During his eight years living in the White House, Barack Obama famously read 10 letters from American citizens every day. And Jeanne Marie Laskas, one of our very best longform writers, introduces us to those voices—and, in a rare interview with Obama, shows how important the evening ritual became for him. The letter writers wanted their voices to be heard—and their lives seen—by their President. Obama says he felt it was part of his duty to respond to as many letter-writers as he could: "my presence there signified to those families that they were important. Their loved ones were important. The grief they were feeling was important. That it had been seen and acknowledged."
This piece includes audio clips of citizens reading their letters to the President and is an excerpt of Laskas’ forthcoming book, To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger and Hope, to be published on Sept. 18.
An attack launched by the Russian military, as part of its cyber warfare unit, crippled the global supply chain and cost more than $10 billion in damages—no matter how desperately the victims tried to restore their corporate systems online.
In a matter of hours on June 27, 2017, the attack, triggered by a piece of malware called NotPetya, decimated global companies’ computer systems, from pharmaceutical giant Merck to delivery giant FedEx. The attack also paralyzed 17 of global shipping giant Maersk’s terminals in ports around the world, from New Jersey to Mumbai. “It was clear this problem was of a magnitude never seen before in global transport,” one Maersk customer recalls. “In the history of shipping IT, no one has ever gone through such a monumental crisis.” One of the things I admire most about this piece is that despite Maersk executives’ refusal to talk, Andy Greenberg collected many revealing details about the company’s handling, step by step, of a crisis that took weeks to contain.
By the way, this article is an excerpt of Greenberg’s forthcoming book, Sandworm.
What does it mean to be white, to be black, to be Native American—in your peers’ eyes, in the government’s eyes, in your own eyes? Few understand the power of those questions better than members of the Lumbee tribe, which has had its racial qualifications examined and debated for decades. Prepare for this forensic investigation of identity, paired with minimalist portraits, to change the way you think.
THE REMEMBRANCE: JOHN McCAIN By Robert D. McFadden (~30 minutes)
John McCain, the war hero, five-term U.S. senator from Arizona and Republican presidential nominee in 2008, died Saturday at the age of 81.
"A son and grandson of four-star admirals who were his larger-than-life heroes, Mr. McCain carried his renowned name into battle and into political fights for more than a half-century,” Robert D. McFadden writes in McCain’s obit. “It was an odyssey driven by raw ambition, the conservative instincts of a shrewd military man, a rebelliousness evident since childhood and a temper that sometimes bordered on explosiveness."
The subhed on this compelling, poignant piece—“This is what it’s like to go from journalist to patient”—isn’t quite right. A journalist who covers health care and politics in Florida, Alexandra Glorioso is continuing, after her breast cancer diagnosis, to do the reporting that she’s always done. Only this time, she is the subject, checking this piece’s facts with her doctor. “I always fear misquoting or mischaracterizing someone,” she writes, “but now, the person I fear misquoting will soon cut me open on an operating table.”
Since Gerald Ford, every American President has left the White House to quickly cash in on a multitude of pathways to vast wealth. Everyone, that is, except Jimmy Carter, now nearly 94 years old. “I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter says in this lovely profile of him and his beloved wife of 72 years, Rosalynn, as they savor their golden years in Plains, Ga. “It just had never been my ambition to be rich.”
The incredible true story of a high school football star’s recovery from a brain injury and how it changed the way he, his family and his coaches see the sport. By my supremely talented ESPN colleague and friend, Tim Keown.
Has anyone ever SyHershed the legendary Sy Hersh? James Rosen lands many body blows to Hersh and his outside-the-lines methods, in this sharply drawn smackdown of the 81-year-old, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter.
Beto O’Rourke’s thoughtful, rousing and nuanced answer to a question about the ongoing Trump vs. NFL players’ protests controversy went viral late last week, introducing even more people to the Texas Democrat’s fresh-faced candidacy. O’Rourke is trying to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in deep-red Texas, a state where no Democrat has won a statewide election since 1994. This piece by Christopher Hooks explains why so many Democrats nationwide have pinned their giddy hopes on O’Rourke—this November and beyond—while also outlining the challenges facing the incumbent, who says, despite being on the national stage for years, that he’s misunderstood by his fellow Texans.
After three decades living in New York and becoming a naturalized American citizen, Rebecca Mead has made the difficult choice to return to Britain, where she was born and raised. But England isn’t home.
“Everyone I’ve talked to who comes out of it said ‘I don’t really think he [Mark Zuckerberg] was listening. It feels like by inviting all these people in, they’re trying to drive the problem away from them.”
