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Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Pacific Standard, Aeon, Oxford American, Cincinnati Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.
AUTHOR:Editors
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: Jan. 10, 2014

Last Words

Researchers are attempting to identify suicidal people using data gleaned from suicide notes:

A computer databank may sound like a soulless repository for something so personal. But Baker sees it as a place where important remnants of Brian’s life—his words—have a place. Working with a research team at CCHMC, Pestian is looking for clues in language that can help reveal when a person is bound for self-destruction. In the complex, confounding mystery that is suicide, an early detection system like that could be revelatory. “This means the world to me,” says Baker.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 2, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3252 words)

Down Town

The city of Wilmington in Ohio, a "poster child of the Great Recession," saw its unemployment rate shoot up to 19 percent after DHL, one of its biggest employers, left. The story of how the city is bouncing back:

Ironically, Wilmington’s reputation as the face of the recession ended up working in its favor. The endless media attention—The New York Times, CNN, USA Today, Jay Leno, Rachael Ray, Glenn Beck, 60 Minutes (twice) were among the dozens of outlets that covered DHL’s story—kept the politicians interested. And the political attention—from the governor’s office to the Oval Office, with two Congressional hearings thrown in for good measure—kept the focus on the crisis and possible solutions. “I wanted to stay on the front page,” Raizk said. “When you get pushed back to page 10, everybody forgets about you.”

At the Air Park, Kevin Carver put his energy into creating a functional Port Authority, which was essentially a shell when he was hired, with no staff, budget, or operating procedures. Then he turned to the central task: Figuring out how to redevelop a sprawling facility that was once the engine driving the local economy.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4375 words)

The Book of Roma

Choral director Catherine Roma is going into prisons to help inmates find their voice:

"This choir isn’t her first in a prison. She started the UMOJA Men’s Chorus (Swahili for unity) two decades ago at the Warren County Correctional Institution near Lebanon as part of a Wilmington College educational program. Under Roma’s leadership, that group has done well, recording three CDs and becoming the Cinderella story of the World Choir Games last summer. Roma approached Interkultur, the German organization that puts on the international event, about allowing UMOJA to compete, even though as a prison choir the men couldn’t perform in public. Interkultur agreed, sent judges to the close-security lockup to hear the inmates sing, and ended up awarding the choir gold diplomas (top honors) in the gospel and spiritual categories—a moment that, according to Der Offizielle Blog Von Interkultur, left observers 'unable to dam up their tears.'"
AUTHOR:Dave Ghose
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5252 words)

Dead Calm

The writer on working for a chemical company and his suspicions that the chemicals were affecting his health:

"The substance in question is quillaia bark. Quillaia bark is stripped from trees in Chile, bound by heavy wire in bundles the size of washing machines, loosely wrapped in coarse burlap, stacked on pallets, and dropped by the truckload at the chemical company’s loading dock. One of my jobs is to help wrestle, by hand and man-powered machine, the hundreds of scratchy, dusty, unwieldy bales out of the cramped, fetid, airless trailers and pile them in a roomy, fetid, airless space inside the plant. This is the kind of unskilled labor for which my arsenal of unskills is ideally suited."
PUBLISHED: May 1, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2510 words)

The Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Crime Lab

How an underfunded, understaffed crime lab in Hamilton County, Ohio manages to operate:

"On our tour we stop first in the trace evidence office, where analysts look for hair, fibers, paint chips, and other material left at a crime scene. The firearms office, which has a backlog of about 350 cases, has outgrown its own room and its machines have spilled into the trace evidence room; as a result, whenever trace evidence analysts have to look for gunshot residue—say, when they’re scouring a suspect’s garment to see if there’s any indication he fired a weapon—they must move the material two floors away to another office, to avoid contamination during testing or examination of the gunshot residue. The hallway outside is lined with microscopes and printers, and a folding ping-pong table nearby is pulled out whenever a large item needs to be spread out and examined."
PUBLISHED: March 22, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3313 words)

The Enigma of Mr. 105

A profile of Aroldis Chapman, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who is known for his 100-mile-an-hour fastballs and his controversial personal life:

"Communist Cuba: Geographically a place that lies as close to Miami as Cincinnati does to Louisville, but in every other sense seems so very far away. Chapman has gone through not just culture shock but culinary shock, linguistic shock, even financial shock. More than that, he’s had to transition from a communist country to a capitalist one. 'When you don’t have any freedom,' says Ebro, himself a native of Cuba, 'and you come to a place with freedom…' The journalist pauses. 'Not everyone reacts in a good way.'

"So it makes sense that Chapman might show up late for a game at Triple-A or strike up a relationship with a stripper. It’s a free country, after all. And then there’s Cuba’s other big legacy: From the day Chapman walked out of that hotel in Rotterdam, he has been pursued and preyed upon."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 18, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5704 words)

Flynt Family Values

Jimmy Flynt has had a falling out with his infamous brother Larry, and is now striking out on his own:

"Jimmy doesn’t sugarcoat his time with Larry. His brother is narcissistic, a micromanager, and a publicity hound, he says. Does he feel liberated to no longer have to deal with such a difficult personality? He pauses for a few seconds and then says, 'I miss him. I enjoyed that brotherly connection.'

"Theirs is a complex relationship, forged under extreme duress during years that encompass Larry’s struggles with drugs, prison, paralysis, and mental illness. Sure, Larry was a piece of work, Jimmy says. But his brother also was his hero. 'When he cut me off,' Jimmy says, 'he cut off his best friend. He cut off his number-one fan.'"
AUTHOR:Dave Ghose
PUBLISHED: Feb. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4968 words)

An Abandoned and Malignant Heart

In 2009, 14-year-old Emily Ball called her ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Travis White, and asked him to come over to her apartment, where he was beaten and murdered by two men. A look at the case:

"Ball’s attorneys have done what all public defenders try not to do: They’ve become emotionally involved with their client. Amanda Jarrells Mullins handled Ball’s case from her office in sleepy Maysville, Kentucky; co-counsel Casey Holland is based in Frankfort. Where others may see a shameless, even evil girl—as the prosecution does—Mullins and Holland see a scared child who was in over her head. The attorneys quickly became attached to the tall, fair-skinned pre-teen with auburn hair and wide-set eyes not unlike those of a kewpie doll. 'She was just a young girl that [Golsby and Dodson] used to facilitate their own agenda to beat this kid up,' Mullins says. 'Those two individuals are your classic bad guys.' Indeed, what Golsby and Dodson did to Travis White was unimaginably brutal, which is perhaps Ball’s best defense. 'There’s no question in my mind that she had no idea of the extent of it,' Holland says. 'The brutality of this shocked everyone. And Emily is no exception to that.'

"Whatever her motives were for calling White to the home, Ball played an undeniable role in his slaying. She witnessed the beginning of his physical assault and left him alone with his would-be killers, walking past the Covington Police Department on two separate occasions while the beating was going on without seeking help. She returned to the house at 1805 Madison during and after the attack, saw White’s beaten body in her bedroom, and left again. Later, she acted as a lookout with her friend, 19-year-old Amber Goerler, while Kasey Dodson, Brian Golsby, and two others—friends Dale Eastman and David Thompson—moved Travis’s body to the empty lot behind Jess & Sons Towing."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 26, 2012
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5648 words)