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.
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.
The Wonks Who Sold Washington on South Sudan, by Rebecca Hamilton, Reuters
The strange tale of the group of policy wonks in the U.S. that helped South Sudan win its independence.
Nationhood has many midwives. South Sudan is primarily the creation of its own people. It was southern Sudanese leaders who fought for autonomy, and more than two million southern Sudanese who paid for that freedom with their lives.
President George W. Bush, who set out to end Africa’s longest-running civil war, also played a big role, as did modern-day abolitionists, religious groups, human rights organizations and members of the U.S. Congress.
But the most persistent outside force in the creation of the world’s newest state was the tightly knit group, never numbering more than seven people, which in the era before email began gathering regularly at Otello, a restaurant near Washington’s DuPont Circle.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Territory Jam: Tehran, by Rudabeh Pakravan, Design Observer
On the weird intersection between satellite TV and public space in Tehran.
To understand how the satellite dish functions as a substitute for the spatial tactics of assembly and protest, we must first understand how Tehran’s public spaces have been strategically delegitimized. The space itself is there. Unlike in Cairo, where Hosni Mubarak systematically dismantled public spaces, including Tahrir Square, Tehran’s recent mayors have added nearly 3,000 acres of parks, plazas and green belts, and the city now has 1,800 parks serving a population of 9 million, a ratio roughly comparable to New York City. But Tehran’s inhabitants are subject to strict behavioral laws, which mandate harsh penalties and imprisonment for socializing with a person of the opposite gender, deviating from the Islamic dress code, or participating in any but the most benign group activities. Women are publicly humiliated, fined and detained by police for showing hair beneath their headscarves, wearing makeup or even having a fake suntan. Meanwhile, young men are targeted for wearing Western-style clothing or long hairstyles, and both genders are prohibited from riding in the same car, speaking together in public or gathering in larger groups. The severity of the sentence varies with the political atmosphere but can include a fine, university expulsion, lashings and up to 60 days of imprisonment. These laws have become even more restrictive since the student uprisings in 2009.
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama, by Tom Junod, Esquire
A hard look at the Obama administration’s drone strike fetish and their consequences.
Kublai Khan was ahead of his time: He recognized that what matters about money is not what it looks like, or even what it’s backed by, but whether people believe in it enough to use it. Today, that concept is the foundation of all modern monetary systems, which are built on nothing more than governments’ support of and people’s faith in them. Money is, in other words, a complete abstraction-one that we are all intimately familiar with but whose growing complexity defies our comprehension.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The Death of Eva Rausing and the Decline of the Tetra Pak Dynasty, by Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian
The strange circumstances behind the death of a fabulously wealthy socialite in England.
Each member of the Rausing dynasty has, perhaps understandably, run shy of publicity while trying to retain a family reputation for philanthropic generosity. That image was tarnished this week when the tawdry details of the tragedy in Cadogan Place emerged. Hans Kristian Rausing remains in hospital, three members of his house staff are being questioned and there are reports that his wife’s body may have been in her bedroom for a week. And the photos published of the couple in the last weeks of her life show two gaunt, desolate people, ill at ease with their bodies and the world.
Lost City, by Peter Chilson, Foreign Policy
After a week of wanton destruction, is the legendary city of Timbuktu finally coming to an end?
Timbuktu’s only hotel at that time was full, so I spent two nights on a mat on the concrete patio of a local bar, a bordello really, and then I fled back the way I’d come. The heat was awful, and as Caillié wrote in his memoirs, there was no way to escape it day or night. I slept little and discarded my mosquito net at night for fear it would block the slightest breeze. I had enough energy to check out Caillié’s living quarters, marked by a bronze plaque. In the end, though, I could not agree with his descriptions of Timbuktu. “Everything,” he wrote, “had a dull appearance.”
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