The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Josh Clark

The Child Exchange. Reporter Megan Twohey presents an investigation into the stomach-turning online world of extra-legal child adoptions between parents who no longer want their adopted kids and the people who want them for reasons from government money, to mental imbalances, to sexual toys.

The Chickens and the Bulls. On Slate, writer William McGowan interestingly covers a mid-century extortion ring that targeted prominent closeted gay men across the U.S. in operation for a decade. McGowan points out that this was the first time the police sided with gay men, protecting them rather than arresting them.

The Truck Stop Killer. In GQ, former runaway and hitchhiker Vanessa Vaselka writes about serial killer Robert Ben Rhodes, a long-haul trucker who is responsible for killing dozens of drifters and from whom the author narrowly escaped when she hitched a ride with him at age 15.

How the feds took down the Dread Pirate Roberts. On Ars Technica, Nate Anderson and Cyrus Farviar report on the downfall of Ross William Ulbricht, the man who the FBI has in custody as the creator and administrator of the lawless black market website Silk Road.

The Doctor Who Made A Revolution. Helen Epstein writes in the New York Review of Books about Sara Josephine Baker, the early-2oth-century physician and public health reformer (crusader, really) whose innovations saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, and would have saved more had they not been thwarted by the far Right years later.

Last Meals. In Lapham's Quarterly, writer Brent Cunningham produces an essay that begins as an examination of the meaning of the presence of last meals in the American justice system and continues with an examination of the death penalty itself.

Prisoners of Rock and Roll. In Milwaukee Magazine, Tom Matthews chronicles a bizarre story in rock history from the early 1980s, when big time 60s power pop band Badfinger ended up being conned into a tour from hell in Wisconsin.

The Spy Who Loved Frogs. Brendan Borrell writes in Nature about herpatologist Edward Taylor, who traveled to conflict zones to uncover new species and spy for the U.S during World Wars I and II, and Rafe Brown, the researcher who followed in Taylor's footsteps and unearthed his history decades later.

The Geeks on the Front Lines. In an article from Rolling Stone produced to be read on the iPad, Davids Kushner writes about the exploding need for high-end, typically self-taught, hackers and the cold war between the federal government and private companies, both of which seek to recruit them for cyber security and cyberwar.

8 Ways to Keep Body Snatchers from Stealing Your Corpse. On i09, Lauren Davis writes about some of the techniques used by 18th-century Europeans to protect the corpses of their recently-deceased loved ones from grave robbers seeking to sell the bodies to physicians for medical research.

The Corpse of a Cave Explorer That Became a Tourist Attraction. On Atlas Obscura, contributor Allison Meier writes about Floyd Collins, a Kentucky spelunker who helped turn the Mammoth Caves area into a tourist spot and became a national sensation when he died in one of them.

The Killing Bones. In a classic article from Outdoor Magazine in 2004, writer Bruce Barcott recounts the strange story of archaeological looter Jack Harelson, whose illicit hobby led him to order at least one contract killing.