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Recoil Operation


Small Arms, Long Reach: America’s Rifle Abroad

ON January 16th 2016, two California National Guardsmen pleaded guilty in a Federal court to a variety of weapons trafficking charges. They had previously worked in an Army National Guard armory not far from San Diego, and, being entrepreneurial sorts, had gone about gathering a small cache of guns to sell themselves. Some were military-issued, others were purchased in Texas (both over-the-counter, with serial numbers, and “hot,” with serial numbers defaced). The Guardsmen thought the guns were destined for south of the border; in fact, their client was an undercover ATF agent, and his purchases from the Guardsmen – three AR-15-style rifles, an AK-47, numerous high-capacity magazines, more – ultimately wound up as evidence at their trial, which was well-reported. Coverage from multiple sources all underlined one particular detail: for one of their meetings with that ATF agent, the two soldiers had arrived in full military uniform.

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Don DeLillo Did 9/11


Surpassed by history, will the novelist put down his pen?

FOR a writer who has made a career out of understanding the increasing pace of contemporary life, DeLillo has remained steady, putting out a new novel every few years since his hyper-productive 1970s. The six years he took to write Zero K, his most recent novel, is the longest he’s taken since his 1997 masterpiece Underworld, which weighed in at 800-plus pages. It’s hard to write about the cutting edge of geopolitics, art, and ideology at that kind of interval. Zero K ends with the protagonist enraptured by the beauty of Manhattanhenge, a biannual phenomenon when the setting sun aligns with the New York City grid. At some point in the past 50 years, this might have been in a cool factoid for those not in the know and a nice moment of recognition for New Yorkers. But in the age of social media, it feels like an aunt posting a viral BoredPanda video on Facebook two years too late.

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The Bengali Click Farmer


Factory-farmed likes rely on a global hierarchy that determines whose feelings count as real

WHAT’S the value of the Facebook like? Midway through American director Garrett Bradley’s nine-minute documentary, Like (2016), a scraggly, worn-faced Bangladeshi man asks this question — one that’s typically uttered by academics or social media strategists. Released at the end of March by Field of Vision, First Look Media’s documentary arm, Like concerns the cottage industry of click farms in Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka. Flush with cash, this pay-per-like market employs a $200-million-a-year silent workforce, where a customer can pay $50 for at least a thousand likes per post. Its workers, like the man asking the question, receive a meager monthly stipend in exchange for the labor, the emotionally deadening task of manually clicking Facebook’s like button over and over again for hours.

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Only Women Are Named Hope


The beauty industry may exploit a potent mix of hope and desperation, but we should always want women to want more.

THREE and a half years ago, I bought a popular anti-aging cream that purported to give “noticeable results in just one week.” I’d just begun my beauty blog and thought, Hell, I’ll do them one better—I’ll give ’em a month, but I’ll only use it on half my face, and then we’ll see exactly how “noticeable” the results are. The experiment’s results are here if you’re interested; essentially, the cream did do a little something, but we’re talking a little something. The difference was truly minuscule.

I bought the cream again.

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