The Best of the Beast, March 16-22

Our favorite stories for your weekend reading list.

Soccer Hooligans Prep Ukraine for PutinBy Jamie DettmerGangs of Russian sympathizers in Ukraine are manning checkpoints, disrupting trains, and maybe even shipping weapons around the region. Are they prepping for Putin’s next war?

Ukraine Hunts for a ScapegoatBy Anna NemtsovaUkrainians are devastated by the Russian annexation of Crimea, furious at one another—and looking for someone to blame.

The Life of America’s Next Top EscortBy Scott BixbyThis weekend, Duncan Black is up for two major awards at the escort industry’s Oscars. But when you pay him $400 an hour, you’re getting more than just his body.

Music Criticism Has Degenerated Into Lifestyle ReportingBy Ted GioiaIn the new paradigm, artists generate coverage by their clothes, hook-ups, and run-ins with the law. What happened to the music?

The Mafia Plants Death in Italy’s Land of MozzarellaBy Barbie Latza NadeauIllegal dumping for decades created land so toxic that selling wine, cheese, and olive oil produced there is strictly prohibited. Locals say the land is too dangerous to even die on.

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Raw Perfomance in NymphomaniacBy Jimmy SoWhile you are engineered to fixate on all that naked grunting in Lars von Trier’s new film, you might miss Charlotte Gainsbourg in the most raw and intense performance of the year.

Did Christie Go Easy on a Sex Trafficker Just to Bust a Small-Time Pol?By Olivia NuzziChris Christie built his reputation as a crime-fighter. So why did he cut a deal with an accused sex slave ringleader—and send to jail a Democratic mayor, instead?

The Most Depressing Show on Earth: Among the Clowns of NewarkBy Lizzie CrockerThere’s hardly ever fame in it. There’s even less money. But they still pack into their little cars and travel for miles to audition for the Ringling Brothers’ Clown College.

Valentin Yudashkin, Russia’s Couture KingBy Erin CunninghamValentin Yudashkin, Russia’s most recognizable fashion designer, talks style during the Cold War, dressing Raisa Gorbachev, and the political unrest that exists in his home country today.