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Great Reads

TODAY'S GREAT READ

 

How an anonymous blogger stands out on California water policy

On a Thursday in February four years ago, the self-described "low-level civil servant" who produces OnthePublicRecord.org, an anonymous blog about California water, posted an existential lament about life amid the policy wonks. "Sometimes I wonder what terrible thing I did wrong in a previous lifetime...SEE THE STORY

  • On a spiritual prowl for the elusive, endangered snow leopard

    On a spiritual prowl for the elusive, endangered snow leopard

    High atop a mountain in Mongolia, a team of trackers splits into three groups to check their traps each morning. Their goal: to catch a snow leopard, one of the most elusive creatures on Earth, so rare that few have seen one of the big cats in the wild. After failing to catch a leopard during the...

  • Not bound by history, L.A.'s Caravan Book Store continues to turn pages

    Not bound by history, L.A.'s Caravan Book Store continues to turn pages

    A shuffling step carries Leonard Bernstein onto Grand Avenue. The pilasters and garlands of the PacMutual Building rise above him. Nearly 70, a balding man with a gray cattle-catcher mustache, he finds his keys and stoops to the lock in the threshold. Two bells tied to a red ribbon jingle as the...

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In Myanmar, a young Rohingya dreams of leaving despite foiled boat journey

He was small for his age — still a boy, really, with spiked hair and pimples speckled across his cheeks. He looked even smaller in a pair of oversize flip-flops, curling his toes so they didn't slip off. School was never his thing. Back before his home was bulldozed and he was displaced in his...

  • For former professional drummer Robin Russell, no gig tops Griffith Park

    For former professional drummer Robin Russell, no gig tops Griffith Park

    For 14 years now, sometimes three times a week, Robin Russell has gotten up around 3 a.m. and driven his maroon van from Pasadena to the same spot in Griffith Park, not far from the zoo. In the dark, he rakes out a small clearing under an oak tree, unpacks a six-piece drum kit and sets up, everything...

  • After 30 years of helping gang members, Father Greg Boyle is slowing a bit but still determined

    After 30 years of helping gang members, Father Greg Boyle is slowing a bit but still determined

    In a small mortuary in East Los Angeles, a mother wept over the silver casket holding her son. Behind the pews, photos of Roger Soriano showed a young man throwing up gang signs with friends, a tattoo reading "J13" for Jardin 13 etched into his scalp. He had been killed at 21, shot dead as he allegedly...

  • Can the 'worst kid ever' survive probation camp and thrive?

    Can the 'worst kid ever' survive probation camp and thrive?

    On her first day of freedom after a year locked up in Camp Scott, teenager Stephanie Valdivia headed straight to San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills. She began crying as soon as she turned the corner and saw her grandfather's name etched on a bronze plaque. Daniel Valdivia was 69 when...

  • An American magician takes his tricks to China

    An American magician takes his tricks to China

    Magician Franz Harary is driving through the Las Vegas of China, trying to remember the last time he did a show in the United States. "Three years ago, maybe?" he says tentatively. "I think it was some Christmas thing. Or maybe it was an Indian casino." As he pulls into the parking lot of a new...

  • Russia's military clubs for teens: Proud patriotism or echoes of fascism?

    Russia's military clubs for teens: Proud patriotism or echoes of fascism?

    In a playground outside a shabby warren of cinder-block apartments in north Moscow, children play on swings and climbing bars as Stepan Zotov instructs a squad of teens in knife-throwing nearby. Thirteen-year-old Andrei Polivoi is aiming his knife at a foam cushion about the size and shape of a...

  • Retailers are exasperated -- and empathetic -- over number of homeless streaming to Sylmar strip mall

    Retailers are exasperated -- and empathetic -- over number of homeless streaming to Sylmar strip mall

    Florist shop owner Bonnie Bernard found him sitting behind a dumpster at the Sylmar strip mall, wearing a hoodie in the mid-July heat and staring at a cinder-block wall. He was new. Was he going to be one of the scary ones? "How long have you been here?" she asked. He slipped the hood off his head,...

