What will it look like when drones (like those envisioned by Amazon’s Prime Air) come to U.S. airspace?
In this property-rights-obsessed nation, it turns out you actually don’t have a clear right to shoot down a drone hovering low over your backyard unless it’s putting you in imminent physical danger.
“You have to acknowledge in this day and age that stuff flies over your house,” Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in robotics and the law, told me. That puts him at odds with conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, who voiced a more typical reaction on Fox News last year: “The first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that’s been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country.”
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7500 words)
Parents in New York are joining a growing movement to opt out of high-stakes testing for their children:
In response to the growing criticism, Arne Duncan, the White House’s Education secretary, this month said it was “fascinating” that some of the Common Core’s detractors are “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” There was an uproar among parents and administrators. “Did he really say that?” wrote Long Island superintendent Joseph Rella in an open letter. Duncan later “regretted” his phrasing, but what was most telling about his comment was that it seemed to acknowledge that support for the Common Core is being derailed in part by how it plays into the culture of anxiety often associated with high-stakes testing.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4377 words)
Todd Purdum argues that President Obama’s isolation from the rest of Washington, D.C., has made him less effective as a politician over the last five years:
Obama is far from the first president—or the first suddenly world-famous figure—to keep his own counsel or to rely on the tightest possible circle of longtime advisers and old, close friends. More than 20 years ago, when Mario Cuomo was seen as the Democratic Party’s best hope for taking the White House, one knowledgeable New Yorker assured me that Cuomo would never run, because he could never bring himself to trust the number of people required to undertake an effective campaign. In February 2007, the week Obama declared his candidacy, his confidante Valerie Jarrett told me that she had warned him at a backyard barbecue in Chicago the previous fall, when his book tour for The Audacity of Hope was morphing into a presidential campaign, “You’ll never make any new friends.” Obama has since worked overtime to prove the prescience of Jarrett’s view.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3042 words)
Greenfield and Clark make the case for changing tax incentives around construction and real estate, in order to finally solve the problems that led to the housing bubble and encourage sustainability:
The problem today is that neither individual homebuyers nor even larger commercial builders drive “market forces.” Instead, the market for real estate construction comprises managers of hedge funds and speculators who buy buildings and homes as rental properties. They are waiting for the value of the buildings to rise, as they had before the 2008 collapse. By early 2014, these high-volume buyers will most likely be near their short-term return on investment (ROI) with their investors and therefore looking to sell.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 29, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4771 words)
Gay teens in Georgia are being expelled from private Christian schools that are using a local law to raise money in a way that is so shrouded in mystery that the Society of Professional Journalists has awarded the law the Black Hole Award, for "the most heinous violations of the public's right to know":
"Now a sweet-faced sophomore with big blue eyes and a wry sense of humor, Tristan, who asks that we not use his real name, tells me this over fried cheese and Buffalo wings at a Chili's 20 minutes from the midsize Georgia town where he lives. He's here with two friends, a junior who asks to go by Emily and a senior who lets me use his real name, Jason, because he'll have graduated before anyone will read this. Though there's a Chili's closer to their homes, they've requested to meet here because if authorities at their school learned they were gay, they would not just be punished, they would be expelled.
"Many Christian schools in Georgia and across the nation have similar policies, sometimes explicitly written into a pledge that students or their parents must sign when they enroll. At certain schools, a student need not even engage in acts of sexual 'impurity'; simply identifying as gay or acting in support of a gay friend can lead to dismissal. 'The Academy reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a student . . . participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support . . . the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle,' reads the 'Academy/Home Partnering Agreement' at Providence Christian in Lilburn, Georgia, a school with religious underpinnings very similar to those at the school Tristan attends. 'No 'immoral act' or 'identifying statements' concerning fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality or pornography will be tolerated,' warns the Cherokee Christian Schools in Woodstock, Georgia. 'Such behavior will constitute grounds for expulsion.'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5263 words)
David Byrne on whether New York City can hold onto its creative class:
"This city doesn’t make things anymore. Creativity, of all kinds, is the resource we have to draw on as a city and a country in order to survive. In the recent past, before the 2008 crash, the best and the brightest were lured into the world of finance. Many a bright kid graduating from university knew that they could become fairly wealthy almost instantly if they found employment at a hedge fund or some similar institution. But before the financial sector came to dominate the world, they might have made things: in publishing, manufacturing, television, fashion, you name it. As in many other countries the lure of easy bucks Hoovered this talent and intelligence up—and made it difficult for those other kinds of businesses to attract any of the top talent."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 8, 2013
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1950 words)
How the world of politics works. MacGillis tells the story of Doug Band, who rose up to become one of President Clinton's most trusted advisers, until his own business interests got in the way:
"Of course, it was only natural that Band would tap his existing network. What is striking is the extent to which Teneo’s business model depends on his relationship with Clinton. Band’s former White House colleague says Teneo is essentially a p.r. firm that is able to charge above-market rates because it persuades executives that Band and the ties he brings are an essential service. 'If they were paying $25,000 or $40,000 a month for p.r., then $100,000 a month, from the eyes of the CEO, ... it’s not going to crush him,' says the former colleague. (According to The New York Times, Teneo’s monthly fees can be as high as $250,000.) The longtime Clinton associate says that Band’s pitch to clients was that he was 'able to fly around [with Clinton] and decide who flies around with him. ... The whole thing is resting on his access.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 36 minutes (9007 words)
An art dealer diagnosed with kidney cancer formulates a plan to bury some of his treasure and leave clues to its whereabouts in a self-published book:
"Dal Neitzel is just one of hundreds of people who have contacted Fenn to let him know they’ve been searching for his haul. Before he set out, after poring through historical books and scouring maps, Neitzel, a 65-year-old former TV cameraman, convinced himself the treasure was in the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico, close to the border with Colorado. Remarkably, he’d managed to locate a large house on the edge of a steep drop that overlooked a gushing river. Outside that house was a sign that read: "Brown." He read Fenn’s poem aloud again: 'Put in below the home of Brown.' That had to be it."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 19, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3214 words)
A multimedia story about a life dedicated to horse racing. Russell Baze, 55, is the winningest jockey in North American history. But few know his name—he stayed close to home in Northern California, where the purses are smaller and there are fewer opportunities to get into the big races:
"Very few great horses come out of Northern California, and that has meant Baze rarely has been in America’s biggest races. 'Every jockey’s dream is to win the Kentucky Derby,' he said, describing the thrill of being at the center of so mammoth a crowd. But he has ridden in the event only twice, both times on long shots. Semoran finished 14th in 1996; Cause to Believe was 13th in 2005.
"A third horse, Event of the Year, was a Derby favorite in 1998. 'I had the big one,' Baze said, recalling the momentous opportunity, a chance to be the jockey among jockeys in the race of all races. But the horse — the best he had ever ridden — fractured a knee a week before the race.
"Because Baze has primarily worked in the Bay Area, some horseplayers put a mental asterisk beside his name, likening his record for wins to a baseball home run king given credit for round-trippers in Class AAA.
"That is a reasonable observation, as Baze would acknowledge. 'I’m not the greatest jockey, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that,' he said."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 13, 2013
LENGTH: 40 minutes (10213 words)