Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros is a former staff writer at The Atlantic.
  • Lucas Jackson / Reuters

    California's Sanctions Against Wells Fargo

    The state is cutting ties with the bank for a year, following a scandal involving fake accounts.

  • Are Criticisms of the NFL Overblown?

    A dissenting reader, Alex, pushes back on most of the readers who have written in so far:

    Like many football fans, I’m often conflicted about following the sport. Many of the concerns raised by your readers are valid, but I think it's important to put them in the proper context. In many cases, troubling high-profile incidents have been turned into anecdotal evidence of a problem not supported by data.

    For example, as your readers detailed, one of the recurring issues is the head trauma that players are subjected to and the league’s head-in-the-sand approach to safety concerns. Indeed, several players have retired early rather than risk the ravages of CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy].

    But what most people don’t know is that—despite a higher rate of neurodegenerative diseases—NFL players have longer lifespans on average than the general population. They even commit suicide at a lower rate. So the notion that players are “killing themselves for our entertainment” is not statistically true. At best, one could argue that players are putting themselves at risk for some future health issues while also improving other factors (fitness and wealth) that correlate strongly with longevity.

    Another argument echoed by your readers is that watching the NFL makes one complicit with a league full of domestic and sexual abusers who have faced little to no consequences for their actions. Indeed, the league’s approach to cases like Ray Rice and Greg Hardy has been abysmal—and the NFL’s “No More” awareness campaign on the issue reeks of a CYA [cover your ass] public relations move. But for all the NFL’s failures on the issue, its players are still less likely to be arrested for domestic violence and sex offenses than males of the same age.

  • How Shimon Peres Helped Bring Peace Between Cuba and the U.S.

    Shimon Peres
    Feng Li / Reuters

    A surprising name came up in conversation earlier this year in Miami. Just before President Obama visited Cuba in March, I headed down to Florida to see how Cuban Americans felt about the normalizing relations between the two countries. For some, it was impossible for them to move on from the traumatic experience of fleeing their home country, forced to relocate to the U.S. after a new communist government seized their parents’ businesses and threatened their families. But for others, they are ready to look ahead to a new era.

    One of those Cuban-Americans was Mike Fernandez, a billionaire who has become a leading national voice in ending the embargo, frequently meeting with Washington lawmakers. Fernandez, speaking to me at his home in Coral Gables, said that one of the people who inspired him to forgive Fidel and Raul Castro and move forward with peace was Shimon Peres, the Israeli president and Nobel Prize winner.

    It was a detail that I did not include in my original article, but one that feels more relevant than ever. With news last night that Peres has passed away, I asked Fernandez about his friend and what he meant for this new era in U.S.-Cuba relations. He writes:

    Shimon Peres is a world leader I have admired and respected for decades. It’s an odd friendship we made, as I am neither an Israeli citizen nor a man of Jewish faith, but we met by way of a mutual friend many years ago.

    I was in love with his mind the night we met, sitting side by side at my friend’s home. The elder statesman spoke to me with gracious and powerful words about saving children’s lives. “Where in Israel are these children?” I asked. He smiled and said, “I speak of Palestinian children.” He had my attention. He was a maestro of peace and unity.

    As the years passed, I learned more about him, always in private and always in his somber, low-toned voice. In one occasion, he asked me where in Cuba I was born. I was shocked to hear him say, “I know where Manzanillo is at.” How could he possibly know? So I asked. With effort he leaned back and further sank in his chair and told me, “In 1947 or ’48, we needed weapons for Israel and we were buying them from anywhere we could. One place was Cuba. I remember being in a ship going to buy whatever we could and we could either drop anchor near Holguin on Cuba’s northern coast or Manzanillo on the southern coast. We chose the northern coast.” Little did I know.

    Last year, I visited with him in May. Our conversation turned, as it often had, to Cuba. I asked him, “Mr. President, would you consider joining an effort to help Cubans reconcile on both sides of the Florida Straits?” He almost jumped out of the chair in excitement. “I would love to,” he said. At 92, the idea of putting his energy at work on an issue of peace made him grin.

