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.

Krugmenistan vs. Estonia
By Brendan Greely, Business Week

A fight on Twitter between the Estonian head of state and the Princeton economist as a way of understanding the economic crisis.

On June 6, in a blog post titled “Estonian Rhapsody,” Krugman took on what he called “the poster child for austerity defenders.” In his post, he graphed real GDP from the height of the boom to the first quarter of this year to show that, even after a recovery, Estonia’s economy is still almost 10 percent below its peak in 2007. “This,” he wrote, “is what passes for economic triumph?”

“It was like an attack on Estonian people,” says Palmik, in an office above his plant, surrounded by blueprints for his new production line. “These times have been very difficult. People have kept together. And this Krugman took all these facts that he wanted.”

Over the course of a week’s visit to three cities in Estonia, I met only two people who didn’t know what Krugman wrote about their recovery. This is not because Estonia is a country of blog-obsessed amateur economists. It’s because Toomas Hendrik Ilves picked a fight."

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Hackers Linked to China’s Army Seen from E.U. to D.C.
By Michael Riley and Dune Lawrence, Bloomberg

An inside look at the shocking reach of China's hacker army.

"The hackers clocked in at precisely 9:23 a.m. Brussels time on July 18 last year, and set to their task. In just 14 minutes of quick keyboard work, they scooped up the e-mails of the president of the European Union Council, Herman Van Rompuy, Europe’s point man for shepherding the delicate politics of the bailout for Greece, according to a computer record of the hackers’ activity.

"Over 10 days last July, the hackers returned to the council’s computers four times, accessing the internal communications of 11 of the EU’s economic, security and foreign affairs officials. The breach, unreported until now, potentially gave the intruders an unvarnished view of the financial crisis gripping Europe.

"And the spies were themselves being watched. Working together in secret, some 30 North American private security researchers were tracking one of the biggest and busiest hacking groups in China."


The End of the Affair
By Susan Berfield, Bloomberg Businessweek

Four years after Barack Obama's landmark Berlin speech, the transatlantic alliance is fading fast. What went wrong?

John McCain may have called Barack Obama the biggest celebrity in the world, but the place that has held the U.S. president closest to its collective heart has always been Europe. When he took to the stage in Berlin on July 24, 2008, a crowd of 200,000 Germans abandoned their usual reserve to flood screaming and cheering into the Tiergarten.

They came to see an aspiring American president give flesh to all of Europe's fantasies about American leadership: multiethnic and multilateral; pragmatic and peacefully minded; social democratic in his goals and so eloquent in their expression. Obama promised to purge the sins of George W. Bush and give new impetus to the alliance for a new century. "America has no better partner than Europe" he said.

The paradox is that while Obama successfully healed the transatlantic rift, he may also be the American president who presided over the end of the West as a political community.

John Gress/Getty Images

Assad's Bloody Battle to Cling to Power
By Christoph Reuter, Der Spiegel

President Bashar Assad is losing his grip on power in Syria and he has responded by visiting death and destruction on his opponents. With momentum shifting in favor of the rebels, he seems capable only of intensifying the violence.

It's become very quiet. The cicadas and the birds have been silenced, and all you can hear is the sound of the wind rustling through the trees -- only occasionally interrupted by the clattering of tattered metal shutters and signs riddled with bullet holes. But human voices, the sound of cars and all the other sounds one associates with a city are gone.

In there place is a sporadic, high-pitched buzzing noise that approaches and then passes overhead. Sometimes, though, you don't even get that much warning before the roar of an explosion rips the air and the ground shakes half a kilometer away. It happens again and again, 20 times, 150 times, even 550 times a day. Each time, 50 kilograms (110 lbs.) of steel and explosives blast apart walls, decimate buildings and send showers of shrapnel into the air, ripping apart all surrounding life.

This is Rastan.


Fertility Rates Fall, But Global Population Explosion Goes On
By Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times

Global birthrates are falling. But with billions of peopke in their fertile years and political and cultural forces against contraception, the population explosion is far from over.

JAIPUR, India — Ramjee Lal Kumhar and his bride, Mamta, first laid eyes on each other inside a billowing wedding tent festooned with garlands of marigolds.

