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.
“Erik Prince in the Hot Seat” by Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept
Blackwater’s Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, and Brokering Mercenary Services.
Since 2014, Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force, secretly meeting with a string of African officials. Among the countries where Prince pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets is Libya, which is currently subject to an array of U.S. and United Nations financial and defense restrictions.
Prince engaged in these activities over the objections of his own firm’s corporate leadership. Several FSG colleagues accused him of using his role as chairman to offer Blackwater-like services to foreign governments that could not have been provided by the company, which lacks the capacity, expertise, or even the legal authority to do so.
“Runs in the Family” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, The New Yorker
New findings about schizophrenia rekindle old questions about genes and identity.
In the winter of 2012, I travelled from New Delhi, where I grew up, to Calcutta to visit my cousin Moni. My father accompanied me as a guide and companion, but he was a sullen and brooding presence, lost in a private anguish. He is the youngest of five brothers, and Moni is his firstborn nephew—the eldest brother’s son. Since 2004, Moni, now fifty-two, has been confined to an institution for the mentally ill (a “lunatic home,” as my father calls it), with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He is kept awash in antipsychotics and sedatives, and an attendant watches, bathes, and feeds him through the day.
“A Fragile Peace in Colombia” by Tomas Ayuso and Magnus Boding Hansen, Roads & Kingdoms
An impending peace agreement between the government and FARC guerrillas draws new and old opposition.
In 2000, Commander Wilson Ramirez, a senior explosives expert for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, left his infant daughter on a stranger’s doorstep for them to look after. Ramirez, commonly referred to by his nom de guerre Teofilo, has seen her only a handful of times as he continues the armed struggle against the state. Today, his daughter, Laura, now 16, still lives with Orfany Neira, the woman who raised her as her own in this small village in the remote mountains of central Colombia, where Communist peasants inspired by the Cuban revolution took up arms 52 years ago.
But Laura and her father could soon be reunited for good. Despite missing a March 23 deadline, the guerrilla group and the government are closing in on a historic peace agreement that would end the FARC’s historic insurgency. Ever since the government entered negotiations with the guerrillas in 2013, a tense but steadfast truce has kept hostilities under control, giving way to a growing police and government contingent in previously impenetrable FARC strongholds like Gaitania. But the agreement has detractors as well as proponents on all sides.
“The Life of Rob Ford” by Richard Warnica, National Post
In his brief, tumultuous time in office, Rob Ford never stopped surprising. But for a large subset of the city — through it all and certainly to the end — he was the guy, their everyman saviour.
On that day outside his office, the day he told the world he smoked crack, Ford faced a huddle of cameras unprecedented in Toronto politics. There were big network cameras, all blocky and square, smaller handheld units, and the smart phones that by then almost every reporter held. In one angle, shot from Ford’s right, a single reporter’s face stands out the background. At every revelation — “crack cocaine,” “drunken stupor,” — her chin whipped to the right, her eyelids popping up. You can almost hear the unspoken questions in her mind: “How on earth is this happening? How is this real?”
They are questions that, even in death, Ford still provokes.
“Could a Toll-Free Number Have Saved Brussels?” by Julia Ioffe, Foreign Policy
All the surveillance and intelligence gathering in the world won’t matter if you can’t stop people from becoming terrorists in the first place.
There was the young woman, a medical student from a strict Pakistani family, set on going to Syria. Yousef was able to persuade her to stay home by figuring out the root of her alienation: She felt trapped by her parents’ discipline and by their forcing her to study medicine. He spent hours at their house, arguing with them to let her pursue her dream of studying social work. In the end, he prevailed, and the girl scrapped her plans to go to Syria. After spending hours with a young man, a radical also determined to go to Syria, Yousef zeroed in on his coding skills, all self-taught. He brought him to Microsoft, a partner in Yousef’s organization, which hired and educated the young man, who is now in London for training. Another man “was a full-blown extremist. He was talking ideology like Osama bin Laden,” Yousef told me, “he seemed like an impossible case.” But his plans for going to fight in Syria evaporated as soon as Yousef and the Oslo municipal authorities figured out a way to help him repay his debt — about $80,000 — to a local loan shark. “Once we solved the underlying problem, he left the extremist group right away,” Yousef said. “It was the sole reason he was there.”
Photo credits: Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Paula Bronstein/Getty Images; LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images; Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty Images