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Required Reading

‣ Over 100 writers are calling for board members of the Asian-American literary organization Kundiman to resign, penning an open letter that outlines the suppression of pro-Palestine views within its community. Dan Sheehan has the story for LitHub:

The letter goes on to detail a number of grievances and demands, all dating back to an October 11th incident in which the Kundiman co-founders and board “took to Kundiman’s social media accounts to delete a staff-posted statement of solidarity with Palestinians and replaced it with one that conflated Jewish lives with Israel while also erasing Gazans entirely.”

A full timeline of what happened next can be read here.

If demands (which include the appointment of an interim board to take up the operations of Kundiman for 6 months in order to facilitate “the restructuring of the organization to be community-centered”) are not met, the organizers of the open letter say they will escalate “into a total boycott” of Kundiman.

‣ The University Network for Human Rights released a comprehensive legal outline identifying the Israeli military’s ongoing attacks on Gaza as genocide, including references to the Srebrenica genocide proceedings and the 1948 Genocide Convention. Especially in light of the upcoming International Court of Justice ruling, it’s a must-read:

Israel’s genocidal acts in Gaza have been motivated by the requisite genocidal intent, as evidenced in this report by the statements of Israeli leaders, the character of the State and its military forces’ conduct against and relating to Palestinians in Gaza, and the direct nexus between them. As this report details,13 officials at all levels of Israeli government, up to and including the Prime Minister, have made remarks that not only express blatant and unequivocal dehumanization and cruelty against Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, but also explicitly reflect intentions to destroy and exterminate Palestinians as such. The patterns of conduct of Israeli military forces in Gaza further reinforce the finding of Israel’s genocidal intent.

‣ In a ProPublica and New Yorker exposé, Sharon Lerner reveals that mega-corporation 3M knowingly obscured the toxicity of forever chemicals from the public. Her narrative investigation follows the story of longtime company chemist Kris Hansen:

When Hansen first told me about her experiences, I felt conflicted. Her work seemed to have helped force 3M to stop making a number of toxic chemicals, but I kept thinking about the twenty years in which she had kept quiet. During my first visit to Hansen’s home, in February, 2023, we sat in her kitchen, eating bread that her husband had just baked. She showed me pictures of her father and shared a color-coded time line of 3M’s history with forever chemicals. On a bitterly cold walk in a local park, we tried to figure out if any of her colleagues, besides Newmark, had known that PFOS was in everyone’s blood. She often sprinkled her stories with such Midwesternisms as “holy buckets!”

During my second trip, this past August, I asked her why, as a scientist who was trained to ask questions, she hadn’t been more skeptical of claims that PFOS was harmless. In the awkward silence that followed, I looked out the window at some hummingbirds.

Hansen’s superiors had given her the same explanation that they gave journalists, she finally said—that factory workers were fine, so people with lower levels would be, too. Her specialty was the detection of chemicals, not their harms. “You’ve got literally the medical director of 3M saying, ‘We studied this, there are no effects,’ ” she told me. “I wasn’t about to challenge that.” Her income had helped to support a family of five. Perhaps, I wondered aloud, she hadn’t really wanted to know whether her company was poisoning the public.

‣ To share your location, or not to share your location — that is the question! For Bustle, Kate Lindsay delves into the unspoken issues that arise when we normalize granting the people in our lives unlimited access to our whereabouts: 

This technology has changed everything. I no longer have to ask my friend for their ETA or wonder if my parents are available for a phone call. I can just check in on their real-time location, a capability previously associated with intelligence agencies and covert criminals. What is, for all intents and purposes, stalking, has become a casual part of everyday familial, romantic, and platonic relationships — and turned many with formerly healthy boundaries into lurkers in the process.

“My mom asked to share location with me because she lives alone and she said it made her feel safe,” says Lauren, a 29-year-old from New York who asked to be identified by her first name only. “Then cut to her tracking me sleeping at a rando’s apartment in Manhattan and calling every single one of my friends thinking I was dead in the East River. I was getting laid.”

