Journalism

rs.jpegPresident Obama's decision not to bomb Syria after his "red line" on chemical weapons was crossed last August inspired scorn from neocons and some in the permanent foreign policy class in DC. But my reporting found there was more strategy involved than the White House gets credit for. Read the story here in Rolling Stone.

Nina Burleigh SnowdenYOU LEAK YOU LOSE

In May, news broke that our government had obtained--without a warrant--copies of phone records of the Associated Press offices in New York, D.C. and Connecticut, as well as reporters' private lines. When I heard that, I was prompted to look up some easily obtainable data of my own: How many journalists are working in America, and how many Americans have security clearances?

There are about 65,000 journalists working for brands of one sort or another, according to a report in the Nieman Journalism Lab. And 5 million Americans now hold a security clearance.

In other words, there are about 77 people keeping secrets about the government for every single person whose professional duties might include asking questions about that government.

Since the revelations about the warrantless requisitioning of the AP's calls, this problem has only grown more troubling. We've learned about the scale of the surveillance, and we are beginning to see just how far the state will go to protect itself from tough questions.

 

Read more about the criminalizing of investigative journalism here

Megyn Kelly Nina BurleighDecember 16 -- Every intern, cameraman and anchor at Fox News knows one thing is true: no one ever went broke mongering white fear. Selling the idea that brown people are coming to get your stuff - whether it's your presidency, your kid's rightful college slot, your medical insurance or the true racial identity of Santa Claus - has always been Fox's calling card. Over the years that has proven to be a remarkably successful marketing strategy. But never has it been so winningly packaged as in the brand called Megyn Kelly. ...   

Read the ful article at Alternet here.

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During the last week of Audrie' Pott's life, her California high school quad was an agora of final judgment. A curvaceous sophomore in the cool-girl's uniform of skintight top and super-short skirt, she looked the same as always, but inside she was quivering with humiliation. Every cluster of students she passed was snickering. Girlfriends were shunning her. Guys congregated around phones, smirking. Everywhere she turned, she was sure that i-pads, i-phones, Palms and Treos glowed with the horrid, ineradicable proof of her shame. Home was no escape. Facebook messages pinged into the inbox, stinging like snapped rubber bands. 

 

"shit went down ahah jk i bet u already got enough ppl talking about it so ill keep it to myself haha ..."

 

"honestly like really no joke everyone knows... ."

 

 "u were one horny mofo."

 

On the last day of her life, a Monday, the reputational apocalypse was at hand. There was no way out.

Sexting, Shame and Suicide: A Silicon Valley Tragedy. Read it online here.

timelogo.gifNina Burleigh covered the fraudulent but fascinating underbelly of the Jerusalem Biblical relic trade in Unholy Business. More from our files on the lucrative proof-for-faith industry: A story on the ongoing lawsuit that documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici has filed against Jerusalem curator and scientist Joe Zias, for Time, is here

byliner.jpegThe Byliner archive contains my stories from many publications on a wide array of topics from Lance Armstrong to the Sudanese Lost Boys and Iraq's late, embattled antiquities director. Find the links here.

rs.jpegMy investigation into the Buddhist community founded by Geshe Michael Roach, and the death of Ian Thorson at Diamond Mountain University in Arizona, was published in the June 6 issue of Rolling Stone. It is here online now. 

05/14/13

Swanee Hunt

swan.jpegI profiled Texas heiress Swanee Hunt, who is using her super-conservative, Red-baiting Daddy H.L. Hunt's money for feminist causes. She wears red cowboy suits, walks around with an African Grey on her shoulder and is generally in the can't make it up category.  A real American original. Here.
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Nina Burleigh BusinessweekA nine-month investigation I did with Bloomberg and Businessweek, on homelessness and young female veterans, led me to meeting Nira Williams, a former army truck driver with a harrowing and sadly too common story involving prescription drugs in the field, sexual assault, PTSD and addiction, followed by homelessness.
Readt he full story here.

