Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
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 Great Escape, by Joshuah Bearman. Wired (2007).
How the CIA used a fake science fiction film to sneak six Americans out of revolutionary Iran. The declassified story that became Ben Affleck's Argo.
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 Great Escape, by Joshuah Bearman. Wired (2007).
How the CIA used a fake science fiction film to sneak six Americans out of revolutionary Iran. The declassified story that became Ben Affleck’s Argo.
“We have prepared for your escape,” Mendez announced during dinner. He then explained the cover story and presented Kirby’s drawings, the script, the ad in Variety, and the telephone number of the Studio Six office back on Sunset Boulevard. Mendez handed out the business cards and passports. Cora Lijek would become Teresa Harris, the writer. Mark was the transportation coordinator. Kathy Stafford was the set designer. Joe Stafford was an associate producer. Anders was the director. Schatz, the party’s cameraman, received the scoping lens and detailed specs on how to operate a Panaflex camera. Mark Lijek noticed that Mendez wore a distinctively British Harris tweed sport coat, in keeping with his alias as an Irish film producer.
The Americans were initially nervous about the plan. ‘Let me just show you how this kind of operation works,’ Mendez said, picking up two corks from the many opened wine bottles. He put the corks between his thumbs and forefingers in two interlocking D shapes. “Here’s the bad guys,” he said, showing that they couldn’t be separated, ‘and here’s us.’ With a sudden sleight of hand, he pulled them apart.
It was parlor magic — but somehow extraordinarily comforting. The six felt they had a competent leader. ‘It’s going to be that easy,’ Mendez said, sensing the group’s growing confidence. ‘We’ll be able to fool them all.'”
The Swingers’ Guide to Islam, by Aubrey Belford. The Global Mail.
On a Javanese shrine where good fortune is promised to Muslim pilgrims once they find a stranger and have sex with them.
But the ritual needs to be done right. First, prayers and offerings must be made at the grave of Pangeran Samodro and Nyai Ontrowulan. At some stage, pilgrims must wash themselves at either one or two of the sacred springs on the hill. Then they must find a sex partner who meets two conditions. First, your mate for the night must be of the opposite sex; and second, they cannot be your spouse. Many people believe the ritual only works if you return at seven consecutive, 35-day intervals, either the night before Friday intersects with Pon, or when it crosses with another Javanese day, Kliwon.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The Myth That Screwed Up 50 Years of U.S. Foreign Policy, by Leslie H. Gelb. Foreign Policy.
Nuclear war wasn’t averted by a resolute Kennedy staring down the Soviets, it was avoided through compromise and diplomacy. On the political legacy of a Cuban missile crisis myth.
In fact, the crisis concluded not with Moscow’s unconditional diplomatic whimper, but with mutual concessions. The Soviets withdrew their missiles from Cuba in return for U.S. pledges not to invade Fidel Castro’s island and to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey. For reasons that seem clear, the Kennedy clan kept the Jupiter part of the deal secret for nearly two decades and, even then, portrayed it as a trifle. For reasons that remain baffling, the Soviets also kept mum. Scholars like Harvard University’s Graham Allison set forth the truth over the years, but their efforts rarely suffused either public debates or White House meetings on how to stare down America’s foes.
The Beautiful Game, by Patrick Symmes. Outside.
In Argentina, where the fútbol underworld controls everything from T-shirt vending to murder, “rowdy gangs” have turned the stadium into a battleground.
We squeezed through funnels of policemen watched by lines of horsemen and backstopped by rows of cop infantry in full riot gear. Specialists in nitrile gloves patted down the males in our cohort. Behind them were plainclothes Copresede agents holding mug shots of some of the 400 Rat Stabbers banned from their own team’s games.
The Rat Stabbers started up their brass band, for courage, and with a hard push about 2,000 of us were swept up the stairs and jammed into the visitors’ terrace. Here, penned by metal fences and more police, we were pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, immobile, for two hours, a single screaming entity heaving up and down.
Breaking the Silence, by Pratap Bhanu Mehta. The Caravan.
On conceptions of inequality and how to stop them from preventing positive change in India.
While equality talk may not have served us well, deep social and economic inequality remain obdurate realities in India. It may be a crude measure, but India’s Gini coefficient — a measurement of the uneven distribution of wealth-is rising. Acute forms of social segregation remain a reality. A large number of social struggles continue to be animated by the indignity of inequality and powerlessness. Despite significant reductions in poverty, it is difficult to deny that India still breathes an oppressive atmosphere of social inequality. The idea that growth and economic development represent our best chance of unsettling fixed hierarchies of power has some truth to it. But we cannot get away from the fact that growth is bringing in new challenges of inequality, which we ignore at our peril.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images
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