Readings

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A witness in Douma

Communications officer with the UN's World Food Programme Marwa Awad reports for The Nation on what she saw on a recent trip to Eastern Ghouta, Syria, just before the city of Douma fell into government hands. "'Please, won’t you take me and my daughter out? We are going to die here,'" a woman told Awad as she delivered food aid. "'What is the point of food and drink if after it we will die?'"

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A political experiment

For The Walrus, Joseph Rosen spent a year talking to men on the right in an attempt to find his "political doppelgängers" and understand where Donald Trump's support comes from, even in Canada. "Yes, some people are fuelled by hate, but the values that others act on are often not that different from my own," he writes. "Some are against economic disparity; others want to repair a sense of community."

The New Yorker

Remaking the Middle East

In The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins delves into what's driving Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country's most influential figure. Is MBS trying to modernize Saudi Arabia and rid it of extremism? Or is he simply consolidating his power? And how does his relationship with the Trump White House explain recent events in the Middle East? 

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The ISIS files

Over more than a year, The New York Times' Rukmini Callimachi made five trips to Iraq, recovering more than 15,000 pages of documents left behind by Islamic State militants as their hold on territory gave way. "The world knows the Islamic State for its brutality," Callimachi writes, "but the militants did not rule by the sword alone. They wielded power through two complementary tools: brutality and bureaucracy."

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Ukraine's famine

'Red Famine,' a book by Pulitzer-prize winning historian Anne Applebaum on the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine, is this year’s winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize. In this excerpt in The Globe and Mail, Applebaum traces the history of the description of the famine — once people were allowed to describe it — and how that ties in to Ukraine’s fight for a separate national history.

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Yemeni refugees

For The WalrusKamal Al-Solaylee reports on the Yemeni refugees who have fled their war-torn homeland and made it to Kuala Lumpur. Among those Al-Solaylee meets, Justin Trudeau "has acquired a near-biblical status as the liberator of the oppressed and destitute." But Canada has not announced any major resettlement plan in response to the crisis in Yemen, which begs the question: do some refugees matter more to Canadians?

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Veterans' voices

As the war in Iraq turns 15, Jack Crosbie takes a look at media coverage of military affairs in the US. As traditional outlets have scaled back, he writes, "a new crop of online publications gives voice to veterans and military journalists, covering America’s wars and the people who fight them with an unvarnished blend of personal experience and investigative reporting." For the Columbia Journalism Review.

The New Yorker

Memory and absence

For a new book, New Yorker writer Masha Gessen and photographer Misha Friedman go looking for traces of Soviet Gulags in Putin's Russia. They end up finding not memorials or museums, but absence — no reckoning, no attempt to "comprehend the incomprehensible." Laid out here are some of Friedman's gripping photographs.

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None like it hot

Do we have another Cold War on our hands? On the eve of a Russian election and amidst accusations of poisoning on UK soil, Lawrence Freedman looks at the state of tensions between Russia and the rest of the world and unpacks the term 'Cold War' with that in mind. "Cold War 2.0 deserves the designation because it might turn hot. That is the risk that demands attention," he writes for the New Statesman.

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Ransom for royal falconers

In November 2015, a group of Qatari falcon hunters, including members of Qatar’s ruling family, set out for a hunting trip in Iraq, which went awry when masked men with balaclavas stormed their tents and took them hostage. For The New York Times Magazine, Robert Worth reports on the never-before-told story of the staggering ransom deal that followed.

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Emperor for life?

This week, China's Communist Party is expected to vote to abolish term limits, clearing the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in office. In The Globe and MailNathan VanderKlippe reports on what Xi's future might look like — and what this might mean for Western countries that are already reassessing their relationships with China. 

The New Yorker

The Trump-Russia dossier

How did a British citizen become "enmeshed in one of America’s most consequential political battles?" In this New Yorker piece, Jane Mayer explains how Christopher Steele, the man behind the dossier on Donald Trump's connections to Russia, tried to share his research with the world — and why so little was done in reaction to the information throughout the US presidential campaign. 


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China's Muslim gulag

In China's autonomous Xinjiang region, which has seen sporadic violence since 2009, the Communist Party has created an "unprecedented network of re-education camps" that are "essentially ethnic gulags." While returning home for a summer break from his studies in the US, Iman, a young Uighur man, discovers the true nature of these training centres, and tells his story to Foreign Policy.


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Revisiting Malta

When he was a teenager, Matthew Engel's family spent all their holidays in Malta. But returning 40 years after his last visit, he finds the smallest country in the European Union is going through extraordinary times. While the economy is booming, he writes in the New Statesman, stories of corruption and assassination are filling the papers. Is Malta headed for the EU's naughty list? 

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A chat with Catherine McKenna

In this Globe and Mail interview with Trevor Cole, Catherine McKenna, Canada's minister of the environment and climate change, speaks about what got her into politics, the importance of working with other cabinet ministers, how she gets around a recalcitrant US administration, and why she spoke up about her "Climate Barbie" incident. 

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Crackdown in Chechnya

Alihan, kidnapped and tortured in Chechnya for being gay, escaped to Canada and now lives in relative safety. Beaten and humiliated in prison, he tells his story to Buzzfeed's Jane Lytvynenko, in order to keep the pressure on governments that may be willing to help those victims — and potential victims — left behind. 

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Berlin Wall equinox

Last year, the Berlin Wall passed an "equinox of German unity" — it has now been gone for as long as it stood. But the West is still richer and holds more levers of power in the country, while easterners "increasingly control the political discourse of a countrywide shift to the extremes." The New York Times' Katrin Bennhold asks: is Germany still a tale of two countries?

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Containing extremism in Libya

Reporting from Libya, Frederic Wehrey examines the war-torn country's efforts to control the expansion of ISIS after the fall of Gaddafi. With no effective government in place, and no capable security services, militia chiefs are stepping in. "The real challenge," Wehrey writes in The Atlantic, "is dealing with extremism in a way that does not empower these men at the expense of an inclusive, civic state." 

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'Precision' drone strikes

In September 2013, a pickup truck full of men, women and children was hit by a US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan. Only Aisha, a four-year-old girl, survived. For The Intercept, May Jeong traces the knock-on effects of the attack on a group she concludes were likely innocent civilians. "Precision strikes are not as precise as they would have us believe," she writes. "Oftentimes, we don’t even know who we kill."

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Moscow's new centrality

Reporting from the Kremlin-sponsored "Syrian National Dialogue Congress" in Sochi, The Globe and Mail's Mark MacKinnon sees firsthand how "the era of everyone worrying what Washington thinks is over," at least when it comes to Syria. With the Trump administration seemingly uninterested in Middle East politics, Vladimir Putin is stepping up — for reasons that are far from altruistic.