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The New Baby Boom

A generation of new babies is painting a picture of what the future of the British Empire will look like: "Today, the increase in British birth rates has ushered in another baby-centric age, one defined by three distinct aspects. More babies of different ethnicities are being born, challenging the very notion of an ethnic 'minority'. They are also part of a simultaneous parenting boom: people from an ever wider array of backgrounds can become parents of healthy babies. Finally, there is an intellectual boom: as scientists and policy makers – like their political forebears – seek to use our growing knowledge about how babies and their brains develop to improve education and curb inequality."
PUBLISHED: July 11, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5171 words)

The Fear Factor

On aging baby boomers and skepticism that the cost of caring for them will throw us in economic chaos:

A demographic tool has become an economic one, treating a demographic challenge as both an economic crisis and a basis for pessimism justifying drastic reductions in bedrock government programs, including those supporting children and the poor. Even at state and local levels, the aging boomer demographic is repeatedly blamed for our economic difficulties. That is a lamentable mistake. The United States has serious economic problems, and the aging population poses significant challenges, but those challenges are not the main cause of the problems. They should not be treated that way.

PUBLISHED: June 13, 2014
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5287 words)

Springtime in Tiananmen Square, 1989

While teaching English in Beijing, the author witnessed one of the most tumultuous protests in modern history.

We were young, and maybe a little naive, and we were angry at injustice. Whenever a group of us foreign teachers got together to share a meal or some beers, Chuck, the most cantankerous of our lot, would find an opportunity to say, “America is a toilet that flushes itself with five times more water than any other toilet in the world.” We were disenchanted with the me-first materialism of Reagan/Bush America. We wanted to live conscientiously. China in 1988 was a slumbering giant just beginning to awake. None of us expected our lives there to be easy, or profitable, or flashy like those of other young English teachers in trendier, booming Japan, but we were intrigued by the country’s recent reopening, and up for a challenge.

PUBLISHED: May 29, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5657 words)

In Conversation: SNL's Lorne Michaels

The producer reflects on how he keeps up with the Saturday Night Live schedule, and how Jimmy Fallon will handle the new Tonight Show:

Conan was an easy decision for me. Both Jay and Dave were essentially my generation—they were boomers. I thought the smart move was to drop down a generation, but if you’re looking at 30 or 28, there’s no one with any experience. I’m more used to putting someone on who’s never been on television before than most people, and that was the bet with Conan. He got roughed up badly, but he came through. The mantra that I used to say to him was, “The longer you’re on, the longer you’re on.” After a while, he just became part of the landscape.

But I think there’s always an alpha, and Dave—he invented late night. Both Jimmy Kimmel and Conan grew up under Dave, to the extent that I grew up under Carson. With Jimmy, and to some degree Seth, I think they were much more influenced by SNL. Jimmy’s not ironic.

AUTHOR:Lane Brown
PUBLISHED: Feb. 3, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4878 words)

Inside the Incredible Booming Subterranean Marijuana Railroad

Drug cartels are digging tunnels into the U.S. to transport massive amounts of marijuana and other narcotics from the border onto American soil. The Feds have managed to shut down many of these tunnels and capture a key cartel manager, but this is just the beginning:

The land east of Otay Mesa, around the agricultural towns of Calexico and Mexicali, is a terrible place to build a sophisticated drug tunnel. The soil is unstable, and the All-American Canal, an eighty-mile-long aqueduct that surrounds Calexico, presents a formidable obstacle. Still, the cartels have found a way.

In October 2008, Mexican authorities, responding to reports of a cave-in and flooding near the canal, discovered a tunnel unlike anything they'd ever seen. Only ten inches wide, it was essentially a pipe. The Mexican cops traced it back to a house about 600 feet from the border, where they found a tractor-like vehicle with a long barrel on its side—a horizontal directional drill, or HDD. Used by oil, gas, and utility industries to quickly bore conduit holes over significant depths and distances, this drill was believed to belong to the AFO. It was the cartel's first known attempt to use cutting-edge industrial equipment to build—in the most literal sense of the word—a drug pipeline.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 12, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5125 words)

Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500

The author, on buying an abandoned house in Detroit and fixing it up, in a city that has seen more busts than booms:

I wanted something nobody wanted, something that was impossible. The city is filled with these structures, houses whose yellowy eyes seem to follow you. It would be only one house out of thousands, but I wanted to prove it could be done, prove that this American vision of torment could be built back into a home. I also decided I would do it the old-fashioned way, without grants or loans or the foundation money pouring into the city. I would work for everything that went into the house, because not everyone has access to those resources. I also wanted to prove to myself and my family I was a man. While they were building things, I had been writing poems.

AUTHOR:Drew Philp
PUBLISHED: Jan. 9, 2014
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6333 words)

Where Are the People?

The reporter, in Orange County, Calif., examines the gradual decline of evangelical Christianity in America:

Prominent figures in the evangelical establishment have already begun sounding alarms. In particular, the Barna Group, an evangelical market research organization, has been issuing a steady stream of books and white papers documenting the erosion of support for evangelicalism, especially among young people. Contributions from worshippers 55 and older now account for almost two-thirds of evangelical churches’ income in the United States. A mere three percent of non-Christian Americans under 30 have a positive impression of evangelical Christianity, according to David Kinnaman, the Barna Group’s president. That’s down from 25 percent of baby boomers at a similar age. At present rates of attrition, two-thirds of evangelicals in their 20s will abandon church before they turn 30. “It’s the melting of the icebergs,” Kinnaman told me. Young people’s most common complaint, he said, is that churches are too focused on sexual issues and preoccupied with their own institutional development—in other words, he explained, “Christianity no longer looks like Jesus.”

AUTHOR:Jim Hinch
PUBLISHED: Dec. 6, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4073 words)

Mega Death: Meet the Company That's Taking Over the Funeral Industry

SCI has 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada, 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion. Should a company this large have this much control over how we care for the dead?

“‘We are going to be poised to benefit from the aging of America, the baby boomers,’ Foley said. Deaths in the U.S. are forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent over the next five years. At SCI, earnings per share rose 26 percent in the first half of 2013. ‘This growth,’ Foley said, ’was driven in large part due to the strong flu season’—i.e., a lot of old people got sick and died last winter.”

PUBLISHED: Oct. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3673 words)

Inside the Life of the Man Known as the 'Spark Ranger'

The life and death of Roy Sullivan, a park ranger for Shenandoah National Park who was struck by lightning seven times:

"A gentle rain fell on April 16, 1972. The Spark Ranger was in a small guardhouse atop Loft Mountain, registering carloads of visitors who were arriving at the campground. Not so much as a coo of thunder riffled the air. Then … KABOOM! Lightning annihilated a fuse box inside the guardhouse. 'The fire was bouncing around inside the station, and when my ears stopped ringing, I heard something sizzling,' Sullivan told a Washington Post reporter who contacted him a week later. 'It was my hair on fire.'"
AUTHOR:Tom Dunkel
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5142 words)