Good morning, here are our early stories:
And here are more early headlines:
Winter Storm Brings Ice, Heavy Snow To Plains. (Weather.com)
Storm's Gale Force Winds Hitting Northern Europe. (AccuWeather)
Biden Urges China To Reconsider New Air Defense Zone. (ABC)
Civilians Flee As Violence Continues In Central African Republic. (Businessweek)
Thailand Protests Suspended As King's Birthday Celebrated. (AP)
Ukrainian Official Urges Talks With Protesters, Possible Early Elections. (New York Times)
NBA Game Called Off In Mexico City After Smoke Fills Arena. (NBA.com)
Air Force Criticized For Adding Fighter Jets To Online Santa Tracker. (Boston Globe)
An Arizona employee safety agency has ordered $559,000 in fines against the state's forestry division for its failures in handling the Yarnell Hill wildfire, which killed 19 elite firefighters from Prescott.
"The agency concluded that State Forestry placed a higher priority on protection of homes and property than firefighter safety," reports the Prescott Daily Courier.
The Arizona Industrial Commission imposed multiple fines on the forestry unit, with the largest coming for "willful serious" violations that left firefighters in dangerous positions after efforts to contain the fire proved ineffective.
Including the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew who perished on June 30, a total of 81 firefighters were "unnecessarily and unreasonably" placed in perilous conditions, the commission found, leaving them vulnerable to smoke inhalation, burns, and death.
The forestry agency failed to remove firefighters even after they learned that "suppression of extremely active chaparral fuels was ineffective and that wind would push active fire towards non-defensible structures," the report says.
Other violations centered on uneven staffing, as a supervisor, a safety officer, and a planning chief were found to have been either late or absent on the day the firefighters died, according to the report.
As The Daily Courier notes, Arizona Forestry officials "failed to remove downwind firefighters when incident commanders evacuated their own post at 3:30 p.m. on June 30."
The Industrial Commission's conclusions clash with the findings of an extensive report by the Arizona State Forestry Division, which said in September that its investigation "found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol."
The main problems identified in the forestry agency's report centered on breakdowns in communications during the fire.
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Amazon Publishing has launched a new imprint, StoryFront, that aims to publish "high-quality short fiction across genres." Amazon has already been experimenting with short fiction through Kindle Singles and Day One, a weekly literary magazine that launched in October. In a statement, Adult Trade and Children's Group publisher Daphne Durham says, "Based on the continued success of short fiction on Kindle as well as the enthusiastic response to Day One — we received thousands of subscriptions in the first week — we know readers are hungry for short stories and excited about exploring new genres."
- Since 2006, the National Library of Norway has been in the process of digitizing every book published in Norwegian, a project the library hopes to finish in the next 20 to 30 years. Perhaps even more remarkably, as The Atlantic's Alexis C. Madrigal explains, "if you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download." Asking whether the U.S. can "afford to be left behind," Madrigal notes that "our libraries do what they can, but the idea of digitizing literally every book published in this country is a goal that we should shoot for and fund."
- The queer theorist and New York University professor José Esteban Muñoz has died at age 46, according to his publisher. The University of Minnesota Press writes in a statement: "His first book, Disdentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics, was innovative and groundbreaking, and has proven to be foundational to the critical study on the nexus of race, gender, and sexuality." Muñoz's NYU colleague Barbara Browning tells Hyperallergic, "José did so many beautiful things, he was so good at seeing beauty. He loved his work and his students more than anyone I've ever known. Today we begin the task of making work and nurturing work that will honor him for the rest of our lives."
- The novelist and dachshund enthusiast Gary Shteyngart has some imaginative strategies for making reading 19th century British literature more interesting. He writes in The Millions, "First, I would insert some hot Russian emotion into the chilly scenes by hand. So if a character is carrying on some abstruse conversation about standing for parliament or whatever, I would interrupt it in my mind with: 'And then Casaubon Casaubonovich threw himself around her neck and cried violently.' Problem solved. Then I decided to Yiddishize some of the writing to make it more haimish. Take for example the first line of David Copperstein: 'Whether I shall turn out to be the mensch of my own life, or whether that station will be held by some other putz, this spiel must show.' Or: 'Miss Brooke had the kind of punim which seems to be thrown into relief by her shmatas.' Once you mentally add a dollop of sour cream and a tablespoon of schmaltz to 19th Century British literature, you will find it tastes as good as anything in the Western canon."
- National Book Award winner James McBride talks about the parallels between music and writing: "There's an improvisational quality to some of my writing. If I know a dramatic point is supposed to happen, I'll try to figure out a slick way to get there. My latest novel has a kind of improvisatory approach to telling an old story. In jazz, lots of people play the same songs. But it's the way you play it is what distinguishes you from the next man or woman who plays it."
All this month, our friends at Tell Me More are digging into the role of blacks in technology. You can join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #NPRBlacksInTech.
Software development is a huge and growing industry, and there are likely to be far more jobs in the future than there are folks to do them. But today, there's a paucity of blacks and Latinos in software development positions.
One of the spaces you might think would be a gateway for developers of color to enter the industry is through open source software development. You don't have to know somebody or have a degree in software engineering or get hired to participate in an open-source project. You can jump right in and start writing some code.
In theory, at least. The reality is a bit messier.
Betsey Haibel, a software developer in Washington, D.C., is a textbook case of why open source could help diversify tech. She didn't have a traditional computer science degree, but contributing to open-source projects helped her land her current job.
But in Haibel's experience, the open-source world is even whiter and more male than the world of proprietary software. "It's very clear that the open source community is whiter than the software community as a whole," she says.
Which is to say: pretty darn white. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than eight in 10 software developers in 2012 were white. We should note that while white developers were overrepresented, so were Asian-Americans. So it's not like people of color are not in software development; but blacks and Latinos are significantly underrepresented.
Ashe Dryden, a blogger whose focus is diversity in tech spaces, noticed something very similar. After an influential tech entrepreneur wondered aloud on Twitter if open-source experience should be a requirement for all applicants to web development jobs, Dryden noted that the overwhelming majority of the most active users of GitHub — one of the most popular open-source code hosting services — were white guys. (That's only one data point, but there isn't a whole lot of hard data out there on race in the world of open source.)
There are larger societal factors that contribute to the whiteness of the tech world, more broadly. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to attend under-resourced schools, they're underrepresented in math and science fields at every level of higher education and increasingly so the higher they go, and are less likely than whites to have Internet access outside of the home.
"The physical resources are a tremendous barrier, especially for communities of color and people of lower socioeconomic [status]," says Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, a group that aims to get school-aged black girls interested in software development.
Those barriers are still true in open-source development, but you can add several more. A big one is time, which isn't a luxury that many people who are lower on the socioeconomic scale have. Dryden puts it this way:
[Open source software] contribution takes time; I don't think anyone would contest that. Getting familiar with a project, finding out where you can fit into it, reading and responding to issues, testing and submitting patches, writing documentation. All of that requires a good deal of time.
Marginalized people in tech — women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and others — have less free time for a few major reasons: dependent care, domestic work and errands, and pay inequity.
"A lot of people cannot take on more work without compensation," Haibel says.
The fact that software companies often subsidize time their employees spend contributing to open-source projects adds another hurdle for outsiders to the industry. Lots of folks in tech sector jobs do coding on the side "for fun" — but that downtime is often time set aside by their companies that they're paid for. (Google famously allows employees to set aside 20 percent of their paid time to work on their own projects.)
Network effects often also play a big role in which projects fail and which succeed, but also which projects people find and decide they want to work on.
"Your pool is initially [those] around you who know you," and the people who you know tend to be "demographically similar," Haibel says.
She says that while using open-source might be beneficial to some applicants who don't have traditional tech backgrounds, requiring that applicants have open-source experience might exacerbate the coding gap. Newcomers to the space might not get onto the "right" projects because they don't "know" the people working on them. "Participation in the open-source community is a function of comfort in the community before that," Haibel says.
Before she was a software developer, Bryant was an electrical engineer, a field even less brown than computer science. She's trying to get her young, black coders up to speed, and she pushes all of them to regularly use GitHub. She says she wants them to get used to having their code reviewed by other developers and using the tools that the professional developers are using.
But she hopes that eventually more schools make coding part of their core curriculum.
As Dryden points out in her post about labor and open source, free and open-source software can also be a big boon to people of lower-economic status, a sizable number of whom are Latino and black. Photographers who can't swing the $700 for Adobe Photoshop can use GIMP as an alternative. Graphic designers might turn to Inkscape instead of Adobe Illustrator. Free, open-source frameworks such as JQuery and Backbone.js make it easier for newer developers to employ some of the flashy techniques of advanced coders.
But for all the potential advantages that open source might provide to Latinos and blacks, a new pathway to employment doesn't seem to be one of them. Folks like Kimberly Bryant and Ashe Dryden are trying to change that. We'll be watching.