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Gen. Petraeus, Texas Secession, and the Trendiest Guy in New York City

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Gen. David Petraeus is shown here at his retirement ceremony. He left the military in 2011 to head the CIA; he left the CIA after admitting to having an affair.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

This week, Gen. David Petraeus’ resignation prompted the unraveling of one of Washington’s strangest sex scandals. At the “Slatest,” Josh Voorhees  identified the major players. Emily Bazelon raised legal questions about the FBI’s investigation. Katie Roiphe wrote that we are all prudes. Fred Kaplan explained why generals might be more likely to cheat. Dear Prudence offered Petraeus and company some unsolicited advice. Also, 20,000 pages of email is a lot of paper. Finally, Chris Kirk and Katy Waldman  test your knowledge of the major political sex scandals of the past five years—yes, there are a lot of them.

Abraham Lincoln to Mary Owens: ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me,’” by Rebecca Onion. Before text messages and the three-day rule, letters that said things like, “you have not been accustomed to hardship, and it may be more severe than you now imagine” were frontier-speak for “he’s just not that into you.” In Slate’s new blog of interesting archival documents and objects, “The Vault,” Rebecca Onion posted one of Abraham Lincoln’s letters to a love interest named Mary Owens. After jokingly offering to marry Owens if she moved from Kentucky to Illinois, Lincoln tried to back-pedal when she appeared genuinely interested. Whoops.

 “I Once Was Obese: And now I’m not. Please don’t applaud me for losing the weight,” by Shannon Chamberlain. What does it take to lose weight starting at 352 pounds? Shannon Chamberlain tried eating 800 calories a day and exercising off another 400, among other very low-calorie diets. She has lost weight, but keeping it off is a challenge. In this provocative piece, Chamberlain challenges conventional wisdom about health and weight loss.

How California’s Three-Strikes Law Struck Out: It was slain by a couple of professors, their students, and a district attorney who wanted reform,” by Emily Bazelon. For almost 20 years, California has been locking up nonviolent offenders for life because of a “three-strikes” policy. Emily Bazelon tells the story of the team of professors and students who successfully advocated to get a bad law off the books.

The New Grand Old Party: The defeat of 2012 is forcing Republicans to rethink what they stand for. What will the new conservatism look like?” by William Saletan. After an unexpected defeat, Republicans are ready to tamper with their platform. Saletan surveys leading conservative thinkers and explains what they’ve come up with so far.

Bambi Ate Thumper: Why herbivores sometimes eat meat,” by Jackson Landers. After a deer at a Florida campsite seemed very interested in his T-bone steak, the author began investigating the eating habits of some of the species we know as “herbivores.” He found that most plant-eaters have more flexible diets than previously imagined, perhaps because adaptable animals are more likely to survive periods of scarcity.

The Trendiest Guy in New York City: I slept with 30 pillows, wore my hair in a ‘man bun,’ and waxed my pubic hair, all thanks to New York Times trend stories,” by Justin Peters. Despite living in Brooklyn and working as a writer, Justin Peters didn’t feel trendy. So he decided to live by the letter of the law of the New York Times Style section. It didn’t go so well. Peters documents his experiments with commentary and pictures.

How Texas Could Mess With Us: Lone Star secessionists could (theoretically) get their wish,” by Jeff Turrentine. No, Texas cannot unilaterally secede. But a forgotten clause in Texas’ annexation agreement might make us wish they would. Jeff Turrentine explains why Texas might be able to divide into five states without the approval of Congress.

What Military Spouses Know About Infidelity: And where the military’s real dirty secrets lie,” by Alison Buckholtz. In the wake of the Petraeus scandal, military wife Alison Buckholtz pens a thoughtful piece that complicates our understanding of infidelity and war.

What Happened Next: Unforgettable Prudie letters of the past year—revisited,” by Emily Yoffe. As part of the Slate Reader Takeover, you wanted to know: What happened to those gay incestuous twins who wrote for advice about revealing their relationship to their family? Prudie prints their follow-up letter.

How To Make a Truly Spectacular Cup of Coffee: The best barista in the U.S. reveals her secrets,” by June Thomas. As part of Slate’s series on Doers, the 2012 U.S. Barista champion teaches June Thomas how to make the world’s best cup of coffee.