Welcome to Rusk Reads. Every Sunday I will post three long article recommendations. These pieces will be relevant, rich, and make you think. Please enjoy! Peace & Love

2/11/24

By William Ralston - Atavist

RR: I truly felt I was embedded in a deep jungle throughout this story. It is a fascinating piece that isn't just human interest but winds a tale on the rebel and indigenous politics of Colombia. The aftermath itself was a twist I was not expecting.

By Kara Swisher - The Intelligencer

RR: Swisher delves into a lot of tech misconceptions old and new. While not entirely surprising, especially in hindsight, it's still a slightly tragic comedy to see newspaper empires resist digitization let alone reporting about the internet in the early days. 

By Patrick Radden Keefe - The New Yorker

RR: One part-Saltburn the other part-Talented Mr. Ripley this is a morbid story that is stranger than fiction. I am intrigued by how far people will compulsively lie for a shot at a dream life that may be tantalizingly out of reach but more likely is just illusory. I found it almost equally disturbing how intransigent UK law enforcement can be on grey-area cases.

2/4/24

By Kyra Dempsey - Asterisk Magazine

RR: I love this piece in so many ways. Dempsey is one of the best writers in terms of fluency and fluidity I have seen in long form this year. The article alone seems perfect in its form. In terms of substance, this is a great example of explanatory journalism and why the airplane industry post-catastrophes point fingers not at the who but rather the why. After several years of near misses and mechanical failures, this story is more needed than ever.

By Kirsten Grind , Emily Glazer , Rebecca Elliott, & Coulter Jones - The Wall Street Journal

RR: Don’t let the clickbait nature of the article deceive you. This isn’t palace intrigue for the sake of palace intrigue. This quote from a former board member distills the crux of the problem: “[they] found the board to operate more like a family company with fiefdoms, rather than a public company with stringent rules and regulations, even if it did usually perform well.” Why should we care about this? I am not Tesla stockholder so it does not impact me either way but legal and ethical corporate governance should be equally applied and enforced to all. Maybe especially for the world’s richest person. One side note, I am always fascinated by examples of the crash poor and asset rich. Elon Musk asking for millions of dollars from his friends or a billion-dollar loan from one of his companies is rich in many ways.

By Nicholson Baker - The Intelligencer

RR: This article is just a slam dunk. Baker dismantles much of the narrative around irrational unexplained aerial events debates. The first ever incident that popularized the terminology “flying saucer”? An unclassified government balloon project that was not public for another 40-plus years. Occam’s Razor wins every time. As Baker points out “here was plenty of time for a lush Roswellian mythology to germinate and ripen.” In fact, this story is full of unbelievable military programs that used common day or ridiculous methods to achieve their goals. Who knew the CIA devised a balloon to float over to the Soviet Union's wheat fields and drop crop-compromising spores and Turkey feathers? Why did they not look like balloons? “‘Because it was hard to judge the speed of shiny objects at high altitudes, ‘the balloons sometimes seem to be racing at tremendous rates, whereas they actually are moving at 60 miles per hour or less.’” Simple explanations prevail again. Baker then takes this same simple solution fact-finding lens to our current age and uses it to prove we are making the same mistakes of the past. History repeats.

Feb - 2024

1/28/24

By Michael Hall - Texas Monthly

RR: This story is about a travesty of justice and the lives ruined in its wake. I will not spoil the twists and turns but say I came away with feelings of anger, shame, and hope. Equal justice under the law is clearly a principle that requires constant persistence and vigilance.

By E. Tammy Kim - The New Yorker

RR: I enjoyed this piece because it doesn't come down assuredly on one side of an impossible fraught policy conundrum. Kim intermixes on-the-ground stories, scholarly research, and the viewpoints of all the stakeholders in the telling of a quest to help end the overdose epidemic in America. There is no clear or clean answer presented but I came knowing the status quo is not sufficient.

1/21/24

By David Taylor - The Scientific American

RR: The story is a deep mine of personal tragedies on a scale granular and vast. If I asked the average person about global illegal trades sand would probably not be on the top 5 of everyone's list let alone for the monetary amounts outlined in this article. Don't let the innocuous nature of sand distract from its real-world consequences. 

By Christopher Maag - The New York Times

RR: Farm-to-table is part of the modern culinary experience but we still know little about the journey of our favorite foods to our plates. This is a story about the nitty gritty in getting a scallop from the seafloor to our mouth and all of the environmental, labor, and gentrification costs that might be impeding that process.

By Eric Umansky & Umar Farooq - Pro Publica

RR: Pro Publica reports that within the last decade in NYPD there were "79 killings in which there was body-worn-camera footage. A year and a half later, the police have released the footage in just 33 cases — or about 42%." Even when footage has been released it hasn't always been complete or edited in a chronological manner. Structural fixes are needed. This is a story of justice delayed and in progress.

