Wednesday, January 21

Longform Podcast #125: Anand Gopal

Anand Gopal has written for The Wall Street Journal, Harper’s and Foreign Policy. He’s the author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes.

“When I got to the Taliban, I got out my notebook and tried to ask the hard-hitting questions. ‘What are you fighting for? Why are you doing this? What’s happening with the civilians you’re killing?’ And of course you do that and you get boilerplate answers and icy stares. So I just started asking them questions about their childhood. ... People love to talk about themselves and he began to open up and very subtly something shifted and it no longer became about the war and America versus the Taliban, it became about him being an Afghan and his experience.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Lynda for sponsoring this week's episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.

Show notes »
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Making Sense of Ferguson

A narrative of the Michael Brown shooting.

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The Digital Arms Race: NSA Preps America for Future Battle

Documents from Edward Snowden show that the intelligence agency is arming America for future digital wars—a struggle for control of the Internet that is already well underway.

Tuesday, January 20

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The Hunting of Billie Holiday

How the singer became the target of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics' early, racially-motivated war on drugs.

Excerpted from Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.
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Can Moral Mondays Produce Victorious Tuesdays?

North Carolina’s protest movement has galvanized the state’s progressives, but couldn’t stop 2014’s Republican tide. Its leaders say they’re just getting started.

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U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit

“Easy care” sheep, crushed piglets, and starving calves. These are the products of a remote research center where scientists are trying to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry.

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When a Stranger Threatens Suicide

An American writer living in Japan, unread and underpublished, sends an email to a group of writers he doesn’t know informing them that he is committing suicide.

Monday, January 19

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From Amateur to Ruthless Jihadist in France

Chérif and Saïd Kouachi’s path to the Paris attack at Charlie Hebdo.

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Letter from Birmingham Jail

On the moral responsibility to break unjust laws.

“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
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The Limits of Satire

What does satire do? What should we expect of it? Is it crucial to Western culture that we be free to produce it?

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The Whole Haystack

The N.S.A. claims it needs access to all our phone records. But is that the best way to catch a terrorist?

Sunday, January 18

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The Definition of a Dictionary

Merriam-Webster is revising its most authoritative tome for the digital age. But in an era of twerking and trolling, what should a dictionary look like?