Kahn writes this week's cover story about the dispiriting work of
saving endangered animals such as these nine-day old akikiki chicks that
were hatched at the egg-rearing house on Kauai. Spencer Lowell for The New York Times
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I tend to like stories about the complicated relationship between
humans and the natural world, so this week’s cover story by Jennifer
Kahn grabbed me immediately. It’s about how the number of animals on the endangered species list is increasing,
and many are entirely dependent on humans to keep them from going
extinct. Basically, they’re on life support, and we — meaning you,
me and all the other homo sapiens — are sitting next to the bed, trying to figure out how long to keep the machines running.
It’s a fascinating, alarming piece, and lest you think it’s just a big
depression session, note that most of the action takes place in Hawaii,
where Kahn follows around an extremely likable crew of heroic
conservationists trying to save the akikiki (not a typo), “a small
gray-and-white bird that feeds on insects, doesn’t sing and has
noticeably large feet.” See a photo of nine-day old akikiki chicks
Bichler, our design director, did a wonderful job turning this story
into a memorable image for the cover. She commissioned a collage of
Hawaiian foliage, with a bird shape cut out in the middle, from the
Dutch artist Hagar Vardimon. There’s a lot more in the issue I think you should read. Here are some of the highlights:
WORLD’S LARGEST RANSOM:Robert
F. Worth follows the labyrinthine tale of the 24 Qatari
falconers — some of them members of Qatar’s ruling family — who were
kidnapped in 2015 while hunting in southern Iraq. The negotiations over
their release, which involved perhaps the largest cash ransom in world
history, provide a revealing map of the sectarian strife, secret
alliances, unintended consequences and betrayals that make the Middle
East such an intensely tangled web.
I’M SOBER. NOW WHAT?In
an excerpt from her new memoir, Leslie Jamison wrestles with a dark
fear that haunted her recovery from alcoholism: would her creative
energies dissipate once she was clean? It’s a brave and honest piece of
introspective writing that’s hard to put down. It’s also full of really
interesting literary history, as Leslie explores the ups and downs of
famous writer-drunks of the past — John Berryman, Charles Jackson, Denis
Johnson and others (mostly men, as Leslie notes).
THE RACISTS NEXT DOOR:This
week’s Ethicist is about whether the owner of a rental property has an
obligation to tell potential tenants that the next door neighbors are
hella racist. The Ethicist thinks the answer is yes.
Chinese real estate company is building four islands from scratch in
the waters of a foreign country, Malaysia, and constructing a futuristic
“insta-city” with high-rise condos marketed to buyers from mainland
China. The project is expected to cost $100 billion, and is already
becoming a flash point for objections to Chinese economic colonialism.
AN UPDATE FROM VENEZUELA: Last week, Wil S. Hylton wrote about
Venezuela’s opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who is currently under
house arrest and prohibited from speaking to the press. Lopez was taking
an enormous risk by talking to The New York Times for our story.
Earlier this week, a very moving episode of The Daily delved into his decision to do so.
Shortly after our story was published online, on March 1, officers from
the Venezuelan intelligence services raided Lopez’s house. He assumed
they were going to take him back to prison, but as of this writing they
have not. Instead, they're still stationed on his front sidewalk. Here, Wil updates us on what has been happening since we the story appeared.
And finally, I’m thrilled to announce that the magazine won the 2018 National Magazine Award for Reporting for “The Uncounted,” Azmat
Khan and Anand Gopal’s November cover story about the number of
civilians killed in the Coalition air war against ISIS in Iraq. They
visited the sites of more than 150 airstrikes in northern Iraq for this
piece, conducting the only systematic, ground-based survey of civilian
deaths since the war began in 2014. It’s hard to imagine two reporters
more deserving of an award like this than Anand and Azmat.
That’s it for this week’s newsletter. See you next week.