This weekly column is The Daily Beast's contribution to the growing longreads community on Twitter, where fans of longform journalism collect and share their favorite stories. Follow along through the hashtag #longreads, and visit Longreads.com and Longform.org for suggestions throughout the week. To take these stories on the go, we recommend using smartphone applications such as Instapaper or Read It Later. You can download either at your mobile phone's application store. To send us suggestions, tweet the story to @ thedailybeast on Twitter with the hashtag #longreads.
1. “The Apostate” Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker
Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Paul Haggis spent three and a half decades and thousands of dollars advancing into the upper echelons of the Church of Scientology. Filled with celebrities and privileges for the elites who stock its ranks, Scientology exerts a powerful force on Hollywood types like Haggis even after they realize, as he puts it, the whole thing is “madness.” Wright delves deep—25,000 words deep—into the church’s caste-like structure and bizarre beliefs, revealing for the first time that the FBI is investigating Scientology for possible trafficking charges. Haggis left the church after it tacitly endorsed Prop 8, California’s ballot initiative banning gay marriage. “I was in a cult for thirty-four years,” he says. “Everyone else could see it; I don’t know why I couldn’t.”
2. “The Lockerbie Deal” David Rose, Vanity Fair
In 2009, Scotland released the convicted bomber who blew up a plane over Lockerbie, killing 259 people. After a doctor said he had three months to live, the prisoner was given a “compassionate release,” and sent home to Libya. But he’s still alive two years later, and now Vanity Fair’s investigation reveals that deep ties between Tony Blair’s “New Labour” government and Gaddafi’s regime were behind the release. Evidence suggests that the release came as a trade that ensured Blair’s personal profit and the served the interests of Britain’s most powerful corporations.
3. “Inside the Secret Service” Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic
A rare look behind the iron curtain of the Secret Service, the most tight-lipped agency in the U.S. government. Ambinder follows “Jack,” the lead agent on the service’s detail for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and teams of agents preparing to protect foreign dignitaries at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He sees their hideouts, the fake-grass tarps they hide under, and the run-down Brooklyn factory they use as a base during U.N. events. Secret service agents are master schedulers and elite travel agents, and they steadfastly refuse intelligence agencies' requests that they spy on the people they are assigned to protect.
4. " Why Did The Apprentice Fail in Russia?" Peter Pomerantsev, London Review of Books
In 2006, the author helped a British television company conquer the booming Russian television market, with the idea of remaking popular Western reality shows. But they quickly realized the Russian versions of shows like The Apprentice that celebrated “the outstanding individual, the bright extrovert” were doomed to fail. Why? Because Russians didn’t buy the rules; they are much more likely to admire people like Vladimir Putin, who operate in the shadows and stiff-arm their way to the top.
5. “Demise of the Dictators" Fouad Ajami, Newsweek
For decades, the social maxim guiding the nations of the Middle East has been, “Better 60 years of tyranny than one day of anarchy.” After so long, how did that logic change so quickly and in so many nations? Ajami traces Arab nations’ complacency to an attempted uprising in Syria in 1982, that was put down brutally by the country’s regime, breaking the people’s spirit for what seemed permanently. But now, their list of grievances—including their rulers’ fantastic wealth juxtaposed with their own poverty, young men and women without a destiny—has grown too long and tragic to ignore.
6. “Angry Birds: The Story Behind the iPhone Phenomenon” Paul Kendall, The Daily Telegraph
Burdened by overhead costs of designing games for multiple platforms, the men behind Rovio, a small Finnish company, decided the iPhone was their ticket to success. When one designer randomly drew a picture of round, wingless birds with bushy eyebrows, they knew they had an idea. Now, Angry Birds is the most popular app in the world, is played by everyone from David Cameron to Dick Cheney and is poised to become one of the biggest cartoon franchises in history. Kendall goes inside Rovio’s headquarters to learn the complicated physics that make Angry Birds work, and the calculated business plan that took it to the top.