More Than 100 Exceptional Works of Journalism – The Atlantic

OXFORD AMERICAN / Blood Ties by Alex Mar

“A self-mythologizing takes place when we assimilate the stories of our ancestors into our own—it’s automatic. We tell ourselves that their triumphs have somehow entered our bloodstream.”

SPIEGEL / A Visit to Ground Zero of Refugee Anxiety by Takis Würger

“Clausnitz became shorthand for the xenophobic side of Germany after residents threatened a bus full of refugees. We spent a month in the town to find out what happened.”

THE BUCKLEY CLUB / My Open Letter to Conservatives by Conservative Black Man

“Conservatives need to try to understand why black people feel the way we feel about some of these things. Would it hurt for you to show compassion for a mother who has lost her son to a derelict police officer, rather than pointing out the black on black crime statistics in Chicago? Why is the first reaction to the mentioning of the KKK a pivot to the Black Panthers as if the Black Panthers were ever at the top of that figurative mountain? Have you ever tried to understand what most black people feel when they see the Confederate flag? Have you taken the time to ask any?”

RAND / Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly

This lengthy report is more dry than everything else recommended here, but is noteworthy as the most careful, logical, informative, fact-based approach I’ve seen on this subject. If you want the research brief instead, it’s here. A short, polished essay is here.

LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY / The Anomaly of Barbarism by John Gray

“While much remains unknown, there is nothing mysterious in the rise of ISIS. It is baffling only for those who believe—despite everything that occurred in the twentieth century—that modernization and civilization are advancing hand in hand. In fact, now as in the past some of the most modern movements are among the most barbaric. But to admit this would mean surrendering the ruling political faith, a decayed form of liberalism without which Western leaders and opinion formers would be disoriented and lost. To accept that liberal societies may not be ‘on the right side of history’ would leave their lives drained of significance, while a stoical response—which is ready to fight while being doubtful of ultimate victory—seems to be beyond their powers. With mounting bewilderment and desperation, they cling to the faith that the normal course of history has somehow been temporarily derailed.”

STANDPOINT MAGAZINE / Islam and the French Republic: From the Banlieues to Le Pen Land by Ben Judah

“A Jew can’t live where he wants anymore. Bit by bit, everyone is moving from the banlieues. As soon as there are ethnic populations, and as soon as it gets, shall we say, problematic, the Jews move. The visible ones — they get constantly attacked.”

THE GUARDIAN / My Night Out in Cleveland With the Worst Men on the Internet by Laurie Penny

“The most widely accepted definition of a troll is a provocateur—someone who says outrageous, extreme or abusive things to elicit a reaction. For them, the reaction itself is the win. The key distinction is between the attention-hustlers—the pure troll howlers who play this grotesque game for its own sake and their own—and the true believers.”

CRACKED / How Half of America Lost Its Fucking Mind by David Wong

“Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down. … The foundation upon which America was undeniably built—family, faith, and hard work—had been deemed unfashionable and small-minded. Those snooty elites up in their ivory tower laughed as they kicked away that foundation, and then wrote 10,000-word thinkpieces blaming the builders for the ensuing collapse.”

SLATE STAR CODEX / Book Review: Albion’s Seed by Scott Alexander

Failures of Justice


Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

THE GUARDIAN / Inside the Fight to Reveal the CIA’s Torture Secrets by Spencer Ackerman

“The Panetta Review saga would spur a furious CIA to take an extraordinary step: it would spy on its own legislative overseers—especially Jones. The episode would spill out publicly the following March, when top committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who had already taken a huge political risk in pushing the torture inquiry, accused the CIA on the Senate floor of triggering what she called a constitutional crisis. Both sides requested the justice department pursue a criminal investigation on the other. The bitterness would nearly overshadow a landmark report, a fraction of which was released to the public in December 2014, that documented in chilling detail the depravations CIA inflicted on terrorism suspects after 9/11.”

COSMOPOLITAN / Why Did It Take 9 Hours and 3 Emergency Rooms For This Woman to Get a Rape Kit? By Jillian Keenan

“The complicated, infuriating, little-known reasons why women can be denied emergency care after a sexual assault.”

ROADS & KINGDOMS / The Dog Thief Killings by Calvin Godfrey

“The dog would serve as the centerpiece of a big party attended by former colleagues and war buddies. His wife would spend the better part of a day cooking it up, organs and all; his job was to make sure they got a good one, properly prepared.”

MEDIUM / Chronicles of a Concerned Citizen by Aglaia Berlutti

“A reflection on the wave of lynchings in Venezuela.”

THE INTERCEPT / Operation Smoke and Mirrors by Jamie Kalven  

“Two Chicago police officers uncovered a massive criminal enterprise within the department.”

