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70,000 Kids Will Show Up Alone at Our Border This Year. What Happens to Them?

Officials have been stunned by a "surge" of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States.

Although some have traveled from as far away as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, the bulk are minors from Mexico and from Central America's so-called Northern Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which together account for 74 percent of the surge. Long plagued by instability and unrest, these countries have grown especially dangerous in recent years: Honduras imploded following a military coup in 2009 and now has the world's highest murder rate. El Salvador has the second-highest, despite the 2012 gang truce between Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18. Guatemala, new territory for the Zetas cartel, has the fifth-highest murder rate; meanwhile, the cost of tortillas has doubled as corn prices have skyrocketed due to increased American ethanol production (Guatemala imports half of its corn) and the conversion of farmland to sugarcane and oil palm for biofuel.

AUTHOR:Ian Gordon
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2878 words)

Pablo Escobar’s Private Prison Is Now Run by Monks for Senior Citizens

In exchange for his surrender, the top Colombian drug lord was allowed to build his jail—complete with a disco, jacuzzi, and waterfall. Now 23 years later, it's a home for the elderly.

With negotiations underway in the spring of 1991, Escobar began hunting for the perfect piece of land upon which to construct his prison. He took along his brother, Roberto, who was the cartel's accountant. Escobar had scouted much of the vacant land surrounding Medellín but found the lush mountainside of Mont Catedral particularly ideal. "This is the place, brother," Escobar said during a site visit. "Do you realize that after six in the evening it fogs over and is foggy at dawn, too?" Escobar also appreciated the steep topography that would make it nearly impossible for the military or rival cartels to mount an air attack on the compound. And so, prior to formally surrendering, Escobar began construction on The Cathedral.

PUBLISHED: June 7, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3472 words)

Insuring the Dead

Inside the business of corpse-repatriation insurance:

It is said, by people who would know, that at its peak, Colombia’s infamous Medellín drug cartel was spending $2,500 a month on rubber bands to wrap around bricks of cash. The arithmetic of human excess begins to acquire mythic status when money becomes nearly impossible to count and we are left to communicate chiefly through estimates and legends, like the one in which Pablo Escobar set fire to $2 million in cash to create a fire for his daughter when they were on the run and she got cold. During Colombia’s dark and bloody 1980s, the cartels’ pecuniary abundance was not only the stuff of legendary proportion. Death, too, became grimly innumerable—and at the intersection of cartel, guerrilla, and paramilitary violence was the question of how to respond to the ubiquity of death.

PUBLISHED: May 20, 2014
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1505 words)

'Ugh. I Miss It.'

Following one veteran's difficult transition from military to civilian life. Reported by Eli Saslow, a 2014 Pulitzer recipient, and part of a multi-part series "examining the effects of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars on the 2.6 million American troops who served and fought":

He had tried to replace the war by working construction, roughnecking in the oil fields and enrolling in community college. He had tried divorce and remarriage; alcohol and drugs; biker gangs and street racing; therapy appointments and trips to a shooting range for what he called “recoil therapy.” He had tried driving two hours to the hospital in Laramie, proclaiming himself in need of help and checking himself in.

On this day, he was on his way to try what he considered the most unlikely solution yet: a 9-to-5 office job as a case worker helping troubled veterans — even though he hated office work and had so far failed to help himself.

AUTHOR:Eli Saslow
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4890 words)

Cell to Cell

How Smuggled Mobile Phones Are Rewiring Brazil's Prisons:

On January 18, 2013, prison guards in the Brazilian city of Joinville rounded up a group of inmates and began torturing them. Over the course of four hours, the naked men were shot with rubber bullets and doused with pepper spray. In a video clip, the men are seen in the fetal position, waiting for the attack to end.

The prisoners’ counterattack was swift and deadly. Days after the video surfaced, prisoners organized attacks across the six-million-person state of Santa Catarina. The homes of prison officials, police stations, and public busses were all attacked. “Prisoners decided to orchestrate the attacks to call the attention of the population and authorities to issues of management in the prison system,” said Col. Nazareno Marcineiro, the commander of Santa Catarina’s military police.

PUBLISHED: April 14, 2014
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2300 words)

An Israeli Sniper's Anguished Look Into The Crosshairs

The order is to shoot a Palestinan suspect, and then return to normalcy:

500 METERS FROM THE ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER — The team — two of us snipers, a spotter, the lieutenant, and a driver, sit around a table in the small office of Major W, commander of this special infantry unit. I examine a grainy black-and-white photo that’s being passed around — a chubby middle-aged man in a jacket with white sleeves standing in a sunny field. The picture is from military intelligence, and it shows the man we are planning to shoot.

PUBLISHED: March 17, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4600 words)

How America’s Soldiers Fight for the Spectrum on the Battlefield

The U.S. armed forces dominates the land, air, and sea. But it also must dominate the electromagnetic spectrum by jamming and counterjamming communications to remain effective on the battlefield:

It is well known that America’s military dominates both the air and the sea. What’s less celebrated is that the US has also dominated the spectrum, a feat that is just as critical to the success of operations. Communications, navigation, battlefield logistics, precision munitions—all of these depend on complete and unfettered access to the spectrum, territory that must be vigilantly defended from enemy combatants. Having command of electromagnetic waves allows US forces to operate drones from a hemisphere away, guide cruise missiles inland from the sea, and alert patrols to danger on the road ahead. Just as important, blocking enemies from using the spectrum is critical to hindering their ability to cause mayhem, from detonating roadside bombs to organizing ambushes. As tablet computers and semiautonomous robots proliferate on battlefields in the years to come, spectrum dominance will only become more critical. Without clear and reliable access to the electromagnetic realm, many of America’s most effective weapons simply won’t work.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 18, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4955 words)

The Ghost Files

Historians are uncovering gaps in the National Archives and analyzing data to find scores of classified documents that should have already been declassified and released to the public:

Krasner, who earned a PhD in mathematics at Columbia, is among a half dozen computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians now working with Connelly on a multimedia research project they call the Declassification Engine. For the past year, this team has been gathering up large numbers of federal documents and creating analytic tools to detect anomalies in the collections. Several of the tools are on the project’s website and available for anyone to use. The one Krasner is developing is intended to find evidentiary traces of important historical episodes — a diplomatic crisis, say, or preparations for a military strike — that scholars until now have failed to notice. The Columbia researchers suspect that by spotting something as subtle as an uptick in a diplomat’s telephone activity they may be able to reveal the existence of historical episodes that the US government has largely suppressed from the public record.

“If you can make out something happening in the shadows, then we can ask: does it seem curious that little information about this event is available in the public record?” says David Allen, a PhD candidate in history at Columbia who is working on the project.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 1, 2014
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5319 words)

60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History

Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world.

Unbound by time and unlimited by geography, the sentence has been stretched and expanded over the past decade, sprouting new meanings and interpretations as two successive administrations have each attempted to keep pace with an evolving threat while simultaneously maintaining the security of the homeland. In the process, what was initially thought to authorize force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan has now been used to justify operations in several countries across multiple continents and, at least theoretically, could allow the president — any president — to strike anywhere at anytime. What was written in a few days of fear has now come to govern years of action.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 17, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10806 words)