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 app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

ISIS: The Inside Story, by Martin Chulov, the Guardian.

An Islamic State senior commander reveals the terror group’s origins.

Some time after Baghdadi was released from Bucca, Abu Ahmed was also freed. After being flown to Baghdad airport, he was picked up by men he had met in Bucca. They took him to a home in the west of the capital, where he immediately rejoined the jihad, which had transformed from a fight against an occupying army into a vicious and unrestrained war against Iraqi Shia. Death squads were by then roaming Baghdad and much of central Iraq, killing members of opposite sects with routine savagery and exiling residents from neighbourhoods they dominated. The capital had quickly become a very different place to the city Abu Ahmed had left a year earlier. But with the help of new arrivals at Bucca, those inside the prison had been able to monitor every new development in the unfolding sectarian war. Abu Ahmed knew the environment he was returning to. And his camp commanders had plans for him.

Welcome to Paradise, by Nisha Lilia Diu, the Telegraph.

The effects of legalized prostitution in Germany.

It’s six o’clock in the evening at Paradise and about thirty men are padding about the swirly red carpet in wine-coloured towelling robes and green plastic slippers. The women sit in the men’s laps at the bar. One is cuddling up to a pot-bellied man on a day bed. Several are clustered together, looking bored in their black glitter basques and hot pink fishnets, waiting for it to get busier. People think Amsterdam is the prostitution capital of Europe but Germany has more prostitutes per capita than any other country in the continent, more even than Thailand: 400,000 at the last count, serving 1.2 million men every day. Those figures were released a decade ago, soon after Germany made buying sex, selling sex, pimping and brothel-keeping legal in 2002. Two years later, prostitution in Germany was thought to be worth 6 billion euros – roughly the same as Porsche or Adidas that year. It’s now estimated to be 15 billion euros.

Confined: The Death of Eddie Snowshoe, by Patrick White, the Globe and Mail.

How solitary confinement can lead to suicide.

His was a death foretold. Over three years in prison, Mr. Snowshoe had morphed from a shy but hale young man into a chronically suicidal inmate suffering from a dangerous brew of mental-health issues. He died — on Aug. 13, 2010 — while locked in a 2.5-by-3.6-metre cell where the Correctional Service of Canada had determined he posed the least amount of harm to himself or others. But as libraries of stats and scholarly articles can attest, solitary confinement is a counterproductive kind of harm prevention. Humans are social animals. We subsist on stimulus and response. To restrain us alone is to deny stimuli; correspondingly, our response mechanisms break down. In solitary, this can lead to a litany of health problems – including, but not limited to, hallucinations, anxiety, loss of impulse control, severe depression, heart palpitations and reduced brain function. In many cases, the damage is irreversible. It’s no wonder the suicide rate in federal prisons is seven times that in the public at large, with nearly half taking place in segregation.

Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State, by Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone.

After 13 years of war, the United States has helped create a nation ruled by drug lords.

The Afghan narcotics trade has gotten undeniably worse since the U.S.-led invasion: The country produces twice as much opium as it did in 2000. How did all those poppy fields flower under the nose of one of the biggest international military and development missions of our time? The answer lies partly in the deeply cynical bargains struck by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his bid to consolidate power, and partly in the way the U.S. military ignored the corruption of its allies in taking on the Taliban. It’s the story of how, in pursuit of the War on Terror, we lost the War on Drugs in Afghanistan by allying with many of the same people who turned the country into the world’s biggest source of heroin. Nowhere is this more apparent than here in Helmand, where nearly a thousand U.S. and coalition soldiers lost their lives during the war, the highest toll of any province. Helmand alone accounts for almost half of Afghanistan’s opium production, and police and government officials are alleged to be deeply involved in the drug trade. But the Afghan government’s line is that poppy cultivation only takes place in areas controlled by the Taliban.

Tick, Tick, Bull, Shit, by Rosa Brooks, Foreign Policy.

Don’t believe the CIA’s ticking time bomb excuse when it says it had to torture.

There’s one major problem with the ticking bomb scenario: It’s entirely irrelevant — morally and legally. First, in real life you don’t get actual ticking bomb scenarios, with their certainty, simplicity, and urgency. In real life, you get ambiguity and uncertainty. You get conflicting information about the nature, magnitude, and timing of threats, and conflicting information about the identity of planners and perpetrators. Sometimes, you get information that’s just plain wrong: As the SSCI report notes, more than two dozen people tortured by the CIA were detained in error. In some cases, they were victims of simple cases of mistaken identity.

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images; ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images; AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images; Alberta Justice and Solicitor General/flickr; Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images; Martin Barraud/Getty Images; Photoillustration by FP

Tag: Media

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