In Firestone and the Warlord, FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate the secret relationship between the American tire company Firestone and the infamous Liberian warlord Charles Taylor (pictured). Photo Credit: © Patrick Robert/Sygma/Corbis
In Firestone and the Warlord, PBS FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate the secret relationship between the American tire company Firestone and the infamous Liberian warlord Charles Taylor (pictured). Photo Credit: © Patrick Robert/Sygma/Corbis

F&O’s Noteworthy series offers our picks of stories on the Internet: stories worth your while amid the torrent of infotainment.

This week:

For Firestone and Liberia, A Secret History Unearthed — long form journalism

By T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones, ProPublica, and PBS Frontline

A note from the American editors on this story:

Uncovering buried history is one of the great traditions of investigative journalism. 

With “Firestone and the Warlord,” ProPublica, in collaboration with PBS FRONTLINE, publishes the extraordinary, untold story of one chapter in Liberia’s civil war, one of the 20th century’s ugliest. The story explores the unexamined role of an iconic American company in the rise to power of Charles Taylor, a murderous politician hungry for power in one of Africa’s most volatile and vulnerable countries.

Firestone, by the early 1990s, had operated a giant rubber plantation in Liberia for more than 60 years, and in doing so had come to play a dominant role in the country’s economy and politics. Taylor, who would become one of the world’s most notorious war criminals, was at the time an ambitious rebel leader heading a ragtag assortment of fighters. He was looking to recruit soldiers and gain legitimacy.

Reporters T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones frame the events this way: Firestone needed Liberia and its rubber. Taylor needed Firestone for his rise to power. So when the war came, the killer and the corporation found a way to make peace.  … read the story on ProPublica’s site

Photos of the Year

Global news agencies highlight the photojournalism they deem best represents the year.

Agence France-Presse (in progress)

AP Photos of the Year

Reuters Best Photos of 2014

Los Angeles, City of Water


Sometimes humans do good. Too often, the perception doesn’t match the reality. Take Los Angeles, for example, which responded to a water crisis even before the California drought hit, and now leads the way in its approach to life-giving water. Excerpt:

 LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population… 

It has become, of all things, a leader in sustainable water management, a pioneer in big-city use of cost-effective, environmentally beneficial water conservation, collection and reuse technologies. Some combination of these techniques is the most plausible path to survival for all the cities of the water-depleted West…. 

More and more cities now face water constraints. In the West, where most climate scientists expect droughts to lengthen and deepen, the techniques being introduced in Los Angeles ought to be viewed not just as smart choices, but as requirements.  read the story on the Times site.


LAGUNA BEACH, California - Paddleboarder. Photo Deborah Jones © 2012
LAGUNA BEACH, California. Deborah Jones © 2012


Op-Ed Why women are leaving the tech industry in droves By Sue Gardner, Los Angeles Times

When I moved to the Bay Area in 2007 to run the Wikimedia Foundation, the first thing that struck me was the eerie absence of women. I’d spent most of my working life at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., where we used to joke that women took power when the men went off to war in 1939, and afterward refused to give it back. At the CBC, easily half my colleagues, regardless of their gender, were overt, confident, unashamed feminists. 

The Bay Area tech community was different. In my first three months I had dozens of meetings with tech executives, entrepreneurs and investors, and the only women I met were scheduling the meetings and bringing drinks to the boardrooms. I started asking myself what year it was in Silicon Valley for women. Had we reached the point where we could wear pantsuits and play golf, or was it still the Mad Men era?

… we’re understanding the problem incorrectly. When I hear people talk about it, they use words like “encourage,” “support” and “nurture.” We advise companies to do a better job of “looking after” or “caring about” their women employees. We categorize the problem as though it were an issue of corporate social responsibility and as if we really believed women aren’t good enough and need coddling or remedial help.

That doesn’t fit my experience. The women I know in tech are tough, resilient and skilled. … read the LA Times story 

Carbon Emissions Past, Present and Future

By the World Resources Institute

Writes F&O Natural Security columnist Chris Wood: “The World Resources Institute has created a nifty visualization of where the greenhouse gasses have come from, and how much more we can safely release. As a Canadian, it’s startling to see how outsize our share has been compared to places with many more people.”  The interactive reveals how CO₂ emissions have changed over the past 150 years, based on data from WRI’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It shows much of the global “carbon budget” these emissions have used up, and what the future might hold. 

From F&O’s archives, in case you missed them:

Facts and Opinions Photo-Essay galleries: from African war zones to North Atlantic icebergs, to Burnaby Mountain. (Some of these require a subscription)

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening? By Mark Maslin

Climate change challenges the very way we organise our society. It needs to be seen within the context of the other great challenges of the 21st century: global poverty, population growth, environmental degradation, and global security. To meet these challenges we must change some of the basic rules of our society to allow us to adopt a much more global and long-term approach and in doing so develop a solution that can benefit everyone.


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