Moises Saman / Magnum Photos for The New Yorker
August 26, 2013

Features and Essays

North Korea this month detained an American tourist it claims was seeking asylum in the country, according to reports that emerged Friday from the state news agency. The 24-year-old man, Miller Matthew Todd, reportedly tore up his tourist visa, and shouted "he would seek asylum" and "came to the DPRK (North Korea) after choosing it as a shelter," according to reports citing North Korean state news agency KCNA. Todd was reportedly detained April 10. In the eyes of the U.S. State Department, an American has to appear in person before a diplomatic officer in a foreign country and sign an oath to formally renunciate his or her citizenship. The announcement came on the same day U.S. President Barack Obama held a joint press conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul to talk about potential sanctions as North Korea is reportedly preparing its fourth nuclear test. [CNN]
Moises Saman / Magnum Photos for The New Yorker

Moises Saman: Cairo (New Yorker) Aftermath of August 14, when Egyptian security forces expelled supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, resulting in a civilian massacre

Bryan Denton: Blood and Chaos Prevail in Egypt (NYT)

Laura El Tantawy: Cairo (Le Monde)

Stuart Freedman: Cairo’s Ahwas (Panos Pictures) Coffee houses in Egypt’s capital

Pascal Maitre: Urban Pulse of the Congo (National Geographic) The miracle of Kinshasa is that amid the chaos of this capital city, artists survive and thrive

Guillaume Bonn: Masai Mara (Guardian) The impact of tourism on the Kenyan national reserve

Phil Moore: Eastern DRC: An air of change? (Al Jazeera) The Kivu regions are traditionally viewed as conflict-ridden, but the area is transforming

The front doors at the FCC are sure to see a lot of action in the coming weeks from the horde of lobbyists streaming in and out of the building as the commission closes in on the May 15 release date for new net neutrality rules. Already in the months since the FCC announced it will make another attempt at writing regulations governing how Internet service providers are allowed to assign bandwidth interest groups have been busily trying to sway the commission. At least 69 companies, public interest groups and trade associations have lobbied the FCC in some form over the past nine weeks. That’s more than one per day, The New York Times reports. That activity is likely to intensify, after the commission announced Wednesday that it will propose rules allowing ISPs to charge companies for faster Internet service, a position net neutrality proponents see as antithetical to the principle that all legal content on the Internet should be equally available and a betrayal of the FCC’s earlier assurances. Earlier this year a federal appeals court struck down FCC regulations, the open internet order, barring ISPs from striking deals with corporations to provide speedier Internet. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said the notion that the FCC is not betraying the Open Internet Order and that the regulator will retain the ability to act against any activity deemed harmful to consumers. [NYT]  
Ashley Gilbertson / VII

Ashley Gilbertson: Concrete Beach (NYT Magazine) Sunbathing in New York

Greg Miller: Human Dramas at County Fairs (Slate Behold)

Kendrick Brinson: Sun City (Slate Behold) Senior citizens having the time of their lives in Arizona

Katie Orlinsky: Meet the Aqualillies! (The Daily Beast) The synchronized-swimming sensations

I realize this doesn't make sense, except that when you think about it, it kind of does: Netflix, the streaming video service synonymous with the phrase "cord-cutting" (where cord-cutting refers explicitly to cable/satellite nixing) will soon be available through cable boxes. Yep, the same cable boxes the company's supposedly been squaring off against. The companies involved in the deal are Atlantic Broadband (offers service in Florida, Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina and Central Pennsylvania), Grande Communications (offers service in Texas) and RCN (offers service in Boston, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and Chicago). The deal will effectively load Netflix into those companies' same set-top boxes their customers use to watch live television. According to the press release, the Netflix app will operate through TiVo, and the point is to allow customers using both cable boxes and a second set-top box to watch Netflix, to consolidate those devices (and remote control mechanisms). You'll still need a full Netflix subscription: there's no mention of a discount for cable subscribers here, which makes a certain amount of sense. On the one hand, cable providers want to make their TiVo cable boxes more appealing by rounding out their offerings, and what better way than to shoehorn the enemy into that medley? At the same time, doing so risks encouraging people who might not have to engage the service, a transition that, future content deals and customer tastes depending, could eventually nix the cable subscription component from the equation. Leaving the subscription price as-is ensures a certain pricing threshold, while at the same time allowing the cable providers to boast about supporting the service. "Our view has long been that the marriage of linear television and streaming over-the-top (OTT) TV is the future of television, and Netflix has clearly emerged as a must-have OTT service," said TiVo President and CEO Tom Rogers. I'm not sure that's entirely right -- that the future is a marriage of the two, and case closed. The immediate future, perhaps, and that might do for now, but with previously unthinkable deals like this recent HBO/Amazon bombshell going down, and assuming there really is increasing consumer demand for a la carte programming, this sounds more like a transitional compromise than a future-proof one to me. Netflix already does cable-handholding in the U.K. via Virgin Media (and TiVo), by the way, but this would mark the first time it's done so in the U.S. [Engadget]
Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Barbara Davidson: Saving a life in L.A.’s shooting season (LA Times)

Christopher Capozziello: The Distance Between Us (NYT Lens) Why one person suffers and another doesn’t is the type of question that beleaguers Christopher Capozziello, whose twin brother, Nick, has cerebral palsy.