MOTHER JONES /  My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard by Shane Bauer

“Inmates are glued up against the TV room window, watching a young white cadet named Miss Stirling pick through their stuff. She’s pretty and petite, with long, jet-black hair. The attention makes her uncomfortable; she thinks the inmates are gross. Earlier this week, she said she would refuse to give an inmate CPR and won’t try the cafeteria food because she doesn’t want to ‘eat AIDS.’ The more she is around prisoners, though, the more I notice her grapple with an inner conflict. ‘I don’t want to treat everyone like a criminal because I’ve done things myself,’ she says.”

BUZZFEED / The Court That Rules the World by Chris Hamby

“A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment.”

REASON / The Truth About the Biggest U.S. Sex Trafficking Story of the Year by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

“The reality—as evidenced by police reports, court documents, online records, and statements from those involved—is far less lurid and depraved. Instead of a story of stark abuse and exploitation, it’s a story of immigration, economics, the pull of companionship and connection, the structures and dynamism that drive black markets, and a criminal-justice system all too eager to declare women victims of the choices they make.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES / The Fighter by C.J. Chivers

“The Marine Corps taught Sam Siatta how to shoot. The war in Afghanistan

taught him how to kill. Nobody taught him how to come home.”

DIGG / Broken by Kevin Heldman

“When we talk about hoods and bad neighborhoods, crime zones and ghetto areas in NYC and you then compare them to East New York, all those areas that fit those definitions are nothing like East New York. East New York is sicker, sadder, more dysfunctional, more isolated, harsher, frailer, madder, toxic, broken through and through everywhere.”

PRO PUBLICA and NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / The NYPD IS Kicking People Out of Their Homes, Even If They Haven’t Committed a Crime by Sarah Ryley

“The NYPD Is kicking people out of their homes, even if they haven’t committed a crime. The nuisance abatement law was created in the 1970’s to combat the sex industry in Times Square. Since then, its use has been vastly expanded, commonly targeting apartments and mom-and-pop bodegas even as the city’s crime rate has reached historic lows.”

ESPN / The Hardest Choice Demaryius Thomas’s Mom Will Make by Eli Saslow

“She spent 15 years cut off from America in a 20-by-20-foot concrete cell, and now she has an invitation to the biggest American spectacle of all.”

REASON / Confessions of an Ex-Prosecutor by Ken White

“The day O.J. Simpson was acquitted, I began my career as a federal prosecutor. I was 26—a young 26 at that—on the cusp of extraordinary power over the lives of my fellow citizens. After years of internships with federal and state prosecutors, I knew to expect camaraderie and sense of mission. I didn’t expect it to influence how I thought about constitutional rights. But it did.”

SPIKED / The Tyranny of Transparency by Tim Black

“This isn’t a legal problem. It can’t be corrected by frantic invocations of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. No assertion that ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’ can magically restore substance to the idea of privacy. That’s because the idea of privacy has not been legally debased; rather, it’s been culturally and politically undermined.”

THIS AMERICAN LIFE, PRO PUBLICA, and THE MARSHALL PROJECT / Anatomy of Doubt by Robyn Semien and An Unbelievable Story of Rape by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong (the print version appeared at the very end of 2015)

“If she met certain conditions for the next year, the charge would be dropped. She would need to get mental health counseling for her lying. She would need to go on supervised probation. She would need to keep straight, breaking no more laws. And she would have to pay $500 to cover the court’s costs.Marie wanted this behind her. She took the deal.”

Exploring the Unknown


Amr Dalsh / Reuters

THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE / The Secrets of the Wave Pilots by Kim Tingley

“For thousands of years, sailors in the Marshall Islands have navigated vast distances of open ocean without instruments. Can science explain their method before it’s lost forever?”

PHILOSOPHY NOW / A Golden Manifesto by Mary Midgley

What a bygone moment of female ascendance in philosophy can teach us about the pursuit of truth.

HARPER’S / What Came Before the Big Bang? by Alan Lightman

“Physicists hope that within the next fifty years or so, string theory or other new theoretical work will provide a good understanding of quantum gravity, including an explanation of how the universe began.”

THE GUARDIAN / Artificial Intelligence: ‘We’re Like Children Playing With a Bomb’ by Tim Adams

“If you look at all the things the world is spending money on, what we are doing is less than a pittance. You go to some random city and you travel from the airport to your hotel. Along the highway you see all these huge buildings for companies you have never heard of. Maybe they are designing a new publicity campaign for a razor blade. You drive past hundreds of these buildings. Any one of those has more resources than the total that humanity is spending on this field. We have half a floor of one building in Oxford, and there are two or three other groups doing what we do. So I think it is OK.”

