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1. How We Survived Two Years of Hell As Hostages in Tehran

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd | Mother Jones | March 12, 2014 | 43 minutes (10,825 words)

Three Americans recount their experience of being held captive in Iran’s Evin Prison after unknowingly crossing the Iraq-Iran border while out on a hike. An excerpt from A Sliver of Light, a co-written book about their ordeal:

SHANE (October 2009)

Solitary confinement is the slow erasure of who you thought you were. You think you are still you, but you have no real way of knowing. How can you know if you have no one to reflect you back to yourself? Would I know if I was going crazy? The longer I am alone, the more my mind slows. All I want to do is to forget about everything.

But I can’t do it. I am unable to keep my mind from being sharply focused on one task: forcing myself not to look at the wall behind me. I know that eventually, a tiny sliver of sunlight will spill in through the grated window and place a quarter-size dot on the wall. It’s ridiculous that I’m thinking about it this early. I’ve been awake only 10 minutes and I should know it will be hours before it appears.

They take everything from us—breezes, eye contact, human touch, the feeling of warm wet hands from washing a sink-load of dishes, the miracle of transforming thoughts into words on paper. They leave only the pause—those moments of waiting at bus stops, of cigarette breaks. They make time the object of our hatred.

I try not to look for the light.

See also: “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons” (Shane Bauer)

2. Pixel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In The Gig Economy

Sarah Kessler | Fast Company | March 18, 2014 | 37 minutes (9,4450 words)

Kessler spends a month trying to make a living wage using new tech platforms like TaskRabbit and Postmates. The results aren’t promising:

NMy experiences in the gig economy raise troubling issues about what it means to be an employee today and what rights a worker, even on a assignment-by-assignment basis, are entitled to. The laws regarding what constitutes an employee have not yet caught up to the idea that jobs are now being doled out by iPhone push notification.

More Fast Company: “We Have a Lousy Product” (Max Chafkin)

3. My Dementia

Gerda Saunders | Georgia Review, Slate | March 19, 2014 | 43 minutes (10,987 words)

A writer’s account of developing and living with dementia:

I asked Peter to come along for my doctor’s appointment. Our primary care doctor politely entertained our doubts about the value of diagnosis. She heard out our pontifications about what we regarded as a worthwhile quality of life, and let us stew our own way into following her suggestion that I have an MRI. The scan results showed “white matter lesions”—an indication of clogged microvessels that prevent blood from reaching nearby brain areas. Dr. Eborn confirmed the Internet wisdom that microvascular dementia might benefit from cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering medications to retard the clogging. However, a neurologist would first have to confirm a connection between my memory problems and the lesions.

One neurologist, one neuropsychologist, dozens of tests, and many hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars later, my neurologist delivered the D-word. Given how early I noticed my symptoms, she projected that two more neurological evaluations at two-year intervals would be needed before I would officially meet the criteria of dementia.

But in my heart I already knew: I am dementing I am dementing I am dementing.

See also: “How My Mother Disappeared” (Alex Witchel, The New York Times, 2012)

4. The Secret World of Fast Fashion

Christina Moon | Pacific Standard | March 17, 2014 | 10 minutes (2,523 words)

From 1960s Korea, through Brazil, to today’s Los Angeles: Inside the world that brought you Forever 21—and those skinny jeans in your closet:

Over the past 15 years, the fashion industry has undergone a profound and baffling transformation. What used to be a stable three-month production cycle—the time it takes to design, manufacture, and distribute clothing to stores, in an extraordinary globe-spanning process—has collapsed, across much of the industry, to just two weeks. The “on-trend” clothes that were, until recently, only accessible to well-heeled, slender urban fashionistas, are now available to a dramatically broader audience, at bargain prices. A design idea for a blouse, cribbed from a runway show in Paris, can make it onto the racks in Wichita in a wide range of sizes within the space of a month.

More Pacific Standard: “The Prophet” (Helaine Olen)

5. Putin’s Long-Term Strategy: The Eurasian Union

Leon Neyfakh | Boston Globe | March 19, 2014 | 9 minutes (2,331 words)

Neyfakh explores Vladimir Putin’s pursuit of a Eurasian Union, and the roots of Eurasianism:

Putin famously once said the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” and has also reportedly promised that the Eurasian Union would be based on the “best values of the Soviet Union.” But to say the project is simply an effort to reassemble the USSR is crude and incorrect, say Russia analysts. Instead, Putin’s efforts should be seen as a realization of an entirely different, and much less familiar idea called Eurasianism—a philosophy that has roots in the 1920s, and which grew out of Russia’s longstanding identity crisis about whether or not it should strive to be a part of Europe.

More Neyfakh: “The Botmaker Who Sees Through the Internet”