Vanity Fair

205 articles
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The last days of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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A teenager orchestrates his own attempted murder via an Internet chatroom.

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The murder of an Iranian band in Brooklyn by one of their own.

Previously: Nancy Jo Sales on the Longform Podcast.

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Embedded with G4S, the world’s largest private army.

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On the discovery of a billion dollars worth of artwork looted by Nazis in the cramped apartment of a Munich recluse.

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A profile of Eve Babitz – muse, writer, LA party girl.

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The dissolution of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng’s marriage amidst evidence of her affairs with Tony Blair and Eric Schmidt.

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Fifty years after Joseph Mitchell published "Joe Gould's Secret" in The New Yorker, one last question about Gould—the identity of his anonymous benefactor—is answered.

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“There was an unwritten rule in Mia Farrow’s house that Woody Allen was never supposed to be left alone with their seven-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan.”

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“There is only one given: On the afternoon of August 16, a 22-year-old from Australia named Christopher Lane, who had come to America to go to college and play baseball, went out running and, without warning or knowing why, was shot to death in Duncan.”

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François Hollande campaigned as “Monsieur Normal,” but after taking office as France’s President, a single tweet exposed his twisted 20-year love triangle.

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The conspiracy theories surrounding the 1931 death of Hitler’s niece and object of affection.

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The political liabilities of Barack Obama’s self-possession.

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Exploring the vast underground world of New York City with three of the people who know it best.

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What the rapidly changing world of teenage hook-up culture means for young women.

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How the author, following up on a rumor, helped reignite the dormant investigation into the murder of Martha Moxley, a teenager who had been murdered nearly 25 years before in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Adventures at a gathering of furries.

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The legacy of a phantom bluesman.

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Fast cars and bad decisions in a race through Southern Europe known as the “Gumball 3000.”

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The story of a lead squandered.

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A profile of André Leon Talley.

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A profile of Stanley Kubrick written by a longtime friend and published a few months after the director’s death.

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Shortly before leaving Goldman Sachs, Sergey Aleynikov downloaded around 32mb of source code from their high-frequency stock-trading system. Even as he was sent away for an eight year bid in federal prison, no one seemed to fully understand exactly what he did.

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How Harper Lee was duped into signing away the away the rights to To Kill a Mockingbird, which still sells 750,000 copies per year, and how she’s fighting to get them back.

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Encounters with Albert DeSalvo, the self-confessed Boston Strangler.

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The story of the attack that killed U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, told from the persepctive of the security agents there to protect him.

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The bizarre battle over the Call of Duty video game franchise.

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Tracing a secretive cyber-war’s battles and casualties.

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The story of a tobacco industry whistleblower.

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The motley gang of L.A. teens that cat-burgled celebrities, sometimes repeatedly, in search of designer clothes, jewelry, and something to do. The story that became The Bling Ring.

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Inside the Oscar Pistorius murder case.

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Solving the mystery of the corpse in the Eleganté Hotel.

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On Felix Baumgartner and his 24-mile jump.

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A profile of the prime minister.

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The author tells the story of his kidnapping by militants in Syria.

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“We can conclude at least two things with certainty about the tenants of One Hyde Park: they are extremely wealthy, and most of them don’t want you to know who they are and how they got their money.”

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On a battle between billionaire hedge-funders.

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On the revolutionaries, highly-paid negotiators, former spies, foreign businessmen and their families, who all played roles in the massive Colombian kidnap and ransom industry during its 1990s heyday.

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The diarist and photographer Peter Beard, known both for his series documenting a mass elephant starvation and for discovering the supermodel Iman on a Nairobi street, reflects on his life of “drugs, debt, and beautiful women” while recovering from being trampled by an elephant.

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A profile of Michael Huffington.

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The making of Pulp Fiction.

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On Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, who left Pro-Choice activism for born-again Christianity and a strange life of financial opportunism.

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On the actors who unwittingly starred in The Innocence of Muslims.

