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Longform's Picks of the Week

The best reads 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 brand-new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

Before we get to the picks, a quick congrats to the (overwhelmingly male) writers nominated this week for National Magazine Awards. Several incredible international articles were included -- here's the full list -- but I was particularly excited to see Matthieu Aikins' "Our Man in Kandahar" from The Atlantic get a nod in the reporting category. On a young warlord in Afghanistan, the story didn't get as much attention as it deserved when it was published last November -- if you missed it the first time around, it's worth going back.

OK, onto this week's stories!

Letter From Guatemala, by Aaron Shulman. Los Angeles Review of Books.

As the murder of three young girls shows, the epidemic of violence against women in Guatemala is getting worse:

No female is safe from the violence: not little girls, not housewives, not foreigners. The elevated level of aggression against women is not a isolated phenomenon in Central America -- El Salvador and Honduras, for example, also present alarming statistics -- but nowhere in the region is it worse than in Guatemala, where U.S. Cold War foreign policy aided in establishing a devastating culture of violence that persists today. At the same time, the situation echoes that of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where the murder of approximately 400 women since 1993 has drawn much international attention. Only in Guatemala the problem takes place on a much greater, less localized scale. In other words, simply being female is a dangerous liability throughout the country, and an increasingly fatal one.

 

The God of Gamblers, by Evan Osnos. The New Yorker.

Why Macau is becoming the world's new gambling mecca:

American casino companies have raced to move in. In 2006, Steve Wynn, who led a revival of Las Vegas in the nineteen-nineties, opened a casino in Macau; he makes more than two-thirds of his global profits there. He is learning to speak Chinese, and he talks about moving his corporate headquarters to Macau. "We're really a Chinese company now, not an American company," he has said. Macau has become especially attractive to American corporations in the last few years. In Nevada, after tourism sank in 2008, gaming revenue plunged by nearly twenty per cent in two years, the largest decline in the state's history. It later improved, but Nevada still has the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country. Gary Loveman, the chairman of Caesars Entertainment, was one of the few casino bosses who passed up a chance to build in Macau. "Big mistake," he said later. "I was wrong, I was really wrong." Even by China's standards, the speed of Macau's growth is breathtaking; for a decade, the economy has ballooned, on average, nineteen per cent a year-nearly twice as fast as mainland China's. In 2010, high rollers in Macau wagered about six hundred billion dollars, roughly the amount of cash withdrawn from all the A.T.M.s in America in a year.

 

How Millions Have Been Dying in the Congo, by Neal Ascherson. New York Review of Books.

A new book goes beyond platitudes about failed states and Heart of Darkness clichés to investigate what's really going on in the Congo:

The brassy title of Jason Stearns's book, more like that of an old rock album than a history, comes from a speech by Laurent Kabila. President of the Congo from 1997 until his murder in 2001, Kabila had replaced the interminable tyranny of Mobutu Sese Seko with his own much shorter and more erratic tyranny. He said: "Who has not been Mobutist in this country? Three-quarters of this country became part of it! We saw you all dancing in the glory of the monster."

The remark is like Kabila himself: ambiguous, weirdly alluring, useless.

 

Camila Vallejo, the World's Most Glamorous Revolutionary, by Francisco Goldman. New York Times Magazine.

How a beautiful 23-year-old smashed Chile's image as the great Latin American success story:

The hotel had a musty, Pinochet-era atmosphere -- dark bar, heavy furniture, bartenders in white shirts and black ties -- and drew mostly businessmen. But when the bartenders found out that my friends and I were going to the student march, they cut lemons for us and put them into plastic bags with salt. In case of tear gas, you were supposed to bite into the lemons to lessen the effect. With guarded smiles, they let us know they supported the Chilean student movement and especially its most prominent leader, Camila Vallejo. A bartender said, "La Camila es valiente"; he laughed and added, "Está bien buena la mina" -- "She's hot."

 

(B)rogue Nation, by Tim Judah. Foreign Policy.

Why Scottish independence is no joke:

EDINBURGH, Scotland – At the entrance to Stirling Castle, close to the field of Bannockburn where the Scots under Robert the Bruce crushed the English in 1314, an old man shouts at the guards about the British flag flying overhead. Anger contorts his face. He is, as we say in Britain, "effing and blinding" -- using swear words beginning with "f" and "b." They are laughing at him. "It is an English flag. It is disgusting," he says, before storming out of the gate.

I ask the local guards if this happens often, especially as Stirling is the heartland of Scottish nationalism. One replies that it doesn't, but that in summer American tourists ask about the flag. "We say it is the British flag, and as long as we are in Britain we will fly it." But how long will that be? If the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) -- which leads the autonomous government here -- has its way, Scotland will vote in a referendum on independence towards the end of 2014. That could lead to the dissolution of the United Kingdom in 2015.

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longform. For more great writing, check out Longform's complete archive.

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