Readings

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Forced trafficking and voodoo

The trafficking of Nigerian women to Germany has intensified in recent years, with local investigators facing an added complication when trying to break up smuggling rings: victims have been instructed to stay silent or be cursed by the evil power of “Juju.” Alexander Epp and Olaf Heuser report for Spiegel Online in this visual story.

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Return of the strongmen

In a thought-provoking essay in The Washington Post, Robert Kagan documents how authoritarianism — partially kept at bay during the Cold War years — has re-emerged as the greatest threat to the liberal democratic world order many have taken for granted over the last 70 years. And the stakes are high: “Liberalism is all that keeps us, and has ever kept us, from being burned at the stake for what we believe.”

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WWF under fire

A BuzzFeed News investigation into the World Wide Fund for Nature by Katie Baker and Tom Warren, spanning six continents and based on over 100 interviews, has uncovered shocking behaviour: “The beloved nonprofit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people.”

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An interview with MacNaughton

Canada’s ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, holds his post at a fascinating point in Canada-US relations. In an interview with Maclean’s senior writer Paul Wells, he talks about the election of Donald Trump, the marathon NAFTA renegotiations, the departure of Justin Trudeau’s principle secretary, Gerald Butts, and more.

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ISIS returnees

Amidst the collapse of the so-called Islamic State, officials in Canada, the US, the UK and other Western countries find themselves grappling with how to deal with foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria wishing to come home. In this piece for Global News, Stewart Bell examines how the RCMP is preparing itself for the return of at least a dozen suspected Canadian ISIS members.

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Kashmir clashes

This week has seen a growing military escalation between India and Pakistan — two nuclear powers — over Kashmir. That’s the bad news. The good news, writes Lawrence Pintak in Foreign Policy from Karachi, is that for now, cooler heads seem to be prevailing: “The only thing keeping [a] potential catastrophe in check has been the mostly good faith efforts of the leaders of these two historic enemies.” Will these efforts last?

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Iranian Revolution

Forty years ago, the Iranian Revolution ushered in Ayatollah Khomeini and, with him, an Islamic republic. Reflecting on Iran today, New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink describes a country where society is changing faster than the current regime: “Iran’s leaders face a growing dilemma of whether to start translating the social changes into new laws and customs or try to hang on to the 40-year-old ideals of the revolution.”

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Remembering UNAMIR II

In The Globe and Mail, Gloria Galloway reports on how Canadian troops’ work helping Rwandans to rebuild after the 1994 genocide was a “quiet success” — but you wouldn’t know it looking at the official history of Canada’s involvement on government websites. Twenty-five years later, veterans who were forever changed by their nightmare deployment are looking to be remembered.

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Project Raven

This Reuters investigation by Christopher Bing and Joel Schectman reveals how ex-National Security Agency operatives helped the United Arab Emirates spy on human rights activists, rival leaders and journalists — even other Americans. “I am working for a foreign intelligence agency who is targeting US persons,” one member of the clandestine team called Project Raven said. “I am officially the bad kind of spy.”

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Worlds apart

Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days imprisoned in Iran, has released a new project inspired by his own relationship (he is American and his wife is Iranian). Together, they were able to build a life in the US, but other couples affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban haven’t been so lucky. For The Washington Post, Rezaian investigates what it looks like when bureaucracy “splits husbands and wives across a continental divide.”

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Cryptocurrency in Georgia

For The New York Times, Liz Alderman visits Tbilisi, where Georgians are betting big on Bitcoin. “Even as the currency has tumbled in value,” she writes, “thousands of Georgians have jumped into the game and sold cars — even cows — to buy high-powered computers to mine Bitcoin and join what has become a state-supported dash toward data supremacy.”

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Chaos in Caracas

This week, Canada and the US announced they would no longer recognize Nicolás Maduro as the president of Venezuela, condemning his “illegitimate mandate” and throwing their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Vox’s Alex Ward has a primer on recent protests and how Venezuela reached its “boiling point.”

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Trump’s man in Berlin

Konstantin von Hammerstein spent the last few months reporting on Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and a steadfast ally of Donald Trump. The result is this investigation in DER SPIEGEL, which paints a grim picture of Grenell’s diplomatic status in Berlin: increasingly isolated by everyone except for the far-right. 

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Foreign fighters

In this piece for VICE, Ben Makuch sits down with Canadian ISIS fighter Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi, who made headlines last year when it was revealed on a New York Times podcast that he had managed to make it back to Ontario from Syria undetected. Huzaifa’s story provides a glimpse into what he says are RCMP efforts to de-radicalize foreign fighters who have returned from abroad.

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Wall of women

In India, millions of women decided to kick 2019 off with an unprecedented display of solidarity, building a “gender wall” in support of women’s right that stretched out over 600 kilometres. And they weren’t alone — as Kamala Thiagarajan reports for NPR, “even as women of all ages lined up on one side of the highway, many of their menfolk — husbands, friends and relatives — lined up on the other side to show their support.”

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Rwandan genocide

Almost 25 years ago, at least 800,000 Rwandans were killed in a planned campaign of extermination. In this excerpt in The Walrus, survivors of the genocide who settled in Canada share their powerful, heartbreaking recollections with Christine Magill, who says their stories taught her “about the resiliency of the human spirit, and...demonstrate why we must counter divisiveness in all its guises.”

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The price of refusal

While Donald Trump uses gang-related violence in the United States to justify tighter border security, this investigation by ProPublica journalists Kavitha Surana and Hannah Dreier shows the complications — and life-threatening dangers — that exist for US newcomers from Central America who try to avoid participation in a gang like MS-13. 

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Redefining equality

In this profile for The New Yorker, Nathan Heller paints a picture of American philosopher Elizabeth Anderson whose work "brings together ideas from the left and right to battle increasing inequality." Are equality and freedom in fact much more intertwined than we thought? Anderson's life and work give insight into a new way of thinking around fair societies. 

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Centre Block

This month, Parliament Hill’s Centre Block closed for renovations, and it will be at least a decade before the Ottawa building re-opens. While most Canadians will associate it with politicians and parliamentary debate, journalists have also been a staple of its hallowed halls. For Maclean’sJohn Geddes looks back at how Centre Block has honoured the fourth estate.

The New Yorker

Transatlantic frenemies

For The New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser takes a deep look into the fraught relationship between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are “almost epically mismatched.” The stakes are high as 2018 comes to a close. “Call your friends enemies long enough, and eventually they may start to believe you,” Glasser writes. “Is this, then, finally, the end of Pax Americana?