Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform's brand-new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.
The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret, by Michael Hastings. Rolling Stone.
How killing by remote control has changed the way we fight:
The use of drones is rapidly transforming the way we go to war. On the battlefield, a squad leader can receive real-time data from a drone that enables him to view the landscape for miles in every direction, dramatically expanding the capabilities of what would normally have been a small and isolated unit. "It's democratized information on the battlefield," says Daniel Goure, a national security expert who served in the Defense Department during both Bush administrations. "It's like a reconnaissance version of Twitter." Drones have also radically altered the CIA, turning a civilian intelligence-gathering agency into a full-fledged paramilitary operation -- one that routinely racks up nearly as many scalps as any branch of the military.
But the implications of drones go far beyond a single combat unit or civilian agency. On a broader scale, the remote-control nature of unmanned missions enables politicians to wage war while claiming we're not at war -- as the United States is currently doing in Pakistan. What's more, the Pentagon and the CIA can now launch military strikes or order assassinations without putting a single boot on the ground - and without worrying about a public backlash over U.S. soldiers coming home in body bags. The immediacy and secrecy of drones make it easier than ever for leaders to unleash America's military might -- and harder than ever to evaluate the consequences of such clandestine attacks.
Another Night to Remember, by Bryan Burrough. Vanity Fair.
The sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship:
At 9:57, 15 minutes after the ship struck the rock, Schettino phoned Costa Cruises' operations center. The executive he spoke to, Roberto Ferrarini, later told reporters, "Schettino told me there was one compartment flooded, the compartment with electrical propulsion motors, and with that kind of situation the ship's buoyancy was not compromised. His voice was quite clear and calm." Between 10:06 and 10:26, the two men spoke three more times. At one point, Schettino admitted that a second compartment had flooded. That was, to put it mildly, an understatement. In fact, five compartments were flooding; the situation was hopeless. (Later, Schettino would deny that he had attempted to mislead either his superiors or anyone else.)
They were sinking. How much time they had, no one knew. Schettino had few options. The engines were dead. Computer screens had gone black. The ship was drifting and losing speed. Its momentum had carried it north along the island's coastline, past the harbor, then past a rocky peninsula called Point Gabbianara. By 10 P.M., 20 minutes after striking the rock, the ship was heading away from the island, into open water. If something wasn't done immediately, it would sink there.
Getting Plowed, by Selena Ross. Maisonneuve.
Collusion, sabotage, violence-inside Montreal's no-holds-barred snow removal racket:
Not long before, their boss, the owner of a small snow-removal business, had won a multimillion-dollar contract to clear snow in that borough for the first time ever. A different contractor had been working in the area, but when it came time to place bids that year, the upstart business named a lower price, and the old company lost out. The two workers knew exactly who was responsible for the booby-trapped snowbank. Although their boss had won the bid fairly, moving in on another company's territory is considered stealing in Montreal's snow-removal industry -- a sector in which businesses rarely bid on contracts they haven't already marked as their property. It was only $10,000 in damage, but to the newcomers, the message was clear: don't step out of line again.