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.
“Why Europe Can’t Find The Jihadis In Its Midst” Mitch Prothero, Buzzfeed News
A small, well-organized ISIS cell has been at work in the heart of Europe for years, recruiting criminals, exploiting freedom of movement, and evading counterterrorism efforts. This spring and summer, as multiple attacks rocked Europe, Mitch Prothero spoke to the people shuttling between investigating the crimes that had already happened, while struggling to prevent new ones.
he assignment given to the Belgian police in the summer of 2014 was straightforward but high stakes: Follow two men suspected of involvement with ISIS through the streets of Brussels. Find out who they meet, record what they say. A court had approved wiretaps for the men’s phones and for the use of tracking devices, and a specialized team of covert operators from the secret service had broken into the men’s homes and vehicles and planted bugs and GPS devices without leaving a trace.
Rather unusually, there had been little problem getting senior police officials and the courts that oversee Belgium’s personal privacy laws to approve the mission. Partly, it was the two men’s history: They had long criminal records — drug dealing, petty theft, and the occasional violent robbery — and now, unbeknownst to them, had been placed on a terrorism watch list.
“Teaching Abroad in Tumultuous Times” by Alizah Salario, Pacific Standard
There’s been an uptick in terrorist attacks throughout the West. So why is the U.S. considered safe, and Europe a risk?
“Aren’t you glad you aren’t there now?” my mother asked me during the recent attempted coup in Turkey. She’d said something similar after the horrific terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, and after the March bombing along Istiklal Street in the city’s cosmopolitan center, where I’d shopped and dined and danced until 2:00 a.m. many times.
Granted, a lot has changed in Turkey — and the world over — since I moved back to the United States in 2009. In the past year alone, there have been high-profile attacks in Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, Nice — and Orlando and San Bernardino. Lifestyle magazines like Town & Country and Conde Nast Traveler turn veiled questions about terror like “Is Europe Safe to Travel This Summer?” into buzzy headlines. The xenophobic rhetoric of a presidential candidate at home and a refugee crisis abroad have stoked fears of otherness and unleashed a poisonous strain of hate. In part, a similar brand of black and white thinking (“Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists”) during the years post-9/11 is what compelled me to move abroad, and view the world from a different perspective.
“The Race for a Zika Vaccine” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, New Yorker
In the throes of an epidemic, researchers investigate how to inoculate against the disease.
Barouch’s and Michael’s teams were now racing forward with their Zika project. “It became a major focus for all of us,” Barouch said. A frenetic energy took over the lab: postdoctoral researchers and graduate students stayed late into the evening, wolfing down takeout dinners and shuttling samples between the centrifuges and incubators.
The vaccination experiments were launched in early April. Larocca immunized the mice with a “sham” shot, the naked-DNA vaccine, or the inactivated-virus vaccine. They waited for four weeks for the inoculum to generate an immune response. Then Abbink—gloved and gowned, draped in a sterile blue smock in the isolation room—prepared the so-called challenge virus, which had been kept in tissue-culture flasks brimming with red broth, and they injected the mice with the virus.
“Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters’” by Scott Shane, New York Times
Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.
Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.
Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said.
“Colombia’s War Just Ended. A New Wave of Violence Is Beginning.” by Elizabeth Dickinson, Foreign Policy
As the country declares peace after five decades of war against the FARC, a scramble for territory and control over the drug trade is emboldening new, anarchic gangs.
They killed him on this very road, Liney Maria recalls, pointing to the dusty, unpaved trail that passes her home and continues a quarter mile farther up the mountain. He was shot in broad daylight, right on the main avenue of the barrio de invasión, as informal settlements like this one are called. His death was the third or fourth targeted killing in July; she lost count. Nor does Maria remember meeting the victim very often in life. But the 37-year-old mother is well-acquainted with the fear these murders are meant to instill.
“The things that are happening here, these deaths,” she said, “are causing a lot of concern in the neighborhood.” Families close to the victims have fled, fearing they could be next. The warnings, like the gunshots, are heard loud and clear.
Photo credits: Elizabeth Dickinson/Foreign Policy; FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP/Getty Images; Christopher Furlong/Getty Images; Mario Tama/Getty Images; FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images; RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images