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Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, cocaine, and the making of The Blues Brothers.

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Their partnership lasted a mere four years, but transformed comedy forever. Mike Nichols and Elaine may give their first joint interview since breaking up 51 years ago.

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A profile of Martin Short.

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An oral history of Freaks and Geeks.

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Looking for answers following a mysterious string of slayings and suicides at the base.

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Life in the French Foreign Legion.

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How Barack Obama decided to green-light the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

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How a couple made millions on uncanny forgeries.

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Separated from his older brother at a train, five-year-old Saroo Munshi Khan found himself lost in the slums of Calcutta. In his 20s, living in Australia, he began his search for his birth home armed with nothing but hazy memories and Google Earth.

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Scientology’s stronghold on Tom Cruise’s dating life.

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Unprecedented access to six months in the life of the President of the United States.

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Did a handsome young Green Beret doctor kill his pregnant wife and two daughters? Or, as he claims, did a group of candle-carrying hippies carry out a vicious home invasion while chanting “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs”? A mystery that spanned three decades.

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The spiritual union of Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin.

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The curious case of SpongeBob SquarePants illustrator Todd White, three ninjas, and an art caper.

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The people behind San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

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The man who made millions selling counterfeit wines.

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The wealthy widow of an East Bay newspaper baron, her cowboy fantasy man, and the drowning nobody could solve.

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A posthumous profile of Whitney Houston.

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The making of Thelma & Louise.

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In short order, eight gay men in Texas were murdered by teenage boys.

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On the set of Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show The Newsroom.

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The sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

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The enduring system of organized crime in Naples.

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An oral history of The Sopranos.

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Sam Childers, a Pennsylvania-based evangelical preacher, biker, and former drug addict, has devoted his life to catching crazed African warlord Joseph Kony.

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Can The Washington Post be saved?

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Putin v. Khodorkovsky:

Almost a decade ago, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then the owner of the Yukos Oil Company and Russia’s richest man, completely miscalculated the consequences of standing up to Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s president. Putin had Khodorkovsky arrested, completely miscalculating the consequences of putting him in prison. During his eight years in confinement, Khodorkovsky has become Russia’s most trusted public figure and Putin’s biggest political liability. As long as Putin rules Russia and Khodorkovsky continues to act like Khodorkovsky, Khodorkovsky will remain in prison—and Putin will remain terrified of him.

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Can Netflix bounce back?

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The legacy of Barry Levinson’s 1982 movie Diner.

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Why “Father of Botox” Arnold Klein, whose famous clients once included Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, thinks everyone’s out to get him.

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An oral history of Saturday Night Live.

Part of our guide to SNL for Slate.
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Promise kept.

But his greatest presidential stumbling block may be right under his nose. At home, Newt's second wife, Marianne Ginther Gingrich, tells me she doesn't see herself in the First Lady's job. "Watching Hillary has just been a horrible experience," commiserates Marianne. "Hillary sticking her neck out is not working." What happens if Newt runs?, I ask. "He can't do it without me," she replies. "I told him if I'm not in agreement, fine, it's easy" --she giggles at her naughtiness. "I just go on the air the next day, and I undermine everything..."
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On Thanksgiving weekend, I received a phone call informing me that we had just captured approximately 300 al-Qaeda and Taliban. I asked all our assistant secretaries and regional bureaus to canvass literally the world to begin to look at what options we had as to where a detention facility could be established. We began to eliminate places for different reasons. One day, in one of our meetings, we sat there puzzled as places continued to be eliminated. An individual from the Department of Justice effectively blurted out, What about Guantánamo?
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A profile of Rebekah Brooks, who started as a secretary at News of the World and became CEO of News International by 41, developing an incredibly close relationship with Rupert Murdoch along the way.

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Military recruiters reveal just how corrupted—and sometimes deadly—their job has become.

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Why little has changed in popular American style in the last 20 years.

