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Song of the Little Hobo Bird

Deep in the unforgiving desert of California's Imperial County, one lone dreamer has built a mountain of outsider art, a celebration of God and love rendered in every possible color, looming three stories high and 100-feet wide. But what will become of Salvation Mountain now that its legendary creator has passed away?

PUBLISHED: July 11, 2014
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6095 words)

Sixty-nine Days

An in-depth account of how the Chilean miners survived during the 2010 Copiapó mining accident:

At noon on the second day, Sepúlveda lined up thirty-three plastic cups and scooped one teaspoon of canned fish into each, then poured in some water, making a broth. He passed out two cookies to each man. “Enjoy your meal,” he said. “This is delicious stuff. Make it last.” Each cup probably contained fewer than a hundred calories.

Several times during those first days, the mountain rumbled as though it were exploding again. Lobos said that, outside the Refuge, “I always slept with one eye open, and when the mountain made noises I’d go running back inside.” A few of the men took the stretchers and used them as beds; others put cardboard onto the tile floor. The men were covered in soot. The Refuge, without any ventilation, started to smell like their fetid, unbathed bodies. “We didn’t have water we could spare to clean our private parts,” one miner said. Another said, “I’ve smelled corpses before, and after a while it smelled worse than that.”

PUBLISHED: June 30, 2014
LENGTH: 57 minutes (14378 words)

The Obliteration of a Person

Marion Coutts recalls the last months of her husband, art critic Tom Lubbock, after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Excerpted from Coutt's memoir The Iceberg:

Fast forward to February. The future has arrived early. Tom has a severe fit in the small hours of the morning. He had gone away by himself to get some writing done in a house by the sea and was due home today. It is evening, he is back with us, lying down quietly upstairs. He can talk after a fashion, read a little but he can't write. He is estranged from himself.

Spring. There is going to be destruction: the obliteration of a person, his intellect, his experience and his agency. I am to watch it. This is my part. It is now March. In one week, Tom will have another scan. This is the one to fear. There have not been so many fits, but outside them complexity is multiplying and thousands of lesser confusions also occur. Words slip out, switches are stumbled over and substitutions made.

PUBLISHED: June 14, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3806 words)

Being Gay in Iran

What happens when a young man in Iran is outed by a documentary:

“May I ask you something personal?”

I know what’s coming.

I look at my aunt as she takes her time to assemble the correct words. She is a tiny, sweet woman wearing a loosely draped head scarf, staring at me with shining dark-brown eyes. I love her more dearly than anything in the world. Of course I will tell her the truth. I can’t think of a reason to hide from her. It isn’t as if she might murder me or run around spreading my secret. She’s not one of those closed-minded, brainwashed people who would automatically judge me. She spent most of her life outside of Iran, living and working as an architect in Norway and Germany. If there is anyone out there who would understand me, it’s her.

“Are you gay, Feri Kitty?” she asks.

PUBLISHED: June 1, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2984 words)

The Dogs of War

The canines and their handlers out on the front line:

Two years of training with your dog, three months in-country, every day with Zenit at your side, eating MREs, packing your gear—and your dog’s—humping, working, waiting, waking at midnight to make sure Zenit pees and poops in the designated spot, and suddenly everything, your life as a soldier and handler, your life as hood rat and outsider and striving human being, gets compressed into 15 minutes and 60 yards.

Jose believes he’s onto the pattern. It seems the Taliban have buried IEDs at the access points to the wadi, assuming the troops would feel safer out of sight down in the dry riverbed than exposed in the open fields. It’s all happening so quickly now. He takes deep breaths to tame his excitement and maintain focus.

PUBLISHED: May 23, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4585 words)

The Path to Pearl Harbor

How Japan found itself on the brink of war in December 1941:

By the mid–1930s, much of northern China was essentially under Japanese influence. Then, on July 7, 1937, a small-scale clash between local Chinese and Japanese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge in Wanping, a small village outside Beijing, escalated. The Japanese prime minister, Prince Konoe, used the clash to make further territorial demands on China. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist government, decided that the moment had come to confront Japan rather than appease it, and full-scale war broke out between the two sides.

PUBLISHED: May 19, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3543 words)

Can't Do It Alone

Susan Cahill lost everything when her clinic was vandalized. Now western Montana risks losing one of its only abortion providers.

Moving men carry a small white refrigerator into a truck parked outside, then return for a large plastic bin full of forceps and speculums. The equipment will remain in storage until Cahill decides whether to use them again. Following the break-in and the calculated dismantling of her professional equipment and personal items, Cahill, 64, has yet to decide if she'll ever return to the Flathead Valley practice she's built up over the course of her career.

PUBLISHED: May 15, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3672 words)

My Journey Back to Ebola Ground Zero

A microbiologist's story 40 years after investigating a deadly virus:

When we arrived in Yambuku on October 20 1976, we went straight to the guest house, which sat between the nuns’ and fathers’ convents. Three European sisters and a priest were standing outside, with a cord between them and us. They had read that in case of an epidemic it was necessary to establish a cordon sanitaire, which they had interpreted literally. A message hung from a tree, saying in the Lingala language that people should stay away as anybody coming any closer would die, and to leave messages on a piece of paper. When the sisters shouted in French, “Don’t come any nearer! Stay outside the barrier or you will die!” I immediately understood from their accent that they were from near my part of Flanders. I jumped over the barrier, saying in Dutch, “We are here to help you and to stop the epidemic. You’ll be all right.”

AUTHOR:Peter Piot
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4729 words)

Meet the Bagman

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."

PUBLISHED: April 10, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5602 words)