Battlepanda: July 2009


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I love you, NPR, but you're getting me down

As an NPR fan, this is just acutely disappointing to me. Ombudsman Alicia Shepard explains why NPR do not use the word 'torture' to describe waterboarding:
But no matter how many distinguished groups -- the International Red Cross, the U.N. High Commissioners -- say waterboarding is torture, there are responsible people who say it is not. Former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, their staff and their supporters obviously believed that waterboarding terrorism suspects was necessary to protect the nation's security.
It's nice that some good criticism of NPR is coming from another NPR show, the excellent and entertaining "On The Media":
BOB GARFIELD: NPR certainly has no difficulty calling murder “murder.” It doesn't call it “enhanced argumentation technique.” The terrorists call themselves “freedom fighters” but NPR calls acts of terror “acts of terror.”


BOB GARFIELD: In other respects, NPR hasn't taken a position against, you know, nouns. Why this one, in particular?

ALICIA SHEPARD: I think because it is a hotly debated topic...

In fact, Shepard has gone on three NPR-affiliated shows to explain herself -- OTM, Talk of the Nation, and Patt Morrison's show on KPCC. Even though I think she was not treated with kid glove on those shows, it does raise the question: why has she not yet gotten around to facing her most scathing critic, Glenn Greenwald?

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Why so many female forensic anthropologists

I was listening to NPR the other day (actually, I'm just about always listening to NPR) when I heard a grisly but interesting story about a new 'body farm' in Texas where forensic scientists study how the human body de-composes by leaving them around the grounds and digging them up later. What struck me was that all the interviewees (a professor and three students) are female.

A little googling shows that this is not a fluke:
People are often surprised that in the UK, 98% of undergraduate students, approximately 80% of all postgraduate students, and nearly 90% of professional practitioners in the field of Forensic Anthropology are female. No-one knows why. There are some subjects that are deemed more attractive to women and forensic anthropology seems to be one of them. It may seem surprising, due to the harsh and often unsettling, never mind dangerous aspects of the work, but often the feminine touch is crucial. Forensic Anthropologists work in an area where science, politics and society meet, and they often require a delicate touch of diplomacy.

Now as we all know, there is also a huge phenomenon of crime fiction starring female forensic anthropologists. Kathy Reich's books is probably the best-known example. So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the fictionalization of female forensic anthropologists capture the imagination of young women? Or is there a broader compatibility (as the above quote suggests, between female attributes and forensic anthropology work? And why is the ratio so lop-sided? Are men discouraged from pursuing forensic anthropology now that it is a female-dominated field?

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