1/14/24

By Tom Socca - New York Magazine

RR: This is a healthcare horror story. Scocca's winding tale gets into the heart of the absurdity of medical bureaucracy and the Sisyphean tasks of diagnosis and treatment even in the 21st century.

By Liyan Qi and Shen Lu - The Wall Street Journal

RR: Public policy is no easy task but this story is different in terms of the scale and the stakes. The WSJ analyzes all the ways that political and ethical failures have led to the potential dissolution of an economy and population trajectory that at one time could see no limit.

By Jonathan Franzen - The New Yorker

RR: One of my favorite reads involves the law of unintended consequences. These examples are just not failures in decision-making but more importantly, errors that had the opposite effect that was expected. There is a story, maybe apocryphal, that British colonial officials put a price on the head of every cobra someone could catch. Astute folks ended up breeding more cobras for release or capture in order to cash in on the prizes increasing the total population of cobras. Today this is called the "Cobra Effect." Regardless of the merit of the story animals and animal policy are always tricky due to the fact we cannot control their behavior as we would like. This piece gets into all the ways that humans too, even with good intentions, may cause more suffering even when they are trying to reduce it.

Jan - 2024

12.31.23

By Siddhartha Mukherjee - The New Yorker

RR: Mukherjee must be lauded for his simple and clear explanations of a complicated and charged topic. I honestly came away knowing more about the inner workings of cancer (as much as we can know) than at any point in my life. More pressingly the piece pushes us to question the facts about why common carcinogens have the effects they do. For example, there is no dispute that asbestos can cause cancer but the way in which it probably does induce the cells even surprised me. 

By Elizabeth Dwoskin and Gabriela Sa Pessoa - The Washington Post

RR: This Washington Post piece delves into the immediate effects of rapid liberalization without the appropriate brakes or checks. I balked at the current 30% rates on most credit cards which seems nothing to some of the extremes seen in Brazil. The stakes are even higher in a country with less credit regulation and differing social safety nets.

By Warren P. Strobel - The Wall Street Journal

RR: The paradox of reporting on spies is we may not know what truly is going on but this story convinces me at the very least that the US is on the back foot in China. Regardless if one condones these clandestine efforts it's obvious that the US is more in the dark in terms of personal assets. With the coming geopolitical or even real battles to come there could be equally real consequences to this asymmetry. 

12.24.23

By Thomas Grove, Alan Cullison, & Bojan Pancevski - The Wall Street Journal

RR: This piece doesn't pull punches. Within a few short and almost emotionless sentences a bomb is placed on the wing of Prigozhin's plane. Minutes later close to a dozen people were dead. The WSJ details the spymaster likely behind the job and why we all knew Prigozhin's days were numbered. The bloody reach of Russia does not waver. 

By Douglas MacMillan and Christopher Rowland - The Washington Post

RR: Hindsight indeed seems 20/20 but especially so when it concerns protecting the most vulnerable. I grew exasperated and frustrated with how individuals, businesses, and regulators are failing to properly enforce safety standards across assisted living and nursing homes. This is even more grim when you realize the human toll.

By Isabelle Qian - The New York Times

RR: All of us have brushed against online scams. Even now this barrage seems almost daily. Often we have a stereotypical vision of the nefarious person behind the other screen. This piece delves into the gray area. The story alone seems unprecedented due to all the data and information on processes and profits we get to see. 

12.17.23

By Mark Bowden - The Atlantic

RR: Bowden is a brilliant and methodical writer. This piece is an archetype for unpacking a contentious and dynamic mystery with high stakes. I deeply respect how Bowden explores every hypothesis and presents the best set of facts with equally compelling outside expertise. I came into this story fairly agnostic about who may be responsible for the Nord Stream attack but I came away fairly convinced on who didn't do it. From that point, there are not many options left but one. Yet even Bowden cautions us to reserve final judgment until more formal investigations are completed.

By Jon Schuppe and Mike Hixenbaugh - NBC News

RR: Typically bureaucratic red tape and finger-pointing render us all mildly annoyed. This story is a case that should inspire anger. At this point, I don't care if it's incompetence or bad faith but letting a family dangle in the wind for a year about their missing son while he was identified and buried three days after being reported missing is a travesty. There should be accountability on every level and a call for easy changes to notify next of kin.

By Jodi Kantor and Adam Liptak - The New York Times

RR: The Supreme Court is historically the least transparent branch of the Federal Government. There is some good reason for this. Allegedly the court is apolitical and by any means we can minimize introducing partisanship or the appearance of such should be a service to justice. Yet, on both sides of the aisle, there is deep frustration that the court deserves more scrutiny given the seemingly unilateral power it sometimes holds. From the shadow docket to questions concerning judicial codes of ethics SCOTUS has been in the news more than usual. In particular, after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, there was a call for more understanding of how and why this third branch of government functions in their decision-making. We will never get an internal mic for their conference votes but at the minimum knowing more of the process can bolster confidence in what is supposed to be objective jurisprudence.  This piece gets into some of the gamesmanship that we are often surprised to hear about behind the scenes. Not too much is surprising. A few of the justices were more reticent to challenge stare decisis (existing precedent) which seemed fairly obvious. A few new revelations for me were that the more liberal Justice Breyer may have offered to uphold a partial abortion ban if it meant preserving Roe. I was also dismayed that a group of justices attempted to end the reading of dissents from the bench. Thankfully a majority prevailed. We should not move in any direction that limits more exposure of the court. Many of us have long given up on cameras in the court so live audio for oral arguments and dissents from the bench are important to bolster the public's perception of the court as serving the people. There is little effective argumentation to suggest this politicizes the court more so than it may already be. 

