home Must Reads Must reads: Criminal justice, North Korea, sexuality, scams, and food

Must reads: Criminal justice, North Korea, sexuality, scams, and food

Good morning! We’re starting off our week with some stellar longreads on a variety of subjects that intrigue us, from North Korea to segregated schools. Join us!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to the Global Comment podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud and catch up on the first episode, a fascinating interview with Omar Saif Ghobash.

What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? Plead Guilty.‘ (Megan Rose for ProPublica)

When a conviction is clearly bad, but the costs of admitting it are too high, can justice ever be done?

Courts only assess guilt or innocence before a conviction. After that, appellate courts focus solely on fairness. Did everyone follow the rules and live up to their duties? Getting a re-hearing of the facts is a monumental, often decades-long quest through a legal thicket. Most defendants never get to start the process, let alone win. Even newly discovered evidence is not enough in many cases to prompt a review. And, for the tiny percentage of defendants who get one, the prosecutors still have the advantage: They have final discretion about whether to press charges and how severe they’ll be. Powerful influence over the pace of a case, the sentence and bail. And, compared with an incarcerated defendant, vast resources.

I Was a 9-Year-Old Playboy Bunny‘ (Shannon Lell for Longreads)

This is a lovely essay about sexual coming of age.

After those furtive nights on the floor with Ann, around 10 or 11, my sexual world cracked wide open again. While staying home sick from the fifth grade, I accidentally (on purpose) found my father’s collection of porn magazines. They were not-so-cleverly hidden beneath his coin collecting magazines under his side of the bed. Along with them, there was an ancient-looking vibrating contraption. It had a rubber piece at the top shaped like a horn with a handle that plugged into the wall. There were two speeds, high and low. Once, when I was younger, I asked my parents what it was. They said a “back massager.” If they used it on their backs I never once saw or heard it because when that thing was turned on high, it sounded like a malfunctioning carburetor on a ’70s muscle car. A setting I came to know well.

Searching for Help‘ (Cat Ferguson for The Verge)

Scammy ‘rehab’ companies are gaming Google Ads, and winning. Why doesn’t Google care?

Some methods of targeting patients are more deceptive. My editor in New York City Googled “rehab” in February; one of the top AdWords results was for The Watershed. “Rehab in NY – Choose The Watershed Rehab,” it read, listing an address in Brooklyn. “No Medicaid/Medicare.” Searching the Brooklyn address brings up their “locations” page, which clarifies the rehab “provides treatment services only in our Florida and Texas facility locations,” before listing addresses in 32 other states, including nine in New York and eight in New Jersey. (The other three ads in my editor’s results were for rehabs in Florida.)

The Japanese Origins of Modern Fine Dining‘ (Meghan McCarron for Eater)

When you think of haute cuisine, you may think of French food…but it actually owes a debt of inspiration to Japan.

Kaiseki is most easily defined as Japanese haute cuisine, but like many translations, that equivalence leaves out key context. For one, while European haute cuisine descended from royal court banquets, kaiseki’s cultural legacy is tied both to the dining habits of the elite and to the Zen Buddhist tradition of the tea ceremony, which highlighted the rustic and the seasonal as a meditation on impermanence. Niki Nakayama, a classically trained kaiseki chef who is currently exploring the idea of Californian kaiseki at her Los Angeles restaurant N/Naka, describes it simply, as the most formal way of dining in Japan. In her telling, the tea ceremony included food that was simple, vegan, and could be served as a snack; later, the cuisine evolved into a celebratory meal for samurai.

The Resegregation of Jefferson County‘ (Nikole Hannah-Jones for the New York Times)

Why is the US school system going backwards?

The implication was clear. Center Point, which did not secede, has undergone a significant demographic shift as white residents fled to the districts that did. In 1970, only 30 black people lived among Center Point’s nearly 16,000 residents and 12 black children went to Center Point Elementary. Today, the town is 63 percent black and its schools are 90 percent black.

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Photo: Harrie Van Veen/Creative Commons