Readings

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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.” 

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Offshore revelations

With yet another leak detailing offshore tax havens, this week’s release of the Paradise Papers has some of the biggest revelations yet. The documents show how the global elite — including present and former world leaders and some of the world's best known brands — use tax havens to hide their wealth. The Toronto Star provides a summary of the findings.

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Undead diseases

In The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer examines an often-forgotten symptom of climate change. While much has been made of the polar ice caps melting leading to sea level rise, Meyer is concerned with the pathogens that have been stored in the now melting permafrost. Resistant to modern antibiotics, these viruses and bacteria pose a unique threat to people across the world.

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A Cobalt comeback

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest exporter of cobalt, but as violence grips the country manufacturers who depend on the mineral are worried about their supply chains and are looking elsewhere. Call that good news for Cobalt, Ontario, where, as Danielle Bochove writes for Bloomberg, global demand is breathing new life into the town whose silver mines closed decades ago. 

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A divided Vatican

“We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private,” a prominent English priest recently said of Pope Francis. In The Guardian, Andrew Brown details a growing schism in the Catholic church between the popular Pope and the conservative factions of the church who believe his reforms to be a form of heresy. It’s a fascinating deep dive into the inner workings of Vatican City.

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Dissecting inequality

The Economist explores the question of why there is a gulf between rich and poor regions, arguing that globalization has left regions outside of rich industrial clusters increasingly marginalized. As the argument goes, economists once thought inequalities would even out over time as rich areas invested in the untapped potential of poor areas, though as globalization kicked into hyperdrive this idea collapsed. 

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'I knew I would die'

“I knew very well that bomb would kill me,” one girl told The New York TimesDionne Searcey. In a series of interviews with 18 girls who survived having bombs strapped to them by the terrorist group Boko Haram, Searcey finds these girls were often taken hostage and forcibly had bombs strapped to them. This breathtaking feature shatters the official narrative that suicide bombers are willing participants.