Rod Lamkey Jr: Free Healthcare (zReportage) Uninsured and under insured patients receiving free medical care at an annual Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise County in Southwest Virginia.

Anthony S. Karen: A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored (Slate)

Pavel Prokopchik: Altering the American dream in Detroit (CNN Photo blog)

Magnus Holm: Detroit (Politiken)

Director Bryan Singer attends the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Erin Brethauer

Erin Brethauer: Camp Lakey Gap (Photo Booth) A summer camp in Black Mountain, North Carolina, for children and adults with autism.

Eva O’Leary and Harry Griffin: Devil’s Den (Wired Rawfile) Time-jumping Civil War buffs carry iPhones and muskets at live reenactments

Yeong-Ung Yang: The Casino as Lifeline (NYT Lens) For dozens of Asian immigrants in Flushing, Queens, the back-and-forth bus trips they take to a casino in Pennsylvania aren’t limbo — they’re how they get by

A 16-year-old Connecticut girl was stabbed at school Friday morning and later died hours before she was set to attend her junior prom, Reuters reports. The victim was stabbed shortly after 7 a.m. ET Friday at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, a town near New Haven, Connecticut. "There was blood on her neck. It was awful," student Sam Garcia told Reuters. "I saw the girl lying on the stretcher when they took her out." [time-brightcove videoid=3510310052001] Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said in a press conference that a 16-year-old boy who allegedly stabbed the girl is in custody. Officials are investigating widespread reports that the boy may have attacked the victim after she declined his prom invitation. Students were sent home for the day shortly after 9 a.m. Friday. [Reuters]        
John Moore / Getty Images

John Moore: An Immigrant’s Journey (The Atlantic) Moore continues to document immigration issues. Earlier this year, he traveled south to the Mexico-Guatemala border, where Central American immigrants cross the Suchiate River, beginning their long and perilous journey north through Mexico.

Lara Shipley: Coming, Going and Staying (Slate Behold) An up-close look at the U.S.–Mexico border

Sam Comen: Undocumented youth: A dream deferred (CNN Photo blog) Immigrant youth in California’s Central Valley eligible for the DREAM Act

Brett Gundlock: El Pueblo (Vice) Mexican Michoacán community watch groups carry assault rifles

Silicon Valley types have long dreamed of a way to hack the beast of bureaucratic dysfunction known as the U.S. government. Mark Zuckerberg honed in on immigration reform. Sean Parker invested in a mystery venture to attempt improving political engagement. And now a much smaller Bay Area startup with a snazzy name, Amplifyd, is launching with the lofty goal of providing “crowd-sourced lobbying” services to regular Americans. At the core of the project is an untested idea that stretches the definition of lobbying: Provide an app that allows people to pay to create phone call petitions targeting state and federal legislators. “We spend so much money trying to get politicians elected but there’s no real system that can effectively communicate our opinions as constituents,” said Amplifyd founder Scott Blankenship. At the same time, Blankenship says, business interests spend millions to influence politicians. Beginning on June 3, Amplifyd hopes to change that imbalance that by allowing activist groups to initiate campaigns aimed at influencing elected officials with telephone campaigns. For around $7—the exact final price has not been determined—a Concerned Citizen can hire another person to call a member of Congress or a state legislator. Blankenship says about 1,000 people have signed up to be callers, with the promise of earning up to $30 per hour. The script begins, “Hi, I’m calling on behalf of (name of the person who paid), and this call is being recorded so he can review the call later,” and continues with talking points, complaints, suggestions and the like. From the $7 Concerned Citizen paid for the call $1.50 goes to the campaign, between $2 and $3.50 goes to the caller and the remainder goes to Amplifyd. Blankenship says he was inspired to build Amplifyd by his experience in the anti-water fluoridation movement, an issue he cared deeply about but didn’t have a lot of time to devote to. “There’s a of people like me who want to live in a society and community that matches what they want and their opinions on how things should be run but not necessarily wanting to sacrifice their family and goals and money to fight for that campaign,” he said. It's a business model that depends on people not wanting to make their own phone calls to express their opinions. The $7 price tag on a call could be seen as a high price for a service people can accomplish themselves by literally picking up the phone. "It's a mathematical estimate that considers variable calling expenses and payment/transfer fees, then broken out between us, the callers and the campaigners so that all groups are getting paid a decent amount for their efforts," Blankenship told TIME. "If we can't stay in the black, then we have failed our mission to provide this tool to our national community." The price of calls will be reassessed after the product launch, he said. But the $7 is far cheaper than professional lobbying, even as it shows little resemblance to the real thing. Sure, lobbying involves some working of the phones but as the term implies there’s a bit more to it than that. The lobbyist in its purest form is someone who hangs out in the lobbies outside the Senate and House chambers and corners legislators entering and leaving to make convincing arguments and, when the occasion calls for it, thinly veiled electoral threats. Of course, that doesn’t include all the influence peddled between K Street in Washington and golf courses near and far. It's also not strictly true that lobbying is unavailable to everyday Americans. Whether you’re a member of a labor union, a veteran, property owner, or a homeless person, someone in Washington on any given week is likely skulking around the Capitol building trying to convince members of Congress vote in your interest. Amplifyd does raise interesting ideas about the future of political influence in the age of crowdsourcing. It’s not inconceivable that the site could collect payments from people and use them in a lump sum to hire a real lobbyist outfit, wing-tip shoes and all, on an ad-hoc basis, something that was not really possible before with the same efficiency. And rather than donating to a large organization representing an interest group, under Blankenship’s concept—we’ll call it the Kickstarterification of politics—a person can make more precise donations toward furthering specific causes they care about. Blankenship says six activist groups are in line to start using Amplifyd when it goes live on June 3. Just how many people are in line to pay $7 so someone else will make a phone call for them remains unknown.
Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Tomas Munita: Dual Forces in an Andean Rite (NYT) The Yawar Fiesta, a uniquely Andean celebration in Peru, brings together a condor and a bull in the bullring, with a condor as the guest of honor

