Sailing Across the Atlantic in 30 Days—With Two Toddlers

When her youngest son was just a few months old, experienced sailor Janis Couvreux and her family determined to sail across the Atlantic Ocean–from a port city in Senegal to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was the 1980s. There was no GPS, no 3G, no iPads. Armed with months’ worth of supplies and her husband’s sextant, they made the journey in 30 days. It was, by all accounts, blissful. Whether you’re lounging on the beach or reading on your lunch break, lose yourself in Couvreux’s adventure on the high seas.

So many questions I have been asked over the years about this part of our trip. How do you cross an ocean with an infant and a 3-year-old? How do you spend 30 days in such a tight space with two small children? How do you keep them from falling overboard? How do you get along with your husband all that time? What do you eat? Don’t you get bored…? Well, getting bored was definitely not an issue. There was no time for that. Living on land with two small children is time consuming in itself. On a boat without modern conveniences, it’s an all day job. Think of life in the old west: no refrigeration; no electricity; having to make one’s own bread; conserving food by canning, salting, drying; washing clothes by hand…It’s actually a “survival” mode lifestyle. However, since that’s all we have to do, and not obliged to rush around in a car running errands, working, paying bills, meeting people for appointments and the like, that’s part of the purpose: taking the time to live.

— Read the rest at Luna Luna Magazine.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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1. A Dream Undone

Jim Rutenberg | The New York Times | July 29, 2015 | 43 minutes (10,975 words)

Why do Americans have less voting rights today than they did 50 years ago? Rutenberg examines how the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed to prevent the disenfranchisement of black Americans, has been gutted.

2. The Psychology of the Impossible Campaign

T.A. Frank | National Journal | July 25, 2015 | 23 minutes (5,766 words)

T.A. Frank turns a profile of George Pataki into a psychological investigation of long-shot presidential candidates: Why do people run for president even when they cannot possibly win? And how should we the voters feel about them?

3. ‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Bill Cosby Accusers Tell Their Stories

Noreen Malone, Amanda Demme | New York Magazine | July 26, 2015 | 18 minutes (4,440 words)

A photo shoot and testimonials from 35 of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault.

4. The Murdered Mayor of Bell Gardens

Hillel Aron | LA Weekly | July 27, 2015 | 16 minutes (4,180 words)

Daniel Crespo, the mayor of a small industrial city in southeast L.A. County, battered his wife for 28 years. She shot him the day he turned on their son.

5. The Americans with Disabilities Act at 25

Patrick Sisson | Curbed | July 23, 2015 | 18 minutes (4,650 words)

How one law fundamentally shifted the way Americans think about accessibility.

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‘Every Means of Confession Creates a Kind of Person Who Confesses’

Every means of confession creates a kind of person who confesses. You become who you are by saying what you did. The details make a difference. That pronoun, “I,” feels one way when you say it as part of a formula, in the dusk of a confessional, to a priest you cannot see behind the metal grille he blesses you through. Rambling in the well-lit office of a psychiatrist, “I” feels very different.

Moira Wegel, writing for The New Inquiry about FitBit activity trackers and the nature of confession (“Like confession and therapy, activity trackers promise to improve us by confronting us with who we are when we are not paying attention,” writes Weigel).

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Rivers We Destroy: A Reading List

Rivers are forces of nature, but over time, humans have learned to harness their power and change their course — often for the worse. Here are four stories on how humans have changed local and regional river systems, and the disastrous and sometimes deadly consequences.

1. “Use It or Lose It.” (Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, June 2015)

“First in time, first in line.” In a piece from the Killing the Colorado series, which offers an in-depth look at the Colorado River, Lustgarten explores the effects of a water law that encourages ranchers to use as much water as possible, even during a drought, and the principle that those who arrived first in the West should have the most senior water rights.

2. “River of Death.” (Steve Fisher, Fusion, 2015)

In 2008, a boy living in the El Salto industrial area of Jalisco, Mexico, fell into the Santiago River. Eighteen days later, he died from arsenic poisoning. There are 300 companies along the river, with factories dumping chrome, lead, zinc, mercury, toluene, phosphorus, cyanide, and other chemicals into it. Fisher finds no evidence that companies are held accountable, while the Mexican government is unwilling to enforce environmental standards.

3. “The Ganges: Holy, Deadly River.” (Victor Mallet, FT Magazine, February 2015)

“Her waters are pure, medicinal even, and she is the responsibility of the gods, not of humans.” In a tour of India’s Ganges River, Mallet finds it so toxic — from sewage to industrial waste to charred human remains — that it’s hard to stomach the belief that the river is “so sacred that it’s considered beyond harm.”