12.10.23

By Scott Sayare - New York Magazine

RR: Let me start with a tease. There is no proverbial smoking gun that challenges the fact that Oswald killed JFK alone and on his own accord. But. I changed my mind about some of the events that may have transpired after the fateful day in Dallas. I will be honest I have an annoying holier-than-thou persona when it comes to conspiracy theories. This intellectual snootiness comes from the issue of scale. Oxford academic David Robert Grimes estimated that close to 400,000 people would have had to be complicit in a fake Moon landing and also have kept mum for fifty-plus years. In practice that means in all that time there was no tipsy engineer bragging to a suitor, no death-bed confession to a waling spouse, no glorified leak to a publication, and no comically large size bag of money convincing a down-on-their-luck office worker to change their life. Not 1 out of 400,000. I don't like those odds. Again this is not to say there is any iota of real evidence to dispute the Moon landing to begin with but for me, the impossibility of the coverup alone is a non-starter. It's a non-starter for almost any widespread conspiracy. This is especially true in the modern age where digital incompetency amplifies the chance of an inerrant leak or mistake. Yet... something in this story caught my eye. I was naive to think there could not be small-scale coverups stemming from incompetence and other illegality that could be unintentionally causing greater fuel to a different misguided conspiracy.  I was surprised to learn the CIA admitted to making critical mistakes in procedure and disclosure in the wake of the JFK assassination. I was intrigued to learn officers on record admitted to knowing more about Oswald than was admitted to the Warren Commission or the public. I was not entirely surprised but interested in the idea that intelligence organizations couldn't thoroughly distance themselves from Oswald without admitting to breaking other international laws like the attempted assassination attempts against Castro. From here I have come to some new beliefs that our intelligence organizations could have been easily slow-walking or misleading the public due to their alleged incompetence. There's a seemingly obvious air of "We need to prove our zero association with the death of JFK as quickly as possible even if it means cutting corners or asking others to blindly confirm this." All of those mixed motives and corresponding actions backfired into seeming like a coverup of something far more nefarious. But here is where the story diverges. This piece is about a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who takes these grey areas and starts filling in the gaps without evidence. The end of the story alludes to how someone may fall for the quixotic allure of question they can't bear not knowing the answer to. 

By Heather Haddon - The Wall Street Journal

RR: A good burger seems simple. But this piece alludes to the fact that mouth feel, taste, texture, production speed, cost, and dozens of more variables can be refined down to a literal science. Burger by micro-design. I was fascinated with the amount of money and time required to revamp one of the most iconic food items in the entire world: The McDonald's Hamburger.

By Charles Duhigg - The New Yorker

RR: I came to the piece looking for more substantiated gossip about what happened with the OpenAI calamity. But this story is really about the insane speed and leaps made when the right people get in the right room. There are constant diatribes on how apocalyptic rhetoric around AI is not only unfair but counterproductive. Why not discuss the environmental effects or the short-term effects on employment? Enough references to the Terminator and the End of the World. But there are some moments that catch your breath. For example, during one coding test, the programmers were astonished that the AI had completed the task and even more interestingly couldn't tell you how. The AI was a black box where you couldn't open some underlying source code and point to the moment it decided to x over y. Those cases do make the mind wander. 

12.02.23

By Timothy McLaughlin - The Atlantic

RR: The article stems from a few jaw-dropping premises. First, the expansion of the Chinese navy is at a scale that is borderline unfathomable. Second, in terms of surface area and touchpoints the South-China Sea may offer more chances of conflict and escalation than any other place in the world at the moment. Yet the piece concludes in terms of monetary aid there is little to show for it from the perspective of the US. Time will tell. 

By Robert Samuels - The New Yorker

RR: This story shows us the real-world individual consequences of book bans from the perspective of the author. Samuels honestly explores his winding tale of a school district reticent to let students read his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography about George Floyd. A lot of ink has been spilled on the coercive effects of bills that ban content based on viewpoint but what was most surprising about this article was how so many actors chose to punt the book with so little research. This is a spectacular example of how the chilling effect can work so perversely and expansively. Stakeholders don’t even do due diligence but just out of precaution subscribe to the legal or ethical orthodoxy even when both should be in question. 

