popular myths of persecution complexes that are, as Vox put it, “stand-ins for an entire narrative about how immigrants are treated in America.” That’s from the lede of an article printed in March called “‘No Irish Need Apply’: the fake sign at the heart of a real movement.” Here, of course, is the problem: After only couple of hours Googling it, Rebecca, a 14-year-old, had found out these signs had, in fact, existed all along. Not only in newspaper listings—in which they appeared in droves—but, after further research, in shop windows, too.”

Haunted by Student Debt to the Grave – Mary Green Swig, Steven L. Swig and Roger Hickey

“Many people, including many student debt holders, may be surprised to learn that people can be pursued for student debt even into their elder years. In fact, the government is withholding Social Security payments for some retirees because their student loans have not been fully repaid. This is a growing problem that Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have asked the government to study in greater depth. “Garnishing Social Security benefits defeats the entire point of the program – that’s why we don’t allow banks or credit card companies to do it,” said Sen. McCaskill. “Social Security is the sole means of retirement income for tens of millions of Americans, and allowing those benefits to be garnished to collect student loan debt cuts a dangerous hole in our safety net.” ”

Climate Change:

Hurricane Katrina, Ten Years Later: How a Country that Bore Witness Still Plays Business as Usual – Erika Spanger-Siegfried

“The default, our reality, is still business as usual along much of our coasts. And business as usual—that is, acting as though the sea hasn’t risen and won’t keep going—is risky business. Let’s consider New Jersey, which has the memory of Katrina and the punishing first-hand experience of Sandy to guide its coastal decision making. Just last month, New Jersey adopted major changes to its Coastal Zone Management Rules that, according to the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management, “do not consider the effects of sea level rise; incorporating sea level rise into the permitting process is critical if it is to meet its goal of not putting the inhabitants of the New Jersey shore at risk.” This follows on a trend of rapid re-development in highly vulnerable places, such as the Barnegat Peninsula.”

Science:

Would You Rather Lose Your Morals or Your Memory? – Vlad Chituc

“This view, that our memory is what’s most essential to our identities, is most often credited to John Locke, a 17th century British philosopher. It’s difficult, though, to test this directly—after all, you can’t really ask someone who’s lost their memory whether or not they’re the same person as someone they no longer remember. To get around this requires some thought. In past work, Strohminger and Nichols tested Locke’s hypothesis with hypothetical scenarios: imagine someone seriously injured their head and lost their memories, or they lost their sight, or they lost their moral compass, and so on. Strohminger asked people to rate how different someone would be after these kinds of accidents. “What we find consistently, really no matter how we ask this question,” Strohminger told me, “is that moral traits are what matter the most.” ”

Scientists replicated 100 recent psychology experiments. More than half of them failed – Julia Belluz

“Consider the newest evidence: a landmark study published today in the journal Science. More than 270 researchers from around the world came together to replicate 100 recent findings from top psychology journals. By one measure, only 36 percent showed results that were consistent with the original findings. In other words, many more than half of the replications failed.

“The results are more or less consistent with what we’ve seen in other fields,” said Ivan Oransky, one of the founders of the blog Retraction Watch, which tracks scientific retractions. Still, he applauded the effort: “Because the authors worked with the original researchers and repeated the experiments, the paper is an example of the gold standard of replication.” ”

Science Isn’t Broken: It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for – Christie Aschwanden

“Taken together, headlines like these might suggest that science is a shady enterprise that spits out a bunch of dressed-up nonsense. But I’ve spent months investigating the problems hounding science, and I’ve learned that the headline-grabbing cases of misconduct and fraud are mere distractions. The state of our science is strong, but it’s plagued by a universal problem: Science is hard — really fucking hard. If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth — and it’s still the best tool we have — it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result.”

May 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. This time I’m adding a “pick of the month” category for the best and most interesting story I saw this month.

Pick of the Month: 

The Wreck of the Kulluk – McKenzie Funk

This is truly excellent reporting, and incredibly informative. It’s a gripping story of Shell Oil cutting corners, hunting for arctic oil, and being hoist with their own petard. There is no one quote that will do this justice, but it is equal parts corporate desperation, intrigue and suspense, and action and heroism on the high seas.

On Baltimore and Racism: 

Black America’s Baltimore schism: Why the Freddie Gray tragedy demands serious soul-searching – Brittney Cooper

“The right of the people to revolt in response to unjust conditions is a founding principle of this Republic. But another founding principle of this republic is that Black people are not fully human. Therefore they are not legitimately “the people,” not a part of the “demos” in democracy. Thus revolution and rebellion remain the province and property of America’s white citizens. All other comers are illegitimate.”

