This week, we’re reading all sorts of interesting things — and we want to hear about what you’re reading too! — from prison reform to the results of sex slavery, this week’s reading might be a little heavy, but we promise it will be worth it. We love long features journalism, and we think you should too!
‘The prison visit that cost my family $2,730‘ (The Marshall Project)
With growing numbers of incarcerated people in many U.S. states, the practice of shipping prisoners elsewhere to address prison overcrowding is growing more common. Thanks to social inequalities, many prisoners come from low-income backgrounds, and the combined costs of taking work off, traveling, and finding a place to stay can be prohibitive — which is why some people rarely, if ever, see their family while they’re imprisoned. For this Hawaiian family, the injustices of the prison system were painfully on display.
After decades of tough-on-crime policies, Hawaii is one of four states that solve their prison crowding problem by shipping inmates out of state, usually to facilities run by for-profit companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. California prisoners go to Arizona and to the Mississippi Delta; Vermont prisoners go to a remote corner of Michigan; and Arkansas prisoners go to Texas. The U.S. Virgin Islands also sends its prisoners away, to Florida, Arizona and Virginia. Often, the best-behaving prisoners — those with no disciplinary record, escape history or medical issues — are the most likely to be sent far from home.
‘The children of Islamic State‘ (Der Spiegel)
We already know that Daesh is enslaving women, particularly ethnic Yazidis, and that women are considered ‘spoilers of war’ and used as gifts, sexual playthings, and objects. The inevitable consequence of this kind of abuse is pregnancy, and this fascinating and troubling feature explores what happens to the children left behind.
In August 2014, Islamic State invaded northern Iraq’s Sinjar region, murdering and kidnapping thousands of women and girls who then became sex slaves for its fighters. Hundreds of women who managed to escape their tormenters returned pregnant. The children of IS fighters can be found today in Syria, in Iraq, in Germany — and possibly even in Turkey, Lebanon and other countries where refugees have sought safe haven. The number is believed to be in the hundreds. In the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq alone, doctors estimate that figure to be somewhere between 40 and 100 infants. Given the sheer number of women who have been kidnapped in the region, that figure appears to be low.
‘Contamination: The human cost of dioxin, PCBs, and pollution at Kadena Air Force Base‘ (Japan Times)
Kadena Air Base is the largest U.S. base in Asia, and underneath the surface, it’s a festering toxic waste dump — adding to the burden of military pollution around the world. Pollution on such sites is common, a mixture of decades of disinterest when it came to the environment paired with a lack of understanding about the potential harm of common chemicals used on military bases, or generated on base. Cleanups like the one taking place at Kadena typically unveil layers and layers of pollution, and in this case, the U.S. military is remaining mum about how bad the situation really is, despite FOIA requests.
In February 2014, U.S. Air Force officials declared the school grounds safe but the laboratory test results — totaling 107 pages — have been entirely redacted from the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Exacerbating suspicions of a cover-up was another announcement in February assuring service members that dioxin only caused the skin disease, chloracne, but ‘no other human health effects have been proven.’This contradicts Environmental Protection Agency data that shows that dioxin ‘can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones.’
‘Shakespeare’s last act: A torrent of twisted fantasies‘ (The Guardian)
Shakespeare got dark in his later years. Extremely dark. Why did his work change so dramatically after Elizabeth I’s death? James Shapiro explored the subject for The Guardian in a quite fascinating piece that delves deep into the shifts in the Bard’s tone, style, work, and culture towards the end of his career.
In many of his Jacobean plays, Shakespeare seems obsessively drawn to scenes of almost unbearable emotional intensity. He seems to have learned to use extended moments of silence to ever greater effect. Examples come readily to mind, typically focused on a pair of characters: the death of Lear with Cordelia in his arms; Pericles reunited with and restored to life by his daughter Marina; Volumnia subduing (and sealing the fate of) her son Coriolanus; and Imogen waking up beside the headless corpse of the man she thinks to be her beloved Posthumus. Such scenes are visually arresting and so emotionally charged that many find them hard to watch. It may be coincidental, but in his Elizabethan days Shakespeare referred to playgoers as auditors, while in his Jacobean period he describes them as spectators. The shift from ear to eye may well reflect the extent to which he became more conscious of the ways in which he could reach playgoers not only through his mellifluous verse but also through powerful tableaux.
‘I’m an environmental reporter from Flint. Even I ignored the water crisis story.‘ (Washington Post)
One theme comes up repeatedly in conversations about Flint’s water crisis (and the larger issue of lead contamination in water across the United States): How did the media miss it? Numerous factors come into play, including racial inequalities that determine who covers news, and how. Talia Buford’s story, however, brings in another interesting angle.
When we talk, [my mom] usually details the latest city struggle — a new fee residents pay to keep streetlights on in front of their homes; the police substation that closed up the street; her volunteer work with the abandoned-housing census. When she casually mentioned a boil-water advisory one day in August 2014, it didn’t even register. I brushed it off when she talked about another advisorythe next month. I ignored the loop of images in my Facebook feed showing hydrants flushing brown water. All of these things were routine, I reasoned. There’s nothing to worry about.
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Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Creative Commons