Inside the debate over what the U.S. should do about Syria:
"He walked back to his desk and sat down. 'The Syria I have just drawn for you—I call it the Sinkhole,' he said. 'I think there is an appreciation, even at the highest levels, of how this is getting steadily worse. This is the discomfort you see with the President, and it’s not just the President. It’s everybody.' No matter how well intentioned the advocates of military intervention are, he suggested, getting involved in a situation as complex and dynamic as the Syrian civil war could be a foolish risk. The cost of saving lives may simply be too high. 'Whereas we had a crisis in Iraq that was contained—it was very awful for us and the Iraqis—this time it will be harder to contain,' he said. 'Four million refugees going into Lebanon and Jordan is not the kind of problem we had going into Iraq.'"
PUBLISHED: May 6, 2013
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8361 words)
The writer pays a visit to a friend:
"I visit him on Tuesday nights at the only time they’ll let me see him. I show the receptionist my driver’s license, confirm my social security number and home address, and sign my name on a dotted line.
"'Relationship?' I’m always asked.
"'Friend,' I always say.
"The woman—it is the same woman every time—looks, at first, disinterested. She doesn’t even bother to raise her head. She types my name into her computer—click click, click click—but when she finds me, her face lights up.
"'Oh, there you are,' she says, smiling, as if it’s possible I’ve disappeared."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3445 words)
How California's public university system went from "Master Plan" to "no plan," and how it is now incentivized to favor out-of-state students over in-state students:
"When we talk about the decline of public higher education systems such as California’s, however, rising tuition is only part of the story, and maybe not the most important part. Along with pushing instructional costs onto students, for example, the state of California has made it easier for state universities to balance their budgets by accepting more out-of-state students (and thus, fewer and fewer Californian students). Out-of-state students pay much higher tuition rates, but under the Master Plan, state funding was contingent on enrolling a minimum number of in-state students. As the state has withdrawn its commitment to fully fund its universities, it has progressively detached what funding remains from these kinds of commitments. Governor Jerry Brown may have put the final nail in the coffin when, in June, he vetoed specific enrollment targets for the UC from the annual budget. Moreover, since 2007, the extra $20,000 in tuition money that out-of-state students pay has gone directly to the schools enrolling these students—rather than reverting to the UC as a whole—perversely incentivizing each campus to take on fewer California students.
"This gradual retreat from enrollment quotas only adds to a problem that has plagued the California system since its inception: too many applicants and too little space. Over the last three decades, the state has given up on increasing the total institutional capacity—the classrooms, dorms, and new campuses—that a continuously growing university-age population requires. This shortfall is not as immediately visible as red lines in planning documents, as politically explosive as enrollment targets, or as sharply felt by stretched family budgets. But the fact that the state has stopped keeping up with the demand for more higher education points to a slow but fundamental structural change underway in higher education as a whole."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 22, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4436 words)
[Fiction] Julie goes on a midnight ride with her big sister:
"When Tabitha Thatch argued, her little sister Julie always thought about cats. It was rare that Tabitha argued, much more common that she agreed to rules or demands her mother or the world imposed on her, then did the opposite of what she’d agreed to, but when she did argue her jaw relaxed open and her voice, high-pitched and ragged, folded in on itself in a hundred tissue paper layers of connotation, implication, meaning, all of her yowling protest in way you couldn’t ignore. You could listen to Tabitha arguing like a cat for hours; Julie—her own voice like a dog’s, she thought, short and hoarse and barky—had listened to Tabitha for hours. You could listen and you would be struck by how raw and vibrant that voice was, but then you’d realize that Tabitha was just saying she was going to go to the mall and buy Adderall swallow it with beer, then hang around the food court talking about the Misfits with some college kid. In a raw and vibrant and catlike way she’d tell you that and you would believe in her.
"Linda, Tabitha and Julie’s mother, had never been vulnerable to Tabitha’s voice, and Julie had always hated Linda a little for that."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 12, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3429 words)
Who is "Gary Jones"? An investigation into how a hacker may have stolen nude photos for a "revenge porn" site:
"Is it really so easy to hack a Gmail account? See for yourself: Go to the Gmail login screen and click on the frequently ignored link underneath the sign-in menu, 'Can't access your account?' Three options appear; choose 'I forgot my password.' Type in a Gmail address—any active Gmail address—and if there's a phone number associated with the account, you're given three more options, one of which is 'Get a verification code on my phone.' You don't even need to know the phone number. Just hit 'continue' and an unrelated six-digit code will appear in a text to the account owner's phone. Type in that verification code—a number easily obtained by a masquerading e-impostor—and you're in. The first thing you're prompted to do is immediately change your password, thereby blocking out the original owner.
"In other words, if a hacker knows only your Gmail address and can figure out how to access your phone, he's already most of the way into your shit."
PUBLISHED: May 17, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3478 words)
[Fiction] The making of an Abraham Lincoln movie:
"'Lincoln has a lot on his plate here. There’s the war, obviously. His son just died, his wife is a compulsive shopper with deep ties to the South—I mean that doesn’t look good for him—and to boot, he’s found himself unable to get his mind off this man. Amid all this chaos and horseshit, there’s a pony. And that pony is love.'
"Pony=Love, Mel scribbled.
"'And, you know, your postures should change more when you’re together, should melt a little.” He stopped and looked at Miles. 'Think about how your body responds when you’re with the people you love.'"
PUBLISHED: April 5, 2012
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6046 words)
[Fiction] A trip from the Jersey Shore to jail:
"My usual connection wasn’t by the pier on the beach. It started to rain, so I pulled my shirt over my head and ducked under the pier. It stank like hell under there, like fish guts and piss. Thunder boomed and the sky tore open. It couldn’t last, though. These summer showers only run about 10 minutes. I was squeezing out my shirt when a homeless guy came up to me from out of the back.
"'Hey, you smoke pot?' he asked. The man was hunched over and wasted. He looked like Keith Richards without a guitar.
"'Why do you want to know?' I asked.
"'Some guy was here and he dropped a bag by accident.'
PUBLISHED: Jan. 20, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2059 words)
In the course of a few hapless days, Deley repeatedly stumbled over the names of star athletes ("the Honourable Leo Usain Bolt") and his trackside commentators. He called Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee "the fastest man on no legs." He invented events ("the men's 100-metre hurdles"), forgot commercial breaks, missed links, paused for long moments to consult his script, corrected himself endlessly, asked his studio guest – the four-times Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter, Michael Johnson – whether he was a pole vaulter, and concluded one broadcast with the memorable sign-off: "So we have a gloriously sunny day here in the studio. We've seen some action this morning as well. Jessica Ennis. Good night."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 3, 2011
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1508 words)
On the 25th anniversary of the company's IPO, Fortune presents the inside story of Microsoft's stock issue. For six months, writer Uttal followed around a young Bill Gates, whom he dubbed the "rabid rabbit" as he prepared himself and his company for the public markets.
PUBLISHED: July 21, 1986
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5694 words)