Readings

the guardian

Inside City 40

The forbidden Russian city of Ozersk — also known as City 40 or, more tellingly, "the graveyard of the earth" — was constructed in total secrecy after the Second World War, as the site of the Soviet nuclear weapons program. It's now one of the most contaminated places on earth — so why do its residents want to stay? Samira Goetschel reports for The Guardian, in advance of the release of her documentary.

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Being Turkish

In the aftermath of the attempted coup, Turkey's president has declared a state of emergency. For this New York Times Magazine piece, Suzy Hansen spends time in a conservative, pro-Erdogan Istanbul neighbourhood, delving into the increasingly more complicated issues — the influx of Syrian refugees, ongoing tensions with the Kurds, worrying security concerns — facing residents there.

the guardian

Why France?

Thursday's attack in Nice, which left at least 84 dead after a truck drove into a crowd on Bastille Day, is the latest bout of terrorism-related violence to occur in France in recent years. For the Guardian, Jason Burke attempts to explain why the country has been the target of attacks. While some reasons may be historical, cultural or related to French foreign policy, "others are rooted in grave problems within France itself," he writes.

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The Hillary Clinton gap

Vox's Ezra Klein sat down for an interview with the Democratic presidential nominee seeking to answer one question: "Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail?" The answer, he concludes, lies in Clinton's ability to really listen - an underrated quality, perhaps, on the traditionally male-dominated campaign trail.

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Russia's Far East

Just as the U.S. government offered would-be pioneers plots of lands in the 1800s, the Kremlin has launched a campaign to populate the "mosquito-infested wasteland" that makes up more than a third of Russia using the carrot of free land. Some say it's a pie in the sky; others say this will "save" Russia from the Chinese across the border. Andrew Higgins reports for The New York Times.

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Disappearing water

The drying up of Bolivia's second largest lake is having far reaching effects on a population that is ill-equipped to make a living without its waters, as Nicholas Casey and Josh Haner report in this The New York Times interactive feature. “The lake was our mother and our father,” says one former fisherman. “Without this lake, where do we go?” 

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Saving Timbuktu's manuscripts

This excerpt in mental_floss from a new book by Joshua Hammer details the covert attempts, led by a scholar and his network of like-minded literary custodians, to save hundreds of thousands of centuries-old books and documents from destruction by radical Islamists. By river and by boat, despite jihadis, bandits and suspicious government soldiers, they risk everything to accomplish their mission. 

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Obama's address to Parliament

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama became the seventh president to address a joint session of Parliament. In his speech, POTUS cracked jokes, praised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and called for pluralism, equality and tolerance in the wake of #Brexit and Trump's recent isolationist rhetoric. Read the full transcript on Maclean's.

The New Yorker

The man with the 25-year plan

The president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, is a voracious reader and an expert on failed states. But his preference for studying on his own and his penchant for always thinking in the long term is alienating allies he might need to stay in power. Can Ghani maintain the presidency long enough to do something about his own failed country? George Packer reports for The New Yorker.

The Star

Jihadi rehab

What to do with foreign fighters who once pledged allegiance to al-Shabaab but now want out? The Toronto Star's Michelle Shephard is the first journalist to visit a secret camp in Mogadishu where hundreds of former Somali Shabaab members are being held, with the aim of rehabilitation. One of the program's allies, a former U.S. Navy Seal, says he "can’t help but want to be a part of what this could be if it succeeds.”

the guardian

The road to Europhobia

"Behind our present turmoil lurks a certain idea of Britain, or of England. We are trying to find our identity," writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft for The Guardian. Through chronicling the history of British nationalism, he explains this week's referendum decision to leave the EU as a crisis of national identity fuelled by Euroscepticism and a "yearning for a maybe imaginary lost age."

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Kabul, Now and Then

Sparghai Basir and her mother both went to Kabul University and both worked for Save the Children. But one wore dresses and high heels and felt free - the other covers her hair and feels like an outsider in her own country. This is just one of the powerful pieces published by The Huffington Post and produced by Sahar Speaks, a project helping female Afghan journalists tell the stories of Afghan women.

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Diversity and tolerance

In the wake of the horrific killings at Pulse nightclub last weekend, Damien Cave highlights the way immigration has made a positive mark on Orlando. As Dr. Joseph Ibrahim - the son of a Muslim immigrant, who rushed to save those attacked by another son of Muslim immigrants - put it, “Here you constantly see people from all over the world, and it’s wonderful.” For The New York Times.

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Sudan's Blue Nile

This Al Jazeera feature by Ashley Hamer profiles the region of Blue Nile, historically aligned with South Sudan but kept a part of Sudan after the 2011 secession, cut off from its allies and periodically bombed by Khartoum. Despite the danger, refugees in Blue Nile mine for gold and gum arabic - essential for products like Coca-Cola and shoe polish - desperate to make a living in one of the world's most desolate conflict zones.

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The other Mexican border

"The news may surprise Mr. Trump," writes Stephanie Nolen, "but a few years ago the net flow of Mexicans into the U.S. reversed - more now leave than arrive." In The Globe and Mail, Nolen reports on Mexico's southern border, where some 400,000 migrants cross each year, braving violence, robbery and worse to escape deplorable conditions back home in Central America. 

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Blurry alliances

The latest in tensions between the U.S. and Russia is manifesting itself in Syria, where years of disappointing partnerships between anti-Assad rebels and the Obama administration have left an opening for courtship by the Kremlin. Mike Giglio of BuzzFeed speaks with commanders who have been approached by Russia in an attempt to undercut U.S. influence in the region. 

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Life among the dead

In this piece for The New York Times, Mujib Mashal describes a cacophony of life in the most unexpected of places: a cemetery in Kabul. Enterprising children, young lovers, bookish students and cannabis-smoking police officers all mix among the graves, while officials worry about the lack of space for bodies in a city that has seen so much death.

the guardian

A radical mayor and the fate of Europe's left

For The Guardian, Dan Hancox profiles Barcelona's newly elected mayor, Ada Colau, who's face came to epitomize the revival of the left-wing politics in Spain. But, like other progressive leaders across Europe, the former activist struggles to transform her radical rhetoric into policy. Will Colau usher in a new wave of leftist ruling in the region or succumb to political pressure?

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Witness to a tradition gone awry

Photographer Mario Cruz speaks with Pauline Eiferman of Roads & Kingdoms about his investigation into Senegal’s Islamic schools. Once respected places of learning, Cruz describes how he got access to the daaras of Dakar — a network of schools that use religion to mask the exploitation and abuse of more than 50,000 children.

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The great Swiss bank heist

In The New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe tells the story of Hervé Falciani, a computer technician who stole client data about the wealthy elite from H.S.B.C. in 2008. The theft became a source of tension between the French authorities who came into possession of the documents, and the Swiss authorities who saw their country’s reputation for financial secrecy facing a crisis.