Real-Life ‘Americans,’ Spotlight Returns, and the Airless Ocean: 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 Facebook’s trending news bias, sexual abuse in some of the country’s most prestigious schools, the real-life version of The Americans, and a warning sign of our mass extinction.

The Spotlight investigative reporting unit at The Boston Globe released a report of its most recent investigation, which, unfortunately, features familiar themes. The Globe released a report asserting that more than 200 students have been abused by teachers and administrators of New England private schools, including some of the most prestigious primary schools in the country.

At least 67 private schools in New England have faced accusations since 1991 that staffers sexually abused or harassed more than 200 students, the Spotlight Team found through an examination of court cases, as well as interviews with alumni, relatives, school officials, and attorneys. … Large as those numbers of cases and victims are, they almost certainly underestimate the problem. No central database exists of allegations against private school employees, who are typically not required to be licensed. And schools often keep the reports confidential, even when payments are made to alleged victims.

The Americans, the critically acclaimed drama on FX, follows a pair of Soviet spies during the Cold War, living as a married couple with children in the United States. The Guardian published a real-life version of this exact story: As told by the spies’ two sons, who found out when their parents were arrested for espionage in 2010.

Alex presumed there had been some mistake – the wrong house, or a mix-up over his father’s consultancy work. Donald travelled frequently for his job; perhaps this had been confused with espionage. At worst, perhaps he had been tricked by an international client. Even when the brothers heard on the radio a few days later that 10 Russian spies had been rounded up across the US, in an FBI operation dubbed Ghost Stories, they remained sure there had been a terrible mistake. But the FBI had not made a mistake, and the truth was so outlandish, it defied comprehension. Not only were their parents indeed Russian spies, they were Russians. The man and woman the boys knew as Mom and Dad really were their parents, but their names were not Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. Those were Canadians who had died long ago, as children; their identities had been stolen and adopted by the boys’ parents.

Pacific Standard wrote a terrifying report on decreasing amount of oxygen in the Pacific ocean, which is leading to large numbers of dead crab and other sea creatures washing up on the coasts of Oregon and California. Dead fish could only be the beginning: Large pockets of aquatic hypoxia, or oxygen-deprived seawater, has been a precursor to mass extinction.

For those who study the climate of Earth’s past, the mounting signs of ocean hypoxia inspire both unease and a sense of vindication. In the past two decades, paleontologists have developed a new theory about mass extinctions — including the worst of all, the End Permian die-off 252 million years ago. Ocean hypoxia features prominently. Then, as now, the trigger was a rapid accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The oceans became hot, stagnant, and inhospitable to animals, reverting to a primeval state where microbes reigned supreme.

Building on its revealing report from last week on how Facebook created its trending news aggregation algorithm — using journalists, who apparently aren’t treated very well — Gizmodo reported that Facebook’s news curators said they avoid highlighting conservative news topics, or stories from conservative media outlets, breaking the platform’s appearance of neutrality.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”