Our favorite stories of the past week, from The New Republic, NPR, Washington Post, New England Review, Modern Farmer, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and a guest pick by Jon Tayler
PUBLISHED: April 20, 2013
An investigation into the abysmal state of child care in the United States:
"All too often, it takes an incident to force a closure. Last November, for instance, DFPS closed a center after a caregiver left a nine-month-old infant alone on a changing table without a belt. The baby fell onto a concrete floor, sustaining a serious skull injury. In addition to the caregiver, DFPS cited the director for failing to 'contact the parents the next day when a "mushy" bump was observed on the infant’s head.' I asked McGinnis how many of the area’s providers she’d trust with her own child. She answered promptly: 'Twenty percent.'"
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2013
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5884 words)
A glimpse inside the actor's personal diaries:
"So what sort of actor was he? On the one hand, he was tormented by the job. This is August 4, 1969: 'I loathe loathe loathe acting. In studios. In England. I shudder at the thought of going to work with the same horror as a bank-clerk must loathe that stinking tube-journey every morning and the rush-hour madness at night. I loathe it, hate it, despise, despise, for Christ’s sake, it.' That was the year he made Anne of the Thousand Days, on which he at least flirted with Geneviève Bujold, and the year in which Where Eagles Dare (an adventure film that has many enthusiasts) earned him around $7 million. Yet he could also rejoice in the way 'Burton-and-Taylor' had become their own film studio, able to do whatever they liked. In fourteen years under contract, he had enjoyed only Alexander the Great and Look Back in Anger."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 20, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2836 words)
A profile of Gov. Mitt Romney's eldest son Tagg, and his family's "myth of self-reliance":
"Not long after graduating from Harvard Business School, he turned down offers from several prominent firms to join an obscure start-up called eGrad, whose meager resources gave it a kind of grunge aesthetic: secondhand furniture and heating so erratic he brought in blankets to keep warm. When Tagg wasn’t cold calling would-be corporate partners, he could sometimes be found packaging merchandise and mailing it. But making it on your own is never so clear-cut when you’re a Romney. Some of the biggest meetings he landed were with Staples, which his father had funded at Bain Capital, and General Motors, a company where his last name still carried weight.
"Tagg’s biography is littered with similar stories—short cuts he couldn’t have taken without his last name, obstacles that melted away before he was even aware of them. And yet, thanks to the Romney myth, he and his family believe that most of what he has achieved comes from old-fashioned industriousness, not older-fashioned status and wealth.
"Tagg’s blind spots, however, are largely forgivable. Everyone looks in the mirror on occasion and sees a taller, thinner, more virtuous version of himself. The problem is that Tagg’s blind spots are also Mitt’s. And Mitt’s peculiar version of reality doesn’t just drive him personally; it skews his politics and shapes his policies. It distorts his entire vision of how a president should govern."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 19, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4294 words)
A New York media legend, exposed:
"At 58, Kaplan is the editorial director of Fairchild Fashion Media, a Condé Nast family that includes Women’s Wear Daily and Footwear News. He has an aging movie star’s smooth, youthful face and, like a star, the capacity to fill a room with outsized gawky charm. When he’s feeling gregarious, which he often is, he dons a barroom grin and says such things as There ya go! and Have a ball! (The latter is the subject of much speculation among Kaplan’s past associates, some of whom experience it as a kind of hex; '"Have a ball!" half the time meant "Go fuck yourself,"' former Observer staffer Choire Sicha explains.) His verbal style includes a lot of thoughtful pauses, during which he lingers on conjunctions like somebody leaning on a walkup buzzer (aaaaaaaaaaaaaand). And when there’s irony to be detected—there always is around New York—he has a way of registering it mostly in his right eyebrow, which lifts and swags abruptly like a kite in wind. Sometimes, though, extroversion fails him and a warier, more fretful Kaplan shows through. At those moments, the blue eyes go distant, the brow knits, and the mouth droops to an enigmatic grimace. It is the face of a guy seeing something ominous from a great distance, and it gives him an aspect of quiet gravity, of deep worry roiling beneath the neat gray hair."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 14, 2012
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5555 words)
A personal history of joining, and leaving, the Mormon Church:
"When I meet with the first two landlords in Beverly Hills, they’ve already seen my credit files and don’t seem to want to know much more about me other than why I’m standing on their property. At my third stop, I speak into an intercom and wait in suspense for an electronic gate either to slide open, meaning yes, or fail to budge, meaning time to hunker down, kick the opiates, and pay my bills.
