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#NPRreads: 3 Stories To Go Beyond Headlines This Weekend

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Emily Harris, Middle East correspondent:

I read Carol Jahshan's reflections on her three months in Israel through to the end without stopping. I wanted to absorb each of her precise descriptions of her experience — a Lebanese woman temporarily living here.

Jahshan grew up in Beirut. She became American as an adult, and so brought that with her too. And she had roots here: Her father had been born in what is now the Israeli city of Haifa in 1948, the year Israel declared independence and hundreds of thousands of Arabs, including his family, fled or were forced to flee.

What most stuck with me was how Jahshan, over three months, managed to discover and hold multiple truths at once in this place that so often shouts that down. Navigating assumptions that she was Jewish, apologies from an Israeli man who had served as a soldier in Lebanon, meeting long lost relatives, and more, Jahshan repeatedly found herself surprised. Read her tale and you might be too. This is part of her conclusion:

"I will never view that the Occupation is good for anybody, not even in the long run, for the settlers insisting on building there. But I see that there is tremendous decency in Israeli society, that there are people who I really, deeply like, with whom I have common interests and ideas. ...

"Some Arabs may view me as a traitor and in fact, I have already been called one. But my loyalty is to decency and to people living the best lives they possibly can, rather than to being on one side or another of a fight."

From Two-Way blogger Laura Wagner:

The debate over amateurism and college athletics has been roiling for years, and the argument has mostly focused on the conflict between the NCAA, the entity that wants to maintain the status quo, and those who think college athletes should get a share of the multibillion-dollar business that wouldn't exist without their labor. This article, however, trains the spotlight on something else: The racial injustice of college sports.

It explains how revenue sports like football and basketball — played primarily by young black men — subsidize not only the other non-revenue sports like lacrosse, cross-country and soccer – played primarily by white athletes – but also the salaries of mostly white university administrators, coaches and conference executives.

"Thanks to the NCAA's longstanding amateurism rules, which apply to college athletes and no one else in America, the lion's share of that money will flow from the former group to the latter. From the jerseys to the suits. From black to white."

If you sprang out of your chair watching Villanova's Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beater to beat UNC in the NCAA men's basketball title game last week, read this article and think about who's benefiting from the business of college sports. And who's not.

From Bill Chappell, writer for The Two-Way:

The news that Merle Haggard died this week brought out a wide range of remembrances – something that shows how much he was, first and foremost, an artist. In many ways, his life mirrors American culture in the past 50 years, and he consistently returned to very retail-level stories of people that have been bruised and misshapen by their lives. And once you realize he drew on his own experiences, his songs just seem sadder than ever.

I liked this interview on KPCC with a German documentary director, largely because of what he says about Haggard's very troubled self-regard. I also hope my fellow Americans aren't missing the boat — that they know about the wealth of beauty Haggard left behind. Here's filmmaker Gandulf Hennig:

"Yeah, but that's what made him such a great artist. You discover that often when you talk to great artists. They might be full of themselves to some extent because for 40 to 50 years, everybody told them how great they are. But deep inside there's this strong element of insecurity, that self-doubt. And Merle had that to the tenth degree. He was extremely insecure about his own accomplishments and he was riddled by shame.

"That's the one thing he never overcame in his life. In his heart he was always that nine-year-old boy, and later that young man doing time and bringing shame on his family. And it didn't really matter how many hits he had or how much success he had, that he performed in front of three or four presidents — it didn't make a difference. You could have thrown $50 million at him and another number one hit, it wouldn't have changed it. That is at the same time the greatness and the drama of Merle Haggard, the tragedy, that he never overcame."

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International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.