Readings

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A quiet rebel

In Prospect magazine, Tom Fletcher pens a colourful profile of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the outgoing United Nations human rights chief who has pulled no punches with dictators and despots, been a fiery defender of the international order and tried steadfastly to shine light in dark corners. But now he is leaving, writes Fletcher — and what does that mean for the state of the world?

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White Helmets

Last weekend, the world learned of the daring rescue of 98 members of the Syrian Civil Defence — the White Helmets — and their families. In The Globe and Mail, Mark MacKinnon reveals the inside story of what he calls "a triumph of behind-the-scenes Canadian diplomacy," in which Robin Wettlaufer, Ottawa’s special envoy to Syria, and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland play a starring role. 

the guardian

Island of secrets

"Tax havens helped the world’s wealthiest keep a disproportionate share of the benefits of globalisation, by preventing the rest of us from seeing how much they own," writes Oliver Bullough in The Guardian. "This has eroded trust in democracy and capitalism." Yet, as tax havens are eradicated, a few holdouts remain, including Nevis, a volcano in the Caribbean. Bullough reports on its history, allure and "curious constitutional situation."

The New Yorker

Still seeking justice

As Jina Moore reports for the New Yorker, it has been more than 20 years since trials with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda began in an attempt to seek justice for victims of the genocidaires. The guilty — who have been imprisoned in 17 countries around the world — are now asking to get out early. But, as one interviewee put it, is early release “a new form of impunity"? 

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Mexico's bridge-builder

Comparing Mexico's president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to Donald Trump or Hugo Chavez would be a mistake, writes Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker. His populism is built "not on a hatred of 'the other'... but rather on an intuitive faith that Mexicans can overcome their current reality... In the face of Trump’s proposed wall, López Obrador has proposed greater togetherness."

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Alternative view

For Haaretz, journalist Ravit Hecht speaks with Israel's former security adviser, Eran Etzion. His opinions, not always shared by the Israeli public, are both frank and eye-opening on the state of tensions and politics in the region: "Something dramatic is happening in Syria: For the first time, there is direct military friction between Israel and Iran. There is now a higher probability than ever before of deterioration into an open war." 

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Mission in Mali

This week, a small advance team for Canada's upcoming United Nations peacekeeping mission arrived in Bamako, Mali. Accompanying it was the CBC's Adrienne Arsenault. She spoke with experts on the ground who were blunt about what Canadian troops should expect: "Yes, it is one of the UN's most deadly missions. Yes, 170 peacekeepers have already been killed. And yes...peacekeepers are being targeted for attack." 

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Walk or die

In the Sahara desert, writes Lori Hinnant of the Associated Press, Algeria has "abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius." Hinnant and her colleagues interview nearly two dozen survivors, all with harrowing stories to tell. 

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Offensive on Hodeida

This week, a Saudi-led coalition began an assault on the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, and many experts are worried about what this will mean for those suffering through the world's "most dire" humanitarian crisis. Hodeida is the "lifeline of the country," a UN official tells The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan. "If you cut that port off, we have a catastrophe on our hands.”

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Neighbour vs. neighbour

In this New York Times feature, Guy Lawson goes inside the campaign waged by Justin Trudeau’s government to prevent an all-out trade war with the United States. Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney give their thoughts on how to combat US President Donald Trump's "evident animosity and imperviousness to facts."

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Secret operations

Does the killing of Canadians abroad — deemed 'enemy combatants' — present the government with an ethical or political dilemma? In this exclusive investigation, Stewart Bell and Andrew Russell of Global News reveal that three Canadians were targets of the anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria — raising questions not only about how combatants are identified but also the secrecy that surrounds military actions themselves.

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Uneasy peace

In the 1990s, four years of fighting tore apart the Balkans, and 100,000 people were left dead. For the past 23 years in Bosnia-Herzegovina, peace has held, but with Europe distracted, Moscow meddling and a US president seemingly paying no attention, divisions are re-surfacing, and a Serb mini-state is looking to break away. The Globe and Mail's Mark MacKinnon reports from Sarajevo. 

The New Yorker

Diplomatic exodus

"Many diplomats have been dismayed by the Trump Administration; since the Inauguration, sixty per cent of the State Department’s highest-ranking diplomats have left," writes Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker. John Feeley, the former US ambassador to Panama, is one of them, but unlike his peers, he isn't holding back when it comes to sharing his reasoning. “My values were not his values,” he says of the US president.

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Escaping Venezuela

In a widely-condemned election, President Nicolas Maduro has been re-elected for a second term, amid an economic crisis that has been driving hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to nearby countries. In Brazil, an average of 800 arrive every day, looking for work and a new chance at life. Jill Langlois speaks with a few of these Venezuelans for the LA Times.

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Monsoon season

The hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded Bangladeshi camps fled one crisis but are facing another, writes Sophie Cousins, as monsoon season — just weeks away — threatens to bring with it disease, landslides, flooding and death. Building stronger structures might make sense — except that in an election year, the Bangladeshi government doesn't want to signal that the Rohingya are there to stay. For Foreign Policy.

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Russian reset

Shortly after taking office, Barack Obama initiated a "reset" strategy towards Russia, hoping to improve relations. But by 2011, things had gone south. As former US ambassador Michael McFaul describes it, he was sent to Moscow at the time to advance the reset, but instead "presided over its demise." In this Washington Post essay, he recounts his personal experience being the target of a Kremlin disinformation campaign.

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Lebanon's election

This week, Hezbollah declared victory in Lebanon's first parliamentary election since 2009. In this Atlantic piece, David Kenner delves into what's behind the Iran-backed militant Shia group's success. "There are pressures in certain ways, people rely on various parties for their livelihood," explains one former mayor. "So we have this statelet within a state, but in fact the statelet is much stronger than the state."

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Trans-Atlantic tension

The split between Donald Trump and his European allies around efforts to preserve the Iran deal was on full display this week. As The New York TimesSteven Erlanger reports, there are signs that patience is wearing thin when it comes to tumultuous American foreign policymaking. Asks one former French ambassador: “How do we make it work with a US leadership that doesn't want to play the role of leader?"

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The Dubai of the Balkans

In this New York Times piece, Barbara Surk looks into the Belgrade Waterfront, an "extravagant and controversial" project at the heart of a plan by Serbia’s governing elite to transform the country — with the help of billions of dollars from the UAE. Critics say the Serbian government has resorted to strong-arm tactics, literally bulldozing its way to the future. 

The Star

Canada's dual role

The Canadian government has given $65 million in aid to war-torn Yemen. But it has also given $284 million worth of weapons and military goods to the countries bombing Yemen. "It's a bit like helping pay for somebody's crutches after you've helped break their legs," one interviewee tells Brendan Kennedy and Michelle Shephard, who lay out the government's seemingly contradictory stance in The Toronto Star.