French Fries, “Bomb Trains,” and More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today, we have stories about dangerous oil-bearing trains, how french fries are made, Christian counseling centers, and universal basic income.

Slate reported on Mercy Ministries, a series of Christian faith-intensive inpatient treatment centers for mentally ill women. While the centers claim to offer a viable alternative to traditional treatment, women like Hayley Baker, who went through the Mercy program, said the centers don’t offer any treatment at all, just authoritarian discipline.

Over her seven months at Mercy, Hayley says staff often denied her requests for Xanax, instead emphasizing prayer as a better way to treat the panic attacks. She also says she was punished with extra reading and chores for infractions as minor as sharing her CD player. When her brother died unexpectedly a month into her stay, Mercy didn’t bring in the certified grief counselor that her parents had requested, she says. According toHayley, Mercy staff unswervingly held her and others to a one-size-fits-all counseling curriculum. Six years after leaving Mercy, Hayley continues to wrestle with mental illness.

Chicago Magazine ran a report on the increasing number of oil companies moving volatile crude oil by train. In the past, trains carrying oil, nicknamed “bomb trains,” have derailed, triggering massive explosions. The question is, why would anyone allow such a risky cargo to pass through the heart of downtown Chicago?

Though Chicago has so far been spared a crude oil train crash, the potential of one presents a horrifying picture. One particular nightmare is emblazoned in the minds of first responders, and regulators. On July 6, 2013, a runaway crude oil train, which had been left unattended, sped through the center of the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. Sixty-three cars derailed. Forty-seven people were killed, some literally incinerated while they drank at a bar.

FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers on Universal Basic Income, an alternative economic policy where the government cuts a base paycheck for every citizen. Supported by the political fringe, left and right, advocates in the U.S. see a guaranteed income as a means of untangling the complex web of welfare policies which, whether you’d prefer to see them fixed or cut, no one is particularly happy with.

Basic income promises an escape from the welfare trap — all the benefits would be the same, regardless of circumstance. And by cutting a single check for the same amount of money, it could dramatically reduce administrative costs. “The money we spend on welfare will be better spent — more productive for the kind of ends we want — if we spend it through a basic income,” said Matt Zwolinski, a philosophy professor at the University of San Diego and one of the most prominent libertarian advocates for basic income. Despite squeamishness at the idea of government “handouts,” some libertarians see basic income as a more efficient replacement for current social programs, one that would streamline the welfare bureaucracy and reduce costs overall.

Lucky Peach published an excerpt from Blake Lingle’s Fries! An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Favorite Food, about the pros and cons of the massive potato farming operation necessary to keep the world showered in golden fries.

Where you find cooking, you find fries. Most fries are initially cooked in factories—McCain Foods (the largest producer of frozen fries worldwide) makes one in every three fries around the globe—and then cooked again in homes, restaurants, or friteries. Fresh, hand-cut fries are made in all those places too, but those fries are less common. Regardless, you won’t have to slog into the middle of the Amazon to see where fries are grown. You’ll just have to visit your neighborhood restaurant—or scale the barbed-wire fence at your nearest fry factory.