09/20/2013 05:54 pm ET

Best World Reads Of The Week: September 14 - 20


Spending our days on the interwebs has its advantages, one being that we come across lots of excellent pieces of journalism. Every week, we'll bring you our favorite online reads that didn't appear on our site. Disagree with the selection? Leave your suggestions in the comments or tweet #bestreads at @HuffPostWorld.

Trading Privilege For Privation, Family Hits A Nerve In South Africa
The New York Times -- Lydia Polgreen

When Julian and Ena Hewitt moved their family to a squatter camp last month, they didn't expect the kind of backlash that ensued. The white, middle-class couple found themselves at the heart of South Africa's stark racial divide, eliciting applause from some for their desire to understand the black experience in South Africa and resentment from others who dismissed their experiment as "poverty pornography." As Lydia Polgreen writes, the segregation of experience and perspective from Apartheid lingers, despite its legal abolishment in 1994. "[I]f their motives were noble, did they inadvertently confirm what many here suspect: black poverty gets little notice until a white person experiences and highlights it?" Polgreen wonders.

Spanish Saddle Up And Ride The Bike Boom That's Sweeping The Country
The Guardian -- Paul Hamilos
Amid a relentless recession, at least one industry is thriving in Spain: Bicycles sales. Rising automotive costs have led hundreds of thousands to turn to cycling, a sharp turnaround from Spain's boom years when many Spaniards lived and bought beyond their means. But the recent cycle trend is about more than simple finances; as Paul Hamilos notes, bikes have simply become "cool." Hamilos describes the rise of cycle cafes, hotspots for hip riders "where art, discussion groups, workshops come together with only the very best cafes con leche." Residents hope the industry growth will lead to shifts in public policy and urban landscape, with activists pressuring local governments to make previously cycle-unfriendly cities more accommodating to Spain's hottest mode of transport.

Modern Art Was CIA 'Weapon'
The Independent -- Frances Stonor Saunders

CONFIRMED: The CIA used modern art as as a weapon during the Cold War. And in so doing, Frances Stonor Saunders notes, the agency ended up promoting the Abstract Expressionist movement despite its unpopularity among the American public and the dismissal of many artists as communists. In an ever-escalating propaganda war, Modern art provided the United States with the ammunition to contrast the intellectual freedom democracy affords with the Soviet aesthetic perceived as "strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket."

Saunders is careful to note that even without the invisible hand of the CIA, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and the like would probably have still found success along with the burgeoning movement. "But look where this art ended up: in the marble halls of banks, in airports, in city halls, boardrooms and great galleries," she writes. "For the Cold Warriors who promoted them, these paintings were a logo, a signature for their culture and system which they wanted to display everywhere that counted. They succeeded."

Venezuelan Women Are Dying From Buttock Injections
The Atlantic -- Alasdair Baverstock

In Venezuela, the never-ending quest for beauty has turned deadly. Alasdair Baverstock reports that in the last year, 17 women have died from silicone buttocks injections. These cheap, illegal procedures -- which parents often gift to their daughters for their 15th birthdays -- cost as little as $8, take just 20 minutes to perform and have effects that could last a lifetime, including tumor formation and spinal paralysis. Still, Venezuelan women won't be deterred, as beauty hums along as the country's second-most profitable industry, behind only petroleum. As a representative of an anti-bipolymer injection foundation explains: "When you live in a country where a beautiful woman has greater career prospects than someone with a strong work ethic and first-class education, you are forced into the mindset that there is nothing more important than beauty."

Mermaids of Asia: Dugongs, Dragon Wives And The Deep
The Diplomat -- Jonathan DeHart
Mermaids have long been a ubiquitous part of popular culture, appearing in tales ranging from ancient Syria, classical Greece, Ireland, Africa and India to modern Disney film. Most know the accepted origins of their mythos: drunken sailors starved of any shred of female contact sublimating their desires onto illusory sea mammals in the distance. But a new, emerging theory tracing mermaid folklore back to Asian roots offers a more subversive interpretation of the mermaid myth. Could it be that the seemingly normative, feminine allure of mermaids really derives from the strength of the so-called "Dragon Wives" of historically patriarchal societies in China and Japan? Jonathan DeHart investigates.