1) We’re getting wildly differing assessments
by Tom Goldstein for SCOTUSblog
On June 28th, the Supreme Court of the United States assembled to deliver its widely-anticipated decision on President Obama’s healthcare bill. CNN and Fox News reported that the court had struck down the entire bill. SCOTUSblog and the wire services reported that the court had upheld most of the bill.
The publisher of SCOTUSblog offers this incredibly specific play-by-play of the nine chaotic minutes after the decision was released, when the official Court website buckled, breaking news outlets contradicted each other, the President didn’t know which source to believe, the stock market responded to competing information… and the Huffington Post copied the wrong answer.
The Court’s own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court’s website. In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties’ lawyers once it was announced. But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later. The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.
But it does. At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet – ever. It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building – including not just the public, but press editors and the White House – can get the ruling. And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision. They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over – hitting refresh again, and again, and again. In the face of the crushing demand, the Court cannot publish its own decision.
The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour. So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.
2) Why there’s an alarming rash of suicides among Dalit students
by Stephanie Nolen for The Globe and Mail
Part of the Globe‘s “Breaking Caste” series. Note: “reservations” are part of the affirmative action policies set up to help students from Dalit and aboriginal communities.
Anoop Kumar, who runs the Insight Foundation, says most of the backlash against reservations comes from an (often deliberate) misunderstanding of the principle. “People are defining merit strictly in terms of marks in the entrance exam, and that conveniently discounts all the other factors affecting the performance of the students,” he says.
“So a student from an urban, upper-caste, upper-class background who has both parents literate and studied at a an elite, private [English-language] school is considered more ‘meritorious’ when he or she has 85-per-cent marks, than a reservation-category student who goes to a terrible government school in [Hindi] and has no one in the family who is literate but still scores 75-per-cent marks.”
Yet their dominant-caste peers still grouse that the reserved-category students would never make it if they had to compete on an open field. Their professors often share that view: As Ms. Barge points out, the faculty in these prestigious institutes is overwhelming made up of people from the dominant castes, since only a single generation of Dalits really has had the chance for a professional education.
3) How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down
by Quinn Norton for Wired
If you haven’t heard of the online hacking collective Anonymous, I also recommend the documentary We Are Legion, which showed at Hot Docs this year. I first heard about the group about a year and a half ago when it attacked PayPal and shut down the websites of Visa and MasterCard in retaliation for their refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks.
As Norton puts it in this article, Anonymous is “a sort of self-appointed immune system for the Internet”.
Back in the hacking realm, Anonymous was also flexing its muscles. On February 5, 2011, the Financial Times quoted Aaron Barr, CEO of a security company called HBGary Federal, as saying that he had uncovered the leadership of Anonymous. He claimed the group had around 30 active members, including 10 senior hackers who made all the decisions, and he purportedly had linked their IRC handles to real names using social-network analysis. He was planning to announce all this, he said, during a presentation at an upcoming security conference.
Anonymous responded with inhuman severity and swiftness. Within 48 hours, all the data on the email servers of HBGary Federal and its former parent company, HBGary, had been stolen and then released in full on the Pirate Bay. Anons further humiliated Barr by seizing his Twitter account and (they allege, though this has never been confirmed) even erasing his iPad remotely. Barr’s Anonymous presentation was posted on the net and laughed at for its supposed inaccuracies.