Readings

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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.


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After ISIS

The town of Sinjar, in Iraq, was liberated from the Islamic State three years ago, but, as Sam Mednick reports for Foreign Policy, ISIS’s defeat has created a power vacuum. As militias move in, the town’s Yazidi minority is left at their mercy, sheltering on the side of a mountain range, “preferring to brace for another cold winter in tattered tents than return to their homes.

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Russian interference

Canada is less than a year away from its federal election, but does the government have a strategy for guarding against interference from abroad? The stakes are high, as Justin Ling writes in The Walrus: “The question of whether Russia can successfully rig an election is, really, beside the point. The real worry is how an unfriendly foreign government can distort or skew our society.”

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Future of the Union

This week, the UK and EU agreed on a Brexit draft withdrawal plan. But somehow, the way forward looks as uncertain as ever. “It is easy to blame [Theresa] May and her bitterly divided Conservative Party,” writes Fintan O’Toole in The New York Review of Books. “But what makes that crisis all the more profound is that what we would usually expect in a parliamentary democracy…is patently not happening either."

The New Yorker

Havana syndrome

From late 2016, American diplomats and spies — as well as Canadian diplomats — posted in Cuba began experiencing unexplained bursts of sound and pressure that left them dizzy and exhausted, with symptoms of concussion and brain injury. In The New YorkerAdam Entous and Jon Lee Anderson unpack the mysterious condition known as “Havana syndrome,” or simply, “the Thing.”

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Intimidation in China

Religious groups have long faced intimidation and control from authorities in Beijing, and Christians are no exception. The CBC’s Saša Petricic reports that in recent weeks, Protestant churches have been closed and their crosses torn down, and a controversial deal with the Vatican looks to give China power over its Catholic church leaders. Is the worst yet to come? 

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Wind of the north

For The Independent, Rachel Savage spends some time reporting on North America’s first Indigenous-owned rail company, Tshiuetin (which means “wind of the north” in Innu). Connecting Sept-Îles, Quebec to the town of Schefferville, 355 miles north, the journey can be as long as 24 hours, and its schedule can be unpredictable. But that doesn’t bother its conductor: “It’s a dream, every journey,” he says.

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Problematic plastics

"Recycling has been promoted as the environmental answer to humanity’s growing amounts of rubbish," write Leslie Hook and John Reed for FT Magazine. But what happens when China, which, along with Hong Kong, was buying 60 percent of plastic waste from G7 countries, shuts its doors? It has "laid bare the uncomfortable economics behind household recycling, and triggered a profound re-examination of the practice."

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A harrowing journey

On August 18, 2016, "Andrew" arrived in Sicily, Italy, after setting off in late November, 2015, from Benin City, in southern Nigeria. Yomi Kazeem traces his steps for Quartz, up Nigeria, through Niger, across the Sahara and, finally, the Mediterranean — detailing the risks migrants face and exploring the personal reasons that compel them to leave home in the first place.  

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Ten billion trees

In Pakistan, officials have launched what they’re calling the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami,” a tree-planting initiative they hope will raise environmental awareness. And not a moment too soon. “Pakistan will need more than a trillion new pines, cedars and eucalyptus trees to reverse decades of deforestation,” writes The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable. Luckily, “the idea of a green awakening seems to be taking root.”

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Inside Britain’s Foreign Office

As the UK continues to struggle with its plan for leaving the EU, Prospect Magazine’s Steve Bloomfield speaks with current and former diplomats to paint a picture of the state of Britain’s Foreign Office. It’s not pretty: “It is ‘exhausted,’ said one current ambassador; in a ‘malaise’ said a recently-retired senior diplomat; a ‘shambles’ said a former ambassador.” What is the way forward, in the age of Brexit? 

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Women in uniform

For The New York Times Magazine, Sophia Jones interviewed dozens of Afghan women working in their country’s security sector, embedding with US and NATO troops in order to see first-hand the challenges involved, from recruitment to cultural norms to keeping the women alive. It’s an uphill battle — experts, Jones writes, “say it could take generations before real, lasting progress is made.”


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Farewell to Brazil

For five years, as The Globe and Mail’s Latin America correspondent based in Rio, Stephanie Nolen reported on Brazil’s most important stories: the Lava Jato graft probe and its fallout, the Summer Olympics and World Cup, the devastation wrought by Zika, the seemingly innovative pacificacao program, and more. As she gets ready to move to Mexico City, Nolen reflects on the country she’s leaving behind.

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Blended photographs

This week, Maclean’s displays the work of photographer Peter Macdiarmid: “miniature time machines” that meld original photographs of Canadian involvement in World War One with newer images of how the same locations, in the UK, Belgium, France and Canada, look today. “The aftermath of the Great War becomes clear;” Maclean’s writes, “somehow, life went on, and the world was rebuilt.”

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War in Cameroon

For VICE News, travelling across rivers and through rainforest hillsides, Aris Roussinos visits Cameroon’s breakaway Ambazonia region, where a war of independence is underway. There, he reports on the “ordinary cocoa farmers” who, in a country with a French-speaking central government, “are now willing to fight and die to preserve their English-language culture and institutions.”

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Warning from Europe

In this Atlantic essay, journalist Anne Applebaum has a warning for Americans: when it comes to polarization, the worst might be yet to come. From Poland to Hungary to Greece — where history feels circular, rather than linear — Applebaum reports on the deep divides entrenched in European society, both at present and in the past. 

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Now or never

This summer, Canadians learned of the daring rescue that transported 106 of Syria’s White Helmets and more than 300 of their family members to safety. In Maclean’s, Terry Glavin has new details about how the operation, spurred on by Canadian diplomats, came together, and also about why only a fraction of the volunteers originally intended to be rescued were saved.