Karla Gachet & Ivan Kashinsky: el Tinku (Panos Pictures) High up in the Bolivian Andes, indigenous communities meet in the plaza of Macha and take part in a ritual known as Tinku, an ancestral ritual in which thousands come together to fist fight

Juan Manuel Castro Prieto: Shamanic Journey in Peru (Agence Vu)

Jim Goldberg: Acqua for Life (Magnum Photos) The continuing challenge of providing access to clean drinking water in Haiti

Andrea Bruce: Jamaica Sees Drops in Crime, Corruption and Violence (NYT)

Andrea Bruce: Encouraging local production: food security in Jamaica (NOOR)

Naomi Harris: Oh, Canada (Slate Behold) Capturing Canada like you’ve never seen it before

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: Return to River Town (VII Photo) Fuling: crucible of a changing China

Jonathan Browning: Creature Comforts (Nowness) Step inside Shanghai’s luxury animal emporium

Brent Stirton: The Hard Life of Celebrity Elephants (NYT Magazine) India

Reed Young: Portraits of Moneyed Classes Put a Face on India’s Economic Growth (Wired Rawfile)

Supranav Dash: Disappearing Trades: Portraits of India’s Obsolete Professions (LightBox)

Andrew Biraj: Industry’s Victims in Bangladesh (Boston Globe Big Picture)

Michael Christopher Brown: Koh Phangan Full Moon Party (Magnum Photos) Thailand

Che’ Ahmad Azhar: A Street-Level View of Kuala Lumpur (NYT Lens) Malaysia

Benjamin Rasmussen

Benjamin Rasmussen and Michael Friberg: Desert Surreality: Plight of Syrian Refugees Magnified Outside Zaatari (LightBox) Photographers Michael Friberg and Benjamin Rasmussen teamed up to document the plight of refugees fleeing Syria to escape the ongoing bloodshed

Lynsey Addario: Syrian Kurds Flee to Northern Iraq (NYT)

Mads Nissen: Homophobia in Russia (Berlingske)

Sergey Ponomarev: Migrant Workers Detained in Russia (NYT)

Asbjørn Sand: Skating Through Life (NYT Lens) Denmark | Sand was 11 when he fell in love with the world of skateboarding — a world into which his photographs offer an intimate, affectionate window

Gareth Phillips: Revisiting the Past (Photo Booth) In his early twenties, Phillips spent summers in the Aquitaine region of France with his friends. Fifteen years later, Phillips and his crew returned.

Spotlight Story
'Without Empathy, Nothing Works.' Chef José Andrés Wants to Feed the World Through the Pandemic
Celebrity chef José Andrés is focused on feeding Americans affected by coronavirus. Here's how he plans to do it.

