New York Times and nonprofit team up for chilling exposé
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The kidnapping of nearly 300 girls during the bloody Nigerian conflict between the government and insurgent Boko Haram has elicited global sympathy. But our rage is selective. What about the far larger number of boys dragged into hell?
The New York Times Magazine this week offers a truly depressing tale of depravity in "Trained to Kill: How Four Boy Soldiers Survived Boko Haram," the result of increasing ingenuity in covering news overseas.
The lengthy tale is by Sarah Topol, an Istanbul-based freelance journalist, and is the result of funding by the Pulitzer Center, a nonprofit that supports international reporting at a time of shrinking domestic news budgets. Photographer Glenna Gordon made the images.
This one is a winner and recreates the saga of "the boys from Baga," a fishing town. They "walked out of hell into a world that didn’t seem to want them," Topol writes.
"The stories they told me about rituals like infant slaughter and bathing your hands in blood have not been previously reported as part of life under Boko Haram. But their stories were consistent, and rumors of such acts have circulated around northeast Nigeria."
This goes into great detail about what could be as many as 10,000 boys, aptly termed "a stolen generation," forced by Boko Haram to do unspeakable acts to stay alive. They were trained to be killers — shooting and beheading people, then bathing their own hands in blood — and survived on rice, dates and fear.
And somehow nobody knew about this for a very long time.
"The eight-year conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian state has killed more than 20,000 and displaced millions. The people have slipped out of Boko Haram’s control quietly by night or trudged en masse from a large-scale attack to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri."
"It was not until parents started pouring into the city that aid workers realized a new dimension of the problem. They saw the crowds of women and girls coming in and wondered: Where are the boys?"
Well, they are out there, forgetting who they were as they took on enforced new lives. And, then, some were able to flee, return home and somehow proceed with their lives.
Topol profiles four, altering their names lest Boko Haram learn of their infidelity and, somehow, try to exact even more pain.
If you don't know of the Pulitzer Center, it is an admirable, decade-old force supporting some of the most adventurous international journalism by a disparate array of media outlets. Here's a profile.
And if you really want to get your weekend off to glum start, The Economist has profiled the child soldiers of ISIS.
What's the media's impact on Trump?
"Public opinion of Donald Trump remains stable after one of the rockiest months of his presidency, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found, but half of Americans hold negative views of his temperament, trustworthiness and level of knowledge needed for his job." (The Wall Street Journal)
The new age of White House briefings
Trump & Co. on Thursday held another press briefing that barred cameras and live audio. So thanks to The Washington Post for its annotated version of the questions and answers.
It's surely a coincidence that these have happened on big news days, such as the Republican Senate majority's rollout of its healthcare bill.
Great media work (if you can find it)
Cannes, France hosted the big Cannes Lions gathering of media and ad titans, and there seems to have been one common denominator, at least when it came to many of the parties: DJ Mick Batyske, the music boss for big shindigs hosted by Twitter, Pinterest, Nielsen and others. (Adweek)
Google and data requests
"Normally, when a government or its law enforcement agencies seek data held on a server abroad, it must first request that data through official channels within the country where that server is located to help obtain the information." (Recode)
"Google thinks governments should be able to make these kinds of requests directly to the companies that have access to the data. As part of Google’s proposal, it suggests that in order to qualify for this kind of direct access, countries would have to adhere to certain standards of due process, human rights and privacy. The exact nature of these standards was not immediately clear."
Homage to Messi
The sublime soccer player Lionel Messi turns 30 Saturday, prompting a vaguely melancholy tribute on ESPN's soccer site.
"His gifts are so great, his miracles so routine, that they can exceed our capacity to appreciate them. He lifts us, but he also exposes the limits of our attention, the ceiling for our mindfulness. He has given us so much to remember, we're already starting to forget."
The Chicago Bulls, a terrible team, traded their one very good player, Jimmy Butler, in an NBA draft night deal with Minnesota that perhaps reminded one of the penchant for a certain homer-ism by local folks.
