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Six Great Phoenix New Times Longreads From 2015

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During 2015, New Times published 50 long-form articles. Some delved into complicated political battles, others into sex scandals or shortcomings in the Arizona legal system, others were elegant features. Each one took weeks — sometimes months — to report and write. 

Here are six of our favorites:

6. The Trouble at Barrett by Ashley Cusick: Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, is a close-knit community; some say too close. In the past few years before this story was written, Barrett had terminated the contracts of at least three professors for engaging in sexual relationships with students, though some said the number of Barrett faculty members skirting the rules actually was far higher.

"To many, Barrett's very structure, intended to create a close learning community for students and professors alike, has instead become something sinister: a way for predatory teachers to grow close to — sometimes, even sexually — the young and ambitious students in their tutelage."

5. Forever Mine by Ray Stern: Oak Flat, a sacred spot for local tribes and a popular outdoor recreation area, is destined to be destroyed because of a land-swap that gave the area to a big mining company, Resolution Copper Mining LLC. The company promises that Arizona will receive massive economic benefit from the project, but as local residents know all too well, booms typically are followed by busts.

What history shows, says Roy Chavez, a former Superior mayor and anti-mine activist, is that mining can't help the town become economically sustainable.

4. Fall Guy by Elizabeth Stuart: Three people were sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of 4-year-old Christopher Milke, but because one of them, brain-damaged Roger Scott, had inept public defenders and couldn’t afford a private attorney, he may end up the only one executed.

"At every stage of these proceedings, Mr. Scott was the least culpable person involved in this crime," said Jennifer Garcia, the U.S. public defender handling Scott's federal appeal. "Now it's looking increasingly likely that he may end up being the only person to pay for it with his life."

3. Trapped by Michael Lacey: Caitlyn Jenner had a glamorous coming out, but that’s not the case for most transgender men and women in the United States In fact, more than 40 percent of all people who identify as transgender attempt suicide, while the general population attempts self-destruction in the low single digits.

If you know an individual who is transgender, that person is likely to attempt suicide at a rate that, in sheer scope, invites comparison to Kamikaze pilots, Sunni truck bombers, and Amy Winehouse.

2. Shielded by Miriam Wasser: After getting sexually assaulted by a cop, Jane can take solace in the fact that the state of Arizona is likely to punish the officer, but that's about all she'll get for her pain and suffering because, thanks to little-known Arizona immunity statute, she can’t sue the police department in civil court and win.

"The statute is a travesty because so long as your conduct is so egregious that it ends in a felony conviction, the public entity who hired you is protected from the consequences," says Phoenix attorney Michael Manning.

1. All American Muslim by Stephen Lemons: Phoenix internist and regular Fox New commentator, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is a sincere practitioner of Islam known for criticizing "Islamism," a political form of the Muslim religion that is anathema to liberal democracy and leads to radical extremism. While many praise his message, large Muslim organizations in this country label him an "Islamophobe” who helps anti-Muslim bigots paint all devotees of Islam with the broad brush of stereotypes.

Jasser speaks of  "polarization" over the issue of Muslim radicalization, with one side's refusal "to believe that any Muslim could be radicalized" and the other side's insisting that "Islam is the problem." But between these poles, he seeks middle ground, stating that the United States "has a significant problem with Muslim radicalization" while maintaining that it is a problem only Muslims themselves can solve.

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