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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.

The Dream Boat, by Luke Mogelson, the New York Times Magazine

More than a thousand refugees have died trying to reach Christmas Island. But faced with unbearable conditions at home, they keep coming.

With frantic miming, the two-man Indonesian crew directed us to crowd together on the deck and crouch beneath the bulwarks. They stretched a tarp above our heads and nailed its edges to the gunwales. Packed close in the ripe air beneath the tarp, hugging knees to chests, we heard the engine start and felt the boat begin to dip and rise.

Our destination was an Australian territory, more than 200 miles across the Indian Ocean, called Christmas Island. If the weather is amenable, if the boat holds up, the trip typically lasts three days. Often, however, the weather is tempestuous, and the boat sinks. Over the past decade, it is believed that more than a thousand asylum seekers have drowned. The unseaworthy vessels are swamped through leaky hulls, capsize in heavy swells, splinter on the rocks. Survivors sometimes drift for days. Children have watched their parents drown, and parents their children. Entire families have been lost. Since June, several boats went down, claiming the lives of more than a hundred people.

Scott Fisher/Getty Images

Assets of the Ayatollah, by Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh, and Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters

The economic empire behind Iran’s supreme leader.

The organization’s total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. But Setad’s holdings of real estate, corporate stakes and other assets total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. That estimate is based on an analysis of statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Just one person controls that economic empire — Khamenei. As Iran’s top cleric, he has the final say on all governmental matters. His purview includes his nation’s controversial nuclear program, which was the subject of intense negotiations between Iranian and international diplomats in Geneva that ended Sunday without an agreement. It is Khamenei who will set Iran’s course in the nuclear talks and other recent efforts by the new president, Hassan Rouhani, to improve relations with Washington.

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images[

Who Killed Michael Hastings?, by Benjamin Wallace, New York

Reflexively distrustful, eager to make powerful enemies, the young journalist couldn’t possibly have died accidentally, could he?

It was for Rolling Stone, where Hastings had a contract, that he’d written “The Runaway General,” the 2010 article that resulted in the cashiering of General Stanley McChrystal, America’s commander in Afghanistan, and made his name as a journalist. Mark Leibovich, in this summer’s inside-the-­Beltway big read, This Town, describes Hastings’s McChrystal piece as “the most consequential” journalism of 2010 and possibly Obama’s entire first term. But despite going after big game, Hastings tended to be nonchalant about possible repercussions. “Whenever I’d been reporting around groups of dudes whose job it was to kill people,” he said once, “one of them would usually mention that they were going to kill me.”

By the middle of June, though, Hastings, then 33, had become openly afraid. Helicopters are a common sight in the Hollywood Hills, but he had told Jordanna Thigpen, a neighbor he’d become close to, that there were more of them in the sky than usual, and he was certain they were tracking him. On Saturday the 15th, he called Matt Farwell, his writing partner, and said Farwell might be interviewed by the FBI. Farwell was unsettled. “He was being really cagey over the phone, which was odd, very odd,” Farwell says. On the 17th, Hastings e-mailed colleagues at BuzzFeed to warn them that “the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates’?”; he was “onto a big story” and needed to go “off the rada[r] for a bit … hope to see you all soon.”

Paul Morigi/Getty Images for the Guardian

The Fall of the House of Moon, by Mariah Blake, the New Republic

Sex rituals, foreign spies, Biden offspring, and the Unification Church’s war-torn first family.

[A]fter the service was over, In Jin disappeared from public view. She stopped delivering the weekly broadcasts, and even quit showing up at the church’s Manhattan headquarters. After several months passed with no sign of her, some parishioners began pressing for information on her whereabouts. They were blocked at every turn. Even the highest circles of church leadership couldn’t-or wouldn’t-say what had happened to In Jin Moon.

Before long, it became clear that the House of Moon was crumbling and In Jin had become caught up in its downfall. But her disappearance was only one part of a much more complicated saga-one that involved illegitimate children, secret sex rituals, foreign spy agencies, and the family of Vice President Joseph Biden. Even by Moon’s famously eccentric standards, the collapse of his American project would turn out to be spectacular and deeply strange.

KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images

We Live and Die Here Like Animals,’ by Peter Bouckaert, Foreign Policy

The Central African Republic has suffered a horrific collapse. But is the worst violence between the country’s Muslims and Christians yet to come?

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Worsening the situation, fury with the Seleka is now spilling over into vicious armed resistance among Christians. One Muslim woman remembers a Christian militant saying to her during an anti-Muslim attack in Ouham that killed hundreds in September, “Muslims overthrew President Bozizé, and there will be no safety for Muslims until [the] Seleka [are] gone.” At another massacre of Muslims the same month, a militia leader told captured villagers, “We will kill all the Muslims, and we will kill all of your livestock,” before his fighters cut the throat of one man and opened fire on the others, killing four more.

If nothing is done, the CAR could descend into a deep, inter-communal religious conflict — with much greater bloodshed than even what we’ve seen thus far. In early November, the United Nations went so far as to warn that the current conflict is at risk of escalating into genocide.

Already, the human toll, as recounted by those who have survived or witnessed violence, is shocking.

MARCUS BLEASDALE/VII