The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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1. The Murders Before the Marathon

Susan Zalkind | Boston Magazine | March 1, 2014 | 32 minutes (8,130 words)

A triple murder investigation led by the FBI is potentially linked to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Clandestine actions by the FBI leave the suspect’s friends and family members with more questions, and a community is left wondering: Could solving this case have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings?

Anonymous FBI sources gave numerous accounts of Ibragim’s death to the press, managing to be both vague and contradictory. The agency claimed that, just before being shot, Ibragim had been sitting at a table, about to write a statement that would implicate both himself and Tamerlan in the Waltham murders. In some reports, he lunged at an FBI agent with a knife, while others said he used a pole or a broomstick. It was an agonizing development: The FBI claimed he had been killed at precisely the moment he was about to give the answers so many of us had been waiting for.

Whatever occurred in Ibragim’s apartment the night he was shot dead, his death put the FBI on the defensive. The agency quashed the coroner’s report, leading media outlets and the American Civil Liberties Union to call for an independent investigation. On its editorial page, the Globe declared that “the agency’s credibility is on the line” due to its lack of accountability in Ibragim’s death. Ibragim’s father accused the agency of “premeditated murder” and released photos of his son’s bullet-ridden corpse, showing that he’d been shot in the top of the head—even though the FBI contended that one of its agents had fired in self-defense. Instead of providing answers, the FBI’s investigation of Ibragim had turned into a sudden dead end.

More Boston Magazine: “Black & Blue” (Alyssa Giacobbe, 2013)

 

2. The Whistleblower’s Last Stand

Don Van Natta Jr. | ESPN Magazine | March 4, 2014 | 27 minutes (6,852 words)

How Joe Paterno’s former protégé became the star witness in the Jerry Sandusky trial:

Long before the presentment became public, players, coaches and residents heard rumors – that McQueary saw Sandusky fondle the boy, or that they were engaged in horseplay. But suddenly the rumors were not only true, they had mushroomed into the biggest college football scandal in history, one that wasn’t just about the crimes of one man but about an administration’s alleged attempt to cover them up. Most people here were surprised at how the prosecutors quoted McQueary in the presentment. Anal intercourse? This was far more graphic than the rumors had it; more than a few people asked: Why didn’t Big Red stop it?

More Van Natta: “The Match Maker” (2013)

 

3. The Suit Who Spooked the EPA

Michael Gaynor | Washingtonian | March 4, 2014 | 16 minutes (4,001 words)

John Beale could always be counted on to get the toughest jobs done at the Environmental Protection Agency and garnered respect and admiration from fellow staff members. But when he began taking days off to do work for the CIA while still collecting his full salary, something didn’t add up:

The first time anyone broached the subject was that year, when Jeff Holmstead, then assistant administrator of the Air and Radiation Office, spoke with Beale about his “D.O.” Wednesdays. Beale revealed that the joke was no joke: He’d worked for the three-letter agency earlier in his career, and it was now calling him back for a secret assignment. He would have to take a half day off here and there to help out. Maybe a few whole days, too. Holmstead, who’d known Beale during his time working on the Clean Air Act amendments, agreed to the arrangement.

In 2002 “D.O. Oversight” would appear in Beale’s calendar 22 times. The next year 14 times, and the year after that 18. In 2005 his covert operation took him away for 25 days. At times he’d make coy references to big international news—a bombing in Pakistan, violence in India—and insinuate that the CIA had him working on it. To colleagues who saw Beale as an outstanding employee, it made sense that agencies more selective than the EPA would put his talents to use.

More Washingtonian: “Dr. Hoffman vs. the Mosquito” (Luke Mullins, 2013)

 

4. The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics

Mariah Blake | Mother Jones | March 2014 | 24 minutes (6,114 words)

Consumers were warned about bottles with BPA, but are plastics from BPA-free bottles releasing the same synthetic estrogens? An investigation into the scientific research and public relations campaigns over replacement plastics like Tritan:

The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.

More Blake: “The Fall of the House of Moon” (The New Republic)

 

5. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Roz Chast | The New Yorker | March 10, 2014

Cartoonist Roz Chast’s illustrated memoir on the final years of her parents’ lives.

More New Yorker: “What Louis Armstrong Really Thinks” (Ben Schwartz)

 

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