De Blasio: Civil Disobedience Means Do What The Cops Tell You – Christopher Robbins

“In short: if you want to disobey the police, you have to make an appointment. It also helps if you’re a prominent, white, male, elected official running for higher office. Challenging the status quo sometimes means being a part of it. To the protesters who turned out on Wednesday to protest police brutality, whose friends and relatives were killed by the police, or whose skin color alone equates them with criminality in the eyes of the law, the mayor gave very clear advice: ‘Pay attention to the instructions of the police, and I think everything will go fine.’ ”

Media coverage of gang violence sure looks different when the perpetrators are white – Jenée Desmond-Harris

“Those who are using what happened in Waco to start conversations about stereotypes and media biases against black people aren’t complaining about the tenor of this weekend’s media coverage. They’re saying something a little different: that by being pretty reasonable and sticking to the facts, this coverage highlights the absurdity of the language and analysis that have been deployed in other instances, when the accused criminals are black.”

Classism: 

Wisconsin GOP Advances Bills Controlling How People On Welfare Eat And Pee – Arthur Delaney

“Legislation approved by the Wisconsin State Assembly on Wednesday would require drug screening for poor people in the state who want [need] public benefits and force food stamp recipients to spend most of their benefits on state-approved groceries.”

Feminism: 

Female McMaster professors getting a pay boost to same level as men – CBC News

“Female professors at McMaster University will get a pay raise under a new plan to make sure women faculty are paid fairly.The university will boost the base salaries of female faculty by $3,515 per year starting on July 1. The increase comes after a joint study between the university and the faculty association determined that female faculty make that much less than their male counterparts.”

“The Good Ones Say No”: Why Purity Culture and Rape Culture Are Two Sides of the Same Coin – Miri

“On one side of the coin is the idea that only ‘good’ women are worth anything, and only women who consistently refuse men’s advances can be ‘good.’ Of course, this creates a paradox: if women are only ‘good’ as long as they refuse, and men could only ever want to get emotionally (and materially) invested in ‘good’ women, what happens when a woman stops refusing? So either men are supposed to only have sex with virgins and only once, or they’re supposed to indefinitely stay in relationships that are not sexually fulfilling (because there is no sex), or they’re supposed to coerce and rape women. The latter option is the only way to have sex with someone who says no, by the way.”

Entering the Mind of My Rapist: An Exercise in Extreme Empathy – Deborah Copaken

“I didn’t even want him not to graduate. I wanted to confront him in a safe place in front of others. I wanted him to understand that what he did to me—penetration against my will—was wrong, really wrong! I wanted him to express remorse for having crossed a moral and legal line, so that if and when he ever raised a son, he could teach him not to cross it. I wanted, in short, an apology.

Am I delusional? Is this line of thinking the product of too much empathy and not enough rage? Maybe. But I don’t think so. No matter how my rapist (and I will always call him that, “my rapist”) told the story of what happened that night before graduation, the fact that one of us experienced it as a rape should have been enough to force an immediate discussion in which proving guilt, beyond a shadow of a doubt and at the expense of my reputation—a second rape, if you will—was not the goal.”

Incapacitated and Forcible Rape of College Women: Prevalence Across the First Year – Kate Carey, Sarah Durney, Robyn Shepardson, and Michael Carey

“Before entering college, 28% of women had experienced attempted or completed rape. During their first year, one of six female students had experienced [attempted or completed incapacitated rape] or [attempted or completed forcible rape]. The lifetime prevalence of attempted or completed rape increased to 37% by the start of sophomore year.”

In summary, 1 of every 4 women is assaulted in her first year of college, and 1 in every 3 women has been assaulted sometime in her life before her sophomore year.

LGBTQ Rights:

Alabama minister tried to marry a lesbian couple — now she’s on probation – Jin Zhao

“A minister arrested on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for trying to perform a gay wedding in an Alabama courthouse pleaded guilty on Monday but will avoid serving time in jail, Montgomery Advertiser reports. Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, entered the plea in Autauga County Circuit Court. A judge ordered her to pay a $250 fine and gave her a 30-day jail sentence, which was suspended later in place of a six months unsupervised probation.”

Government and Privacy:

Court rules NSA program illegal – Jim Acosta, Ted Barrett and Jeremy Diamond

“ ‘This decision is a resounding victory for the rule of law,’ said ACLU Staff Attorney Alex Abdo, who brought the challenge. ‘For years, the government secretly spied on millions of innocent Americans based on a shockingly broad interpretation of its authority. The court rightly rejected the government’s theory that it may stockpile information on all of us in case that information proves useful in the future. Mass surveillance does not make us any safer, and it is fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society,’ he said.”

Climate Change:

400 Again – Phil Plait

“There are people out there who still will pooh-pooh this, saying carbon dioxide is good for us, and plants love it. Let me be clear: This is the single dumbest thing climate change deniers have ever said, and that’s a deep, deep well of dumbosity. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and the science on this is very basic, as basic as knowing a rock will fall when you drop it from your hand. At first blush 400 ppm may not sound like much, but it means we’re significantly accelerating planetary heating. And warming the Earth doesn’t just mean we’ll be able to grow pineapples in Canada. It means huge changes to global weather patterns, changes we’re already seeing.”

