An American community college student who converted to Islam before 9/11 emails the CIA and volunteers himself as a spy:
"At the time of his email, intelligence agencies were eager to exploit an opportunity presented by the capture of John Walker Lindh, a U.S. citizen who had converted to Islam and gone abroad to join the Taliban. Intelligence officials believed other American citizens could pose as converts and infiltrate terrorist networks abroad.
"Jara's email landed at the right moment. An FBI agent and a CIA officer drove to his home and enlisted the eager 26-year-old as a contract employee."
PUBLISHED: March 18, 2013
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2202 words)
A court orders the release of church files revealing a history of sex abuse by clergy members. The documents back up the allegations of victims, who are finally finding justice:
"In recent years, a key part of clergy abuse cases has involved getting confidential files released. The Catholic Church is a meticulous record-keeper. When a letter accuses a priest of molestation, it's supposed to go into his file. So are reports from therapists — no matter how graphic.
"The documents have repeatedly backed up the allegations of victims whom the church initially tarred as liars. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange made public 10,000 pages. The L.A. archdiocese is expected to release its own trove in the coming weeks."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1988 words)
A journalist reexamines what happened to him more than 20 years ago during his five-year investigation of the Church of Scientology for The Los Angeles Times:
"One morning my wife, a kindergarten teacher, was leaving for work when a process server sent by the church’s lawyers jumped out from behind a hedge with a subpoena for me. Another day I listened to Bob on the phone at work as he struggled to calm his wife. She was home alone and somebody had dropped Forest Lawn burial brochures on their doorstep. It would happen more than once, and one afternoon she even saw somebody scurrying away. Then there was the night when upwards of four California Highway Patrol cars, lights flashing, pulled Bob over as he drove home on the 710 freeway. He was ordered out of his car and given a sobriety test. After he passed, Bob asked why he’d been stopped; an officer said they’d been told he was weaving dangerously.
"The next day the Times’s security chief, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official, made some inquiries and discovered that the pursuit had begun when a man called the CHP and said he was tailing a drunk and would direct units to his location. The caller said he was a Los Angeles police officer."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 18, 2012
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7816 words)
A deported father fights for custody of his daughters:
"The girls ended up with their maternal grandmother, who was destitute and suffered from memory lapses, so social workers took them away. They joined the thousands of children nationwide who are under custody of child protection agencies after their parents have been placed in deportation proceedings or deported. An estimated 5,000 such children are in foster care, about 1,000 of them in Los Angeles County, according to juvenile court attorneys and the Applied Research Center, a nonprofit racial justice think tank.
"Many follow their deported mothers and fathers, if the parents can convince U.S. agencies that they can provide a stable life in their home countries. In such cases, social workers from Los Angeles escort the children to parents at joyous airport reunions, usually in Mexico and El Salvador.
"But sometimes parents fail. Their children either languish in foster care or they're adopted by American couples. Some never see their biological parents again."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 2, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2043 words)
A young man becomes paralyzed in a shooting near his church, and struggles with identifying the shooter, whom he recognizes as a former classmate (link includes both parts one and two):
"Surgeons had labored for five hours to patch his left lung, remove his left kidney and his spleen. They could do nothing to repair his L1 vertebra. His legs were paralyzed.
"A nurse brought pad and pen. Davien wanted to tell his family about the shooting. He had recognized the shooter, but he was too scared to write down a name.
"Instead, he scribbled: 'I forgive them.'
"Days later, Sheriff's Det. Scott Schulze showed up at Davien's bedside with a series of mug shots.
"Davien spotted the shooter immediately. Jimmy Santana had taken gym classes with him in middle school and later joined a Latino gang, Monrovia Nuevo Varrio, or MNV.
"The detective asked Davien if the shooter was among the photos.
"Davien feared what could happen if he snitched. He also believed as a Christian that it was wrong to lie."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 18, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4660 words)
Japanese-pop star Hatsune Miku has millions of YouTube hits, sells tickets to her concerts at $76 a pop and has adoring fans from all around the world. She's also not human:
"Created by Crypton Future Media, Miku is the most popular avatar created to sell Vocaloid 2, the singing synthesizer application originally developed by Yamaha. In Japan, it is common to create a character associated with software, and at first glance, Miku may seem like little more than an animated mascot, not unlike the Pillsbury Doughboy or the Snuggle fabric softener bear. But Miku inspires an unparalleled creativity.
"Instead of passively worshipping her, fans have mobilized into an interactive artistic community. Using Vocaloid 2, they write melodies and lyrics, sharing their songs on YouTube or the Japanese equivalent, niconico (“smilesmile”). Since Miku’s 'birth' in August 2007, amateurs have used her likeness in hundreds of thousands of songs, illustrations, videos, games, animations—and one rather creepy, dead-looking Miku robot. She’s a cosplay (costume role play) favorite at anime conventions and elsewhere."
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2158 words)
American Airlines once sold a lifetime pass for unlimited first-class travel. They soon regretted it:
"In September 2007, a pricing analyst reviewing international routes focused the airline's attention on how much the AAirpass program was costing, company emails show.
"'We pay the taxes,' a revenue management executive wrote in a subsequent email. 'We award AAdvantage miles, and we lose the seat every time they fly.'
"Cade was assigned to find out whether any AAirpass holders were violating the rules, starting with those who flew the most.
"She pulled years of flight records for Rothstein and Vroom and calculated that each was costing American more than $1 million a year."
PUBLISHED: May 6, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2379 words)
Pete O'Neal, 70, founded the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther party and once threatened to "shoot my way into the House of Representatives." He fled the country in 1970, eventually landing in Tanzania:
"Exile was supposed to be temporary. O'Neal corresponded with other Panthers and planned to return home to help lead the revolution. He watched from abroad as the party collapsed from infighting, arrests and an FBI campaign of surveillance and sabotage. People stopped talking about revolution. Radicals found new lives.
"O'Neal's exile became permanent. His fury abated. Some of it was age. Some of it was Tanzania, where strangers always materialized to push your Land Rover out of the mud, and where conflicts were resolved in community meetings in which everyone got to speak, interminably."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 29, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2811 words)
A man, brought to the U.S. as a toddler, is suddenly deported to Mexico. He's now trying to get back:
"The train had covered 10 miles through the high desert when it stopped at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint. An inspector and his canine walked by on the gravel path. Luna stifled his breath and prayed. Then he felt a sharp tug and a dog's hot breath.
"A German shepherd sank its teeth through Luna's two shirts, locked onto his ribs and dragged him out from under the train. He clutched his side."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 8, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2137 words)