Longform’s Picks of the Week

Longform’s Picks of the Week

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.

On the Lam in Lebanon

Mitchell Prothero • Vice

The Syrian civil war crosses into Lebanon.

The idyllic orchard explodes into war. Three rocket-propelled grenades fly toward the border post. A dozen automatic rifles and machine guns release a rain of ammunition; muzzle flashes light up the darkening sky.

“We do this every few days,” Hussein laughs. “But so do they,” he adds while pointing toward Assad’s troops.

The Syrian Army returns fire with machine guns and AK-47s of their own, sending bullets whipping through the grove at the rebels in front of us. Hussein and I are standing a few rows back, but we are still somewhat in the line of fire. I realize I’m uncomfortably close to the front line, even if I’m not right up on it. The bullets that hit the nearby trees aren’t aimed at us, but marksmanship is a moot point after you’re dead.  


Why Can’t India Feed Its People?

Mehul Srivastava • Businessweek

What keeps so many millions of people in India hungry and malnourished?

The vast majority of Indians, especially villagers, are suspended in nutritional purgatory — they eat enough to fill their stomachs but not enough to stay healthy. In the early 1970s the number of calories the average Indian ate began rolling backward. In 1973 villagers ate just under 2,300 calories a day, according to the National Sample Survey Office, a branch of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. By 2010 that number had dropped to about 2,020, compared with the government floor of 2,400 a day to qualify for food aid. The mismatch manifests itself in some of the world’s worst health score cards: Half of all children younger than three years old in India weigh too little for their age; 8 in 10 are anemic.


Panic in Jerusalem

Menachem Kaiser • Tablet

What if the crimes in the “worst pedophile case in Jerusalem’s history” never really happened?

In the wake of these allegations, the neighborhood underwent an immediately noticeable change of spirit. No one could be trusted. Parents were daily being informed by their children and friends that neighbors they’d known for years, invited over for Shabbat meals, or given charity to, were actually perverted sadistic pedophiles who had been terrorizing their children in ways no one could imagine. At this point, seemingly no family has gone unaffected: In certain sections of the neighborhood, 100 percent of families have children, and often more than one, who have been reportedly abused. I have heard reports of a family with 10 children, all claiming abuse.


The Truce on Drugs

Benjamin Wallace-Wells • New York

In Colorado and beyond, a negotiated surrender in the war on drugs.

Cannabis is a highly persuadable plant. It thrives in Afghanistan; it grows beautifully in Mexico. It can prosper indoors or outdoors, in contained environments or expansive ones. Even on the essentials, like soil, light, and water, accommodations can be made. Cannabis in the wild will flower only once a year, early in the fall, but it can be tricked. Indoors, artificial light can be timed to mimic the patterns of the early sunsets of autumn, seducing the plant to bud; outside, the same effect is achieved by laying parabolic tarps, each shaped like the St. Louis arch, over the crop to obscure the sun. Nor does cannabis require expert botanists. There is a pattern that has been showing up in the criminal courts of Northern California in which a day laborer, often an illegal immigrant, is picked up for work, driven to tend a marijuana garden growing deep in Mendocino National Forest, and told that he is now in the employ of the Mexican Mafia. The guess, locally, is that the Mexican Mafia is not really involved, that this is just a ghost story to make sure the laborers stay put. But still, an untrained day laborer hired at Home Depot is all you need to manage a large crop. He’ll do fine. 

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Mr. China Comes to America

James Fallows • The Atlantic

Is product manufacturing returning to the United States?

The heart of their argument is this: Through most of post-World War II history, the forces of globalization have made it harder and harder to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States. But the latest wave of technological innovation, communications systems, and production tools may now make it easier-especially to bring new products to market faster than the competition by designing, refining, and making them in the United States. At just the same time, social and economic changes in China are making the outsourcing business ever costlier and trickier for all but the most experienced firms.

J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

Land of the Seven Moles

Calvin Trillin • New Yorker

A family’s history in food and travel.

In Ecuador, I eventually did eat guinea pig. Given my experience with nutria in Louisiana some years before, in fact, I suppose that, if I hadn’t been raised to prize modesty, I could describe myself as a man with relatively broad experience in rodent consumption. As I studied the mounds of various sizes of grasshoppers in the markets, though, I found myself with a question similar to the one that goes through my mind when I see someone in Chinatown reach into a barrel of live frogs and pull one out for inspection: What, exactly, does one look for in a grasshopper? I thought I might ease into grasshopper-eating, following the general rule that anything is edible if it’s chopped up finely enough. That’s apparently the route my granddaughters had taken.