An underground tunnel beneath the Ksiaz castle, in Walbrzych, PolandKacper Pempel / Reuters

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru
David Samuels | The New York Times Magazine
“It has been rare to find Ben Rhodes’s name in news stories about the large events of the past seven years, unless you are looking for the quotation from an unnamed senior official in Paragraph 9. He is invisible because he is not an egotist, and because he is devoted to the president. But once you are attuned to the distinctive qualities of Rhodes’s voice—which is often laced with aggressive contempt for anyone or anything that stands in the president’s way—you can hear him everywhere.”

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Escape From Fort Mac
Rhiannon Russell | The Walrus
“On the afternoon of May 3, Tara Robertson stood in her front yard in the Fort McMurray community of Thickwood, talking to her neighbour as they both stared up at the cloud of black smoke stretching across the sky. Set against a red sun, it looked like a scene out of an apocalypse movie.”

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Moderate Syrian Rebels Torn Between Giving Up, Joining Islamic Extremists
Sam Dagher | The Wall Street Journal
“Ali Othman is among a shrinking band of Syrian rebels in the mountains across from this border town who face an agonizing choice: accept a settlement with a regime they revile or fight alongside al Qaeda’s Islamist allies.”

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The Hunt for Poland’s Buried Nazi Gold Trains
Sarah A. Topol | BuzzFeed
“I came to Lower Silesia to try to understand how people could believe the unbelievable. Why were people still looking for Nazi gold in 2016? Was it a realization of childhood fantasy, the lack of resolved history, or perhaps a natural reaction to the fog of war? Believing in legends and trying to verify them is at its core an attempt to find truth. Or was it about the Nazis themselves—finding their gold? What kind of people devoted their lives to this?”

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The Falafel Battle—Which Country Cooks It Best?
Rachel Shabi | The Guardian
“I am not an unbiased observer. I was raised on falafels comprising a 50/50 fava bean/chickpea mix, made by my Iraqi-born mother who lived in Israel. But I’m a falafel fundamentalist and think the Egyptian variety is clearly the king of falafels. I took precautions to avoid unjustifiable support for the Egyptian team, visiting their stall last after filling myself with all the other falafels first (the purity of research is hard). But even then, theirs just killed it.”

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Inside North Korea’s Children’s Palace, a Reporter Finds Children Turning Into Robotic Grown-Ups
Julie Makinen | Los Angeles Times
“In a singing classroom, the students expertly belt out a song about how they wish every day was New Year’s Day. Why? Because that’s when founding father Kim Il Sung would come to hear children sing at the palace, and what could be more glorious than performing for him every day for the rest of one’s life?”

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