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Start-Ups For the State

Tik Root | Foreign Policy | Photo: Juan Herrero

In a village on the road to Musanze, Rwanda, a group of teenagers is gathered along a dirt embankment. Among them is Jean Damour Nshimiyimana, 19, who dropped out of school and has been earning what he can as a bicycle courier. He’s lounging with his friends but would prefer to be working. Business is slow. “Getting a job isn’t easy,” he said. “No matter how small.”

He’s far from alone. Youth make up some forty percent of the population here and, of them, nearly half are either unemployed or underemployed. And while the problem isn’t unique to Rwanda, or even to Africa, the government’s proposed solution is.



Life under curfew for American teens: ‘it’s insane, no other country does this’

Tik Root | The Guardian | Photo: Eliana Aponte/Reuters

Around 11pm, on a temperate Friday last August, Officer Troy Owens was patrolling south-eastern San Diego. Peering through his driver’s side window into the darkness, he scanned the streets until his eyes stopped on the corner of 47th and Market. “Somebody trying to hide from me?” he wondered aloud. “Yup,” he answered, swinging the SUV around, and turning on the flashing lights.

Owens, who has worked for the San Diego police department for nearly 20 years, pulled toward the curb and got out of his car. As he approached, three teenagers slowly slunk out from behind an electrical box: a boy, David, 15, whose identity, along with those of other minors, is being protected, and two girls. Heads hanging, shoulders slouched, they knew they were caught. All three were soon searched, handcuffed, and put in the back of cars for the ride to the command post – a local Boys & Girls Club.

Were the teenagers picked up for using drugs? No. Drinking? No. Had they fled a store without paying for their goods? Hardly. Their crime: being out past curfew.



God's People Don't Deserve This

Tik Root | Newsweek | Photos: Juan Herrero

John Muir was a fervent believer. Not just in science or conservation or the National Park Service, which he championed. The founder of the Sierra Club and father of American environmentalism also believed in God. “The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God,” Muir wrote in his 1897 essay “The American Forests.” “[For centuries] God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools.”  

This sort of religious language was “very much present in early conservation movements,” says Evan Berry, an associate professor at American University and author of Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism. George Bird Grinnell, founder of the Audubon Society, also invoked faith, and many of the environmentalist leaders in the late 19th and early 20th century were Congregationalists, a traditional Protestant sect, says Berry.

But then God abandoned the forest.



Nascar Says Goodbye to Jeff Gordon—and the Golden Era He Created

Text: Tik Root | The New Yorker | Video: Juan Herrero, Tik Root

With two laps to go at Martinsville, drivers were racing not only each other but a sinking Virginia sun. If the light left, the race would end early. Screaming through the corners of the half-mile-long track, brake temperatures climbed well past the thousand-degree mark, and the rotors began to glow. Jeff Gordon led the way, and the crowd was on its feet. The early-November race was Gordon’s last at Martinsville Speedway, and another milestone in his twenty-third and final season on the Nascar circuit. While farewell tributes had been abundant throughout the year, wins had not: in thirty-two starts, he’d yet to be victorious. Each time he came up short, his shot at an elusive fifth championship grew more distant and his send-off more bittersweet.



Al-Qaida Destroyed Our Family

Tik Root | Slate and Roads & Kingdoms | Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Reuters

SANA’A, Yemen—On the morning of Aug. 30, 2013, in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, Khaled al-Dhahab’s phone rang. The villager on the other end relayed the news Khaled had long dreaded: His brother, Qaid, was dead.

Hours earlier, Qaid al-Dhahab had been returning from a wedding celebration to his home near the rural city of Rada’a, roughly 160 miles southeast of Sana’a, when a torrent of missiles flew from the sky, turning the car in which he rode into a smoldering heap. Qaid, who by most accounts was a rising leader in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)—considered the most active and dangerous branch of the global terrorist network—had been a target in a suspected U.S. drone strike.

Khaled was not vengeful—he said Qaid had “chosen his path.” He was, however, upset—distressed that his once-proud family keeps finding itself mixed up in al-Qaida and the West’s so-called war on terror.