Readings

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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. 

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The state we're in

"I think it's really important to speak up & say what you think. Women especially," said digital pioneer Sue Gardner, in conversation with author Margaret Atwood Friday on Twitter. The two women, both special guests at next week's 6 Degrees event on inclusion in Toronto, joined OpenCanada online to discuss the state of the world, the role of technology and the citizen, and their reasons for optimism. Read the highlights here.

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UN drama

A panel of United Nations experts has found that North Korea is evading international sanctions with "seeming impunity," and has said as much in an independent report. So why hasn't it seen the light of day? Foreign Policy'Colum Lynch digs into the "bitter behind-the-scenes battle between Russia and the United States" preventing the report's publication. 

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10 years on

This week marks a decade since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the implosion of Wall Street and the beginning of the global financial crisis — the effects of which the world is still feeling today. In this beautifully-crafted Reuters interactive, five reporters examine what has — and hasn't — changed in the last 10 years, with respect to politics, markets, wealth distribution, and more. 

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The Day Zero crisis

Earlier this year, it was widely predicted that Cape Town's dams and reservoirs would soon dry up, resulting in a lack of water. "Day Zero" has yet to arrive, and while some in South Africa see it as a manufactured crisis, as Vann R. Newkirk II writes in The Atlantic, "Cape Town’s reality will soon impact many global cities, where water will become a constant concern, and democracy will become contingent upon the taps."