Luis Octavio López Vega, who worked for both the Mexican military and as an informant to the DEA, is now in hiding:
"The reserved, unpretentious husband and father of three has been a fugitive ever since, on the run from his native country and abandoned by his adopted home. For more than a decade, he has carried information about the inner workings of the drug war that both governments carefully kept secret.
"The United States continues to feign ignorance about his whereabouts when pressed by Mexican officials, who still ask for assistance to find him, a federal law enforcement official said.
"The cover-up was initially led by the D.E.A., whose agents did not believe the Mexican authorities had a legitimate case against their informant. Other law enforcement agencies later went along, out of fear that the D.E.A.’s relationship with Mr. López might disrupt cooperation between the two countries on more pressing matters."
PUBLISHED: April 29, 2013
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6304 words)
Our favorite stories of the past week, from The New Republic, NPR, Washington Post, New England Review, Modern Farmer, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and a guest pick by Jon Tayler
PUBLISHED: April 20, 2013
The U.S. is experiencing significant demographic changes. In 2011, people of color made up more than half of all the country's births. A look at the cultural shift that's occurring as young people begin to inherit the country:
"Demographic changes — even seismic changes like those the U.S. is going through — happen over decades. It will be a long time before this young, much more plural America starts to fully reveal patterns of employment, migration, housing and wealth. But these young folks are already starting to create culture, and it bears taking a close look at what they’re making to see what it might augur about the world they’re going to inherit."
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4915 words)
Zimbabwean activists are fighting against the violence and oppression their country has felt under president Robert Mugabe, who was named Foreign Policy's "second worst dictator in the world," after North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il:
"Mazvarira was abducted in 2000 from her home in Chivhu, a small town south of Harare, and raped by two ZANU-PF CIO officers after her 17-year-old daughter, an MDC organizer, was killed by a petrol bomb. Mazvarira contracted HIV from the assault. 'They told me, ‘You and your daughter are Tsvangirai’s bitches.’' When Mazvarira went to the police station to report the attack, the officer in charge refused to hear her case. 'The police are only ZANU-PF,' she said.
"The two women are not placid about what happened to them, but what converted them from victims into activists is that they were never able to hold their attackers to account. 'The government won’t help us. No one can help us. It is up to us, ourselves, now. That is where we are.' In 2009 Munengami launched Doors of Hope, a nonprofit organization that supports and speaks for victims of politically motivated rape. Doors of Hope now has 375 members from all over the country. 'We are standing for women,' Munengami said. 'Those so-called war vets raped so many women during the liberation struggle, but they don’t want to talk about it. So we are going to talk about it. Whether it’s 1975, or now, we don’t want this to continue. We have had enough. We are sick and tired of being quiet. Where has silence got us?'"
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2744 words)
The number of Americans on disability has skyrocketed in the last three decades, and the Social Security Administration says the reserves in the disability insurance program are on track to run out in 2016:
"Scott tried school for a while, but hated it. So he took the advice of the rogue staffer who told him to suck all the benefits he could out of the system. He had a heart attack after the mill closed and figured, 'Since I've had a bypass, maybe I can get on disability, and then I won't have worry to about this stuff anymore.' It worked; Scott is now on disability.
"Scott's dad had a heart attack and went back to work in the mill. If there'd been a mill for Scott to go back to work in, he says, he'd have done that too. But there wasn't a mill, so he went on disability. It wasn't just Scott. I talked to a bunch of mill guys who took this path -- one who shattered the bones in his ankle and leg, one with diabetes, another with a heart attack. When the mill shut down, they all went on disability."
PUBLISHED: March 22, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4105 words)
Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs are currently being heralded as the future of affordable education. But what kind of education will it actually provide?
"Everybody loves the idea of lowering the barriers of entry to education; it's the easiest sell in the world, and Khan Academy, a nonprofit, pushes all the right buttons. Khan's success thus paved the way for MOOC providers to employ a rhetoric of inclusiveness, simplicity, low cost, and metrics, metrics, metrics: the same reasoning that today drives everything from 'philanthrocapitalist' foundation spending to high-stakes standardized testing.
