Feature

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.

The Vatican's Secret Life, by Michael Joseph Gross, Vanity Fair

In Rome, the author learns how the Catholic Church's gay cardinals, monks, and other clergy navigate the dangerous paradox of their lives.

Meanwhile, some gay clerics were outgrowing the "particular friendships" that had long been part of monastic life and joining the sexual revolution. By the 1970s, the center of gay life in Rome was a cruising area called Monte Caprino, on the Capitoline Hill. At a small party of gay monks and their friends in Rome last summer, conversation turned to recollections of that place. "It was like its own little city," one monk remembered, "with hundreds of people-everyone from seminarians to bishops-and then there were, conveniently, bushes off to the side." The fellow feeling at Monte Caprino was compromised by the air of secrecy around the place. The area was a target for muggers and thieves, who figured rightly that clerics would make ideal victims because they had much to lose by the public act of pressing charges. One gay former seminarian recalled a night when three men beat him up and stole his wallet while numerous men in the crowded park stood by. Left bloodied by the thieves, the seminarian hollered at the bystanders, "There's three of them and 300 of us!"

He told me this story, with its echoes of the parable of the Good Samaritan-in which a traveler is robbed, beaten, and left by the side of the road, and pious men do nothing to help him-to illustrate the every-man-for-himself dynamic of Rome's gay clerical culture. Gay clerics often fail to help one another, he says, for the same reason that no one tried to help him the night that he was robbed: solidarity entails the risk of being outed.

Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Unaccompanied Miners, by Wes Enzinna, Vice

Down the shaft with Bolivia's child laborers.

Luz Rivera Daza, one of UNATSBO's fully grown supporters from the NGO Caritas in Potosí, where she works with unionized children, is part of a larger shift in the thinking among some Latin American intellectuals and activists about how best to respond to the realities of child labor in the 21st century.

"If I tell kids to stop working in the mines, what can I offer them instead?" she told me when I visited her at her office in Potosí. "The families of these children may literally starve if they stop working-their wages help keep the families afloat. Restrictive laws hurt these children," she said. "We need to eradicate poverty before we can talk about eradicating child labor."

Luz told me she hadn't received pay for three months because a crucial grant to her NGO had failed to come through. "I don't believe that work is bad for kids," she said. "What's wrong is exploitation and discrimination because you're a child."

But when I asked Luz if she would allow her own children to work, she paused. "No," she said. "I wouldn't."

AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images

John Kerry Will Not Be Denied, by David Rohde, Reuters

The secretary of state's critics call him arrogant and reckless -- but his relentlessness might produce some of the most important diplomatic breakthroughs in years.

The nearly universal expectation was that Kerry's tenure would be overshadowed by his predecessor's, for a long list of reasons. For starters, he was arriving in Foggy Bottom when the country seemed to be withdrawing from the world. Exhausted by two long wars, Americans were wary of ambitious new foreign engagements-certainly of military ones, but of entangling diplomatic ones, too ... The consensus in Washington was that Kerry was a boring if not irrelevant man stepping into what was becoming a boring, irrelevant job.

Yet his time at the State Department has been anything but boring-and no one can argue his lack of relevance. Nearly a year into his tenure, Kerry is the driving force behind a flurry of Mideast diplomacy the scope of which has not been seen in years. In the face of widespread skepticism, he has revived the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; brokered a deal with Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria; embarked on a new round of nuclear talks with Iran, holding the highest-level face-to-face talks with Iranian diplomats in years; and started hammering out a new post-withdrawal security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Some of these initiatives seemed to begin almost by accident; all of them could still go awry; any of them could blow up in Kerry's face. His critics say that even if these initiatives don't collapse, they may do more to boost Kerry's stature than to increase geopolitical stability. But it's looking more and more possible that when the history of early-21st-century diplomacy gets written, it will be Kerry who is credited with making the State Department relevant again.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


The Life and Death of Juliano Mer-Khamis, by Adam Shatz, London Review of Books

The mystery of the death of Juliano Mer-Khamis, the founder of the West Bank's Freedom Theater.

Two years after his murder, the theatre Juliano created still stands in a converted stone house rented from the UN. But until the murder is solved, al-Raee told me, 'we remain under threat.' The question is from whom? Al-Raee no longer believes that Juliano was killed for challenging the ways of the camp; he thinks the killer was a hired hand, acting on behalf of more powerful forces inside the PA and Israel. At the theatre, Juliano was seen as a political leader, not just a director: therefore his killing must have been an assassination. But elsewhere, one hears other theories, mostly to do with money, corruption and factional struggles. These theories have taken on a life of their own. The idea that Juliano was killed for introducing transgressive Western ideas about personal liberty to a community that adheres to a conservative form of Islam is no longer popular, except among Israeli Jews for whom it confirms old prejudices. As people in Jenin will tell you, violence against solidarity activists, even if they are Israeli, is almost unheard of in Palestine. That's what made the killing so unsettling.

It's possible, of course, that Juliano's murder had little to do with his work and more to do with the man himself. The most important question may not be who killed him, but why his killer, or killers, believed they could eliminate him with impunity. Whoever killed him knew that no one in the camp would rush to his defence. Juliano loved the camp -- no one doubts that. But he seemed to forget that he was a guest there, and that the more deeply he penetrated the life of the camp, the more cautiously he had to tread.

SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images

Stuxnet's Secret Twin, by Ralph Langner, Foreign Policy

The real program to sabotage Iran's nuclear facilities was far more sophisticated than anyone realized.

... Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet's smaller and simpler attack routine -- the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and "forgotten" routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security. And strangely, this more sophisticated attack came first. The simpler, more familiar routine followed only years later -- and was discovered in comparatively short order.