Maja Daniels: The Malroux Twins (New York Magazine: The Cut) Meet Monette and Mady Malroux, identical twins with identical lifestyles

Gabriele Galimberti: Delicatessen with Love (Audiovision) Grandmas’ home cooking from around the world

Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni: Riding the ‘white train’ in search of a miracle (CNN Photo blog) In the small French town of Lourdes, disabled pilgrims arrive once a year, some every year, hoping for a miracle

Greg Miller: Primo Amore (Trunk magazine) Portrait series about summer love, shot over the course of years along Italy’s Mediterranean coast

Stuart Franklin: Fracking in the UK (Magnum Photos) Protesters as well as local residents in Balcombe, Sussex, a usually quiet part of the country that has found itself at the center of a global environmental story

Phil Wills: Britain’s Food Vans (Independent) Wills catalogues Britain’s food vans


A 16-year-old Connecticut girl was stabbed at school Friday morning and later died hours before she was set to attend her junior prom, Reuters reports. The victim was stabbed shortly after 7 a.m. ET Friday at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, a town near New Haven, Connecticut. "There was blood on her neck. It was awful," student Sam Garcia told Reuters. "I saw the girl lying on the stretcher when they took her out." Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said in a press conference that a 16-year-old boy who allegedly stabbed the girl is in custody. Officials are investigating widespread reports that the boy may have attacked the victim after she declined his prom invitation. Students were sent home for the day shortly after 9 a.m. Friday. [Reuters]        
Mohammed Abdel Moneim / AFP / Getty Images

Echoes of Tiananmen in Egypt protest camp (AFP Correspondent blog) Images of a woman standing between a bulldozer and an injured protester in Egypt quickly spread across social networks on August 14, with many viewers reminded of the celebrated

Journalists killed, attacked as clashes erupt in Egypt (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Egypt Lashes Out at Foreign News Media’s Coverage (NYT)

From Twitter to TIME: An Egyptian Photojournalist Finds His Voice Amid Violence (PDN)

Photo Editors Who Made a Difference Part 1 / Part 2 (NYT Lens) Photographers recall photo editors’ influence on their careers in a two-part series on that symbiotic relationship

Why Gerhard Steidl Is a Book Publishing Master (PDN)

If you can stand 30 seconds of soft torture, please watch this advertisement, from the NCAA, below: [youtube=] The NCAA has been running such propaganda PSAs since last year, during big events like the March Madness basketball games. They've always bothered me, since they're nonsensical. How exactly is bureaucratic sports organization headquartered in Indianapolis a "spirit-squad" for college athletes going on job interviews? I was an NCAA athlete back in the late 1990s. Where were my damn cheerleaders when I bombed several inquisitions? Well, that was a long time ago. So maybe this pom-pom thing is a new development. Or is this some kind of metaphorical message? Since you played college sports, and learned teamwork and confidence and other qualities, you'll be more prepared for real-life events like a job interview? Yeah, OK, whatever. A good ad should require no decoding. But the key, really, is the end of the ad, when the narrator says that the NCAA is "always there for student-athletes." We've got your back, the NCAA is saying. That's bold, strong proclamation. Too bad it's not true. Actually, it's a crying shame it's not true. False advertising is abhorrent. Consider the case of Michigan basketball star Mitch McGary. During the Wolverines' run to the title game in 2013, the then-freshman emerged as a force, averaging 16 points and 11.6 rebounds in the NCAA tournament before Michigan fell to Louisville in the final. He had shed twenty pounds during the season, and had a kind of goofy, lovable lug way about him. One of his teammates told a story: while heading to a shootaround in New York City before a game, everyone noticed that McGary wasn't on the team bus. Turns out he got stuck in a hotel elevator, which gave the team more reason to razzle the rookie: his weight caused it to stop. But McGary got the last laugh, and was able to laugh at himself afterwards. He was just a college kid. And despite his NBA potential, McGary seriously considered remaining in college next year. NCAA, dispatch the spirit squad. The whole point is for these "student-athletes" to stay in school, right?. Instead, McGary is off to the NBA, against his will, thanks to the draconian policies of the NCAA itself. A back injury limited McGary to just eight games this season. He missed the NCAA tournament. After Kentucky knocked Michigan out of the tournament in the Elite 8, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, "McGary was contemplating whether to enter the NBA draft or return for his junior season. Coming back would allow him to prove his back was fine and continue enjoying life in Ann Arbor. His play could bolster his NBA draft stock. It was an attractive option." But then he got some news: McGary had failed a marijuana test during the tournament. And even though he did not play during any of the games, under NCAA rules, he would have to miss all of next season. As Wetzel explains, if Michigan had administered the test during the regular season, and McGary tested positive, he probably would have missed three games under Michigan's punishment. But since the NCAA takes over the testing during the tournament, McGary is subject to the NCAA penalty: a full-year ban for a first-time offender. Of a recreational drug growing more legal and accepted by the day. The NCAA denied Michigan's appeal. But then,right after reaffirming McGary's one-year ban, the NCAA itself changed the punishment for future first-time offenders, reducing it from a one-year ban to a half-season ban. "Street drugs are not performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation," the NCAA said in a statement. But the new policy goes into effect on August 1. And the NCAA declined to apply the new standard to McGary. The NCAA: "we're always there for student-athletes." Sure. In his interview with Wetzel, McGary took responsibility for his mistake. He smoked marijuana while hanging out with friends in March -- usually, he says, he turns it down. He had passed every other drug test Michigan gave him over two years. McGary may have gone to the NBA regardless of this incident. But what should have been a minor, embarrassing suspension for next season turned into a ridiculous one-year ban, and left him no choice. The NCAA: "we're always there for student-athletes." So if the NCAA refuses to apply common sense to its enforcement system, the least it can do is stop running those ads. Cause they're blatantly hypocritical. And I'd rather not throw a shoe at my television.          
Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP / Getty Images

