The Spy Who Came Home
“Meanwhile, American police forces were adopting some of the militarized tactics that Skinner had seen give rise to insurgencies abroad. “We have to stop treating people like we’re in Fallujah,” he told me. “It doesn’t work. Just look what happened in Fallujah.” In time, he came to believe that the most meaningful application of his training and expertise—the only way to exemplify his beliefs about American security, at home and abroad—was to become a community police officer in Savannah, where he grew up.”
“Smarter people than me have come to the same conclusion. “This guy is innocent,” said Thomas R. Parker, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who was deputy head of the F.B.I.’s office in Los Angeles. “The evidence was planted, he was framed, the cops lied on the stand.””
“I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?”
His head was bowed for a time. Then he lifted his wet face: “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’ ”
"Renato Da Silva Junior harbours ambitions of becoming a lawyer. There is just one obstacle: he is a quarter of the way through serving a 20-year jail sentence for murder.
“My dreams are bigger than my mistakes,” says Da Silva, a slightly built man with a broad smile. “I am doing everything to get out of here as soon as I can.”
Da Silva, 28, an inmate at the men’s prison in Itaúna, a town in Minas Gerais, south-east Brazil, is chipping away at his sentence and has already reduced it by two years through work and study at the Association for Protection and Assistance to Convicts (Apac) prison. Here, inmates wear their own clothes, prepare their own food and are even in charge of security. At an Apac jail, there are no guards or weapons, and inmates literally hold the keys."
"But Sabine Baring-Gould happens to have been the last man who knew everything.
One really does mean everything. The Victorian parson's interests included but were not limited to philology, anthropology, folklore, children's stories, hymnology, hagiography, geology, topography, painting, optics, metallurgy, ancient and modern history, musical theory, biblical archeology, the plausibility of miracles, the minutiae of the English salt mining industry, and the theater. Among the 130 books he published were an anthology of Old Testament apocrypha; biographies of Napoleon I and the Caesars; histories of Germany, Iceland, North and South Wales, Cornwall, Dartmoor, the Rhine, and the Pyrenees; a guide to surnames; a 16-volume collection of saints' lives and a compilation of medieval superstitions beloved by H.P. Lovecraft among others; numerous volumes of sermons and dozens of novels; a theological treatise on the problem of evil; numerous works on ghosts; a surprisingly scholarly Book of Were-wolves. He also composed some 200 short stories and thousands of essays, prefaces, and magazine articles; he produced two collections of original verse and two memoirs and left behind a vast correspondence, thousands of pages of diaries, and a remarkable quantity of half-digested research."
"They suspect that the plane's 2014 disappearance and apparent crash was a suicide by the 53-year-0ld Zaharie — and a premeditated act of mass murder.
But first, the experts said, they believe that Zaharie depressurized the plane, knocking out anyone aboard who wasn't wearing an oxygen mask. That would explain the silence from the plane as it veered wildly off course: no mayday from the craft's radio, no final goodbye texts, no attempted emergency calls that failed to connect."
“During his nine-year sojourn into the strange, finicky realm of color, Subramanian, a materials science professor at Oregon State University at Corvallis, has grown infatuated with a form of chemistry that he, like many of his peers, once considered decidedly low-tech. His renown derives from his accidental creation, in 2009, of a new pigment, a substance capable of imparting color onto another material. YInMn blue (pronounced YIN-min) is an amalgam of yttrium, indium oxide, and manganese—elements deep within the periodic table that together form something unique. YInMn was the first blue pigment discovered in more than 200 years.”
“Hovey works in one of the least known, most dangerous, and, frankly, most bizarre professions on Earth. He is a saturation diver—one of the men (just about all have been men*) who do construction and demolition work at depths up to 1,000 feet or more below the surface of the ocean.”
“But such arguments are difficult to take seriously unless one believes that the only legitimate law in the view of Muslims is the fiqh of Muslims jurists, or that a Muslim must follow exactly the divine word as received by Muhammad. Through the pluralistic and manifold history of Islamic law this was never historically the case. The course of Muslim self-rule—from the early days of Muhammad through the fall of the last Muslim empire—tells a different story.”
“That insight has turned Tas-Yuryakh, a tiny village of log cabins that depends on the ice highway for business at its truck stop and gas station — the last gas for 508 miles — into a hotbed of true believers in the human contribution to climate change.”
“Until March, when O’Grady, 84, was fatally struck by a car just a few feet from her home, she paid $28.43 a month for the apartment.”
“Every year, tens of thousands of fugitives and suspects — many of whom have not been convicted of a crime — are entrusted to a handful of small private companies that specialize in state and local extraditions.