4. “The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Unleashed Toxins into the River and, Residents Say, Their Bodies.” (Susan Du, Houston Press, November 2014)

In the Highlands area of Texas, members of the Bonta family — and their ranch’s animals — are sick: John has a rare blood cancer, Jackie is diagnosed with endometriosis, and the dog dies of a liver tumor. Over time, a dump site, created by paper and waste companies nearly half a century ago, has released carcinogens into the nearby San Jacinto River. The Bontas have fled, but others in the area, including the Vietnamese fishermen who work in the San Jacinto River and Galveston Bay, continue to deal with the damage.

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The ‘Quasi-Celebrity’ Gene Editing Pioneer

The controversial genome editing technique Crispr-Cas9 has sparked some fascinating recent deep-dives, including Backchannel’s “Editing the Software of Life, for Fame and Fortune” in June, and Wired’s July cover story “The Genesis Engine,” which inspired the Twitter hashtag #crisprfacts. Jennifer Doudna, the biochemist who helped invent the breakthrough tool, often helps anchor the coverage. Andrew Pollack profiled Doudna in May for the New York Times:

The discovery has turned Dr. Doudna (the first syllable rhymes with loud) into a celebrity of sorts, the recipient of numerous accolades and prizes. The so-called Crispr-Cas9 genome editing technique is already widely used in laboratory studies, and scientists hope it may one day help rewrite flawed genes in people, opening tremendous new possibilities for treating, even curing, diseases.

But now Dr. Doudna, 51, is battling on two fronts to control what she helped create.

While everyone welcomes Crispr-Cas9 as a strategy to treat disease, many scientists are worried that it could also be used to alter genes in human embryos, sperm or eggs in ways that can be passed from generation to generation. The prospect raises fears of a dystopian future in which scientists create an elite population of designer babies with enhanced intelligence, beauty or other traits.

Scientists in China reported last month that they had already used the technique in an attempt to change genes in human embryos, though on defective embryos and without real success.

Dr. Doudna has been organizing the scientific community to prevent this ethical line from being crossed. “The idea that you would affect evolution is a very profound thing,” she said.

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At Guernica, an Excerpt of Annie Liontas’s Debut Novel

That night, the whole village watching, Stavros Stavros finally proved his manhood: on the dance floor. With the pomp of the traditional syrtos that suggested respite before battle, the resting of the soul, he rejected the pappas’s interference, his mother’s control, his father’s weakness. When he felt like showing off, he showed off. During one of the counterclockwise dances, he vaguely felt Dina next to him, linked by nothing more than a white handkerchief. He saw her only through the haze of warm wine and public attention. Him, Stavros Stavros Mavrakis, in front of all of the bachelors, in front of all of his brothers. The way it should be. They had to wait for his every step, his every flourish, before they could move a foot. A toe, even, because any premature moves would trip the next person. Pappas, feigning intoxication, did not lead any dances, but Stavros Stavros did not care if he did not get the priest’s blessing. Pappas refused to lie, even with his feet, but what did that matter when Stavros Stavros was leaving in just a few days?

Stavros Stavros was fat and full at the end of the night. He had ruled the village, his family, and it made him feel virile. All he needed now was to deflower a virgin.

Everyone knew it was a man’s right to unmake a woman. Everyone knew it was their right to see proof of the unmaking. It was customary for the groom’s parents to drape the white sheets of a newly consummated couple against the house, the copper crop visible from way down the road. In the history of the village, few women had ever failed to bleed (a cripple, a slut, a rape victim) and that was because women were pure, women were pious, women were chaste, and, when they weren’t, women were shrewd enough to cover up their bloodlessness. Even their boyfriends, who panted themselves into premarital sex with their soon-to-be brides, were always satisfied when the warm rusty liquid bubbled up on the night of the wedding. Concerned with shame and self-preservation, these women knew to tuck pouches of sow’s blood inside themselves. Dina, who hadn’t been from the island in years, knew nothing and did nothing. She just lay there beneath her grunting, fat, full husband.

—From an excerpt of “Let Me Explain You”, Annie Liontas’s acclaimed debut novel about a tumultuous Greek-American family in the diner business, featured at Guernica.

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Say Her Name: Roxane Gay on Sandra Bland

Because Sandra Bland was driving while black, because she was not subservient in the manner this trooper preferred, a routine traffic stop became a death sentence. Even if Ms. Bland did commit suicide, there is an entire system of injustice whose fingerprints left bruises on her throat.

–At the New York Times, Roxane Gay indicts a society built on systemic racism for the death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland and dozens of other innocent, murdered Black people.

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