Militia on an Army base

This story, by Nadya Labi, about an anti-government militia forming on a military base really doesn’t make the US Military look very good. Isaac Aguigui’s wife died suspiciously resulting in a cash payment of about a half million dollars to Aguigui, money he then used to buy weapons and drugs, and befriend other disaffected soldiers. Eventually, the militia’s paranoia turned on itself and murdered one of the members and his girlfriend. Before that, the Army missed several signals something was wrong.

Aguigui became close to Private Christopher Salmon, nicknamed Phish, who had been caught committing travel-voucher fraud in Iraq and was assigned extra duty as punishment. His wife, Heather, was pregnant, and she had recently been discharged from the Army for prescription-drug abuse. The two men sat together, smoking Spice and talking about their deepening antipathy toward the military and the government. At first, Heather was skeptical of Aguigui; she had met him before Deirdre died, at a beer-pong party off post, and overheard him arranging to meet a girl at the barracks. But after Deirdre’s death she felt sorry for him—and, she said, “he was my husband’s best friend.” She suggested inviting him to dinner at their home, a white four-bedroom row house on the base. “He came to my house and never really left,” she said. “One night turned into a week, a week turned into a month.” He took over the couch, and then moved into his own room.

Militia on an Army base

Capturing El Chapo

A compelling story about how one of the most powerful drug dealers in Mexico was captured.

Guzmán had other weaknesses. “He loves the gourmet food,” a D.E.A. official told me. From time to time, he would be spotted at an elegant restaurant in Sinaloa or in a neighboring state. The choreography was always the same. Diners would be startled by a team of gunmen, who would politely but firmly demand their telephones, promising that they would be returned at the end of the evening. Chapo and his entourage would come in and feast on shrimp and steak, then thank the other diners for their forbearance, return the telephones, pick up the tab for everyone, and head off into the night.

Capturing El Chapo

13 most read New Yorker articles of the year

Nicholas Thompson posted the 13 most read New Yorker articles of 2013 yesterday…as a slide-show. There’s a lot to keep you busy over the next couple days if you’re tired of fighting with your parents and just want to curl up on you childhood bed beneath the Backstreet Boys posters and cuddle with a mug of tea and a good tablet. For what it’s worth, I think I read 5 of these, started two others, and had the rest open in the tab attic for weeks before banishing them to Didntreadistan. The 13 most read New Yorker blog posts are here.

A Pickpocket’s Tale,” by Adam Green, January 7th.
The Science of Sex Abuse,” by Rachel Aviv, January 14th.
The Operator,” by Michael Specter, February 4th.
A Mass Shooter’s Tragic Past,” by Patrick Radden Keefe, February 11th.
Requiem for a Dream,” by Larissa MacFarquhar, March 11th.
The Master,” by Marc Fisher, April 1st.
A Word from Our Sponsor,” by Jane Mayer. May 27th.
The Lyme Wars,” by Michael Specter, July 1st.
Slow Ideas,” by Atul Gawande, July 29th.
Trial by Twitter,” by Ariel Levy, August 5th.
Taken,” by Sarah Stillman, August 12th.
The Shadow Commander,” by Dexter Filkins, September 30th.
Now We Are Five,” by David Sedaris, October 28th.

13 most read New Yorker articles of the year

The men who steal eggs

This 7700-word article about bird egg collecting is a strong, strong contender for the “Most New Yorkery Article” of the year. That said, it is also fascinating and full of bird and bird egg history. Additionally, the study of eggs is called Oology. I couldn’t stop reading this article.

At the turn of the twentieth century, as the conservation movement began raising awareness of endangered species, the collecting of wild-bird eggs came under scrutiny. In 1922 in London, Earl Buxton, addressing the annual meeting of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, warned of the “distinct menace” posed by egg-collecting members of the British Ornithologists’ Union, of which Lord Rothschild was a member. Indignant, Rothschild split off and, with the Reverend Francis Charles Robert Jourdain, a cantankerous Oxford-educated ornithologist who bore a scar across his forehead from falling off a cliff in search of an eagle’s nest, formed the British Oological Association. The group, which renamed itself the Jourdain Society after Jourdain died, in 1940, proclaimed that it was the only organization in the country dedicated to egg collecting.

It has not fared well. In 1954, the Protection of Birds Act outlawed the taking of most wild-bird eggs in the U.K. In 1981, some ninety species were declared Schedule 1; possession of their eggs, unless they were taken before 1954, is a crime. Meetings of the Jourdain Society, to which members wore formal attire and carried display cabinets full of eggs, became the target of spectacular raids and stings. By the nineteen-nineties, more than half of Jourdain Society members had egg-collecting convictions, according to the R.S.P.B. One member recently agreed to a radio interview only after insuring that his voice would be disguised.

“An awful lot of the ornithological knowledge we hold dear is based on the work of both professional and amateur naturalists over the course of the last two hundred years, and that involved significant amounts of collecting,” Russell said, as we passed an aisle with Jourdain’s eggs. “But today’s collectors are not what I would call ornithologists. These are obsessives who have chosen eggs as a particularly attractive thing. The suspect part of the attraction is that you’re not allowed to do it.”

(Thanks, Joe)

The men who steal eggs

New Zadie Smith short story in the New Yorker

The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith in this week’s New Yorker.

Next door to the embassy is a health center. On the other side, a row of private residences, most of them belonging to wealthy Arabs (or so we, the people of Willesden, contend). They have Corinthian pillars on either side of their front doors, and—it’s widely believed—swimming pools out back. The embassy, by contrast, is not very grand. It is only a four- or five-bedroom North London suburban villa, built at some point in the thirties, surrounded by a red brick wall, about eight feet high. And back and forth, cresting this wall horizontally, flies a shuttlecock. They are playing badminton in the Embassy of Cambodia. Pock, smash. Pock, smash.

New Zadie Smith short story in the New Yorker