Week Twenty-Four

The ballad of the Chowchilla bus kidnapping

In 1976, a school bus carrying 26 children and their driver disappeared from a small California town. Forty-five years later, we revisit the story.

Link: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22570738/chowchilla-school-bus-kidnapping
“I’ve been a fortunate guy,” he said from his home near Yosemite. “I was in the Merchant Marines with German submarines trying to get me. I was in the Navy for almost 10 years with the Japs and Soviets trying to get me. I’ve been shot at and they missed. I’ve been shot at and they hit. I’ve been cut with knives. A guy hit me across the back of the head with a two-by-four, and I had to have a neck operation.

A Controversial Tool Calls Out Thousands of Hackable Websites

PunkSpider is back, and crawling hundreds of millions of sites for vulnerabilities.

Link: https://www.wired.com/story/punkspider-web-site-vulnerabilities/
At the Defcon hacker conference next week, Alejandro Caceres and Jason Hopper plan to release—or, rather, to upgrade and re-release after a years-long hiatus—a tool called PunkSpider. Essentially a search engine that constantly crawls the entire web, PunkSpider automatically identifies hackable vulnerabilities in websites, and then allows anyone to search those results to find sites susceptible to everything from defacement to data leaks.

Trump Is Gone, but the Media’s Misinformation Challenge Is Still Here

Should news outlets contextualize false claims made by powerful people? Or ignore them completely? There is no consensus in the industry, but its thinking continues to evolve.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/27/us/politics/trump-false-claims-media.html
In American life, truth is now contested. And while this has profoundly affected the country’s politics, and so much else, it has raised unique challenges for one group in particular: journalists.

The Post-Dirtbag Left

For years, “Chapo Trap House” and other podcasts have paired anti-capitalist ideas with the rhetorical style of social media. Is a new form emerging?

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/02/the-post-dirtbag-left
But, after Sanders’s loss, “Chapo” seemed to have nothing left to say. Instead of progressing through the five stages of grief, the co-hosts wallowed in denial—“It is still virtually tied,” Menaker said, after Biden’s decisive victory on Super Tuesday—before settling, apparently forever, in the second stage. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross called this stage anger, but in “Chapo” ’s case it’s closer to nihilistic despair.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, Land Mines, Bulldozers and Lingering Tensions

Despite the hurdles, territory seized by Azerbaijan from Armenia in last year’s war is being transformed with breathtaking speed.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/25/world/europe/azerbaijan-armenia-nagorno-karabakh.html
In Baku, on the gleaming Caspian Sea waterfront, the government has built a “war trophies park” of burned Armenian tanks, captured artillery and Armenian soldiers’ helmets hanging on chains. Life-size figures of Armenian soldiers have huge noses, fearsome eyebrows and bad teeth.

The Assassination of Haiti’s President

Jovenel Moïse’s family deserves justice for his horrific killing. So do all of the Haitian families who suffered during his rule.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-assassination-of-haitis-president
There are close to a hundred gangs active in Haiti. According to Pierre Espérance, the executive director of the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, they control more than half of the country. Turf wars, murders, rapes, and kidnappings have recently led to the displacement of more than eighteen thousand people. Seeking refuge, some sleep in public parks and squares while others crowd into churches and gymnasiums, even as coronavirus cases have remained on the rise. During Moïse’s time in office, gangs carried out thirteen massacres in poor opposition neighborhoods. The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Haitian Observatory for Crimes Against Humanity studied three and defined them as crimes against humanity.

On the Trail of a Mysterious, Pseudonymous Author

Late last spring, a strange, beguiling novel began arriving, in installments, in the mail. Who had written it?

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/on-the-trail-of-a-mysterious-pseudonymous-author
Inside the envelope was a small, stapled book—a pamphlet, really—titled “Foodie or The Capitalist Monsoon that is Mississippi,” by a writer named Stokes Prickett. On the cover, there was a photograph of a burrito truck and a notice that read “Advance Promotional Copy: Do Not Read.”

How a Mexican Lagoon Lost Its Colors

Bacalar is poised to become one of the country’s great tourist destinations—if its ecosystem can survive.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/how-a-mexican-lagoon-lost-its-colors
It’s hard to build a booming tourist economy atop an ecological attraction without destroying it. Some of the colonies of microbes in the lagoon are more than nine thousand years old, but they can survive only as long as the water is pure. Luisa Falcón, a microbial ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, has studied oligotrophic microbes all over the world. Swimming in the lagoon, she told me, is like going back in time four billion years—“back to the Archean,” she said. “It’s amazing how primitive these sites are.”

Opinion | Texas Should Be a Warning to Democrats Everywhere

America should pay attention to what has gone awfully wrong in the Lone Star State.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/15/opinion/texas-democrats-voting-rights.html
Pretty soon, Texans will openly carry loaded firearms into grocery stores, gas stations and even airports. Women will effectively be unable to get a legal abortion. And schoolchildren won’t learn, at least not legally, the unvarnished story about discrimination or racism. And a bunch of Texas legislators are hanging around Washington, D.C., trying to derail draconian restrictions on voting rights in their home state.

Inside Facebook’s Data Wars

Executives at the social network have clashed over CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned data tool that revealed users’ high engagement levels with right-wing media sources.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/technology/facebook-data.html
“Facebook would love full transparency if there was a guarantee of positive stories and outcomes,” Mr. Boland said. “But when transparency creates uncomfortable moments, their reaction is often to shut down the transparency.”

Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?

The company doubled its sales last year by leaning into America’s culture war. It’s also trying to distance itself from some of its new customers.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/magazine/black-rifle-coffee-company.html
“The Black Rifle guys are not the evil that everybody makes them out to be,” says J.J. MacNab, the extremism researcher, “but they’ve closed their eyes to some of the evil that takes their humor seriously.” Still, Black Rifle professes to be eager to put some of its fiercest and trolliest culture-war fights behind it. “What I figured out the last couple of years is that being really political, in the sense of backing an individual politician or any individual party, is really [expletive] detrimental,” Hafer told me. “And it’s detrimental to the company. And it’s detrimental, ultimately, to my mission.”

Fear and Misery in an Afghan City Where Taliban Stalk the Streets

For weeks, the northern city of Kunduz has suffered daily street battles. Times journalists were there to document a cat-and-mouse war for control.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/world/asia/afghanistan-kunduz-taliban.html
The Afghan way of war in 2021 comes down to this: a watermelon vendor on a sweltering city street, a government Humvee at the front line just 30 feet away, and Taliban fighters lurking unseen on the other side of the road