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.
“S. Korea covered up mass abuse, killings of ‘vagrants’” by Kim Tong-Hyung and Foster Klug, Associated Press
How the government cleared the streets in advance of the 1988 Olympics.
Even now, more than 30 years later, Choi Seung-woo weeps when he describes all that happened next. The policeman yanked down the boy’s pants and sparked a cigarette lighter near Choi’s genitals until he confessed to a crime he didn’t commit. Then two men with clubs came and dragged Choi off to the Brothers Home, a mountainside institution where some of the worst human rights atrocities in modern South Korean history took place.
A guard in Choi’s dormitory raped him that night in 1982 — and the next, and the next. So began five hellish years of slave labor and near-daily assaults, years in which Choi saw men and women beaten to death, their bodies carted away like garbage.
“The Arctic Suicides: It’s Not The Dark That Kills You” by Rebecca Hersher, NPR
For more than 30 years, the suicide rate in Greenland has been among the highest in the world. As the country tries to leave its colonial past behind, it is struggling to save the lives of a new generation of Inuit youth.
Kangeq was being erased. The Danish government was removing the village from the list of towns in Greenland. They were closing the store, shutting off the power, and reassigning the priest. From the government’s point of view, it was a purely practical decision — it was difficult to provide basic services like health clinics and schools to every tiny village. It would be much easier if the Inuit people moved to larger towns where the infrastructure was already in place.
Anda’s family — his mother, his sisters, his cousins — had to pack their things and say goodbye to their yellowy-orange clapboard house overlooking the sea. Their new home in Nuuk would be in a concrete apartment block, with hundreds of other families from dozens of other small villages that had also been erased.
Iceland’s Water Cure” by Dan Kois, The New York Times Magazine
Can the secret to the country’s happiness be found in its communal pools?
Every Icelandic town, no matter how small, has its own pool. There are ramshackle cement rectangles squatting under rain clouds in the sheep-strewn boonies. There are fancy aquatic complexes with multilevel hot tubs and awesomely dangerous water slides of the sort that litigious American culture would never allow. All told, there are more than 120 public pools — usually geothermally heated, mostly outdoors, open all year long — in Iceland, a country with a population just slightly larger than that of Lexington, Ky. “If you don’t have a swimming pool, it seems you may as well not even be a town,” the mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur Eggertsson, told me. I interviewed him, of course, as we relaxed together in a downtown hot tub.
These public pools, or sundlaugs, serve as the communal heart of Iceland, sacred places whose affordability and ubiquity are viewed as a kind of civil right. Families and teenagers and older people lounge and chat insundlaugs every day, summer or winter. Despite Iceland’s cruel climate, its remoteness and its winters of 19 hours of darkness per day, the people there are among the most contented in the world. The more local swimming pools I visited, the more convinced I became that Icelanders’ remarkable satisfaction is tied inextricably to the experience of escaping the fierce, freezing air and sinking into warm water among their countrymen. The pools are more than a humble municipal investment, more than just a civic perquisite that emerged from an accident of Iceland’s volcanic geology. They seem to be, in fact, a key to Icelandic well-being.
“Offshore in central London: the curious case of 29 Harley Street” by Oliver Bullough, The Guardian
On a central London street renowned for high-class healthcare sits a property that houses 2,159 companies. Why has this prestigious address been used so many times as a centre for elaborate international fraud?
There are dozens of properties on Harley Street still used by doctors, but No 29 is not one of them. Instead, it is home to a company named Formations House, which, since it was founded in 2001, has made a business out of conjuring corporate vehicles from the West End air. The house is currently home to 2,159 companies, for which it operates as a large, ornate and prestigiously located postbox and answerphone. There is nothing illegal in this but some have used this address for improper purposes.
In its promotional literature, Formations House makes much of its location, stating for example, that: “all your postal [sic] will be received in Central London at a prestigious Harley Street business address”. Company formation agents create the vast majority of the 585,000 new companies formed each year in the UK, and a Harley Street address helps this one stand out from the crowd. Companies are both easy and cheap to establish in Britain – and the process is almost entirely unmonitored. Nobre and Bhatia are far from the only criminals to have realised that they are pretty much the perfect weapon for fraud.
“Obama Dreams of an AIDS-Free Generation” by Andrew Green, Foreign Policy
But if Washington doesn’t put more money behind its ambitious rhetoric, HIV could make a major comeback. An investigation on the front line of the disease.
Nhaca sells charcoal from a roadside stall in Catembe. If she works every day, she makes almost enough money to scrape by. The time off required to collect the drugs, plus the expense of transportation, made this impossible — and all to treat a disease that has never made her feel as bad as a day without food did. So at some point — maybe five years ago, she estimates — Nhaca stopped treatment. She then started to notice subtle changes. It became harder to get out of bed in the morning, and she seemed to be regularly catching a cold. She wondered if she should start taking the drugs again but decided the cost was still too dear. All the while the virus was gradually overwhelming her immune system. If it weren’t for the expansion of HIV treatment facilities in her area, she would probably have died from an opportunistic infection her body was too weak to fight off.
Three years ago, Nhaca learned that the health center in her village had begun offering ART. The clinic is a 30-minute walk from her house, meaning that she doesn’t have to sacrifice an entire day of work to check in with the nurse and pick up her pills. She now sticks religiously to the treatment, which has restored her energy and reduced the illnesses that preyed on her weakened immune system. “My life,” she said, “has improved.”
Though she has never heard of it, PEPFAR is saving Nhaca’s life.
Photo credits: Haywood Magee/Getty Images; DeAgostini/Getty Images; Education Images/UIG via Getty Images; Carl Court/Getty Images; ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images