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.

Greece’s Unemployed Young

Stephen Faris • Businessweek

When there are too few jobs for an entire generation.

Nikos Kotsalos, 33, has been unemployed since November 2011, when he lost his back-office job at the national postal service. Until then he had never been without a job for more than a few months. In September he expects to finish an undergraduate degree in physics from the National University of Athens — a credential that’s barely sufficient to get an entry-level job. (To cite one example, the government recently announced it will be laying off all university security guards, except those with a master’s degree or a Ph.D.) “Sometimes we are angry. Sometimes we are sad,” says Kotsalos. “I’m 33. It’s not normal that I live with my parents. My father, when he was 33, he already had two children.”

For young Greek adults, the sense that their lives have been put on hold is palpable. Rare is the conversation that ends on a happy note. “It’s not only a financial crisis,” says Marianina Patsa, a 34-year-old Athens resident. “It also has a severe psychological impact. People feel like they’re losers.”


When 772 Pitches Isn’t Enough

Chris Jones • ESPN the Magazine

The fate of a star 16-year-old pitcher in Japan.

Then his manager, Joko, makes some vague, almost invisible gesture, and Anraku releases his customary acceptance of command — a chest-thumping shout that starts deep in his gut — bowing to his manager before he sprints to the mound.

And while this might sound like mythmaking, like some hinterland baseball legend that’s told by scouts to their children to explain why they are never home, this is a true account of what happens next:

The entire field goes silent. Not quiet. Quiet is not a strong enough word to describe this instant temple. It goes dead silent. What had been a consistent, heavy chatter just stops. Anraku’s teammates, the opposing players in their dugout, the umpires, the mothers and fathers and tea-brewing booster club up on the hill — nobody says a word. Nobody claps or chants or boos. An opposing player noiselessly pulls out a radar gun, but nobody else moves. Even the two girls, gripped tight against the rightfield fence, stop their lovesick parade.

Suddenly, there is a monster in their midst. He nods at his catcher, a tiny, brave boy built like a whippet. Anraku’s huge hands lift slowly over his head, and he starts his big, leggy delivery, classically Japanese, a full-body unwinding that culminates in a fastball thrown right down the throats of every last person here.


Boys and Girls

Andrew O’Hagan • London Review of Books

Inside a Kandahar detention center for child jihadis.

Beltoon was told that the index finger of his right hand was the Shahadat, the finger of ‘witness’, the digit of Allah. He was told he must use this finger on the suicide vest to be sure of his place in paradise. He must be sure to flick the switch firmly with this finger. (A Unicef worker explained: ‘When the Kalima-e-Shahadat is said in Tashahhud during the prayer, all the fingers except the index should be lightly closed like a fist, keeping the thumb with the middle finger in a circle. It is sunnah – following what the Prophet did – to raise the index finger.’) In this way the mentors suggest that what they are doing is part of an Islamic ritual and Beltoon was convinced he had found the best way to raise himself to the pinnacle of respect and into a life much greater than this one.

Beltoon was close to a boy called Sahim, also 15. After six months in Quetta they were driven to a local house in Kandahar province for further ‘initiation’. They got to know the location where they would do their holy work. Sahim appeared to have no end of enthusiasm for the planned attack. He enjoyed speaking to Beltoon about the logistics. He couldn’t wait. Early in 2012 the boys were dropped off on a street near the American base. They were walking side by side and saying nothing when an Afghan soldier near the entrance to the base saw them. They seemed unsure what to do — Sahim pushed Beltoon and they argued for a moment — and the soldier ordered them to stop and he summoned other military. The boys’ suicide vests were removed on the spot and that night they were taken to the detention centre in Kandahar. Beltoon hasn’t seen his mother again but a message was sent to him encouraging him not to give up hope. ‘Maybe next time,’ she said.


The Whale’s Return

Philip Hoare • Aeon

On the surprising comeback of the North Atlantic right whale, one of the world’s most endangered animals.

Up close, right whales look prehistoric, with an indefinable series of lumps crowned with a crusted ‘bonnet’ — callosities that grow in unique patterns on a whale’s head, approximately where hair sprouts on a human head. These are the tools of Mayo’s trade: the patterns are distinctive enough to let researchers identify individual animals. As Shearwater transected the bay, the researchers Christy Hudak and Beth Larson wielded a plankton net, trawling for the telltale count of Calanus finmarchicus. The little plastic sample jars swirled with pink clouds of the zooplankton, like soup. In an attempt to empathise with our subjects, I fished out a fingerful of copepods and tasted them. A faint sea-salt oiliness lingered on the tongue. Not exactly a bouillabaisse, but it sustains leviathans.

On deck, Lauren Bamford and Brigid recorded the blows that were erupting all around us. I clambered up to join the two women. Every few minutes, a new whale popped up, its crusty head and sea-slick body glinting in the sun. ‘They’re acting cryptically,’ said Brigid. ‘Sub-surface feeding.’ For some reason, their prey had sunk to three or five metres below the surface. Why? That was up to Stormy and his team to discover.

MyFWC Research/Flickr

Death on the Nile

Ned Parker • Foreign Policy

How the discovery of a drowned man led to communal violence in a small Egyptian town.

Habib Noshi Habib heard the shouts outside his home. A cousin phoned him. “The town is on fire,” he warned.

Soon the mob streamed into Habib’s house, wielding metal rods, shovels, and knives. He counted more than 50 intruders, and even recognized two of them — men who had been close to his family for 40 years. Habib saw policemen standing outside the house, doing nothing to stop the crowds. He swears he heard a policeman exhort the crowd: “Hurry up and finish it off.” Whether the policeman’s words were real or imagined, Habib was sure the area’s Muslims wanted them dead. He watched as the mob hunted down his older brother, Moharib, and started to pummel him with their makeshift weapons.

Habib ran for the basement and shut himself in. Moments later, the crowd shouted: “There is no God but God.”


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