  • Tethered by a string and trust, a blind sprinter and his guide make history

    Tethered by a string and trust, a blind sprinter and his guide make history

    The shoelace is worn and frayed, with loops tied at each end. David Brown curls his fingers tightly around one loop, then Jerome Avery grabs the other. "Four inches," David says. "That's all we have between us." The sprinters keep hold of the cord as they burst from the starting blocks, charging...

  • In India, the slow (slow) death of a black-and-white film maker

    In India, the slow (slow) death of a black-and-white film maker

    In a musty reception room high in the southern Indian hills, a photo booth the size of a walk-in closet promises black-and-white pictures in four minutes. Groovy track lights illuminate a display table piled with X-ray film and movie-reel canisters. They were among the flagship products of Hindustan...

  • Survivors tell the camera the hidden tale of China's Great Famine

    Survivors tell the camera the hidden tale of China's Great Famine

    When Li Yaqin was 16, she ate what her family could scavenge: dandelion leaves, alfalfa, rice sprouts, corn husks ground and pressed into cakes. As her college-age granddaughter quietly captured her on digital camera, the 73-year-old told of watching her father starve to death. "He was sleeping...

  • Young adults with autism work on building social skills — and dating

    Young adults with autism work on building social skills — and dating

    Standing in front of a conference room table on the UCLA campus, Albert Miranda fixes a wide smile on his face and stares at Elina Veytsman, giving her the once-over. Elina fidgets, growing increasingly unnerved. The students around the table giggle as the tension rises. Then Elizabeth Laugeson...

  • The 7-foot Chinese tourist boxing in Oscar de la Hoya's world

    The 7-foot Chinese tourist boxing in Oscar de la Hoya's world

    The new Chinese-language sign had been up for only a few weeks outside George Gallegos' personal injury law office in Monterey Park when a 7-foot-tall tourist from Beijing walked through the door. Taishan Dong was on his honeymoon, and he wanted information about green cards for him and his new...

  • In India, a legend keeps a town nearly door-free

    In India, a legend keeps a town nearly door-free

    Nanasahib Bankar, a prosperous farmer and entrepreneur in this small temple town, worries about a lot of things: sugar-cane prices, the health of his cattle, the success of his son's new hotel. One thing he doesn't worry about is losing his keys. His house, like nearly all the others here, doesn't...

  • Jesse is a typical boy in probation-run foster care: unwanted

    Jesse is a typical boy in probation-run foster care: unwanted

    Jesse Opela hunched on a plastic chair in the "music room" at Central Juvenile Hall, a cramped space with no air conditioning, an old CD boombox, a keyboard and a bookshelf filled with aging bestsellers. Tears rolled down the sturdy 17-year-old's face as he apologized to his probation officer. ...

  • On a chilly beach in Russia, an unlikely surf culture takes root

    On a chilly beach in Russia, an unlikely surf culture takes root

    Nine time zones and more than 4,000 miles from Moscow, the Kamchatka Peninsula seems like one of the least accessible and hospitable places on Earth. No roads link the region to the Russian mainland. Active volcanoes loom over the land. The waters off the coast don't hit 50 degrees, even in summer....

  • In Guatemala City, it's the case of the missing zone

    In Guatemala City, it's the case of the missing zone

    Joel Castillo furrowed his bushy eyebrows for a moment and considered the question. Then he answered confidently: "Twenty-five." Yes, he said, Guatemala City has 25 zones. But out of the corner of his eye, the 65-year-old uniform maker could see his co-worker Eduardo Juarez shaking his head. "Zone...

  • Tibet's last princess gives a rare interview

    Tibet's last princess gives a rare interview

    Gonpo Tso was born a princess. As a young woman, she dressed in fur-trimmed robes with fat ropes of coral beads strung around her neck. She lived in an adobe castle on the edge of the Tibetan plateau with a reception room large enough to accommodate the thousand Buddhist monks who once paid tribute...