Why is this happening? In some large measure, I think, it’s an unconscious collective reaction to all the profound nonstop newness we’re experiencing on the tech and geopolitical and economic fronts. People have a limited capacity to embrace flux and strangeness and dissatisfaction, and right now we’re maxed out.

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The battle to make The Godfather pitted director Francis Ford Coppola against producers including Robert Evans, and the production itself against the real life mob.

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The battle of Wanat—the most scrutinized engagement in the Afghanistan War—seen from three perspectives: a dead soldier, his father, and his commander.

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On a pair of Israeli psychologists who between 1971 and 1984 “published a series of quirky papers exploring the ways human judgment may be distorted when we are making decisions in conditions of uncertainty.”

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The disappearance of Natalee Holloway and the clash of cultures that followed.

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A profile of fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.
It’s 11 a.m. Cavalli has just risen from his wolf-fur-covered bed and said good morning to Boy, his tiger-striped Bengal cat, and Gino, his miniature monkey. At a breakfast table covered with a cloth of one of his swirling bird patterns, on which are placed four packs of cigarettes and two cigars, Cavalli sinks down on a leopard-print cushion. While he eats applesauce and drinks orange juice from Cavalli tableware, he is surrounded by his four parrots and three beautiful publicists. “Give me some bad questions,” he tells me, lighting a cigar. “I will try to be nice.”
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On the brutal killing of a high school girl in British Columbia.

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A profile of the art world’s most notorious dealer dynasty.

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A profile of Elizabeth Warren.

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In 1972, James Wolcott arrived in New York armed with a letter of recommendation from Norman Mailer. He hoped to land a job at The Village Voice. Excerpted from his memoir, Lucking Out.

How lucky I was, arriving in New York just as everything was about to go to hell. I had no idea how fortunate I was at the time, eaten up as I was by my own present-tense concerns and taking for granted the lively decay, the intense dissonance, that seemed like normality.

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How the media and law enforcement fingered the wrong man for the 1996 Olympic Park bombing.

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From Vallejo to San Jose, a tour of local government despair:

The relationship between the people and their money in California is such that you can pluck almost any city at random and enter a crisis.
More Lewis: the complete financial disaster tourism series to date.

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On Timothy Treadwell, who lived and died by the bears of Alaska.

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On the railways of China and a trip aboard its latest spectacle, a $32 billion line carrying passengers between Shanghai and Beijing at 170 MPH.

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An oral history of “Page Six.”

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Adapted from a new biography of Jane Fonda.

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The underground culture of big waves and wild times in 1961 Malibu, and the gang of teenage boys who worshiped at the feet of the beach’s dark prince, surfing legend and grifter Miki Dora.

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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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As Europe, led by Greece and Ireland and followed by Portugal and Spain, tumbles towards economic catastrophe, only one nation can save the continent from financial ruin: a highly reluctant Germany.

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A profile of the reclusive musician.

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On a decade-long war:

Hackers from many countries have been exfiltrating—that is, stealing—intellectual property from American corporations and the U.S. government on a massive scale, and Chinese hackers are among the main culprits.

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An oral history.

Tom Freston: We knew we needed a real signature piece that would look different from everything else on TV. We also knew that we had no money. So we went to NASA and got the man-on-the-moon footage, which is public domain. We put our logo on the flag and some music under it. We thought that was sort of a rock ’n’ roll attitude: “Let’s take man’s greatest moment technologically, and rip it off.”

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The behind-the-scenes publishing saga of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel.

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How Frank and Jamie McCourt bought the Dodgers for “for less than the price of an oceanfront home in Southampton” and eventually became entangled in one of the most expensive divorces in California history, which laid bare their finances and confirmed what many already knew: they had bankrupted one of the most storied franchises in baseball.

In all, the McCourts reportedly took $108 million out of the team in personal distributions over five years—a sum that Molly Knight, a reporter with ESPN who has extensively covered the story, notes is eerily similar to the cash payment that she says Frank McCourt has claimed he made for the team.

