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Boss Rail, by Evan Osnos. The New Yorker.
China's meteoric development initiatives are creating a country with the veneer of progress, but few enterprises have had the success or visibility of the growing network of high-speed trains. Until, that is, one of those trains crashed at Wenzhou in July 2011, providing a glimpse of the corrupt politics behind the Communist Party's program.
The Wenzhou crash killed forty people and injured a hundred and ninety-two. For reasons both practical and symbolic, the government was desperate to get trains running again, and within twenty-four hours it declared the line back in business. The Department of Propaganda ordered editors to give the crash as little attention as possible. "Do not question, do not elaborate," it warned, on an internal notice. When newspapers came out the next morning, China's first high-speed train wreck was not on the front page.
But, instead of moving on, the public wanted to know what had happened, and why. This was not a bus plunging off a road in a provincial outpost; it was dozens of men and women dying on one of the nation's proudest achievements-in a newly wired age, when passengers had cell phones and witnesses and critics finally had the tools to humiliate the propagandists.
The Hunt for 'Geronimo,' by Mark Bowden. Vanity Fair.
In an excerpt from his new book, The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Mark Bowden recreates the events leading up to the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.
Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden's life had shrunk to the cramped and crowded space of the upper two floors of a house behind high walls. His days consisted of familiar routines, rarely broken: his meals, his seven daily prayer sessions, his readings, the poetry lessons for his children and grandchildren, the sermons to three of his wives, the brisk daily walk around the vegetable gardens.
In his letter to Sheikh Mahmud, he raced to catch up with the Arab Spring, to interpret the events in light of his own immutable beliefs. Bin Laden also hammered home some advice about security. After more than nine successful years in hiding, he considered himself to be an expert: "It is proven that the American technology and its modern systems cannot arrest a Mujahid if he does not commit a security error that leads them to him," he wrote. "So adherence to security precautions makes their advanced technology a loss and a disappointment to them."
The computer turned bin Laden's words into neat lines of uniform Arabic. He was feeling confident. He had five days to live.
WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images
Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons. by Shane Bauer. Mother Jones.
After 26 months held in an Iranian prison with two other Americans on charges of espionage, the writer visits California's Pelican Bay State Prison and returns to memories of solitary confinement. He finds that, when captivity defines life in terms of deprivation, the United States shares more in common with Iran than Americans may like to think.
Without those windows, I wouldn't have had the sound of ravens, the rare breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights. My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean, median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows. When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.
Here, there are no windows.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images