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Helping Dad Die: A Daughter's Story

In the U.K., Britons with terminal illnesses or incurable diseases have nowhere to go if they want help to die. A daughter's personal story about finding a way to ease her father's suffering and the right-to-die debate:

Had my father lived in, say, Utrecht rather than the West Country, he could simply have turned to his GP for help. Both doctor-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia have been available since 1981 for Dutch people with a terminal illness or suffering severely from an incurable disease, and account for about 3 per cent of deaths in the Netherlands.

Other European countries have followed the Dutch lead: doctor-assisted suicide is available for the terminally ill and people with conditions like my father’s in Luxembourg and Switzerland, as is voluntary euthanasia in Belgium. And in the US, four states (Washington, Montana, Oregon and Vermont) offer doctor-assisted suicide to the terminally ill. Yet only one country is willing to help terminally ill, severely disabled or elderly and seriously ill foreigners – and, with the assistance of one of the three organisations non-nationals can access, more than 250 Britons have now died there. My father was right: he would have to go to Switzerland.

PUBLISHED: March 14, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3640 words)

Voices from Baghdad

A reporter returns to Iraq after 10 years and, after after speaking with old friends and colleagues, finds a city "traumatized by violence"

They spoke generously and the words lent perspective to these new, unhappy days in Iraq. The first years of democracy were expected to be hard. But this year, with the third national election in April, these men have been frustrated by their terror-torn existence. Every new blast cracks their hopes for a normal life.

“What does it mean if work is good but you have to worry about survival all the time?” said Tharwat al-Ani, the trade ministry official. “Every year, it’s been something new: car bombs or IEDs or kidnappings.

PUBLISHED: March 7, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5122 words)

Rahm Emanuel: Mayor America

Has the mayor of Chicago reinvented the city’s notorious political machine—and does he covet the White House?

When Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago in 2011, he proclaimed: “I will not be a patient mayor.” It was an understatement. The former chief of staff to Barack Obama returned home with a near-legendary reputation for his take-no-prisoners style of operating. That is how he acquired the nickname “Rahmbo”. He once famously mailed a dead fish to a pollster with whom he had fallen out. There are few significant Washington figures who have not felt the lash of his tongue. In Emanuel’s lexicon, the word “f***” is almost an endearment. Emanuel, 54, lost half a middle finger in a kitchen accident when he was a teenager. It was an amputation that – in Obama’s unforgettable phrase – rendered him “practically mute”.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 14, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4200 words)

Welcome to Bakersfield, California

Carl Cole escaped to Bakersfield, Calif. hoping to build a better life for his family. He ended up helping make the town a "foreclosure capital of America":

Crisp & Cole began paying straw buyers up to $20,000 each so they would pose as home buyers on loan application documents, federal prosecutors say. The properties were then flipped from “owner” to “owner”, generating fees for the firm and profits for people with pieces of the deals. “What we found is that local people with knowledge of how the system worked were taking advantage,” says Kirk Sherriff, an assistant US attorney in Fresno, California, where the case is being prosecuted.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 7, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4196 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Washingtonian, New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Financial Times and Full Stop.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 24, 2014

How Japan Stood Up to Old Age

A quarter of Japanese are over 65. A look at how the country is supporting its aging population:

In 1990, Japan introduced the “Gold Plan”, expanding long-term care services. Ten years later, it started to worry about how to pay for it, and imposed mandatory insurance for long-term care. All those over 40 are obliged to contribute. The scheme’s finances are augmented with a 50 per cent contribution from taxes and recipients are charged a co-payment on a means-tested basis. Even then, there have been financing problems and the government has had to scale back the level of services provided. Still, Campbell calls it “one of the broadest and most generous schemes in the world”.

As a result of these and other adaptations, he argues, Japan has struck a reasonable balance between providing care and controlling costs. Other countries, including Britain, have studied Japan closely for possible lessons. Of course, 15 years of deflation have left Japan’s overall finances in lousy shape, with a public debt-to-output ratio of 240 per cent, the highest in the world. Spending on healthcare per capita, however, is among the lowest of advanced nations, though outcomes are among the best. That is partly down to lifestyle. Most Japanese eat a healthy, fish-based diet and consume less processed food and sugary drinks than westerners. Obesity is far less common. So are violence and drug abuse. But even taking into account such factors, Japan gets a big bang for its healthcare buck. Every two years, the government renegotiates reimbursement fees with doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, routinely imposing restraints or reductions. Primary care is given priority over specialist treatment: the Japanese visit the doctor far more often than Americans but receive far fewer surgical interventions.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 17, 2014
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4294 words)

The North Koreans Making It Down South

More than 25,000 North Korean defectors have escaped to South Korea to build new lives for themselves, but transitioning to a foreign way of living isn't always so easy:

"Defectors arriving in South Korea are debriefed intensively by security agents before going to the Hanawon rehabilitation complex, where they are given training in the skills considered necessary to lead a normal life in the South. Adapting can still be a struggle: many North Korean defectors are dumbfounded by the slang they encounter in the South, with its plethora of loanwords from English, while their distinctive accent instantly marks them out from the rest of the population. They are also confronted by a maze of unfamiliar technology; one charity worker tells of the humiliation of a middle-aged female defector who stood prodding helplessly at an automated teller machine while those waiting behind her sniggered impatiently."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 6, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3235 words)

Growing up Muslim in America

What it's like to grow up as a Muslim in America today. Although Muslims embrace their faith while facing discrimination, they also suffer from anxiety as a result from racial profiling:

"For me, this issue is personal. My son was born in America but has an Arabic surname and is growing up bilingual, although we are not religious in any direction. He has my lighter hair but his father’s colouring. Once, in an airport, a woman asked me what he was 'mixed with'. A look that fell just short of horror passed over her face when I replied, 'Iraqi.' I shudder to think of my son being on the receiving end of that look, just because of his name or the way his skin tans at the merest hint of summer.

"I am one of many parents who worry. Arwa Aziz, a 41-year-old mother of two boys, moved her youngest son Adam, now 13, from public school to a private Muslim school in Brooklyn because she was concerned about him being bullied. 'He got so shy as he was growing up, so I just thought he would be better off there,' Aziz told me while we talked at the Arab American Association, showing each other photos of our boys. 'I tell my kids that they’re second-generation Americans, I won’t let them make us feel weak.'"
PUBLISHED: July 19, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3850 words)

Welcome to Mogadishu

There are glimmers of peace found in Somalia's capital—in a country that hasn't had a functioning government for 22 years:

"One brightly painted brick at a time, the shelled-out city is coming back to life. Along Mogadishu’s tree-lined drags, shopfronts form a tableau of hope. Outsized poster-paint impressions of burgers, fizzy drink bottles and doughnuts daub walls where bullets once made their mark. Renderings of hairdryers, laptops and pressure pumps advertise the high-tech wares inside. Walls and gates are painted the same bright powder-blue base which matches the sea, the sky and the national flag.

But the revival goes beyond shopkeeping. Scaffolding shapes the skyline, livestock and fish markets are back in action and women plunge into the sea from stunning white sands. Surrounded by the crescent of ruins that cradles the old fishing port, I speak to a young fisherman as he smears the hazel sludge of sea lion liver oil over upturned boats. He says he hopes Somalia’s latest government, formed in 2012 in the most legitimate process in years, will last."
PUBLISHED: May 31, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4138 words)