A Marshall Project review of thousands of court documents, federal records and local news articles and interviews with more than 50 current or former guards and executives reveals a pattern of prisoner abuse and neglect in an industry that operates with almost no oversight.”
"Though the literature is still nascent, several scholars have examined the direct negative impact of corporate financialization on income inequality. One study found that financialization, net of other factors, could account for more than half of the decline in labor’s share of income in the nonfinancial sector of the economy, and is comparable to the effect of de-unionization, globalization, and technological shifts. Others look directly at the impact of financialization on declining corporate investment, finding that the financial profit rate is correlated with a significant decline in investment, especially for large firms. Less investment can mean less to spend on improving the skills and productivity of one’s workforce."
"While “trendy” chefs around the world are promoting foraging, he adds “in this place you have an occupying force that’s saying it’s forbidden.” Though many Palestinians agree on the need to protect Akoub, they also see Israeli conservation efforts as inherently illegitimate, just another part of a system that prevents them from using large swaths of land for agriculture."
"In August 2004, twelve men left their village in Nepal for jobs at a five-star luxury hotel in Amman, Jordan. They had no idea that they had actually been hired for subcontract work on an American military base in Iraq. But fate took an even darker turn when the dozen men were kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists. Their gruesome deaths were captured in one of the first graphic execution videos disseminated on the internet—the largest massacre of contractors during the war. Compounding the tragedy was the reality that their deaths received little notice. Why were men from a country so removed from the war, in Iraq? How had they gotten there? And who, exactly, were they working for?"
For years, Soo-Kyung, a developmental biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, had worked with the FOX family of genes.
“I knew how critical FOXG1 is for brain development,” she said.
She also knew harmful FOXG1 mutations are exceedingly rare and usually not inherited — the gene mutates spontaneously during pregnancy. Only about 300 people worldwide are known to have FOXG1 syndrome, a condition designated a separate disorder relatively recently. The odds her own daughter would have it were infinitesimal.
“It is an astounding story,” Dr. Riddle said. “A basic researcher working on something that might help humanity, and it turns out it directly affects her child.”
"More than 20 years ago when I went to ask my future wife’s hand in marriage, my prospective father-in-law wasn’t very keen on the match. After deriding my choice of profession and arguing about the futility of young love, he tried to dissuade me by saying, “My daughter doesn’t know how to make a roti.” I said: “I don’t either. We should get along.”
We didn’t talk about the obvious middle-class truth: Do you know any man who knows how to make a roti? What are servants for?"
"One of the worst maritime disasters in European history took place a decade ago. It remains very much in the public eye. On a stormy night on the Baltic Sea, more than 850 people lost their lives when a luxurious ferry sank below the waves. From a mass of material, including official and unofficial reports and survivor testimony, our correspondent has distilled an account of the Estonia's last moments—part of his continuing coverage for the magazine of anarchy on the high seas."
“Barely a day old, he was a mess — his legs shook uncontrollably. His arms, raised to his head, his tiny fingers splayed, shook too. His skin was red and splotchy with upset; his gasping, desperate cry inconsolable.
The new baby was dope sick. He was in full-on, cold-turkey withdrawal from the opioids his mother took while pregnant.”
“Gonzalez was at her cafe, thinking about how weird it all was — the emails, the phone calls, the way her life changed because of something that happened 1,250 miles away — when she noticed a man pointing his phone at her.”
“About half of women who give birth are still in pain weeks later. More than 40 percent of women who delivered vaginally reported perineal pain, and nearly 60 percent who had C-sections experienced incision pain within two months of childbirth, according to a 2013 survey of 2,400 women, called Listening To Mothers, by the group Childbirth Connection. Nearly 80 percent of mothers surveyed said pain interfered with their daily activities. One in three reported urinary or bowel problems.”
"Restaurant consultants respond to these issues. Working with food businesses of various kinds—from sandwich shops to movie-theaters to pretzel stands at the mall—consultants seek to make their clients’ food more compelling and user-friendly. Armed with whiteboards, buzzwords, mind-maps, and rainbow colored Post-its, consultants apply the well-worn tenets of design thinking—empathizing, ideating, prototyping and so on—to America’s restaurant landscape. They research trends, write menus, and develop recipes. They price ingredients, design kitchens, and source packaging. They concern themselves with all the small logistical details that can make or break a concept."
A bit of my own writing. "I’d like to talk about this experience, and how some common narratives about academic success can make it particularly difficult for graduate students to identify when they’re depressed and get help. Depression is a very common experience for graduate students, with nearly 40% of students in a number of countries reporting that they feel moderately to severely depressed. If you’re reading this and it resonates with something in your experience, some treatment resources are discussed at the bottom of the post."
