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.
“The Narco-terror Trap” by Ginger Thompson, ProPublica
The DEA warns that drugs are funding terror. An examination of cases raises questions about whether the agency is stopping threats or staging them.
The DEA strongly defends the effectiveness of such sting operations, claiming that they are a useful way to identify criminals who pose a threat to the United States before they act. Lou Milione, a senior oﬃcial at the agency, told me, “One of the things the DEA is kind of in the business of is almost all of our investigations are proactive.” But Russell Hanks, a former senior American diplomat, who got a ﬁrsthand look at some of the DEA’s narco-terrorism targets during the time he served in West Africa, told me, “The DEA provided everything these men needed to commit a crime, then said, ‘Wow, look what they did.’” He added, “This wasn’t terrorism — this was the manipulation of weak-minded people, in weak countries, in order to pad arrest records.”
The origin story of Gabriel García Márquez’s classic.
Signed up for $5,000 on the basis of a “piece of shit” contract, the book would sell 50 million copies worldwide, becoming a year-in-year-out fixture on the backlist. Gregory Rabassa watched with mingled pride and unease as his work—paid for in a lump sum “of about a thousand dollars,” like the work of a gardener “spreading manure on a suburban lawn”—became at once the most acclaimed novel in translation and the most popular. García Márquez himself read One Hundred Years of Solitude in the Harper & Row edition and pronounced it better than his Spanish original. He called Rabassa “the best Latin American writer in the English language.”
“The kissing bug disease and the woman who would stop it” by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Al Jazeera America
The WHO’s pay-to-play regulatory system inhibits innovation, critics say, exposing fault lines in global public health.
Maria Teresa Segundo remembers thinking the deaths were normal. Her grandparents and older neighbors would suddenly see swelling in their knees or wrists. They’d be very tired. And then, one day, they’d be gone.
“We thought it was just age,” says the 50-year-old woman from the Guarani ethnic group, who has the loose skin and shrinking body of someone decades older. Then, in the 1990s, the Bolivian government began reaching out to communities to explain that the deaths were being caused by a disease called Chagas, which is transmitted by a bug called the vinchuca. This pest, known in the U.S. as the “kissing bug,” lives in the walls of mud huts in the eastern Bolivian region known as the Chaco and elsewhere. The beetlelike insect feeds off of the blood of animals and people.
“This Australian Says He and His Dead Friend Invented Bitcoin” by Sam Biddle and Andy Cush, Gizmodo
Uncovering the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin.
Writing about Satoshi Nakamoto, the Bitcoin originator’s pseudonym, is a treacherous exercise. Publications like the New York Times, Fast Company, and theNew Yorker have taken unsuccessful stabs at Satoshi’s identity. In every instance, the evidence either hasn’t added up or those implicated have issued public denials. And then there was Newsweek, whose 2014 story “The Face Behind Bitcoin” is easily the most disastrous attempt at revealing the identity of Satoshi. The magazine identified a modest California engineer, whose birth name was Satoshi Nakamoto but who went by Dorian, as the creator of Bitcoin. The story resulted in a worldwide media frenzy, a car chase, and—after Dorian’s repeated denials and legal threats—a great deal of embarrassment for Newsweek.
“The Syrians Stuck in No Man’s Land” by Sara Elizabeth Williams, Foreign Policy
Twelve thousand refugees are battling disease and exhaustion in a barren stretch of desert along the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Illnesses have spread like wildfire. Scabies and dysentery have been documented by the NGOs that are granted access to the area, and in a statement on the crisis, officials from UNHCR noted that women have given birth at the berms, in squalid and unhygienic conditions. The assistance reaching the refugees is minimal: NGOs provide one meal a day, some nappies, and medication, which is delivered by the Jordanian armed forces that manage access to the area.
People have also died — a least 10 in the last several months. Some were older people dying of illnesses or heart defects, but at least a handful have been children.
Photo credits: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images; VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images; George Frey/Getty Images; KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images