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.
“Cuba’s Female Skaters Ride for a More Open Future on the Island” by Jessica Weiss, Miami New Times
Skateboarding has exploded in Cuba over the past decade . . . Now, a handful of women who shred alongside their male counterparts are testing their changing culture’s limits.
She stands in the shadow of Havana’s giant Christ statue, the Cristo, on a hill overlooking Havana Bay, the Malecón, and beyond to the city of 2 million people. Up here, the busy, polluted haze of Havana feels far away. It’s a perfect place to go up and down, and up and down again.
With her right foot, she pushes against the pavement twice for a bit of speed, then jumps and cross-switches her feet, then jumps and switches back, as if she’s dancing on the board. By the time her feet touch down the second time, she’s begun to roll. She won’t stop until the bottom, or wherever she falls along the way.
“The Diplomat and the Killer” by Raymond Bonner, The Atlantic
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
The Reagan administration did not want to hear that the Salvadoran army had killed the churchwomen. Soon after the incident, one of Reagan’s top foreign-policy advisors, Jeane Kirkpatrick, told a reporter for The Tampa Tribune, “The nuns were not just nuns. The nuns were also political activists.” She didn’t stop there: “They were political activists on behalf of the Frente”—the leftist political coalition formed by five guerrilla groups. Asked if she thought the government had been involved, Kirkpatrick said, “The answer is unequivocal. No, I don’t think the government was responsible.” Kirkpatrick, who became Reagan’s United Nations ambassador, was a principal architect of the administration’s policy in El Salvador and Central America. She argued that the United States should support “authoritarian” regimes as long as they were pro-American.
“The Killing of Warren Weinstein” by Daniel Bergner, The New York Times Magazine
After the American aid worker was abducted in Pakistan, his family undertook a delicate negotiation in hopes of securing his release. But then they got word that he had died — in a United States drone strike.
At the gate at Dulles International Airport, Alisa saw her mother, silver-haired, round-faced and accompanied by F.B.I. agents from the team that had been assigned to Warren’s case and to the family. Elaine hugged her and murmured: ‘‘I’m sorry. You were right. I was wrong.’’ Her mother was apologizing for harboring too much hope, as if this had lured Alisa into optimism. But Alisa’s forebodings had always competed with her own belief that her father would come home alive. It was only as she and Elaine drove from the airport, with two of the agents riding along with them, that Alisa learned why he hadn’t.
“Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain?” by Matt Skenazy, Outside
An ex-SEAL turns to “ocean therapy” to cope with chronic pain and PTSD.
Last fall I asked Brian if he wanted to volunteer at surf therapy with me. His mental state was alarming, and the VA wasn’t helping, so I figured anything was worth a shot. A few weeks later, I picked him up in Santa Cruz at the house he shares with his retired father and their pit bull, Eli. Brian was wearing jeans, flip-flops, and the brown T-shirt they give you when you become a SEAL. Eli ran around the house as he packed a beige field jacket, khaki shorts, a camo hat, insulated camo pants, and a black Patagonia jacket, slammed a shot of tequila, and walked across the street to put two surfboards and two wetsuits in the car. “Shit,” he said, patting his pockets. “Where’s my wallet?”
PTSD has been linked to changes in the neurocircuitry and neurotransmitters that balance the retrieval of memories. “People have profound changes in how they think of themselves in the world,” says Paula Schnurr, acting executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD and a psychologist at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. Brian has a hard time remembering what he was like before the military.
“The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth” by James Traub, Foreign Policy
Little Sweden has taken in far more refugees per capita than any country in Europe. But in doing so, it’s tearing itself apart.
That afternoon, in the cafeteria in the back of the Migration Agency building, I met with Karima Abou-Gabal, an agency official responsible for the orderly flow of people into and out of Malmo. I asked where the new refugees would go. “As of now,” she said wearily, “we have no accommodation. We have nothing.” The private placement agencies with whom the migration agency contracts all over the country could not offer so much as a bed. In Malmo itself, the tents were full. So, too, the auditorium and hotels. Sweden had, at that very moment, reached the limits of its absorptive capacity. That evening, Mikael Ribbenvik, a senior migration official, said to me, “Today we had to regretfully inform 40 people that we could [not] find space for them in Sweden.” They could stay, but only if they found space on their own.
Photo credits: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images; Carl Court/Getty Images; FRANCISCO CAMPOS/AFP/Getty Images; DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images; Ryan Pierse/Getty Images; Matt Cardy/Getty Images; OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images