Selected Work
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The Way of the Conscientious Objector / The New York Times

It was a book of Buddhist parables that put Michael Rasmussen over the edge. In March 2017, Mr. Rasmussen was living near a naval base in Japan, six years into training as a Marine pilot, reading and experimenting with meditation. One morning as he prepared for a supply flight to Hawaii, Mr. Rasmussen kept returning to the story he’d read in bed the night before in “Path of Compassion,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which the Buddha was out begging when he was nearly mugged by a notorious criminal.  Instead of robbing the Buddha, the mugger confessed to a life of murder and mayhem and asked him for advice: “What good act could I possibly do?”

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Neighborhood Watch / MIT Technology Review

At a conference in New Orleans in 2007, Jon Greiner, then the chief of police in Ogden, Utah, heard a presentation by the New York City Police Department about a sophisticated new data hub called a “real time crime center.” Reams of information rendered in red and green splotches, dotted lines, and tiny yellow icons appeared as overlays on an interactive map of New York City: Murders. Shootings. Road closures. You could see the routes of planes landing at LaGuardia and the schedules of container ships arriving at the mouth of the Hudson River. “I’m not New York City,” Greiner thought, “but I could scale this down with the right software.”

Stowaways: Madagascar reckons with an invasive crayfish / Harpers

Jeanne Rasamy first learned of the marbled crayfish from her milkman. On August 26, 2005, Ra-Eloi came to her door, as he did each morning, with two milk canisters at either end of a wooden pole balanced across his shoulders. This time he also carried a straw basket he used to sell fish that he caught in the flooded rice paddies near his home. Inside was a small, grayish crustacean with a marbled pattern on its shell. He was hoping that Rasamy, who had been a biology professor at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar’s capital for more than forty years, might be able to tell him what it was.

If not the cops, who? / The Atlantic

For more than 30 years, Eugene has been home to Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, or CAHOOTS, an initiative designed to help the city’s most vulnerable citizens in ways the police cannot. A police-funded program that costs $1 out of every $50 Eugene spends on cops hardly qualifies as defunding the police. But it may be the closest thing the United States has to an example of whom you might call instead.

Code Season: Farming technology approaches an inflection point  / MIT Technology Review

Technology’s race to disrupt one of the planet’s oldest and largest occupations centers on the effort to imitate, and ultimately outdo, the extraordinary powers of two human body parts: the hand, able to use tweezers or hold a baby, catch or throw a football, cut lettuce or pluck a ripe strawberry with its calyx intact; and the eye, which is increasingly being challenged by a potent combination of cloud computing, digital imagery, and machine learning.

An Inventor, a Seamstress, a Radiologist, and a Programmer Make PPE / California Sunday

The coronavirus arrived at a moment when much of the technology necessary to hack medical manufacturing is available to consumers: 3-D printing and the bandwidth to exchange large files, Slack and GitHub to coordinate and document workflow, Facebook to connect people. For the maker community, the PPE crisis was an opportunity to operate on a global scale — sharing designs for masks, gowns, and more; submitting them to the scrutiny of the crowd; and coordinating deliveries to hospitals through platforms like GetUsPPE.org.

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Out of Work / California Sunday

I thought it’d just be a week things closed, then one week turned into two, and two turned into four. My fiancée and I were flat broke with bills coming up. A fishing buddy had moved an hour inland to a place called Hemet, so we went to stay with him. I ended up getting a job at an Amazon warehouse. I was excited because it paid $17 an hour, plus $2 extra. But it was hell on earth. You feel like an ant in an anthill, standing in a cubicle doing the same thing for ten hours straight — box after box after box, scanning, unpacking, packing one box onto the next box, and it never, ever, ever stopped.

Pandemic Exposes Low Pay and Scant Protections for Nursing Assistants and Home-care Aides / The Los Angeles Times

Less scrutiny has been paid to home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants — who collectively represent the largest category of healthcare workers in the country, nearly 5 million people working across a fragmented landscape that includes teaching hospitals and nursing homes, as well as homes and apartments. These are jobs that do not require an associate’s degree. Even in hospitals, where wages are higher and full-time employment is the norm, these workers are typically paid less than $15 an hour.

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Decades of Decline Left the US's Industrial Commons Incapacitated in the Face of the Pandemic / MIT Technology Review

After the pandemic hit, one ingredient in China’s remarkable recovery was its ability to turn the rudder of its enormous industrial engine to the needs of the moment. By one estimate, Chinese production of N95s and other surgical masks grew 30-fold in less than three months, reaching nearly half a billion a day. By contrast, 3M, the largest domestic US manufacturer of N95s, has received enough government funding to nearly triple its output and currently produces just over 1.5 million a day.
 

