Best of 2013,
How to buy college football players, in the words of a man who delivers the money:
The Bag Man excuses himself to make a call outside, on his "other phone," to arrange delivery of $500 in cash to a visiting recruit. The player is rated No. 1 at his position nationally and on his way into town. We're sitting in a popular restaurant near campus almost a week before National Signing Day, talking about how to arrange cash payments for amateur athletes."Nah, there's no way we're landing him, but you still have to do it," he says. "It looks good. It's good for down the road. Same reason my wife reads Yelp. These kids talk to each other. It's a waste of money, but they're doing the same thing to our guys right now in [rival school's town]. Cost of business."
"Nah, there's no way we're landing him, but you still have to do it," he says. "It looks good. It's good for down the road. Same reason my wife reads Yelp. These kids talk to each other. It's a waste of money, but they're doing the same thing to our guys right now in [rival school's town]. Cost of business."
A 12-year-old Florida girl leaps off a tower to her death. Two of her classmates are arrested, accused of a modern rite of middle school: sending cruel, harassing texts.
Katelyn, now 13, stands outside the chain-link fence at the cement plant where Rebecca jumped to her death. It's a cloudy January afternoon, some four months after the tragedy, and Katelyn is here with two good friends and her mother. The girls stand together in a silent row, gazing up at the pair of silos, several stories high. It's a lonely scene, a forgotten lot in a rundown area on the fringe of town. Weathered tributes to Rebecca line the fence — purple plastic poinsettias, a lineup of teddy bears, a Snoopy card. A handwritten note reads, "You were amazing."
Last October a 14-year-old autistic boy went missing after running out of his school and disappearing. His body was found months later:
NBC and ABC sent reporters right away. They searched the neighborhood all night, along the waterfront, in garbage cans, in parks, under cars, and found nothing. The family kept searching. Avonte’s father came up from Florida to help, bringing Avonte’s half-brother, Daniel Oquendo Jr., with him. Good Samaritans set up tents outside the school to serve as the command station for a search. They handed out leaflets and organized volunteers. When it got colder, a New Jersey man donated a trailer that was kept parked nearby. Donations raised the award for Avonte’s discovery to $89,500. A growing number of volunteers offered to help. The police kept them at a distance, especially when some of their theories on the case started trickling into the news coverage.
Last year, a media-shy billionaire bought the flailing Lonely Planet travel-guide empire, then shocked observers by hiring an unknown 24-year-old former wedding photographer to save it.
But when I knock on his hotel room door at 7:30, Houghton, now 25, is chipper. The space is fastidiously organized: bed made, camera gear in one neat pile, North Face and J.Crew clothes in another. Houghton, who is six foot four and 150 pounds, with a long neck and blue eyes, has rewired the sound system in the room to allow him to play M83 and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack from his iPhone. As he waves me in, he's on the line with his boss, billionaire Brad Kelley, the former tobacco magnate who bought Lonely Planet last year, when the storied company was in the midst of a financial nosedive. Houghton wishes Kelley a happy birthday, then we're off to ride what's billed as the steepest tree-to-tree zip-line on earth.
An excerpt from Lacy M. Johnson's memoir The Other Side, which details Johnson's experience of being held prisoner in a soundproofed room by her ex-boyfriend and what followed after she escaped:
The Detective follows me to my new apartment in the unmarked car. He offers to come inside, to stand guard at the door, but I don’t want him to see that I have no furniture, no food in the fridge, nothing in the pantry, or the linen closet, or on the walls. I ask him to wait outside. I call my boss at the literary magazine where I am an intern and leave a message on the office voice mail: Hi there. I was kidnapped and raped last night. I won’t be coming in today. I call My Good Friend’s cell phone. I call My Older Sister’s cell phone.While I’m in the shower, the apartment phone rings and callers leave messages on the machine: My Good Friend will stay with her boyfriend; she’s delaying her move-in date. Of course she hates to do this, but she’s just too scared to live here, with me, right now. You should find somewhere to go, she says. My Handsome Friend’s message says he heard the news from My Good Friend. He’s leaving town and doesn’t think it’s safe to tell me where to find him. The message My Older Sister leaves says she wants me to come stay at her place, which sounds better than sleeping alone in this apartment on the floor.
While I’m in the shower, the apartment phone rings and callers leave messages on the machine: My Good Friend will stay with her boyfriend; she’s delaying her move-in date. Of course she hates to do this, but she’s just too scared to live here, with me, right now. You should find somewhere to go, she says. My Handsome Friend’s message says he heard the news from My Good Friend. He’s leaving town and doesn’t think it’s safe to tell me where to find him. The message My Older Sister leaves says she wants me to come stay at her place, which sounds better than sleeping alone in this apartment on the floor.
Remembering the life of a talented young artist who went missing on a trail in Colorado:
After she died, a five-minute video surfaced of Zina standing in her bedroom in her grandmother’s house, which had shelves crammed with robots she’d built and other art projects. In the video, she explains that she has “creative compulsive disorder” and can’t stop making things—especially robots. The video was the first hint at what Zina was: an impossibly innocent and gifted eccentric on the verge of breaking out in the world of animatronics and stop motion. It was an audition for a Los Angeles–based reality show called Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, a SyFy channel program premiering March 25 that’s sort of like Project Runway for animatronics artists. She’d turned down a spot on the show in order to move home and care for her grandmother, who’d been diagnosed with lung cancer in September.
Whom did Farrah Fawcett really love? A court battle over an expensive Warhol turns on matters of the heart:
It was a Monday morning in mid-December at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the day of closing arguments in the matter of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System v. Ryan O’Neal, and the show was just minutes from getting under way. Outside the courtroom, the players milled about. O’Neal was strolling down the courthouse hallway in a navy blazer, an open-collared light-blue shirt, and dark pants. Seventy-two years old and still impossibly youthful, with only a touch of graying hair, he wore gold-rimmed sunglasses and held a plastic water bottle, which he wiggled before him as if he were going for a birdie putt on the eighteenth green at Riviera. “God, I’m nervous,” he said.
Steven Brigham’s abortion clinics keep being sanctioned for offering substandard care. Why is he still in business?
Brigham began placing ads for abortion services in the Yellow Pages. The ads drew a steady stream of pregnant women to his office—and a steady stream of protesters, armed with placards and bullhorns. The commotion escalated, eventually prompting the owners of the building to petition a judge for a temporary injunction against the protesters; after the request was denied, they successfully obtained an injunction against Brigham, who, they claimed, had misrepresented the nature of his medical practice. The controversy attracted extended scrutiny in the local press. One morning, Brigham later recalled, he glanced at the front page of the Reading Eagle and spotted a story, below the fold, about a minor international development: the implosion of the Soviet Union. Above it was yet another story about the turmoil outside his clinic.
Story picks from this year's winners, including The Washington Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and more.