Paris Match: Carla Bruni and Nicolas Sarkozy

Just months after his May 2007 election, French president Nicolas Sarkozy faced growing criticism over his stalled reforms, flashy style, and stormy divorce. The last straw should have been his whirlwind remarriage, to an Italian heiress, ex-model, and singer who had past liaisons with Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, among others, and nude photos all over the Internet. But the lady in question, Carla Bruni, is proving an unexpected asset. At the Élysée Palace, Maureen Orth encounters a pair of romantic predators who appear to have met their matches.

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Russia’s Dark Master: Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s new president, won the admiration of his people for his iron grasp on power. Then came the Kursk submarine crisis. Will the Kremlin’s mystery man be able to rein in a massively corrupt oligarchy, or will he wake the ghost of Stalin?

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Charisma Argentina – Carlos Menem

Argentineans have always had a fatal weakness for charisma. And in their president from 1989 to 1999, they had the glitziest crowd pleaser since Evita. Maureen Orth reports for Vanity Fair from Buenos Aires about the Arab leader of a Catholic country, and his double political tango with the rich elite and the descamisados.

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