----- 4 stars -----

Guantánamo’s Darkest Secret / New Yorker

The fragmented image of Mohamedou Salahi that United States military, law-enforcement, and intelligence agencies assembled in a classified dossier was that of a “highly intelligent” Mauritanian electrical engineer, who, “as a key al-Qaida member,” had played a role in several mass-casualty plots. Other men carried box cutters and explosives; Salahi was a ghost on the periphery. The evidence against him lacked depth, but investigators considered its breadth conclusive. His proximity to so many events and high-level jihadi figures could not be explained by coincidence, they thought, and only a logistical mastermind could have left so faint a trail. [...] Shortly before the first detainees arrived, Robert McFadden, an N.C.I.S. special agent, was eager to receive the flight manifest. “I just couldn’t wait to see who the detainees were,” he told me. He had spent much of the past fifteen months in Yemen, investigating Al Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and hoped that some of the men who were being shipped to Guantánamo would have information about the case. But, when the list of detainees finally arrived, he recalled, “my reaction was, What the fuck? Who are these guys?” Most of the names were Afghan or Pakistani, “and the Arabs who were on the list certainly weren’t recognizable to me and my colleagues who had been working Al Qaeda for years.” A few weeks later, after McFadden visited the detention camp, he concluded that the detainees were “essentially nobodies.” He told me, “There was not anyone approaching even the most liberal interpretation of a ‘high-value detainee.’ ” In Afghanistan, the U.S. military was inadvertently presiding over a kidnapping-and-ransom industry. Helicopters dropped flyers in remote Afghan villages, offering “wealth and power beyond your dreams” to anyone who turned in a member of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. “You can receive millions of dollars,” one of the flyers said. “This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.” A common bounty was five thousand dollars—far more money than most Afghans earned in a year—and “the result was an explosion of human trafficking” by various armed groups, Mark Fallon, the deputy commander of Guantánamo’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, wrote in his memoir, “Unjustifiable Means,” which was heavily redacted before being published, in 2017. As Michael Lehnert, a Marine Corps major general who briefly served as the detention camp’s first commander, later testified to Congress, “What better way to enrich yourself, while resolving old grudges, than to finger a neighbor who was your enemy, regardless of his support for either Al Qaeda or the Taliban?” [...] “Had I done what they accused me of, I would have relieved myself on day one,” Salahi wrote in his diary. “But the problem is that you cannot just admit to something you haven’t done; you need to deliver the details, which you can’t when you hadn’t done anything. It’s not just, ‘Yes, I did!’ No, it doesn’t work that way: you have to make up a complete story that makes sense to the dumbest dummies. One of the hardest things to do is to tell an untruthful story and maintain it, and that is exactly where I was stuck.” [...] In the military hearing, Salahi described the torture program in vivid detail. The transcript omits much of his testimony, noting that, at the moment he started to describe the abuse, “the recording equipment began to malfunction” and that the tapes were “distorted.” The transcript continues, “The Detainee wanted to show the Board his scars and location of injuries, but the board declined the viewing.” [...] The government no longer attempted to prosecute Salahi—nobody had touched the criminal case since Couch withdrew—but it argued that he should nevertheless be detained indefinitely. On March 22, 2010, a U.S. district-court judge named James Robertson ruled on Salahi’s petition to be released. “The government’s case, essentially, is that Salahi was so connected to al-Qaida for a decade beginning in 1990 that he must have been ‘part of’ al-Qaida at the time of his capture,” Robertson wrote. But the government had “abandoned the theory” that Salahi knew about 9/11 before it happened. As for his jihadi connections, Robertson continued, the government’s classified filings “tend to support Salahi’s submission that he was attempting to find the appropriate balance—avoiding close relationships with al-Qaida members, but also trying to avoid making himself an enemy” of the group. In Robertson’s assessment, the government’s evidence about Salahi was “so attenuated, or so tainted by coercion and mistreatment, or so classified, that it cannot support a successful criminal prosecution.” He concluded, “Salahi must be released from custody.” Steve Wood was elated when he heard the news. But the government appealed, and Salahi stayed in Guantánamo.

----- 3 stars -----

Raw and Red-Hot / Harvard Magazine

Could inflammation be the cause of myriad chronic conditions? [...] In medicine, believing something is true is not the same as being able to prove it. Because the idea that inflammation—constant, low-level, immune-system activation —could be at the root of many noncommunicable diseases is a startling claim, it requires extraordinary proof. Can seemingly unconnected illnesses of the brain, the vasculature, lungs, liver, and joints really share a deep biological link? Evidence has been mounting that these common chronic conditions—including Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, asthma, gout, psoriasis, anemia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and depression among them—are indeed triggered by low-grade, long-term inflammation. But it took that large-scale human clinical trial to dispel any lingering doubt: the immune system’s inflammatory response is killing people by degrees.