“Grasses, he liked to say, were like straws sipping carbon from the air, bringing it back to earth. Creque’s quiet observation stuck with Wick and Rathmann. It clearly illustrated a concept that Creque had repeatedly tried to explain to them: Carbon, the building block of life, was constantly flowing from atmosphere to plants into animals and then back into the atmosphere. And it hinted at something that Wick and Rathmann had yet to consider: Plants could be deliberately used to pull carbon out of the sky.”
“Hydrofluoric acid can severely damage the deep tissues of the body yet leave little trace of damage on the skin surface. It can even kill. People have died after a patch of skin no bigger than the sole of the foot was exposed to the substance.”
“The third stopit mechanism is a carefully-structured standard note to alleged perpetrators of harassment, improper use, or other uncivil behavior. "Someone using your account," the note begins, "did [whatever the offense is]." The u.y.a. note (as this mechanism is known, for its introductory words) then explains why this behavior or action is offensive, or violates MIT harassment policy, or Rules of Use, or whatever. "Account holders are responsible for the use of their accounts. If you were unaware that your account was being used in this way," the note continues, "it may have been compromised. User Accounts can help you change your password and re-secure your account." Detailed directions to User Accounts follow. The note concludes with a short sentence: "If you were aware that your account was being used to [whatever it was], then we trust you will take steps to ensure that this does not happen again."
Two interesting outcomes ensue.
First, many recipients of u.y.a. notes go to User Accounts, say their accounts have been compromised, and change their passwords - even when it's clear, from eyewitnesses or other evidence, that they personally were the offenders.
Second, and most important, u.y.a. recipients virtually never repeat the offending behavior.
This is important: even though recipients concede no guilt, and receive no punishment, they stop.”
“People should at least understand what the normal process of advanced dementia is about,” Dr. Schwarz said. “Feeding tubes are not the issue — they’re not done when dementia is terminal. Instead, a caregiver will stand patiently at the bedside and spoon food into your mouth as long as you open it. Opening your mouth when a spoon approaches is a primitive reflex that persists long after you’ve lost the ability to swallow and know what to do with what’s put in your mouth.”
“Research shows that men are just as likely as women to say they want emotional intimacy in their friendships. And lacking this intimacy threatens men’s health: Recent research links the “loneliness epidemic” with early deaths across wealthy nations, and groundbreaking 2017 meta studies established that greater social connection was associated with a 50% reduced risk of dying early, while loneliness increased the risk of dying younger as severely as obesity.”
“In Dishonoured by History: ‘Criminal Tribes' and British Colonial Policy, Meena Radhakrishna presents rare scholarship on some of the worst excesses of the British Empire. The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 was passed with intention of demarcating certain tribes in India as being "hereditary criminals". This wasn't necessarily genetic but rather occupational. The colonial interventions of the 19th century had invalidated a lot of hereditary occupations and the British were extremely aware of the dangers of the resulting mass unemployment. In their eyes, there was no other choice for these poor, wandering nomads but to take up a life of crime. What else could they do?”
“I heard Mozart’s 39th symphony in concert last night, and it occurred to me (once again) that I also was witnessing one of mankind’s greatest technological achievements. Think about what went into the activity: each instrument, developed eventually to perfection and coordinated with the other instruments. The system of tuning and the underlying principles of the music. The acoustics of the music hall. The sheet music on paper and the musical notation. All of those features extremely well coordinated with the kind of compositional talent being produced in Central and Western Europe from say 1710 to 1920.”
“Online outrage mobs will be familiar to any social media user. But in places with histories of vigilantism, they can work themselves up to real-world attacks. Last year in Cancún, Mexico, for instance, Facebook arguments over racist videos escalated to fatal mob violence.”
“These days, managing workplace relationships can be a stressful thing. And yes, if you polled a dozen people about a lightening-rod topic like emotional labor, you’d probably get about a dozen different responses, and at least as many definitions of the term. But that’s besides the point. Men, instead of looking for technical loopholes in the definition, just open your eyes and harness all of the empathy, problem solving, and creativity that you regularly use in your job—I promise that you will realize how much work performed by women goes unrecognized. Now let’s go collectively tame it.”
“Since the end of the financial crisis, Lubarsky says, Seattle has added roughly 100,000 jobs, but barely 32,000 new homes and apartment units. “We’ve underbuilt every year since 2010,” he adds. And a big part of that deficit, Lubarsky says, is due to neighborhoods like Wallingford, where zoning laws make it almost impossible to build anything other than a single-family house.”
““There is no nobler fruit in the universe,” Jean de Léry writes of the pineapple. Charles Lamb loved the fruit erotically: “Pleasure bordering on pain, from the fierceness and insanity of her relish, like a lovers’ kisses she biteth.” Pieter de la Court professes: “One can never be tire’d with looking on it.” How did these men, and so many others, become so enraptured with the pineapple? And how have we forgotten its former grandeur?”