"But the shortcomings of the Khan approach will be evident to anyone who cares to have a go at 'US History Overview 1: Jamestown to the Civil War,' the 18:28 minute video-with-voiceover class I chose at random from the Khan website. Within the first two minutes Khan has disposed of over a century, blowing past Jamestown ('a kind of commercial settlement') and Plymouth Rock ('we always learned this in school, you know, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower sailing the oceans blue and all the rest') and 'fast-forwarding' to 1754. It's not even a flashcard approach; it's a series of lacunae, startlingly free of insight or context, mentioning not one single book or author, and only one political or religious figure (George Washington) in the nine minutes I watched. I've seen more informative cereal boxes."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 31, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4608 words)
Rethinking the legacy of one of the most ridiculed hair bands of our time:
"I have no insight into the goings-on of Jon Bon Jovi's headspace, but I like to imagine him having a 'Once in a Lifetime' moment during the Springsteen duet: 'This is not my classic-rock staple, this is not my classic-rock backing band. Well, how did I get here?' Maybe I'm projecting: In many people's minds (certainly many critics' minds), perceptions of Bon Jovi will forever be fixed in the late '80s, the band's most commercially successful period, when Slippery When Wet and 1988's New Jersey spun off seven top-10 singles — an unprecedented run for what's ostensibly a hard-rock band — including four no. 1's. 'Blaze of Glory,' the breakout song from Jon Bon Jovi's 'solo' soundtrack for Young Guns II, also hit the top of the charts during this period.
"Susan Orlean's1 1987 profile of Bon Jovi for Rolling Stone was typical of how the press treated the band at the time. The piece begins with an extended, oddly reverential treatise on Jon Bon's 'fourteen inches' of hair: 'Its color is somewhere between chestnut and auburn, and the frosty streaks in it give it a sizzling golden sheen,' Orlean writes. 'Truth is, it would be safe to say that Jon Bon Jovi has the most wonderful hair in rock & roll today.' Orlean describes Jon Bon's locks as an oedipal metaphor for rebellion against his dad, a hairdresser, though her poker face doesn't quite hold. She doesn't really take this guy seriously, and the implication is that we shouldn't either."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 22, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3546 words)
On Steven Cohen, an embattled hedge fund manager who is one of the biggest art collectors in the world:
"It was a startling request. The Art Collector wasn’t that interested in what we thought about companies or industries, competitive advantages or long-term growth. No, the Art Collector’s trading strategy was based on the thesis that one could make money trading stocks by anticipating whether Wall Street’s equity research analysts, collectively, were going to increase or decrease their estimates of how much a company was going to make the next quarter. The Art Collector didn’t invent the estimate revisions strategy. But the Art Collector had figured out that even if one worked tirelessly to discover the patterns of analysts’ opinions (or of the companies themselves), one still had no fundamental edge over other smart traders doing the same thing. What one could do—brazenly, unprecedentedly—was to pay the banks as much—more—than than any other client to get information first. This would potentially allow the Art Collector’s traders to hear some nuance from the analysts or the broker that would move a stock a sixteenth or two when the information was better propagated. This was not a restaurant’s biggest customer demanding a better table. This was a restaurant’s biggest customer demanding that other patrons get worse food."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3473 words)
Cities are slashing school budgets to pay for professional sports stadiums, and the NFL is still a nonprofit. An argument for cutting off all public funding for professional sports across the U.S., which could save taxpayers billions:
"Consider stadium subsidies. When Kubla Khan built his stately pleasure dome above a sunless sea, he did not strong-arm the Xanadu County Board of Directors into funding the project by threatening to move to Los Angeles. His mistake. He wouldn’t last five minutes as an American sports owner. According to Harvard professor Judith Grant Long and economist Andrew Zimbalist, the average public contribution to the total capital and operating cost per sports stadium from 2000 to 2006 was between $249 and $280 million. A fantastic interactive map at Deadspin estimates that the total cost to the public of the 78 pro stadiums built or renovated between 1991 and 2004 was nearly $16 billion. That’s enough to build three Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Or fund, in today’s dollars, 15 Saturn V moon rocket launches -- three more than the number of launches in the entire Apollo/Skylab program. It’s also more than what Chrysler received in the Great Recession-triggered auto industry bailout ($10.5 billion), and bigger than the 2010 GDP of 84 different nations. How does this happen? Simple. Team owners ask for public handouts and threaten to move elsewhere unless they get them, pitting cities against in each other in corporate welfare bidding wars -- wars rooted in the various publicly granted antitrust exemptions that effectively allow sports leagues to control and maintain a limited supply of teams to be leveraged against widespread demand."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 14, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4530 words)