The Untold Story of the White House’s Weirdly Hip Record Collection

Did you know that The White House has an official record collection, last expanded in 1981?

The White House record library “is a treasure, and people need to know about it,” Chuldenko says. “We need to update this. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Source: Washingtonian
Published: May 3, 2022
Length: 8 minutes (2,022 words)

A Future for Susanville

Prisons such as the California Correctional Center in Susanville, California, drive the local economy in the rural town, and its residents are just as tied to these facilities as the incarcerated ones. Piper French offers a nuanced portrait of the town, as locals in support of CCC, incarcerated organizers on the inside, and urban abolitionist activists all debate the most just way to close the prison.

Susanville made me wonder about the potential for overlapping aims, solidarity even, between the people who wanted to close the prison—close all prisons—and the people in town fighting for it to stay open. There were obvious political and cultural rifts to bridge.

But there was one commonality between groups advocating for the free and incarcerated people of Susanville: neither was satisfied by the state’s plans for closing the prisons. And in the activists’ calls for a better world, I saw a glimpse of possibilities that might suit the residents of Susanville as well—an economy that didn’t revolve around a prison, a country where losing your job wasn’t tantamount to ruin, a future that looked brighter than the past.

Source: Bolts
Published: May 5, 2022
Length: 21 minutes (5,364 words)

The Woman Who Killed Roe

Marjorie Dannenfelser has dedicated her entire career to banning legal abortion in America. She’s now on the verge of winning. The tactics it took to get here were ugly, and often vengeful. What’s more, they were — and are — based in no small part on a visual lie:

An 18-week-old fetus does not, in any conceivable circumstance, appear outside its mother clean and pink and ethereally backlit. Nowhere in A Child Is Born, still a text used in universities as well as a staple of anti-abortion literature, is it revealed that Nilsson’s photos were of aborted fetuses, dead or dying, gray and blood-specked, arranged, then lit and colored the ruddy hues of a human baby. Another way to describe this picture: a person in her 18th week of pregnancy, absent almost all of her body. A living fetus is constitutive of a system — tucked inside a ligament-suspended uterus, nestled behind apronlike folds of viscera themselves thick with nerves and vessels and nodes, itself draped behind muscle — a single moving object among the shifting array of blood-filled organs that will slide to make room as the body changes. This is not the discontinuous succession of the “Life!” exhibit but a unity in flux. Almost all social movements work to erase context contrary to the cause. In this case, the context is a woman.

Published: May 9, 2022
Length: 31 minutes (7,800 words)

Hostage Business

Sara Miran, a Kurdish American real estate developer, was kidnapped while she was working in Iraq in 2014. She was held hostage by an Iranian-backed militia and eventually escaped with the help of a metal spoon. Miran’s harrowing story had been buried among secret Iranian documents, which were then leaked to The Intercept.

On a human level, Miran’s story is an anatomy of a kidnapping, an underreported scourge on unstable countries like Iraq. Thousands of Iraqis and foreigners living and working in the country have been kidnapping victims since the U.S. invasion in 2003, many disappearing without a trace even after ransoms have been paid. Most kidnappings in Iraq are conducted by militias and criminal gangs for money, but Miran’s kidnapping was one of the unusual cases that had both political and financial overtones. Miran is also one of the few high-profile kidnapping victims in Iraq to escape, survive, and tell her story.

Source: The Intercept
Published: Apr 30, 2022
Length: 23 minutes (5,895 words)

Abortion’s Last Stand in the South: A Post-Roe Future Is Already Happening in Florida

An abortion clinic in Florida — A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville — is already dealing with protestors who literally moved into their street. Laura C. Morel asks what will happen to this, and other clinics, poised to absorb a new influx of patients with the majority of the South getting ready to ban abortions. Who will safeguard these places and their patients?

Now, as the end of Roe appears imminent, abortion rights groups are predicting that acts of intimidation, harassment and violence will skyrocket. And they say providers and patients have precious few protections.


Source: Reveal News
Published: May 5, 2022
Length: 26 minutes (6,735 words)

The Coyotes in the HOA

A short poignant essay from Thao Thai about coyotes, a neighborhood Facebook HOA group, belonging, migration, and the immigrant experience.

