#NPRreads: Finding A Point Of View

Jul 2, 2016

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Tanya Ballard Brown, an NPR.org editor:

When I saw the teaser for Evan Hughes' GQ story about a man who served as the official videographer at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, who became a suspect in his wife's death which occurred just a few months after the national tragedy in New York City — and who was now a folk hero in Argentina because he claimed the U.S. government knew about the World Trade Center attacks before they happened — there was NO WAY I could pass up reading this story.

An excerpt:

The U.S. authorities, he said, know he is innocent in Nancy's death. The real reason they're after him is that the United States has dark secrets to hide about the September 11 attacks.

Sonnenfeld and Paula claimed they had pieced it all together once he was inexplicably re-arrested on a baseless charge that had already been dismissed. Sonnenfeld had had privileged access to Ground Zero, along with other sensitive sites, and he'd never handed over all his footage to FEMA. U.S. officials must have figured out he was getting ready to show his tapes on television in Argentina and wanted to punish him for raising incriminating questions.

Sonnenfeld's account to Graña was one he would later tell again and again to other Argentine journalists and even on the floor of the nation's Senate. He has suggested that FEMA must have had foreknowledge of the attacks, given how quickly he got a call summoning him to the scene. Once there, he says, he saw a large empty vault beneath World Trade Center 6—a heavily damaged building adjacent to the Twin Towers that housed offices of U.S. Customs—and he posits that the vault could only have been cleared of its important contents in advance. He questions why World Trade Center 7 fell despite not being struck by an airliner, why airplane seats survived but the black boxes did not. All this he presents as evidence of the theories that 9/11 "truthers" have been embracing since the immediate aftermath of the attacks: "One thing I am certain of," Sonnenfeld said in an Argentine documentary, "is that the agencies of intelligence of the United States of America knew what was going to happen and at least let it happen." He added that he is "at the point of concluding" that "they in fact collaborated."

From Homepage Editor Dana Farrington:

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that transgender troops can now serve openly. Chelsea Manning, who The Guardian notes is the "highest-profile transgender individual in the armed services today," says the move does not go far enough.

Manning wrote a column for the paper in prison, where she is serving 35 years for leaking classified information. Manning's critique is two-fold. She points out a requirement that new recruits be "stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military."

Manning asks, "Isn't gender an inherently unstable concept ...?"

She adds: "No one knows my gender more than I do. ... No one experiences my gender in the way that I experience it. Presenting myself and my gender is about my right to exist."

Manning also wonders if or how the new policy applies to service members in prison. Ultimately she decides, "When it comes to trans inclusion in the military, at this point, there are still too many questions."

From Bill Chappell, writer for The Two-Way:

Rolling Stone's look at Samantha Bee pulls together several of my fascinations: how people weave their way toward new levels in their lives and careers, how comedians go about their work, and how the people behind TV shows create something that, for millions of strangers, will become part of a daily ritual.

I will confess that I've only seen bits of Samantha Bee's show, mainly because I have two (adorable) little kids and my work hours are sort of crazy. Also, because I work in the news, my idea of unwinding is a bit more escapist — fiction and science fiction — than anything reality-based.

Being someone who's worked a lot of different jobs, I love the idea that Bee hired people away from places like the Maryland DMV. She used a blind application process that not brought in people who, as she says, "have been underestimated their entire careers."

The other cool thing about that hiring process: by not knowing what applicants looked like, Bee "ended up with a writers' room that looked kind of like America: 50 percent female; 30 percent nonwhite."

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