He was 11 years old. She was 10.

Their families had arranged the marriage. The couple delighted their parents by producing a son when they were both 13. They had a daughter 2½ years later. To support the family, Ramjee gave up his dream of finishing school and opened a cramped shop that sells snacks, tea and tobacco on the muddy road through his village.

At 15 and finally able to grow a mustache, Ramjee made a startling announcement: He was done having children.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

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.


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.

"Is He Coming? Is He? Oh God, I Think He Is.", by Sean Flynn, GQ

The story of the Norway massacre, as told by the survivors.

A blond man in a black outfit is climbing the hill. He is not hurrying. At the top of the hill, he turns left, toward the field where the kids have staked their tents. Last night, when low clouds curtained the moon and stars, those tents glowed red and blue and yellow from the lamps lit inside, and Adrian marveled at how pretty they were. Like Chinese lanterns, he thought. Now he's stepping around them, walking backward parallel to and ten meters off of the path. The man appears to be dressed in a police commando's uniform: black trousers over what seems to be a black wet suit, a vest with many stuffed pockets and the word politi on the right breast, a backpack. He also is carrying two guns—a rifle with an elaborate sight and a bayonet affixed to the muzzle and, in his right hand, a pistol. Adrian stoops into a half-crouch. He now suspects that he should, in fact, be afraid. But why would a policeman shoot people? This must be a prank, he tells himself.


His Man in Macau: Inside the Investigation Into Sheldon Adelson’s Empire, by Lowell Bergman, Matt Isaacs, Stephen Engelberg, Frontline

How did the gambling magnate and prolific super PAC donor amass his billions?

A decade ago gambling magnate and leading Republican donor Sheldon Adelson looked at a desolate spit of land in Macau and imagined a glittering strip of casinos, hotels and malls.

Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau’s hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.

AARON TAM/AFP/Getty Images

Human Corpses are Prize in Global Drive for Profits, by Kate Wilson, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

An investigation into the global human tissue trade.

The industry has flourished even as its practices have roused concerns about how tissues are obtained and how well grieving families and transplant patients are informed about the realities and risks of the business.

In the U.S. alone, the biggest market and the biggest supplier, an estimated two million products derived from human tissue are sold each year, a figure that has doubled over the past decade.


Egypt: The Hidden Truth, by Yasmine El Rashidi, New York Review of Books

How Egypt does business.

It also kept them attentive, wondering what next, debating the different outcomes, shifting their alliances as predictions were circulated and spun. At the Foreign Ministry, a mid-career diplomat tells me that even with the removal of senior ministers, the “chain of production” continues: “You know what to do every day, down to the office boy who runs errands. You keep going.” In the months without a president, El-Tahrir newspaper reported one day in June, the Presidential Diwan, or office, spent $48.5 million—$5 million more than its average annual expenditure. It kept going. The factories of the businessmen who were closely associated with the Mubaraks and were charged and convicted of crimes also keep going. I see one of those tycoons frequently at that same club where the generals sit by the poolside.


Marie Colvin's Private War, by Marie Brenner, Vanity Fair

The story of a fallen war reporter.

“Why the fuck is that guy singing? Can’t someone shut him up?,” Marie Colvin whispered urgently after dropping into the long, dark, dank tunnel that would lead her to the last reporting assignment of her life. It was the night of February 20, 2012. All Colvin could hear was the piercing sound made by the Free Syrian Army commander accompanying her and the photographer Paul Conroy: “Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.” The song, which permeated the two-and-a-half-mile abandoned storm drain that ran under the Syrian city of Homs, was both a prayer (God is great) and a celebration. The singer was jubilant that the Sunday Times of London’s renowned war correspondent Marie Colvin was there. But his voice unnerved Colvin. “Paul, do something!” she demanded. “Make him stop!”

For anyone who knew her, Colvin’s voice was unmistakable. All of her years in London had not subdued her American whiskey tone. Just as memorable was the cascade of laughter that always erupted when there seemed to be no way out. It was not heard that night as she and Conroy made their way back into a massacre being waged by the troops of President Bashar al-Assad near Syria’s western border. The ancient city of Homs was now a bloodbath.


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.