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 new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.


Hunting Humans: The Americans Taking Immigration Into Their Own Hands, Karla Zabludovsky, Newsweek.

With political gridlock and Central American immigrants pouring over the border, these Texans are taking the law into their own hands.

"In 2006, Vickers and his wife, Linda, founded the Texas Border Volunteers, which now has some 300 recruits who dress in fatigues and patrol private ranches in South Texas. They often use night-vision goggles and thermal imaging to track people in the dark. When they spot migrants, they say, they alert Border Patrol. Written instructions for volunteers instruct them not to get closer than 30 feet of a suspected migrant except in cases of “extreme” emergency. Even then, Vickers says, he warns volunteers providing first aid to be vigilant, as many migrants carry knives.

In her home, Linda dispenses a glass of strawberry, cucumber and mint-infused water, moving swiftly around the kitchen in her workout shorts, beige vest and calf-high cowboy boots. In a nearby hallway, a plaque hangs on the wall: “2012 Super Star Award Presented to the B.E.S.T. Team—119 Reported Illegal Aliens, 101 Border Patrol Apprehensions.” The plaque honors Linda’s dogs, Blitz, Elsa, Schatten and Tinkerbell, three of them German shepherds, who have been trained to sniff out migrants."


How A One-Time Pig Peddler Helped The U.S. Flood War Zones With Guns, Aram Roston, Buzzfeed.

The U.S. government is one of the world’s biggest buyers of AK-47s and other Soviet bloc weapons, which it has poured into Afghanistan, Iraq, and other hot spots.

"This line of work has seen its share of scandal. In 2007, the Pentagon awarded a $300 million contract for Warsaw Pact ammunition to a company run by a 21-year-old Miami man, Efraim Diveroli, who had limited experience in the arms trade. The story of Diveroli, later convicted of fraud after his company sent decades-old, flawed ammunition to Afghanistan, is set to be made into Hollywood movie called Arms and the Dudes. Since that fiasco, the government has tried to use well-known, established defense contractors to equip Afghanistan’s forces, and procure this type of weaponry. But as the Dolarian tale shows, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Details about Dolarian’s career as an arms dealer were culled from court records, interviews, and documents. In response to a detailed letter laying out the contents of this article, Dolarian’s lawyer, Myron Smith, wrote, “I do not intend to provide a point by point response. Needless to say, I believe some of the information is inaccurate and some is false.” "


In Ferry Deaths, a South Korean Tycoon’s Downfall, Choe Sang-Hun, Martin Fackler, Alison Leigh Cowan, and Scott Sayare, the New York Times.

The curious tale of Yoo Byung-eun, South Korea's renegade tycoon. 

"Hoping to reinvent him as a Zen-like artistic genius, a family business donated $1.5 million to the Louvre, which then etched his new identity — the pseudonym Ahae — in gold on a marble wall at the museum. The family inaugurated a worldwide tour of his photos at Grand Central Terminal in New York and spent nearly $1 million to rent space as part of a deal to exhibit his work for months at Versailles, the palatial former home of French monarchs.

A sumptuous affair to begin the event, catered by a Michelin-starred chef, drew ambassadors and celebrities like the mother of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the singer-model wife of the former French president, according to Le Figaro. At a separate concert at the end of the exhibition, the London Symphony Orchestra played, premiering a brand new piece: Symphony No. 6 “Ahae.” "


The Liberal Zionists , Johnathan Freedland, the New York Review of Books.

In the toxic environment that characterizes debate on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a special poison is reserved for the liberal Zionist.

"The ultimate question leftist opponents of Zionism like to hurl at liberal Zionists, the one the former believe the latter cannot answer, is, to use Finkelstein’s formulation: “How does one excuse ethnic cleansing?” If one is a liberal, committed to human rights, how can one justify the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 as Israel was born? "

Shavit’s answer comes in the form of the two chapters that sit at the heart of the book. First comes “Lydda, 1948,” a meticulously assembled account of the three July days when soldiers of the new Israeli army emptied that city of its Palestinian inhabitants and, according to Shavit, killed more than three hundred civilians in cold blood and without discrimination. Piecing together the testimony of those who did the killing, Shavit writes: “Zionism carrie[d] out a massacre.” "


The Social Labratory, Shane Harris, Foreign Policy.

