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 death of Ishrat Jahan and the coverup that followed” by Ishan Marvel, Caravan
On 15 June 2004, four people suspected to be Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives were killed by members of the Crime Branch (CB) of Ahmedabad City Police in an early-morning shootout on the outskirts of the city.
“Top police officials such as KR Kaushik, who was the commissioner of the Ahmedabad police at that time, and the CB claimed that Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Ghulam Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were on a mission to assassinate Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat who is now India’s prime minister, for his alleged inaction during the Gujarat riots of 2002.
Four years later, in September 2009, the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate SP Tamang was the first to call the incident a ‘fake encounter.’ In his 243-page, hand-written report, Tamang explained how the concerned policemen had abducted the deceased from Mumbai and brought them to Ahmedabad on 12 June 2004, before killing them on the night of 14 June in police custody. According to Tamang, the policemen concocted the narrative of an encounter the next morning. The report concluded that these policemen had committed ‘cold-blooded murder,’ and planted weapons and explosives to implicate the deceased, with the motive of earning the appreciation of the then CM.”
“Propagandalands” by Peter Pomerantsev, Granta
Of all the things Tetyana thought she might become, a soldier was never one of them.
“Yet here she was. Not a regular soldier, more like some sort of general, someone able to command life and death. Sitting in her father’s apartment, in her pyjamas, with her hand over a keyboard, knowing that if she pressed one key she might send many very real people to a very real death, and if she pressed another the revolution and all that she, her friends and thousands of others had fought for might be lost.
Tetyana ran the Facebook page of Hromadske Sektor (the Civic Sector), one of the main opposing groups in the Ukrainian revolution against President Yanukovich and his backers in the Kremlin. It was her job to propagate the idea of positive, peaceful change: videos of a protester playing a piano out on the street when facing a row of riot police; pics of protesters holding mirrors up to the security forces; a drawing of a cop duelling with a protester with the cop holding a gun and the protester ‘shooting’ with a Facebook sign. Yanukovich controlled the old media but online activists could organise everything from medical help to legal aid, coordinating million-strong protests and raising funds from Ukrainians abroad for food and shelter.” “The FBI vs. FIFA” by Shaun Assael and Brett Forrest, ESPN
The exclusive account of how a small band of federal agents and an outsized corrupt official brought down the sports world’s biggest governing body.
“Chuck Blazer looked out the window of his $18,000-a-month Trump Tower apartment, with its view of New York’s Central Park. Most tourists on Fifth Avenue below could only dream of his kind of high-rise life. But after years of lavish excess, he was no longer fixated on the trappings of his success. On this day, standing only in an adult diaper as a small team of FBI agents prepared to wire him with a recording device, Blazer just wanted to stay out of prison.
The native New Yorker hardly resembled his image as a statesman of soccer — an infamous bon vivant who made so much money for the game’s international governing body, FIFA, that he was hailed as its virtuoso deal maker. He dined often with sheikhs and heirs at the trendiest restaurants and attended society events with a rotating cast of striking companions. His personal travel blog pictured him with the likes of Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin and Miss Universe. At 400 pounds, with an unruly white beard and mane, he looked like Santa Claus, talked like a bricklayer and lived like a 1-percenter.” “Moving to Mars” by Tom Kizzia, The New Yorker
Preparing for the longest, loneliest voyage ever.
“On a clear, cold day in March, 1898, a converted seal-hunting ship named the Belgica gave up struggling against the pack ice of the Bellingshausen Sea and resigned itself to the impending Antarctic winter. The ship was carrying a scientific expedition with an international crew, rare in that phase of polar exploration: nine Belgians, six Norwegians, two Poles, a Romanian, and an American, the ship’s doctor. The expedition’s organizer, a Belgian naval lieutenant named Adrien de Gerlache, had handpicked officers and scientists for their expertise; the mariners who slept in the forecastle had been signed up more casually. None had been selected for character, resilience, or survival instinct. The crew had expected the Belgica to winter over in warmer latitudes. No ship had ever spent a winter locked in the Antarctic ice.
An eerie despondency settled over officers and crew as the days grew short and ice groaned against the hull. Low on coal and lacking proper gear, they sewed winter coats out of blankets. Conversation trailed away, and dinners of tinned meat were greeted with derision. Starting in May, the sun disappeared for two months, and the crew gradually fell apart. A young Belgian geophysicist succumbed to a weak heart, and was buried through a hole in the ice. De Gerlache and the ship’s captain, Georges LeCointe, wrote out their wills and retired to their rooms. One crewman, convinced that the others wanted to kill him, hid away at night, while another tried to leave the ship, announcing plans to walk home to Belgium. Even the ship’s cat withdrew and died. The American doctor, Frederick A. Cook, wrote in his journal that a ‘spell of indifference’ had afflicted him and his shipmates. ‘Around the tables, in the laboratory, and in the forecastle, men are sitting about sad and dejected, lost in dreams of melancholy,’ he noted. ‘We are at this moment as tired of each other’s company as we are of the cold monotony of the black night and of the unpalatable sameness of our food.'” “Are the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Trouble?” by Dave Roberts and Robert Whiting, Foreign Policy
With an out-of-control budget, bumbling leadership, and embarrassing scandals, the city of the future is looking to the past for guidance.
“There’s a sinking feeling in Japan about the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The city ditched its overly expensive centerpiece — a $2 billion stadium — and the official logo, under allegations of plagiarism. The preparations have been plagued by embarrassing cost overruns, ineffective leadership, finger pointing at all levels, and widespread doubts that a seemingly inept Japanese government will have everything ready in time.
This might be par for the course as far as recent games go, certainly in relation to budget overruns: Every single Olympic Games between 1960 and 2012 for which there are reliable data (roughly 60 percent) exceeded its budget — by an average of 179 percent. And though the 1976 Montreal Olympic Committee began confidently — Montreal’s mayor, Jean Drapeau, even proclaimed, ‘The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby’ — they finished nearly eight times over budget. The price tag for the most recent Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, may have been an obscene $66.7 billion — more than five times over budget and surpassing Beijing’s 2008 Olympics as the most expensive games ever. No wonder no developed democratic country wants to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.”
Image credits: Aleksey Chernyshev/AFP/Getty Images; Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images; Aleksey Chernyshev/AFP/Getty Images; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images; Photo Illustration by NASA/JPL via Getty Images; Yan Walton/AFP/Getty Images