Publications just love to give readers a summer reading list, but my list is, ahem, slightly different than the usual light beach reading. Here are two very long stories you'll want to sit down and spend time with. And, unlike those beach reads, these may just change your perspective.
The story of 71 migrants
The migration crisis in Europe continues unabated, though all sorts of other disasters (like the U.S. presidential race) have replaced it in the news.
GQ magazine's story, "The Deadly Journey Faced by Refugees in Europe," focuses on how "a slew of profiteers, traffickers, and politicians are exploiting the situation" in which millions of people are desperate to get to safety. When that happens, the magazine notes, "a tragedy becomes a recurring nightmare."
The story of how the bodies of 71 refugees were found in a refrigerated box truck in Austria in August ran in December but remains a vivid, if horrifying, picture of the desperation of people fleeing for their lives and the pure evil of those trying to rip them off:
They've been swindled. They paid smugglers thousands of dollars to get them from where they began to where they want to go, mostly Germany. They hoped for taxis or Sprinter vans or plain sedans. Or they've come segment by miserable segment: huddled in an overloaded dinghy from Turkey to Greece, a long walk across Serbia, a longer wait in a detention camp in one country or another. They slept on cement at Budapest's Keleti train station until a young man in sunglasses and slicked hair sold them a ride to Vienna. Maybe they've been told their ride would be in the back of the truck. Surely none of them were told they'd be pushed in with 70 others, because none of them would have agreed.
But what is their other option, right now, in the morning in a parking lot in a little city in a strange country? Get out and walk away? Wait for the police to grab them?
They are 200 miles from Vienna. . . . Three hours and one minute until a new life.
They get in the truck.
As awful as the story is, perspective is also needed. Those 71 refugees represent just 3 percent of the more than 2,700 refugees who made their way to Europe every day in 2015.
A different gulf war
The incredible Barry Yeoman brings us "The Gulf War" for Food & Environment Reporting Network in partnership with Texas Monthly. This war in the gulf, however, is a war over red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
It tells the story of how overfishing brought the red snapper population down to just 2.6 percent of what it would be without fishing and how new federal regulations appear to be a success story.
"The population is more than halfway to a healthy size, which scientists project it should reach by 2032 if the current system remains in place," Yeoman writes.
Great news, right?
But snapper has also become the source of a battle between commercial and recreational fishers, the subject of lawsuits, congressional hearings, and accusations of elitism from both sides. While those sectors clash everywhere — over prized species like king salmon and striped bass — the dispute over Gulf red snapper has become a particularly sprawling rumble. It has sucked in not just fishers but also politicians, regulators, charter boat captains, scientists, environmental activists, chefs, and restaurateurs. Disputes over data give way to accusations of hidden agendas. One side gets accused of plantation economics. The other gets accused of shafting their own grandmothers.
To tell the story, Yeoman traces the path of a fish backward from his plate at a New Orleans restaurant, talking to everyone from the chef to the wholesaler to the fisherman. You may never look at a snapper the same.
A word of caution, however: The sailors quoted in the story often talk like, well, sailors, and their language can at times be salty.
Whatever you read, and wherever you read it, may it leave you with something more than just entertainment.
Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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