Longform's Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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.

Uncatchable, by Michael Finkel. GQ.

George Wright spent more time on the lam, 41 years, than any fugitive in American history. Last fall, after being caught in a rural Portuguese village, he told his story:

"The Wrights returned to Portugal in 1993, to the white house in the seaside village, chiefly for their children's education. Wright painted houses. He ran a restaurant he called Chicken in the 'Hood. He made jewelry boxes and sold them in a stall near the beach. He marketed women's cosmetics.

He became involved in a local congregation -- Grace Church -- and was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean. Many of his neighbors thought he was an immigrant from Africa. He spent a great deal of time volunteering for a Portuguese charity called Serve the City. He refurbished an outreach center for HIV-positive kids; he cleaned graffiti in Lisbon and planted public flower beds. He helped organize dinners for homeless people: 'We had tablecloths, candlelight. We wanted to give them dignity. We'd serve them. Volunteers would sing and play instruments.'

Years rolled by. His kids grew up. Wright became a senior citizen. The fact that he was a fugitive was never fully forgotten -- he described it as 'living with a shadow' -- but the passage of time lent his thoughts a different hue. 'It's not a comforting feeling, knowing you've been involved in something where a ma's life has been taken. You cannot imagine how many times I've thought about that day. Every day I regret I did that.'"

Vancouver's Supervised Drug Injection Center: How Does It Work? by Paul Hiebart. The Awl.

An interview on the logistics of running North America's only legal facility for drug addicts to push heroin and cocaine and other types of substances into their veins:

"Well, first, we're trying to reduce harm any way we can without requiring abstinence. We're not trying to push things on people. I mean, we want people to be abstinent, but that's not our expectation. Our push is to promote safety and harm reduction.

The approach we take is to promote self-respect. We're trying to get people to respect themselves regardless of their addictions or whatever's going on. It's pretty much unconditional. We're not going to meet these people with a bunch of shame. We're not going to lump our expectations and our hopes onto them. Usually they feel shitty enough themselves. They already know that they fucked up. They're already their own worst enemy.

We're in this beautiful position where we're not family and we're not friends. We have the capacity to accept them again, easily and openly."

The Spy Who Came in From the Code, by  Matthieu Aikin. Columbia Journalism Review.

How a British journalist accidentally revealed his dissident sources to Syrian authorities:

"For correspondents who report from conflict zones or on underground activism in repressive regimes, the risks are extremely high. Recently, two excellent investigative series -- by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News -- and the release of a large trove of surveillance industry documents by Wikileaks dubbed "The Spy files," provided a glimpse of just how sophisticated off-the-shelf monitoring technologies have become. Western companies have sold mass Web and e-mail surveillance technology to Libya and Syria, for instance, and in Egypt, activists found specialized software that allowed the government to listen in to Skype conversations. In Bahrain, meanwhile, technology sold by Nokia Siemens allowed the government to monitor cell-phone conversations and text messages."

Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry, by Eliza Griswold. The New York Times.

Even knowing how to write can mean death for Afghan women. So why do they risk it all for their verses?

"In a private house in a quiet university neighborhood of Kabul, Ogai Amail waited for the phone to ring. Through a plate-glass window, she watched the sinking sun turn the courtyard the color of eggplant. The electricity wasn't working and the room was unheated, a few floor cushions the only furnishings. Amail tucked her bare feet underneath her and pulled up the collar of her puffy black coat. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail, and her eyelids were coated in metallic blue powder. In the green glare of the mobile phone's screen, her face looked wan and worried. When the phone finally bleeped, Amail shrieked with joy and put on the speakerphone. A teenage girl's voice tumbled into the room. "I'm freezing," the girl said. Her voice was husky with cold. To make this call, she'd sneaked out of her father's mud house without her coat.

Like many of the rural members of Mirman Baheer, a women's literary society based in Kabul, the girl calls whenever she can, typically in secret. She reads her poems aloud to Amail, who transcribes them line by line. To conceal her poetry writing from her family, the girl relies on a pen name, Meena Muska. (Meena means 'love' in the Pashto language; muska means 'smile.')"

A Giant Among Giants, by Ken Silverstein. Foreign Policy.