In sum, the seeming consensus in Chicago was, hey, not a bad deal. Typical is a Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Rick Morrissey:
"The Bulls rightly were asking the world for Butler, an excellent two-way player, and Minnesota dropped some version of it at their doorstep."
The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh says the team "is finally headed in a clear direction," though you might just characterize various dictators, civil wars and famines in similar fashion.
Well, Fox Sports concluded that, "one thing has remained the same: The Chicago Bulls front office has no idea what it’s doing. The Bulls were absolutely fleeced in Thursday’s deal."
And Sports Illustrated agreed, "Wolves Fleece Bulls In Jimmy Butler Blockbuster."
A tweet heard around a lot of the world
The request of Jeff Bezos on Twitter "asking how he can best use his wealth to help people 'right now' has set off a frenzy of responses from every corner of the world." (Bloomberg)
"They include pleas to support healthcare, education and loan forgiveness, offbeat appeals to back a leather fetish museum in Chicago, plus snarky demands to reboot favorite TV shows. Even Madonna chimed in, inviting the world’s second-richest man to visit Detroit to engage with charities there."
The Senate bill, explained
There are lots of good efforts this morning on the Senate Republicans' proposal to replace Obamacare, with one of the better ones by Sarah Kliff of Vox.
Annals of free speech
So now, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education, professors are getting pilloried for things they never actually said. A case in point is Johnny Eric Williams, an assistant professor of sociology at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, which actually shut the campus Wednesday after threats resulting from an article about him on a conservative website.
The headline was "Prof calls Whites ‘inhuman assholes,’ says ‘let them die.’" It claimed he said that the first Black responders to the congressional shooting should have not done anything and just let Whites die. Not true. (Chronicle)
The morning babble
"Trump & Friends," which benefits fully from the formal West Wing seal of approval, included show co-host and emerging pro bono morning spokesman Ainsley Earhardt once again at the White House, this time interviewing Melania Trump and her husband.
The marketing department could have stayed home since Trump tweeted word of the appearance shortly after 6 a.m. (@realdonaltrump)
The session itself was taped before a picnic last night and included Trump's lame response to why he intimated he might have taped James Comey. "My story was always the truth. I did not tape." He also claimed that Robert Mueller has hired Hillary Clinton partisans for his investigation.
As for Melania, she said about the move by her and son Barron to the White House, "We are enjoying it very much." It didn't get more trenchant.
Muslim images on TV
A research paper at Harvard's Shorenstein Center shows, "In an analysis of the major newscasts of three outlets — CBS, Fox, and NBC — (Meighan) Stone finds that during a two-year period from 2015-2017, there was not a single month where positive stories about Muslims outnumbered negative stories." (Shorenstein)
War and terrorist-related activities drove coverage, "while positive coverage, such as human interest stories or those depicting Muslims as productive members of society, were overlooked. In reports where Muslims were the focus, only 3 percent of the voices heard were those of Muslims, while Trump spoke on their behalf 21 percent of the time. Stories about refugees were also negative in tone; more than half of the global refugee population is Muslim."
Get out the cake
Happy birthday, dear iPhone! Happy birthday to you. On No. 10, The Wall Street Journal assesses its dramatic impact on world business as sweeping, it argues, as the coming of the personal computer in the 1980s.
Comey and The New York Times
The Daily Mail got a photo of James Comey walking out of The New York Times building yesterday with his wife. "Trump & Friends" this morning jabbered as if he'd gone to meet somebody at the paper.
He apparently did not, instead going to a charity event at a law firm in the same building. But the morning trio, which today included the censorious Ed Henry, left the distinct impression he surely snuck into some nook and cranny to talk to the evil mainstream media.
Too bad they've junked that "fair and balanced" motto, eh?
OK, the the weekend is upon us. We've got a very light schedule of kids ball games, featuring the Rockies of the Welles Park coach-pitch junior division (seven- and eight-year-olds). The Rockies are in third place but won two last weekend to close the gap. Tonight brings pizza, bourbon and red wine. Cheers.