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, former White House Chief of Staff

, former White House Chief of Staff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent Columbus Day in my hometown with the new Mayor, Rahmbo Emanuel. I knew him as a Clinton soldier in DC back in the 1990s, when he mailed dead fish and stabbed tables. He's mellowed quite a bit. Interesting man.
Here's the profile.
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discover.jpegBeneath the arched, soaring, pale yellow ceiling of a room in the maze of Al Azhar University, past the wall of black-and-white portraits of imams dating to the 12th century, Heba Zakaria, age 32, sits across from a blackboard scrawled with the email address topmedia4u@gmail.com. (English is still the lingua franca of the Internet.) Zakaria is a member of the ascendant ruling party in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. She is one of the new generation of postrevolutionary, politically active, religious Egyptians using social media, cell phones, and other ostensibly liberating technologies--tools that just may end up tamping down intellectual freedom and women's rights. When I asked to meet with members of the Muslim Brotherhood's new media outreach team, their spokesman sent me to her.
Read the rest at Discover Magazine.
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In spring 2011, I was in the southern Italian region called Cilento, reporting on the tragic and stillNina Burleigh Vassallo murder unsolved murder of Angelo Vassallo, the beloved "sindaco-pescadoro" of a town called Pollica consisting of six tiny villages on the Mediterranean Coast about two hours south of Naples. The town is famous first as the home of the so-called Mediterannean Diet, popularized by American cardiologist Ancel Keys, who based himself there. It's also where Hemingway lived for a while, and gathered stories from the local fishermen for his book Old Man and the Sea.
Vassallo had been re-elected four times and had transformed his impoverished town into a world-class model of sustainable development, promoting the local bounty - goat cheese, olive oil and other traditional farmer fare as "artisanal" food all over Italy, and even beyond its borders. Vassallo was instrumental in the international slow food movement. He was ambushed and shot while driving home one night, after a series of arguments with crooked developers who would like to cash in on the region's beauty and turn it into another Positano.
My story finally runs this month, and you can read it here in Men's Health.
The photo here shows him holding a wine glass of sea water aloft, showing how clean it was after he installed the town's first sewer purification system.

observerlogo.gifAll of NYC was trying to guess what high-rollers were in the black book of Anna Gristina, the Scottish madam with a soft spot in her heart of pot-bellied pigs who ran an escort service with prostituted women from Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, NYPD has a new program underway to arrest the johns.

Just before Christmas last year, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly hosted a small, cosmopolitan group of pretty young women in his office at 1 Police Plaza. Most were immigrants to the city, having come from Asia, Central America, Eastern Europe and around the United States. Because of the sensitive nature of what they would discuss, only two other officials were present--the NYPD's chief counsel and the commanding officer in charge of vice.

The women spoke different languages but had at least one thing in common: they had all been brought to the city to labor in the sex industry. The non-natives' first English words were "blow job" and "fuck."


They told harrowing stories of being kidnapped, imprisoned and forced to sell their bodies. One immigrant without legal status in the U.S. described being shuttled around in a livery car, the driver delivering her to various "customers" one after another. "She was basically a prisoner," said one participant at the meeting.

Read the article here at the NY Observer.
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photo of James ossuary

photo of James ossuary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On March 14, a Jerusalem judge acquitted a man accused of forging an inscription on a small stone coffin. The writing, on what's known as the James Ossuary, reads "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus." Its promoters claim that it's the first archaeological evidence of Jesus Christ's existence and that the box once held the bones of Jesus' brother James. Its detractors, including most scholars, say the last two words of the inscription are faked, modern additions to a genuinely ancient limestone casket.
The box was first brought to public attention in 2002. Tens of thousands lined up in freezing Canadian weather to see it go on exhibit -- with a sly caveat about its authenticity -- at the Royal Ontario Museum in January 2003.

The box was seized on by believers as proof of the Bible. But Israeli authorities, who eventually found what appeared to be a forgery workshop in the apartment of the box's owner, Tel Aviv industrial designer and antiquities collector Oded Golan, called it a fraud. The workshop contained half-made "antiquities," plans for others and even labeled baggies of silt from different archaeological sites around the Holy Land. The state would later assert that the silt was used to create a paste to coat the objects and fool scholars.

A trial commenced in 2005 against Golan, accused of "the fraud of the century" for creating objects meant to both make money and headlines. In effect, the lengthy trial put science in the dock. Science lost.