    Within a few minutes, there were half-a-dozen people in his office, planning a strategy. He then turned to me and said, “But it can’t be done if there is no forgiveness. Have you forgiven and can both groups move on? If you are focused on the past, you will not succeed. There will be no future.”

    Today, I have forgiven. Not all have, but many more have crossed that line because an Israeli president instructed a Cuban friend.

  • Gary Cameron / Reuters

    Wells Fargo CEO's Financial Punishment

    John Stumpf forfeits $41 million in stock awards because of a scandal at his company.

  • Carlos Barria / Reuters

    A Nomination for the First U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in 50 Years

    President Obama nominated a longtime diplomat for the top post in the communist country.

  • Counting the Ways to Discount the NFL

    So far, in our wide-ranging discussion over the state of the NFL and football fandom in general, readers have gone after brain injuries, domestic and sexual violence, and the league’s corporate greed. But many former fans have left the game for a smattering of other reasons, from faux-patriotism to just a malaise for the NFL. Here’s Dave to begin our long list:

    I just finished reading your introductory note “Are You No Longer a NFL Fan?” and I am indeed one of your readers that has lost interest in the game. I grew up a passionate fan and have fond memories of cheering for the Buffalo Bills with my family. While one might argue that my waning interest could be a result of the Bills 25+ years of mediocrity, I think it is much more than that. As you point out, the barbarism inherent in the sport and the failure of the NFL to adapt the game to account for brain damage research is deplorable and disgusting.

    There are other issues that I find offensive as well. Personally, I think it is gross the way that militarism, patriotism and heroism are all cozy bedfellows with the NFL, the NFL telecasts, and the promotion of each team’s brand. These things do not belong together. Military ceremony, jet fly-overs and overt use of American symbology in the NFL game cheapens true patriotism and heroism.

    Most importantly, I believe it carries the implication that the violence, force, and the untempered emotional support inherent in the game are necessary components of patriotism. This is dangerous and misguided.

    Mike, a U.S. military vet, has noticed his interest in the NFL wane over time:

    A handful of years ago, I was deployed to Afghanistan. I sacrificed most of my sleep by waking up at 2:30 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl between two teams I didn’t cheer for whatsoever (Ravens v. 49ers). I could name most of the starters for each team. I guess you could say I was a big NFL fan then.

    Last night, I went to a sports bar to get dinner. The bar had the Steelers v. Redskins game on. I couldn’t tell you who any of the players on either team were except for the starting QBs. I guess you could say I’m not a big NFL fan now.

    Doug has also noticed the revolving door of players:

    I used to enjoy a range of college and professional sports, including football. Several years back, it dawned on me that I was watching a group of workers doing work. They were employees doing a job—nothing more, nothing less. They weren’t “MY TOWN’S TEAM”; they go where the money is and work for whomever will pay them the most, and get dropped by their employer the instant the ROI flips. I’m fine with that, but it sort of took the core out of watching the game.

    Nick is sick of how the sport is packaged these days:

    Fewer games are broadcast on TV; you’re forced to buy the NFL package, ESPN, or NFL Network to watch them. As a cord cutter, I watch what is broadcast, nothing more.

    Robert is “about 80 percent done with the NFL”:

    Yes I am less of a fan today, mainly because like many things today, Social Media has ruined the escape from work, money worries, family dynamics, etc, etc.

  • Tyrone Siu / Reuters

    Another Typhoon Hits Taiwan

    This is the third major storm system to make landfall on the island in two weeks.

  • Steve Mitchell / Reuters

    An Emotional Send-Off to Jose Fernandez

    Wearing his name and number 16, the Miami Marlins saluted their pitcher who died over the weekend.

  • Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

    The Deadly Capsizing of a Migrant Boat

    Egyptian authorities have recovered more than 160 bodies and are expecting that number to go up in the coming days.

  • Gerry Broome / AP

    A Death From Charlotte Protest Violence

    Justin Carr was shot in the head in the midst of violent protests Wednesday. He was 26.

