When kids turned a state-owned telecom system into a proto-Internet, police cracked down with brutal force

Illustrations: Nicole Xu

On a Friday night in September 1982, teenagers poured out of the Fridhemsplan metro station. First just a few dozen, then hundreds, and soon more than a thousand of them filled the station’s hall, the sidewalk, and the road outside. Eventually, they walked three blocks south to Rålambshovsparken, entering the grassy Stockholm park via a concrete pedestrian bridge.

“They were everywhere,” said police superintendent Kjell Andersson. “They were on top of the bus shelter, in the trees, on the roofs of the polling huts, and on the electrical poles.” The teenagers had come from all over Stockholm and its surrounding…

How a scandal started with a poor housemaid and ended up taking down the most powerful woman in Africa

Story by Shaun Raviv in Lilongwe, Malawi. Additional reporting, translating and fixing by Golden Matonga. Illustrations by Andrew Berry.

Many centuries before Paul Mphwiyo was shot in the face, there was a hill in East Africa settled by a clan searching for edible roots. One group from the clan slept at the bottom of the hill and one group slept at the top. The people who slept at the top of the hill, the Phiri, were known for their political power. The people who slept at the bottom of the hill, the Banda, were known for their ability to make…

Photos courtesy of Joe Lester

How two musical comedy nerds conquered the internet

With his earnest, lamenting voice, Dan Avidan, half of the comedy band Ninja Sex Party, sings about mythical creatures, wizards, friendship, outrageously confident sexual requests and combinations of the above. Ninja Sex Party’s most-watched video, with more than 5 million views on YouTube, is for a song called “Dinosaur Laser Fight.” The lyrics include:

It was an ordinary day at Dinosaur High
When Stegosaurus raised his hand and called for high-fives
Tyrannosaurus saw this and got pissed
Because his tiny wrists
Caused his high-five to miss
And he was like “Fuck this!”

Ninja Sex Party songs are often about dicks…

Fifteen years ago in this African kingdom, two serial killers were hard at work. Just one of them was human.

(One of Longform’s top 10 stories of 2015.)

Ntombi Khumbuzile Ndzimandze, one of David Simelane’s victims

I. The Sad Man

IN MID-MARCH OF 2001, twenty-six-year-old Samantha Kgasi-Ngobese disappeared. She had planned to travel to Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, a kingdom of a million people in southern Africa, to apply for a job at the High Court. Samantha had a law degree from the University of Swaziland and was hoping to use it.

But at the bus stop in Manzini, she met a man who promised her a different job, and she never made it to Mbabane. The man said his name was Thabiso Sikhodze and that he could get her a…

Ghana’s New Domestic Spying Bill

On February 15, the Parliament of Ghana’s Committee on Defence and the Interior introduced to the public a new bill that would give sweeping power to the Ghanaian government to spy on its own people. This comes while a bill allowing the public access to government information, similar to the United States’s Freedom of Information Act, has stalled in Parliament for nearly a decade.

The new draft legislation in Ghana, called “The Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages Bill,” was initially announced on a Monday, with the public given only until that Friday, February…

On February 24, 2014, Richard Attoh-Okine, Head of Information Technology for the Ghana National Gas Company, emailed a representative at Hacking Team, an Italian manufacturer of surveillance spyware whose emails were leaked in a large data dump on Sunday. In the short initial email, which can be read on WikiLeaks, Attoh-Okine asked for the price of the Remote Control System (RCS), Hacking Team’s “flagship software,” according to The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher. Hacking team’s website describes the Remote Control System as:

“a solution designed to evade encryption by means of an agent directly installed on the device to monitor. Evidence collection…

Snowden will only fade into the background if he wants to. 

Philip Agee joined the CIA in 1957 and left 12 years later. He then spent much of the rest of his life “exposing undercover American spies overseas” in order to “neutralize” the CIA’s work as an “agency of oppression.”

In Agee’s 2008 obituary, Scott Shane (the NYT reporter now covering the NSA) wrote that Agee was for decades “an avowed enemy of American foreign policy and particularly of the covert intelligence work that supported it.” The U.S. …

“I told him he was a traitor to the African people.”

In April 1978, Kemba Maish, a 33-year-old psychology professor at Howard University received a call from the CIA. Several calls actually, from an agent named Roy Savoy, who left a few messages on her machine. When Maish called back, the person who answered said, “Personnel, CIA.”

“I was very curious as to why Personnel, CIA, was trying to get in touch with me,” Maish told an interviewer at CovertAction Information Bulletin.

Maish was upset. She’d never heard of this guy Savoy and even being contacted by the CIA could “raise questions with friends and colleagues.” …

Shaun Raviv

Freelance journalist based in Atlanta.

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