1. "How the CIA used a fake sci-fi flick to rescue Americans from Tehran"
Joshuah Bearman, Wired
On Friday, Ben Affleck's Argo — a film based on the true story of an unlikely 1980 CIA mission to recover six American hostages in Iran by faking the production of a science-fiction movie — was released to almost universally positive reviews. Screenwriter Chris Terrio based his Argo script on a 2007 Wired story about the stranger-than-fiction plot. An excerpt:
[Tony] Mendez slipped into Iran on January 25, 1980, after receiving a cable from the CIA director indicating President Carter’s personal approval that read, 'You may proceed. Good luck.' He flew in from Europe, where he’d obtained a visa at the Iranian consulate in Bonn. 'I have a business meeting with my company associates,' he explained to Iranian authorities in Germany. 'They’re flying in from Hong Kong tomorrow and are expecting me.' Mendez had broken into a cold sweat in the airport — even professionals have their moments of doubt — but he knew there was no turning back. He put his faith in the strength of his cover story.
2. "The Obama mega donor who got lost in the crowd"
Eric Lach, Talking Points Memo
During Thursday's vice presidential debate, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan argued over the taxes paid by wealthy Americans and the state of the U.S. health-care system — two issues that seem near and dear to the heart of Kareem Ahmed, a compound drug promoter who happens to be one of the few Americans to donate more than $1 million to a super PAC this year. A look at the little-known Obama mega-donor:
There are only a few dozen Americans who have given at least $1 million to super PACs this election cycle, and Kareem Ahmed is one of them. If you manage to talk to him, he’ll tell you a lot. He’ll tell you all about a class of pharmaceuticals, called compound drugs, which he is in the business of promoting, and which have been the subject of a contentious debate in California, where he lives and works. He’ll tell you to read ProPublica’s reporting about Big Pharma. He’ll tell you House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is his best friend. He’ll tell you about his dream to someday take the proceeds of his business and build the largest non-profit children’s hospital in the world in Southern California’s Inland Empire. He’ll tell you how he fixed Democratic political strategist Paul Begala’s leg. He’ll tell you how much he loves President Barack Obama, whom he has met on a number of occasions. He told me several times that he thought I’d been hired by Republicans, insurance companies, or his competition to destroy him.
Mo Yan, Granta
On Thursday, the Nobel committee announced that Mo Yan — a Chinese novelist whose best-reviewed works include Red Sorghum, The Garlic Ballads, and Big Breasts & Wide Hips — was the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Though Mo Yan's 2011 novel, Frog, has not yet been fully translated into English, an excerpt is available:
"So that’s how it was." Aunty lit another cigarette and puffed away savagely, until I couldn’t see her face for all the smoke. "I helped rid her of the fetus. Once a rose about to bloom, Wang Xiaomei was now a ruined, fallen woman." Aunty reached up and dried her tears. "I vowed to never do that procedure again, I couldn’t take it any longer, not for anyone, not even if the woman was carrying the offspring of a chimpanzee. I wouldn’t do it. The slurping sound as it was sucked into the vacuum bottle was like a monstrous hand squeezing my heart, harder and harder, until I broke out in a cold sweat and began to see stars. The moment I finished I crumpled to the floor."
4. "My life with Lance Armstrong"
Mike Anderson, Outside
On Thursday, the United States Anti-Doping Association released a 1,000-plus page report detailing evidence of Lance Armstrong's alleged doping. The report's allegations echo the claims made several months ago by Mike Anderson, a former friend and employee of Armstrong's who served as his personal assistant for two years before the men bitterly parted ways. In August, Anderson offered a lengthy tell-all narrative:
I’m telling my story now because millions of people still look up to Armstrong as a role model. That’s their choice, and I think it’s possible he can emerge from the wreckage and continue his second career as a fundraiser for cancer awareness. But he needs to come clean at this point, and the people who support him need to understand that he isn’t and never has been a victim. Here, too, Betsy Andreu put it best: "Until the truth is told, you’re not even dealing with reality."
5. "Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl"
Malala Yousafzai, BBC Urdu
On Wednesday, the BBC reported that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl who became an unlikely political figure after writing a series of blog posts criticizing the Taliban's education ban in 2009, had been shot by a Taliban assassin. Yousafzai, who was just 11 years old when she began writing, remains in critical condition, and the news of the attempt on her life has unleashed an outpouring of sympathy and grief. Yousafzai's original blogs from 2009 are still available:
Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban's edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict. On my way from school to home I heard a man saying "I will kill you." I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Pope Francis' American problem
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- 10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2014
- Vox, derp, and the intellectual stagnation of the left
- The week's best photojournalism
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