  • David W Cerny / Reuters

    The Handshake Behind a Swiss Controversy

    A local school council in Switzerland said a Muslim boy must shake his female teacher’s hand, regardless of his religious objection.

  • Darron Cummings / AP

    A WNBA Team's Protest Against Police Violence

    Every member of the Indiana Fever knelt during the national anthem, as Colin Kaepernick’s demonstration transcends professional sports.

  • Chuck Burton / AP

    A Shooting at the Charlotte Police Protest

    A man was shot by a fellow civilian Wednesday night while hundreds demonstrated against police violence.

  • Eddie Keogh / Reuters

    The Deal to Share the North American Fish and Chips Supply

    Canada and the U.S. agreed to split the remaining cod in the Atlantic Ocean.

  • WBTV / AP

    The Protests After Police Shoot Another Black Man

    Demonstrators in Charlotte were met with tear gas and riot police Tuesday night, hours after the fatal shooting.

  • Mary Altaffer / AP

    When an NBA Star's Rape Accuser Is No Longer Anonymous

    A federal judge said the woman suing Derrick Rose must be named in court.

  • Ammar Abdullah / Reuters

    Who's Responsible for the Aleppo Aid Convoy Attack?

    U.S. officials say only Russian warplanes could have carried out the airstrike that killed 20 people Monday.

  • Moshe Weiss / AP

    What We Know: The Explosions in New York and New Jersey

    Authorities say Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, is the suspect in both blasts on Saturday.

  • America by Air: The Birth of the Costliest Wildfire in U.S. History

    Christopher Baker

    I wrote a post yesterday about the wildfire raging along California’s Big Sur coast that has surpassed the $200 million-mark to combat—and it’s only two-thirds contained. A reader in California, Christopher Baker, saw the fire when it started two months ago. He writes:

    I saw your article and thought you’d find interesting the enclosed photo I took out the window of a Southwest flight on the evening of July 23 flying north from San Diego to San Francisco. It was extremely clear and I saw what I think is the first day of the fire out the window. The fire was very bright but still somewhat small, and I think I could see backfires started by the firefighters. It’s a remarkable sight because during my 50 years in California I’ve seen many brushfires from the air but never was the view this clear; normally they are obscured by the smoke.

    At its peak last month, more than 5,600 firefighters were working to put out the blaze. It’s destroyed 57 homes and threatens another 400. And all of this because someone left a small campfire burning while visiting Garrapata State Park.

  • The Stadium Shakedown

    Casino mogul and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is trying to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. But it’ll come at a price for taxpayers.

    “We’re only talking about $750 million,” he recently told Yahoo Finance. Only.

    This is far from the only time when the NFL came at a big cost to taxpayers and an enormous gain for team owners. Many Atlantic readers are outraged by the trend, including Lori:

    In addition to not caring for the safety of their players (in particular CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy]), and the NFL’s response, or lack thereof, to domestic abuse and sexual assault, let me add that I stopped watching football because of the greedy owners who cozied up to public officials and raided the coffers to build lavish new, mega stadiums at the expense of real public goods—parks, schools, safe roads and bridges, small business and entrepreneurial investments, clean water, and more.

    Here’s Billy, a former Bears fan in Chicago:

    The end of the NFL for me came when I read your article on how the NFL fleeces taxpayers [Gregg Easterbrook’s Atlantic essay, “How Taxpayers Keep the NFL Rich”]. My disgust started with the school systems of Chandler, AZ, and Cincinnati suffering so those municipalities can make their bond payments on stadiums that sit empty for 350 days a year. Then you read about all of the different “deals” owners cut with cities to get new stadiums paid for by anyone but themselves.

    And if a city won’t pay, like a 3-year old, the owner takes their ball and threatens to run to another city (L.A. until the Rams absconded, now Vegas). Speaking of the Rams, how does the city of St. Louis feel as it watches in horror as the NFL has ripped their financial hearts out for the second time in the last 30 years?

    As Bill Simmons said, billionaire owners can build their own fucking stadiums.

    A reader in Cleveland, Mark, goes into much more detail about the stadium issue: