News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

There are those who say this pandemic shouldn’t be politicised. That doing so is tantamount to basking in self-righteousness. Like the religious hardliner shouting it’s the wrath of God, or the populist scaremongering about the “Chinese virus”, or the trend-watcher predicting we’re finally entering a new era of love, mindfulness, and free money for all.

There are also those who say now is precisely the time to speak out. That the decisions being made at this moment will have ramifications far into the future. Or, as Obama’s chief of staff put it after Lehman Brothers fell in 2008: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

In the first few weeks, I tended to side with the naysayers. I’ve written before about the opportunities crises present, but now it seemed tactless, even offensive. Then more days passed. Little by little, it started to dawn that this crisis might last months, a year, even longer. And that anti-crisis measures imposed temporarily one day could well become permanent the next.

No one knows what awaits us this time. But it’s precisely because we don’t know because the future is so uncertain, that we need to talk about it.

Read the rest of this article at: The Correspondent

News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


the origins of QAnon are recent, but even so, separating myth from reality can be hard. One place to begin is with Edgar Maddison Welch, a deeply religious father of two, who until Sunday, December 4, 2016, had lived an unremarkable life in the small town of Salisbury, North Carolina. That morning, Welch grabbed his cellphone, a box of shotgun shells, and three loaded guns—a 9-mm AR-15 rifle, a six-shot .38‑caliber Colt revolver, and a shotgun—and hopped into his Toyota Prius. He drove 360 miles to a well-to-do neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C.; parked his car; put the revolver in a holster at his hip; held the AR-15 rifle across his chest; and walked through the front door of a pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong.

Comet happens to be the place where, on a Sunday afternoon two years earlier, my then-baby daughter tried her first-ever sip of water. Kids gather there with their parents and teammates after soccer games on Saturdays, and local bands perform on the weekends. In the back, children challenge their grandparents to Ping-Pong matches as they wait for their pizzas to come out of the big clay oven in the middle of the restaurant. Comet Ping Pong is a beloved spot in Washington.

That day, people noticed Welch right away. An AR-15 rifle makes for a conspicuous sash in most social settings, but especially at a place like Comet. As parents, children, and employees rushed outside, many still chewing, Welch began to move through the restaurant, at one point attempting to use a butter knife to pry open a locked door, before giving up and firing several rounds from his rifle into the lock. Behind the door was a small computer-storage closet. This was not what he was expecting.

Welch had traveled to Washington because of a conspiracy theory known, now famously, as Pizzagate, which claimed that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of Comet Ping Pong. The idea originated in October 2016, when WikiLeaks made public a trove of emails stolen from the account of John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff and then the chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign; Comet was mentioned repeatedly in exchanges Podesta had with the restaurant’s owner, James Alefantis, and others. The emails were mainly about fundraising events, but high-profile pro–Donald Trump figures such as Mike Cernovich and Alex Jones began advancing the claim—which originated in trollish corners of the internet (such as 4chan) and then spread to more accessible precincts (Twitter, YouTube)—that the emails were proof of ritualistic child abuse. Some conspiracy theorists asserted that it was taking place in the basement at Comet, where there is no basement. References in the emails to “pizza” and “pasta” were interpreted as code words for “girls” and “little boys.”

Shortly after Trump’s election, as Pizzagate roared across the internet, Welch started binge-watching conspiracy-theory videos on YouTube. He tried to recruit help from at least two people to carry out a vigilante raid, texting them about his desire to sacrifice “the lives of a few for the lives of many” and to fight “a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard.” When Welch finally found himself inside the restaurant and understood that Comet Ping Pong was just a pizza shop, he set down his firearms, walked out the door, and surrendered to police, who had by then secured the perimeter. “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” Welch told The New York Times after his arrest.