What if climate change is real? – Katharine Hayhoe

This one is a video—a TED talk by a conservative climate scientist from Texas.

Ideas and Beliefs: 

How Facebook’s Algorithm Suppresses Content Diversity (Modestly) and How the Newsfeed Rules Your Clicks – Zeynep Tufekci

“Here’s the key finding: Facebook researchers conclusively show that Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm decreases ideologically diverse, cross-cutting content people see from their social networks on Facebook by a measurable amount. The researchers report that exposure to diverse content is suppressed by Facebook’s algorithm by 8% for self-identified liberals and by 5% for self-identified conservatives.”

Canvassers study in Episode #555 has been retracted – Ira Glass

“Last month [This American Life] did a story about canvassers who’d invented a way to go door to door and, in a 22-minute conversation, change people’s minds on issues like same sex marriage and abortion rights. We did the story because there was solid scientific data published in the journal Science – proving that the canvassers were really having an effect. Yesterday one of the authors of that study, Donald Green, asked Science to retract the study. Some of the data gathered by his co-author seems to have been faked.”

I Don’t Want to Be Right – Maria Konnikova

“The longer the narrative remains co-opted by prominent figures with little to no actual medical expertise—the Jenny McCarthys of the world—the more difficult it becomes to find a unified, non-ideological theme. The message can’t change unless the perceived consensus among figures we see as opinion and thought leaders changes first.

And that, ultimately, is the final, big piece of the puzzle: the cross-party, cross-platform unification of the country’s élites, those we perceive as opinion leaders, can make it possible for messages to spread broadly. The campaign against smoking is one of the most successful public-interest fact-checking operations in history. But, if smoking were just for Republicans or Democrats, change would have been far more unlikely. It’s only after ideology is put to the side that a message itself can change, so that it becomes decoupled from notions of self-perception.”

This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind – Alex Tribou and Keith Collins

“Eleven years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, the Supreme Court on April 28 will hear arguments about whether to extend that right nationwide. The case comes amid a wave of gay marriage legalization: 28 states since 2013, and 36 overall. Such widespread acceptance in a short amount of time isn’t a phenomenon unique to gay marriage. Social change in the U.S. appears to follow a pattern: A few pioneer states get out front before the others, and then a key event—often a court decision or a grassroots campaign reaching maturity—triggers a rush of state activity that ultimately leads to a change in federal law.”

With cool graphs!

April 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 and Classism: 

Being White Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry – Chloe Angyal

“When white people misbehave, however, they rarely represent more than themselves, even when they’re members of an organization like, say, SAE. But just the responsibility of being held accountable for how one’s individual behavior and thoughts is still too great for so many of the white people who have been caught out engaging in racist behavior. They are routinely defended with excuses of inebriation, misspeaking, and unintentional bigotry. Even then, being white often means doing wrong without the perception of bringing your entire race into enough disrepute that it has consequences for you. This is what privilege is: to speak and act only for yourself, and even then only when you feel like it.”

Abolish the Police. Instead, Let’s Have Full Social, Economic, and Political Equality – Mychal Denzel Smith

“Ninety percent of an officer’s time isn’t devoted to our safety, but rather to things we may find annoying (or in the case of things like untaxed cigarettes, create a black market for goods that threaten the profits of businesses), inserting the potential for violence where there is cause for none. And when it comes to preventing heinous acts of violence (or holding the perpetrators accountable) that should be condemned by all, like domestic violence and sexual assault, the police are largely ineffectual. The police are not performing the function we say they are, and there are real ways to achieve a world with less violence that don’t include the police. We simply haven’t tried.” 

The Fall And Rise Of U.S. Inequality, In 2 Graphs – Quoctrung Bui

“In theory, it should be possible for incomes to rise for everyone at the same time — for the gains of economic growth to be broadly distributed year after year. But the takeaway from these graphs is that since World War II, that’s never really happened in the U.S.”

New York City Just Outlawed Running Credit Checks on Job Applicants – Michelle Chen

“The rationale behind the ban is simple: it’s unfair and useless to use a person’s credit history, which is often inaccurate or misleading, when assessing their job qualifications. When corporations use massive data screenings to hire and fire en masse, credit checks can drastically narrow an applicant pool and subsequently be held as a cudgel over desperate job seekers and compel them to expose private background information. There’s nothing meritocratic about this practice. But it is racially biased, and very cruel to the poor.”

