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Confessional Writing Is Not Self-indulgent

The author of The Empathy Exams on the power of personal stories.
PUBLISHED: July 4, 2014
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2696 words)

The Culture of Video Games: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily includes stories from The Guardian, Kotaku, Leigh Alexander, Polygon, and Kill Screen.
PUBLISHED: June 15, 2014

The Obliteration of a Person

Marion Coutts recalls the last months of her husband, art critic Tom Lubbock, after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Excerpted from Coutt's memoir The Iceberg:

Fast forward to February. The future has arrived early. Tom has a severe fit in the small hours of the morning. He had gone away by himself to get some writing done in a house by the sea and was due home today. It is evening, he is back with us, lying down quietly upstairs. He can talk after a fashion, read a little but he can't write. He is estranged from himself.

Spring. There is going to be destruction: the obliteration of a person, his intellect, his experience and his agency. I am to watch it. This is my part. It is now March. In one week, Tom will have another scan. This is the one to fear. There have not been so many fits, but outside them complexity is multiplying and thousands of lesser confusions also occur. Words slip out, switches are stumbled over and substitutions made.

PUBLISHED: June 14, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3806 words)

Trafficked Into Slavery on Thai Trawlers to Catch Food for Prawns

An investigation of the Thai fishing industry, which has been built on enslaving migrant workers:

The price captains pay for these men is a extremely low even by historical standards. According to the anti-trafficking activist Kevin Bales, slaves cost 95% less than they did at the height of the 19th-century slave trade – meaning that they are not regarded as investments for important cash crops such as cotton or sugar, as they were historically, but as disposable commodities.

For the migrants who believed Thailand would bring them opportunity, the reality of being sent out to sea is devastating.

“They told me I was going to work in a pineapple factory,” recalls Kyaw, a broad-shouldered 21-year-old from rural Burma. “But when I saw the boats, I realised I’d been sold … I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”

AUTHOR:Kate Hodal
PUBLISHED: June 10, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3833 words)

Inside Europe's Last Dictatorship

The crisis in neighbouring Ukraine has rattled Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian regime. But with the opposition in retreat and the media silenced, can Belarus escape his grip?

In the pantheon of great dictators, Lukashenko is a curiosity. The man known as ‘Batka’ (father of the nation) leads the country’s absurd TV news night after night, whether he is inspecting a tractor, ticking off the cabinet, arriving in Kazakhstan, or all three.

Before last month’s world championships of his beloved ice hockey – the biggest sporting event Belarus has ever held – the president was taking no chances. Concerned about possible shows of dissent, dozens of activists were rounded up and sent to jail.

PUBLISHED: June 9, 2014
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2219 words)

The Guardian At the Gate

It broke the WikiLeaks story, then the Snowden scandal, now Alan Rusbridger's crusading newspaper is trying to break America. But with its US campaign on the brink of disaster, has the deadline passed to beat a dignified retreat?

News outlets want to break big stories but at the same time not be overwhelmed by them - a certain detachment is well advised. It is an artful line. But the Guardian essentially went into the Edward Snowden business - and continues in it. It's a complex business, too: to ally yourself with larger-than-life, novelistic characters, first Assange, and then Snowden, and stranger-than-strange middle men, like the Guardian's contract columnist Glenn Greenwald, who brought in the story. The effort to pretend that the story is straight up good and evil, that this is journalism pure and simple, unalloyed public interest, without peculiar nuances and rabbit holes and obvious contradictions, is really quite a trick.

PUBLISHED: June 2, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3909 words)

The Difference Between Being 'Trusted' and 'Trustworthy'

Russell Brand on Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper and the dismal state of today’s news industry:

Rupert Murdoch, an animatronic al-Qaida recruitment poster, in his private letter to Sun staff, after the News of the World was briefly closed for a makeover (not through remorse, or shame, no, because they couldn’t sell advertising space and because he wanted to launch the Sun on Sunday anyway because it’s cheaper to run one title than two – some guys get all the luck) referred consistently to his pride in the Sun as “a trusted news source”. Trusted is the word he used, not trustworthy. We know the Sun is not trustworthy and so does he. He uses the word “trusted” deliberately. Hitler was trusted, it transpired he was not trustworthy. He also said of the arrested journalists, “everyone is innocent until proven guilty”. Well, yes, that is the law of our country, not however a nicety often afforded to the victims of his titles, and here I refer not only to hacking but the vituperative portrayal of weak and vulnerable members of our society, relentlessly attacked by Murdoch’s ink jackals. Immigrants, folk with non-straight sexual identities, anyone in fact living in the margins of the Sun’s cleansed utopia.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 30, 2013
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1900 words)

The Snowden Leaks and the Public

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on what we’ve learned so far about the Edward Snowden leaks, our privacy, and the way our government, press and commercial Internet companies have handled it. In many cases, it can come down to people who aren’t quite sure what’s going on trusting the people who do know:

But I did have an interesting (unattributable, of course) briefing from someone very senior in one West Coast mega-corporation who conceded that neither he nor the CEO of his company had security clearance to know what arrangements his own organization had reached with the US government. “So, it’s like a company within a company?” I asked. He waved his hand dismissively: “I know the guy, I trust him.”

PUBLISHED: Oct. 30, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5084 words)

When the Ruins Were New

In 1862, the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII fled a sex scandal and took a trip to the Middle East. At the last minute, he was joined by a photographer named Francis Bedford, who proceeded to capture some of the earliest images of the Egyptian ruins. His work is featured in the new book Cairo to Constantinople:

"The royal journey’s motive, too, may have been more complex than suggested. Ostensibly it was a private, informal expedition. It was urged by Queen Victoria for her son’s education (pretty much a lost cause, according to his guardian) and she ordered that the Prince go incognito, with no ceremonial encounters. But the itinerary seems to have been planned above all by the Prince Consort Albert, as a diplomatic initiation for the young man and to foster goodwill."

(via @dougcoulson)
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2013
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1646 words)