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.
“How the World Bank’s biggest critic became its president” by Andrew Rice, The Guardian
After years of working with the poor, Jim Yong Kim thought he could lead the World Bank to fight global suffering. Then the organization turned against him.
In his mid-30s and a recent graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim had helped found Partners in Health, a non-profit organisation whose mission was to bring modern medicine to the world’s poor. The priest had been involved with the group in Boston, its home base, before serving in Peru, and he asked Kim to help him set up a clinic to aid his flock. No sooner had Kim arrived in Lima, however, than the priest contracted a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis and died.
Kim was devastated, and he thought he knew what to blame: the World Bank. Like many debt-ridden nations, Peru was going through “structural adjustment”, a period of lender-mandated inflation controls, privatisations and government cutbacks. President Alberto Fujimori had enacted strict policies, known collectively as “Fujishock”, that made him a darling of neoliberal economists. But Kim saw calamitous trickledown effects, including the tuberculosis epidemic that had claimed his friend and threatened to spread through the parish.
“How the Most Dangerous Place on Earth Got Safer” by Sonia Nazario, The New York Times
Programs funded by the United States are helping transform Honduras. Who says American power is dead?
She slipped on what looked like a black burqa, covering her from head to toe, along with rubber boots and black gloves. At the courthouse, she stepped inside a wooden mobile armoire with a one-way window, through which she could see out but no one could see in, and she was wheeled into court.
When she glimpsed the two men charged with the murder, anger welled up in her. She calmly laid out what she had seen, her voice distorted by a machine.
She had witnessed three murders, but this was the first time she had told anyone. Afterward, in the car, she beamed. “I feel liberated!”
“Is America Any Safer?” by Steven Brill, The Atlantic
Since 9/11, the United States has spent $1 trillion to defend against al-Qaeda and ISIL, dirty bombs and lone wolves, bioterror and cyberterror. Has it worked?
In April 2002, working as a reporter, I watched as a spirited band of new recruits got the TSA up and running at its first airport, in Baltimore. They timed passenger throughput, and high-fived each other when it stayed below four minutes per person. When the sun glared through a glass wall, killing the view of a carry-on-bag X‑ray machine, someone found a piece of cardboard to shade it. More high fives.
When I visited TSA headquarters five years later to discuss a business I was starting that would expedite prescreened passengers through the security lines, administrators and other back-office employees—who by now numbered about 5,000, in addition to the 44,000 screeners working in airports—had their own building, near the Pentagon. As I rode the elevator, two people with TSA ID badges got on. One groused to the other that his parking-space assignment was unfair.
“The Piety of Shinta Ratri” by Kyle Knight, Los Angeles Review of Books
When militant Islamists attacked a transgender madrasa, they attacked pluralism itself.
I met Shinta Ratri 10 days after her life’s work had unraveled before her eyes. She quietly introduced herself as she fumbled to light a cigarette. The mood was different from six years earlier, when dozens of reporters had flocked to Indonesia, home to more Muslims than any other country, to profile Shinta’s unique creation — the world’s only Islamic school run by and for transgender women. In early March, we sat on a terrace to discuss how militant Islamists had forced her to shut down her beloved Al-Fatah Pesantren as an unprecedented anti-LGBT campaign across the country reached fever pitch.
Ibu Shinta, as she is called — “Ibu” is the Indonesian honorific equivalent of “Ma’am” — opened the Islamic boarding school in 2008 in Yogyakarta, a bohemian university city on Indonesia’s Java Island. Now 54 years old, Shinta has lived as a waria, or transgender woman, since she was 18 and, over time, came to know a network of other waria in the city.
“Fiddler on the Front Line” by Linda Kinstler, Foreign Policy
On the outskirts of Kiev, one rabbi is using the war in eastern Ukraine to revive a long-lost way of life: the shtetl.
The Ukrainian Jews pushed off their land often migrated to other villages and urban centers, under increasingly strained conditions. The turn of the century made life harder still. More pogroms, far worse than before, swept through Ukrainian cities in 1905, killing hundreds. And as vibrant shtetl culture became a thing of the past, the towns became associated in the public imagination with the villages from Shalom Aleichem’s stories: “dire straits, with … broken-down Jews, wooden huts, rotting shingles.”
Until now. The Anatevka shtetl is being rebuilt, this time as a home for Jewish internally displaced persons fleeing the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine. The settlement’s new founders are intent on bringing back a way of life that disappeared from the region long ago.
Photo credits: Mark Wilson/Getty Images; GERARDO MAZARIEGOS/AFP/Getty Images; OSHUA ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images; Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images; AMNON GUTMAN/Foreign Policy