Misogyny: 

Wordless Ads Speak Volumes In ‘Unbranded’ Images Of Women – NPR

“ ‘I think what happens with ads — when we put text and logos on them, we do all the heavy lifting of making them make sense to us,’ he tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer. ‘But when you see the image naked, or unbranded, you start to really ask questions.That’s why we can almost never tell what it’s actually an ad for, because ads really aren’t about the products. It’s about what myths and generalizations we can attach, and the repetition of imagery of a certain type.’ ” 

See Priya Cook: Gender Bias Pervades Textbooks Worldwide – Maanvi Singh

“ ‘If aliens beamed onto Earth and read our school textbooks, they wouldn’t have a clue about what women contribute to our society,’ says Rae Blumberg, a sociologist at the University of Virginia. Blumberg has spent years looking at textbooks from all over the world. In almost every country she has studied, women are either completely written out of texts — or they’re portrayed in stereotypical, often subservient roles.” 

Mental Illness:

Some Advice on Supporting Friends With Depression – Miri

“For many people, depression causes a pervasive sense of disconnection from the world and from other people. When I’m having a depressive episode, I feel like I’m not part of anything, like I’m just one person and I don’t matter, like I could disappear and nothing would even change, etc. I feel like there’s a glass wall between me and everyone else. I feel like I can’t do “normal” things like laugh at a sitcom or make someone happy or fall in love. I feel like an alien sent here to try to learn how to act like a human being only I’m completely failing. So for me, the most helpful thing that someone can do is to help bring me back into connection with others.”

Religion: 

The Right’s Made-up God: How Bigots Invented a White Supremacist Jesus – Brittney Cooper

“As a practicing Christian, I am deeply incensed by these calls for restoration and reclamation in the name of religious freedom. This kind of legislation is largely driven by conservative Christian men and women, who hold political views that are antagonistic to every single group of people who are not white, male, Christian, cisgender, straight and middle-class. Jesus, a brown, working-class, Jew, doesn’t even meet all the qualifications.” 

Food:

The Logical Failures of Food Fads – Alan Levinovitz

“Processed food is evil. Natural food is good. Evil foods harm you, but they are sinfully delicious, guilty pleasures. Good foods, on the other hand, are real and clean. These are religious mantras, helpfully dividing up foods according to moralistic dichotomies. Of course, natural and processed, like real and clean, are not scientific terms, and neither is good nor evil. Yet it is precisely such categories, largely unquestioned, that determine most people’s supposedly scientific decisions about what and how to eat.” 

Environment:

Five Years After The BP Oil Spill, The Industry Is Still Taking Big Risks – Ben Casselman

“Five years later, there are signs of progress. There is little doubt that today’s oil industry is better prepared both to prevent and, if necessary, recover from a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster. Watchdogs inside and outside of government are observing more closely and asking tougher questions. But there is also evidence that companies continue to push the limits of technology and continue to take risks as they do so. And it’s less clear that the industry has learned the deeper lesson about preventing low-probability events.”

Politics and Politicians:

A Checkbox On Your Tax Return Helped Kill Public Campaign Funding – Andrew Flowers

“When you agree to the $3 tax checkoff, it funds the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF), a common pool of money that matches the fundraising of eligible presidential candidates in primary and general elections, for those who choose to take it. The $3 does not come out of your taxes; it’s just $3 less the government receives in tax revenue. Almost from its inception in 1976, participation in the program has been on a steady downward trajectory.”

Texas lawmaker refuses to meet with constituents who don’t share her views, staff says it is ‘a waste of time’ – Eric Dolan

“White’s staff had initially greeted Frank Carlson of Equality Texas, before turning him away upon learning who he represented. Her staff told Carlson, who works on behalf of the largest LGBT rights organization in Texas, to ‘drop off your literature and leave.’ White’s staff informed Carlson that the lawmaker ‘is against anything LGBT.’ ”

Technology:

To Mars – Phil Plait

“Musk’s answer was simply stated, plainly obvious to him, but to the public it’s not. It seems like science fiction. But with his immense factory sitting directly behind me, there was no doubting this was not the wild dream of a sci-fi fan. This is reality. The dichotomy between public perception and what was really happening here was never clearer to me.”

Popular Culture:

Game of Thrones and the End of Marxist Theory – Sam Kriss

“Something very different is happening with Game of Thrones. At first, it’s just a historical drama on an unfamiliar geographic terrain. The supernatural is alluded to, but most characters seem to maintain an attitude of Enlightenment skepticism. There are dragon skulls in the worming crypts of King’s Landing, but they’re only bones, relics of a time before the thinning process reduced everything to mere power play.

But then the unthinkable occurs: magic starts to come back. As the new season dawns we’ve seen dragons and demons, faceless men and fire gods, elfine creatures in weirwood trees and the armies of the undead. For all the social collapse, it’s not the land itself that’s in decay, but rather the comforting falsehoods about a rational society.”