A Japanese Phone Line to Nowhere and Nowhere to Go in Aleppo: The Week in Global-Affairs Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about the world

A green telephone in a phone booth
Chikako Nobuhara / Getty

One Last Thing Before I Go
Miki Meek | This American Life
Producer Miki Meek tells the story of a phone booth in Japan that attracts thousands of people who lost loved ones in the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. A Japanese TV crew from NHK Sendai filmed people inside the phone booth, whose phone is not connected to anything at all.

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Young Rural Women in India Chase Big-City Dreams
Ellen Barry | The New York Times
“The factory floor is going full throttle when the new girls walk in. Everywhere is the thrumming of sewing machines, the hum of fans, the faint burning smell of steam irons. On narrow tables that run between the machines, half-assembled Marks & Spencer miniskirts are thrust forward by fistfuls. The tailors, absorbed in the task of finishing 100 pieces per hour, for once turn their heads to look.

The new girls smell of the village. They have sprinklings of pimples. They woke well before dawn to prepare themselves for their first day of work, leaning over one another’s faces in silence to shape the edges of each eyebrow with a razor blade. Their braids bounce to their hips, tight and glossy, as if woven by a surgeon. On their ankles are silver chains hung with bells, so when they walk in a group, they jingle.”

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Moscow Welcomes the (Would-Be) Sovereign Nations of California and Texas
Mansur Mirovalev | Los Angeles Times
“The arrival of Californian, Texan, Puerto Rican, Northern Irish, Catalan, Italian, and Lebanese secessionists to mingle with activists from several unrecognized separatist territories in former Soviet republics is becoming a tradition as Moscow turns to belligerent, anti-Western nationalism coupled with a readiness to take up arms against its former Soviet vassals.

Moscow uses these gatherings to promote its political agenda, gain more political leverage in the West and push for the lifting of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, a former lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party said.”

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Hot Mess: How Goldman Sachs Lost $1.2 Billion of Libya’s Money
Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel | Bloomberg Businessweek
“U.S.-led sanctions steadily crippled the Libyan economy. Then, in 2003, Qaddafi watched American troops invade Iraq and drag a filthy Saddam Hussein out of a spider hole. A few days later, Qaddafi offered to give up Libya’s WMD programs. Eager to reward good behavior, the U.S. eased sanctions, restoring full relations in 2006. Qaddafi might have been a brutal tyrant who forced citizens to study his Green Book, but he was abruptly a man the West could do business with. So complete was the reversal in his fortunes that on one visit to New York he struck a deal to pitch his Bedouin tent on the Westchester County lawn of Donald Trump.

The reemergence of Libya, and its vast oil wealth, coincided with an era of nearly unbridled avarice on Wall Street—and nowhere more so than at Goldman Sachs. The same year that Qaddafi established the LIA, Goldman posted the largest profit in Wall Street history. The bank paid employees an average of $622,000, with many times that amount available for bankers who nailed down the biggest deals. A stupendously wealthy petro state desperate to buy into a bull market was a dream client—the kind of ‘elephant,’ in Goldman argot, that could make careers.”

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The New Star of Germany’s Far Right
Thomas Meaney | The New Yorker
“For decades, the German far right has been a limited force, with easily recognizable supporters—nicotine-stained ex-Nazis in the sixties and seventies, leather-clad skinheads in the eighties and nineties. Petry is something different, a disarmingly wholesome figure—a former businesswoman with a Ph.D. in chemistry and four children from her marriage to a Lutheran pastor. During a month I spent with her this summer as she drove around Germany giving speeches, she drew connections between politics and laboratory science, sprinkled her speech with Latin phrases, and steered discussions about German culture toward the cantatas of Bach.”

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Darkness and Fear in Aleppo as the Bombs Rain Down
Liz Sly and Louisa Loveluck | The Washington Post
“The bombings at night are the worst. There is no electricity in the rebel-held portion of eastern Aleppo, and the warplanes flying overhead target any light piercing the blackness beneath.

So families huddle together in the dark, gathered in one room so that they don’t die alone, listening to the roar of the jets and waiting for the bombs to fall.

After they do, rescue workers venture out, navigating the rubble and craters left by earlier bombings, to dig out victims without headlights or lamps. They haul them to hospitals swamped with patients being treated on the floor by doctors who barely sleep and must choose which lives to save and which to let go.”