For $12 An Hour, He Gets Naked

Tim Botos: JACKSON TWP. — His beat up Asics running shoes tossed aside, a barefooted Andrew Rihn stretched his leg muscles and swiveled his head back and forth to work the kinks out of his neck.

Art professor Chad Hansen slammed the door shut on room 134 of the Fine Arts building at Kent State University’s Stark campus. The dozen students in Hansen’s evening Drawing I and II classes formed a semi-circle around him as Rihn warmed up at the head of the class.

A Vehicle Of Change

Check out Paul Hoover:

The footsteps begin before dawn Wednesday morning on Tubman Boulevard, runners pounding away down the main artery into the heart of Monrovia. You don’t find many runners in Liberia’s capital, not in this West African nation more renowned for its brutal 14-year on-again, off-again civil war than for athletic success, but there are some, and they move steadily down the smooth, graying asphalt, sweating in the already developing summer humidity, faces stoic and resolved.

Most are training just for fitness, outfitted in baggy shorts and tanks and footwear that ranges from sandals to cheap sneakers to worn running shoes. Many are training as budding soccer players, heading to informal early morning practices with friends. One boy jogs down the boulevard toward a local field and holds up a pair of cleats, one in each hand, as if to say, “Well, why else would I put myself through this?”

Along the way, some of the runners pass banners strung high above the street — beautiful, clean, white banners the size of American billboards announcing the upcoming Liberia Marathon. The race will be held eight years after the official end of the war, and its symbol as a unifying event is not lost on race organizers; the race website advertises the marathon online and on T-shirts concisely: “Let’s finish together.” So amid the joggers and footballers are a dedicated few who will take on a task never before attempted in the country — running a marathon on home soil.

Among the haphazard assortment of runners on this morning in July, Emmanuel Agu is the outlier.

An Apology, 39 Years Later

As @caryaspinwall said, Replace this, machines.

When he was 12 years old, the boy did something he only later realized probably hurt his seventh-grade teacher. It was minor — he was, after all, a kid — but in time, when he was older and wiser, he wanted to find this teacher and apologize.

But the teacher seemed to have vanished. Over the decades, the man occasionally turned to the Internet, typing the teacher’s name into the search box. He never found anything. He never quit looking. A few months ago — by now nearly 39 years after this happened — he got a hit.

Stunned, he started reading a story that two years earlier had appeared in The Oregonian. He studied an accompanying photograph and recognized his teacher. He cleared his screen and wrote an e-mail that ended up in the newspaper’s mailbox. A clerk forwarded it to me. I found it buried in my in-box where it was surrounded by notifications about crimes, road conditions and interoffice messages.

Only by chance was I curious enough about the subject line — “Customer Feedback” — to open the email from a man named Larry Israelson.

You published an item involving retired teacher James Atteberry and the CASA program. Mr. Atteberry was a teacher of mine in the early ’70s, and I wish to apologize to him for a regrettable incident that occurred when I was his student. Can you provide any contact information for him, or would you be willing to serve as an intermediary and deliver a message on my behalf? Thank you for your time, and I await your reply.

Uh-Oh

They’re coming for us.

Last year at a small conference of journalists and technologists, I asked Hammond to predict what percentage of news would be written by computers in 15 years. At first he tried to duck the question, but with some prodding he sighed and gave in: “More than 90 percent.”

 

At Wal-Mart, A Bribe Investigation Silenced

David Barstow does it again: MEXICO CITY — In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.

The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.

Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”

The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.

Finding Their Way Out

Bill Landauer: Mindy Bennett dreams of the day.

She will pack her things.

She will pull onto Broadway and turn south on Main Street. She will reach Interstate 83 and head for Baltimore, where a new life waits.

She will leave Red Lion, the old cigar factory town in southeastern York County where she was raised. She’d been a basketball player. She’d dreamed of being a model. She’d had her first kiss there. But she also will leave behind April 24, 2003, and the moment that, for almost a decade, has made leaving impossible.

A steady flow of antidepressants, psychiatrists and psychologists helped Bennett learn to talk again about that day.

Maybe a firecracker had snapped, or a balloon had popped, or, perhaps, somebody pulled off a practical joke. Then she saw the blood on her principal’s chest and knew.

As a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Red Lion Area Junior High School, Bennett faced a choice that would have paralyzed an adult.

Do you stop to help a dying man?

Or do you step over him to save your own life?

The Big Book

Chris Jones: I. THE FISK BUILDING

On the twenty-second floor of the Fisk Building in New York — an elegant brick giant built in 1921, stretching an entire block of West Fifty-seventh Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue — the hallways are lined with doors bearing gold plaques. The plaques reveal the professions of the people at work behind them: lawyers, accountants, financial advisors. But one plaque displays only a name, with no mention of the man’s business: ROBERT A. CARO.

Behind that door on this February morning, as on most mornings for the twenty-two years he has occupied this office, Caro is hunched over his desk. His tie is still carefully knotted; his hair is slicked back. But his fingers are black with pencil. In front of him is a pile of white paper: the galleys for The Passage of Power, the fourth book in his enormous biography, The Years of Lyndon Johnson. The seventy-six-year-old Caro has worked on this project nearly every day since 1974; he has been working on this particular volume for ten years. In most cases, once a book reaches galleys — once it has been designed and typeset and a few preliminary copies printed, unbound — it is finished, or close to it. All that remains is one last pass. This is not true for Caro. For him, the galleys are simply another stage of construction. Less than three months before three hundred thousand copies of his book are due to be in stores on May 1, Caro has torn down and rebuilt the fifth paragraph on the 452nd page — and torn it down again. (It is, in fact, the fifth paragraph on the 2,672nd page of his work, factoring in the first three volumes of the series: The Path to Power, Means of Ascent, and Master of the Senate.) Now nearly every word of it sits dismantled in front of him like the pieces of a watch. He starts fresh. “The defeat had repercussions beyond the Court,” he writes.