Readings

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Running on empty in Nepal

In this piece for Harper's Magazine, Ruth Margalit visits a country wracked by two major earthquakes, deadly protests over its constitution and, as a result of India closing its border, a fuel crisis. With no imported materials to rebuild homes and no cooking gas for labourers to eat anything other than rice and lentils, the outlook on recovery from the earthquake is dim at best.

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The end of oil

Historically, Saudi Arabia has relied on the petroleum sector for 90 percent of its budget. But the kingdom is in crisis mode, with foreign reserves being depleted at an alarming pace. For Bloomberg, Peter Waldman spends eight hours with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who will be spearheading a $2 trillion effort to wean Saudi Arabia off its lifeblood: oil.

the guardian

The people of Calais

French author Emmanuel Carrère pens this wonderfully written piece for The Guardian, in which he visits Calais with the goal of focusing on the residents of a place now associated with one thing - the migrant crisis. In the French port city he finds fear and hope, racism and optimism, and is unable to separate the Calaisians from those stranded there out of necessity, all desperate for a better life.

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Paying it forward

Howard Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, has spent most of his life as a farmer, enjoying the feeling of soil in his hands. Now, in a uniform of khakis and John Deere t-shirts, he runs a multi-billion dollar foundation that has as its goal the eradication of world hunger. In The Atlantic, Nina Munk profiles Buffett Jr.'s work and philosophy: “The only way you know what works is to fail.” 

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The devil you don’t know

“When you think of the worst abuses in poor countries,” writes Michael Hobbes in Foreign Policy, “you probably think they’re committed by companies based in rich ones: Nike in Indonesia, Shell in Nigeria, Dow in Bhopal, India.” But, as Hobbes reports – using Zimbabwe as a disheartening case study – it’s the companies we’ve never heard of, accountable to no one, that we should worry about.

The New Yorker

The Assad brief

For The New Yorker, Ben Taub reports on the effort, led by Canadian war-crimes investigator Bill Wiley, to document the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government, recently culminating in “a record of state-sponsored torture that is almost unimaginable in its scope and its cruelty.” Despite the war, Wiley is confident that his commission’s work “will see the light of day, in court, in relatively short order.”

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What makes a European?

For The New York Times, James Angelos profiles one town in Bavaria, where the arrival of Syrian refugees has meant hard questions about what it means to be German. Angelos says of one newcomer: “He believed Germany was far more hospitable than other European countries, but still, he would always be a foreigner. When people saw him, they thought: ‘Nicht aus Deutschland,’ he told me. Not from Germany.”

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Shifting borders

Throughout history, over time, the lines between states have changed, leaving the world a difference place from century to century. But where Russia and Georgia meet, the border shifts nightly, as South Ossetian troops and their Russian allies push the line of demarcation further and further, taking with them more land and, sometimes, people. Paul Salopek reports for Politico.

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A victim's triumph

Shandra Woworuntu thought she was coming to the U.S. for a hotel industry job. Instead, she became a victim of sex traffickers, turned away by a local police station and the Indonesian consulate, finally receiving a helping hand from an unlikely place. Woworuntu's story has found receptive ears as high at the White House, as she advocates for other victims of human slavery. For BBC Magazine.

The New Yorker

Up close with glaciers

For this piece in The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins travels with a group of scientists trying to measure how quickly the Chhota Shigri Glacier in India is melting. Understanding the state of the glacier, they hope, can help to save it and combat climate change more generally. But "these things don’t depend on science," one says. "They depend on politics.” 


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How Cubans are getting the Internet

Despite a notorious lack of easy access to the Internet, Cubans are getting online in increasing numbers. In a country where smartphones and iPads are becoming more and more popular, how are citizens plugging in? Black markets and secret thumb drives, for starters, as William Fenton writes for PCMag.

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Inside a Colombian rebel camp

The deadline for a peace deal between the government of Colombia and the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was this week, though the two sides remain at odds on how to end a 50-year conflict. In this piece for The New York Times, Nicholas Casey spends time with guerilla fighters in their jungle enclave, as they contemplate life after war.

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The drone operators

As the Canadian military makes the case for spending up to $1.5b on armed UAVs, Emma Loop speaks with three former drone operators for BuzzFeed. The emotional scars borne by the three, responsible for identifying kill targets through the electronic eyes of machines, speak to the need for greater support of those destined to do the same job in the future.

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Being honest about Iraq

"It’s been more than five years since U.S. combat troops left Iraq," writes Neil Swidey in the Boston Globe. "It took about that long after Vietnam for the nation to begin wrestling honestly with the forces that had led us into that mistaken war." To do the same with Iraq, Swidey starts with the case of L. Paul Bremer, from whose failed policies many draw a line to the rise of ISIS.

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The Obama Doctrine

Jeffrey Goldberg's long-form feature in The Atlantic assesses Barack Obama's engagement with the world. "Over the past few months," Goldberg writes, "I’ve spent several hours talking with him about the broadest themes of his 'long game' foreign policy, including the themes he is most eager to discuss—namely, the ones that have nothing to do with the Middle East."


The New Yorker

Bidding wars in Afghanistan

"America’s war in Afghanistan," writes Matthieu Aikins, "presents a mystery: how could so much money, power, and good will have achieved so little?" This New Yorker piece tells the story of how one young Afghan trucking contractor made millions off his involvement with the Special Forces - despite accusations of cooperation with the Taliban.

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Doctors wanted

Physicians fleeing Syria en masse have found hope in Germany, where clinics and hospitals are desperate to fill holes in their workforce. But what does it mean when half of Syria's doctors have left the country, leaving behind a failing healthcare system in the midst of a war zone? Elisabeth Braw reports for Foreign Policy.

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Assessing Libya

In this two-part series for The New York Times, Jo Becker and Scott Shane delve into the role played by Hillary Clinton in the Obama administration's decision-making process surrounding the military intervention in Libya. "As she once again seeks the White House," they write, "an examination of the intervention she championed shows her at what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state."

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A medical mystery

The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen reports from Campina Grande, Brazil, where doctors are trying to piece together answers to countless questions about the Zika virus. For women birthing babies with severe brain defects, the situation is beyond urgent. "No one is suggesting mass fatalities," Nolen writes. "But when something is as fast, as weird and as brutal as Zika is here, the mystery is perhaps its most critical aspect." 

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Understanding the Kurds

Turkey's fight against ISIS is coloured by the country's long, complicated and fraught relationship with the Kurdish people. Here is Patrick Martin's Globe and Mail explainer on the Kurds, who number 30 million and are spread throughout Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.