Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

Mohammed Huwais, Chris Hondros, AP, Omar Havana
Mohammed Huwais, Chris Hondros, AP, Omar Havana

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.


My Last Day In Yemen, by Gregory D. Johnsen, Buzzfeed.

Yemen was like a home away from home for me — until the day I was nearly abducted in broad daylight, and narrowly missed suffering a grim fate similar to other journalists drawn to covering, and living in, the Middle East.

“Among the small group of Yemen watchers, the numbers had started to lose their meaning with repetition: 40% chance of bombing, 60% chance of being kidnapped. They were guesses without an anchor. No one knew anything for certain. Western embassies issued travel warnings, but they were as vague as everything else. Yemen was bad — maybe not Iraq bad — but the speculation kept getting worse.

Still, earlier this spring I decided to go back one more time. I pitched it to my editors as a three-story trip. But in my mind, it was a final farewell. I was getting married in a few months, and I wanted to move on and write about other things. I’d quit smoking years earlier and my twenties had slipped into my thirties. I was ready for a change. On March 6, I boarded the plane for my last trip to Yemen.”


Firestone and the Warlord, by T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones, ProPublica.

The untold story of Firestone, Charles Taylor and the tragedy of Liberia.

“Firestone wanted Liberia for its rubber. Taylor wanted Firestone to help his rise to power. At a pivotal meeting in Liberia’s jungles in July 1991, the company agreed to do business with the warlord.

In the first detailed examination of the relationship between Firestone and Taylor, an investigation by ProPublica and Frontline lays bare the role of a global corporation in a brutal African conflict.

Firestone served as a source of food, fuel, trucks and cash used by Taylor’s ragtag rebel army, according to interviews, internal corporate documents and declassified diplomatic cables.

The company signed a deal in 1992 to pay taxes to Taylor’s rebel government. Over the next year, the company doled out more than $2.3 million in cash, checks and food to Taylor, according to an accounting in court files. Between 1990 and 1993, the company invested $35.3 million in the plantation”


The ‘Caliphate’s’ Colonies: Islamic State’s Gradual Expansion into North Africa, by Mirco Keilberth, Juliane von Mittelstaedt, and Christoph Reuter, Der Spiegel English.

Chaos, disillusionment and oppression provide the perfect conditions for Islamic State. Currently, the Islamist extremists are expanding from Syria and Iraq into North Africa. Several local groups have pledged their allegiance.

“Darna has become a colony of terror, and it is the first Islamic State enclave in North Africa. The conditions in Libya are perfect for the radical Islamists: a disintegrating state, a location that is strategically well situated and home to the largest oil reserves on the continent. Should Islamic State (IS) manage to establish control over a significant portion of Libya, it could trigger the destabilization of the entire Arab world”


The Science of Suffering, by Judith Shulevitz, the New Republic.

Kids are inheriting their parents’ trauma. Can science stop it?

“The children of the traumatized have always carried their parents’ suffering under their skin. ‘For years it lay in an iron box buried so deep inside me that I was never sure just what it was,’ is how Helen Epstein, the American daughter of survivors of Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, began her book Children of the Holocaust, which launched something of a children-of-survivors movement when it came out in 1979. ‘I knew I carried slippery, combustible things more secret than sex and more dangerous than any shadow or ghost.’ But how did she come by these things? By what means do the experiences of one generation insinuate themselves into the next?”


The Birth of a New Century, by George Packer, Foreign Policy.

What the world lost in 2014.

“When did the 21st century begin? There is a strong case to be made, following Hobsbawm’s lead, that it happened this year, a century after Sarajevo. By the metric of corpses, the catastrophes of 2014 have hardly been more severe than those of any given year in the past 100; in some cases, they’ve been much less so. Nor have the year’s horrors been new, in the strictest sense: We’ve seen sectarian slaughter, Russian revanchism, and the ravages of a deadly epidemic before. What’s more, there has been no Sarajevo in 2014, no triggering event of transformation, no thunderbolt out of a blue sky.

Nonetheless, it has been a year of shocks. They originated in unhappy places well outside the charmed circle of safety, comfort, and freedom, but their impact was deeply felt in the West, where the structures of power and principle that used to contain such disruptions no longer seem to exist. For Westerners, that collapse is the greatest shock of all.”

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