Playing the DC Public Schools Lottery is a crazy, soul-crushing pursuit:
Consider the car-less Columbia Heights couple who applied to 16 schools and only got their kid into one, requiring a trek that adds two hours to their daily commute. Or the Mount Pleasant parents who went 0 for 6, four years running, for their eldest child, then lucked into one of the hottest schools in the city on their first lottery entry with their youngest. One mother I spoke to spent the first four years of her son’s life in her cramped premarriage one-bedroom apartment (and indefinitely delayed having another child) just so he’d have the right address when lottery time rolled around. Then there was the woman who seriously contemplated signing a lease on an English basement that was in-boundary for Maury, to increase her child’s chance of getting in there. (All right, I admit this last person was me.)
PUBLISHED: March 24, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3802 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring the Boston Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Washingtonian, Mother Jones, and The New Yorker.
John Beale could always be counted on to get the toughest jobs done at the Environmental Protection Agency and garnered respect and admiration from fellow staff members. But when he began taking days off to do work for the CIA while still collecting his full salary, something didn't add up:
The first time anyone broached the subject was that year, when Jeff Holmstead, then assistant administrator of the Air and Radiation Office, spoke with Beale about his “D.O.” Wednesdays. Beale revealed that the joke was no joke: He’d worked for the three-letter agency earlier in his career, and it was now calling him back for a secret assignment. He would have to take a half day off here and there to help out. Maybe a few whole days, too. Holmstead, who’d known Beale during his time working on the Clean Air Act amendments, agreed to the arrangement.
In 2002 “D.O. Oversight” would appear in Beale’s calendar 22 times. The next year 14 times, and the year after that 18. In 2005 his covert operation took him away for 25 days. At times he’d make coy references to big international news—a bombing in Pakistan, violence in India—and insinuate that the CIA had him working on it. To colleagues who saw Beale as an outstanding employee, it made sense that agencies more selective than the EPA would put his talents to use.
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4001 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Washingtonian, New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Financial Times and Full Stop.
Asra Nomani, a close friend and colleague of Daniel Pearl — who was murdered in 2002 by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an architect of the 9/11 attacks — discusses how she grappled with Pearl's death years later while investigating his murder:
One of the first people I come across while waiting for the courtroom doors to open is James Connell, a defense attorney.
“I’m sorry for the death of your friend,” he tells me. “This must be hard for you.”
I don’t know how to respond. Condolences aren’t what I expected to hear, especially from the defense. I’ve come defiant, wearing a gauzy pink tunic to reject the dark black shroud that a radical like KSM would expect on a Muslim woman. “Thank you,” I finally say.
By 9:25 am, we’re seated and a Guantánamo bailiff bellows, “All rise!” As Army colonel James Pohl, the judge, enters, the five defendants remain sitting.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 23, 2014
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7639 words)
Dr. Stephen Hoffman has been searching for a way to eradicate malaria for the past 30 years. He may have found a vaccine to do it:
There was no way Hoffman was going to ask US Marines to line up for a thousand mosquito bites each. But he decided to repeat the irradiated-mosquito experiments to understand the science better.
Once again, Hoffman signed himself up for the study. In the mid 1990s, he returned to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to stick another pint-size container of insects against his arm. This time, the cylinder swarmed with hundreds of malaria-infected mosquitoes, each having been buzzed with a dose of radiation. The bloodthirsty insects left a circle of swollen red skin on his arm, but Hoffman didn’t stop until he had been bitten by 3,000 mosquitoes.
Weeks later, when he was infected with malaria, he didn’t get sick.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 23, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4718 words)
Our story picks of the week, featuring Texas Monthly, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Times Magazine, Washingtonian and Paris Review, plus a guest pick by Drew Grossman.
A profile of former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who spent time in prison for corruption and fraud charges. Abramoff is back in the public eye and wants to help with government reform, but it's unclear if his intentions are completely sincere:
"Many who knew Abramoff in his past life view his reform efforts with skepticism. I could almost hear some of them rolling their eyes on the other end of the line when I called. A couple of them sighed loudly when I explained what I was working on. One suspected I was just a pawn in Abramoff’s comeback strategy, asking if he was 'pushing' me to do the story. (For the record, I approached Abramoff for this article, not the other way around.)
"'Time will tell whether Jack’s doing this to get a seat at the big-boy table again in Washington,' says Neil Volz, who worked with him at Greenberg Traurig. 'He likes to win. He wants to engage in politics in probably the only issue that he currently can—and win.'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5106 words)
A woman with Turner syndrome decides to participate in a study at the National Institutes of Health:
"I arrived at the NIH Clinical Center alone, early, and unprepared. The nurse responsible for checking me in wasn’t even on duty yet. I had packed my suitcase as if for a four-day business conference, not a hospital stay—slacks, blouses, and pumps rather than T-shirts, sweats, and tennis shoes. That was probably a function of my denial as well as my 'don’t leave home without lipstick' impulse. I’d never spent a night in a hospital, never had an MRI or CT scan.
"People generally don’t go to NIH when they have a garden-variety illness. NIH takes the sickest of the sick and offers hope. Old and young gather there. The common denominator is illness—the kind so serious that it generates platitudes and whispers. To be a patient at NIH feels like being a contestant on a reality show in which all the cameras are turned on you—or being a lottery winner when the prize is assuming a large debt at a huge interest rate."
As a bonus, read Steedly's blog post
about how her essay, which she worked on in a writing class in 2007, ended up being published in the Washingtonian.
PUBLISHED: Aug. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5062 words)