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Comments: Week of December 29, 2014

1. In our annual “Reasons to Love New York” issue, the magazine published a story about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam who was rumored to have made a fortune trading stocks (Because a Stuyvesant Senior Made $72 Million Trading Stocks on His Lunch Break,” December 15–28). Islam said his net worth was in the “high eight figures.” As part of the editing process, the magazine sent a fact-checker to Stuyvesant, where Islam produced a document that appeared to be a Chase bank statement attesting to an eight-figure account. After the story’s publication, people questioned the $72 million figure in the headline, which was written by editors based on the rumored figure. The headline was amended. But in an interview with the New York Observer on December 15, Islam refuted the entire story. A source close to his family told the Washington Post that the statements were falsified. “I run an investment club at Stuy High which does only simulated trades,” Islam told the Observer. “I am incredibly sorry for any misjudgment and any hurt I caused.” A follow-up story in the Guardian detailed how Islam had been fabricating his history as a trader for more than a year, making his way onto a Business Insider list of traders under 20, and raising “very little suspicion among his classmates and teachers.” We were also duped, we should have known better, and we take full responsibility. New York apologizes to our readers.

2. “To Ted Cruz and other Republicans still in office, the allegation that the Bush administration used torture had gone from outrageous smear to tired news without ever having passed through the stage of acceptable topic of discussion,” wrote Jonathan Chait in his story on why, in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s use of torture, Republicans continue to defend the practice (The Torture Party,” December 15–28). The column sparked a fierce debate over whether torture can ever be deemed ethically acceptable. “Republicans support torture for the same reason Democrats support torture,” said commenter BasketWeaver. “Because being tortured sucks, and giving up information is usually better than being tortured some more.” “That’s pure ignorance,” TheMighty­Midget responded. “Torture is an incredibly ineffective means of eliciting useful information. To say nothing of the fact that you’re glossing over how innocent people were tortured.” KansasNebraska put it this way: “We committed torture, doing a great deal of damage to our international image at the very least, and what did we get from it? The torture apologists are using a variety of ways to defend torture either by twisting what torture is or by invoking a 24 sense of torture, but none of them are able to point to what torture accomplished … Torture not only failed the ­Elizabeth Warren test, it failed the Jack Bauer test as well.” More than one reader felt that Obama’s drone program is equivalent to torture. “Why do Democrats support the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, along with babies, children, women, and innocent people nearby? Murder beats interrogation?” To this sentiment, RightyTightyWhitey responded: “This may come as a shock to you, but it’s possible to be a liberal and despise the drone program and the use of ‘enhanced interrogation.’ ”

3. Actor Samm Levine’s statement in The Culturati Caucus that his biggest cultural argument of 2014 was “Adults reading YA novels—I’m horrified and aghast that it’s so common” set off a tense argument (December 15–28). “Seriously, I’m sick and tired of this ‘Adults shouldn’t read YA’ crap,” wrote MrScreenAddict. “Young adult is nothing more than a label created by marketers that is slapped on any book whose protagonists are below the age of 20. If To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, it would undoubtedly be advertised as YA.” “Can we at least agree that it’s weird when moms in their 40s are panting over some teenybopper love triangle and deciding whose team they are on?” asked commenter KateA. “There is nothing wrong with it at all,” said McJecca. “Many YA books are insightful and well-written, and it’s also important for some folks to stay on top of what the kids are doing these days.”