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#NPRreads: Take Flight With These 3 Stories This Weekend

A Korean Air Boeing 747 aircraft takes off before storm clouds at Gimpo airport, south of Seoul.
Ed Jones
AFP/Getty Images
A Korean Air Boeing 747 aircraft takes off before storm clouds at Gimpo airport, south of Seoul.

#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 Chuck Holmes, Deputy Managing Editor:

This essay by long-haul airline pilot Mark Vanhoenacker for Vox.com (based on his book) caught my eye with its headline: "I fly 747s for a living. Here are the amazing things I see everyday."

Maybe it's because air travel still seems to defy our sense of reality ("You're sitting in a chair in the sky!" says comedian Louis C.K. in his viral stand-up bit about the miracle of human flight.)

Maybe it was the hours and hours I spent as a kid staring at contrails, trying to identify airplanes by their silhouettes, and imagining myself a pilot someday. (A potential career list that also included, at various times: veterinarian, Hollywood stunt man, doctor and architect.)

Vanhoenacker writes elegantly about the vast expanses of uninhabitable lands he views from the cockpit. He entertains us with aviation esoterica — pilots and air traffic controllers have dubbed the waypoint above Boston "NIMOY." Why? The late actor famous for playing Mr. Spock was born in Boston.

He writes of shifting "'rivers in the sky,' the jetstreams that shape our weather and our travel. "And so I find it endlessly pleasing that as the winds and currents shaped the journeys of ships in the old days, similarly today, over the Atlantic, pilots routinely sail hundreds of miles out of their way to avoid a headwind, or to catch a tailwind that will speed us across the sea."

His observations about time and distance and place made me think about my own perceptions of points on the map and how I view the world.

From Emily Harris, Middle East correspondent:

When is your problem a problem of how we've set up our society, not "an epidemic of personal failings?" That theme kept coming across my radar this week. It was the central question in NPR's Politics in Real Life story on paid family leave. It turned the lure of imposter syndrome on its head in this excellent piece from Model View Culture. And was threaded throughout Mic's piece highlighting not only the discrepancies people of color face in the mental health care system, but the actual risk many take when they seek help:

"Racial bias and stereotyping lead health care providers to perceive black people as 'aggressive' and misdiagnose them as schizophrenic. A recent study found black patients were 2.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with the mental illness than white patients. People of color who express frustration with racial discrimination to their therapist's face being pathologized with diagnoses such as: panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. For many, diagnosis is the first step to getting treatment, but a black person diagnosed with mental illness in America is more likely to face punitive consequences once in the system."

Natalia Nodiff, featured in the article, put it much more succinctly: "A lot of my issues do boil down to social issues," she said. "And they are not just in my brain."

A key comparison: War zones. I've spent time in some of those. Any stress I experienced was seen as due to exposure to that situation, not me being nuts. But when daily life in America is a the high-stress situation, it's interpreted differently, the Mic piece argues, quoting Ann Marie Yamada, a professor of social work at the University of Southern California. Yamada said:

"What about people who live in communities that are unsafe or threatening? That their friends are getting killed? That they have children that they fear for them when they go out and not know if they're going to come back? How is that not going to create mental health problems in people?"

From Two-Way blogger Laura Wagner:

Last week, the NFL draft was held in Chicago. With its media fanfare, red carpets and canned quotes about expectations and hard work, it was the predictable spectacle sports fans have come to count on – except for one thing: Just before the draft was set to begin, a video was released on social media that changed the course of the night.

A grainy recording of Laremy Tunsil, a standout offensive lineman from Ole Miss, was posted on his Twitter account. The undated video showed him taking a hit from a bong through a gas mask. Tunsil, who was expected to be a top draft pick, fell all the way to 13th before he was taken by the Miami Dolphins.

Then, after he was picked, a text message exchange from Tunsil's years at Ole Miss was posted on his Instagram. In the texts, Tunsil asked a football administrator for money to help pay his mother's bills. As all of this played out, Tunsil didn't say much more than that he had been hacked and that his mistakes were behind him.

The ensuing outrage, however, was as fierce as it was misplaced.

Yes, the video of Tunsil smoking was visually disconcerting. But isn't a malicious invasion of privacy — and the fact that it cost a young man millions of dollars — a bigger deal? Yes, Tunsil shouldn't have requested money from Ole Miss. But if the NCAA paid athletes fairly for their work, then he wouldn't have had to ask. In the immediate aftermath of the situation, the wrong questions were being asked. This article begins to raise the right ones.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.
Chuck Holmes is Deputy Managing Editor for NPR News. He works closely with NPR's Arts, Business, International, National, Science and Washington Desks to coordinate and facilitate daily news coverage and long-term planning for NPR News.

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