Longform’s Picks of the Week

Longform’s Picks of the Week

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

The Vatican’s Secret Life, by Michael Joseph Gross, Vanity Fair

In Rome, the author learns how the Catholic Church’s gay cardinals, monks, and other clergy navigate the dangerous paradox of their lives.

Meanwhile, some gay clerics were outgrowing the “particular friendships” that had long been part of monastic life and joining the sexual revolution. By the 1970s, the center of gay life in Rome was a cruising area called Monte Caprino, on the Capitoline Hill. At a small party of gay monks and their friends in Rome last summer, conversation turned to recollections of that place. “It was like its own little city,” one monk remembered, “with hundreds of people-everyone from seminarians to bishops-and then there were, conveniently, bushes off to the side.” The fellow feeling at Monte Caprino was compromised by the air of secrecy around the place. The area was a target for muggers and thieves, who figured rightly that clerics would make ideal victims because they had much to lose by the public act of pressing charges. One gay former seminarian recalled a night when three men beat him up and stole his wallet while numerous men in the crowded park stood by. Left bloodied by the thieves, the seminarian hollered at the bystanders, “There’s three of them and 300 of us!”

He told me this story, with its echoes of the parable of the Good Samaritan-in which a traveler is robbed, beaten, and left by the side of the road, and pious men do nothing to help him-to illustrate the every-man-for-himself dynamic of Rome’s gay clerical culture. Gay clerics often fail to help one another, he says, for the same reason that no one tried to help him the night that he was robbed: solidarity entails the risk of being outed.

Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Unaccompanied Miners, by Wes Enzinna, Vice

Down the shaft with Bolivia’s child laborers.

Luz Rivera Daza, one of UNATSBO’s fully grown supporters from the NGO Caritas in Potosí, where she works with unionized children, is part of a larger shift in the thinking among some Latin American intellectuals and activists about how best to respond to the realities of child labor in the 21st century.

“If I tell kids to stop working in the mines, what can I offer them instead?” she told me when I visited her at her office in Potosí. “The families of these children may literally starve if they stop working-their wages help keep the families afloat. Restrictive laws hurt these children,” she said. “We need to eradicate poverty before we can talk about eradicating child labor.”

Luz told me she hadn’t received pay for three months because a crucial grant to her NGO had failed to come through. “I don’t believe that work is bad for kids,” she said. “What’s wrong is exploitation and discrimination because you’re a child.”

But when I asked Luz if she would allow her own children to work, she paused. “No,” she said. “I wouldn’t.”


John Kerry Will Not Be Denied, by David Rohde, Reuters

The secretary of state’s critics call him arrogant and reckless — but his relentlessness might produce some of the most important diplomatic breakthroughs in years.

The nearly universal expectation was that Kerry’s tenure would be overshadowed by his predecessor’s, for a long list of reasons. For starters, he was arriving in Foggy Bottom when the country seemed to be withdrawing from the world. Exhausted by two long wars, Americans were wary of ambitious new foreign engagements-certainly of military ones, but of entangling diplomatic ones, too … The consensus in Washington was that Kerry was a boring if not irrelevant man stepping into what was becoming a boring, irrelevant job.

Yet his time at the State Department has been anything but boring-and no one can argue his lack of relevance. Nearly a year into his tenure, Kerry is the driving force behind a flurry of Mideast diplomacy the scope of which has not been seen in years. In the face of widespread skepticism, he has revived the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; brokered a deal with Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria; embarked on a new round of nuclear talks with Iran, holding the highest-level face-to-face talks with Iranian diplomats in years; and started hammering out a new post-withdrawal security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Some of these initiatives seemed to begin almost by accident; all of them could still go awry; any of them could blow up in Kerry’s face. His critics say that even if these initiatives don’t collapse, they may do more to boost Kerry’s stature than to increase geopolitical stability. But it’s looking more and more possible that when the history of early-21st-century diplomacy gets written, it will be Kerry who is credited with making the State Department relevant again.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Life and Death of Juliano Mer-Khamis, by Adam Shatz, London Review of Books

The mystery of the death of Juliano Mer-Khamis, the founder of the West Bank’s Freedom Theater.

Two years after his murder, the theatre Juliano created still stands in a converted stone house rented from the UN. But until the murder is solved, al-Raee told me, ‘we remain under threat.’ The question is from whom? Al-Raee no longer believes that Juliano was killed for challenging the ways of the camp; he thinks the killer was a hired hand, acting on behalf of more powerful forces inside the PA and Israel. At the theatre, Juliano was seen as a political leader, not just a director: therefore his killing must have been an assassination. But elsewhere, one hears other theories, mostly to do with money, corruption and factional struggles. These theories have taken on a life of their own. The
idea that Juliano was killed for introducing transgressive Western ideas about personal liberty to a community that adheres to a conservative form of Islam is no longer popular, except among Israeli Jews for whom it confirms old prejudices. As people in Jenin will tell you, violence against solidarity activists, even if they are Israeli, is almost unheard of in Palestine. That’s what made the killing so unsettling.

It’s possible, of course, that Juliano’s murder had little to do with his work and more to do with the man himself. The most important question may not be who killed him, but why his killer, or killers, believed they could eliminate him with impunity. Whoever killed him knew that no one in the camp would rush to his defence. Juliano loved the camp — no one doubts that. But he seemed to forget that he was a guest there, and that the more deeply he penetrated the life of the camp, the more cautiously he had to tread.


Stuxnet’s Secret Twin, by Ralph Langner, Foreign Policy

The real program to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities was far more sophisticated than anyone realized.

… Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet’s smaller and simpler attack routine — the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and “forgotten” routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security. And strangely, this more sophisticated attack came first. The simpler, more familiar routine followed only years later — and was discovered in comparatively short order.

With Iran’s nuclear program back at the center of world debate, it’s helpful to understand with more clarity the attempts to digitally sabotage that program. Stuxnet’s actual impact on the Iranian nuclear program is unclear, if only for the fact that no information is available on how many controllers were actually infected. Nevertheless, forensic analysis can tell us what the attackers intended to achieve, and how. I’ve spent the last three years conducting that analysis — not just of the computer code, but of the physical characteristics of the plant environment that was attacked and of the process that this nuclear plant operates. What I’ve found is that the full picture, which includes the first and lesser-known Stuxnet variant, invites a re-evaluation of the attack. It turns out that it was far more dangerous than the cyberweapon that is now lodged in the public’s imagination.