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As China’s growing upper class has pushed the price of ivory above $700/pound, a look at both the supply and demand side of the global trade in (mostly) illicitly acquired elephant tusks.

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Inside Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

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A profile of Justin Timberlake:

This need to succeed, to become his generation’s multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr., is part of what makes him appealing to filmmakers. “I needed someone who could be a Frank Sinatra figure, someone who could walk into the room and command all the attention,” says David Fincher, of casting Timberlake as Sean Parker, the Facebook investor and rogue, in The Social Network. “I didn’t want someone who would just say, ‘I know how to play groovy.’ You can’t fake that stuff. That’s the problem with making movies about a rock star—actors have spent their lives auditioning and getting rejected, and rock stars haven’t.”

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On the brother of the Sultan of Brunei, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, who has “probably gone through more cash than any other human being on earth.”

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An oral history of The Simpsons.

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No one knew how Suzanne Jovin ended up in a wealthy neighborhood away from Yale’s campus in New Haven, or why she was brutally stabbed on the sidewalk, apparently by someone she knew. The only suspect that police named was her thesis advisor.

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“Is he Socrates or Mengele?” On the late Jack Kevorkian.

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On Kimora Lee Simmons, then the head of the Baby Phat clothing company and wife of Russell Simmons.

“Let me take off my glasses,” she says, removing her large frames. “I want you to see my eyes. I will beat a bitch’s ass!”

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An attractive, young, pregnant woman disappears, her husband begins to act strangely, and one of the largest media circuses in history descends on the sleepy community of Modesto, CA.

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An investigation of the American sex trafficking industry.

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A profile Mark Pincus, the founder and C.E.O. of Zynga—the company that created FarmVille, CityVille, and Zynga Poker, the most popular online poker game in the world.

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A profile of Hole lead singer Courtney Love.

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On Hillary Clinton’s Arab Spring.

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An oral history of the Playboy Clubs.

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The 20 soldiers in Second Platoon try in vain to hold down a strategic outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, “among the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces.”

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A profile of the famed photographer.

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When they met, he was 45 and she was 17. In her 14 years as his mistress, she appeared in countless paintings, including Guernica.

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Who would poison the vines of La Romanée-Conti, the tiny, centuries-old vineyard that produces what most agree is Burgundy’s finest, rarest, and most expensive wine?

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On Elizabeth Taylor at the height of her fame.

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An artifact from the era when MySpace was king.

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The surreal afterlife of the once-ascendant Dubai, where “the legacy of oil has made everything worthless.”

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“If 4chan sounds trivial, that’s because it is. The site certainly doesn’t make much money…In fact, you could say that 4chan has cornered the market on the trivial on the Internet, which is no small feat (the trivial usually spreads by accident on the Web, according to no logic).”

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A profile of Jack Dorsey, co-founder (and displaced CEO) of Twitter. Dorsey’s latest venture, a mobile credit card system called Square that only officially launched in February 2011, already processes more than a million transactions per day.

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“While its source remains something of a mystery, Stuxnet is the new face of 21st-century warfare: invisible, anonymous, and devastating.”

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Five years ago, Mel Gibson was one of Hollywood’s few genuine family-men and a leading box office attraction; inside his wild descent from star to pariah.

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How the Weinstein Brothers barked their way into an empire and then lost it.

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A comprehensive history of the case against the Menendez brothers, built primarily on secret audio recording made by their self-promoting therapist.

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How a nation went bankrupt. “Ireland’s regress is especially unsettling because of the questions it raises about Ireland’s former progress: even now no one is quite sure why the Irish suddenly did so well for themselves in the first place.”

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In 1998, at age 45, Ken Bradshaw surfed the tallest wave in recorded history.

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J.D. Salinger on the beaches on D-Day, marching through concentration camps, and in liberated Paris.

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A profile of then-First Lady Barbara Bush, published just before the 1992 presidential election. The lede: “Even Barbara Bush’s stepmother is afraid of her.”

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A quasi-oral history of the party that was JFK’s 1961 inauguration.

