Readings

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Iranian Revolution

Forty years ago, the Iranian Revolution ushered in Ayatollah Khomeini and, with him, an Islamic republic. Reflecting on Iran today, New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink describes a country where society is changing faster than the current regime: “Iran’s leaders face a growing dilemma of whether to start translating the social changes into new laws and customs or try to hang on to the 40-year-old ideals of the revolution.”

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Remembering UNAMIR II

In The Globe and Mail, Gloria Galloway reports on how Canadian troops’ work helping Rwandans to rebuild after the 1994 genocide was a “quiet success” — but you wouldn’t know it looking at the official history of Canada’s involvement on government websites. Twenty-five years later, veterans who were forever changed by their nightmare deployment are looking to be remembered.

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Project Raven

This Reuters investigation by Christopher Bing and Joel Schectman reveals how ex-National Security Agency operatives helped the United Arab Emirates spy on human rights activists, rival leaders and journalists — even other Americans. “I am working for a foreign intelligence agency who is targeting US persons,” one member of the clandestine team called Project Raven said. “I am officially the bad kind of spy.”

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Worlds apart

Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days imprisoned in Iran, has released a new project inspired by his own relationship (he is American and his wife is Iranian). Together, they were able to build a life in the US, but other couples affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban haven’t been so lucky. For The Washington Post, Rezaian investigates what it looks like when bureaucracy “splits husbands and wives across a continental divide.”

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Cryptocurrency in Georgia

For The New York Times, Liz Alderman visits Tbilisi, where Georgians are betting big on Bitcoin. “Even as the currency has tumbled in value,” she writes, “thousands of Georgians have jumped into the game and sold cars — even cows — to buy high-powered computers to mine Bitcoin and join what has become a state-supported dash toward data supremacy.”

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Chaos in Caracas

This week, Canada and the US announced they would no longer recognize Nicolás Maduro as the president of Venezuela, condemning his “illegitimate mandate” and throwing their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Vox’s Alex Ward has a primer on recent protests and how Venezuela reached its “boiling point.”

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Trump’s man in Berlin

Konstantin von Hammerstein spent the last few months reporting on Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and a steadfast ally of Donald Trump. The result is this investigation in DER SPIEGEL, which paints a grim picture of Grenell’s diplomatic status in Berlin: increasingly isolated by everyone except for the far-right. 

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Foreign fighters

In this piece for VICE, Ben Makuch sits down with Canadian ISIS fighter Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi, who made headlines last year when it was revealed on a New York Times podcast that he had managed to make it back to Ontario from Syria undetected. Huzaifa’s story provides a glimpse into what he says are RCMP efforts to de-radicalize foreign fighters who have returned from abroad.

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Wall of women

In India, millions of women decided to kick 2019 off with an unprecedented display of solidarity, building a “gender wall” in support of women’s right that stretched out over 600 kilometres. And they weren’t alone — as Kamala Thiagarajan reports for NPR, “even as women of all ages lined up on one side of the highway, many of their menfolk — husbands, friends and relatives — lined up on the other side to show their support.”

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Rwandan genocide

Almost 25 years ago, at least 800,000 Rwandans were killed in a planned campaign of extermination. In this excerpt in The Walrus, survivors of the genocide who settled in Canada share their powerful, heartbreaking recollections with Christine Magill, who says their stories taught her “about the resiliency of the human spirit, and...demonstrate why we must counter divisiveness in all its guises.”

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The price of refusal

While Donald Trump uses gang-related violence in the United States to justify tighter border security, this investigation by ProPublica journalists Kavitha Surana and Hannah Dreier shows the complications — and life-threatening dangers — that exist for US newcomers from Central America who try to avoid participation in a gang like MS-13. 

The New Yorker

Redefining equality

In this profile for The New Yorker, Nathan Heller paints a picture of American philosopher Elizabeth Anderson whose work "brings together ideas from the left and right to battle increasing inequality." Are equality and freedom in fact much more intertwined than we thought? Anderson's life and work give insight into a new way of thinking around fair societies. 

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Centre Block

This month, Parliament Hill’s Centre Block closed for renovations, and it will be at least a decade before the Ottawa building re-opens. While most Canadians will associate it with politicians and parliamentary debate, journalists have also been a staple of its hallowed halls. For Maclean’sJohn Geddes looks back at how Centre Block has honoured the fourth estate.

The New Yorker

Transatlantic frenemies

For The New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser takes a deep look into the fraught relationship between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are “almost epically mismatched.” The stakes are high as 2018 comes to a close. “Call your friends enemies long enough, and eventually they may start to believe you,” Glasser writes. “Is this, then, finally, the end of Pax Americana? 

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Migration in Italy

Following WWII, the population of the Italian hillside town of Riace shrunk to just a few hundred people. But from 1998, Riace opened its doors to refugees arriving on its shores, breathing new life into the town and staving off economic decline. Now, as The Globe’s Eric Reguly reports, the mayor responsible is in exile, and Italy’s right-wing government is cracking down on migration. What future is there for Riace?

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Land feuds

In Nigeria, the country’s deadliest violence comes not from Boko Haram but from a conflict between farmers and herders competing for space as the population grows and land becomes more scarce. In The Washington Post, Max Bearak reports on the locals who, in the absence of a sufficient government response, “have cobbled together groups of peacekeepers who have become the plateau’s de facto law enforcement.”


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COP24

As representatives of nearly 200 countries meet in Poland to try and negotiate the rules of the Paris climate accord, the CBC’s Nahlah Ayed reports from Krakow, a city with a serious smog problem (the “Beijing of Europe”). It’s not all bad news: after citizens demanded action, Krakow approved a ban on using coal. What can other countries learn from the Polish example?

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Yazidi reunification

For The Globe and Mail, Christina Frangou shares the story of Jihan Khudher, a Yazidi refugee living in Calgary. Though safe in Canada, Jihan, who was held captive by ISIS, is suffering from rare, PTSD-related seizures — a kind triggered by extreme stress or trauma. Her medical team has identified something they believe can help: the reunification of Jihan’s broken family. 

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Cover up in the Congo

In 2017, two United Nations investigators, an American and a Swede, were brutally murdered in the Congo while looking into local killings. But 20 months later, no one has been brought to justice, and many of the details remain obscured. Why has the UN tried to cover up the Congolese government’s involvement? Colum Lynch reports for Foreign Policy.

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Spotlight on China

The New York Times has launched a five-part series seeking to answer the question: how did China become the superpower it is today? The project looks at how China, on track to surpass the American economy, rejected Western economic wisdom and achieved “social economic mobility unrivaled by much of the world.” Here, Megan Specia lays out the key takeaways.