Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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1. Inside Monopoly’s Secret War Against the Third Reich

Christian Donlan | Eurogamer | January 12, 2014 | 35 minutes (8,900 words)

How a popular board game helped flood escape tools into POW camps around Europe during World War II:

“The Deluxe set looks very much like the set you would have found in stores maybe ten years ago,” Orbanes tells me. “The box would have been the same size as the game board. The board fit into the box, and the box was maybe an inch in depth. It was black in colour and it had a two-colour label that adhered to the middle of the top surface. That’s what would have been shipped into the German POW camps.”

And what would have been inside it? “There’s an organisation here in the US called the Army Air Force Historical Association,” Orbanes says. “They made contact with me about three years ago after looking at my book on Monopoly, and one of their members, a graphic artist, took it upon himself not only to do a lot of research through whatever his channels would be, but also to recreate one of these sets, which he’s done for display at their headquarters.

“What he found out along the way is that the tools that most likely would have been used in this set would have been a very small compass, maybe an inch in diameter, and they also would have had files – two different types to get you through fencing material, and probably a folding pair of shears, a very small set of shears that would collapse on a pivot, and then of course a silk escape map that would have been appropriate for whatever camp the delivery was for.”

 See also: “Monopoly Is Theft” (Christopher Ketcham, Harper’s)

 

2. The Steroid Hunt

Bryan Curtis | Grantland | January 16, 2014 | 25 minutes (6,273 words)

A brief history of how reporters first covered performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, starting with the time Baseball Weekly writer Pete Williams hit the gym with Ken Caminiti:

His post-workout high set him off to report on creatine, the supplement Baseball Weekly would dub the game’s “new gunpowder.”

Baseball Weekly had a decent travel budget and Williams was able to interview lots of players. The list now reads like a suspect list of the steroid era. Mark McGwire. Jason Giambi. Mike Piazza. They wanted to talk to Williams. The word cheater was barely in circulation. In the age when few ballplayers took weight lifting seriously, the players thought of themselves as innovators. Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson, whose home run total jumped from 16 in ’95 to 50 in ’96, pulled out supplement after supplement to show Williams. There’s this, Anderson said. And this … McGwire declared Power Creatine “the best product on the market today.”

More Curtis: “From Here to Paternity: On Maury Povich”

 

3. A Toast Story

John Gravois | Pacific Standard | January 13, 2014 | 15 minutes (3,967 words)

The surprising, emotionally affecting origin story behind artisanal toast:

The smallness of her cafés is another device to stoke interaction, on the theory that it’s simply hard to avoid talking to people standing nine inches away from you. And cinnamon toast is a kind of all-purpose mollifier: something Carrelli offers her customers whenever Trouble is abrasive, or loud, or crowded, or refuses to give them what they want. “No one can be mad at toast,” she said.

Carrelli’s explanations made a delightfully weird, fleeting kind of sense as I heard them. But then she told me something that made Trouble snap into focus. More than a café, the shop is a carpentered-together, ingenious mechanism—a specialized tool—designed to keep Carrelli tethered to herself.

See also: “The Agnostic Cartographer” (Washington Monthly)

 

4. Blood in the Sand: Killing a Turtle Advocate

Matthew Power | Outside | January 2, 2014 | 20 minutes (5,002 words)

A conservationist and advocate for endangered turtles is murdered on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast:

For decades, Playa Moín has been a destination for hueveros—literally, “egg men”—small-time poachers who plunder sea turtle nests and sell the eggs for a dollar each as an aphrodisiac. But as crime along the Caribbean coast has risen, so has organized egg poaching, which has helped decimate the leatherback population. By most estimates, fewer than 34,000 nesting females remain worldwide. Since 2010, Mora had been living at the sanctuary and patrolling the beach for a nonprofit organization called the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, or Widecast. His strategy was to beat the hueveros to the punch by gathering eggs from freshly laid nests and spiriting them to a hatchery on the sanctuary grounds. This was dangerous work. Every poacher on Moín knew Mora, and confrontations were frequent—he once jumped out of a moving truck to tackle a huevero.

More Power: “Confessions of a Drone Warrior” (GQ)

 

5. 60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History

Gregory D. Johnsen | BuzzFeed | January 17, 2014 | 43 minutes (10,806 words)

Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world:

Unbound by time and unlimited by geography, the sentence has been stretched and expanded over the past decade, sprouting new meanings and interpretations as two successive administrations have each attempted to keep pace with an evolving threat while simultaneously maintaining the security of the homeland. In the process, what was initially thought to authorize force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan has now been used to justify operations in several countries across multiple continents and, at least theoretically, could allow the president — any president — to strike anywhere at anytime. What was written in a few days of fear has now come to govern years of action.

More BuzzFeed: “Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500″ (Drew Philp)

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Photo: paulokeefe, Flickr

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