A wooden empty chair in the middle of an empty room with a decorated checkerboard floor - stock photo (Photo By Busà Photography via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Lakeidra Chavis, Jodi S. Cohen, Jennifer Smith Richards, Heidi Blake, Zandria F. Robinson, Michael Hall, and Eve Peyser.

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1. The Quiet Rooms

Lakeidra Chavis, Jodi S. Cohen, Jennifer Smith Richards | Chicago Tribune | November 19, 2019 | 30 minutes (7,726 words)

Schools across Illinois have been punishing students by locking them into “seclusion rooms” — essentially putting them into solitary confinement. Schools say the isolated timeouts are a necessary tool to dealing with students who pose a safety threat to themselves or others, but many of the students put in these rooms have disabilities and receive no therapeutic value from being locked away. Not long after this Tribune/ProPublica investigation was published, Illinois took emergency action to end this practice.

2. How The Kremlin’s Assassins Sowed Terror Through The Streets Of London While British Authorities Scrambled To Stop Them

Heidi Blake | BuzzFeed | November 19, 2019 | 21 minutes (5,384 words)

In this adaptation from her new book, From Russia with Blood: The Kremlin’s Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin’s Secret War on the West, Heidi Blake reports on Scotland Yard’s attempts to maintain the safety of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch living in Britain. From a poison factory, to a multitude of hired assassins, it seems Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing to silence his most vocal critics.

3. Sing Across the Ocean

Zandria F. Robinson | Oxford American | October 31, 2019 | 26 minutes (6,636 words)

“Ranky Tanky is an ancestral funk band. Their members are variously jazz and gospel trained, but as a collective, ancestral funk is their genre. I know because they start Ranky Tanky, their first album, with horns on the three and four, but Good Time, their second one, released in July, with bass on the one.”

4. Trigger

Michael Hall | Texas Monthly | January 21, 2013 | 25 minutes (6,257 words)

Willie Nelson’s been playing the same guitar — a Martin N-20 classical — for 50 years. In this fantastic profile from 2013, Michael Hall chronicles not only the life and times of Willie and his trusted sidekick, Trigger, but the laborious care and tending of an instrument that is the primary tool of a living musical legend.

5. Gritty’s Reign Has Just Begun

Eve Peyser | Vice Magazine | November 18, 2019 | 8 minutes (2,100 words)

Mascots are safe to love in an era when nothing is. Gritty and Phang, Philly’s newest mascots, exemplify why.