By Nicole Hong - The New York Times

RR: My jaw dropped reading how brazen the Indian government was on sovereign soil to assassinate political dissidents. The communications couldn’t be more clear. These accounts are as close to a smoking gun as you could ask for. It’s another indication that leaders like MBS and now alleged members of the Indian government believe murder is worth the risk of deep geopolitical consequences. 

Dec - 2023

11.26.23

By Sarah Hurtes - The New York Times

RR: Eugenics is a phrase that creates a visceral reaction in me. Probably like others I have flashes of horrors to 19th century phrenology, Nazism, and the infamous US Supreme Court Buck v. Bell that ostensibly legalized forced sterilization of "undesirables." The article dances around modern day traces of these monstrosities by exploring the remaining edge cases that still seem to fester in parts of the world regardless of the law. The piece doesn't hold back from letting parents explain their reasoning ; however, the article weaves this high wire narrative with the first person stories of those who faced the real human consequences.

By Alexandra Bruell - The Wall Street Journal

RR: This story is a Sisyphean tale I can never stop telling. Local news is critical for democracy, anti-corruption efforts, and making real meaningful differences in the lives of those in the community. This article pulls us out to see the destruction of local news on the macro scale. It's devastating and I will not stop fighting.

By Topher Sanders et al- ProPublica

RR: This story seems like one of justice. Dozens of former employees awarded million dollar judgements because of workplace retaliation. Retaliation in particular for blowing the whistle on safety violations. Yet I discovered in winning their suits the tragic irony is the government has less ability to enforce or follow through with enforcement. This isn't to blame the whistleblowers. They faced real economic and even health consequences from their heroic efforts. Rather this is the fault of the companies and a bureaucratic process that cannot see, enforce, or deal out effective punishment in real time.

11.19.23

By Andrew Kipnis - Aeon

RR: This piece does not shy away from offering concrete conclusions on why urbanites in China struggle grappling with ghosts; this internal schism really in turn is about reconciling death. I love how the academic anthropology can spill from the pages in totally accessible means. Regardless of where you hail from there are kernels of relatability throughout the article. Is our aversion to horror, ghosts, and the macabre really about fear of the unknown? Kipnis offers a variety of explanations on why ghosts are really about avoiding real fears of loneliness, strangers, and ruminating on our inevitable deaths. 

By Max Graham - Grist

RR: I often hear about climate change in the macro scale. 37.12 billion metric tons of carbon. 1.5 degrees of no return. I appreciate this piece because it shows in real and emotional ways the toll of a changing climate on the lives of not just the animal kingdom but specific communities like Alaska Natives who subsist on them. The article also delicately details the difficult task between balancing conservation and other stake holders.

By Luc Rinaldi - Toronto Life

RR: This story is a tragic tapestry of those who used an easy, ubiquitous, and often anonymous internet to facilitate suicide. While the piece weaves through some of the debate on assisted suicide the heart of the story is about the callousness and recklessness of a man who has little remorse in allegedly aiding the deaths of hundreds of people across the world.

11.10.23

By Marina Bolotnikova - Vox

RR: This is sober epilogue to an earlier piece on RR by Annie Lowrey. In the Atlantic she discussed how a new branch of animal rights advocates skirted previous norms and even tested the grey area of the law to achieve their ends. It looks like the law finally caught up with one of the movement's leaders. This story highlights some frustrating double standards in not letting the organization share relevant legal evidence on animal suffering to make their defense as well as attempts by certain actor to prevent discussion in the court and outside of the facts at hand. I will be following the appeal intently.

By Dave Philips - The NYT

This article is terrifying. Imagine making the ultimate sacrifice, to join the military to fight for your country, and some phantom force has disrupted your physical and mental health. Even worse, the very government who you fought to protect does not fight to protect you? There are steps the United States is taking to explore the effects of battlefield environmental exposures but the urgency, remedies, and culpability seems to be lacking.

By Anna Maria Barry-Jester - ProPublica

RR: This is a story about a market failure. How have we come to a point where one of the biggest foundations in the world has to negotiate with a company to finish studies on a TB drug that could save millions of lives? The article also highlights how support and coordination from government actors benefits pharma so where is the equal reciprocity? These questions need more scrutiny. 

11.3.23

By Andy Greenberg - Wired

RR: How far would you go for buried treasure? Over the last few years I have read some unbelievable stories of long forgotten crypto gaining immense value and the efforts their owners will take to get their digital currency back. There was the gentlemen paying truck loads of money to move truck loads of trash in a landfill to find a lost drive. There are countless stories of forgotten passwords but this above piece is the most tantalizing. In this case there is maybe 250 million dollars worth of crytpo stuck behind an encrypted software that will delete everything inside if the two more password attempts fail. When this story came out years ago not many of us believed that tech would solve this problem if ever but we were proven wrong. The weirdest part of the piece is now that there is a golden ticket to this digital golden goose why is the owner no longer urgently seeking its release? 

