The Washington Post

A Mother’s Charge

A haunting story about a mother desperate to raise her son the right way — despite a past she cannot put behind her and living in the heart of cowboy country, where toxic masculinity is a way of life.

He might be able to change the world, Sarah often says, if she can figure out how to raise him the right way. But she is also overwhelmed by the fear that her sweet boy could one day become a bad guy, like so many of the ones who have hurt her. Like the one they just escaped.

Published: Sep 13, 2022
Length: 23 minutes (5,972 words)

A Texas teen wanted an abortion. She now has twins.

Brooke Alexander found out she was pregnant 48 hours before the Texas abortion ban took effect. The only place she could find to get an ultrasound, to determine how far along she was, was a crisis pregnancy center — a religiously affiliated antiabortion facility. Now Alexander has two baby girls and is struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the crisis pregnancy center is capitalizing on her story:

The Coastal Bend Republican Coalition gathered on May 19 for its weekly meeting at a local barbecue joint. Over brisket and coleslaw, members listened to the speaker they’d invited for the evening: Jana Pinson, the executive director of the Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend.

To explain the center’s work, Pinson told a story about a girl who showed up with her mom on the morning the Heartbeat Act took effect, asking for an abortion.

The mother and daughter “were so furious with us,” Pinson said, “so angry.”

But as soon as they saw the ultrasound, she said, everything changed.

“The moment we put that wand on her sweet belly and two babies popped up … it absolutely melted them.”

Last year, Pinson said, 583 abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable women chose to continue their pregnancies after visiting their facility.

At their banquet in March — with over 2,800 attendees from across the region — Pinson and her staff lit 583 candles.

One of those was for Brooke.

Published: Jun 20, 2022
Length: 16 minutes (4,100 words)

The Google Engineer who Thinks the Company’s AI Has Come to Life

Has Google’s artificial intelligent chatbot LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) achieved sentience? While Google says no, engineer Blake Lemoine says yes.

Lemoine said that people have a right to shape technology that might significantly affect their lives. “I think this technology is going to be amazing. I think it’s going to benefit everyone. But maybe other people disagree and maybe us at Google shouldn’t be the ones making all the choices.”

Lemoine is not the only engineer who claims to have seen a ghost in the machine recently. The chorus of technologists who believe AI models may not be far off from achieving consciousness is getting bolder.

Published: Jun 11, 2022
Length: 10 minutes (2,621 words)

The Remarkable Brain of a Carpet Cleaner Who Speaks 24 Languages

Vaughn Smith lives in Maryland. He’s 46 years old. He also learns languages with the seeming ease of a run around the block — including endangered indigenous tongues like Salish. In this fascinating profile that’s part ridealong and part science dive, Jessica Contrera takes you inside the life (and brain) of a man with a very particular set of skills.

When I introduced him to Richard Simcott, who organizes an international conference for polyglots, Vaughn switched between 10 languages as they spoke, telling stories in Welsh, Bulgarian, Serbian, Norwegian and more.

Because for Vaughn, every language is really a story about the people it connected him to.

Published: Apr 5, 2022
Length: 15 minutes (3,994 words)

The Death Spiral of an American Family

In this heartbreaking portrait of one American family, Eli Saslow offers a look at “backwards mobility” and the country’s collapsing middle class.

It had been almost a month since Dave, 39, found his father lying unresponsive in bed next to his cellphone and a bill from a collections agency, having died of a heart attack at age 70, and ever since then Dave had been trying to make sense of what his father had left behind. He’d read through his father’s credit card statements and then talked to a banker, who concluded that the final estate of David Ramsey Sr. was of “inconsequential value.”

Author: Eli Saslow
Published: Mar 20, 2022
Length: 16 minutes (4,025 words)

No Escape From Guantánamo

“For the former detainees of America’s war on terror, stigma, poverty and continuing persecution present formidable obstacles to resettlement.”

Published: Jan 7, 2022
Length: 15 minutes (3,800 words)

‘My Sincere Condolences’

Inside the struggles and heartaches of FEMA’s massive COVID funeral assistance program.

Published: Dec 21, 2021
Length: 16 minutes (4,083 words)

A QAnon Con

“An Internet mob wanted to rescue a 13-year-old girl. Instead, they terrified her, derailed real trafficking investigations, and incited ‘save the children’ violence.”

Published: Dec 16, 2021
Length: 20 minutes (5,200 words)

The Vaccine Tore Her Family Apart. Could a Death Bring Them Back Together?

“Laurel Haught moved out of her own home to escape her unvaccinated daughter. Now they are facing a funeral, the coming holidays and the divide splitting many American families.”

Published: Nov 15, 2021
Length: 14 minutes (3,700 words)

Have Democrats Reached the Limits of White Appeasement Politics?

In short: Pretty much.

Published: Nov 11, 2021
Length: 17 minutes (4,300 words)