Read the full article at the LA Times here
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images.jpegThere's a new book out further elaborating on the conspiracy theory that Mary Meyer, the original "dangerous blonde" of the Cold War and subject of my first book, was murdered over war, peace and JFK's assassination. Peter Janney (who optioned my book for years before writing his) proposes that she had to die because she knew too much. It's a good read, although I disagree with some of Peter's conclusions. The truth is that the Mad Men of the A-Bomb, entitled arrogant alcoholics, were capable of more than we probably know. My Daily Beast story here.


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morelogo.gifI profiled Jill Abramson for More Magazine this month. A newswoman and a smart fighter, also a dog-lover, her appointment as the first female editor in chief of the nation's paper of record is of course, encouraging to me and any woman in the business.
However, lest we celebrate a "trend" prematurely, I note that there is only ONE other major newspaper with a woman at the top, and it's in Ohio.
Men still run everything at all the high-culture publications, and they pick their own gender to write, and review other people's writing whenever possible.  Actually, when I told one of these entitled lads that I was writing this profile for More he sniffed condescendingly: 'Uhh, does 'More" even exist anymore?"
Yes, apparently it's doing pretty well, thanks.
That's why I read the Lives of the Saints for style tips before writing about Jill.
She also talked about her regrets regarding the Judy Miller/Iraq war p.r. campaign, the full story is linked here.
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observerlogo.gifOn a fall day in 1935, a broke and broken Jewish émigré from Nazi Germany named Alfred Flechtheim sat down and wrote a pleading letter to a New York art world potentate. Before the Nazis ran him out of Germany and turned his visage into the caricature of the "degenerate ArtJew," Flechtheim had been Weimar Germany's pre-eminent dealer, representing dozens of modern masters from Picasso to Klee. Now, he had a single modernist piece left in his possession, he said, and he desperately needed money. How much, he wanted to know, would donors to the new Museum of Modern Art pay?

Not too much, it turned out.

Read  the full story here.
beast.jpegFor the Daily Beast, here, a story about how sexual violence has been a tool to keep women silent, and how the greatest step forward for women in Egypt has been taken by a few brave souls who have stood up and talked about it, publicly.

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01/25/12

The Bioethicist

morelogo.gifI profiled lawyer Lori Andrews, the leading expert on bioethics and new technology. She's been hard at work fighting big Pharma on the patenting of DNA, a case that probably heads to the Supreme Court next year. The story here.
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timelogo.gifHere, for Time.com, an interview with Egypt's Nour Party spokesman, in which we debate the veil, and I get to ruminate on how the common ideal of covered, not to say, erased women, could be the path to peace between the religious parties in Israel and the newly democratic Arab neighbors.
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slatelogo.gifI talked with a number of the sisters of the Brotherhood while I was in Egypt.
Here, a story for Slate on one of them.
11/06/11

The Italian Jobs

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I spent the Ferragosto week, Italy's big summer holiday, in Prato, interviewing Chinese workers and entrepreneurs who have come to Prato, Italy's historic textile producing city, and taken over a sector of the fashion industry. The whole feature is here, in Businessweek.
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Rebecca Kiessling embodies the right-wing female firebrand in all the clichéd ways. She has long, straight blonde hair, a law degree, and bears a resemblance to Anne Coulter. She's married, a home-schooling mother of five, and vehemently pro-life. What sets her apart though, and what has made her the optimal spokeswoman for radical pro-lifers in the abortion wars, is that she is a daughter of rape, conceived when her biological mother was abducted at knifepoint in 1968. She likes to point out that she has spent her 41 years on this earth only because abortion was illegal in the state of Michigan that year. Her mother went to two back-alley abortionists before being forced, because of the law, to carry Rebecca (whom she gave up for adoption but recently re-adopted) to term.
Read the rest of the story here at TIME.



10/20/11

On the Rightwing


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Down in DC, with the rightwing fringe and Ronald Reagan's ghost, for the Brits.


salon.jpegThe man New Yorkers elected as their latest Sheriff of Wall Street seems so much smaller than one expects a man in such an outsize job to be, sitting behind his huge desk flanked by a potted rubber plant on one side and the state flag on the other. Behind him, the behemoth black iron shell of the Freedom Tower -- Manhattan real estate's rough, unfinished rebuke to terrorists -- hogs the sky and blocks out the sunset.
Read it here


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Read Nina in the Observer here.
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My voyage into the perfumed, gun-totin' world of the young women of the Right, in Elle.