War’s Assault on Civic Rituals (No Caption Needed)

If it Bleeds it Leads … Sometimes (No Caption Needed) Photographs of violent death show up in the mainstream media regularly, but only if they are taken outside of the United States. Why?

American Photographer Tells of Odyssey as Prisoner of Syrian Rebels (NYT)

Freelancers and Syria: Do You Really Have to Go? (Rory Peck Trust)

Photography Is the New Universal Language, and It’s Changing Everything (Wired Rawfile)

The art of peeping: photography at the limits of privacy (Guardian) New York photographer Arne Svenson snapped his neighbours in their homes without permission – and has just won a court case under his First Amendment rights. Should snooping be allowed in the name of art?

New Eyes on Familiar Streets: Todd Gross in New York City (LightBox)

An Instagram Shootout (NYT Lens) Photojournalists Joshua Lott and Eric Thayer battle each other in an Instagram shootout

On March 10, as a stiff wind blew in from the Black Sea, a column of about 200 armed troops stood in formation in Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea, to take an oath of loyalty to the new Crimean army. One by one, the soldiers stepped up to the memorial flame at the city's monument to World War II and read from a sheet of paper. Their words amounted to a renunciation of Ukraine and its leaders in Kiev. "I pledge to be faithful to the people of Crimea," each man said, talking about a country that does not officially exist. At least not yet. The ceremony unfolded just days before the new, jury-rigged government of Crimea was due to hold a plebiscite, of a kind, on its secession from Ukraine. The vote, which offers 2 million Crimeans a choice between joining Russia and staying within Ukraine but with almost total autonomy, is a foregone conclusion. "I'm certain the referendum will pass," says Sergei Aksyonov, the leader of the separatist republic and its military commander in chief. "And then we will be reunited with our Russian motherland." Since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 25 years ago, the forces of history have spun mostly westward in Europe as former Soviet-bloc states have turned more capitalist and pluralist. But now, on the strategic peninsula of Crimea, those same forces have begun to favor Moscow. While the U.S., Europe and most Ukrainians will watch the return of Crimea to Russia with a mix of anguish and disbelief, the peninsula is already de facto Russian territory: Crimea's Ukrainian military bases are blockaded by Russian troops. Its ethnic minorities--primarily Ukrainians and Muslim Tatars--are too afraid of violent pogroms to mount any real challenge to the referendum. The streets of the peninsula are patrolled by Russian nationalists, including a contingent of Cossack paramilitaries, who arrived at the end of February with ceremonial whips in hand to claim what they see as Russia's rightful territory. But the driving force may be Aksyonov, the 41-year-old ethnic Russian who has emerged in unusually short order as the man to see in Crimea. With a tight grip on the region's paramilitaries and an enduring faith in the glory days of the Soviet empire, Aksyonov has the one thing that matters most on this breakaway peninsula: the confidence of Vladimir Putin. About that there is no doubt: on March 4, the Russian President recognized Aksyonov as the leader of Crimea--"Of course he is legitimate," Putin remarked at a press conference at his residence outside Moscow--apparently without having met the man. The two have never spoken on the phone, Aksyonov insists, "but I'm sure we'll be in touch as the process moves forward." Where Past Is Prologue Aksyonov began planning Crimea's exit from Ukraine even before the pro-Russia regime of President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled. In late January, as the Yanukovych government in Kiev was just starting to crack under the pressure of a popular anticorruption revolution, Aksyonov began to form his own army on the Crimean Peninsula, a tongue of southeastern Ukraine about the size of Maryland that juts out into the Black Sea. His stated aim was to protect Crimea from the revolutionary wave that was sweeping across Ukraine and, ultimately, to break away from the larger country entirely. A first battalion of 700 men came from the youth group of Aksyonov's political party, Russian Unity, and in the weeks that followed hundreds of others joined his Crimean self-defense brigades. By Feb. 21, the day the Kiev uprising toppled the Ukrainian government, Aksyonov was in command of several thousand troops. "All of them," he says, "answer to me." Aksyonov took power the following week, just as the protest leaders in Kiev were forming a new government. Before dawn on Feb. 27, at least two dozen heavily armed men seized the Crimean parliament in Simferopol, bringing with them a cache of assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Next, they invited Aksyonov inside to call a quorum of the chamber. That day, with the pro-Russian gunmen standing in the wings, the speaker registered two supposedly unanimous votes: The first vote made Aksyonov, whose party holds