Life After Death

Bruno Frohlich specialises in “the noninvasive study of just about anything nonliving”. He runs the Smithsonian Institution’s computed tomography laboratory, scanning whatever his colleagues care to bring him from dead gorillas to Stradivarius violins. By training he is a forensic anthropologist: He solved the gruesome murder, involving a frozen and minced corpse, that inspired the Coen Brothers’ Fargo (1,560 words)

Kayapo Courage

An uplifting visit to the Kayapo, “the most powerful of around 240 indigenous tribes remaining in Brazil”. They have driven invading ranchers and miners off their land. They have learned to lobby effectively for legal protections. “Their ceremonies, their kinship systems, their Gê language, and their knowledge of the forest and conception of the continuum between humans and the natural world are intact” (4,900 words)

Where Learning Is Forbidden

Stunning report from northern Nigeria, where half the children are stunted by malnutrition, most women cannot read, and decades of ethno-religious slaughter have culminated in a reign of terror by Boko Haram (“learning is forbidden”), an Islamist movement responsible for 4,700 deaths, many of them in battles with the goverment’s brutal security forces. “Boko Haram has become a kind of national synonym for fear” (5,100 words)

Congo’s Conflict Minerals

“Congo is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country and one of its richest on paper, with an embarrassment of diamonds, gold, cobalt, copper, tin, tantalum, you name it. But because of never ending war, it is one of the poorest and most traumatized nations in the world. Militia-controlled mines in eastern Congo have been feeding raw materials into the world’s biggest electronics and jewelry companies and at the same time feeding chaos” (2,600 words)

Last Song For Migrating Birds

“To a visitor from North America, where bird hunting is well regulated and only naughty farm boys shoot songbirds, the situation in the Mediterranean is appalling: Every year, from one end of it to the other, hundreds of millions of songbirds and larger migrants are killed for food, profit, sport, and general amusement. All across Europe bird populations are in steep decline, and the slaughter in the Mediterranean is one of the causes” (5,700 words)

Australia’s Aboriginals

Portrait an Aboriginal village, and of its matriarch, Batumbil. “She does not like sand flies and she has no qualms about killing them. But she does believe she’s related to them.” Diet includes sea turtle, dugong, tree worms. “During the two weeks I’m in the bush, two people are eaten by crocodiles, a seven-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy. I express my grief about this to Batumbil, but she remains unperturbed. These things happen” (4,886 words)

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