Coyotes are known to claim territories for their families, even unconventional ones like bustling downtown streets in Chicago. Like me, coyotes blossom in familiarity. I admire their resilience, but I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it to go outside one’s circle, to migrate to an unwelcome place. Of course, they have no choice. They are driven to roam where the food and comfort beckons.

Author: Thao Thai
Source: Catapult
Published: May 3, 2022
Length: 8 minutes (2,123 words)

The Whale Dying on the Mountain

On the “biological vibrance” of glaciers and what we stand to lose in the face of climate change.

Wolverines refrigerate kills in summer snow patches. Spiders prowl on glaciers, bears play on them, moss grows on them. More than 5,000 meters into the thin air of the Andes, the white-winged diuca finch weaves cozy nests of grass amid the aqua icicles of glacial cavities; this was the first known example of any bird other than a penguin regularly nesting on glacial ice, and it was first recorded just 10 years ago.

Source: Hakai Magazine
Published: Feb 16, 2016
Length: 14 minutes (3,700 words)

How the AI Industry Profits from Catastrophe

The demand for data labeling in the artificial intelligence industry — tagging videos, sorting photos, and transcribing audio in order to train AI — has created a massive need for cheap labor, leading data-labeling platforms such as Appen to hire low-pay workers in countries like Venezuela, the Philippines, and Kenya to do these tasks. In this story, Karen Hao and Andrea Paola Hernández report on what it’s really like to do this “ghost work.”

Simala Leonard, a computer science student at the University of Nairobi who studies AI and worked several months on Remotasks, says the pay for data annotators is “totally unfair.” Google’s and Tesla’s self-driving-car programs are worth billions, he says, and algorithm developers who work on the technology are rewarded with six-figure salaries.

Meanwhile, the people who do “the most fundamental part of machine learning” are paid a pittance, he says. “Without the data labeled well, the models can’t predict properly.”

Published: Apr 20, 2022
Length: 21 minutes (5,457 words)

How a Massacre of Nearly 300 in Syria Was Revealed

This is a truly harrowing account, with vivid descriptions of a mass execution. It cannot but upset you, yet depicts a truth that should not be veiled. It is written by two academic researchers who miraculously managed to uncover, and interview, one of the perpetrators by tracing him on Facebook. It is an impressive investigation — that comes with a trigger warning.

His Facebook profile was that of an ordinary and typical Syrian perpetrator: portraits of father and son Assad, snapshots of his friends, picturesque images of his village, selfies of working out at the gym, and most important, a melancholic post in which he mourned his friend and colleague, Halabi, clearly the second shooter. We were elated: We found both of “our perps.”

Source: New Lines
Published: Apr 27, 2022
Length: 31 minutes (7,881 words)

Democratic Leaders Are Getting the Abortion Story Wrong — Again

Rebecca Traister skewers national Democrats for failing time and again to say and do the right thing when it comes to reproductive rights, contributing to the moment at which America now finds itself — on the doorstep of Roe v Wade’s reversal:

Schumer and Pelosi’s bizarre assertion that this looming rollback of rights was emblematic of “the party of Trump” is profoundly ahistorical. The overturn of Roe, whatever form it takes, will not be the product of the “party of Trump.” It is the party of Ronald Reagan, who came to power in 1980 on a platform that included a “human life amendment.” It is the party of George H.W. Bush, who flipped on his previous support for abortion rights to become Reagan’s vice-president and, eventually, his successor to the White House. It’s the party that put Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito on the bench. It is the party that stole a Supreme Court seat from a president who was elected by a majority of voters, and that used the Electoral College and the Supreme Court itself to ensure the White House was occupied by Republican presidents who had lost the popular vote, but could nevertheless appoint justices who had been grown in a Federalist Society lab to strike down freedoms supported by a majority of Americans.

So no, where America finds itself is not in a world transformed by Donald Trump. Rather it’s one in which generations of Republicans have been open about their brutal aim, while Democratic leaders have repeatedly asked voters to trust them in a fight that, up to the very night Roe was struck down in draft form, they refused to accurately describe or perhaps even discern.

Published: May 4, 2022
Length: 6 minutes (1,700 words)