Readings

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Jihadi mindset

A decade ago, three University of Manitoba students mysteriously disappeared, and then surfaced in the remote tribal areas of Pakistan, where they allegedly joined al-Qaeda. Clues to their state of mind are revealed in newly released letters to family left behind in Canada. With reporting by The Globe and Mail's Joanna Slater and Colin Freeze, and analysis from Amarnath Amarasingam.

The New Yorker

Women's basketball in Somalia

In The New YorkerAlexis Okeowo tells the story of Aisha, a young woman from Mogadishu whose love of basketball has made her a target of al-Shabaab extremists. The resilience shown by women athletes like Aisha in the face of death threats is an important reminder of the struggle for justice countless women around the world face.

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Germany votes

“I have never before seen so much anger and hatred among test subjects,” says psychologist Stephan Grünewald in an interview with Der Spiegel’s Nils Minkmar, speaking of the German public in the lead up to this month’s election. He found that while current leader Angela Merkel is likely to win, voters are largely angry and disillusioned with the campaign, which may spell trouble for Germany down the road.

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Rocket science and nuclear war

If recent media reports on escalating tension between the US and North Korea weren't worrisome enough, here is Aaron Hutchins with a bone-chilling breakdown of what would happen if the Kim regime decided to launch a nuclear weapon at Manhattan. Long story short: “It’s a situation that should be avoided at virtually all costs.” For Maclean's.

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A changing Hezbollah

For much of its existence, militant group Hezbollah was focused on fighting Israel. Now, as Ben Hubbard writes for The New York Times, it is involved in nearly every conflict that matters to Iran — whether that be in Syria, Iraq or Yemen. From interviews with officials, experts and members of Hezbollah itself, Hubbard explores how a rising Tehran uses the group in its quest to remake the Middle East.

the guardian

Under the tsunami

For months, Richard Lloyd Parry covered the 2011 tsunami in Japan with numb detachment — until coming upon the small coastal city of Okawa. As a result of a botched response by officials at an elementary school there, 74 of 78 students caught up in the tsunami died. Elsewhere in the country, only one other child in the care of teachers perished. This is Parry's account of what went wrong in Okawa, for The Guardian.

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Danger and diplomacy

For the Ottawa Citizen, Peter Hum profiles Ben Rowswell, a Canadian diplomat who has spent time in some of the world's most dangerous places, including Kabul and Baghdad. Throughout his foreign service career, Rowswell has seen the benefits of marrying technology and human rights activism, and is currently working on an app that could mobilize thousands "to take action directly in global affairs."

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Families divided

Since 1994, the U.S. has increasingly heightened its border security with Mexico, which has divided hundreds of thousands of families that once travelled effortlessly between the two sides. For HuffPost's Highline, this interactive feature by Laura Gabbert and Daniel Hernandez documents the reunion of one family, separated for 20 years, at the one place relatives have any hope of seeing each other again.

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Woman of the hour

In this in-depth profile for The Globe and MailAdam Radwanski traces the rise of Chrystia Freeland's career from young newspaper editor to Canadian foreign minister. She is now tasked with taking the lead on this week’s first round of NAFTA renegotiations, but as Radwanski finds, her ambitions go much further.

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The 'forever crisis'

"If what’s happening in Jerusalem looks like déjà vu," writes Yardena Schwartz for Foreign Policy, "then welcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which often resembles the theater of the absurd." The last two weeks saw escalating violence as both sides clashed over the holy site of Temple Mount — but, as Schwartz reminds readers, it’s a struggle decades in the making. 

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Partition, 70 years on

Seven decades ago, British colonial rulers left India and split the country into two sections: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Chaos and sectarian violence broke out and millions were displaced. In this feature by the BBC, 12 people reflect on how partition affected their lives. Says one: "They say we are independent but what good is that when you have lost everything?"

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Justin Trudeau's celebrity

It’s undeniable that Justin Trudeau is having a moment in global affairs, especially when held up in contrast to Donald Trump. A fawning profile of Trudeau written this week by Rolling Stone's Stephen Roderick is a revealing look into how the prime minister is understood by the foreign press, and begs the question: is now Canada’s time to shine?

the guardian

NASA at the North Pole

NASA’s Operation IceBridge is an effort to measure the ice caps melting in the Arctic and Antarctic. “At the same time that we’re getting better at gathering this data, we seem to be losing the ability to communicate its importance to the public,” one engineer comments. For The Guardian, Avi Steinberg embeds with the crew to understand the critical work that they do — and why most people seem to not care.

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The lonely crusaders

For The New York Times Magazine, Alex Palmer takes an indepth and personal look at the repression China’s human rights lawyers face. Palmer profiles Liang Xiaojun, who has seen many of his colleagues detained. So why does Liang continue despite threats? ‘’People’s rights have been destroyed. Many times they have been tortured. Their families are broken. I cannot turn my back and ignore this.‘’

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Middle of Mosul

James Verini details the battle for Mosul with striking detail in this feature for The New York Times Magazine. The conflict has left thousands dead and centuries-old mosques and other important sites decimated. With victory recently declared over ISIS there, Verini’s in-depth personal account of his time in the city helps to understand the importance of this battle. 

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Understanding compassion

For Vox, Brian Resnick speaks with renowned psychologist Paul Slovic to understand the limits on human compassion. Slovic’s research shows that as the number of victims increases our willingness to help decreases, which helps to explain why humans are so bad at dealing with massive global problems like the refugee crisis. It’s a phenomenon he calls “psychic numbing.”

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Exodus

“The displacement of Syrians, both inside the country’s borders and beyond, represents the biggest forced migration of humanity since the Second World War,” writes Michael Petrou in a new feature for the National Post. He carefully details how this mass migration is shaping the region — and world beyond — while underscoring how woefully inadequate Canada’s response has been to one of the most important issues of our time.

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Border towns

Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented residents has triggered a northward flow of asylum seekers. For Maclean's, Jason Markusoff, Nancy Macdonald, Aaron Hutchins and Meagan Campbell spent 24 hours covering seven towns along the border, witnessing both Canadians' openness and deep suspicion of the newcomers that are shaping the fabric of Canada.

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No good options

Donald Trump will "collide with the same harsh truth that has stymied all his recent predecessors: There are no good options for dealing with North Korea,” writes Mark Bowden for The Atlantic. For the Kim dynasty, nukes are understood to be the only option to repel a looming U.S. menace. This leaves a dangerous dilemma: a nuclear armed North Korea is worrisome, but so are the “decapitation strikes” Trump’s administration has discussed.

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Hong Kong's future

On the 20-year anniversary of the UK's handover (or return, depending on who you ask) of Hong Kong to China, Keith Bradsher of The New York Times reflects on the challenges ahead. Caught between East and West, what was once held up as an example of a modern, international city is quickly slipping into a cautionary tale of competing systems.