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 new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.
“Where the Bodies Are Buried” by Patrick Radden Keefe, the New Yorker.
Gerry Adams has long denied being a member of the IRA. But his former compatriots claim that he authorized murder.
“Rumors circulated that McConville hadn’t been abducted at all—that she had abandoned her children and eloped with a British soldier. In Belfast, this was an incendiary allegation: Catholic women who consorted with the enemy were sometimes punished by being tied to a lamppost after having their heads shaved and their bodies tarred and feathered. The McConvilles were a ‘mixed’ family; Jean was born Protestant and converted to Catholicism only after meeting her husband. The family had lived with Jean’s mother, in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood in East Belfast, until 1969, when they were driven out, as internecine tensions sharpened. They sought refuge in West Belfast, only to discover that they were outsiders there as well. Several weeks after the abduction, on January 17, 1973, a crew from the BBC visited the apartment and taped a segment. As the younger siblings huddled on the sofa—pale children with downcast eyes, looking shy and frightened—the reporters asked Helen if she had any idea why her mother had left. ‘No,’ she said, shaking her head. Agnes McConville, who was thirteen, noted, hopefully, that her mother was wearing red slippers when she was taken away. She added, ‘We’ll keep our fingers crossed and pray hard for her to come back.'”
“How Ikea Took Over the World” by Beth Kowitt, Fortune.
In a stunning global expansion, the Swedish home furnishings giant has been quietly planting its blue and yellow flag in places you’d never expect. Pay attention, Wal-Mart: You could learn a few things.
“The company frequently does home visits and—in a practice that blends research with reality TV—will even send an anthropologist to live in a volunteer’s abode. Ikea recently put up cameras in people’s homes in Stockholm, Milan, New York, and Shenzhen, China, to better understand how people use their sofas. What did they learn? ‘They do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV,’ Ydholm says. The Ikea sleuths found that in Shenzhen, most of the subjects sat on the floor using the sofas as a backrest. ‘I can tell you seriously we for sure have not designed our sofas according to people sitting on the floor and using a sofa like that,’ says Ydholm.
The aim of gaining all this cultural knowledge is not to tweak the products for each market. The Ikea model, remember, is volume, volume, volume: It needs vast economies of scale to keep costs low, and that means creating one-size-fits-all solutions as often as possible. Rather, Ikea has gotten awfully good at showing how the same product can mesh with different regional habitats.”
“Netanyahu and the Settlements” by Judy Rudoren and Jeremy Ashkenas, the New York Times.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policy resembles his predecessors’ in many ways, but it is a march toward permanence in a time when prospects for peace are few.
“The West Bank is 2,100 square miles of rolling hills, dotted by some 200 Jewish settlements surrounded by security fences. They include the city of Ariel, with its own university and regional theater; planned communities of cookie-cutter houses with red-tile roofs; and hilltop outposts where a few dozen people live in trailers. Most of the growth has been in three settlement blocks near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv slated for land swaps with the Palestinians in a future peace deal. But while Palestinian leaders have accepted the concept of swaps, neither they nor the United States have ever agreed on a delineation of such blocks.
Most men in Modiin Illit study the Torah full time; hundreds of young mothers work in a decade-old business center providing paralegal research or credit-card customer service. Strollers often outnumber cars on the streets. The population in isolated settlements, which are outside anyone’s conception of blocks, has grown 15 percent since 2009 and is now double what it was when Mr. Netanyahu first took office in 1996.”
“My ISIS Boyfriend: A Reporter’s Undercover Life with a Terrorist” by Margarette Driscoll, the New York Post.
A French reporter went undercover as potential “caliphette” and recieved a marriage proposal from a senior ISIS commander.
“She decided to join the young Muslim community online and created a fake profile on Facebook and Twitter. Little was known about the growing links between extremists and Muslim teenagers then, and even now the scale of the network is a surprise: Sultana, one of the missing British girls believed to have crossed the border to Syria, was following more than 70 extremists on Twitter and had amassed more than 11,000 followers.
Erelle’s intention was to observe exchanges online and build up a picture of how youngsters were being radicalized in France. Then came something unexpected: Melodie attracted the attention of Abou-Bilel, one of ISIS’s senior commanders in Raqqa. He fell in love with her, proposed marriage and invited her to join him in the caliphate.”
“The Real War on Christianity” by Bethany Allen-Ebrahamian and Yochi Dreazen, Foreign Policy.
In the Middle East, the Islamic State is crucifying Christians and demolishing ancient churches. Why is this being met with silence from the halls of Congress to Sunday sermons?
“Small numbers of Christians around the world turned to social media to try to call attention to the Islamic State’s crackdown and turn the word from a symbol of violent extremism into a symbol of solidarity. The Twitter hashtag #WeAreN began to trend globally, and the letter nun became the avatar of thousands of Facebook and Twitter users.
It was a watershed moment for some American Christians, who were only dimly aware — if they were aware at all — of the attacks being committed against Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq and Syria. Christian Solidarity International, a nonprofit that provides support for victims of religious persecution, issued a ‘genocide warning’ for religious minorities in the Middle East as early as 2011, but few American Christians paid any attention. The nun symbol finally brought an otherwise distant conflict home to many in America, creating a ‘sense of identification with Christians in the Middle East,’ said Timothy Morgan, senior editor for global journalism at Christianity Today, a Christian magazine that also replaced its own Twitter avatar with the Arabic letter.”
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images; Andreas Rentz/Getty Images; Kimberly White/Getty Images; ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images; Getty Images