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.
“A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes” by Ian Urbina, the New York Times
For 110 days and across two seas and three oceans, crews stalked a fugitive fishing ship considered the world’s most notorious poacher.
“Aboard the Bob Barker, in the South Atlantic — As the Thunder, a trawler considered the world’s most notorious fish poacher, began sliding under the sea a couple of hundred miles south of Nigeria, three men scrambled aboard to gather evidence of its crimes.
In bumpy footage from their helmet cameras, they can be seen grabbing everything they can over the next 37 minutes — the captain’s logbooks, a laptop computer, charts and a slippery 200-pound fish. The video shows the fishing hold about a quarter full with catch and the Thunder’s engine room almost submerged in murky water. ‘There is no way to stop it sinking,’ the men radioed back to the Bob Barker, which was waiting nearby. Soon after they climbed off, the Thunder vanished below.
It was an unexpected end to an extraordinary chase.”
“The Web We Have to Save” by Hossein Derakhshan, Matter
The rich, diverse, free web that I loved — and spent years in an Iranian jail for — is dying. Why is nobody stopping it?
Seven months ago, I sat down at the small table in the kitchen of my 1960s apartment, nestled on the top floor of a building in a vibrant central neighbourhood of Tehran, and I did something I had done thousands of times previously. I opened my laptop and posted to my new blog. This, though, was the first time in six years. And it nearly broke my heart.
A few weeks earlier, I’d been abruptly pardoned and freed from Evin prison in northern Tehran. I had been expecting to spend most of my life in those cells: In November 2008, I’d been sentenced to nearly 20 years in jail, mostly for things I’d written on my blog.
“A Black Cat in a Dark Room” by Sarah A. Topol, BuzzFeed
Radiation. Government conspiracy. Mass hysteria. There are plenty of theories as to why the residents of a tiny Kazakh mining region keep falling asleep for days at a time, but no answers. BuzzFeed News spends a week there and tries to stay awake.
“It was a crisp April morning in 2010 when the first person in town fell ill. The handful of women who manned the market in Krasnogorsk, a town in northwestern Kazakhstan, were exchanging the usual gossip over morning tea — how everyone had slept, whose children were causing trouble, what was happening with apartment repairs or their lack thereof. Lyubov Belkova, who friends call Lyuba for short, had finished first as usual, and walked back to her stall by the entrance. Someone asked Lyuba a question. When no answer came, the women looked over to notice the plump, middle-aged woman slumped in her seat, head down on her table of socks and hats.”
“Breaking Ground” by Amy Qin, California Sunday Magazine
China may soon be the world’s biggest producer of wine. In his father’s hometown, a prominent architect — and unlikely winemaker — sees a new Napa.
“When Ma Qingyun visits Yushan, a rural town an hour outside of Xi’an, in China’s Shaanxi province, he travels in a chauffeured black Mercedes-Benz. His car speeds eastward along the newly paved roads, past fields of corn and wheat, the color of which, depending on the season, falls somewhere along a gradient of green to gold. He knows he is nearing his destination when the rugged outline of the Qinling Mountains begins to fill the frame of the passenger window, and the sky, a brownish blue even on Xi’an’s better days, suddenly, almost imperceptibly, clears up.”
“Drinking Games” by Mark Baker, Foreign Policy
As former Soviet republics develop closer ties with the West, Russia is pulling out all the stops to keep them in the fold. Amid this battle, Moldova’s wine industry has become the unlikeliest front.
“On a sunny spring afternoon this year, winemaker Cristina Frolov was leading an impromptu tour through ridges of dried mud, gravel, and shoots of green at her family’s winery in Moldova. The season’s grape vines at Castel Mimi were just beginning to flower. The central Codru wine region, where the vineyard is located, is traditionally known for its white grapes. But Frolov explained that they’ve had success in recent years growing higher-value-added red varieties such as cabernet sauvignon. The experiment is part of her plan to cater to Western wine drinkers, who are often seen as having more demanding palates.
The 270-acre vineyard, near the village of Bulboaca, about 20 miles southeast of Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, produces an average of 1 million bottles of wine annually. Castel Mimi is part of a network of some 100 vineyards in Moldova that export tens of millions of bottles every year, putting the country’s wine industry in the top 20 globally. In fact, wine is at the core of the country’s economy, accounting for one-fifth of its GDP and employing one-quarter of its labor force, according to a 2010 government report.”
Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images; Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Mohammed Al Turki; Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images; Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images; Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images; Oleg Nikishin/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images