AEON / The Empty Brain by Robert Epstein

“We don’t store words or the rules that tell us how to manipulate them. We don’t create representations of visual stimuli, store them in a short-term memory buffer, and then transfer the representation into a long-term memory device. We don’t retrieve information or images or words from memory registers. Computers do all of these things, but organisms do not.”

AUDUBON MAGAZINE / Can the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Be Found in Cuba? by Mac McClelland

“Earlier, the photographer sidled next to the writer and asked, as they both turned their faces away from the merciless beating of the oxen, a patch of protected Cuban forest being deforested with the tearing down of ever-larger branches and trees with which to assault them, ‘Do you ever wonder if this is all worth it? For a bird?’ The two of them snickered darkly. Just moments before, a chunk of wood had cracked off an oxen-beating club as it broke over the animal’s hide and shot past the photographer’s head, missing him by maybe an inch. ‘One that almost definitely doesn’t exist?’”

THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE / The Amateur Cloud Society That (Sort of) Rattled the Scientific Community by Jon Mooallem

“To keep it all from feeling ephemeral or imaginary, he eventually decided that membership should cost $15 and that members would receive a badge and certificate in the mail. He recognized that joining an online Cloud Appreciation Society that only nominally existed might appear ridiculous, but it was important to him that it not feel meaningless.”

THE INTERCEPT / The Dark Side of VR by Janus Kopfstein

“The data that virtually reality headsets can collect will give corporations and governments unprecedented insight and power over our emotions and physical behavior.”

LONGREADS / STAT: My Daughter’s MS Diagnosis and the Question My Doctors Couldn’t Answer by Maria Bustillos

“Is there a dietary treatment for multiple sclerosis? And if so, why is the medical establishment ignoring published academic research that started in the 1950s proving it?”

LOVE + RADIO / Doing the No No by Britt Wray

“Adam Zaretsky is a bioartist who explores the manipulation of DNA, the fringes of genetic modification, and butts up against the ethical boundaries of science and beyond.”

BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK / How to Hack an Election by Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley, and Andrew Willis

“Andrés Sepúlveda rigged elections throughout Latin America for almost a decade.”

NAUTILUS / How Necking Shaped the Giraffe by David P. Barash

“As notably long as are giraffe necks, these are actually outclassed by their legs, such that those monumental necks are—believe it or not—too short to comfortably reach a puddle; as a result, a drinking giraffe must splay its front feet wide apart. And, by the way, the same fluid sluice-way control mechanism in its lengthy neck works in reverse when a giraffe is done drinking and eventually raises its high head, allowing only a relative trickle of blood to flow back down so that its brain doesn’t suddenly become hypoxic.”

THE TEXAS TRIBUNE and PRO PUBLICA / Hell and High Water by Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, Al Shaw, and Jeff Larson

“Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It’s home to the nation’s largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it’s a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Why isn’t Texas ready?”

WIRED /A Swarm of Controversy by Hannah Nordhaus

“In their struggle for survival against killer mites, bees get an unlikely ally.”

NEW YORK / I Used to Be a Human Being by Andrew Sullivan

“Observe yourself in line for coffee, or driving, or even just going to the bathroom. Visit an airport and see the sea of craned necks and the dead eyes. We have gone from looking up and around to constantly looking down. If an alien had visited just five years ago, then returned today, wouldn’t this be its immediate observation? That this species has developed an extraordinary new habit—and, everywhere you look, lives constantly in its thrall?”

THE BOSTON GLOBE / Where Did ISIS Come From? The Story Starts Here. by Neil Swidey

“An attempt to pinpoint the moment when the American occupation of Iraq failed so catastrophically that it birthed a juggernaut in global terrorism. Paul Bremer is interviewed.”

RADIOLAB / From Tree to Shining Tree

“A forest can feel like a place of great stillness and quiet. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city at rush hour.”

IDLE WORDS / Shuffleboard at McMurdo by Maciej Cegłowski

“The whole thing is like one of those Russian fairy tales, where the hero must cross seven seas and seven mountains, slay Koshchei the Deathless, find the giant oak, exhume an iron chest, open it to find a hare, cut the hare open to find a duck, dig through the duck to find an egg, and crack the egg open to reveal an enchanted golden needle, or in this case, Zippo lighter.”


Honorable mention to writer R. Scott Moxley and editor Gustavo Arellano for OC Weekly’s dogged coverage of misconduct in the Orange County, California, law enforcement community; and to National Review for standing on principles its more populist competitors lacked with its Against Trump issue and related commentary by David French, Kevin Williamson, Charles C.W. Cooke, Jonah Goldberg, and others.

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