As it approaches a public offering, how Glencore -- founded by the legendary fugitive March Rich -- cornered the market for just about everything by working with dictators and spies:

"What the IPO filing did not make clear was just how Glencore, founded four decades ago by Marc Rich, a defiant friend of dictators and spies who later became one of the world's richest fugitives, achieved this kind of global dominance. The answer -- pieced together for this article over a year of reporting that included numerous interviews with past and current Glencore employees and a review of leaked corporate records, dossiers prepared by private investigative firms, court documents, and various international investigations -- is at once simpler and far more complicated than it appears. Like all traders, Glencore makes its money at the margins, but Glencore, even more so than its competitors, profits by working in the globe's most marginal business regions and often, investigators have found, at the margins of what is legal."

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longform. For more great writing, check out Longform's complete archive.




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Longform's Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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.

Undercover Anarchist, by David Kushner. Rolling Stone.

An undercover cop infiltrates a group of British activists, befriending and then betraying them:

"Like a hippie James Bond, Kennedy excelled at his part. He had transformed himself from a lowly London bobby to an international eco-spy: growing his hair long, going vegan, learning guitar, and insinuating himself into a radical, and sometimes militant, network of activist and anarchist groups. But he made one mistake: falling in love with the movement he was assigned to shut down. After years of living undercover  as a green warrior, he could no longer separate his roles as a spy and a protester. 'The only difference between Mark Stone and Mark Kennedy,' he says now, 'is that Mark Kennedy was a cop.'"

Riodoce Covers the Drug Cartel Beat, by Drake Bennett, Michael Riley. Businessweek.

A profile of the Mexican newsweekly, a "lone voice" in reporting on the narcos:

"According to Reporters Without Borders, 80 Mexican journalists have been killed and 14 others have disappeared since 2000. In Juárez, on the country's northern border, the city's biggest newspaper, El Diario, has had both a police reporter and a photographer murdered in the past three and a half years. The editor of El Mañana, in Nuevo Laredo, was stabbed to death in 2004, and two years later assailants sprayed gunfire and tossed a grenade into the newspaper's offices, badly wounding a veteran reporter. Riodoce had its own grenade attack in 2009, although no one was hurt. Mexico last year beat out Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in the rankings of the International Press Institute, and the first death of 2012 took place on Jan. 6, when a reporter from La Ultima Palabra, in a suburb of Monterrey, was chased down in his car and shot to death.

'Crimes against journalists occur with impunity at the local level,' says Jorge Zepeda Patterson, the former editor of El Universal in Mexico City. 'We are losing our capacity to say what's happening to our country.'"

The Stalking of Korean Hip Hop Superstar Daniel Lee, by Joshua Davis. Wired.

The story of a bizarre -- and bizarrely effective -- smear campaign:

"But then, at the height of the group’s fame, the comments sections of articles about Epik High started filling up with anonymous messages accusing Lee of lying about his Stanford diploma. In May 2010 an antifan club formed and quickly attracted tens of thousands of members who accused him of stealing someone’s identity, dodging the draft, and faking passports, diplomas, and transcripts. The accusations were accompanied by supposed evidence supplied by the online masses, who also produced slick YouTube attack videos. It was a full-fledged backlash.

By that summer, Lee’s alleged fraud had become one of Korea’s top news items. Death threats streamed in, and Lee found himself accosted by angry people on the street. Since his face was so recognizable, he became a virtual prisoner in his Seoul apartment. In a matter of weeks, he went from being one of the most beloved figures in the country to one of the most reviled.

But in fact Lee had not lied about his academic record. He actually did graduate from Stanford in three and a half years with two degrees. His GPA had been in the top 15 percent of his undergraduate class. The evidence marshaled against him was false. It was an online witch hunt, and last spring I set out to discover why it happened."

An American (Working) in Paris, by Rosecrans Baldwin. GQ.

An advertising copywriter adjusts to daily life in Paris, and works in a dysfunctional office:

"Office culture in Paris held that it was each person's responsibility, upon arrival, to visit other people's desks and wish them good morning, and often kiss each person once on each cheek, depending on the parties' personal relationship, genders, and respective positions in the corporate hierarchy. Then you moved on to the next desk.

Not everyone did it, but those who did not were noticed and remarked upon."

Why Do They Hate Us?, by Mona Eltahawy. Foreign Policy.

There is a real war on women, and it is in the Middle East:

"But let's put aside what the United States does or doesn't do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt -- including my mother and all but one of her six sisters -- have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating 'virginity tests' merely for speaking out, it's no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband 'with good intentions' no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are 'good intentions'? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is 'not severe' or 'directed at the face.' What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it's not better than you think. It's much, much worse."

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longform. For more great writing, check out Longform's complete archive.


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