Readings

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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 global wealthy elite from H.S.B.C. in 2008. The theft became a source of international 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 an existential crisis.

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The next global scientific powerhouse

This slick BBC Magazine piece explores what’s possible when a reverse brain drain draws Chinese scientists home from overseas. From pig cornea transplants to the largest radio telescope ever built, Rebecca Morelle writes on how China is investing in science on the road to becoming a global leader in research.

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Trump and the rise of populism

From Donald Trump in the U.S. to Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Jonathan Freedland writes about the growing appeal of populist figures on both ends on the political spectrum for The Guardian. He explains how economic woes and political dissent have given rise to this trend across the globe, and the dangerous consequences it reaps on democracy.

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Tracking Vlad

In this first person account, Globe and Mail correspondent Mark MacKinnon tells the story of Vlad, an outspoken, pro-Ukrainian patriot who becomes a friend, not just a source. When Vlad goes missing, MacKinnon embarks on a dangerous journey through Donetsk and other formerly burgeoning cities that have become casualties of the war with Russia, in an attempt to find him.

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Peace, but at what cost?

Despite a missed deadline back in March, Colombia's president has announced that a peace deal between his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is near. But, Kyla Sankey asks in Jacobin, what is peace without justice? This latest deal "does not seriously challenge Colombia’s property structures or economic growth model," she writes, and will mean little for the country's rural poor.

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A collapsing Venezuela

What is happening in Venezuela, when an entrepreneur can't find enough toilet paper in the country to keep his restrooms up to code? From Moises Naim and Francisco Toro, this piece in The Atlantic uses vignettes to depict the social effects of Venezuela's implosion, one at odds with the country's wealth and seeming modernity. 

the guardian

Sons of spies

In 2010, their parents were outed as Russian spies. Now, Alex and Tim Foley - or Alexander and Timofei Vavilov - are fighting to regain their Canadian citizenship. Does being the son of spies mean being stripped of one's identity? Shaun Walker recounts this tale of espionage, fake passports and sleeper cells in The Guardian.


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Mozambique's blood rubies

Montepuez, in northern Mozambique, is thought to hold 40 percent of the world's known supply of rubies. The UK-based company that acquired the ruby deposit describes its gems as 'responsibly sourced' and 'ethical,' but accounts of forced relocations, conflict and killings tell a different story. Estacio Valoi reports for Foreign Policy.

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Who is Narendra Modi?

In the New RepublicSiddhartha Deb presents a blistering profile of 'the man who has replaced Gandhi as the face of India.' Tracing Modi's rise through right-wing Hindu politics, Deb describes a trail of violence, racism, rage and unaccountability - a narrative at odds with the Western world's admiring view of the prime minister.

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Running on empty in Nepal

In this piece for Harper's Magazine, Ruth Margalit visits a country wracked by two major earthquakes, deadly protests over its constitution and, as a result of India closing its border, a fuel crisis. With no imported materials to rebuild homes and no cooking gas for labourers to eat anything other than rice and lentils, the outlook on recovery from the earthquake is dim at best.

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The end of oil

Historically, Saudi Arabia has relied on the petroleum sector for 90 percent of its budget. But the kingdom is in crisis mode, with foreign reserves being depleted at an alarming pace. For Bloomberg, Peter Waldman spends eight hours with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who will be spearheading a $2 trillion effort to wean Saudi Arabia off its lifeblood: oil.

the guardian

The people of Calais

French author Emmanuel Carrère pens this wonderfully written piece for The Guardian, in which he visits Calais with the goal of focusing on the residents of a place now associated with one thing - the migrant crisis. In the French port city he finds fear and hope, racism and optimism, and is unable to separate the Calaisians from those stranded there out of necessity, all desperate for a better life.

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Paying it forward

Howard Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, has spent most of his life as a farmer, enjoying the feeling of soil in his hands. Now, in a uniform of khakis and John Deere t-shirts, he runs a multi-billion dollar foundation that has as its goal the eradication of world hunger. In The Atlantic, Nina Munk profiles Buffett Jr.'s work and philosophy: “The only way you know what works is to fail.” 

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The devil you don’t know

“When you think of the worst abuses in poor countries,” writes Michael Hobbes in Foreign Policy, “you probably think they’re committed by companies based in rich ones: Nike in Indonesia, Shell in Nigeria, Dow in Bhopal, India.” But, as Hobbes reports – using Zimbabwe as a disheartening case study – it’s the companies we’ve never heard of, accountable to no one, that we should worry about.

The New Yorker

The Assad brief

For The New Yorker, Ben Taub reports on the effort, led by Canadian war-crimes investigator Bill Wiley, to document the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government, recently culminating in “a record of state-sponsored torture that is almost unimaginable in its scope and its cruelty.” Despite the war, Wiley is confident that his commission’s work “will see the light of day, in court, in relatively short order.”

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What makes a European?

For The New York Times, James Angelos profiles one town in Bavaria, where the arrival of Syrian refugees has meant hard questions about what it means to be German. Angelos says of one newcomer: “He believed Germany was far more hospitable than other European countries, but still, he would always be a foreigner. When people saw him, they thought: ‘Nicht aus Deutschland,’ he told me. Not from Germany.”

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Shifting borders

Throughout history, over time, the lines between states have changed, leaving the world a difference place from century to century. But where Russia and Georgia meet, the border shifts nightly, as South Ossetian troops and their Russian allies push the line of demarcation further and further, taking with them more land and, sometimes, people. Paul Salopek reports for Politico.

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A victim's triumph

Shandra Woworuntu thought she was coming to the U.S. for a hotel industry job. Instead, she became a victim of sex traffickers, turned away by a local police station and the Indonesian consulate, finally receiving a helping hand from an unlikely place. Woworuntu's story has found receptive ears as high at the White House, as she advocates for other victims of human slavery. For BBC Magazine.

The New Yorker

Up close with glaciers

For this piece in The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins travels with a group of scientists trying to measure how quickly the Chhota Shigri Glacier in India is melting. Understanding the state of the glacier, they hope, can help to save it and combat climate change more generally. But "these things don’t depend on science," one says. "They depend on politics.” 


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How Cubans are getting the Internet

Despite a notorious lack of easy access to the Internet, Cubans are getting online in increasing numbers. In a country where smartphones and iPads are becoming more and more popular, how are citizens plugging in? Black markets and secret thumb drives, for starters, as William Fenton writes for PCMag.