An unjust police killing. Nature reclamation in the fossil fuel era. Surviving a bear attack. The underbelly of the antiquities trade. And for a well-earned dessert, the legacy of the world’s first breakout video game.

1. Police Killed His Son. Prosecutors Charged the Teen’s Friends With His Murder

Meg O’Connor | The Appeal & Phoenix New Times | March 14, 2023 | 7,576 words

It’s been nine years since Laquan McDonald was killed by police in Chicago, shot in the back while walking away. It’s been seven years since Philando Castile was killed by police in the Minneapolis suburbs, shot while his empty hands were raised during a questionable traffic stop. And it’s been four years since Jacob Harris was killed by police in Phoenix, seconds after he emerged from a car, his back turned. You’ve likely heard less about Harris’ death than you have McDonald’s and Castile’s, but Meg O’Connor’s thorough investigation makes clear that you won’t forget it. The gross miscarriages of justice are plentiful: the circumstances of Harris’ killing and the shifting police statements around it; the money and valuables police took from Harris’ father’s home before informing him his son was dead; the fact that Harris’ friends are currently serving decades-long prison sentences for his death, while the officers who pulled the trigger (and unleashed an attack dog on his prone body) walk free. We’ve heard far, far too many names like McDonald’s and Castile’s and Harris’ over the past decade, and nothing makes me think we won’t continue to hear many more. That’s what makes this sort of journalism so necessary — not because it can bring these young men back to life, but because it makes brutally clear how unjust their deaths are, and how broken policing is. —PR

2. What Survives

Lacy M. Johnson | Emergence Magazine | March 9, 2023 | 3,724 words

We’re starting to see the massive environmental repercussions that the fossil fuel industry’s surge has wrought on coastal areas of the United States. At Emergence Magazine, Lacy M. Johnson reflects on the Baytown Nature Center, a portion of land restored after oil drilling and water extraction caused the land to sink, making the executive Brownwood subdivision vulnerable to storm surge flooding with more frequent and violent storms caused by global warming. As Johnson catalogues the decades of destruction in disappearing land and animal habitat — all in a bid to fuel vehicles and serve an ongoing war effort with the petroleum-based building blocks of explosives and rubber — you have to wonder, is it really worth it? If you ask Johnson, the answer is no: “It’s normal to want to repair what’s broken, folly to repair what breaks us and keeps on breaking.” P.S. For a Louisiana perspective on fossil fuel, havoc, and the human cost of repeat devastation, read “Great American Wasteland” by Lauren Stroh. —KS

3. The College Wrestlers Who Took On a Grizzly Bear

Ryan Hockensmith | ESPN | March 10, 2023 | 5,900 words

I have never seen a grizzly bear, but I have seen its tracks: Impossibly huge imprints squelched deep into the mud, tips of long claws cutting in even further, an echo of the power that passed before. Ryan Hockensmith’s piece made me all too aware of what it would be like to encounter that paw firsthand with his chilling, graphic description of a grizzly bear attack on junior college wrestlers Brady Lowry and Kendell Cummings. Although Hockensmith does not shy away from the horror, he leaves plenty of room for the other aspects of this story, whether the friendship behind Cummings’ act of bravery or an understanding of the bear’s actions. (As he sets out, she was likely just protecting her cubs, with the young men fairly blaming themselves for being “in its house.”) The piece details the months following the attack as well, becoming a testament to the boys’ resilience, Hockensmith tracing their road to recovery without overindulging in sentiment. I came out of this gripping feature with great respect for Cummings and Lowry. —CW

4. Crime of the Centuries

Greg Donahue | New York | February 13, 2023 | 5,508 words

The uber-wealthy never cease to amaze with their shamelessness. Case in point: Michael Steinhardt, billionaire investor, noted philanthropist, and, ‘twould appear, someone who for much of his life had exactly no problem buying stolen art. A lot of it. Steinhardt amassed one of the biggest private antiquities collections in the world, including an array of “fresh” objects, straight from the earth and unlikely to pass through above-board trade on their way to Steinhardt’s Upper East Side penthouse. “Steinhardt bought an object so fresh it had to be cleaned by the dealer in a hotel bathtub before being delivered to his apartment,” journalist Greg Donahue writes. The guy once kept a stone skull dating back to 7,000 B.C. on a side table in his living room — we know this because the object appears in real-estate listing photos saved by the Manhattan district attorney’s office that investigated Steinhardt. Wild. “As an investor, mastering risk had brought him wealth and prestige,” Donahue points out, placing Steinhardt’s shady dealings in the context of his wider existence. “Why should antiquities be different?” The piece also subtly raises the question of whether the antiquities market is beyond repair. Steinhardt might be among the worst offenders, but he’s also a symptom of the market’s problematic status quo, shaped as it is by privilege, greed, and colonialism. —SLD

5. ‘It Changed the World’: 50 Years On, the Story of Pong’s Bay Area Origins

Charles Russo | SFGATE | March 9, 2023 | 2,809 words

Charles Russo tracks the beginnings of the modern video game industry, which has its roots in a “scrappy Silicon Valley startup” now known as Atari. Its founders, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, had previously created the world’s first coin-operated video game, a futuristic yellow machine called Computer Space. Under Atari, they developed Pong, a simple yet engrossing arcade game that became an instant hit with the American public when it was released in March 1973 — and is now a beloved classic. This is a delightful dive into the video game industry’s “big-bang moment,” accompanied by fun images from the ’70s. My favorite is a photograph of a massive retro Atari arcade game at the Powell Street BART station in downtown San Francisco, surrounded by people with bell-bottoms. —CLR

And the Audience Award Goes to…

The Haunted Life of Lisa Marie Presley

David Browne | Rolling Stone | March 10, 2023 | 8,295 words

In this piece, David Browne gives a respectful account of the frantic life of Lisa Marie Presley. Although there is some attempt to analyze how growing up in the spotlight affected her, this is more of a faithful narrative of her world and tragic death. —CW

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