The loyal oligarchs: A glimpse into the inner workings of Putin’s reign

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(In the paper edition, this article was titled “Oligarchy 2.0”.)

In the nineties, Russia’s oligarchs appropriated state assets—industrial production, mining, and oil and gas deposits—and did what they wanted with them. The oligarchs of the Putin era, on the other hand, are themselves assets of the state, administering business fiefdoms that also happen to pay handsomely. Many have a long-standing relationship with the President, and a particular sphere of responsibility. Rotenberg’s is infrastructure.

pub. 05/2017

A deep dive into Trump/Russia background and history, plus believable speculation

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You’ve probably heard plenty of hushed whispers or outright panic about Russia’s information warfare against the West, but it’s seldom been put in context. We’re going to fix that in our deep dive into exactly how the Trump/Russia saga unfolded. This is one of the most consequential stories of our lifetime, and it’s not over, so get ready to bookmark this piece now.

pub. 05/2017

In Ethiopia, a test of the conventional wisdom

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Contrary to the expert predictions (and ours), quitting was a wise decision for most. The alternatives were not so bad after all: People who worked in agriculture or market selling earned about as much money as they could have at the factory, often with fewer hours and better conditions. We were amazed: By the end of a year only a third of the people who had landed an industrial job were still employed in the industrial sector at all.

pub. 04/2017

The multi-national, multi-continental, multi-cultural shadow industry of Nigerian girls enslaved for sex and money

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“You say that when you get there you will not run,” Sophia, a young woman who had come back from Europe, told me. In exchange for the madam covering travel expenses, the girl agrees to work for her until she has paid back the cost of the journey; the madam keeps her documents, and tells her that any attempt to flee will cause the juju, now inhabiting her body, to attack her. “If you don’t pay, you will die,” Sophia said. “If you speak with the police, you will die. If you tell the truth, you will die.”…

…“There’s an extraordinary level of implicit racism here, and it’s evident in the fact that there are no underage Italian girls working the streets,” Father Enzo Volpe, a priest who runs a center for migrant children and trafficking victims, told me. “Society dictates that it’s bad to sleep with a girl of thirteen or fourteen years. But if she’s African? Nobody gives a fuck. They don’t think of her as a person.”

pub. 04/2017

No, this isn’t about our current administration or its effects, but stories like these are a big and important part of what any government is dealing with in the world, forces that span continents and undermine the kind of social order most of us desire and depend on. Like the more familiar articles about Syrian refugees in Europe and undocumented Mexican workers in the US, this one involves children, poverty, desperation, cruelty, long migration, criminal organizations in many countries, and the fate of darker-skinned foreigners in what we think of as “Western” nations. These stories are not unrelated, and as always, everything is complicated.

De Correspondent on the EU security industry: Who it is, who’s paying for it, and where else the tech goes

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Early last year, journalists from the Netherlands’ de Correspondent contacted their counterparts across the EU, beginning a joint effort to answer questions about European security:

Bodycams, drones, border surveillance, airport scanners, lawful interception, facial recognition – high-tech gadgets are being developed by businesses and deployed across Europe. But what kind of businesses make these technologies? How much money do they earn from them? How are they working with governments? And do these tools really make us safer? We wanted to find out. Not on our own, but working with a team from all over Europe.

pub. throughout early 2017

They’re collecting the many and complex answers in their series Security for Sale; the articles are linked in the right sidebar of the page. Among other things, in a globalized and often opaque world, it’s great to see the collaborative efforts of investigative reporters in action.

More for lovers of the Russia scandal: The New Yorker’s long take on it

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Although the evidence for Russia’s interference appears convincing, it is too easy to allow such an account to become the master narrative of Trump’s ascent—a way to explain the presence of a man who is so alien and discomforting to so much of the population by rendering him in some way foreign. In truth, he is a phenomenon of America’s own making.

At the same time, Trump’s management style as President has been so chaotic, so improvisational, that the daily bonfire sometimes obscures what has been put in place.

pub. 03/2017