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My Year With Malala

A reporter spends time with Malala Yousafzai and her family. Yousafzai became internationally recognized after she survived being shot in the head by the Taliban:

"One day in mid-April, Time magazine arrives with Malala’s face on the cover, as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. She complains she doesn’t like the photo.

"Sometimes when I go to their house I notice elaborate bouquets. When I ask where they come from, they say: 'Oh, Angelina Jolie was over for dinner,' or: 'The ex-prime minister of Norway dropped in for tea.' The family visits London and is taken to see Boris Johnson. He leaves Malala slightly baffled. 'He just kept saying, "What’s it all about?" ' she says. In the paper we read she is favourite for the Nobel Peace Prize. My son is astonished. 'How can she win?' he asks. 'She’s always fighting with her brother!'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 17, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4043 words)

Inside the National Suicide Hotline: Preventing the Next Tragedy

Behind the scenes of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the debate over what policies and programs are effective when it comes to preventing suicide and saving lives in the U.S.:

"Studies done by Columbia University's Dr. Madelyn Gould have found that about 12 percent of suicidal callers reported in a follow-up interview that talking to someone at the lifeline prevented them from harming or killing themselves. Almost half followed through with a counselor's referral to seek emergency services or contacted mental health services, and about 80 percent of suicidal callers say in follow-up interviews that the lifeline has had something to do with keeping them alive.

"'I don’t know if we'll ever have solid evidence for what saves lives other than people saying they saved my life,' says Draper. 'It may be that the suicide rate could be higher if crisis lines weren't in effect. I don’t know. All I can say is that what we’re hearing from callers is that this is having a real life-saving impact.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 13, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4686 words)

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

An investigation into the complicated and costly world of medical billing in the U.S.:

"Out of work for a year, Janice S. had no insurance. Among the hospital’s charges were three 'TROPONIN I' tests for $199.50 each. According to a National Institutes of Health website, a troponin test “measures the levels of certain proteins in the blood” whose release from the heart is a strong indicator of a heart attack. Some labs like to have the test done at intervals, so the fact that Janice S. got three of them is not necessarily an issue. The price is the problem. Stamford Hospital spokesman Scott Orstad told me that the $199.50 figure for the troponin test was taken from what he called the hospital’s chargemaster. The chargemaster, I learned, is every hospital’s internal price list. Decades ago it was a document the size of a phone book; now it’s a massive computer file, thousands of items long, maintained by every hospital.

"Stamford Hospital’s chargemaster assigns prices to everything, including Janice S.’s blood tests. It would seem to be an important document. However, I quickly found that although every hospital has a chargemaster, officials treat it as if it were an eccentric uncle living in the attic. Whenever I asked, they deflected all conversation away from it. They even argued that it is irrelevant. I soon found that they have good reason to hope that outsiders pay no attention to the chargemaster or the process that produces it. For there seems to be no process, no rationale, behind the core document that is the basis for hundreds of billions of dollars in health care bills."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 102 minutes (25502 words)

Drone Home

On the future of drones in America:

"But the drone industry is ramping up for a big landgrab the moment the regulatory environment starts to relax. At last year's Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) trade show in Las Vegas, more than 500 companies pitched drones for filming crowds and tornados and surveying agricultural fields, power lines, coalfields, construction sites, gas spills and archaeological digs. A Palo Alto, Calif., start-up called Matternet wants to establish a network of drones that will transport small, urgent packages, like those for medicine.

"In other countries civilian drone populations are already booming. Aerial video is a major application. A U.K. company called Skypower makes the eight-rotored Cinipro drone, which can carry a cinema-quality movie camera. In Costa Rica they're used to study volcanoes. In Japan drones dust crops and track schools of tuna; emergency workers used one to survey the damage at Fukushima. A nature preserve in Kenya ran a crowdsourced fundraising drive to buy drones to watch over the last few northern white rhinos. Ironically, while the U.S. has been the leader in sending drones overseas, it's lagging behind when it comes to deploying them on its own turf."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 2, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4623 words)

What Choice?

