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.
“Cruising Through the Northwest Passage” by Eva Holland, Pacific Standard
What does an evolving tourism industry mean for the people of the Northwest Passage?
The Northwest Passage isn’t one singular route. It’s the collective name given to a series of seasonally navigable sounds and straits that wind their way between the 36,563 islands of the Arctic Archipelago, connecting the eastern waters of the Davis Strait to the western Beaufort Sea. The islands make up one of the wildest and most remote regions on Earth: Their 540,000 square miles — nearly the size of Mongolia — are home to fewer than 20,000 people. Most of the islands form part of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, which in 1999 gained independence from its older, western neighbor, the Northwest Territories. Nunavut means “our land” in Inuktitut, the traditional language of the region, and its creation was the product of decades of land claim negotiations between Inuit leaders and the Canadian government in Ottawa.
The Inuit culture is ancient, but Nunavut is a young jurisdiction: People there say they’ve hurtled “from igloo to Internet” within the last 50 years. The growing number of cruise ships making their way to the territory sell their passengers on the region’s thrilling history, its dramatic wildlife, and its people’s longstanding traditions. But the ships are arriving in communities that have seen — and continue to see — changes occurring at an almost unfathomable rate.
“Inside the Unregulated Chinese Hospitals That Make Men Impotent” by R.W. McMorrow, Vice
Sham penile surgeries are just one part of a much larger system of poorly regulated and corrupt private healthcare in China. In other instances of medical malfeasance, physicians at private clinics have bargained with patients during surgery, female patients have been tricked into aborting healthy fetuses, and there have been many documented deaths as a result of physician negligence. Pseudoscientific medical devices are in wide use, as is the practice of proffering false diagnoses, as more than 60 private hospitals have done to Chinese undercover journalists in the past six years. Meanwhile, the number of private hospitals in China is blossoming—between 2005 and 2015, 9,326 new facilities opened their doors. Today they make up about half of all hospitals in China. That proportion will likely grow as ongoing Chinese healthcare reforms aim to increase private investment in the sector and government-run insurance schemes expand to cover private healthcare facilities. American companies including Morgan Stanley Private Equity Asia, a division of Morgan Stanley, are pouring in millions of dollars as well.
“How It Ends” by Kelly McEvers, Lenny
A journalist reflects on reentering the U.S. after being a war correspondent in the Middle East.
On the screen, Chris and Tim are still very alive, in a building that’s right on the front line, and the rebels are using these little hand mirrors attached to sticks or car antennae to look around corners and see if the enemy is waiting. Then the music gets ominous, and a rebel guy puts his fingers to his lips to shush them as they go up the stairs, and they burn tires so they can see in the dark.
I know exactly what happens next. I have run that story over and over and over, online that night as I watched it unfold while I was in Baghdad, and at bars and parties with tribe members ever since. My breath starts coming fast, I am rocking in my seat. I love this scene because I know how it feels, but I hate it because I know how it ends.
“The Nazi Underground” by Jake Halpern
Is treasure buried beneath the mountains of Poland?
Lower Silesia, in southwestern Poland, is a land of treasure hunters. Until the end of the Second World War, the region—covered by mountains and deep pine forests with towering, arrowlike trees—was part of Germany. In the early months of 1945, the German Army retreated, along with much of the civilian population. The advancing Red Army killed many of the Germans who remained. Nearly all those who survived were later evicted and forced to move west. By the end of 1947, almost two million Germans had been cleared out.
In order to fill the emptied landscape, the newly formed Polish government relocated hundreds of thousands of Poles from the east. The settlers arrived in vacant towns, walked into empty houses, and went to sleep in strangers’ beds. There was furniture in the houses, but usually the valuables were missing. The porcelain dishes, the silk dresses, the fur coats, the sewing machines, and the jewelry were gone, often hidden in the ground: buried in jars, chests, and even coffins. It was a hasty solution—a desperate effort to cache valuables as people were running for their lives. The owners of these possessions intended to return, but most didn’t. And so on steamy fall mornings, when the new arrivals dug in their gardens or tilled their fields, they unearthed small fortunes.
“The Blood Rubies of Montepuez” by Estacio Valoi, Foreign Policy
Some 40 percent of the world’s rubies lie in one mining concession in Mozambique, where a troubling pattern of violence and death contradicts the claim of “responsibly sourced.”
What has struck fear into the Montepuez community though is a shadowy gang of thugs known locally as the “Nacatanas,” Portuguese for the machetes they carry.These plainclothes men operate on MRM concession areas, charging into artisanal mining areas wielding heavy sticks and machetes, beating the miners and chasing them into the bush, according to eyewitnesses, local residents, and unlicensed miners. Their command structure is unclear. Gemfields said it neither employs nor sponsors any force carrying machetes. But their presence at the mining concession is unmistakable. This reporter observed them living in company housing along with government forces on MRM property and saw them clearing out an artisanal mine in full view of an MRM security officer. Interviews with miners, local police, prosecutors, and community leaders confirmed that the Nacatanas operate with seeming impunity to rid the MRM concession of these small-scale miners. A video produced by the Gemological Institute of America showed shots fired amid confrontations between machete- and baton-wielding men at the hand-dug pits, with one man in a black T-shirt, emblazoned with the word “Security,” chasing miners off the MRM concession.
“Sometimes the security guards come and only grab our goods, including money and cell phones. Sometimes we have to hide in the bush. But when they come with their bosses, white people, we are always beaten and sometimes shot,” said an artisanal miner, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions. Other miners made similar statements.
Photo credits: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images; WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images; Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Adam Guz/Getty Images Poland/Getty Images; STEFANIE KEENAN/WireImages/via Getty Images