The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

On any given week, Josh and Chuck read a lot of interesting articles. Check out this post with links to the best articles they've read lately.

Empathy in the mind of the psychopath is studied.

The story of the tragedy at Clipperton Island

A guy named Bill Sparkman was looking for extra money when he took a job as a part-time census taker (called an enumerator, Chuck and I recently learned). It turns out that he was looking for a bit more than the $350 a week the Census Bureau paid him as a part-time temporary worker. He was looking for something more like a $600,000 pay off, not for himself, but for his son. Whom he'd named as the sole beneficiary to two life insurance policies he'd taken out before heading door to door in Clay County, Kentucky, where he'd been assigned.

Just when you thought Iraq was making some genuine progress toward a free society comes this story from about the torturing and killing of suspected homosexual men in Iraq. They report that hundreds of men have been victim to such treatment in recent months. What's even more troubling is that the new government in Iraq seems to be turning a blind eye to this travesty of human rights. While government officials claim to be against this kind of thing, they're quick to accept any responsibility, saying that they are unable to provide special protection for them. Four anonymous victims were interviewed for the piece and they relate stories about how the violence against them has increased in recent months.

I came in to work today and randomly clicked on what ended up being an extremely tragic and compelling story on A couple of weeks ago in Arivaca, AZ a woman and two men posing as U.S. Marshals busted into the home of Raul Flores and shot he and his ten year-old daughter in the head. They claimed to be looking for an escaped prisoner and that the house was surrounded by immigration officers. After the double homicide was committed, the trio got into a shootout with Flores' armed wife while she was on the phone making a 911 call. The wife can be heard screaming for the people to get out and there are random bursts of gunfire and moaning. Flores was shot in the leg, but survived and got back on the line with 911. Let me just say that it's a truly harrowing recording and pretty upsetting to listen to.

China's Ghost Brides: Dyin' for a Man

I don't know if it's because my heart's been all swoll, but I find the traditional Chinese practice of ghost brides particularly charming. Back in the mid-20th century, Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution did everything it could to rid China of its traditions and mythology, including the practice of marrying a dead girl to a dead single man. The Telegraph reports that the custom is making a resurgence these days, especially among rural Chinese.

This article from today focuses on the current state of the "Manson Family" -- the group of murdering murderers famous for slaying seven people in California in August, 1969. We all know that the family's patriarch was one Charles Manson, once a feared cult leader, now just an old dude in prison with a fading swastika on his forehead. It seems that a recent prison photo of Charlie at 75 years old has sparked renewed interest in the case. The article gives updates on the current state of the other imprisoned family members. Susan Atkins is terminally ill with brain cancer, "Tex" Watson is a minister, Patricia Krenwinkel helps in a prison program to train puppies as service dogs and Leslie Van Houten is a model inmate in the same prison as Krenwinkel. They are all in their 60s, except for Van Houten, who is 59.

The unsolved murder spree of Jack the Ripper has captivated generations of amateur investigators, each with their own theory of the killer's identity. Learn more about one particularly thought-provoking suspect in this HowStuffWorks podcast.