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Why Hiking Beats Surfing on Réunion Island / The New York Times

Let’s just say absence makes the hikes grow longer. When I was 22 and in the best shape of my life, I used to hitchhike into the mountains of Réunion Island every weekend to take in the dizzying views and moss-draped forests of the highlands. I spent a year there after college, teaching English in local elementary schools, and on my days off, I’d walk until dark, eat whatever leftovers I’d brought along and pitch my hammock on the side of the trail. Twelve years later, when most of my daily life has been spent working on a laptop, I returned to the island for a hiking getaway with my wife, and neither one of us felt so light on our feet.

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 ...Conservationists had reason to be optimistic: Rio Tinto and its predecessor had already been collaborating with scientists from the Missouri Botanical Garden for more than a decade, funding and conducting botanical surveys and studies of the new species discovered throughout the company’s concession. There were few details yet and no hard benchmarks, but if Rio Tinto followed through, the stance had the potential to reverberate throughout the industry, forcing mining companies to compete for permits on the basis of their environmental programs...

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Downstream: The afterlife of American junk / Harper's

The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattressess—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti...

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The End of Forever: What happens when an adoption fails? / The Atavist

...“They always let me know, ‘Hey, we’re not your family,’” Gladina recalled of Clark and her Jamaican boyfriend. The kids weren’t allowed to socialize outside the house and spent their afternoons inside, watching Dragonball Z on TV. They were scolded for taking food from the kitchen without asking. “Tell the truth. God’s watching,” Mrs. Clark would say...

Where have you hidden the cholera? / Longreads

...Every year since 1998, cholera season in Mozambique has brought a rash of violence that spreads like the disease itself. Convinced they are being poisoned by the people treating their water, farmers and fishermen across northern provinces attack the health workers trying to prevent cholera’s spread and the machinery of their efforts. Government nurses have been beaten and bound with rope. Health centers have been burned to the ground as angry crowds blocked roads demanding to know, “Where have you hidden the cholera?” They are still waiting for an answer.

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Richard Ojeda’s Politics of Regret /  The Nation

...That dissonance—between the ideal of America that inspired his military service and the realities of the downtrodden district where he grew up—is what motivated Ojeda to enter politics. It’s also a major part of what he once found alluring in the “America First” rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign...

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In pursuit of the tortoise smugglers / The Guardian

In February 2016, Richard Lewis, a wildlife conservationist working in Madagascar, was contacted by a veterinary clinic with an unusual request. “Someone went to a vet and said: ‘Can you take a microchip out of a ploughshare?’” Lewis recalled. “So they called us"...

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Comics Without Captions: Can a cartoonist help unseat a dictator? / Virginia Quarterly Review

For Esono, who was not yet two when Obiang seized power in a coup in 1979, comics are the best and perhaps only avenue to undermine a dictator who has ruled over his country for close to forty years. Whether you want to read or not, whether you’re literate or not, Esono says, images can’t be ignored. Esono hasn’t lived in Equatorial Guinea since 2011. Instead, he has become a gadfly of the internet age, taking the political pulse of his country from some 5,000 miles away...

Conservation in a Weak State / Mongabay

Late in the afternoon on June third of this year, Pierette Razafiandravao was at home getting ready for a church outing the following day when she heard gunshots in the distance. At the time, she didn’t think much of it. Armed cattle rustlers have become a disturbingly common presence in her corner of southern Madagascar, and that morning she’d gotten word of a standoff between soldiers on patrol and a group of bandits a few miles north of her house. It was only later that she realized she’d heard the bullets that killed her husband...

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Well-Armed / The Common

A few months before I moved in, Serge was sitting in his house cleaning an AK-47 when it went off in his lap. Looking down, he found his hands were still intact, and he decided then and there to stop selling weapons. On the French mainland, he’d gone to school for aitiopathy, a form of physical therapy that seeks to provide treatment without pain. Down the line, he still looked forward to opening a private practice; gun running wasn’t worth the risk of losing any fingers. Eventually, Serge’s friends would tell me about his arsenal, though I never saw it myself. Each of them had seen a weapon at his house, and they realized, comparing notes, that the individual guns they’d seen were all different. In fact, Serge seemed to have a very large collection...

Mozambique's Mining Boomtown / Guernica

...In the years since this discovery, fortune seekers from around the world have descended on Tete province to develop the region’s natural resources as quickly as possible: Chinese and Indian investors, South African hydraulics techs and geologists, Portuguese construction firms, Australian drillers, British crane operators, and American salespeople specializing in mammoth trucks and excavators. Between 2001 and 2011, investment in Mozambique’s mining sector grew from $20 million to more than $1 billion annually...