Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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1. This Is Danny Pearl’s Final Story

Asra Q. Nomani | Washingtonian | January 23, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,639 words)

Asra Nomani, a close friend and colleague of Daniel Pearl — who was murdered in 2002 by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an architect of the 9/11 attacks — discusses how she grappled with Pearl’s death years later while investigating his murder:

One of the first people I come across while waiting for the courtroom doors to open is James Connell, a defense attorney.

“I’m sorry for the death of your friend,” he tells me. “This must be hard for you.”

I don’t know how to respond. Condolences aren’t what I expected to hear, especially from the defense. I’ve come defiant, wearing a gauzy pink tunic to reject the dark black shroud that a radical like KSM would expect on a Muslim woman. “Thank you,” I finally say.

By 9:25 am, we’re seated and a Guantánamo bailiff bellows, “All rise!” As Army colonel James Pohl, the judge, enters, the five defendants remain sitting.

More Washingtonian: “44 Million Ways to Say I’m Sorry” (Marisa M. Kashino)

 

2. On Breaking One’s Neck

Arnold Relman | New York Review of Books | January 20, 2014 | 16 minutes (4,204 words)

A senior physician gets a new perspective about what it’s like to be critically ill under the U.S. medical care system after falling and breaking his neck:

What did this experience teach me about the current state of medical care in the US? Quite a lot, as it turns out. I always knew that the treatment of the critically ill in our best teaching hospitals was excellent. That was certainly confirmed by the life-saving treatment I received in the Massachusetts General emergency room. Physicians there simply refused to let me die (try as hard as I might). But what I hadn’t appreciated was the extent to which, when there is no emergency, new technologies and electronic record-keeping affect how doctors do their work. Attention to the masses of data generated by laboratory and imaging studies has shifted their focus away from the patient. Doctors now spend more time with their computers than at the bedside. That seemed true at both the ICU and Spaulding. Reading the physicians’ notes in the MGH and Spaulding records, I found only a few brief descriptions of how I felt or looked, but there were copious reports of the data from tests and monitoring devices. Conversations with my physicians were infrequent, brief, and hardly ever reported.

More NYRB: “‘The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Ever Seen'” (R.J.W. Evans)

 

3. Darkness in August

Buzz Bissinger | Vanity Fair | January 17, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,546 words)

An account of a senseless murder of a 22-year-old Australian man in Duncan, Oklahoma:

In June 2012, in neighboring Velma, a 16-year-old girl, Braylee Henry, had gone into the Tee Pee Totem convenience store to get a soda. She encountered Miles Bench, a 21-year-old man who worked there. Bench, apparently infatuated with Henry, allegedly beat her to death with a blunt instrument, dumped her body, and then was arrested driving her car. (Bench has pleaded not guilty.)

People in Duncan and surrounding towns were shocked by the brutality of such crimes. They responded with admirable largesse for the families of the victims. But the crimes were passed off as aberrational blips. On the morning of August 16, nobody thought violent crime was trending up.

More Bissinger: “My Gucci Addiction” (GQ, 2013)

 

4. How Japan Stood Up to Old Age

David Pilling | Financial Times | January 17, 2014 | 17 minutes (4,294 words)

A quarter of Japanese are over 65. A look at how the country is supporting its aging population:

In 1990, Japan introduced the “Gold Plan”, expanding long-term care services. Ten years later, it started to worry about how to pay for it, and imposed mandatory insurance for long-term care. All those over 40 are obliged to contribute. The scheme’s finances are augmented with a 50 per cent contribution from taxes and recipients are charged a co-payment on a means-tested basis. Even then, there have been financing problems and the government has had to scale back the level of services provided. Still, Campbell calls it “one of the broadest and most generous schemes in the world”.

As a result of these and other adaptations, he argues, Japan has struck a reasonable balance between providing care and controlling costs. Other countries, including Britain, have studied Japan closely for possible lessons. Of course, 15 years of deflation have left Japan’s overall finances in lousy shape, with a public debt-to-output ratio of 240 per cent, the highest in the world. Spending on healthcare per capita, however, is among the lowest of advanced nations, though outcomes are among the best. That is partly down to lifestyle. Most Japanese eat a healthy, fish-based diet and consume less processed food and sugary drinks than westerners. Obesity is far less common. So are violence and drug abuse. But even taking into account such factors, Japan gets a big bang for its healthcare buck. Every two years, the government renegotiates reimbursement fees with doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, routinely imposing restraints or reductions. Primary care is given priority over specialist treatment: the Japanese visit the doctor far more often than Americans but receive far fewer surgical interventions.

More FT: “The North Koreans Making It Down South” (Simon Mundy)

 

5. TL;DR: Choire Sicha

Full Stop | January 21, 2014 | 6 minutes (1,576 words)

Some predictions about the future of reading and writing, according to Sicha, co-founder of The Awl and author of Very Recent History:

Where does the most interesting (innovative in form and content) writing find its home right now?

I would say the most fascinating and challenging writing is happening on GroupMe, Hipchat, IRC, Campfire, maybe Snapchat and Whisper, and then on the more conversational corners of Tumblr and maybe sometimes Twitter, but not that often, because Twitter is for the olds, and it calcifies really fast.

As writing gets more diverse and possibly more insane in daily practice, as more people are engaged publicly in issuing text to each other, writing in traditional forms—which includes Teh Blogz—has calcified. There are, after all, only so many ways of making a point. The rise of published amateurs is a good thing, overall, though it leads to many hiccups. But everyone has to create her juvenilia somewhere!

More Awl: “The Other Person Is You” (Sarah Miller)

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