With Iran's nuclear program back at the center of world debate, it's helpful to understand with more clarity the attempts to digitally sabotage that program. Stuxnet's actual impact on the Iranian nuclear program is unclear, if only for the fact that no information is available on how many controllers were actually infected. Nevertheless, forensic analysis can tell us what the attackers intended to achieve, and how. I've spent the last three years conducting that analysis -- not just of the computer code, but of the physical characteristics of the plant environment that was attacked and of the process that this nuclear plant operates. What I've found is that the full picture, which includes the first and lesser-known Stuxnet variant, invites a re-evaluation of the attack. It turns out that it was far more dangerous than the cyberweapon that is now lodged in the public's imagination.

EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Feature

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.

The Dream Boat, by Luke Mogelson, the New York Times Magazine

More than a thousand refugees have died trying to reach Christmas Island. But faced with unbearable conditions at home, they keep coming.

With frantic miming, the two-man Indonesian crew directed us to crowd together on the deck and crouch beneath the bulwarks. They stretched a tarp above our heads and nailed its edges to the gunwales. Packed close in the ripe air beneath the tarp, hugging knees to chests, we heard the engine start and felt the boat begin to dip and rise.

Our destination was an Australian territory, more than 200 miles across the Indian Ocean, called Christmas Island. If the weather is amenable, if the boat holds up, the trip typically lasts three days. Often, however, the weather is tempestuous, and the boat sinks. Over the past decade, it is believed that more than a thousand asylum seekers have drowned. The unseaworthy vessels are swamped through leaky hulls, capsize in heavy swells, splinter on the rocks. Survivors sometimes drift for days. Children have watched their parents drown, and parents their children. Entire families have been lost. Since June, several boats went down, claiming the lives of more than a hundred people.

Scott Fisher/Getty Images

Assets of the Ayatollah, by Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh, and Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters

The economic empire behind Iran's supreme leader.

The organization's total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. But Setad's holdings of real estate, corporate stakes and other assets total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. That estimate is based on an analysis of statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Just one person controls that economic empire -- Khamenei. As Iran's top cleric, he has the final say on all governmental matters. His purview includes his nation's controversial nuclear program, which was the subject of intense negotiations between Iranian and international diplomats in Geneva that ended Sunday without an agreement. It is Khamenei who will set Iran's course in the nuclear talks and other recent efforts by the new president, Hassan Rouhani, to improve relations with Washington.

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images[

Who Killed Michael Hastings?, by Benjamin Wallace, New York

Reflexively distrustful, eager to make powerful enemies, the young journalist couldn't possibly have died accidentally, could he?

It was for Rolling Stone, where Hastings had a contract, that he'd written "The Runaway General," the 2010 article that resulted in the cashiering of General Stanley McChrystal, America's commander in Afghanistan, and made his name as a journalist. Mark Leibovich, in this summer's inside-the-­Beltway big read, This Town, describes Hastings's McChrystal piece as "the most consequential" journalism of 2010 and possibly Obama's entire first term. But despite going after big game, Hastings tended to be nonchalant about possible repercussions. "Whenever I'd been reporting around groups of dudes whose job it was to kill people," he said once, "one of them would usually mention that they were going to kill me."

By the middle of June, though, Hastings, then 33, had become openly afraid. Helicopters are a common sight in the Hollywood Hills, but he had told Jordanna Thigpen, a neighbor he'd become close to, that there were more of them in the sky than usual, and he was certain they were tracking him. On Saturday the 15th, he called Matt Farwell, his writing partner, and said Farwell might be interviewed by the FBI. Farwell was unsettled. "He was being really cagey over the phone, which was odd, very odd," Farwell says. On the 17th, Hastings e-mailed colleagues at BuzzFeed to warn them that "the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates'?"; he was "onto a big story" and needed to go "off the rada[r] for a bit ... hope to see you all soon."

Paul Morigi/Getty Images for the Guardian

The Fall of the House of Moon, by Mariah Blake, the New Republic

Sex rituals, foreign spies, Biden offspring, and the Unification Church's war-torn first family.

[A]fter the service was over, In Jin disappeared from public view. She stopped delivering the weekly broadcasts, and even quit showing up at the church's Manhattan headquarters. After several months passed with no sign of her, some parishioners began pressing for information on her whereabouts. They were blocked at every turn. Even the highest circles of church leadership couldn't-or wouldn't-say what had happened to In Jin Moon.

Before long, it became clear that the House of Moon was crumbling and In Jin had become caught up in its downfall. But her disappearance was only one part of a much more complicated saga-one that involved illegitimate children, secret sex rituals, foreign spy agencies, and the family of Vice President Joseph Biden. Even by Moon's famously eccentric standards, the collapse of his American project would turn out to be spectacular and deeply strange.

KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images

We Live and Die Here Like Animals,' by Peter Bouckaert, Foreign Policy

The Central African Republic has suffered a horrific collapse. But is the worst violence between the country's Muslims and Christians yet to come?

Worsening the situation, fury with the Seleka is now spilling over into vicious armed resistance among Christians. One Muslim woman remembers a Christian militant saying to her during an anti-Muslim attack in Ouham that killed hundreds in September, "Muslims overthrew President Bozizé, and there will be no safety for Muslims until [the] Seleka [are] gone." At another massacre of Muslims the same month, a militia leader told captured villagers, "We will kill all the Muslims, and we will kill all of your livestock," before his fighters cut the throat of one man and opened fire on the others, killing four more.

If nothing is done, the CAR could descend into a deep, inter-communal religious conflict -- with much greater bloodshed than even what we've seen thus far. In early November, the United Nations went so far as to warn that the current conflict is at risk of escalating into genocide.

Already, the human toll, as recounted by those who have survived or witnessed violence, is shocking.

MARCUS BLEASDALE/VII