"Nothing better defines Kim than how little we actually know about him. When asked, even the most respected outside experts on North Korea in the United States and in South Korea—not to mention inside the White House—invariably provide details that turn out to be traceable to Dennis Rodman or to a Japanese sushi chef named Kenji Fujimoto, who was employed by the ruling family from 1988 to 2001, and who now peddles trivial details about them (such as how Kim II once sent him to Beijing to pick up some food at McDonald’s)."
Twenty years ago today the Battle of Mogadishu raged in the streets of the Somali capital as members of Task Force Ranger attempted to arrest two lieutenants of the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. When one of the helicopters crashed, what was planned as a short mission became a street-by-street fight to reach the pilot and crew, and then evacuate them from the city. The battle – which some estimates place at 160 American, Malaysian, and Pakistani troops against 6000 Somali militiamen and civilians – became known to the public as Black Hawk Down thanks to the work of Mark Bowden, a staff writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer who wrote a 29-part series on the battle in November and December 1997, leading to the critically acclaimed 1999 book Black Hawk Down, and the 2001 movie of the same name. [more inside]
The Case of the Vanishing Blonde
After a woman living in a hotel in Florida was raped, viciously beaten, and left for dead near the Everglades in 2005, the police investigation quickly went cold. But when the victim sued the Airport Regency, the hotel’s private detective, Ken Brennan, became obsessed with the case: how had the 21-year-old blonde disappeared from her room, unseen by security cameras? The author follows Brennan’s trail as the P.I. worked a chilling hunch that would lead him to other states, other crimes, and a man nobody else suspected. [printer-friendly version; behind-the-scenes video; via]
Mark Bowden tells us "The Story Behind the Story" in the October issue of The Atlantic: "With journalists being laid off in droves, ideologues have stepped forward to provide the “reporting” that feeds the 24-hour news cycle. The collapse of journalism means that the quest for information has been superseded by the quest for ammunition. A case-study of our post-journalistic age." [more inside]
"American air superiority has been so complete for so long that we take it for granted. For more than half a century, we’ve made only rare use of the aerial-combat skills of a man like Cesar Rodriguez, who retired two years ago with more air-to-air kills than any other active-duty fighter pilot. But our technological edge is eroding. ... Now we have a choice. We can stock the Air Force with the expensive, cutting-edge F‑22—maintaining our technological superiority at great expense to our Treasury. Or we can go back to a time when the cost of air supremacy was paid in the blood of men like Rodriguez." - The Last Ace, a feature article in this month's The Atlantic by author Mark Bowden.
Tales of the Tyrant is one of the best magazine articles I have read all year. A long, fascinating portrait of Saddam Hussein by the author of Black Hawk Down that has so many interesting/weird/awful details that it's too hard to excerpt just one.