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The enigmatic life and death of Bruno Zehnder, who obsessively photographed penguins in the ice fields outside of a Russian base in Antarctica.

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Guz Dominguez says he was trying to help baseball players from Cuba; the U.S. government says he was smuggling athletes. The truth is more complicated.

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The backstory on Julian Assange’s relationship with the Guardian and the New York Times.

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On the (disputed) origins of the Huffington Post.

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Inside Office 39, a state-run counterfeiting operation designed to keep Kim Jong-il flush.

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He called himself “TheNoseDoctor” and performed sinus surgeries, many of them unnecessary, at a maniacal clip. When the whole thing fell apart, he left behind his yacht and family, and disappeared into the Alps.

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In 1975, Jackie O., widow to a president and tycoon, decided to become a literary editor.

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On the gap between how the world sees Goldman Sachs and how Goldman Sachs sees itself.

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Steven Seagal spent a few years in Japan and  returned to open a dojo in L.A.. Jules Nasso was the wiseguy producer behind all of Seagal’s hits. When it all fell apart, Seagal reputedly offered money for a contract killing, and Nasso may have been caught on tape arranging to extort Seagal through the Gambino Family.

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The interior life of a sniper, the most misunderstood icon of the modern military.

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A couple, well-known New York artists, decamp to L.A., where she intends to direct a movie about a rock star trying to leave a cult. Beck, a friend, signs on, then (possibly under pressure) drops out. Their behavior grows strange, and they rant of constant harassment by Scientologists. They return to New York—to die.

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Randy Quaid and his wife Evi have fled to Canada and are living in their car. They are seeking asylum from the menace of the “Hollywood Star Whackers.”

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The cop says she nabbed an online sexual predator. He says he was just willing to chat whatever it took to get laid in real life. Their story, from both perspectives.

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"From the start, it was a bad case. A battered 21-year-old woman with long blond curls was discovered facedown in the weeds, naked, at the western edge of Miami, where the neat grid of outer suburbia butts up against the high grass and black mud of the Everglades."
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During WWII, a bomber crashes into the Pacific and the crewmen begin an epic battle against dehydration, exposure, and endless attacks by sharks. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.

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A stroll through Tokyo’s Tsukiji, the world’s largest seafood market, and the mecca of the global sushi trade.

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How to spend $1.2 million per month on your laundry in Kuwait; the system of kickbacks and non-competitive contracts that made Halliburton/KBR the near-exclusive contractor in the Iraq war zone.

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What happens when a decades old video, featuring the artist Larry Rivers’ prepubescent daughters bare-chested, is claimed both as child pornography and as an important part of the archive of a major American painter.

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A profile of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, published at the height of the controversy.

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Behind the scenes of Conan vs. Leno. An excerpt from The War for Late Night.

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At 25, Stephen Glass was a reporter wunderkind, regularly filing incredible pieces for the largest magazines. When suspicion fell on his sources, things started to really get strange. It wasn’t just sources and organizations he was inventing, but whole stories.

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A group of childhood friends, two of whom had already climbed Everest, finds tragedy on Mont Blanc.

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Foreign policy as architecture; how embassies went from lavish social hubs to reinforced strongholds.

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The world’s most renowned chef, Ferran Adrià, says that the only way he can push forward the art form of cooking is to close his own restaurant.

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A mid-boom critique of New York City’s high-priced, mostly glass condo buildings.

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Raffaello Follieri was young, handsome. He was Italian. He was dating Anne Hathaway, hobnobbing with Bill Clinton, and using contacts at the Vatican to launch a lucrative business in the States. Then he was in jail.

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Riots in Athens, the shadowy Vatopaidi monastery, and a quarter million dollars in debt for every citizen. Welcome to Greece.

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The surreal world of Sarah Palin and her road show.

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A blow by blow account of the seizure of a French cruise ship by Somali pirates.

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The boyish CEO of America’s largest and most controversial mercenary force, Blackwater, also happened to be a C.I.A. agent.

