Best of 2013,
Remembering the life of a talented young artist who went missing on a trail in Colorado:
After she died, a five-minute video surfaced of Zina standing in her bedroom in her grandmother’s house, which had shelves crammed with robots she’d built and other art projects. In the video, she explains that she has “creative compulsive disorder” and can’t stop making things—especially robots. The video was the first hint at what Zina was: an impossibly innocent and gifted eccentric on the verge of breaking out in the world of animatronics and stop motion. It was an audition for a Los Angeles–based reality show called Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, a SyFy channel program premiering March 25 that’s sort of like Project Runway for animatronics artists. She’d turned down a spot on the show in order to move home and care for her grandmother, who’d been diagnosed with lung cancer in September.
Whom did Farrah Fawcett really love? A court battle over an expensive Warhol turns on matters of the heart:
It was a Monday morning in mid-December at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the day of closing arguments in the matter of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System v. Ryan O’Neal, and the show was just minutes from getting under way. Outside the courtroom, the players milled about. O’Neal was strolling down the courthouse hallway in a navy blazer, an open-collared light-blue shirt, and dark pants. Seventy-two years old and still impossibly youthful, with only a touch of graying hair, he wore gold-rimmed sunglasses and held a plastic water bottle, which he wiggled before him as if he were going for a birdie putt on the eighteenth green at Riviera. “God, I’m nervous,” he said.
Steven Brigham’s abortion clinics keep being sanctioned for offering substandard care. Why is he still in business?
Brigham began placing ads for abortion services in the Yellow Pages. The ads drew a steady stream of pregnant women to his office—and a steady stream of protesters, armed with placards and bullhorns. The commotion escalated, eventually prompting the owners of the building to petition a judge for a temporary injunction against the protesters; after the request was denied, they successfully obtained an injunction against Brigham, who, they claimed, had misrepresented the nature of his medical practice. The controversy attracted extended scrutiny in the local press. One morning, Brigham later recalled, he glanced at the front page of the Reading Eagle and spotted a story, below the fold, about a minor international development: the implosion of the Soviet Union. Above it was yet another story about the turmoil outside his clinic.
As a teenager, Jonah Ogles began sponsoring a poverty-stricken boy in the Caribbean. Twelve years and thousands of dollars later he flew down to meet him—and to learn if his efforts did any good at all.
When I started sponsoring Ervenson, I was camping at a Christian alt-music festival in rural Illinois, where bands played concerts for sweaty mosh pits of Jesus-loving teens. Between two of the shows, someone from Compassion International got on stage and talked about how difficult it was to be a child in places like Haiti. They described the lack of clean water, the rampant disease, the voodoo ceremonies on every corner. Even then I was vaguely aware of my privilege as a white American male and felt a little guilty about it. Plus, I had a part-time job at a guitar store, which meant that I had enough spending money that I wouldn’t miss thirty-odd dollars out of my monthly paycheck. I signed up as soon as I got home. All I had to do was get online, do a quick search by age, country, or birthday (in case I wanted someone who shared mine), and then click that I agreed to send the checks.
Alaric hunt is writing detective novels, while serving a life sentence for murder, arson, robbery and other charges:
Alaric Hunt turned 44 in September. He last saw the outside world at 19. He works every day at the prison library in a maximum-security facility in Bishopville, S.C., passing out the same five magazines and newspapers to the same inmates who chose the library over some other activity. He discovered his favorite writer, Hemingway, at a library like this one, in a different prison. He found the Greek and the Roman philosophers there too. He rediscovered the science-fiction masters who wowed him as a boy and spurred him to write his own stories. And, one Friday three years ago, he found the listing for the contest that would change his life.
An excerpt from Starkman’s new book, on the difference between access journalism and accountability journalism, and why the business press failed to do enough to shed light on the problems leading up to the financial crisis:
Was the brewing crisis really such a secret? Was it all so complex as to be beyond the capacity of conventional journalism and, through it, the public, to understand? Was it all so hidden? In fact, the answer to all those questions is “no.” The problem—distorted incentives corrupting the financial industry—was plain, but not to Wall Street executives, traders, rating agencies, analysts, quants, or other financial insiders. It was plain to the outsiders: state regulators, plaintiffs’ lawyers, community groups, defrauded mortgage borrowers, and, mostly, to former employees of financial institutions, the whistleblowers, who were, in fact, blowing the whistle. A few reporters actually talked to them, understood the metastasizing problem, and wrote about it. Unfortunately, they didn’t work for the mainstream business press.
A conservationist and advocate for endangered turtles is murdered on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast:
For decades, Playa Moín has been a destination for hueveros—literally, "egg men"—small-time poachers who plunder sea turtle nests and sell the eggs for a dollar each as an aphrodisiac. But as crime along the Caribbean coast has risen, so has organized egg poaching, which has helped decimate the leatherback population. By most estimates, fewer than 34,000 nesting females remain worldwide.
Since 2010, Mora had been living at the sanctuary and patrolling the beach for a nonprofit organization called the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, or Widecast. His strategy was to beat the hueveros to the punch by gathering eggs from freshly laid nests and spiriting them to a hatchery on the sanctuary grounds. This was dangerous work. Every poacher on Moín knew Mora, and confrontations were frequent—he once jumped out of a moving truck to tackle a huevero.
An account of house party thrown by a troubled teen in Florida:
During Justin's game of beer pong, the ball bounced to the floor and rolled beneath the table, where it came to rest in a sticky, thick brown substance. Justin was mildly grossed out, but didn't think much of it. He carried the ball to the kitchen sink and rinsed it under the faucet. Then he resumed the game.As Mark Andrew was leaving the party, Tyler asked if they could speak privately. Tyler went outside and ordered all the kids standing there to get back into the house, so that his neighbors wouldn't call the cops. Once everyone was inside, Tyler turned to Mark."Dude, I did some things. I might go to prison. I might go away for life. I don't know, dude, I'm freaking out right now."
During Justin's game of beer pong, the ball bounced to the floor and rolled beneath the table, where it came to rest in a sticky, thick brown substance. Justin was mildly grossed out, but didn't think much of it. He carried the ball to the kitchen sink and rinsed it under the faucet. Then he resumed the game.
As Mark Andrew was leaving the party, Tyler asked if they could speak privately. Tyler went outside and ordered all the kids standing there to get back into the house, so that his neighbors wouldn't call the cops. Once everyone was inside, Tyler turned to Mark.
"Dude, I did some things. I might go to prison. I might go away for life. I don't know, dude, I'm freaking out right now."