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The Girls Next Door

In 2012, President Barack Obama said the fight against human trafficking was "one of the great human rights causes of our time." So why are so many Colorado children still being exploited?

Lipstick kisses stain the corners of the mirror. Open tubes of mascara, a rainbow of eye shadows, and a warm curling iron cover the counter of the pink bathroom. T-shirts, skirts, and heels are scattered on the couch and spread along the floor of the basement. Sixteen-year-old Susie discards an entire pile of tops before settling on a cropped T-shirt, jeans, and wedges. Her naturally curly black hair is stick straight, her nails are freshly manicured, and her youthful olive skin needs no makeup. She hums along to some current mid-’90s radio hits—Mariah Carey, Tupac, Biggie—and helps a friend apply yet another layer of eyeliner, while the giggles and chatter of two other girls, ages 15 and 16, fill whatever space is left in the cramped room.

PUBLISHED: April 1, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6675 words)

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

An adaptation from Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, about high-frequency trading and the rigging of Wall Street:

“As the market problem got worse,” [Brad Katsuyama] says, “I started to just assume my real problem was with how bad their technology was.”

But as he talked to Wall Street investors, he came to realize that they were dealing with the same problem. He had a good friend who traded stocks at a big-time hedge fund in Stamford, Conn., called SAC Capital, which was famous (and soon to be infamous) for being one step ahead of the U.S. stock market. If anyone was going to know something about the market that Katsuyama didn’t know, he figured, it would be someone there. One spring morning, he took the train up to Stamford and spent the day watching his friend trade. Right away he saw that, even though his friend was using software supplied to him by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other big firms, he was experiencing exactly the same problem as RBC: He would hit a button to buy or sell a stock, and the market would move away from him. “When I see this guy trading, and he was getting screwed — I now see that it isn’t just me. My frustration is the market’s frustration. And I was like, ‘Whoa, this is serious.’ ”

PUBLISHED: March 31, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10876 words)

Life and Death At His Fingertips

Henry Marsh is one of Britain's top neurosurgeons and a pioneer of neurosurgical advances in Ukraine. Erica Wagner witnesses life on a knife-edge:

I first encountered Henry Marsh late one night on my sofa. I was too tired to go to bed, and so kept the television on as one programme ended and another started. This was The English Surgeon, a 2007 documentary by Geoffrey Smith about the work that Henry has been doing for over 20 years now at the Lipska Street Hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine. Following a meeting with Igor Kurilets, a Ukrainian neurosurgeon struggling against the post-Soviet culture of poor resources and entrenched, old-fashioned thinking about medical care, Henry began volunteering his time in Kyiv. He brought not only his skills but equipment that had been discarded – generally for no good reason – by the NHS, packed up in wooden crates he made himself.

PUBLISHED: March 20, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3990 words)

Straight Outta St. Johns

From the edge of America's whitest city, a generation of North Portland rappers emerge:

Rap production in this town tends toward DIY: homemade mix tapes and simple videos shot along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But the music coming out of St. Johns offers an important look at the city. The lyrics recast places many Portlanders know. For these rappers, the St. Johns Bridge is not an Instagram image but a barrier that symbolizes the wide gulf separating their world from the rest of the city.

PUBLISHED: March 7, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4930 words)

What They Stood For

Fifty years ago, an all-white fraternity at Stanford pledged its first black member, creating national headlines and making the frat house a hot spot for the civil rights movement:

The Stanford chapter wasn't spoiling for a fight, but its members chafed at the notion that race should be a factor in membership considerations. A letter sent to chapter alums in late 1964 warned that the house was in crisis because it was "not free to pledge Negroes." In February 1965 the chapter sent a letter to Sigma Chi officials saying it intended to rush prospective members on a nondiscriminatory basis.

When pledge bids were given out in March 1965, one went to Washington, who accepted on April 3. On April 10, word arrived that Sigma Chi's national executive committee had suspended the Stanford chapter as of April 2, allegedly for chronic flouting of rituals and traditions.

PUBLISHED: March 6, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3542 words)

In Drag, It Turns Out, There Are Second Acts

Inside the long career of RuPaul Charles, "the world's pre-eminent drag queen."

RuPaul Charles zoomed down Sunset Boulevard in a 1979 red Volvo he inherited from his mother. He wore a pinstripe suit and an open-collar shirt revealing a wedge of shaved chest. “Hollywood is an idea,” he said, as the Bee Gees blared on the radio. “It’s not a real place.” He stared down the road through oversize sunglasses. “It’s more of a concept,” he continued. “So, to step behind the curtain of the dream factory, things are never what they seem to be, and that is by design.”

PUBLISHED: Feb. 21, 2014
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2400 words)

1% Jokes and Plutocrats In Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society

While reporting for The New York Times, Kevin Roose went undercover and snuck into an exclusive annual dinner party for Kappa Beta Phi, Wall Street's Secret Society. [Excerpted from Roose's book, Young Money]:

Bill Mulrow, a top executive at the Blackstone Group (who was later appointed chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency), and Emil Henry, a hedge fund manager with Tiger Infrastructure Partners and former assistant secretary of the Treasury, performed a bizarre two-man comedy skit. Mulrow was dressed in raggedy, tie-dye clothes to play the part of a liberal radical, and Henry was playing the part of a wealthy baron. They exchanged lines as if staging a debate between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. (“Bill, look at you! You’re pathetic, you liberal! You need a bath!” Henry shouted. “My God, you callow, insensitive Republican! Don’t you know what we need to do? We need to create jobs,” Mulrow shot back.)

PUBLISHED: Feb. 18, 2014
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2258 words)

Welcome to Bakersfield, California

Carl Cole escaped to Bakersfield, Calif. hoping to build a better life for his family. He ended up helping make the town a "foreclosure capital of America":

Crisp & Cole began paying straw buyers up to $20,000 each so they would pose as home buyers on loan application documents, federal prosecutors say. The properties were then flipped from “owner” to “owner”, generating fees for the firm and profits for people with pieces of the deals. “What we found is that local people with knowledge of how the system worked were taking advantage,” says Kirk Sherriff, an assistant US attorney in Fresno, California, where the case is being prosecuted.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 7, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4196 words)

'Every New Technology Creates Almost As Many Problems As It Solves'

An in-depth interview (via The Browser) with Wired co-founder and technology “protopian” Kevin Kelly about the future of sharing and tracking on the Internet:

The question that I’m asking myself is, how far will we share, when are we’re going to stop sharing, and how far are we’re going to allow ourselves to monitor and surveil each other in kind of a coveillance? I believe that there’s no end to how much we can track each other—how far we’re going to self-track, how much we’re going to allow companies to track us—so I find it really difficult to believe that there’s going to be a limit to this, and to try to imagine this world in which we are being self-tracked and co-tracked and tracked by governments, and yet accepting of that, is really hard to imagine.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 3, 2014
LENGTH: 36 minutes (9124 words)