The expansion of private-security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is well known. But armed security personnel account for only about sixteen per cent of the over-all contracting force. The vast majority—more than sixty per cent of the total in Iraq—aren’t hired guns but hired hands. These workers, primarily from South Asia and Africa, often live in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, eat at meagre chow halls, and host dance parties featuring Nepalese romance ballads and Ugandan church songs. A large number are employed by fly-by-night subcontractors who are financed by the American taxpayer but who often operate outside the law.
Friday, April 13
An investigation of the county’s Tactical Narcotics Team and, in particular, a Christmas-themed sting dubbed “Santa’s Helper”:
A two-month investigation by New Times has found that Santa's Helper was a colossal waste of police resources. Of the 112 suspects arrested, 73 people were charged only with misdemeanor pot possession. The vast majority of the busted pot smokers were either released within 24 hours or avoided jail by promising to show up in court. Of the 73 alleged tokers, 68 of them — including Dante Level and his siblings — had no violent criminal record. If they were guilty of anything, it was smoking a joint on their own front porch.
The real-life events that inspired the new Richard Linklater dark comedy Bernie:
It’s a story about people believing what they want to believe, even when there’s evidence to the contrary. It’s a story about people not being what they seem. And it’s a story, as the movie poster says, “so unbelievable it must be true.” Which it is. I know this because the widow in the freezer was, in real life, my Aunt Marge, Mrs. Marjorie Nugent, my mother’s sister and, depending on whom you ask, the meanest woman in East Texas. She was 81 when she was murdered, and Bernie Tiede, her constant companion and rumored paramour, was 38. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2027, when he’ll be 69.
On the road with the band:
Axl Rose is carrying on like an Apache. He stormed into his home state for a concert and compared the fans there to prisoners at Auschwitz. He showed up two hours late for a New York show and launched into a tirade against his record company and various other institutions, including this magazine. He steamrolled into St. Louis, and before he left town, a riot had broken out. During an encore in Salt Lake City, he got ticked off because the Mormons weren't rocking and said, "I'll get out of here before I put anybody else to sleep." Then he did.
In 1999, “original superagent” Leigh Steinberg represented 86 NFL athletes. His life today:
At age 63, Steinberg -- for years hailed as the real-life Maguire -- now finds himself a bankrupt, recovering alcoholic, plotting a comeback from the bottom. And before 10 p.m. tonight, as mandated by the California Bar Association, he must show that his urine is clean.
Thursday, April 12
A young man’s personal account of undergoing “ex-gay treatment.”
A profile of Robert Caro, who’s been working on a biography on Lyndon Johnson for nearly 40 years.
What happens when Moneyball-style statistical analysis is applied to mixed martial arts.
How did the most wanted man in America, the serial bomber behind the Atlanta Olympics explosion, survive for five years in the North Carolina woods? And was he helped?
Wednesday, April 11
A history of a small Texas town deep in the Chihuahuan desert:
The isolation is such that if you laid out the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago, and the deep ocean channels that separate them, on the road between Marfa and the East Texas of strip shopping and George Bush Jr., you’d still have 100 miles of blank highway stretching away in front of you.
A profile from his days living as a mountain monk in Southern California.