The shocking rape trial that galvanised Spain’s feminists – and the far right / The Guardian

The ‘wolf pack’ case inspired widespread anger and protests against sexual assault laws in Spain. But the anti-feminist backlash that followed has helped propel the far right to its biggest gains since Franco.

1960: The Year the Singularity Was Cancelled / Slate Star Codex

In the 1950s, an Austrian scientist discovered a series of equations that he claimed could model history. They matched past data with startling accuracy. But when extended into the future, they predicted the world would end on November 13, 2026. This sounds like the plot of a sci-fi book. But it’s also the story of Heinz von Foerster, a mid-century physicist, cybernetician, cognitive scientist, and philosopher. His problems started when he became interested in human population dynamics. [...] For all of human history, economic progress formed a near-perfect straight line pointed at the early 21st century. Its destination varied by a century or two now and then, but never more than that. If an ancient Egyptian economist had modern techniques and methodologies, he could have made a graph like this and predicted it would reach infinity around the early 21st century. If a Roman had done the same thing, using the economic data available in his own time, he would have predicted the early 21st century too. A medieval Burugundian? Early 21st century. A Victorian Englishman? Early 21st century. A Stalinist Russian? Early 21st century. The trend was really resilient. In 2005, inventor Ray Kurzweil published The Singularity Is Near, claiming there would be a technological singularity in the early 21st century. He didn’t refer to this graph specifically, but he highlighted this same trend of everything getting faster, including rates of change. Kurzweil took the infinity at the end of this graph very seriously; he thought that some event would happen that really would catapult the economy to infinity. Why not? Every data point from the Stone Age to the Atomic Age agreed on this. This graph shows the Singularity getting cancelled. Around 1960, doubling times stopped decreasing. The economy kept growing. But now it grows at a flat rate. It shows no signs of reaching infinity; not soon, not ever. Just constant, boring 2% GDP growth for the rest of time. Why?

----- 2 stars -----

Navy SEALs Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief for War Crimes / New York Times

Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire. Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7’s Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action. Tired of being brushed off, seven members of the platoon called a private meeting with their troop commander in March 2018 at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation report obtained by The New York Times, they gave him the bloody details and asked for a formal investigation. But instead of launching an investigation that day, the troop commander and his senior enlisted aide — both longtime comrades of the accused platoon leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — warned the seven platoon members that speaking out could cost them and others their careers, according to the report. The clear message, one of the seven told investigators, was “Stop talking about it.”

‘If You Want to Kill Someone, We Are the Right Guys’ / Wired

On their first date, Stephen accompanied Woodard to a doctor's appointment. Within a few weeks, she was joining him on work trips. Woodard appreciated Stephen's extraordinary calm. On one trip their connecting flight out of Philadelphia was canceled. Stephen had an 8 am meeting the next day in Hartford, Connecticut, and without fuss he rented a car and drove them the remaining 210 miles. A month before Stephen ordered the hit on his wife, he told Woodard that he was going to try to make things work with Amy. In truth, the affair seemed to intensify his desire for a different sort of life. Disciplined and computer-savvy, Stephen was in theory the perfect criminal for a dark-web crime. He covered his tracks by using anonymous remailers, which strip identifying information off messages, and Tor, which cloaks an IP address by randomly bouncing communications through a network of relays. And he concocted an elaborate backstory: dogdaygod was a rival dog trainer who wanted Amy dead because Amy had slept with her husband. In his dark-web persona, he transferred his own infidelity onto his wife.

Have hen will travel: the man who sailed round the world with a chicken / The Guardian

At the tip of Brittany’s wild, wet Côtes-d’Armor peninsula is the village of Plougrescant. Beyond that, butting right out into the sea, lies Yvinec island, a tiny outcrop intermittently accessible depending on tides via a rock-studded expanse of dunes and seaweed. To get there I have taken two planes, a train and a puzzling automobile. It has been an epic journey, but I can’t possibly say that to Guirec Soudée when he picks me up for the last leg in his 4x4. I may have got lost in a Brest industrial estate at midnight, unable to make the hire car headlights work, but the 26-year-old Breton sailed around the world solo for five years. During that time he was trapped in Arctic ice for 130 days, survived 15m waves, nearly capsized repeatedly, was imprisoned briefly by Canadian coastguards and became the youngest sailor to navigate the formidable Northwest Passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic solo. Well, I say solo. Sole human. He was accompanied by a chicken, a Rhode Island Red named Monique. From January 2014 to their return to Brittany in December 2018, the pair covered 45,000 miles. They crossed the Atlantic, travelled to the North and South Poles, across to Cape Horn, back to the Caribbean and home, punctuated by stops to repair the boat, wait out the weather, or earn money. Every adventure, encounter and disaster (there were plenty of all three) was recorded in jaw-dropping pictures and funny videos on their increasingly popular social media accounts (they now have 125k Facebook and 42.8k Instagram followers). That was where I discovered – and fell hard for – the pair. A handsome, fresh-faced young adventurer and his stoic brown hen on their plucky little boat felt like a gift: an uncomplicated shot of sunshine in a dark time. Their story is an internet-age Boy’s Own adventure: Guirec paddleboarded through icebergs, met polar bears, caught huge fish and even saved a drowning poodle.

Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet / New York Times

When Boeing broke ground on its new factory near Charleston in 2009, the plant was trumpeted as a state-of-the-art manufacturing hub, building one of the most advanced aircraft in the world. But in the decade since, the factory, which makes the 787 Dreamliner, has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety. A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality. Facing long manufacturing delays, Boeing pushed its work force to quickly turn out Dreamliners, at times ignoring issues raised by employees. Complaints about the frenzied pace echo broader concerns about the company in the wake of two deadly crashes involving another jet, the 737 Max. Boeing is now facing questions about whether the race to get the Max done, and catch up to its rival Airbus, led it to miss safety risks in the design, like an anti-stall system that played a role in both crashes. Safety lapses at the North Charleston plant have drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. Qatar Airways stopped accepting planes from the factory after manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries. Workers have filed nearly a dozen whistle-blower claims and safety complaints with federal regulators, describing issues like defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Others have sued Boeing, saying they were retaliated against for flagging manufacturing mistakes.

This Was Supposed to Be a Story About a Bizarre Anti-Vaccine Rally and a Sedated Bear. Then It Got Weird. / Gizmodo

This world is full of surprises, some of them involving anti-vaccine activists, sedated bears, and the small-scale production of literal fake news. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was working on a quick, weird story about an anti-vaccine activist in Florida who was attempting to hold a rally in her hometown featuring a drugged bear. As it turns out, that’s not the story at all. Here, instead, is a story about someone who worked extremely hard to generate a news cycle involving a rally that they clearly have no intention of ever holding and a real activist who had no idea her name was being used. The bear also seems to be fake, and—despite my initial, hopeful understanding of the situation—is not named Ron. The whole situation seems to be an interesting example of the way that seemingly ordinary people sometimes try to gin up fake news stories, whether to make their ideological opponents look silly, to hoodwink the press, or simply to feel the power of introducing a narrative into the world. Maybe there’s something about creating a story, watching it spin into something larger and larger, that allows you to feel a little bigger too.

Corey Feldman Wants to Expose Hollywood’s Darkest Secrets / Rolling Stone

Why Isn’t Anybody Listening? [...] “I can tell you that the number-one problem in Hollywood was and is . . . pedophilia,” Feldman says, as he often has. “That’s the biggest problem for children in this industry. It’s the big secret.” One possible, obvious reason for the keeping and hiding of this big secret: No one really wants to hear about children and rape if it involves the nation’s number-one source of escapist entertainment. In 2013, Feldman went on The View to talk about how the pedophile numbers are larger than anybody knows and include a ring reaching up into the Hollywood elite that’s been shielded for years by the establishment. Barbara Walters looked at him with disbelief, hands clasped across her belly, and snarled, “You’re damaging an entire industry,” as if to say that Hollywood itself was more valuable than the wrecked lives of a few youngsters. [...] If ever there was an imperfect messenger for attempting to take down pedophiles in Hollywood, Feldman might be it. He has an untidy past that can’t help but follow him everywhere and a present that seems to do him no favors either.

The History Behind Baseball’s Weirdest Pitch / Literary Hub

If you had to group pitches into two categories, you would choose “fastball” and “other.” The “other” makes pitching interesting. If the ball went straight every time, pitchers would essentially be functionaries, existing merely to serve the hitters. Long ago, that is just what they were, as the name implies. Think of pitching horseshoes: you’re making an underhand toss to a specific area. That was pitching for much of the 1800s. For 20 years—1867 through 1886—batters could specify whether they wanted the pitch high or low. The poor pitcher was forced to comply. Baseball might have continued as a test of hitting, running, and fielding skills had pitchers not discovered their potential for overwhelming influence. What if they could make the pitch behave differently? Long before cameras and websites could classify every pitch into a type, many of the offerings intended to deceive a hitter—in-shoots and out-shoots, in- curves and out-curves and drops, in the old parlance—were largely known as curveballs. The “other” was, simply, everything that wasn’t a fastball. In researching the history of curveballs at the Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, I was struck by how many people claimed to be the inventor.

----- 1 star -----

Why Berlin's 15 Year-Old Airport has Never Had a Flight / YouTube (Half as Interesting)

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