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The Best Readings From 2012

Our favourite long-form international affairs readings from the past year.

By: /
31 December, 2012
By: OpenCanada Staff

Long-form articles have staked their place in a swiftly changing media landscape. In 2012, journalists around the world demonstrated the value of a well-told story – even in a world where the news cycle runs at warp speed. As  Canada’s hub for international affairs, OpenCanada aggregates the best articles with an global angle from around the World Wide Web. You can browse through the full list in our Readings section. Here, we’ve selected a few of our favourite long-form readings from  from a variety of publications over the past year. These articles show how in depth reporting keeps us reading beyond the lead paragraph, bringing us closer to the issues that shape our world.


March 23

How Ottawa runs on oil

Paul Wells and Tamsin McMahon, with Alex Ballingall for Maclean’s

How Western Canadian money and influence are driving everything that happens in the nation’s capital.

June 15

Cocaine Incorporated

Patrick Radden Keefe for the New York Times Magazine

How Joaquín Guzmán, aka El Chapo, the CEO of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel and “a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” built an empire worth billions.

July 9

After America

Dexter Filkins for the New Yorker

What will happen to Afghanistan after NATO leaves? Civil war? A Taliban resurgence? Federalism?


Irrawaddy Daze

Jason Motlagh for the Virginia Quarterly Review

Motlagh takes a trip down the Irrawaddy, Burma’s river highway, and finds a country getting ready for the world.

September 7

The secretive world of the Communist Party

Martine Bulard for Le Monde Diplomatique

Inside today’s Chinese Communist Party.

September 12

Obama’s Way

Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair

After spending six months hanging around with the president, Lewis gives an close-up look at Obama’s thinking during the lead-up to the war in Libya.

September 28

SNC-Lavalin’s Gadhafi disaster: The inside story

Greg McArthur and Graeme Smith for the Globe and Mail

On the Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin’s disastrous dealings in Libya with the Gadhafi clan.

September 28

Georgia’s Next Leader May Be a Billionaire Zookeeper with Albino Rapper Children

Michael Idov for the New Republic

A profile of the eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who would go on to win the parliamentary election to become the leader of Georgia.

October 18

The Scariest Little Corner of the World

Luke Mogelson for the New York Times

The city of Zaranj, which sits in the southwest corner of Afghanistan, close to the border with Iran, sees a steady flow of humans, goods, drugs, fuel, weapons, and currency pass through.

October 25, 2012

Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations

Craig Whitlock for the Washington Post

Inside Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. military base in Djibouti that is “the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.”

October 22

Boss Rail

Evan Osnos for the New Yorker

How a high-speed train crash in Wenzhou exposed how prevalent corruption has become in China – corruption that threatens the Communist Party’s unchallenged reign.


The Hunt For “Geronimo”

Mark Bowden for Vanity Fair

Weaving together accounts from Obama and top decision-makers, Bowden reconstructs the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, from the first intelligence to Bin Laden’s burial at sea.

November 15

The Hackers of Damascus

Stephan Faris for Bloomberg BusinessWeek

The fight for Syria is taking place both on the streets and on the Internet.


Live on TV: The Fall of Greece

Chris Heath for GQ

On June 7, ten days before Greece’s second election of the year, Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris hit Communist Party MP Liana Kanelli three times during a television debate after Kanelli had swiped at him with a newspaper after he had thrown a glass of water in the face of a third guest. Heath considers the context of that incident, “a cautionary tale not just for the future of Greece but for the rest of us, too.”

December 17, 2012

The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico

David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab for the New York Times

The New York Times picks up where a Wal-Mart internal investigation of the company’s Mexican branch left off and finds widespread corruption: “Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter.”

December 29

Breaking Caste

Stephanie Nolen for the Globe and Mail

A multi-part series from Nolen and the Globe about an extraordinary school that gives India’s Dalit girls a chance at a better life.

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