This Week in Global Reportage — North Korea, Kokpar, Guabidós

It’s been a while since my last post; I was away in southern Armenia, teaching sixth and seventh graders about environmental stewardship, and I enjoyed the break, to be honest— there’s little respite to be found in the news lately. This week, Vladamir Putin ordered the expulsion of 755 U.S. embassy staffers, in response to new U.S. sanctions; suicide bombers killed at least 50 in the Afghan city of Herat; and in an apparent show of force, the U.S. tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Qatar-Gulf crisis drags on and Venezuela is consumed by chaos. I do not envy the person whose job it is to write the New York Times morning briefing. With that said, here’s what else I read this week.


How to Deal With North Korea
Mark Bowden | The Atlantic
“Thirty minutes. That’s about how long it would take a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea to reach Los Angeles.” In light of North Korea’s recent missile test, I revisited The Atlantic’s July/August cover story, in which Mark Bowden examines the U.S. options for dealing with Kim Jong-un: prevention, turning the screws, decapitation, acceptance. None is ideal. Each is dangerous. (The Economist ran a similar piece this week, though it isn’t as detailed.)

A Kingdom for a Horse
Will Boast | Virginia Quarterly Review
“‘We play kokpar because it’s in our blood,’ I’m told several times. ‘Because we’re nomads.’” Will Boast appreciates the complexities of culture and history, and, in this powerful essay about the ancient nomadic game known in Kazakhstan as kokpar (roughly, “goat grabbing”), he finds a people grappling with questions of post-Soviet national identity. Kazakhstan is being pulled in different directions, and its future is uncertain. Will traditions survive? Is Kazakh nationalism sustainable? What role will the country play in the 21st century and beyond?

Sons and Daughters
Sarah A. Topol | Harper’s Magazine
Conservative estimates place the number of intersex births in the U.S. at one in two thousand. For decades, the “deficiency” was corrected at birth, and the child’s “true” sex was decided by his or her parents. But a growing number of families and activists now oppose this practice. They insist that the decision — for or against alteration, and to what sex — should be the child’s alone. Naturally, doctors and activists disagree over what is in the best longterm psychological and physiological interest of intersex children. There are too many unanswered questions and too few case studies. Fortunately, unlikely locales may offer researchers insight: Las Salinas and Saladillo in the Dominican Republic, where one in ninety children is born intersex, makes “the community a kind of laboratory of gender fluidity, with a surprising range of outcomes.”