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The man for whom the term “jet-setter” was coined left a bitterly fractured estate.

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A Barclays analyst leaves for a routine laser treatment and is never heard from again. Ten months later, authorities find her body under a concrete slab at the house of her doctor, who was in fact not a doctor at all.

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The bloody, often surreal, fight for Kosovo’s independence was led by a man moonlighting as a roofer in Switzerland.

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A day in the political life of Barack Obama.

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Was the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre actually a smokescreen to obscure an even more audacious art crime?

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How PCC, once an inmate soccer team and now Brazil’s most notorious prison gang, coordinated seven days of riots throughout São Paulo using mobile phones.

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Dozens of young adults in rural Wales are hanging themselves, feeding an epidemic of copycat suicides that experts are have been unable to contain.

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In the 1950s, L.S.D. became a Beverly Hills’ therapy fad, and it profoundly changed idols like Cary Grant.

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Political races don’t run on ideas and grassroots activism–they run on voter databases. And no one has more voter data than Aristotle Inc., whose information has helped elect every president since Reagan.

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The many identities of Andrew Cunanan, Versace’s murderer.

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The story of the most popular music video of all time, including memories of a then-25-year-old Michael Jackson on and off the set. Director John Landis: “I dealt with Michael as I would have a really gifted child.”

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How Warren Beatty seduced the studios into making the comedy Ishtar, which set the modern bar for cinematic debacles. (An excerpt from Peter Biskind’s Star.)

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When Clark Rockefeller snatched his daughter during a custody dispute, what the D.A. called “the longest con I’ve seen in my professional career” came unraveled, and the trail led to bones buried in a California backyard.

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The lonesome death of Arnold Rothstein, notorious gambler, inspiration for a the character Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, alleged fixer of the 1916 World Series, opiate importation pioneer, mobster and Jew.

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After one of the most decisive wins in Kentucky Derby history, Barbaro broke his leg at the Preakness, ending a promising career and beginning a herculean effort to save his life.

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It’s the biggest environmental lawsuit in history. The people of Lago Agrio, an oil-rich area in the Ecuadorean Amazon, are suing Chevron for $6 billion after decades of spills. The case has been underway since 1993.

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The 1979 Oscars pitted Hal Ashby’s Coming Home against Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter, wildly different films both on the the topic of the Vietnam War.

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Dominick Dunne’s account of the trial of his daughter’s murderer.

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He was just another coked-up agent (repping the likes of Steven Soderbergh) when he disappeared into Iraq, shooting heaps of footage he would attempt to package into a pro-war documentary. And that was just the beginning.

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The author wanted to give up her day job but keep her lifestyle. So she turned to Seeking Arrangement, a site that pairs rich, older men interested in “companionship” with 20-somethings interested in “gifts.”

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The rise and fall of The Exile, Russia’s angriest English-language newspaper.

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Lou Pearlman, the guy responsible for the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync, bilked his investors of $300 million and fled the country. But the boys say he was interested in more than just money.

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Pitcairn Island is impossibly remote, populated by descendants of a ship of British mutineers. Revelations that child molestation and rape had been a way of life for generations exposed them to the outside  world.

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From Hong Kong to Bangkok to the Golden Triangle, the author searches for something everyone says no longer exists: an opium den.

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The struggle behind the making of Terence Malick’s first movie in twenty years and the two producers who, depending on your source, either made it possible or nearly ruined it.

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There were so many ways the two planes could have avoided the collision. The odds were so slim. But high above the Amazon in 2006, a combination of technology and human fallibility brought them together.

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David Petraeus, father of the surge and the uncontested “most competitive” man in the military.

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Sitting alone in his San Jose office, Michael Burry saw the bubble in the subprime-mortgage market before anyone else. So he convinced Wall Street to let him bet on it, even though few were betting on him.

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The secret history of the Wildensteins, the art world’s richest and most powerful family, whose legendary vaults likely include counterfeits and works stolen by the Nazis.