only three of the 100 seats in the local legislature, the Prime Minister of Crimea. The second called for a referendum to split the region off from Ukraine. Exactly who voted, and under what circumstances, is unknown. The gunmen who presided over that day's session were acting "spontaneously," says Aksyonov. "We only knew that these were Russian nationalist forces. These were people who share our Russian ideology." That power grab caught Kiev and the West flat-footed, even though the playbook of its leader is nothing new to Eastern Europe. While many countries in the region, including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, joined key Western organizations like NATO and the European Union in the years that followed the collapse of the Soviet bloc, others that border Russia have remained torn between East and West. Crimea is part of that ongoing tug-of-war. For its breakaway leader, that struggle is something of a family tradition. Like Father, Like Son In the late 1980s, as the Soviet Union began to fall apart, nationalist movements for independence sprang up in nearly all of its satellite states, from the Baltics to Central Asia. Aksyonov's father, an officer in the Red Army, was then stationed in the Soviet state of Moldova, where a new generation of leaders was demanding the right to form a government free from Moscow's grip. That left ethnic minorities in Moldova, including the Aksyonovs and other Russians, in a precarious position--they suddenly had to fend for themselves on the edges of Moscow's fraying empire. Aksyonov's father Valery responded by forming a group called the Russian Community of Northern Moldova, which campaigned for the rights of ethnic Russians in a country ruled by the Moldovan majority. The tensions between these groups soon devolved into a war, and the Russian army came to the rescue of the local paramilitary groups, including a battalion of Cossacks, who were fighting the forces of the Moldovan government. Two years later, in 1992, the conflict ended with the secession of a breakaway state called Transnistria, a sliver of land 1,350 sq. mi. (3,500 sq km) in size that runs along the Dniester River. Today, Transnistria is still a tiny, frozen conflict zone on the map of Europe. Its independence is not recognized by any member of the U.N., not even Russia. It is the only part of Europe that still embraces the hammer-and-sickle insignia of the Soviet Union, and its customs posts are notorious clearinghouses for contraband, including tobacco, guns and counterfeit liquor. None of that changes the younger Aksyonov's reverence for the place. "Transnistria is a bastion of Russian culture inside Moldova," he says. "They wanted to preserve their identity. And I fully support them, because I know what kind of pressures they faced." In 1989, just before the war in Moldova broke out, the 17-year-old Aksyonov moved from his homeland to Crimea. He had tired of what he says was anti-Russian discrimination in Moldova. In the Crimean capital he enrolled in a college for Soviet military engineers. But before he could graduate from the academy to become a Red Army officer like his father and grandfather, the Soviet Union collapsed. "All of us, my entire class, we were all told, 'That's it, you have no country left to serve. Now pledge an oath to independent Ukraine,'" he recalls. "It's just like what's happening now." Aksyonov refused to serve in the Ukrainian military, deciding instead to go into business. He started out dealing tobacco, a trade dominated by smugglers at the time, and selling umbrellas from Moldova. With the help of bank loans, Aksyonov got in on the privatization of state assets in Crimea and now owns large stakes in two local factories, including one producing automotive parts in Simferopol. In 2008, Aksyonov grew close to a political-activist group called the Russian Community of Crimea, which has long campaigned for the peninsula to split from Ukraine and become a part of Russia. Its relations with the local government were fraught, and it often faced investigation for promoting separatism, which is illegal in Ukraine. But no charges were ever filed against its leaders. Aksyonov's first break in politics came in 2010 with the formation of his Russian Unity party, which went on to win 4% of the vote in that year's Crimean parliamentary elections. It wasn't much, but it was enough to earn him a seat in the chamber, just the foothold he needed to seize the premiership last month while Kiev was distracted by its revolution. Over the past two weeks, Putin's recognition of Aksyonov's rule has allowed him to send emissaries for talks with officials in Moscow. And senior Russian lawmakers have come to Crimea to repay the favor. The Challenges of Annexation In the days leading up to the referendum, the Kremlin's television networks took over the Crimean airwaves from Ukrainian TV, and the skies over Crimea were closed to all commercial flights except those going to and from Moscow. Both felt like signals of what is to come. Western hands aren't so much tied as they are helpless. President Obama has limited the U.S. reaction to banning travel to the U.S. for a small number of unnamed Russian officials. Obama has also signed an executive order that would freeze assets of some Russian and Ukrainian figures, but he has not yet invoked it. Even that move is symbolic: during his state-of-the-nation address in 2012, Putin ordered all Russian officials to take their money out of foreign banks and store it at home. That granted the Kremlin a degree of immunity from the panic such sanctions are designed to stir among local elites. So it is no surprise that Russia has almost dared the U.S. to fire away. Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, warned his American counterpart, John Kerry, in early March that imposing sanctions on Russia would "inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang." If Obama wanted to apply more-concerted pressure--and there is no sign he does--he could adopt the sort of sanctions Washington has inflicted on Iran's banking sector. Thanks to U.S. power within the international financial system, a Russian bank blacklisted by the U.S. might find itself unable to do business internationally. But such moves need months or sometimes years to have any impact, and even their backers in Washington admit that route isn't likely to be satisfying. "Our sanctions are pretty toothless without Europe as part of that package," said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut on March 5. For its part, Europe has frozen talks on easing its visa and investment regime with Russia and has hinted at an arms embargo and trade restrictions if the annexation of Crimea moves ahead. Moscow is unlikely to find either threat terribly worrisome. Besides, the biggest challenges are likely to be homegrown. If he remains in power, Aksyonov may find that governing Crimea is harder than taking over its parliament. With neither a middle class nor any heavy industry to speak of, the peninsula relies heavily on the income received from tourists who still visit its dilapidated Black Sea resorts. Now that it's at the center of a separatist conflict, Crimea's allure as a holiday destination will be unlikely to improve. And Ukraine's economic blockade of the peninsula will make things even harder. Crimea relies on Ukraine for most of its clean water, electricity and natural gas, which the government in Kiev has threatened to sever in the event that Russia moves to annex Crimea. The Kremlin would then need to foot the bill for new infrastructure, including a multibillion-dollar bridge over the Kerch Strait that divides Crimea from its adopted homeland. Considering the damage the crisis has already done to Russia's economy--it is now expected to grow at a sluggish 1% this year, about half the rate economists forecast before the crisis--Russia may have second thoughts about the charity case that is Crimea, whose population will expect assistance from Moscow in return for their fealty. One possible outcome: the Kremlin opts instead to keep the peninsula in legal limbo, much as it has done with Transnistria for most of the past quarter-century. Russia's strategic goals would still be achieved. A simmering dispute with separatists in Ukraine would likely ruin any hopes Ukraine might have of joining NATO, the military alliance that Russia is obsessed with keeping away from its borders. Turning Crimea into a much larger version of Transnistria might suit Russia's goals just fine. That may be exactly what Aksyonov has in mind. But the signals coming from Moscow suggest for now that it is leaning toward full annexation. State television channels have been airing footage of Crimean crowds begging to join the Russian Federation. And some of Putin's closest allies have said they would not leave Crimea out in the cold. Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, said the peninsula would become "an absolutely equal subject of the Russian Federation" if that turns out to be the people's will during the referendum. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine's new Prime Minister, has denounced the referendum as illegal and appealed to his Western allies for help. Yet in light of Russia's incomparable superiority in numbers and military hardware, all he can really do is plead for unity with the people of Crimea. "We must begin a national political dialogue," he said in a televised address to Crimeans on March 11. "The government is ready. But the dialogue cannot be done at gunpoint and under the Russian tanks." But for Putin's new ally Aksyonov, guns and Russian military strength have worked just fine. His new base of operations is inside the Crimean-government headquarters, its entrance flanked by two masked commandos with bulletproof vests and automatic rifles. He readily admits he does not fit the West's idea of a statesman. As he settles into his role as leader of the world's newest semiautonomous almost-state, such things hardly matter. "I was chosen as a crisis manager," he says. "Everybody else ran away. Nobody wanted to take one iota of responsibility on themselves. So I was forced to take it on myself." And with Putin's support, he may get to keep the job for as long as he likes. --With reporting by Michael Crowley/Washington