  • Within UC Berkeley's famous tower, a scarcely known trove of fossils

    Within UC Berkeley's famous tower, a scarcely known trove of fossils

    Deep in the heart of a bell tower, Eric Holt leans over and pulls open a wooden drawer filled with bones. The walls of this dimly lit room and those below are lined with shelves upon shelves of fossils — mammoth tusks, bison jaws, giant sloth limbs. Some drawers are neatly organized, tiny specimens...

  • Something different outta Compton: a black teen singing Mexican music

    Something different outta Compton: a black teen singing Mexican music

    "El Compa Negro" sways onstage, serenading his audience. Women in heels and short dresses hold firm to men wearing cowboy hats and belt buckles larger than iPhones, moving to the norteño song as if it were written especially for them. "Ay mi yaquesita, tú tienes un cuerpo hermoso que parece sirenita."...

  • From icky bugs to good grub: Why more people are eating insects

    From icky bugs to good grub: Why more people are eating insects

    Gillian Spence plunges her hand into a shallow tray of 10,000 writhing mealworms. She comes up with a handful of the inch-long, beige-colored grubs, which squirm over and between her fingers. Most are destined to become bait for fish or food for reptilian pets. But not all of them. "A lot of orders...

  • Kenyan chief's Twitter feed helps round up stolen cows and lost phones

    Kenyan chief's Twitter feed helps round up stolen cows and lost phones

    It is morning and young men sit slumped in front of the general store, looking slightly dazed. Tall sunflowers in a field seem to sway to music blasting from a huge, ancient speaker. One man is dancing. Business is slow. A brown cow was stolen this morning from Gwakiongo. A man fixes a balcony...

  • For late-starting backpacker, at 76, it's the wander years

    For late-starting backpacker, at 76, it's the wander years

    It started with a quote he had heard on television about regret: that at the end of life, you are haunted not by the things you did, but by the things you didn't do. A few months later, Hyo So booked a hostel bed in Cairo and took off solo from his Pico-Union apartment on his first-ever backpacking...

  • U-2 spy plane pilot lives on the edge – of space, danger and obsolescence

    U-2 spy plane pilot lives on the edge – of space, danger and obsolescence

    Maj. David Brill squeezes into a bulky yellow spacesuit, lowers a fishbowl-size helmet onto his head and readies himself for a flight into the stratosphere. In an hour, he will roar aloft in a U-2, the iconic single-seat spy plane — capable of flying to 70,000 feet, or more than 13 miles high —...

  • Goodyear's Spirit of America blimp floats out of Carson and into history

    Goodyear's Spirit of America blimp floats out of Carson and into history

    On her final flight, the Spirit of America did not go down easily. The Goodyear blimp had sailed gracefully down the Pacific coast from Carson flashing the message "THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES, CALIFORNIA." But when the pilot tried to land her in front of a towering World War II-era hangar in Tustin,...

  • 3 days of nerves, tears and joy: U.S. expats lead debate nerds in China

    3 days of nerves, tears and joy: U.S. expats lead debate nerds in China

    Cloris Zhang and Michael Wang rose nervously from their blue plastic chairs in classroom 102 and silently sized each other up. Beep! An electric timer squealed. Like Transformers rearranging themselves from cars into robots, the mild-mannered adolescents morphed into ruthless motormouths. Launching...

  • Backyard plane builder in Kenya hopes his 14th try will take flight

    Backyard plane builder in Kenya hopes his 14th try will take flight

    As he climbed into the plane he'd built in his tiny Nairobi backyard, even Gabriel Nderitu was doubtful that the ungainly machine, with a 450-pound car engine bolted onto the front and a 7-foot hand-carved wooden propeller, would get him airborne. When he revved the motor of Project One, as he...

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