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.”
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
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