Welch seems to have sincerely believed that children were being held at Comet Ping Pong. His family and friends wrote letters to the judge on his behalf, describing him as a dedicated father, a devout Christian, and a man who went out of his way to care for others. Welch had trained as a volunteer firefighter. He had gone on an earthquake-response mission to Haiti with the local Baptist Men’s Association. A friend from his church wrote, “He exhibits the actions of a person who strives to learn biblical truth and apply it.” Welch himself expressed what seemed like genuine remorse, saying in a handwritten note submitted to the judge by his lawyers: “It was never my intention to harm or frighten innocent lives, but I realize now just how foolish and reckless my decision was.” He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic


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ONE DAY IN October 2015, a forest surveyor working in an area of dense woodland near Mount Redington in Maine came across a collapsed tent hidden in the undergrowth. He noticed a backpack, some clothes, a sleeping bag, and inside the sleeping bag what he assumed was a human skull. He took a photograph, then hurried out of the woods and called his boss. The news soon reached Kevin Adam, the search and rescue coordinator for the Maine Warden Service, who immediately guessed what the surveyor had found. He wrote later, “From what I could see of the location on the map and what I saw in the picture, I was almost certain it would be Gerry Largay.”

Geraldine Largay, a 66-year-old retired nurse from Tennessee, had gone missing near Redington in July 2013 while attempting to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail, a national hiking route that stretches more than 2,100 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in central Maine. Her disappearance triggered one of the biggest search and rescue operations in the state’s history. Over two years, it failed to uncover a single clue. Until the surveyor stumbled on her camp, no one had any idea what had become of her.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Somewhere on the northern shore of Puerto Rico sits a modest Airbnb with white stucco walls and a roof covered in fake grass. Inside, the island’s most exciting young superstar is fighting off boredom any way he can. It’s mid-March, days after Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced ordered residents to stay inside due to the coronavirus pandemic. Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, known to the world as Bad Bunny, is living here till he can start construction on the villa of his dreams. “The fucking coronavirus arrived, and it sealed me up,” he says in Spanish, deadpanning like a sullen teen banished to his room for the summer. “People think I’m spending quarantine in a huge mansion, with a really awesome pool …”

Appearing on Zoom, Martínez looks as chic as ever: A stack of gold chains and pearls gently cradle his neck, dangling a small gold cherub, a cross, and a Virgin Mary pendant over a T-shirt emblazoned with the corpse-painted visage of WWE wrestler Sting. Martínez’s tight curls are subdued by a beanie, and his brown eyes are framed by a ginormous pair of Gucci glasses. “I always look luxurious,” he says.

So, how does one of the world’s biggest pop stars spend his quarantine? He’s been working out in the home gym in the mornings, eating ascetic meals of chicken and potatoes. He’s been texting on a group chat he’s dubbed the Mafia, which includes his assistant/merch designer Janthony and fellow rapper Residente. The two MCs take turns comparing what they worry are coronavirus symptoms. (Neither seems actually sick, thankfully; “He’s a hypochondriac, just like me,” Martínez explains of Residente.) Martínez, who’s grown increasingly outspoken about Puerto Rican politics in recent years, has also voiced his displeasure at Puerto Rico’s handling of the pandemic. Reacting, in part, to Vázquez’s lack of press conferences during the crisis, he called the government “a herd of clowns” on Twitter.

He’s holed up in the Airbnb with his longtime girlfriend, a 26-year-old jewelry designer named Gabriela Berlingeri. They lounge on the roof in swimsuits and take bored, sexy selfies. They watch a lot of movies, including multiple installments of Toy Story. At one point, Martínez begins making up his own toy stories, set in the time of the coronavirus, and broadcasts them on Instagram Live. Seated cross-legged on the carpet, he gathers an arsenal of figurines from the beloved Pixar series, and flawlessly mimics their voices in Spanish. When Woody, the sheriff, attests to hauling 40 rolls of toilet paper, the Slinky Dog scoffs raspily, “Jeez, Woody, how many butts do you have?” Martínez explains that his all-time favorite movies are cartoon movies: “One of my goals is to be the voice of an animated character in Spanish.”