03/27/11

Sex and the Souk

tmaglogo.jpegIn Beirut, I met this courageous character.



parade-logo.gifLike the pioneer families in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books, Iraqi refugees Naef and Suad and their seven children spent their initial winter on the Great Plains huddled indoors, suffering from shock and cabin fever. "The first time we saw snow, we were so excited, and the kids went outside and played," their father recalls. "But after that we felt like prisoners in our own home. There was so much ice, we only went to the store once a week. Continue reading at Parade 
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The clues to the great secret were always there, but growing up in a neat-as-a-pin beige ranch house in northeast Portland, Oregon, in the 1980s, Amanda Campbell could never connect them. It was like trying to see the outline of a forest made of mirror trees. Supposedly she had two baby books; someone had half-joked about it long ago--back when everyone was still talking--but she could only ever open the pink ribbony one filled out in her mother's flawless script, the one that told how much she weighed, ate, and slept in her first year of life, that described the gymnastics and dance classes she took, the words she babbled before she was five. Continue reading at Elle.
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Roberto Saviano is only 30 years old, a slight, balding man of average height. There's a hipster edge to him, his black clothes, three thick silver rings, a cool day's growth of beard. He is young, famous and easy on the eyes, an Italian superstar. Continue Reading at The Huffington Post

Nina Burleigh archive at The Huffington Post
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In a hilltop suburb South of Jerusalem called Efrat, Sharon Katz serves a neat plate of sliced cake inside her five-bedroom house, surrounded by pomegranate, olive and citrus trees that she planted herself. She glances out the window at the hills where, she believes, David and Abraham once walked. "We are living in the biblical heartland," she sighs. Continue reading at Time

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Amanda Knox has finally spoken. Ever since the 21-year-old American student was arrested in Italy in late 2007 and charged with the grisly murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic have bubbled with scandal and speculation. Was she, as Italian and British reports suggest, a promiscuous party girl who lived like a slob and took strange men back to the house? Did she, as Italian prosecutors allege, cut Kercher's throat after she refused to take part in group sex with Knox; Knox's boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito; and Rudy Guede, an Ivoirian now serving a 30-year prison sentence for the murder? Or was Knox, as friends and family in Seattle insist, a hardworking honors student railroaded by incompetent and overzealous police work? Testifying on June 12 for the first time, Knox fought back in her own words, claiming that she had been bullied into making a false confession, accusing Italian police of abusing her and insisting she was sleeping at Sollecito's at the time of the attack. Continue reading at Time

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Standing with his video camera at the Auckland, New Zealand, airport in February 2004, Mike Nyberg watched the adoption agency worker lead in a saucer-eyed 4-year-old wearing a dirty blue dress and clutching a rubber ball. She was crying, but that didn't surprise the adoptive father in light of the heartbreaking story the agency had told him and his wife--that the girl had been abandoned by her destitute parents in Samoa and left in an orphanage. Under the circumstances, "there's not a child on the planet that wouldn't act this way," Mike recalls thinking. Still, he noticed, as she wept, she repeated a single word: "Tupu." Continue reading at People
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If the 300,000 West Bank settlers identified by the U.S. President as an obstacle to Middle East peace were expecting Bibi Netanyahu to support their cherished dream of an Israel stretching from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, they were disappointed on Sunday night. The right-wing leader instead took a sharp and unexpected lurch to the center and said he would support a two-state solution, meaning something called Palestine is a step closer to being inked onto their 3,000-year-old biblical map. Continue reading at Time

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The Florida sky is just turning pink outside the new beige stucco house, and Staff Sgt. Russ Marek and his father, Paul, have already been awake for an hour. Paul has hauled his 37-year-old son out of bed, attached his prosthetic arm and leg and helped him shave. Leaning on a walker, Russ makes his way into the kitchen. He tucks into a bowl of bran flakes, then scratches his neck with his prosthetic hand while glancing at the morning paper. "I missed a spot shaving this morning," says Paul, 64, leaning in to examine his son's neck. "I've got to get you some lotion." Continue reading at People
02/09/09

'I Was There'

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As a teen, LaVon Bracy helped desegregate her high school in Gainesville, Fla., where she endured verbal abuse and a physical assault. "I went through the entire year not having one person ever speak to me," says Bracy (center, with, from left, Alfray Moore, husband Randolph Jr., son Randolph III and daughter LaVon). "If I went to the library, it immediately emptied." So what does Obama's inauguration mean to her? "I think Jan. 20 makes me heal just a little bit more. I did not feel it would happen in my lifetime." Continue reading at People
01/05/09