"'Great to meet you, Walt. I’m Bobby Keller. You want a Sprite or something? You look all hot. My sister, Kim, who you talked to on the phone, is at a church thing with our other housemates, but I can show you the place we hope you’ll rent.'
"You can scoff at their oddities, skip out of your mission, run off to college, and wander for 30 years through barrooms and bedrooms and court rooms and all-night pharmacies, but they never quite forget you, I learned that day. How had Bobby discovered my secret? My Wikipedia page, written by some stranger. It was loaded with mistakes (it said I was still married, a detail that may have given Bobby pause when Amanda stayed over the next night—not that he said a single word), but the fact that got me a lease without a credit check and rescued my new romance was accurate: My first book, a collection of short stories that opened with a tale of masturbation and ended with one about a drunken missionary, had won a little-known literary prize from a broad-minded Mormon cultural group."
PUBLISHED: July 13, 2012
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6041 words)
One man's quest to reshape the online porn industry through the ".xxx" top-level domain:
"The resistance to Lawley, whatever its merits, has the ring of desperation. ICM arrived at a moment of crisis for commercial porn. After enabling several boom years, the Internet has brought many smut marketers to their knees. Rampant freebies on “tube” sites have reduced global porn revenue by 50 percent since 2007, to less than $10 billion, including about $5 billion generated in the U.S. Those are rough guesses by Diane Duke, executive director of the industry’s trade group, the coyly named Free Speech Coalition. Speaking privately, some porn executives say the coalition’s revenue estimates are optimistic. In a field dominated by privately held companies, no provable statistics exist.
"Setting aside moral judgments and potential social harms—we’ll get to those—it’s remarkable that Lawley is making any money at all. Especially since he had to fight for seven years, spending millions of his own dollars, to get permission for .xxx from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit regulatory body. His persistence in the face of hostile lobbying by competitors, religious conservatives, and the U.S. government suggests that if the stubborn British entrepreneur claims to have a money-spinning solution for the Great Porn Depression, he should not be underestimated."
PUBLISHED: June 21, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4702 words)
Profile of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the promise and missed opportunities that have come with his leadership:
"At the time, negotiations had been frozen for more than a year. Yet Fayyad boldly predicted that his program would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state by August 2011. 'By then, if in fact we succeed, as I hope we will,' he said, 'it’s not going to be too difficult for people looking at us from any corner of the world ... to conclude that the Palestinians do indeed have something that looks like a well-functioning state in just about every facet of activity, and the only anomalous thing at the time would be that occupation, which everybody agrees should end anyways. That’s the theory.' As Fayyad finished his speech—saying that his people aspired 'to live alongside you in peace, harmony, and security'—several audience members stood up to applaud. For a moment, anyway, just about everyone seemed to be rooting for Salam Fayyad."
PUBLISHED: May 4, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5329 words)
Domestic violence homicides in Maryland have dropped by 40 percent since 2007—and its success is attributed to a simple new approach to helping victims:
"A few years after moving to Johns Hopkins in 1993, Campbell and a team of researchers began studying domestic violence murders in Maryland. Their work, which was published in 2002, sought to identify the key indicators that predicted whether a case of domestic violence was likely to become a domestic homicide. The study produced some surprisingly precise findings. If a man had a history of hitting his partner, that in itself was a predictor of murder. But certain kinds of behavior came with even higher chances of death. For instance, if a man choked his partner, she was five times more likely to be killed by him at some point. If he was unemployed, he was four times more likely to kill her. The researchers also found that only 4 percent of homicide victims had ever sought help from a shelter; in a follow-up study, they found that a stay in a safehouse decreased the risk of violent re-assault by 60 percent. Their findings offered new ways to measure risk. 'It also informed the system about which cases needed heightened scrutiny,' says Campbell."
PUBLISHED: April 23, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3497 words)