-A person familiar with dinners organized at Mark Zuckerberg’s house to talk about content moderation
Maria Bustillos is the current editor in chief of Popula, an alternative news and culture magazine that recently launched on the blockchain-based Civil platform. In this week's episode, Don and Maria walk through one of Popula's first pieces published, her 20,000-word interview with the late Anthony Bourdain—“he spent two and a half hours with me in the comfy Irish bar, blabbing about everything under the sun ... And nobody bothered us in all that time, it was like there was a force field around him.”—as well as blockchain-based journalism—“it’s obvious why [blockchain] recordkeeping is valuable for journalism: it allows us to maintain archives that can’t be censored or altered after the fact. We can amend previous records only through addenda, in other words: not through erasure. This is the first benefit of blockchain technology to the free press, and this benefit alone makes it worth moving our news media into blockchain-based publishing systems.” Maria's work has previously appeared in The New Yorker, The Awl, The New York Times, Harper’s and The Guardian.
In this forward-looking piece, business-journo pro Carol J. Loomis profiles Alfred Jones, the Columbia University sociologist and lapsed Fortune journalist who started one of the first hedge funds. There's something Michael Lewis-ish about this piece, which was published when Lewis was six: It's written for the layman without the unnecessary jargon that mars much financial journalism. And its finds are applicable to life outside the balance sheet.
Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.
Someone this week happened to mention this unnarrated doc about Swan Lake from 2008, so I went and checked it out. It’s full of great voices, fantastic hidden history, and elegant production. More importantly, it’s part of the BBC’s “Soul Music” series, which I admit I didn’t know existed. But I am now completely binging on the archives: God Only Knows, Sukiyaki (this one is particularly moving), and many more. Just check out the list, find a song you love, and dive in. Happy crate digging.
Sunday Pod curator Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.
My faith in the value of daily journalism was reinforced in this photograph by Jacquelyn Martin of the Associated Press. Veteran photojournalist Martin was at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., for the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, on August 21, 2018. She captured NBC News intern Cassie Semyon, 21, in mid-stride as the Temple University journalism student bolted from the courthouse to deliver news of the verdict, guilty on eight of 18 charges (cell phones and cameras were not allowed inside). A statue of Lady Justice and the courthouse facade looms in the background. Martin’s quick judgment and Semyon’s fleet feet came together in a single photo that reassures us that the future of journalism is as strong as the next generation of truth-driven rookies and the experienced veterans who mentor them – and never miss an important moment. The image also drives home the fact that a photograph doesn’t have to be literal to convey the news and catch readers’ eyes. You don’t have to see lawyers in front of microphones – the typical courthouse scene – to understand the importance and history of the news happening here.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.
"Talk of artificial intelligence is everywhere" reads the first sentence of a recent academic paper by University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo. Indeed, it is hard to go more than a week without hearing some reference to "AI" or "machine learning." In his new paper, Calo "explains why AI is suddenly on everyone's mind and provides a roadmap to the major policy questions AI raises."
Sunday Esoterica curator Ryan Rodenberg works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law. He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too.
When an iconic artist passes, it's reflexive to mourn the loss of their physical presence. But we, and every generation hereafter, will enjoy the product of what made that artist such an incredibly forceful presence. And in these divisive times where frequent battles are drawn up along racial, political, religious and social lines, celebrating the life and art of a transcendent soul such as Aretha Franklin brings warring factions together for a thoughtful respite, at least for a short while.
The Queen of Soul's impact on the past century of music is far too grand for us to offer up only one album to drop the needle on today, so let's take a listen to some stellar examples of her recorded work in three key areas in which she excelled as much, or more than, anyone else whose ever breathed into a microphone: the studio, especially that famed spot in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as well as the Stage, and in praise of her Lord.
Also, please take a moment to read this thoughtful appreciation written by my Dallas Morning News colleague Thor Christensen.
Long Play curator Kelly Dearmore is the Music Critic for the Dallas Morning News. Yes, he's heard your son's demo tape, and he thinks it's fantastic.
@realDonaldTrump:Where’s the Collusion? They made up a phony crime called Collusion, and when there was no Collusion they say there was Obstruction (of a phony crime that never existed). If you FIGHT BACK or say anything bad about the Rigged Witch Hunt, they scream Obstruction!
Tim: I never will stoop to collude
with anyone anywhere, dude.
And I've always bucked
the urge to obstruct;
Integrity I do exude.
Sunday Limerick writer Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.
The Sund&y Ampers&nd from Nick Aster
The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Nick Aster. Nick most recently served as founder of TriplePundit.com, a leading publication focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
Boy-men celebs, like Justin Bieber and Jonah Hill, have embraced a kind of sleazoid fashion, looking “like the kind of guys who spend their time perfecting shoplifting techniques or creeping everyone out at the bowling alley bar.”
Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr. Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg
Digital Team: Nation Hahn, Nickolaus Hines, Megan McDonell, Alexa Steinberg Podcast Team: Peter Bailey-Wells, Cary Barbor, Julian McKenzie, Jonathan Yales Campus Editor: Peter Warren
Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.
Header Image: Christian Northeast
You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: SundayLongRead.com. Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.