Snowballs in Siberia and Smog in New Delhi: The Week in Global-Affairs Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about the world

Young members of the Cryophile winter swimming club throw snowballs on the banks of the Yenisei River before swimming in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk in 2015.  (Ilya Naymushin / Reuters)

Canada and Denmark Fight Over Island With Whisky and Schnapps
Dan Levin | The New York Times
“International disputes over territory can be ugly affairs, waged with all the nastiness of a divorce, backed with the force of armies. Just in the last few years, China has built islands topped with military bases to back its claim to vast stretches of ocean, in conflict with half a dozen other Asian countries, while Russia has forged a path of bloodshed and destruction in Ukraine over its annexation of Crimea.

But that’s not how Canada and Denmark roll. Their way of contesting ownership of an uninhabited island in the Arctic would better suit a dinner party than a battlefield: It comes down to B.Y.O.B.”

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South Korea’s Most Bizarre Corruption Scandal Yet
Robert E. Kelly | The Diplomat
“Park Geun-hye, the president of South Korea, has lately been engulfed by a scandal that may bring down her administration. Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend and mentor of the president, allegedly used her relationship with Park to extort money from South Korea’s largest corporations (chaebols). Corruption scandals, abuse of power, kickbacks, embezzlement, and so on, are, unfortunately, established problems in South Korea, as they are in many democracies. ‘Choi-gate,’ as it has inevitably become named, attracts so much attention, however, because of the sheer oddity of Choi’s relationship to the president.”

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The View From Brexitland
Feargus O’Sullivan | Citylab
“As a British person, the experience of waking up to find that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States seemed freakishly familiar. Being shaken awake before dawn with shock news, then finding that most people I knew were awake, punch drunk, and already posting on social media—it all feels eerily reminiscent of June 24, when I also woke in the dark to find that Britain had narrowly voted for Brexit.

Many have already drawn parallels between Britain’s vote to leave the E.U. and the U.S. vote for Trump, not least because of some similarities in the metropolitan/rural divides in the two contests. It might also be true that the aftermath of Britain’s Brexit referendum could provide pointers as to how the next few months will be for Americans who did not vote for Trump.”

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Smog Drives Delhi’s Middle-Class Exodus
Kiran Stacey | Financial Times
“Delhi, India’s political hub, has boomed along with the rest of the country in the past few years, with the capital region’s economy growing more than 8 per cent in real terms during 2014-15, the most recent year for which figures are available.

But economists warn growth will start to slow if the city does not sort out its persistent pollution problem, which last week led to particulate levels more than 30 times the safe limit recommended by the World Health Organisation.”

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How Putin Became the Che Guevara of the Right
Peter Pomerantsev | Politico EU
“Imagine, for a moment, you are the leader of an ‘anti-establishment’ political movement. You thrill your followers by sticking it to the ‘liberal elites’ and the ‘global order.’ There’s nothing more ‘anti-establishment’ than showing two fingers to such elite, aloof projects as NATO or the EU, and giving props to the man who wants to undermine them—Vladimir Putin.

What better way to milk the outrage of the ‘liberal’ media than by siding with a Kremlin that has made attacking ‘liberal values’ its motto? And wouldn’t you welcome attacks from liberal elites for associating you with the sort of disruption you wish to emulate?”

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Giant Snowballs Have Appeared on the Siberian Coast
Eric Grundhauser | Atlas Obscura
“Located above the Arctic Circle, the small village of Nyda, with a population of just over 2,000, sits on the Gulf of Ob, a freezing arm of the Kara Sea. Just over a week ago members of the village started noticing that at one spot on the coast, fields of giant snowballs had begun to spontaneously appear. Ranging from the size of a tennis ball to the size of volleyballs, the icy spheres came from seemingly nowhere, but have an uncanny uniformity.”