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MinnPost Picks: on yakuza second acts, gutting newspapers and the post-human future

Our weekly roundup of great stories from around the web, as recommended by MinnPost’s staff and contributing journalists.

Yakuza gang members' full-body ink-work stops short of hands and neck, allowing concealment under regular clothes.
Yakuza gang members' full-body ink-work stops short of hands and neck, allowing concealment under regular clothes.
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

As Japan’s yakuza mob weakens, former gangsters struggle to find a role outside crime, Washington Post

The ranks of the yakuza criminal networks in Japan are dwindling because of government intervention. What does life look like for defectors? One man opened a noodle shop, but had to win over nearby vendors first, and also the owner of a shop the mob had rammed a car into.
—Walker Orenstein, Greater Minnesota reporter

A Secretive Hedge Fund is Gutting Newsrooms, The Atlantic

Andrew PutzTruth be told, there’s not a lot new in this McKay Coppins story about Alden Global Capital — one of the largest newspaper operators in America — at least not to anybody who has been paying the slightest bit of attention to the media industry in recent years. Alden, which counts the Pioneer Press among the papers it owns, has become infamous for its strategy of slashing newsroom resources and soaking subscribers; the phrase “strip-mining” comes up a lot when talking about its business model. And though Coppins scores an interview with one of the elusive figures behind the hedge fund’s strategy, Heath Freeman (who basically says nothing), the real value here lay in the piece’s meticulously reported, clean-your-plate comprehensiveness. If you’re only going to read one deeply depressing story about the newspaper business this year, this is probably your go-to.
—Andy Putz, editor

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Photographer Romain Veillon Captures What Buildings Would Look Like If Humans Disappeared, Arch Daily

A century old Elks Lodges in Tacoma had been empty for years before it was finally converted into a McMenamins Hotel complex. I grabbed any chance to tour it when it was in its derelict state and these photos by Romain Veillon of nature enveloping architectural treasures in Europe reminds me of what I found inside the Elks.
—Peter Callaghan, state government reporter

Human History Gets a Rewrite, The Atlantic

David Graeber co-authored a final book, reviewed here, with archaeologist David Wengrow. It argues that, rather than one linear process that makes up a “grand narrative of history,” there were many different ways human civilization developed and many possibilities for how to organize ourselves.
—Jonathan Stegall, user experience engineer