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Syria’s presidential election: Tens of thousands of Syrians headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their vote in the country's presidential election. The election has been decried by the opposition as a "charade" as sitting President Bashar al-Assad seeks to end the devastating three-year conflict that has killed more than 160,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million since 2011. The Financial Times puts it nicely: "President Assad has made a wasteland and called it peace."
+ For an in-depth look at Syria’s election and the devastating costs of the country’s ongoing civil war, visit Syria Deeply.
Egypt's presidential election: Egypt's election commission says Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt's former army chief, has won the country's presidency by a landslide with more than 95% of the vote. El-Sisi, the former Egyptian army chief who led the 2013 coup against former President Mohamed Morsi, has claimed a victory despite the lower election turnout and failure to meet international standards for democratic elections.
The saga of Bowe Bergdahl continues: The Army private, returned to U.S. custody after five years in Afghan captivity after a Taliban prisoner swap, actually vanished before his capture: The New York Times reports that Bergdahl "left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life." The Obama administration is playing defense from mostly conservative critics over the swap who are questioning the legality of the exchange and are suspicious that Bergdahl simply abandoned his unit.
+ The controversy over the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture is proving fruitful political ammunition in Washington now that, as PolicyMic's Tom McKay put it, "Bergdahl is the new Benghazi," which A) really means we're never going to hear the end of this, ever, and B) Congress now has an excuse to do nothing for another year.
Reddit, Imgur and Boing Boing are launching an anti-NSA-surveillance campaign: "Some of the world's largest websites are planning a coordinated day of action on Thursday to oppose mass surveillance," according to the Guardian. In an effort called "Reset the Net," some websites will show a splash screen like those used to protest SOPA, the copyright bill threatened the Internet in 2012.
Dan Marino is no longer suing the NFL for concussions: The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that the legendary Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback joined 14 other players to sue the league over concussions sustained as a player. According to a Sun-Sentinel source, Marino and his lawyers will be in discussions to withdraw from the lawsuit that was filed in a U.S. district court in Philadelphia.
MATTERS OF DEBATE
What it was like to be a Chinese soldier in Tiananmen Square: Chen Guang was a 17-year-old soldier in the Chinese Army when he was ordered to clear student protesters from Tiananmen Square. He described the experience to the New York Times' Andrew Jacobs: "In the beginning they told us we were coming to Beijing to maintain order. But after we arrived, we learned it was actually to impose martial law. What we were told was that the students leading the anti-corruption campaign were good, but among them were a few bad eggs who were influencing them. 'The situation is critical, and many institutions and bureaucracies are collapsing,' we were told. We were brainwashed. We were told 'Listen to the Central Military Commission and obey the party’s orders.'"
+ If you have time, this Frontline documentary on Tiananmen's "Tank Man" is definitely worth a watch.
+ Vox's Max Fisher writes that this 1989 speech delivered a few days before the Tiananmen crackdown is one of the most important in China's history — and only eight people have heard it.
Modern slavery still exists in our prison workforce: Beth Schwartzapfel discusses prison labor rights in the American Prospect: "Prisoners who gain professional skills while locked up, and those who earn a decent wage for their work, are far less likely to end up back behind bars. But if prisons in America, with the world's highest incarceration rate, had to pay minimum wage — let alone the prevailing wage — they couldn’t keep operating."
+ Read PolicyMic's Laura Dimon on the modern-day slave plantation thriving in the heart of America.
What we lost with the decline of handwriting: "Does handwriting matter?" asks Maria Konnikova in the New York Times. "Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard. But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep."
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd flew to Denver and ate a ton of marijuana candy. It turned out exactly as you'd expect. [New York Times]
The Millennium Falcon is taking shape in new leaked Star Wars: Episode VII photos. [The Verge]
The NSA could bug your iPhone even when it's turned off. Here's how to stop them. [Wired]
Meet the Canadian dentist who wants to clone John Lennon. [Newsweek]
Want to make your employees more productive? Get rid of the boss. [Slate]
A linguist examines the complicated history of gendered pronouns. [The Toast]
One of the most famous public intellectuals in the world is also a giant asshole. [Critical Theory]
No, social media isn't ruining your life: In fact, it's probably making your relationships stronger. Your gadgets, however, are making you fat. [Pacific Standard, New York magazine]
"Schlock, at its finest, is where bad taste becomes great art." This defense of schlock music is the best thing you'll read all day. [New York magazine].
Mic Check is carefully and dutifully assembled each day by Jared Keller. Did we miss something you wanted to read about? Want to see us focus on an under-covered issue? Have a tip for the next edition? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Editor's Note: Feb. 24, 2015
An earlier version of this article failed to cite a passage from the Guardian in accordance with Mic editorial standards. The article has been updated to properly attribute the language to the Guardian.