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Stash Pad

How New York real estate became the new Swiss bank account, drawing in wealthy investors from foreign countries.
PUBLISHED: June 29, 2014
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6750 words)

The Many Pivots Of

A startup keeps searching for its winning formula:

"While their neighbors toiled away, building unglamorous businesses,'s March 19, 2007, launch became an immediate sensation.The San Francisco Chronicle did a front-page story. Ann Curry, in an excruciating Today show interview, lectured Kan. "Fame, I have to tell you, Justin, has a price," she said. But it was all fun, at first. Kan took the camera with him to the park, to business meetings, even to bars, where it made for awkward small talk. When one young woman took him back to her place one evening, he left the camera in the dark outside the bedroom; the gang back at headquarters overdubbed the video stream with audio from a porn movie. On his walk back to his apartment, Kan encountered a group of cheering viewers.

"'If this doesn't scare the shit out of TV networks, it's only because they don't understand it yet,' Graham told the San Francisco Chronicle. On NPR's All Things Considered, he declared: 'Their ultimate plan is to replace television.' It was fortunate for television, then, that Kan and his friends knew very little about running a business. 'We had one week's worth of a plan,' says Kan, laughing at what he describes as his youthful folly. 'Today, I have an understanding of the world, and of the entertainment and media industries, of how people consume content," he tells me. "But at the time, I had no idea.'"
PUBLISHED: June 15, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4599 words)

A Scorsese in Lagos: The Making of Nigeria's Film Industry

Filmmaker Kunle Afolayan is looking to push the boundaries of moviemaking in Nigeria—but it's still too early to know whether the audiences can support a film with even a $500,000 budget:

"Twenty years after bursting from the grungy street markets of Lagos, the $500 million Nigerian movie business churns out more than a thousand titles a year on average, and trails only Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of revenues. The films are hastily shot and then burned onto video CDs, a cheap alternative to DVDs. They are seldom seen in the developed world, but all over Africa consumers snap up the latest releases from video peddlers for a dollar or two. And so while Afolayan’s name is unknown outside Africa, at home, the actor-director is one of the most famous faces in the exploding entertainment scene known — inevitably — as 'Nollywood.'

"On a continent where economies usually depend on extracting natural resources or on charity, moviemaking is now one of Nigeria’s largest sources of private-sector employment."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4712 words)

The Saving of Ground Zero

To the degree that it’s possible for a 102-story building to take a city by surprise, One World Trade Center snuck up on the New York skyline. For years the project, conceived in the throes of tragedy, has been debated, negotiated, renamed, redrawn, hailed as a beacon, and maligned as a boondoggle. It wasn’t until recently, though, that it presented itself as an immutable fact, beginning to replace the void above Ground Zero with steel and reflective glass. Designed to commemorate lost life and recapture lost revenue, the half-completed skyscraper is both a nationalistic statement—it was formerly known as the “Freedom Tower”—and the centerpiece of a speculative real estate project. #Sept11
PUBLISHED: Aug. 3, 2011
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3974 words)

Life on the Line Between El Paso and Juárez

El Paso and Ciudad Juárez lie together uncomfortably like an estranged couple, surrounded on all sides by mountains and desert. The cities are separated by the thin trickle of the Rio Grande, which flows through concrete channels, built to put an end to the river’s natural habit of changing course and muddying boundaries. One side is Texas; the other, Mexico. The border’s way of life — its business, legitimate and otherwise — has always relied upon the circumvention of this dividing line.
PUBLISHED: July 28, 2011
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6727 words)

Miss Grundy Was Fired Today

Once deified, now demonized, teachers are under assault from union-busting Republicans on the right and wealthy liberals on the left. And leading the charge from all directions is a woman most famous for losing her job: the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
PUBLISHED: March 22, 2011
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5212 words)

The Fall of Niagara Falls

Decades of decay, corruption, and failed get-rich-quick schemes have made the city one of the most intractable disasters in the U.S. "Among the many proposals for a replacement revenue generator, put forward by various fly-by-night impresarios or Niagara Falls Redevelopment itself, are a dinosaur park, a boxing Hall of Fame, a Chinese-themed attraction called Dragon City, and an underground aquarium featuring 5,000 creatures of the deep. 'I have a file full of the craziest ideas,' Bergamo said, 'but no one comes here with any money.'"
PUBLISHED: Dec. 3, 2010
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4181 words)

The Elusive Small-House Utopia

Will Americans re-evaluate cultural assumptions that equate ever-larger houses with success and stability?
PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2010
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2845 words)

The Peanut Solution

The product may not look like much — a little foil packet filled with a soft, sticky substance — but its advocates are prone to use the language of magic and wonders. What is Plumpy’nut? Sound it out, and you get the idea: it’s an edible paste made of peanuts, packed with calories and vitamins, that is specially formulated to renourish starving children. Since its widespread introduction five years ago, it has been credited with significantly lowering mortality rates during famines in Africa.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 2, 2010
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5258 words)