The problems within the pro-choice movement:

"Some of these leaders and their similarly aged deputies have been reluctant to pass the torch, according to a growing number of younger abortion-rights activists who say their predecessors are hindering the movement from updating its strategy to appeal to new audiences. This tension had been brewing for years, but in 2010, Keenan told Newsweek that she worried that the pro-choice cause might be vulnerable because young people weren't motivated enough to get involved. The complaint struck young activists like Steph Herold, 25, as an effort to place blame on others for mistakes the establishment pro-choice movement has made along the way. 'They are the generation that gave us legalized abortions, but they also screwed up,' says Herold, pointing to the pro-choice establishment's failure to stop the 1976 Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funding of abortions and disproportionately affects poor women. At a conference last May, Herold heard a women's-clinic owner who has worked in the abortion field for some 40 years echo Keenan's complaint--that young people aren't involved enough in the pro-choice movement. Herold was furious. She stood up and, trembling, walked to a microphone. 'We're counseling your patients and stuffing your envelopes,' Herold told the clinic owner. 'You should be talking to us and not just about us.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4625 words)

My Life as a Replacement Ref: Three Unlikely Months Inside the NFL

[Not single-page] An interview with Jerry Frump, who left his job as a Division I college football referee to work as a replacement official in the NFL during a labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association.

"What was the most surreal moment in this whole experience?

"I suppose it was – not when it happened, but afterwards – there’s been a number of pictures that have appeared in the newspaper and the Internet and so forth, but I think the one that seems to be most popular is me signaling intentional grounding on Ben Roethlisberger and him with his hands on his hips looking down on me. You know, he’s a very big man. I’m only about 5’9” or 5’10”. So it was – I had to look at it with some amusement myself.

"And was that the right call?

"Yes, I actually got the correct call on it.

"Was there a low moment?

"I suppose you really felt bad for your colleagues when they blew a call, or there was one that was getting a lot of negative media attention. Again, everybody goes out there and they work hard, and we kind of stand side by side. When somebody makes a call, obviously, the microscope is very big at this level. I think the NFL in one of our conference calls indicated that 'there will probably be no one in history has gone through such a high level of scrutiny, and the microscope has never been as big as it is on you guys at this time.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 28, 2012
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6563 words)

Keeping the Dream Alive

On the history of the American Dream, and how it stands in the U.S. today:

"The government's verdict: 'It is more difficult now than in the past for many people to achieve middle-class status because prices for certain key goods — health care, college and housing — have gone up faster than income.' Median household income has also remained stagnant for more than a decade; when the figures are adjusted for inflation, Americans are making less now than they were when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

"There, in brief, is the crisis of our time. The American Dream may be slipping away. We have overcome such challenges before. To recover the Dream requires knowing where it came from, how it lasted so long and why it matters so much. Emerson once remarked that there is properly no history, only biography. This is the biography of an idea, one that made America great. Whether that idea has much of a future is the question facing Americans now."
PUBLISHED: June 21, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3409 words)

Newton, Reconsidered

[Not single-page] A look back at one of Apple's most beloved failures, starting with a purchase of the original Newton on eBay:

"Once I’d put four AAA batteries and a watch-battery backup into the MessagePad for the first time, powering it up felt like bringing it out of cryogenic suspension. Newtons, it turns out, begin their lives believing that it’s 5am on January 1, 1993. And the only way to set the year to 2012 is to flip the calendar forward, one month at a time. I tapped the MessagePad’s screen 230 times to set the date, watching the months flutter by like pages falling off a calendar to indicate the passage of time in some old movie.

"As I did, I was already struck by a fact about the PDA’s screen: It’s terrible. Terrible."
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4580 words)

Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School?

In recent years, hundreds of schools have made these transactions more businesslike, experimenting with paying kids with cold, hard cash for showing up or getting good grades or, in at least one case, going another day without getting pregnant. I have not met a child who does not admire this trend. But it makes adults profoundly uncomfortable.
PUBLISHED: April 8, 2010
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4408 words)