My Favorites

Here are some of my favorite stories:

Manly Murder

When I received an email from an anonymous source with the subject line, “Scott Johnson murder CONFESSOR,” I wasn’t sure if the case I had been working on for four years had finally cracked open.  But I knew I had to go back to Sydney, Australia, to find out…  Here is a story that appeared in The Weekend Australian Magazine about my efforts to solve a 20-year-old gay hate crime, at the behest of the victim’s brother.

Close to the Edge

The Case of the Polish Leonardo

When I arrived at Newsweek, nobody in the Washington bureau cared much about the National Endowment for the Arts, or even the National Gallery of Art.  Because I was interested, I became the de facto cultural correspondent, supporting our real art mavens in New York.  I did a very short piece for Newsweek about the mystery of Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece, Cecelia Gallerani, and thankfully The Washington Post Magazine agreed that the story was rich, deep, and worthy of a long feature. This story is part art history mystery, part portrait of the National Gallery’s chief of painting conservation, and part backstage view into what happens when science meets art.

42 Miles to Enlightenment

Many people in Boulder, Colorado had seen the strange sight of a man who looked like a Jewish leprechaun, leading a group of haggard runners along the streets and trails of town.  Through a mutual friend, I met some of the women who were among these runners, who told me a little about the group and its leader.  “You have no idea what goes on with him,” she told me.  And then she told me.  So did her friends…

Global Warning: Bulletins from a Warmer World

I contributed to my first “global warming” story for Newsweek in 1992, and I consider it one of the great failures of modern journalism that we are still debating whether humans are changing the planet in serious and frightening ways.  In this cover story, I wrote the first of three sections of this 75-page special edition, focussing my attentions on what scientists know about how the planet is changing, and how they know it.

Global Warning

Polar Distress

The Arctic food chain is one of the most fecund in the world — and perhaps the most vulnerable to perturbations, natural or otherwise.  Offshore oil drilling, as the country now knows because of the “Deepwater Horizon” disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, is a dangerous sport.  Combine these two facts, and you’ll understand  why opening up the Arctic offshore area to oil exploration is a particularly fraught idea.

Vanishing Act

Changing of the Guard:  Feeling Betrayed in Iraq, part-time U.S. Soldiers May Mutiny at the Polls

During the recent multiple deployments of U.S. soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has relied heavily on Reserve and National Guard units, many of whom were not given appropriate equipment or training for their unexpected assignments.  The result: much higher rates of injury and death among part-time units, and widespread concern that their plight was going unheeded.

Link to Harper’s story (requires subscription to view story; pdf below)