Friday, August 19

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The Dollar-Store Economy

How the lowest end of American retail does business.

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The Zankou Chicken Murders

The creator of the California-based food chain kills his mother, sister and, finally, himself:

From Hollywood to Anaheim, he had opened a chain of fast-food rotisserie chicken restaurants that dazzled the food critics and turned customers into a cult. Poets wrote about his Zankou chicken. Musicians sang about his Zankou chicken. Now that he was dying, his dream of building an empire, 100 Zankous across the land, a Zankou in every major city, would be his four sons’ to pursue. In the days before, he had pulled them aside one by one -- Dikran, Steve, Ara, Vartkes -- and told them he had no regrets. He was 56 years old, that was true, but life had not cheated him. He did not tell them he had just one more piece of business left to do.

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The Death-Wish Kids

Two 16-year-olds form a suicide pact, driving a Pontiac off a cliff. One of the boys survives:

To many of the people in Fillmore who considered the incident a cause for civic mourning and self-scrutiny, the idea of trying Joe for murdering his best friend seemed outlandish. To a prosecutor, however, the indictment had its own logic. The Ventura County district attorney, Michael Bradbury, was an aggressive law-and-order man, and he had a potentially strong case. With Joe's repeated announcements of his plan to drive off the cliff, the crucial element of premeditation was undeniably present.

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Where Do Dwarf-Eating Carp Come From?

A profile of Tarn and Zach Adams, creators of the computer game Dwarf Fortress:

Dwarf Fortress may not look real, but once you’re hooked, it feels vast, enveloping, alive. To control your world, you toggle between multiple menus of text commands; seemingly simple acts like planting crops and forging weapons require involved choices about soil and season and smelting and ores. A micromanager’s dream, the game gleefully blurs the distinction between painstaking labor and creative thrill.

Thursday, August 18

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New Connective Tissue: Bullet-resistant Human Skin As Art

In the film bullets approach in slow motion a series of glistening roundels, resembling condoms just taken out of their paper wrappings. Most of the bullets go right through, leaving a clean hole. But the last roundel in the film collapses slowly, wrapping itself around the bullet like a blanket on a laundry line hit by a wayward football. It is a piece of artificially bred human skin, reinforced with eight layers of transgenic spider silk, the material spiders produce to spin their webs.
Translated from the original Dutch, exclusive to Longform.org.
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Cramming For College At Beijing's Second High

Inside the lives of students at an elite Beijing high school in the months leading up to gaokao, literally “high test,” the national university admittance exam.

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Cult of Death: The Jonestown Nightmare

As divided families argued over whether to stay or go, Jones saw part of his congregation slipping away. Al Simon, father of three, wanted to take his children back to America. "No! No! No!" screamed his wife. Someone whispered to her: "Don't worry, we're going to take care of everything." Indeed, as reporters learned later from survivors, Jones had a plan to plant one or more fake defectors among the departing group, in order to attack them. He told some of his people that the Congressman's plane "will fall out of the sky."
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The Impossible, Inevitable Redemption of Michael Vick

An attempt to sort out whether Vick is truly a changed man or simply a very gifted football player who was bound to be forgiven.

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Deadly Secrets: How California Law Has Shielded Oakland Police Violence

On the difficulties of holding Oakland’s thin blue line accountable.

Wednesday, August 17

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Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?

According to a whistleblower, the SEC has been systematically destroying records of investigations for the last twenty years:

By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.

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Renegade Miami Football Booster Spells Out Illicit Benefits to Players

An 11-month investigation ends with a booster, now in prison for a Ponzi scheme, going public with details of how he spent millions on college athletes from 2002 to 2010.

[Shapiro] said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play including bounties for injuring opposing players, travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

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What I Learned in Two Years at the Tea Party

One reason the Tea Party's patriotic political statements are so taupe is that they mirror the religious rhetoric, which is high on generalizations about God and low on nuance and complexity and conflict. Go ahead, replace "constitution" and "patriotism" with "God" and "faith" in some tea party speech sometime—it's not as wacky as it should be.