Singapore is testing whether mass surveillance and big data can not only protect national security, but actually engineer a more harmonious society.

"Back in the United States, however, the TIA program had become the subject of enormous controversy. Just a few weeks after Poindexter met with Ho, journalists reported that the Defense Department was funding experimental research on mining massive amounts of Americans' private data. Some members of Congress and privacy and civil liberties advocates called for TIA to be shut down. It was -- but in name only.

In late 2003, a group of U.S. lawmakers more sympathetic to Poindexter's ideas arranged for his experiment to be broken into several discrete programs, all of which were given new, classified code names and placed under the supervision of the National Security Agency (NSA). Unbeknownst to almost all Americans at the time, the NSA was running a highly classified program of its own that actually was collecting Americans' phone and Internet communications records and mining them for connections to terrorists. Elements of that program were described in classified documents disclosed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, sparking the most significant and contentious debate about security and privacy in America in more than four decades."

John Moore/Getty Images; VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images; ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images; MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images; SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images


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 new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.


Behind the Scenes in Putin's Court: The Private Habits of a Latter-Day Dictator, Ben Judah, Newsweek.

Vladmir Putin might have a tough exterior as Russia's president, but in private he lives a solitary life.

"The master begins his work day by reading three thick leather-bound folders. The first - his report on the home front compiled by the FSB, his domestic intelligence service. The second - his report on international affairs compiled by the SVR, his foreign intelligence. The third - his report on the court complied by the FSO, his army of close protection.

He is obsessed with information. The thickest, fattest folders at his request are not intelligence reports: they are press clippings. His hands first open the Russian press digest. The most important papers come at the front: the obsequious national tabloids - such as Komsomolskaya Pravda and Moskovsky Komsomolets. These matter most, with their millions of readers. Their headlines, their gossip columns, their reactions to the latest Siberian train wreck affect the workers' mood."


The Biden Agenda, Evan Osnos, The New Yorker.

Joe Biden is reckoning with Ukraine and Iraq, and keeping an eye on 2016.

"Air Force Two touched down in Kiev, a city with gracious boulevards, chestnut trees, and so many domed churches that the Bolsheviks declared it unfit to be a Communist capital. The fighting in the city was finished, but the Maidan encampment, which had been the center of protests, still resembled a set for "Les Misérables": tall, jagged barricades of metal, timber, and tires marked the battle lines. Sparks rose from open-air fires. In one of the few signs of recovery, the cobblestones that had been pried up to hurl at the police were stacked and ready for repaving.

At the parliament, a Stalin-era building with a colonnaded entrance, Biden was ushered in to see a group of politicians who were vying to lead the new government. After so many years, he has an arsenal of opening lines that he can deploy in Baghdad, Beijing, or Wilmington. One of his favorites: "If I had hair like yours, I'd be President." He also adapts his routine to fit the circumstances. In Kiev, he approached Vitali Klitschko, a six-foot-seven former heavyweight boxing champion who was known as Dr. Ironfist before he entered politics. Biden peered up and clenched Klitschko's right biceps. Moving down the table, he met Petro Poroshenko, a Presidential candidate and billionaire who had made his fortune in the candy business. Biden, who is considering a long-shot run for the Presidency in 2016, told the group, "I've twice been a Presidential candidate and I hope you do better than I did." (The next month, Poroshenko won the Presidency.)"


After a Malaysian plane is shot down in Ukraine, grief and outrage ripple worldwide, Marc Fisher, Michael Birnbaum, Annie Gowen, Todd C. Frankel, Karen DeYoung, Karoun Demirjian, and A. Odysseus Patrick, the The Washington Post.

