Officials have been stunned by a "surge" of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States.
Although some have traveled from as far away as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, the bulk are minors from Mexico and from Central America's so-called Northern Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which together account for 74 percent of the surge. Long plagued by instability and unrest, these countries have grown especially dangerous in recent years: Honduras imploded following a military coup in 2009 and now has the world's highest murder rate. El Salvador has the second-highest, despite the 2012 gang truce between Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18. Guatemala, new territory for the Zetas cartel, has the fifth-highest murder rate; meanwhile, the cost of tortillas has doubled as corn prices have skyrocketed due to increased American ethanol production (Guatemala imports half of its corn) and the conversion of farmland to sugarcane and oil palm for biofuel.
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2878 words)
An argument for rethinking how we teach the basics of computer science to everyone:
“Code literate.” Sounds nice, but what does it mean? And where does literacy end and fluency begin? The best way to think about that is to look to the history of literacy itself.
Reading and writing have become what researchers have called “interiorized” or “infrastructural,” a technology baked so deeply into everyday human life that we’re never surprised to encounter it. It’s the main medium through which we connect, via not only books and papers, but text messages and the voting booth, medical forms and shopping sites. If a child makes it to adulthood without being able to read or write, we call that a societal failure.
PUBLISHED: June 19, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6630 words)
What happened to Naji Mansour and his family after Mansour refused to become an FBI informant:
Other members of Naji's family have been targeted, too. In 2011, Naji's sister, Tahani, was detained at the Nairobi airport for three days. "I've heard, 'It's your people'"—that the US is behind her family's troubles with customs officials—"more times than I can count," she told me. "I go to airports now and there's this constant sense of trepidation. Am I gonna make it? Am I gonna get locked up again?"
"As a family we have always been mobile and traveling our whole lives, and as a result completely took it for granted," she told me. "The removal of the liberty to travel was crippling."
One of Naji's brothers says he is frequently questioned about Naji when he crosses an international border. The other, a Marine veteran based in Virginia, was visited by members of the Navy's criminal investigative service, who grilled him about Naji. The FBI even interviewed Naji's uncle and aging grandmother in Rhode Island in 2009.
"They didn't get to me, so they had to target my family," says Naji.
PUBLISHED: May 1, 2014
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6328 words)
What does it take for a condemned person to win a resentencing?
When people recount their alcohol consumption after a night on the town, or even a serious bender, they usually think about it in terms of drinks. Very rarely do they calibrate their intake in quarts. So most of us don't have a good sense of just how much a quart of vodka is—a bit more than 21 shots, as it turns out. That's the amount of alcohol lawyer Andy Prince consumed every night during the death penalty trial of his client, Robert Wayne Holsey, a low-functioning man with a tortured past who now stands on the brink of execution in Georgia.
PUBLISHED: April 22, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5199 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Mother Jones, Fast Company, The Georgia Review, Pacific Standard, and The Boston Globe.
PUBLISHED: March 21, 2014
Three Americans recount their experience of being held captive in Iran's Evin Prison after unknowingly crossing the Iraq-Iran border while out on a hike. An excerpt from A Sliver of Light, a co-written book about their ordeal:
SHANE (October 2009)
Solitary confinement is the slow erasure of who you thought you were. You think you are still you, but you have no real way of knowing. How can you know if you have no one to reflect you back to yourself? Would I know if I was going crazy? The longer I am alone, the more my mind slows. All I want to do is to forget about everything.
But I can't do it. I am unable to keep my mind from being sharply focused on one task: forcing myself not to look at the wall behind me. I know that eventually, a tiny sliver of sunlight will spill in through the grated window and place a quarter-size dot on the wall. It's ridiculous that I'm thinking about it this early. I've been awake only 10 minutes and I should know it will be hours before it appears.
They take everything from us—breezes, eye contact, human touch, the feeling of warm wet hands from washing a sink-load of dishes, the miracle of transforming thoughts into words on paper. They leave only the pause—those moments of waiting at bus stops, of cigarette breaks. They make time the object of our hatred.
I try not to look for the light.
PUBLISHED: March 12, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10825 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring the Boston Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Washingtonian, Mother Jones, and The New Yorker.
Consumers were warned about plastic bottles with BPA, but are plastics from BPA-free bottles releasing the same synthetic estrogens? An investigation into the scientific research and public relations campaigns over replacement plastics like Tritan:
The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2014
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6114 words)
This week's picks from Emily includes stories from Politico, Vela Magazine, McSweeney's, and Mother Jones.