“After running the data, Rinz and Voorheis find it reasonable to argue that “a minimum wage increase comparable in magnitude to the increase experienced in Seattle between 2013 and 2016 would have blunted some, but not nearly all of the worst income losses suffered at the bottom of the income distribution during the Great Recession.””
“The bottom line is that it is harder to make progress than commonly appreciated. While judgments may differ about the credibility of a particular study or the policy importance of a particular impact finding, the pattern of disappointing effects for most rigorously-evaluated programs—along with findings of important positive effects for a few—is compelling and transcends multiple fields. It needs to be taken seriously.”
“My overall thought is that there’s not high value in reading Chinese history unless one is eager to learn about governance and political economy. If so, the history there is very rich indeed. Have you ever wondered what would happen if the state imposed military service in perpetuity, so that every generation of descendants has to serve? Well, let’s look at how well that worked out in the Ming. Imperial history is a rich mine for information on how a state imposes order, how it spreads ideology, and how it renews itself after a crisis.”
“But there is one way in which I think that the United States really is exceptional, and it does matter for understanding American democracy, past and present. Specifically, the United States is the world’s only settler colony endowed with an enduring legacy of plantation slavery.”
“Facebook had replaced much of the emotional labor of social networking that consumed previous generations. We have forgotten (or perhaps never noticed) how many hours our parents spent keeping their address books up to date, knocking on doors to make sure everyone in the neighborhood was invited to the weekend BBQ, doing the rounds of phone calls with relatives, clipping out interesting newspaper articles and mailing them to a friend, putting together the cards for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and more. We don’t think about what it’s like to carefully file business cards alphabetically in a Rolodex. People spent a lot of time on these sorts of things, once, because the less of that work you did, the less of a social network you had.”
“Beneath a veneer of high Slavic culture and modern sophistication, the city has, for many, become something darker than it appears: a gangland metropolis. In just the past year, half a dozen enemies of Putin's regime have been killed or grievously injured in Kiev in a rash of bombings and shootings—outbreaks of chaos and violence that have cast an eerie pall over the city.”
“The computer simulation revealed a backward spinning planet with a dramatically different distribution and abundance of desert lands, an otherworldly surge of cyanobacteria, and rerouted ocean currents, among other differences from our real, familiar planet.”
“So many of these workplace practices, like work-family conflict and long work hours, are as harmful to health as secondhand smoke, a known and regulated carcinogen.”
"The increasing popularity of e-bikes has paralleled the rise of online takeout delivery services like Seamless, which merged with Grub Hub in 2013. The two companies control 85 percent of the food delivery market in New York City, and nationwide accounted for more than $1 billion in food sales during the last quarter of 2017—300 orders every minute of every day. Seamless is “how New York eats,” according to their ads plastered throughout the subway. The company’s TV commercial features a delivery cyclist who arrives on an e-bike and speaks in heavily accented English."
"Perhaps the most interesting thing about libertarian thought is that it has no way of coherently justifying the initial acquisition of property. How does something that was once unowned become owned without nonconsensually destroying others’ liberty? It is impossible. This means that libertarian systems of thought literally cannot get off the ground. They are stuck at time zero of hypothetical history with no way forward."
"A survey of the published science, interviews with leading scientists, and a review of thousands of pages of court and police documents associated with the Kumra case has elucidated how secondary DNA transfer can undermine the credibility of the criminal justice system's most-trusted tool. And yet, very few crime labs worldwide regularly and robustly study secondary DNA transfer."
"Over the next few decades, Japanese art flooded European markets. For the first time, Western audiences were introduced to ukyio-e or “pictures of the floating world”. This genre of coloured woodblock prints depicted landscapes, street-scenes, folk tales and subjects from nature. Paris’s impressionists were entranced. Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas all studied ukiyo-e but no one absorbed its aesthetic as much as Vincent van Gogh. “All my work”, he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo, “is based to some extent on Japanese art.”"
"Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America. More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity."
"With no formal legal identity and few of the rights enjoyed by their Khmer and Cham neighbors, Vietnamese claim to pay large bribes to the fishery police, the environmental police, the maritime police and other, more ambiguous authority figures, some posing as local journalists. They are subject to evictions, mobs and capricious imprisonment."
"Tugboat crews routinely encounter what few of us will ever see. They easily read a vessel’s size, shape, function, and features, while deciphering at a glance the mysterious numbers, letters, and symbols on a ship’s hull. To non-mariners, the markings look like hieroglyphs. For those in the know, they speak volumes about a particular ship and also about the shipping industry."