Dear Mr. President …

Eli Saslow (thanks, Wright): The black binder arrived at the White House residence just before 8 p.m., and President Obama took it upstairs to begin his nightly reading. The briefing book was dated Jan. 8, 2010, but it looked like the same package delivered every night, with printouts of speeches, policy recommendations and scheduling notes. Near the back was a purple folder, which Obama often flips to first.

“MEMORANDUM TO THE PRESIDENT,” read a sheet clipped to the folder. “Per your request, we have attached 10 pieces of unvetted correspondence addressed to you.”

Rebel Monkeys

And that’s how you do that. Stuever: Somewhere between hard science and the Banana Splits, television has this insatiable need to apply human story lines to the lives of animals, and increasingly more animal channels on which to do it. I get the appeal, for I, too, felt a tiny pang in my cold, cold heart when Flower the Meerkat met her end on Animal Planet’s successful “Meerkat Manor.”

But something’s wrong with “Rebel Monkeys,” a pseudo-reality series about a gang of 60 or so rhesus macaques who live in (infest, some might say) Jaipur, India. Instead of being charmed by the show, which premieres Wednesday night on the new Nat Geo Wild network, I wound up rooting for the power lines that frequently jolt these obnoxious little primates as they skitter about the slums to steal and beg food. They’re rats with thumbs!

Rise And Fall

Kruse: TAMPA — On Saturday morning, not 24 hours after the state announced a record-high unemployment rate, business students from the University of South Florida stood in the lobby of the sleek Regions building downtown, ready to work on skills to land jobs that might not exist.

Alan Alford asked his wife to get in the elevator with him for one last practice run before USF’s second annual elevator pitch competition.

The 34-year-old lives in Valrico, works full-time selling car insurance for Geico in Lakeland and is set to finish school this summer. Stocky, confident and dressed in a three-piece suit with a lavender shirt, he said he wants to work for Oracle and doesn’t drink coffee because coffee stains your teeth.

“I’m putting pressure on myself,” he said, “to win this.”

Public Triumph, Private Torment

Chris Goffard: In late April 2007, Mike Penner published an article unlike any of the thousands he had written for the Los Angeles Times. It was brief, just 823 words, and placed without fanfare on the second page of the Sports section that had been his home for 23 years.

Under the headline “Old Mike, new Christine,” Penner explained that he would soon assume a female identity and byline, a decision that followed “a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy.”

It was “heartache and unbearable discomfort” to remain a man, he explained. Being a woman promised “joy and fulfillment.” The article ended on a hopeful note: “This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The Swan Project

Lane DeGregory: LAKELAND

They had just finished lunch, were just crumpling paper napkins into trash bins, when the call came through the school speakers:

“Will the following girls please report to the conference room . . . ”

The teenagers looked at each other. What was going on?

“Lindsey,” said the voice coming through the speaker. A girl with green bangs hung her head.

“Spring,” the voice continued. In the corner of the lunchroom, a 15-year-old huddled behind her black curtain of hair. Dark liner smudged her eyes. She looked as if she had been crying.

The voice called several other names. Finally it said: “Chayna.” A girl with a short ponytail cringed. The look on her face said: What did I do now?

They trudged into the conference room, 10 girls wearing a kind of slacker uniform — jeans and flip-flops and baggy school T-shirts. They dropped into swivel chairs around a long table.

A whiteboard listed some of the things that could get you in trouble here at PACE Center for Girls: “Racist slurs. Smuggling drugs or weapons. Bad behavior.”

On another wall, a framed print showed a dirt road winding beneath cherry trees. The picture carried a quote from Norman Vincent Peale. “People become really remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things.”

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You’ll want to read this, I think.

Frank Deford: There are many roles a man plays in life. Son, Husband, Father, Breadwinner. If he is successful: Star, Boss, Grand Old Man. But nothing, I believe, is quite so thrilling as getting to be The Kid. That is, you, as a novice, are accepted by your elders into their privileged company. You are not quite their peer. You are on trial, tolerated more than embraced, but at least you are allowed to step into the penumbra of the inner circle, to sniff the aroma of wisdom and humor and institutional savoir faire that belongs to those old hands. It’s a heady sensation.

It was at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that I was, for the one time in my life, The Kid. I had come to the magazine fresh out of Princeton. Understand, in 1962 it was hard for someone like me not to move to the head of the line. Women and minorities were not given such opportunities at that time, so competition was limited to my own kind: the male WASP. On top of that, I was a Depression Baby—and, even better, conceived during a bad dip in the Depression. Except for my dear parents, nobody in America with any sense was having babies around the time I was born, so when I came out of college and dutifully did my six months in the National Guard, there were only a handful of us coming into the job market.

Also, I had Bill Bradley in my hip pocket.

After Fort Hood

William Wan: At 2 o’clock on a Monday morning, the sound of angry pounding sent Army Spec. Zachari Klawonn bolting out of bed.


Someone was mule-kicking the door of his barracks room, leaving marks that weeks later — long after Army investigators had come and gone — would still be visible.

By the time Klawonn reached the door, the pounding had stopped. All that was left was a note, twice folded and wedged into the doorframe.

“F— YOU RAGHEAD BURN IN HELL” read the words scrawled in black marker.


Dan Barry: SAN ANTONIO, Fla.

Ten years have passed since the country last tried to meet the essential, constitutional and all-but-impossible mandate to count everybody; the whole lot of us. Ten years since it last attempted something akin to counting the granules in an ever-filling, ever-leaking bucket of sand.

A decade, then, since the Bureau of the Census undercounted the number of residents here in San Antonio, a very small community in central Florida that is named after — of all the saints in heaven — the patron saint of those who seek missing things.

If the short count caused some celestial laughter, San Antonio’s city clerk and protector, Barbara Sessa, respectfully did not join in. She has bristled ever since with the knowledge that the city’s official population has stood for 10 years at 684, when it should have been 842.

“I know that’s a small number,” she says. “But to claim we had 684! When we knew we had 842!”

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