‣ Today in OpenAI shenanigans, the company finds itself in hot water after actor Scarlett Johansson said it used her voice for a now-suspended ChatGPT feature after she explicitly told them not to. Nitasha Tiku, Pranshu Verma, and Gerrit De Vynck write for the Washington Post:

Johansson’s action highlights the limited legal apparatus to prevent actors from having their likeness mimicked by artificial intelligence.

In conversations last fall, Johansson wrote, Altman “told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI.”

“He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people,” she added. “I declined the offer.”

Federal copyright law has not matured to protect a person’s voice from AI, and local laws vary by state, experts told The Post. A bipartisan group of senators floated a bill last year aimed at stopping people from using AI to reproduce a musician’s voice or actor’s likeness, except in certain cases such as for parody. Tennessee in March passed a similar law.

‣ For Vox, author Constance Grady delves into why movies and albums are getting longer, touching on our screen-induced attention crisis, the necessity of TikTok virality, and, as in Killers of the Flower Moon, length as an artistic choice:

Adams attributes these new lengths to a combination of digital film and the rise of the multiplex. “There’s no obvious penalty for making a movie that runs a little over,” he writes. “The physical constraints that used to make the exhibition and distribution of longer movies more expensive no longer apply: fewer showtimes on a given day mean fewer tickets, but that’s less of an issue when the movie is playing on multiple screens and you no longer have to factor in the cost of manufacturing and shipping larger and heavier film prints.”

The other big factor is the rise of the streaming platforms. Big-time directors now always have the option to jump ship to Netflix and its fellows, where they are promised more creative freedom than ever before. As Vanity Fair reported last year, the time-slashing producers of old are less powerful, and the name-brand directors who can deliver hits for streamers are more so. That means they no longer have to kill their darlings if they don’t want to. More and more often, they don’t. 

‣ Scholars Nathan Kalman-Lamb and Derek Silva opine in Sportico about the profusion of issues in college football, including racial and economic inequality and health risks, ultimately arguing that it should no longer exist. They explain:

Ted Tatos and Hal Singer have calculated that Black football and men’s basketball players lose out annually on a $1.2 to $1.4 billion racial transfer of wealth to white coaches, administrators and athletic department officials. And yet, the Black football players who attend these predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and are subjected to this form of egregious wage theft told us that they must also endure constant microaggressions through the insinuation of other students and faculty that they do not deserve to attend such hallowed academic spaces—a truly odious example of adding insult to injury.

Indeed, the question of academics is one that is not typically afforded enough discussion in conversations about exploitation and harm in college football. According to the logic of the NCAA system, education is, in a very direct sense, compensation for players—a wage furnished in scholarship form. And yet, our interviews revealed that the education players receive is the poorest facsimile of the pedagogical experience enjoyed by their non-sporting peers.

‣ Historically, when archaeologists uncovered a body, they presumed gender based on the circumstances of burial and, if applicable, examination of the skeleton. But now scientists can test prehistoric bones to determine chromosomes, and in one study, a team of researchers found that at least 10% of previously assumed genders were inaccurate. What can we learn now about prehistoric conceptions of gender? Sabrina Imbler has the story for Defector:

While most people in prehistoric Europe understood themselves either to be men or women, the persistence of these individuals across time and space opens up the possibility these Neolithic societies had room for a more expansive understanding of gender. “This is only one possible explanation among many others,” Pape said, adding that women may have gone to war but still perceived themselves as women. “Unfortunately, this we will never know.” But if the mismatch between these skeletons’ sex and archaeological gender is proven true in molecular testing, Pape and Ialongo argue that these burials are statistically significant enough to be considered a minority population. “While an exception would be limited to a single person that is different from others—someone that is not included, and in a way unpredictable—a minority can be formally acknowledged, protected, and even revered,” the authors write.

‣ Avery Truffelman delves into clergywear on the latest episode of her podcast Articles of Interest. It’s a technical and historical exploration of priests’ and friars’ clothes, but it’s also a consideration of religion in art, wealth distribution, and the underpinnings of the perpetually drama-drenched Catholic Church.

‣ A haunting video visualizing the cost of the US military by the second (meanwhile, the national housing crisis persists):

‣ Medieval homophobia core:

‣ $27 million Didion sunglasses > a bouquet of wilting roses:

‣ John Deere and Ball mason jars. They’re as American as apple pie — and the military-industrial complex:

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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