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Social Issues

Is Venice Dying? And other unpleasant questions

Recently the Thai island of Koh Tachai became the latest in a long line of popular destinations to curtail tourism: after shutting down for monsoon season it has no plans to reopen, allowing coral reefs and wildlife to recover from excessive crowds. Koh Tachai’s fight for survival isn’t unique: Beijing is considering some sort of restrictions along the Great Wall;…

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A Cut Above: The Ongoing Tradition of FGM

It is a sunny day, hot even in December as Christmas nears in a rural village in Kenya, up somewhere near the borders of Uganda and what is now South Sudan. There is a festive spirit and the young girls are gathered and song and dance reverberate across the hills of West Pokot, bracing for…

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The Rungus Gongs of Sabah: Keeping a Tradition Alive

When Rohanah Kudat got married more than a dozen years ago, the last thing she expected was to become a custodian of an ancient craft. Her husband, a gong-maker, taught her the skills and today, Rohanah is one of ten women who make their living hammering zinc sheets into round, vibrant shapes 11 hours a…

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There Was a Time in Communist Albania

Albania used to be the most communist of communist countries – but you’d never know it today. Evidence of the world’s strictest Marxist-Leninist regime has all but disappeared. What’s left are bunkers, thousands of ugly, concrete domes of which more than 700,000 were built to keep out ‘the enemy.’

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Born Free: Along the Lower Kinabatangan River

Ever since I shrieked with laughter through Redmond O’Hanlon’s Into the Heart of Borneo, I’ve wanted to go. Not trekking inland and eating odd things like he did, but a more muted, less spine-tingling adventure with fewer critters (and none on my plate). The Kinabatangan River called to me, its name a foreign, distant sound that…

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