Five Best Tuesday Columns

Angelina Jolie on her mastectomy, Michelle Goldberg on why women patronized Kermit Gosnell, Cindy Cohn on the Associated Press subpoena, Heidi Moore on the overreaction to the Bloomberg terminal scandal, and Ta-Nehisi Coates on Jason Richwine and racism.

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Angelina Jolie in The New York Times on her mastectomy The world-famous actress Angelina Jolie reveals that she underwent a double-breast mastectomy in order to reduce her chances of developing breast cancer, which testing has shown she is predisposed for. "On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved," she writes. " ... I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action." She continues: "I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options." Jezebel's Laura Beck called Jolie's op-ed "stunning." Joan Walsh at Salon effusively praised Jolie: "It takes courage for an international sex symbol (and renowned actress and humanitarian) to tell the public she had a double mastectomy." But Walsh noted some caveats to Jolie's detailed piece: "It would be wonderful if Jolie’s essay motivated more women to learn more about their breast cancer risk. It would be sad if it scared them out of screening, or into getting unnecessary mastectomies." Jen Doll here at The Atlantic Wire says that kind of open dialogue is "a powerful step." Meanwhile Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2011, responded on Twitter: "Angelina Jolie didn't owe you that piece ... but it was clear headed and generous. It's enough. Not owed but enough."

Michelle Goldberg at The Daily Beast on why women patronized Kermit Gosnell Why did hundreds of women seek the medical services of Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor charged with first degree murder on Monday? "This has always been a story about illegal abortion, a phrase that appears over and over in the Gosnell Grand Jury report," Goldberg says. "It's about what women will subject themselves to when they see no other option for ending an unwanted pregnancy. It's about the appalling lack of health care for poor women in this country, especially when it comes to abortion, which, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, isn't covered by Medicaid. It's about murdered babies from pregnancies that never should have gone as far as they did. ... For decades now, reproductive rights advocates have warned of the return of the unsafe, clandestine procedures prevalent before Roe v. Wade. Well, after a multi-decade assault on reproductive rights, they’re here." Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg View strongly disagreed, citing the same jury report: "Among supporters of late-term abortion, a common reaction to the trial has been to say that restrictions on the practice drove women to Gosnell. The grand jury reached a different conclusion: There weren’t any restrictions, thanks to Pennsylvania state governments of both parties that supported legal abortion. Clinics stopped being monitored under the administration of Republican Governor Tom Ridge, who got himself a nice reputation as a moderate because of his stance on abortion. The question that should haunt us now is not how many victims Gosnell killed, which we will never know, but how many more Gosnells there are in our country." At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke highlighted what he called the "unhinged" reaction of NARAL Pro-choice America to the Gosnell verdict: "Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first degree murder for murdering babies that had been born. What is the lesson that NARAL would like us to take from that? That people like Kermit Gosnell kill newborn babies because the state has placed certain restrictions on abortion?"

Cindy Cohn at Electronic Frontier Foundation on the Associated Press subpoena Writing with co-authors Kurt Opsahl and Nate Cardozo, Cindy Cohn criticizes the Justice Department for seeking nearly two dozen telephone records of Associated Press journalists in an effort to plug leaks about the Obama administration's drone program. " This revelation of government's secret access to huge amounts of calling records as part of its leak investigation should not be such a surprise. The DOJ has long maintained that no one has any privacy interests in their call data records and has also engaged in unprecedented and aggressive prosecutions around government leaks," the trio write. "But it should sound a wake-up call for the rest of us, including members of Congress and the courts. Government data-mining of Americans' calling records and other metadata held by phone companies and ISPs should require more than a mere subpoena and should be protected by more than a hortatory regulation, whether the target is the news media or an ordinary citizen." Ben Smith at BuzzFeed ties the subpoena to other Obama initiatives: "President Obama, elected with the new technology of microtargeting, is now in danger of a new perception: That he’s the president of microtargeted drone warfare and government surveillance. ... The power Obama is now under fire for asserting isn't broad: It is narrow, even personal. Specific groups and individual reporters were targeted by extremely powerful government agencies. Two specific American citizens were personally targeted in Yemen."

Heidi Moore at The Guardian on the overreaction to the Bloomberg terminal scandal Responding to a bevy of reports that Bloomberg News reporters employed their parent company's sophisticated terminal software to spy on employees at financial firms, Heidi Moore sees very little fire among a lot of smoke: "It's likely that the claims of a Bloombergian information monopoly are highly overblown," Moore argues. Any decent financial reporter would be dubious that Bloomberg reporters could have gained much high-quality journalism from the terminal alone. ... Bloomberg's genuinely award-winning journalistic work – on health reform and other issues – was based on shoe-leather reporting and did not and could not have come through mining the terminal. Amusingly, JP Morgan complained that Bloomberg reporters used terminal information to judge that some traders had been let go after the London Whale debacle. Bloomberg also first reported that the multibillion-dollar London Whale trade even existed, which is a much bigger and more important story, and was clearly not information that could be gathered from a terminal." Nitasha Tiku, speaking to sources within Bloomberg, tells a slightly different story at Gawker. One source claimed that "Bloomberg reporters [used] terminal data ... to discover that former UBS trader Kweku M. Adoboli—who was sentenced to seven years in prison last year for fraud that prompted a multibillion trading loss—had left UBS."

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic on Jason Richwine and racism Weighing a recent report by Slate's David Weigel on the work (and subsequent resignation) of the Heritage Foundation's  Jason Richwine, Ta-Nehisi Coates demonstrates that the academic study of race and intelligence bears a strong historical tradition. "Far from being relegated to some musty corner of intellectual life, the Stoddard tradition, the tradition in which Jason Richwine stands, proved to be an influential force in world history," Coates writes, referring to the anthropologist and eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard. "The Stoddard tradition gave us forced sterilization, 'euthanasia' programs, miscegenation bans, and, ultimately, the Holocaust." He continues: "Richwine's theories originate from a long tradition of white racism, the tradition of Grant, Stoddard, and Pearson.  But to say this is to indict an insupportable portion of our own history and traditions. It is to remind us that the differences between us were constructed by men who sought power, and are maintained just the same." But Richwine himself isn't apologizing: "I don't apologize for any of the things that I said," Byron York at The Washington Examiner, who interviewed Richwine, put it more delicately: "There are IQ differences between various groups, but there is also enormous controversy about the source of those differences and over whether they mean much of anything at all. Richwine failed to acknowledge that." The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie, meanwhile, seized on Richwine's refusal to apologize when he spoke to York, instead saying "The accusation of racism is one of the worst things that anyone can call you in public life. Once that word is out there, it's very difficult to recover from it, even when it is completely untrue." Bouie: "Richwine is part of a community of race and IQ researchers who maintain that IQ differences between racial groups are partially explained by genetics, despite the fact that there’s nothing genetic that makes someone 'black' or 'white.' ... In other words, Richwine's work—his premise that racial IQ differences have biological origins tied to the particular 'races'—is racist by definition. There's no other way to describe it."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.