Like most of us, Martínez’s emotions during lockdown have run the gamut. “The truth is, all this has made me angsty … but I’m having a good time,” he says. In February, he released his second album, Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, or “I Do Whatever I Want,” and it quickly became the highest-charting Spanish-language album ever released in the United States. He joined Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and J Balvin at the Super Bowl halftime show, then was promptly whisked away to Mexico, where he began shooting scenes as a supporting actor in the Netflix crime series Narcos: Mexico before it shut down due to the pandemic. He sighs. “Maybe I needed the rest!”

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

News 05.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

This is an All-American story about two kids from the east side of Baltimore.

There’s me, D., a Black man straight outta the guts of systemic poverty, smothered by racism, educated in a stereotypical collection of dilapidated schools and nourished in a literal food desert where salads for dinner meant a four mile trip from home. I was raised in the crack era, where I learned to cook up, package and slang crack in and around a city that was occupied by a militarized police force that harassed everybody, even the non-crack slangers.

The other is Danny Hersl. He was one of six kids, and he lost his father when he was only 7. He took it rough, but he had four brothers and a sister and, with the support of their tight-knit community, the Hersls made it through.

Even though his family was far from wealthy, Hersl still grew up white in white America, in a system that traditionally rewards mediocre whiteness. But although Hersl could still bask in the mighty gift of whiteness, he didn’t have a lot of financial options in the new economy, with the closing of the steel mills in Baltimore which had supported generations of uneducated working-class white people. His big break came when he was accepted into the Anne Arundel County Police Academy. He spent three months there before being accepted to the Baltimore Police Department.

Hersl had joined the drug war, and now it wasn’t just his whiteness that set him apart, but also the blue uniform and the silver badge that helped him flex that whiteness. In the largely Black neighborhoods where he policed, his word was literally law. “I’m the police. I can do what I want,” he often told people he stopped on the streets.

Nearly two decades later, you wouldn’t be crazy to assume he’d gone on to become a police chief or captain, with a beautiful career and a cushy retirement, while I ended up dead on the street or cutting and stabbing my way through a life sentence in some federal prison for racketeering and narcotic possession with the intent to distribute. That’s how these stories normally work out, right? Well, our story is the complete opposite: It is 2020; I am a respected author and university professor, while Hersl is a convicted felon, federal inmate 62926-037 doing hard time in MCFP Springfield, Missouri.

Hersl was one of seven Baltimore cops indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in March 2017. Most of his squad, the five Black and two white officers that made up the Gun Trace Task Force when they were arrested, were charged with robbery, racketeering and numerous related charges after the feds got a wiretap on one of their phones and discovered that, instead of arresting dealers, they were robbing them—and in the case of the white sergeant, Wayne Jenkins, reselling the drugs.

“This was a great abuse of the public trust,” Judge Catherine Blake said at Jenkins’ sentencing. “It strikes at the foundation of our entire criminal justice system.”

Eventually, a few more cops were charged as well. But only Hersl and one other detective decided to stand trial and maintain their innocence. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to 18 years.

Initially, like most people from my neighborhood, I celebrated Hersl’s demise. I hated Danny Hersl. He stood for all the abuses and evils the BPD committed against me and my family. I thought the judge was too kind––he should be doing 70 or 80 years. Still, a crooked cop finally went to jail, and I knew he would get a chance to experience the same pain he had brought to so many innocent people. That alone gave me a reason to toast.

But, then, as I continued to try to make sense of my own life through writing, I started looking at Hersl more closely. I didn’t think he was a victim—I wasn’t a victim either—but I did start to think more about the failed drug war and the reasons why we both played a game that cost him his freedom, and could’ve cost me mine. I’ve always said that people needed to understand my environment before judging my past as a dope dealer. Didn’t I owe the same thing to him?

Read the rest of this article at: Highline

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