Readings

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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.

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Press freedom in Southeast Asia

In the mid-2000s, writes Megha Rajagopalan for BuzzFeed, an influx of social media and "gutsy" online news outlets suggested a brighter future for press freedom in Southeast Asia. But a decade later, activists say, the situation has never been more dire, thanks to repressive regional governments and the Trump administration's lack of interest in human rights.

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Running out of water

Cape Town, South Africa's second-largest city, has contingency plans for when it could run out of water, which might happen as soon as April. As it is, residents are only allowed to use enough to wash the dishes, take a four-minute shower and flush the toilet four times — but even these restrictions may not be sufficient to prevent "Day Zero," as Carolyn Thompson reports for Maclean's.

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A history of the heroin trade

After 16 years and a trillion dollars, fighting in Afghanistan continues. In this piece for The GuardianAlfred McCoy delves into the history of the heroin trade and how it has hindered the US military's success. While Western forces could forseeably remain trapped in the same endless cycle, he writes, "even for this troubled land and its dauntingly complex policy problem...there are alternatives."

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Brazil's income inequality

In the first 15 years of the 21st century, Brazil's supposed reduction of its income inequality was a good news story, studied by researchers from as far away as Bangladesh and Tanzania. But, as The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen reports, it turns out the gains were merely an illusion, leaving hard-working families right back where they started from. 

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Climate of fear

A month after the killing of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Houthi rebels have consolidated their grip on power, making an end to the country's civil war ever less likely. As Ali Al-Mujahed and Sudarsan Raghavan report for The Washington Postmany formerly chatty Yemenis are now afraid to discuss anything controversial — even inside their own homes.

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In the national interest?

As a reporter with The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize winner James Risen broke some of the most important national security stories of the post-9/11 Bush era. In this personal essay for The Intercept, he gives an extraordinary account of his battles against both the US government and his own editors in pursuit of publishing the truth.

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What Putin wants

Following widely-accepted allegations of illegal interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Julia Ioffe travels to Russia to answer two questions: how the Kremlin pulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history, and how far President Vladimir Putin is prepared to go to get what he wants — and what that means for America. For The Atlantic.

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Along Haiti's Burial Road

In Haiti, most people live on two dollars a day or less. But even the most modest funeral parlours offer services starting at $1,100. "No matter how rich in love they may be, most people can’t pay those fees," writes Catherine Porter in The New York Times. In this feature, she tells the story of the group of men who have stepped in to do the job themselves, spending their days tending to the forgotten dead.

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Canada's top diplomat

For Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland — tasked with no less than saving NAFTA — no two days are the same, and every day is unpredictable. In this profile for Toronto Life, Jason McBride traces Freeland's journey from journalist to cabinet minister — from growing up on a Ukrainian feminist socialist co-op to being "democracy’s last best defender" in the age of Donald Trump. 

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Forgotten victims

When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, its people celebrated in the streets, and international observers were optimistic about a future without violence. But since 2013, the world's youngest nation has spiralled back into a complex civil war in which rape is used as a weapon. Tanya Birkbeck reports from Juba for The Globe and Mail on the hundreds of women who have been attacked — and the babies they must care for as a result.

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The right to security

As Alexis Okeowo writes for the New Yorkersome Mexican communities have formed their own self-defence groups as an alternative to government protection — the result of years of distrust of official security forces and drug cartels. Are these groups examples of "effective local justice," or do they push into the dangerous territory that lies outside the law?

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Talking trash

As landfills and waste dumps around the world quickly fill up — we collectively generate at least 3.5 million tons of solid waste a day — how are major cities combating this epic problem, if they are at all? Photographer Kadir van Lohuizen travelled to six different cities — Jakarta, Tokyo, Lagos, New York, Sao Paulo and Amsterdam — for the Washington Post to find out. 

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Civilian deaths

In this stunning investigation by the New York Times, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal uncover a disturbing pattern of civilian casualties in the war against ISIS. After 18 months of investigation, and having visited 150 sites across northern Iraq, they found that one in five airstrikes resulted in a civilian death, at “a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.” 

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A flawed model

The neoliberal model of more markets and less governments has become an ideology that fundamentally goes against the field of economics, argues Dani Rodrik for The Guardian. He takes the reader on a deep dive through the history and significance of the economic movement, before concluding “the fatal flaw...is that it does not even get the economics right. It must be rejected on its own terms for the simple reason that it is bad economics.”