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.

The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist
Brendan Borrell • Businessweek

On the theft of 6 million pounds of maple syrup from Canada’s strategic reserve and the group of free market renegades who are fighting “The Maple Wars.”

The Federation would need two months to tally the losses to the stockpile. Sixty percent, or 6 million pounds of syrup, had vanished, worth about $18 million wholesale. The bold and baffling heist counts as one of the largest agricultural thefts ever, dwarfing the 860 head of cattle snatched in Queensland, Australia, last spring and the potato patches the size of a football field that were dug up in British Columbia in August. Siphoning off and transporting so much syrup was no mean feat. It would have taken more than 100 tractor-trailers. “To steal that amount of maple syrup means you have to know the market,” says Simon Trépanier, acting director of the Federation. “We are talking about big players.”


Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility
Shari Oster, Michael Forsythe, Dune Lawrence, Henry Sanderson • Bloomberg News

How the princeling descendants of Mao’s Eight Immortals consolidated unimaginable power and wealth in the New China.

In three decades, they and their successors lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty and created a home-owning middle class as China rose to become the world’s second-biggest economy. Chinese on average now eat six times more meat than they did in 1976, and 100 million people have traded in their bicycles for automobiles. The Immortals also sowed the seeds of one of the biggest challenges to the Party’s authority. They entrusted some of the key assets of the state to their children, many of whom became wealthy. It was the beginning of a new elite class, now known as princelings. This is fueling public anger over unequal accumulation of wealth, unfair access to opportunity and exploitation of privilege — all at odds with the original aims of the communist revolution.

WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Will Saudi Arabia Ever Change?
Hugh Eakin • The New York Review of Books

Two authors explore whether the U.S.-backed regime can survive.

Among the many enigmas about the increasingly elderly group of brothers who have ruled Saudi Arabia since 1953—the year in which their father, Abdul Aziz, the country’s modern founder, died—is how they have continually evaded the forces of change. Despite Saudi control of the largest petroleum reserves in the world, decades of rapid population growth have reduced per capita income to a fraction of that of smaller Persian Gulf neighbors. Even the people of Bahrain, a country with little oil that has roiled with unrest since early 2011, are wealthier. Having nearly doubled in twenty years to 28 million, the Saudi population includes over eight million registered foreign residents, many of them manual laborers or domestic workers. Illegal migrants, who enter on Hajj (pilgrimage) visas, or across the porous Yemeni border, may account for two million more.

Salah Malkawi/Getty Images

In South Africa, a Liberal Abortion Law Doesn’t Guarantee Access
Jina Moore and Estelle Ellis • The Nation

How pioneering abortion rights legislation still leaves some women without affordable, legal, and safe options.

Mfundo Mabenge, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Port Elizabeth’s Dora Nginza Hospital, blames the government for creating this crisis. “Government has failed us,” she says. “They compel us to offer a service for termination of pregnancy, but they give us no support.” Mabenge, like other Ob/Gyn chiefs we spoke with, was simply told to make space to provide abortions and then to offer them. The government covers the cost of the procedure, but Mabenge says there’s no money to add beds, mop the floors, or otherwise create and maintain a clinic space.

John Moore/Getty Images

Can You Fight Poverty with a Five Star Hotel?
Cheryl Strauss Einhorn • Foreign Policy

In the poorest places on the globe, the World Bank — which claims poverty reduction as its mission — is giving billions of dollars to wealthy tycoons and private companies for luxury development projects.

In case after case, the verdict was the same: The IFC likes to work with huge corporations, funding projects these companies could finance themselves. Its partners are billionaires and massive multinationals, from oil giants like ExxonMobil to Grupo Arcor, the huge Argentine candy-maker. Its projects include not only glitzy hotels and high-end shopping malls, but also gritty gold and copper mines and oil pipelines, some of which end up benefiting the very corrupt, authoritarian regimes that the rest of the World Bank is urging to change. Nearly a quarter of the IFC’s paid-in capital from member governments — now standing at $2.4 billion — came from U.S. taxpayers, and every president in the World Bank’s 69-year history has been an American. But the United States has had little complaint with these practices, even when they have become a subject of public controversy.


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