Leica ad recreates scenes from Robert Capa’s life (and death) (Dva Foto)

Magnificent Obsession: Robert De Niro on the Set of Raging Bull (LightBox) Photos by Brian Hamill

Kodakchrome’s Last Color and Memory (NYT Lens) As production of Kodachrome film ended, Nathan Benn, a former National Geographic photographer, revisited packed-up images whose vibrant colors had endured the ravages of time

Ideas Tap Meets Magnum Photos (Issuu)

This Week In Photography Books – Aaron Huey (A Photo Editor)

Burned to Nothing: When Photographers Destroy Their Own Negatives (LightBox)

Hordes of lobbyists have been streaming in and out of the Federal Communications Commission's doors over the past two months, as the Commission has been hard at work at new proposed rules governing the way Internet traffic is delivered to customers' homes. At least 69 companies, public interest groups and trade associations have lobbied the FCC in regards to the so-called net neutrality changes, the New York Times reports. Net neutrality refers to the concept that Internet service providers should treat all Internet traffic as equal in regards to speed of delivery. Proponents of the idea say it bolsters competition among media giants, while detractors argue it amounts to undue government interference in the marketplace. The lobbying firestorm is likely to intensify after the commission announced Wednesday that it will propose rules allowing ISPs to charge companies for Internet "fast lanes." That's a position some net neutrality proponents view as antithetical to the concept they hold dear. Many of those proponents argue the new proposal, being issued under the stewardship of recently-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, are a reversal of the net neutrality principals enshrined in an earlier FCC order that was the crowning achievement of the agency's previous Chairman, Julius Genachowski. Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, has defended the FCC's new proposals, arguing they don't defy the agency's earlier order. Wheeler also said that the FCC under the proposed changes would be able to stop activity deemed harmful to consumers on a case-by-case basis. "To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted," Wheeler wrote in a blog post Thursday. FCC commissioners are set to vote on the proposed changes next month before they're opened to public comment. [NYT]

Martin Luther King: Murals spread his dream (BBC) Since 1977, photographer Camilo José Vergara has documented murals of Martin Luther King in communities across the US

A Momentous Day Driven by Ordinary (NYT Lens) The photography of Leonard Freed, whose images explored the March on Washington at ground level, still resonates 50 years after that historic day

Lightning, Bolt strike in Moscow (AFP Correspondent blog)

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s best photograph – Scottish standard-bearers (Guardian)

Jade Beall’s best photograph – a dancer after childbirth (Guardian)

Emerging Photographer: Ryan Page (Photo Booth)

Featured photographers: Tommaso Protti (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Farzana Wahidy (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Sébastien Van Malleghem (Verve Photo)

The readers’ editor on… using generic photographs to illustrate news stories (Guardian) ‘Is it reasonable to drag an old picture out and attach a new caption to give it a new meaning?’

Photography Phone Call: Are Snapshots Dead? (The Picture Show) With photo collector Robert E. Jackson

Photographer Cabbie Captures the Magic of New York City from His Taxi (PetaPixel)

The art of Instagram: Why this app is breaking the boundaries of photography (The Independent)

The Tragedy of the Sunset Photo (Slate) Why they’re all over your Instagram feed—and why they’re so hard to get right

Interviews and Talks

Young black men and adults with lower incomes and education levels are the most likely to drink over one sugar-sweetened beverage a day

James Wellford (Emaho magazine) Newsweek’s former Senior Photo Editor on the death of the magazine

Michael Kamber (NYT Lens) An exhibition of Michael Kamber’s photographs ponders the relationship between his portraits from the Bronx and from troubled places abroad

Pascal Maitre (National Geographic)

JR (National Geographic)

Bieke Depoorter (Dazed Digital)

College students have begun using Tinder to pursue the greatest thing in the world. No, not love. Free food. American University junior Julia Reinstein realized that the dating/hookup app could be used for more practical means than the exchange of bodily fluids. People could identify if they had or were in need of a spare meal swipe at the school's cafeteria. By limiting your search distance to a mile, meal matches would proliferate. Think of all the food babies yet to be born. "That's symbiosis, folks," Reinstein wrote on Swipe for Swipes' Tumblr. I had friends who, while in grad school, used to joke about using OKCupid as their meal plan, but this endeavor is much more direct. As long as the salad bar doesn't come with a side of expectations, everybody wins. [Washington Post]
Mosa’ab Elshamy / AFP / Getty Images

Mosa’ab Elshamy (NBC News Photo blog) Up close and personal: Egyptian photographer captures country’s lost ‘humanity’

Mosa’ab Elshamy (Washington Post) ‘You are almost invisible’

Jack Picone (Vice) 20 years in war zones

Jason P. Howe (PhotoShelter blog) Survival Tips for The Aspiring Conflict Photographer

Richard Renaldi (Aperture blog) Renaldi spoke with Chris Boot on the recent progress that has been made on the Touching Strangers project

Erin Brethauer (American Photo)

Richard Koci Hernandez—@koci_glass

Richard Koci Hernandez (LightBox) Theater of the Streets, Shot On Google Glass

Amanda Renshaw (Phaidon) Publisher and editorial director, Amanda Renshaw introduceds you to Steve McCurry Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs

David Chancellor (LA Times Framed photo blog)

David Hobby (burn magazine)

Peter Dench (Evening Standard) Photojournalist Peter Dench is documenting modern Britain and he wants Londoners to help to him capture the city and its inhabitants

Andrew Nelles (PetaPixel) Former Chicago Sun-Times Photographer

Mikko Takkunen is an associate photo editor at Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Contact us at

Read More From TIME