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Atlantic Monthly

Bout Time

The big lie about Viktor Bout is that he escaped capture because he was hard to find. In recent years he did hide — the New York Times reports that during his two months in Bangkok he switched hotels often to avoid detection, landing finally at the swish Sofitel Silom — but during his previous two decades of international mischief he conducted himself with surprising openness. He didn’t get caught, because either through negligence or complicity, figures at the governmental level let him go, and let his business flourish.

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Atlantic Monthly

Need a Lawyer, Stat

Sub-Saharan Africa has it bad. The Lancet notes that it “carries 25% of the world’s disease burden yet has only 3% of the world’s health workers.” The doctors tend not to get paid on time, and they often have to fight the world’s ghastliest diseases with the medical equivalent of bows and arrows. A tropical disease specialist in London once advised his patient to save airfare: rather than visit the Congo, he said, just open your mouth and leap into a cesspool.

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Atlantic Monthly

Riders on the Storm

The Atlantic, October 2007

Most of the hurricanes that strike the United States are born off the coast of West Africa, and nursed on tropical waters. As air warmed over the Atlantic surges up to meet the cool atmosphere, its heat turns into kinetic energy, creating a violent twist of wind and rain. The bigger the temperature difference between the hot sea and the cold upper air, the more furious the storm can grow.

Climate scientists, aided by ever-more-powerful computer models, are investigating whether it’s possible to choke these storms slowly, during their long drift west. They want to attack big hurricanes from above or below, sapping the storms’ strength by either heating up their chilly tops or chilling their hot underbellies. According to some models, well-timed interventions could diminish a hurricane by 40 percent—enough to turn a possible Category 5 storm into a mere Category 2 or 3, which would break windows and wreck trailer parks but leave most buildings intact.