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Can America’s Favorite Ex-Con Mayor Win Again?

Buddy Cianci is the poster boy of U.S. political scandals. But that may be ancient history in Providence, where the still-beloved figure may seek one more go of it in City Hall.

As Providence blossomed into a Seattle of the East in the ‘90s, with its brick-building stock getting converted into lofts for the postgrad art-school set, Cianci again reigned as its crown prince, in a whirlwind of parades and ribbon cuttings and school graduations. “I’d attend the opening of an envelope,” he says now. He was out on the town nearly every night, pulling up in his limo, breezing past lines of waiting diners to hold court at the choicest tables, leaving without paying. “The cost of doing business,” one restauranteur told a Cianci biographer

PUBLISHED: June 22, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3567 words)

Pablo Escobar’s Private Prison Is Now Run by Monks for Senior Citizens

In exchange for his surrender, the top Colombian drug lord was allowed to build his jail—complete with a disco, jacuzzi, and waterfall. Now 23 years later, it's a home for the elderly.

With negotiations underway in the spring of 1991, Escobar began hunting for the perfect piece of land upon which to construct his prison. He took along his brother, Roberto, who was the cartel's accountant. Escobar had scouted much of the vacant land surrounding Medellín but found the lush mountainside of Mont Catedral particularly ideal. "This is the place, brother," Escobar said during a site visit. "Do you realize that after six in the evening it fogs over and is foggy at dawn, too?" Escobar also appreciated the steep topography that would make it nearly impossible for the military or rival cartels to mount an air attack on the compound. And so, prior to formally surrendering, Escobar began construction on The Cathedral.

PUBLISHED: June 7, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3472 words)

Reading List: Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal

New story picks from Emily Perper, featuring VQR, The Daily Beast and The New Yorker.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 17, 2013

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our picks of the week, featuring The New Yorker, The Daily Beast, Philadelphia Magazine, The New Republic and Politico Magazine, with a guest pick by Casey N. Cep.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 15, 2013

The Beatles Succeeded Through Talent, Ambition, and a Lot of Arrogance

Andrew Romano sets out to debunk Malcolm Gladwell's argument in Outliers that the Beatles made their success through the "10,000-hour rule"—in this case, spending thousands of hours of playing in Hamburg:

But this isn’t even the real problem with Gladwell’s theory. The real problem is that while the Beatles’ marathon stints in Hamburg did transform them as a band—they were so vibrant, so tight, and so unrecognizable when they returned from their first campaign that the crowds in Liverpool mistook them for a blistering new German combo—the “complex task” they had now “mastered” was not the same task that would eventually earn them world domination.

Being able to mach schau in a small club was a pivotal part of the Beatles development: it won them a fanatical following in Liverpool, which in turn drove their debut single “Love Me Do” up the charts even when the suits in London refused to promote it, and it was also the reason the Fabs were able record an LP as a thrilling as Please Please Me in a single ten-hour workday. But beyond that, Gladwell is wrong. The Beatles’ “excellence at performing” is not “what it took” for them to become the greatest rock band of all time. In fact, the Beatles were stuck in a rut even after they returned from Hamburg in 1961—and their live expertise was not enough to get them out of it.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 11, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3502 words)

War Tourists Flock to Syria's Front Lines

A group of misguided adventure seekers travel to a war-ravaged village in rebel territory north of Aleppo:

“Most people on their holiday go out partying, but we decided to do something a little different for once,” says Smith. They had “no contacts or anything like that” in southern Turkey or the northern part of Syria controlled by opposition forces. Nonetheless, they flew to Istanbul, hopped on a bus, and made their way to Kilis, a small, dusty town barely on the Turkish side of the Syrian border, the last safe stop on the road to Aleppo.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2643 words)

Longreads List: Guns in America

From The Daily Beast's David Sessions, a collection of stories on gun violence and policy in the U.S., featuring The Atlantic, Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek and Mother Jones.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 15, 2012

Escape from Sea Org

Astra Woodcraft was seven when she indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology via an arm of the church known as Sea Org. What she endured, and how she escaped:

"One of my first jobs as an official member of the Sea Org was in the security department, meaning I had to make sure people obeyed church rules and ethics. It seemed that people were always in some kind of trouble—the place felt ruled by fear. You could get in trouble for random things; for instance, someone might question why there were so many loose papers on your desk. Another thing you could get in trouble for: masturbation. Early on in my new job, I had to sit down with a man in his 40s who had admitted to masturbating, and tell him to cut it out. I was 15 years old."
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2012
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2614 words)

Whitey Bulger's Women

Life as a mob boss's girlfriend:

"By the early 1990s, Stanley began to crack under the years of control and psychological domination. She and Bulger were arguing constantly, sometimes violently, at home and in public. Once, at a wedding party, Teresa was approached by Bulger’s partner, Flemmi, who said, 'Teresa, I know you and Jimmy are going through a rough patch, but there’s something you need to understand. That man will never let you go.'

"Stanley felt trapped. She went into a deep depression. She had become financially and emotionally dependent on Bulger; she could see no way out. Then, the 'other woman' entered the picture.

"Stanley was home alone one night when she got a call. An unfamiliar female voice said, 'I think we need to talk.'"
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4368 words)