This Week's Must-Read Journalism
“1 Million Workers. 90 Million iPhones. 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame?” Joel Johnson, Wired
A tech gadget reviewer sets out to explore the guilt he felt after years of encouraging rampant consumerism for legions of Apple fanboys. His quest takes him to the suicide-prone, campus-like factory town of Foxconn Technology Group in Shenzhen, China, where almost a million Chinese manufacturing workers toil over iPhone assembly lines. Are we responsible for their plight?
“The Madoff Tapes” Steve Fishman, New York
What began with a seemingly fruitless task—trying to reach the century's most notorious swindler through lawyers, prison letters, and jail friends—ends with a collect call to the author's home. At the other end of the line is Bernie Madoff, himself, seeking answers to the soul-crushing question "Am I evil?" The piece is a result of hours of conversation between Madoff and Fishman and reveals a tragic figure at the heart of a fractured family, a billion-dollar black hole, and a financial scheme that had long ago passed the point of no return.
“Coke, Hookers, Hospital, Repeat” Amy Wallace, GQ
Just days before Charlie Sheen exploded in an anti-Semitic rant and began a highly public bender of insane interviews and outrageous behavior, GQ closed on a profile exploring just why the Two and a Half Men star is so out of control. Wallace discovers a near pathological obsession with father Martin Sheen’s famous film Apocalypse Now, a fixation that begin when a 10-year-old Charlie visited the movie’s set after the elder Sheen nearly died of a heart attack. While the Internet is generating reams of Sheen-related mockery, this story reveals a chilling lifelong spiral of self-destruction.
“Study of a Lifetime” Helen Pearson, Nature
In one week just after the end of World War II, British scientists started tracking all 16,695 babies born in the U.K. during that seven days. They kept tracking them, filling files with information about their life trajectories: their health, their thoughts, their careers, their relationships. This month, those thousands of babies will turn 65—retirement age in Britain—and become some of the most valuable humans in the history of science.
“An Unsung Hero of the Nuclear Age” Ron Rosenbaum, Slate
What if you were hunkered down in a nuclear launch control center and received the orders to turn the key that would decimate 20 million people? How would you know the launch order was authentic? And if the president was Richard Nixon, who drank heavily during the Watergate scandal and boasted to dinner guests that he had the power to kill 70 million people in 25 minutes, how would you know the president wasn’t out of his mind? Rosenbaum profiles Maj. Harold Hering, a Cold War-era officer who questioned the nuclear chain of command and sacrificed his career to save the world.
“From Libya with Love” David Corn and Siddhartha Mahanta, Mother Jones
In 2007, Harvard professor Joseph Nye, Jr. visited Tripoli and wrote a friendly piece for The New Republic describing Muammar Gaddafi’s talk of democracy and implying that the dictator was an “ideas man,” someone different from other Arab despots. But what Nye didn’t say was that he was paid millions of dollars by an American PR firm to help rehabilitate Gaddafi’s image—a campaign that would successfully place propaganda in prominent U.S. publications.
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