Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Fighting the world’s ‘coolest dictator’

December 28, 2022
Hello, Insiders. It seems like the pandemic built the border wall Donald Trump never could. Back in March 2020, Trump enacted Title 42, a controversial emergency rule that allowed the US to turn away asylum seekers at the border. Joe Biden didn’t revoke it upon taking office, and the rule was set to expire. But yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that it must remain in place for now.


I’m sure some readers will be happy about that. Others will wonder: Is keeping aspiring, hard-working immigrants out of our country part of our inflation problem? Will it cost us down the road, when we are an older society without enough young workers? Not to mention draining America of its most vital resource: enterprising, endeavoring immigrants?


I truly appreciate hearing from you about policies like this. So please, let me know your thoughts at – I’ll share some of the replies soon.


— Nicholas Carlson

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The latest
  • Sam Bankman-Fried should listen to rap music and shave his head to prepare for prison, “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli said. More here.
  • A former aide laughed off the idea of Trump marching to the Capitol, saying he’d “never seen the man walk across a golf course without a golf cart.” Read the full story.
  • A 22-year-old woman in Buffalo died after being trapped in her car for 18 hours during a blizzard, her family told local news. Here’s what happened.
The big story
Fred Ramos for Insider
The world’s “coolest dictator” rounded up 60,000 people in a supposed crackdown on MS-13. A shrimp farming community is fighting back.


Walber Rodriguez had just worked the overnight shift at a shrimp cooperative in the Bajo Lempa valley of El Salvador. He was driving the family motorcycle when he was pulled over, handcuffed, and imprisoned.


Scenes like this have been playing out since March, when President Nayib Bukele — who has called himself the world’s “coolest dictator” and is best known for adopting Bitcoin as a national currency — suspended certain constitutional rights.


This was ostensibly to deal with MS-13 and the rival Barrio 18 gang, which have terrorized El Salvador and made it one of the world’s most violent places not at war.


More than 60,000 people have been arrested since Bukele’s declaration, including Walber and other residents of his shrimp farming community.

Now, families in the community are striking back. They’ve joined protests, have been filing habeas corpus petitions, and are planning to sue their government in an international human rights court.


Top reads

  • “I moved twice for my spouse’s career — then we got divorced.” Laura Wheatman Hill writes that she moved from Oregon to Philadelphia and back again to support her husband’s dentistry career, while having to give up a satisfying job of her own. Now that she and her husband are divorced, she said she’d do things differently.
  • Did you know Kevin Bacon married his distant cousin? He and actor Kyra Sedgwick didn’t find out until years later. Queen Elizabeth II, Rudy Giuliani, and Albert Einstein are also among some of the rich and powerful figures who married their cousins. See the list here.
  • A 30-year-old mom made $120,000 in passive income in nine months. Niki Puls quickly built up a six-figure income selling three digital products: an ebook, an email course, and an ebook template — and she only works five hours a week. She shared her advice for beginners looking to do the same. Read the full story.
  • Disappointing photos show how crowded New York City’s iconic attractions are during the holidays. Rockefeller Center, Macy’s, and Bryant Park are some of NYC’s most popular tourist destinations — and our reporter found them to be so crowded that she could barely move. Take a look at her experience.
Most popular from 2022:
Miss USA/Instagram
As we round out the year, we’re sharing some more of our top stories. Take a look:
  • Inside Dan Schneider’s “disgusting” Nickelodeon empire. While Schneider was a hit-making machine for Nickelodeon, some people who worked on his shows said he created an uncomfortable, bizarre culture on set. Read our full report here.
  • “I got jewelry permanently welded onto my wrist.” TikTokers are flocking to jewelry stores to get forever bracelets, and our reporter says it isn’t nearly as scary or painful as it sounds. Here’s what it’s like.
Watch this
It can cost over $1 million per day to run one of the world’s biggest cruise ships. Here’s why.
Today’s team
This edition was curated by Nicholas Carlson, and edited by Hallam Bullock, Lisa Ryan, and Nathan Rennolds. Get in touch:
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