By Daniel Golden - ProPublica

RR: Local news is dying and the consequences are vast. There are several studies that show a relationship between in an increase in corruption, negligence, and even anti-democratic measures in the wake of local journalism disappearing or weakening. The relationship seems obvious. Just look back to the Justice Brandeis quote: Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman. Every council meeting sans a journalist means the public may stay in the dark on votes and why those votes occured. A police deparment may see less justified scrutiny on excessive force. A health department may get less questions on the consistency of their grading. This incredible article goes into the real lives and consequences as we lose these incredible spotlights for democracy and justice.

By Carrie Arnold - The Guardian

RR: At the core of this article is a call for empathy. Regardless of what position you start or end with I came away at least feeling that there is as always more nuance to healthcare and end of life decisions. The debate may seem intractable for certain factions but even hearing the stories of these folks pushes us all to improve a system that is failing patients in many ways.

Nov - 2023


10.27.23

By Eli Hager- The New Yorker

RR: While this article focuses on one family's struggle I was startled at how this story is not an anomaly. Laws and norms seem to be changing, for better or for worse, to create new powers and bureaucracy amidst an already tense parental rights gauntlet. The hardest part of the piece is how in this circumstance I truly believe both sides are coming from a place of good faith and fundamentally want what's best for the child. As you too will find out the legal battles are difficult to resolve in the grey area.

By Zach Montague - The NYT

RR: Quantum computing and its relative promises are not a new topic. However, one aspect of this shorter piece really caught my attention. Rogue actors, totalitarian states, and foes alike may be storing up encrypted data they cannot access today in the hopes the quantum computers of tomorrow can break in. The privacy, national security, and obviously ethical implications are mind blogging.

By Robyn Ross - Texas Monthly

RR: This story thrives in its focus on the church members. The piece is a quilt of first hand accounts of what faith means to folks and how finding the right home for said spirit requires some to travel, leave altogether, or stay and fight. More interestingly this is just a glimmer into the internal schisms that many modern religious movements are facing today as they balance modernity and alleged tradtionalism.

10.20.23

By Hannah Dreier & Meridith Kohut - The NYT Magazine

RR: Sometimes a spoiler is a good thing. I'm happy to say the result of this reporting seems to be real changes on the individual and federal levels. The real twist is how can real adults look into the eyes of 13 year old children working in a slaughterhouse and stomach case after case of injury and misery.

By Zach Baron - GQ

RR: I am almost liberated in thinking I could pull off a Scorsese and live without email and barely text. His living a bit in the past and in the future wasn't too surprising. However, I was slightly aghast at the idea that some of his movies, even today, required much persuading to be made.

By Adam Goodheart - The Atlantic

RR: Colonialism is insidious in my ways but Goodheart's article finds an angle often unexplored that left me queasy. This timely piece also contextualizes a viral story of a "missionary" who was killed six years ago attempting to contact an indigenous group.

10.13.23

By Ian Urbina - The New Yorker

RR: Another piece joins the top articles of the year! I have added a new story to The Library. This part of the site collects my favorite articles of all time. As such, I will only feature one piece this week instead of the normal three. It's just that good for a few reasons. First, I was blown away by the breadth of journalistic effort here. Urbina and others related to his project spent more than four years on this story often at risk of arrest, illness, and death. They also chased sources and info to every end of the Earth even via messages in a literal bottle. Second, I was floored by how little I knew about the sourcing of the seafood I eat. For example, Urbina reports often coercive companies employing Uyghurs and North Koreans exported something like 17% of all squid sent to the United States. The same squid (think calamari) that apparently shows up in military bases, cafeterias, casual restaurants, and supermarkets. Lastly, this is fundamentally a story of human suffering. It's a winding tale about those with so little who give up everything for so little in return. We need to act now.


10.6.23

By Kevin Sieff - The Washington Post

RR: This expansive story is about a global criminal enterprise centered on tennis gambling but also highlights the massive pay disparities in the professional sport. "The maestro" leveraged these economic conditions to create his network at the expense of the sport and the players. Many of these fraud epochs have delusional villains but Sargsyan is also seemingly without much regret. Much sure to read both parts! 

By Dhruv Mehrotra & Dell Cameron - Wired

RR: The article is short but powerful. Musk and associates are seemingly misleading the people, the scientific community, and caretaking institutions about harm against animal testing subjects. These highly intelligent emotional beings are possibly cognizant of their pain and the results are grim. Change cannot happen without an upswell of voices objecting to these conditions.

By Gideon Lewis-Kraus - The New Yorker

RR: "Nudge" by Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein was one of those books that changed my worldview. The idea is simple: subtle non-coercive behavioral architecture can lead to compounding not-so-subtle behavioral changes. From a business perspective, think about why the eggs, milk, and bread aisles are at the back requiring you to meander through the store. In government, think of a tax on cigarettes or new grotesque packaging that is intended to deter smokers. Or even simply, think of having employees opt-out of a retirement plan instead of opt-in. I read "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely just a year after "Nudge" and was sold on behavioral economics. So were governments. President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron both instituted some of these theories in practice to help with everything from taxes to climate change. Fifteen years on we have started to see the long-term effects of these studies and the policy changes built on their findings. I am still an acolyte of Thaler but there is a deep irony in this piece on Ariely and Gino's contradictions. The story does undermine some of the previous results that seemed too good to be true. There is also a reckoning for academia and data science that is coming to a head that needs further scrutiny. The field as a whole is still viable as ever but with more asterisks than before.

Oct - 2023


9.29.23


The Gershkovich Family - The WSJ

RR: Journalist Evan Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained by Russia for six months now due to his free expression. As per the WSJ, "In March 2023, he was arrested in Russia while on a reporting trip and accused of espionage, making him the first American journalist detained in Russia on such charges since the Cold War." 

A letter from Evan's family. Don't back down. #IStandWithEvan

By Lindsay Wise - The WSJ

RR: Journalist Evan Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained by Russia for six months now due to his free expression. As per the WSJ, "In March 2023, he was arrested in Russia while on a reporting trip and accused of espionage, making him the first American journalist detained in Russia on such charges since the Cold War." 

We can't lose momentum. Push your local representative. #IStandWithEvan

By Evan Gershkovich - The WSJ

RR: Journalist Evan Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained by Russia for six months now due to his free expression. As per the WSJ, "In March 2023, he was arrested in Russia while on a reporting trip and accused of espionage, making him the first American journalist detained in Russia on such charges since the Cold War." 

This is Evan's last article prior to his detainment. A tour de force as always. #IStandWithEvan

9.22.23


By Tom Lamont - GQ Magazine

RR: The article starts with a deafening fact. Germany probably has less than a decade to prosecute any remaining living Nazis. Why prosecute a 96-year-old woman in a nursing home? Principled justice. Time may be their enemy but it will not stop them from doing what they deem to be right. The whole story establishes an urgency that is slightly unexpected in part of who they are looking for now. The German government has rightfully established that banal evils are still evils in the spirit of Hannah Arendt. While the most established Nazis commanders and officials were prosecuted more than fifty years in the last twenty years the prosecuting office began looking at all who could be complicit no matter how small their roles. Banal evils are still evils.

By Nate Freeman - Vanity Fair

RR: The issue of "fake" masterpieces is fascinating due to the criminal implications but also the aesthetic aspect. So-called experts allegedly confirmed the authenticity of some newly discovered Basquiats in an LA storage unit. Wealthy collectors purchased and basked in their beauty. A legitimate American museum almost put on a whole show featuring these treasures. We later discovered these cardboard canvases were poorly crafted recent frauds. The fakery was so lazy the FBI found a recent shipping label embedded in the back of one. This type of fraud has happened for decades but it still makes me wonder... if we all responded positively and experienced some creative ecstasy when viewing "fakes" what is really the value of a masterpiece? 

By Annie Lowrey - The Atlantic

RR: I have followed the Animal Rights movement for over 15 years now. The modus operandi for years within organizers has been incrementalism and pragmatism gets results. The slow and steady tortoise wins the Animal Rights Race. Less throwing fake blood and more regulating the size of pig pens. The idea made sense. Change minds without too much inconvenience. This piece introduces a new sub-movement to challenge this approach to animal rights and the consequences this shift in strategy might entail.

9.15.23


By Bianca Fortis - ProPublica

RR: We are six-plus years into the "Me Too Movement." I am still shocked by stories of abuse and negligence. This piece is part of that trend. Incredibly graphic at times this is a tale about a serial abuser but also of a university that seemed to do the bare minimum if not try their best to resist at many points. As the article points out, the predator had an obvious pattern and little significance to the university. Why fight this battle? The answers are still unclear.

By Sarah Larson - The New Yorker

RR: "McDonald's Hot Coffee Lady" entered the lexicon of Americans in the mid-1990s. Liebeck sued the fast food company after spilling her cup and suffering severe third-degree burns in her pelvic region. She was awarded millions of dollars in compensation. She became the poster child for a litigious society run amok. Coffee is hot! Obviously? Only a few folks in the public did their homework. The coffee was served at 180–190 °F when the average consumer typically consumes coffee at 140°F and she was severely burned to the point skin was removed. The lawyer in this New Yorker piece faces some similar headwinds. No one thinks of an Atticus Finch attorney and hopes he's suing because of a lack of strawberries in strawberry pop-tarts. This story hopefully will convert you. While some cases seem more frivolous than others there is real harm to a consumer in many of these suit and this is David willing to fight the Goliaths. The myth is that "little" civil cases amount to nothing. Let's dispel that myth.

By McKay Coppins - The Atlantic

RR: There isn't even an open secret anymore in Washington that politicians will say one thing in public and another behind closed doors. That being said, hearing it over and over again in this piece is borderline numbing. Especially given the stakes. Even in the piece, there are several comments from politicians denying first-hand accounts from Romney. Romney is not infallible or free from scrutiny but there is obvious evidence he was making some decisions in the Senate based on objective concerns for the country at the expense of his political fortunes. Again, those objective metrics can be also scrutinized but it's nauseating to read standard anecdotes from his peers like: The first concern for a legislative vote is will this get me re-elected? The second concern, will this vote help the people?

9.8.23


By Ronan Farrow - The New Yorker

RR: We woke up to the news this very morning that the quixotic owner of Twitter (now X), Tesla, and SpaceX may have more impact on the Ukraine war than we thought possible. This is not news to military and political leaders across the world but for those like me who just read the Farrow piece a few weeks ago, I was flabbergasted. As Farrow outlines in his piece Musk, SpaceX, and its Starlink systems have functionally been the sole provider of consistent network connectivity to Ukraine as the conflict has progressed. The article warns that Ukraine and the US are at the mercy of Musk and prophetically those concerns manifested today. Now we live in the world where one of the greatest conflicts of the 21st century is deeply affected by the whims of an erratic tech billionaire. There are some legitimate open-ended questions about his communications with Russia and I can only hope the security spiral does not continue.

By Tatiana Stanovaya - Foreign Affairs

RR: I assumed Putin was facing a perfect storm. A poor economy, a poor performance in Ukraine, and an internal coup that suggested poor control of the state. In the wake of these events were the Russian people close to revolt? Even if they were would it matter? In a surprise, Stanovaya outlines compelling evidence that Putin has stable support from the top and bottom of Russia. Both the oligarchs and the masses are at the very least hungry for Russian aggression in the wake of perceived Western encirclement. It seems a reasonable group of folks in Russia rally around the flag which suggests no immediate end in sight to tension.  

By Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman - The NYT

RR: Close to ten years later I still think about the 43 future teachers in Mexico who disappeared with little trace. For a while now we had a picture coming into focus of the events that transpired but I still couldn't believe the carnage and corruption that we would uncover all this time later. 43 students were brutally murdered and the cartels and government in conjunction were complicit and covered it up. The teachers-to-be alleged sin? Expressing themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The anger and grief is palpable and justifiable. Truth can be cathartic closure but we demand more. I hold my breath to see the prosecution make any progress.

9.1.23


By Lisa Miller - New York Magazine

RR: I still am shocked at how quickly COVID dissipated from public conversation and concern. Obviously...cases per capita, hospitalizations, and deaths are down. But as many in health and STEM tell me COVID is churning in the background nonetheless and ignoring it could spell new dooms. This piece starts to give us a long-term vision of the virus and corresponding disease. The article draws fascinating parallels to other diseases and symptoms we may have doubted in the past. These parallels are established in the hopes we don't repeat the same mistakes as some epidemiological Sisyphus.

By Claire O'Neill, et al - The New York Times

RR: The tragedy of the commons is never more apparent than when water enters the picture. The Colorado River has been the main source of conversation but this NYT investigative piece really delves into the depths of a large water problem. There are obvious effects of consuming more water than is being replineshed. But this article also explores the unintended consequences on geology, land use, and even your home's foundation.

By Dave Wedge - Boston Magazine

RR: The story might seem like a cliche trope at first but you can't help fall for this duo. The narrative time jumps were effective in building suspense and taking you through the deep relationship of a police K-9 from the very beginning. To be fair there could be more qualifiers on the disproportionate use of force even among special units but nonetheless this a truly human story that flooded me with feeling.

Sep - 2023


8.25.23


By Jennifer Senior - The Atlantic

RR: Today is a special day. For the first time in six weeks, I have added a new article to The Library. This part of the site collects my favorite articles of all time. As such, I will only feature one piece this week instead of the normal three. It's just that good. Jennifer Senior, the author, is one of the best feature writers of the 21st Century. Her other Pulitzer Prize winning piece from 2021, Twenty Years Gone, is also featured in the The Library. I cried reading both of these articles. Maybe it's best that I say little of what you are about to read but it's a story about how over time our means of treating those with mental and physical disabilities have changed in drastic ways. More importantly, it features the tolls and triumphs that all the stakeholders have faced. Every day for two weeks my mind has wandered back to ruminate on this story and the precious folks within these hallowed pages.


8.18.23


By Philip Maughan - Noema

RR: I am circadian convert. Over the last five years, I became a proselytizer of any and all sleep studies I could get my hands on. Dr. Matt Walker, the head of the UC Berkeley Center for Human Sleep, is my prophet. This article is now in the long line of research, surveys, and books trying to convince folks the power of sleep is more simple and important than you may think. I do not joke that simple changes like lowering your thermostat or having a cut-off time for caffeine can have remarkable effects on your sleep schedule and in turn your life. This piece is fantastic in that it collects and simplifies all the ongoing trends and research that could have a real ripple effect on your life. Amen to sleep.

By Jonathan Martin - Politico Magazine

RR: Don't let the clickbait title deceive you. This article does discuss the 45th President at length but this is a greater story about the factionalization of an American political party on a foreign issue not domestic. This schism could not have higher stakes globally and the clock is ticking until the next election; in which the victor of this divide may be chosen. At the core of this piece is the Ukraine crisis and the debate on how a political party can so vehemently disagree on how to weigh, wage, or even win the war. 

By Patrick Radden Keefe - The New Yorker

RR: I love art. Every aspect. The craft, the history, and even the economy of art. I assumed this extended piece would present the world's greatest living art dealer as a cosmopolitan, a critic, or even god forbid an art nerd. That was not my takeaway. Gagosian is a giant and earned his perch maybe through some luck but most of all due to unparalleled pushing and prodding. Even sometimes at the expense of his wallet, reputation, and allegedly even sometimes the law. His relationship with art seems less of a love marriage than a business affair. The current trends of art as an investment that collects dust in some European airport hangers are likely attributable to so many of his strategies. We now live in the Gagosian Era and I'm not sure art or artists benefited in his wake.

8.11.23


By Lars Chittka - Scientific American

RR: Peter Singer re-released his revolutionary Animal Liberation this year. Fifty years or so on changing laws and changing science recontextualize his arguments about animal rights. This piece is part of that ever-evolving puzzle. The article and its underlying research will not convert anyone to a sure position yet. Still, I came out agnostic on insect pain which is fascinating and troubling from policy, legal, and ethical perspectives. If anything I hope this article inspires us all to default to a position of empathy and compassion  

By Rivka Galchen - The New Yorker

RR: Last year I was diagnosed with an incredibly rare degenerative eye disease called keratoconus. In short, my cornea is slowly becoming more cone-like and as a result, I lost half my vision in one eye. After my diagnosis, it took one year, four referrals, five doctors, and several hours on the phone to get to the person originally suggested for my surgery. This piece turned this model on its head. Imagine finding all the folks you need in one place to help with your disease and little red tape. There are stories of success here instead of the doomed experiences so many of us have had like we are in some minotaur's bureaucratic labyrinth. I remain a healthcare pessimist but my hopes may be rising.

By Paul Mozur and John Liu - The New York Times

RR: The two pillars of this new industrial revolution seem to be A.I. and chips. The former is largely dependent on the latter. I thought I knew the history of the legendary Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC.  I was surprised by how much chance and politics contributed to the rise of one of the greatest technology companies in the last fifty years. Like the apocryphal story of the windowsill breeze contributing to the creation of penicillin, it's incredible we might not have some of the smallest and hence fastest chips in the world today if not for Morris Chang's luck, intelligence, and perseverance.


8.04.23


By Tom Lamont - The Guardian 

RR: There are dozens of pieces that discuss how consumer wallets were affected by post-pandemic inflationary spirals. This article takes a different angle in a truly humanizing way. In great detail, it recounts how "mom & pop" chippie shops have survived and suffered in the wake of the current economic climate.

By Jon Lee Anderson - The New Yorker

RR: In your head, you might have a sense of the gang control in Haiti but I promise you will be surprised how far off your guess may be in terms of scope. The article reports gangs may control 95% of the capital let alone a massive majority of the country. This piece is incredible in that it intersects and interviews virtually every major stakeholder be it the acting President or the leaders of the major gangs. You may come away uncertain that anyone internally or externally knows where Haiti is headed next.

By Lisa Song & Jaime Yaya Barry - ProPublica

RR: You may be familiar with the terms carbon tax, carbon trading, and even carbon offsets. These modern environmental and economic policy tools have had their efficacy questioned as of late but I've read much less about biodiversity offsets. There is a fascinating balancing act in this piece between preventing abject poverty and preserving the nearby ecosystems. You may be left wondering if the means justify the ends and may even question if the ends are being reached at all.

Aug - 2023

7.28.23


By Paige Williams - The New Yorker 

RR: A classic David vs. Goliath story between one of the few remaining rural newspapers and the local authorities. My grandfather ran a newspaper with much less circulation but the same small-town feel definitely adds to the stakes of these folks challenging those in power. Even maybe at a life-or-death cost.

By Robert Kolker - The New York Times Magazine

RR: There is some quiet horror in seeing those around you suffer a challenging fate and knowing you might be next. Even more surprising were the choices made by some family members to ignore or embrace some of these seemingly predestined paths. Yet there's a thread of hope throughout the whole narrative from end to end.

By Elaina Plott Calabro - The Atlantic

RR: Everyone will go into this piece with an expectation as to why Lara Logan "changed," "pivoted," or "radicalized." But you leave the story less confident in your assumptions coming in and are left with even more interesting questions that probably will never get answered.

7.21.23

By Richard Sima - The Washington Post

RR Notes: Sima's story takes a few unexpected twists and turns. You will likely feel exasperated to as why some questions were not asked sooner and more often.

By Cristopher Cox - The New York Times

RR Notes: You will be surprised by the scale of the disasters that may be at our doorstep. Cox also interestingly highlights a certain resistance by some experts and bureaucrats to discuss, prep, and defend against these watery threats.

Jul - 2023