WHISTLE-BLOWER

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Pamela Davis, blond suburban mother of three, was told that her bra would be the best place to wear the wire that kick-started a long investigation into Chicago graft and that ultimately caught the governor of Illinois trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. Davis is the president and C.E.O. of Edward Hospital, in Naperville, Illinois. She is proud of the fact that on her twenty-year watch the hospital has grown from a hundred-and-sixty-two-bed community facility to a four-hundred-and-twenty-seven-bed regional medical center that leads the county in babies delivered .. continue reading at the New Yorker
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Sarah Van Zanten, 15, was lying on the floor, an ice pack on her aching ribs. For a moment, she had no idea where she was; then her boyfriend's face came into focus. They were at a party, and Joe (not his real name), the cute football player she'd been dating, had kicked her, hard, propelling her into a wall, where she had hit her head and blacked out. "I woke up and he was hovering over me," Sarah, now 18, recalls. "I just wanted to get away." Continue reading at People
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Montgomery McFate, senior adviser to the Department of Defense in a controversial effort toput anthropologists in the service of national security, long ago went undercover. This former California-hardcore-punk-scene denizen's only nod to that past life is her tightly cropped dyedblonde hair. The pantsuits McFate now wears could easily be from Hillary Clinton's closet, and she has gold studs, not safety pins, in her ears.
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I don't know when I decided to invite my mother along. The mere fact that I was seriously considering it felt as though it were proof of incipient middle age. I used to travel to exotic places to get away from my family

There were obvious difficulties to making my plan work. Arthritic knees were slowing her down. She was deeply afraid of flying. My mother had flown to New York from Chicago, where she lives, on the night my son was born, but for all subsequent visits, she chose two pungent days on Amtrak instead of two white-knuckled hours in the air. What's more, I could not imagine spending almost three weeks with her. Just the two of us. In a hot Islamic country, post 9/11, post-American invasion of Iraq.
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Lying in bed, Judy Mays ran her hand over her stomach, trying to soothe the pain. In the four months since her son was delivered by cesarean section, nearly every morning had started the same way: She'd take a few deep breaths and slowly roll herself off the bed sideways onto the floor, wincing as if stabbed in the abdomen. This day, however, as she touched her belly, she felt a hard, softball-sized lump in her lower abdomen. It seemed to have emerged overnight. Continue Reading at Self
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As she settles into her latest role as comforter-in-chief, the president's wife recalls how she heard the news and describes how her life has changed 

For first lady laura bush, the morning of september 11 started out just like any other day at the White House.  She got up early.  There were her two dogs, Barney, a frisky black terrier, and Spot, an English springer spaniel, to walk, meetings to attend and senators to see.  The president was out the big doors first, catching Air Force One for a day trip to an elementary school in Florida.  Soon after, the in-laws, former President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who had spent Monday night at the White House, hopped a private jet to Minnesota for a political speech.

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"Lose weight now ask me how." That is the slogan you see on the buttons worn by the late Mark Hughes's Herbalife family. And on the May morning that Hughes was found unconscious in his black bikini briefs, the multimillionaire messiah of diet drugs and dreams was, indeed, slim and trim. In fact, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office, the strong, healthy, somewhat macho man with chiseled features and Hollywood teeth had the arteries of an 18-year-old.


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03/01/99

The Liar's Club

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Like a certain President of the United States, Dr. Barbara Battalino was caught lying about sex in a civil case. Unlike Bill Clinton, she lost her job immediately, served time for perjury, and became a darling of the right wing.

To find a perjury case like the President's, the seeker must dive into a rabbit hole where the characters are fun-house-mirror versions of the ones we have come to know and love.  Down this hole, just as in Washington, logic and reason are bent by lies, bureaucratic jargon, and possibly, personality disorders.

07/01/98

King of Hearts

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For several years, I was tethered to Bill Clinton on pool duty, in which reporters from national magazines and newspapers take turns traveling with the president.  I had done it so often, Air Force One almost bored me, with all that windy waiting on the tarmac, Clinton's practiced wave on the steps, the Secret Service men shoving and glaring at us through their mirrored lenses.