Weekend Reads | Firestone and the warlord

Every Sunday a pick of five great feature-length reads from the week just gone.

This week’s top pick is ProPublica’s harrowing investigation into the American company Firestone, and how it helped to bring war criminal Charles Taylor to power in Liberia. The Daily Beast had the story of Matt Trevithick and Daniel Seckman’s journey into Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, where if caught by the Taliban, they were ‘as good as dead’. Adrian Humphreys detailed the often upside-down nature of the modern Mafia at The National Post, with the story of a mob hit devised in Canada, but carried out in the heart of Sicily. Matter featured Charles Bowden’s extensive three-part investigation into the 1985 murder and torture of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, with the veteran journalist essentially posing one question: do you believe a bunch of corrupt cops or Mexico’s equally corrupt ‘leading’ citizens? Lastly we have Gregory D. Johnsen’s tale of a narrow escape in Yemen, where only a split second decision prevented him being kidnapped in broad daylight. (23rd November 2014)

Firestone and the warlord T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones | ProPublica (80 min)

Heart of darkness Matt Trevithick and Daniel Seckman | The Daily Beast (37 min)

Gangland confidential Adrian Humphreys | National Post (14 min)

Blood on the corn Charles Bowden and Molly Molloy | Matter (66 min)

How I escaped a kidnapping attempt in Yemen Gregory D. Johnsen | BuzzFeed (21 min)

Click the individual stories above or head over to Readlists.com to get this whole collection as a reading list. To get the Weekend Reads newsletter sent straight to your inbox every Sunday just enter your email here.

When Israelis and Arabs for once agreed

On Lawrence Wright’s Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

“The British folded. They conceded that the Mandate was “unworkable” and in February 1947 handed the problem of how to divide the Holy Land to the United Nations. Still, Begin pressed his offensive. When the authorities flogged teenage members of the Irgun, Begin had four British soldiers flogged in reprisal. When the British hanged three Irgunists in 1947, he had two British soldiers hanged.” Image Credit

William Cohen | The New York Review of Books

Read It Now (16 min)

Salvage beast

Is Captain Nick Sloane the most valuable man on the seas?

“Most recently he directed the removal of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that ran aground and capsized in 2012 off the Tuscan island of Giglio, with the loss of 32 lives. For more than two years he stayed on the island…The routine was hard on him. Speculative salvage is what he prefers. He is an adventurer at heart.” Image Credit

William Langewiesche | Vanity Fair

Read It Now (30 min)

Assassination and the American language

A former CIA operative on the thin line between ‘targeted killing’ and ‘assassination’

“…when you watched the Predator strikes light up the night sky just across the border; and then, when you took that same picture and moved it into a file for archiving, it sure felt like an assassination…The discomfort existed because it felt like we were doing something, on a large scale, that we’d sworn not to.” Image Credit

Elliot Ackerman | The New Yorker

Read It Now (3 min)

Out of Ebola

The story of Kent Brantly, in the words of those who saved him

“People have a septic kind of phase where their body’s trying to fight the virus so hard, all your immune cells are activated; you can have organ failure and die just from being septic. Then there’s a gastroenteritis phase with cholera-like diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration, which can also kill you.” Image Credit

Sean Flynn | GQ

Read It Now (17 min)

War of the worlds

The ugly battle over who really discovered the first Earth-like planet

“The two teams evolved into fiercely competitive dynasties, fighting to have the most—and most tantalizing—worlds to their names. Their rivalry was good for science; within a decade, each had found on the order of a hundred planets around a wide variety of stars. Soon the hunt narrowed to a bigger prize. The teams went searching for smaller, rocky planets they could crown “Earth-like.”” Image Credit

Lee Billings | Wired

Read It Now (17 min)

Chris Christie is back

Meeting Chris Christie as he makes an ‘artful’ comeback with an eye on 2016

“Several of his top aides had ordered the closing of two on-ramp lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, creating a four-day traffic jam in apparent retaliation for the refusal of the town’s mayor, a Democrat, to endorse Christie. As a political scandal, “bridge-gate” — or “the bridge thing,” as Christie described it to me — had so much going for it…” Image Credit

Mark Leibovich | The New York Times Magazine

Read It Now (32 min)

The myth of the Caliphate

On the political history of an idea

“The caliphate’s more recent history under the Ottomans shows why the institution might be better thought of as a political fantasy—a blank slate just as nebulous as the “dictatorship of the proletariat”—that contemporary Islamists are largely making up as they go along.” Image Credit

Nick Danforth | Foreign Affairs

Read It Now (9 min)

Stop trying to save the World

Why big ideas are ‘destroying’ international development

“You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand the underlying dynamic here: Cheap food is boring. In many developing countries, Duflo and Banerjee found that even the poorest people could afford more than 2,000 calories of staple foods every day. But given the choice between the fourth bowl of rice in one day and the first cigarette, many people opt for the latter.” Image Credit

Michael Hobbes | The New Republic

Read It Now (26 min)

The man who made ‘Tetris’

On Alexey Pajitnov, creator of the legendary video game

“The KGB, then, was heavily interested in applying Pajitnov’s speech recognition experiments to an audio system that would start recording automatically if and when certain keywords, deemed dangerous to the state or incriminating to the speaker, were uttered.” Image Credit

Jagger Gravning | Motherboard

Read It Now (12 min)