How to Interpret Robert Mueller’s New Charges – GARRETT M. GRAFF 10.29.17 05:16 PM

Former FBI director Robert Mueller

Andrew Harnik/AP

With the first public criminal charges expected to come out Monday, this year’s biggest political story—the former FBI director Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election—will enter an important new phase, guided not just by whispers and Twitter wars but by written indictments and the rules of federal evidence.

While we don’t yet know precisely what the charges will be or who the target is, there have been plenty of hints about the unfolding case—and there’s plenty of context we have to understand what Mueller’s actions might ultimately mean for our country and President Trump’s administration.

Here are five rules of federal investigations to keep in mind as you read about the new charges and think about their implications:

1) The FBI takes down whole organizations. The charges due Monday in Mueller’s investigation are almost assuredly only a first step in what could be an very long and extensive grand jury investigation.

Only rarely does the FBI end up charging a single individual; it’s simply not worth the time and resources of the federal government to go after individuals in cases outside of rare instances, like say, terrorism. Institutionally, the FBI’s modus operandi and DNA is to target and dismantle entire whole criminal organizations—that’s why federal cases usually take so long: The agency starts at the bottom or periphery of an organization and works inward, layer by layer, until it’s in a position to build a rock-solid case against the person at the top.

This investigative method has been the heart of the FBI’s approach since the 1980s, when it and the Justice Department—led by an era of aggressive and brilliant prosecutors like Louis Freeh, Rudolph Giuliani, and Michael Chertoff—began to attack La Cosa Nostra in New York. The FBI relied then on a then-new tool, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, to attack and dismantle entire mafia families, charging dozens or scores of suspects in a single case.

The approach, then and now, has been almost always been similar: Work on peripheral figures first, encourage them to cooperate with the government against their bosses in exchange for a lighter sentence, and then repeat the process until the circle has closed tightly around the godfather or criminal mastermind. There’s no reason to think that this investigation will be any different.

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All the candy that’s sold during Halloween week, in one massive pumpkin – Updated by Julia Belluz and Javier Zarracina Oct 29, 2017, 8:07am EDT

Look around: Chances are there is Halloween candy near you right now. If the candy is not in your home, your office, or your school, it’s in a bowl at the dry cleaner’s, the doctor’s office, even the yoga studio.

We’ve officially entered the long season of candy-centric holidays. Make no mistake: After we drench ourselves in sugar this Halloween, we’ll do it again on Christmas and Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Easter, and in the weeks between these special days. The candy industry counts on us to celebrate with sugar for a huge portion of its annual sales.

We can all agree that Halloween and other seasonal candy is a fun ritual. I like chocolate as much as my Vox colleagues who recently ranked their favorite Halloween candies. And a bit of candy here and there is no problem for our health.

But we have reached a point where the amount of candy in circulation is excessive — and symbolic of our sugarcoated environment. In 2017, the candy industry expects Halloween will bring in a record $2.75 billion in retail sales.

(Javier Zarracina/Vox)


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John Boehner Unchained – By TIM ALBERTA November/December 2017

The former House speaker feels liberated—but he’s also seething about what happened to his party.


WEST CHESTER, Ohio—He swings the golf club like a right-hander, which he is, but putts as a southpaw. Maybe it’s a metaphor for a conservative politician who often turned to liberals in crunch time, but I’m too busy losing $20 on this hole to appreciate it. We’re on the green now, surveying his 10-foot par attempt, a modest breeze transporting his tobacco cologne. With a posture as unique as his personality—back hunched over nearly parallel to the turf, left shoulder dipped well below the right, fingers interlocked around a grip of blue rubber—he gazes downward and shuffles his feet. The veins are still dancing in his muscular, leathery legs as the blade retreats from the ball, and it’s apparent within moments of their reunion that something isn’t right. As the Titleist Pro V1 finds its resting place, several feet shy and slightly west of its final destination, he can’t mask his frustration. “Nice one, Boner,” he mutters.

To play golf with John Boehner is to learn there are unwritten rules governing the use of the word Boner. When spoken by his close friends—“Thatta boy, Boner!”—it’s almost always to congratulate him on a good shot. When the former U.S. House speaker uses it—“Aww, Jee-sus, Boner!”—it’s almost always to rebuke himself for a bad one. Today he is saying it with ruinous frequency.

We’re on Boehner’s home course, the Wetherington Golf and Country Club, on a Monday afternoon in early June. Tucked away in West Chester, Ohio—an affluent enclave of suburban Cincinnati, part of his old district—the club is hosting a charity fundraiser, dubbed the “Boehner Classic,” benefiting a nearby Boys & Girls Club. The former speaker is one of two star attractions; the other is his friend, the professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, a character known more for his off-color jokes than his two major championships. With wealthy donors ponying up to play alongside them—but some of his old buddies also in town—Boehner decides to form a group of nine players, myself and Zoeller included, and creates a team scramble that pits five golfers against the other four.

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A Brief History of Witch Hunts, Real and Imagined – Kate Harloe November/December 2017 issue

From moral panic in the Middle Ages to freakouts on Twitter.


In 16th- and 17th-century Europe, tens of thousands of women were rounded up and slaughtered for being outcasts in some of society’s earliest witch hunts. But fast-forward to 2017, and suddenly it’s rich white guys who are co-opting the term. After numerous allegations of sexual harassment surfaced about film executive Harvey Weinstein, his pal Woody Allen warned in an interview with the BBC that we might be heading into “a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.”

As you let that sink in, let’s take a walk down memory lane to review how witches went from being persecuted to trendy:

1500s-1600s: Social upheaval and sectarianism lead to witch trials across Europe—tens of thousands are executed. Older women, outcasts, and healers are particularly vulnerable. The trials, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English note in their book Witches, Midwives & Nurses, were “a ruling class campaign of terror directed against the female peasant population.”

1641: Moral panic hits Massachusetts: “If any man or woman be a witch, that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit, they shall be put to death.” For Puritans, “witches explain the presence of not only illness, death, and personal misfortune,” historian Carol Karlsen later notes in her book The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, but also “behavior antithetical to the culture’s moral universe.”

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Anjan Sundaram: Why I risked my life to expose a government massacre | TED Talk |  April 2017 at TED2017

A war zone can pass for a mostly peaceful place when no one is watching, says investigative journalist and TED Fellow Anjan Sundaram. In this short, incisive talk, he takes us inside the conflict in the Central African Republic, where he saw the methodical preparation for ethnic cleansing, and shares a lesson about why it’s important to bear witness to other people’s suffering. “Ignored people in all our communities tell us something important about who we are,” Sundaram says. “A witness can become precious, and their gaze most necessary, when violence passes silently, unseen and unheard.”