The downing of MH17 brought the world back into the conflict in Ukraine's east.

"Pieces of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a number now retired from the carrier’s daily timetable, remain scattered by roadsides and in open fields. The flight began in the Netherlands and was to end in Malaysia, countries at peace. It ended over Ukraine, a nation torn in two. The jet was shot out of the sky, according to U.S. intelligence officials, most likely by Russian-backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Video of the rebels’ missiles and the passengers’ belongings and the people themselves, some mangled, some eerily whole, zipped across the globe.

One plane, 298 people, tumbled from the sky, wreckage from an explosion that no one has claimed as their own, onto a land that two nations claim as their right. A pilot on his way home to celebrate his oldest son’s birthday, and one of the world’s most accomplished AIDS researchers, and a family bound for the white sandy beaches of Bali — they were all now the macabre subject of negotiations between foreign governments and local rebels, chips in a brutal battle for rights and recognition. From Washington and Moscow to Kiev and Kuala Lumpur, a week of wrangling over corpses and charred metal became tangled in a global debate over Russia’s eagerness to expand its sphere of influence. "


The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan and Watched it Crumble, Ben Birnhaum and Amir Tibon, the New Republic.

A look at what would and could have been for Israel and Palestine.

"Fortunately for Obama, "going for it" would require little time and political capital. In Kerry, he had someone eager to expend his own. Kerry recognized the foibles of Abbas and Netanyahu, but also their merits. In the former, Kerry saw a leader well ahead of his public on the subject of peace with Israel-and who, at age 77, might not be around much longer. And in the latter, he saw an uncontested prime minister, who, if only persuaded to make the tough compromises most of his countrymen were prepared to accept, could shepherd a deal through the landmines of Israeli politics. Above all, in the weeks since assuming office, Kerry had become convinced that the parties didn't have much longer to craft a two-state solution. As he would say at a House hearing the following month: "I think we have some period of time-in one to one-and-a-half to two years-or it's over."

Back at Peres's office, the Israeli president saluted Obama and Kerry for taking on the decades-old conflict. He had known almost every president and secretary of state since John F. Kennedy. And he had seen most of them parachute into the world of Middle East peacemaking, only to walk away frustrated and empty-handed. But he shared Kerry's sense of urgency-and, strangely, his optimism. He told Obama that Abbas remained "the best peace partner Israel could hope for" and that Israel's recent elections-which had forced the right-wing Netanyahu into a more centrist coalition-presented an opportunity that shouldn't be missed."


Where the Wild Things Die, Scott C. Johnson, Foreign Policy.

Heavily armed conservationists are fighting to save the world’s remaining rhinos. A dispatch from the front lines of South Africa’s poaching wars.

"For millions of years, herds of rhinos roamed across Africa. The San, the original inhabitants of South Africa, created elegant rock paintings and engravings depicting rhinos as far back as 25,000 years ago. But over the past century, rhino numbers have risen and fallen as wars, insurgencies, hunting, and poaching have all taken their toll. Black rhinos, which once inhabited large swaths of north and central Africa, are critically endangered, and one subspecies, the western black rhinoceros,went extinct in 2011.

In the late 1950s, poaching and hunting had reduced South Africa's rhino population to just 437 animals -- all of which had been herded into one 72,000-acre site that was much too small to sustain an entire population. The number of white rhinos dipped into the low hundreds; these plodding, docile creatures roam in open spaces, which make them easy targets. But conservationist Ian Player set out to change that in the Umfolozi game reserve (now the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi) in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province. His scheme was fairly straightforward: He shipped some rhinos abroad, including to the United States, and sent others to South Africa's own game farms, where they could mate all year in safe conditions. Against the odds, it worked. By the late 1960s, rhino numbers in South Africa had quadrupled to 1,800."

Marianna Massey/Getty Images for USOC); MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images; BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images; Shaun Heasley/Getty Images; Daniel Born / The Times / Gallo Images / Getty Images