Stuart Richardson

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A fresh start for Bibi
Sources

The Reformed Favela Drug Queen Behind Brazil's Favorite Telenovela

RIO DE JANEIRO — Every night at around 9 o'clock, Fabiana Escobar sits down in front of the TV and watches her life play out on the small screen: whether the police haul her away or her husband cheats on her again; how she beats up his lover; how the cocaine goes out and the bags of money come in. Recently, she watched herself bathe in a room full of gold coins, just like Scrooge McDuck. "I thought it was chic," Escobar says.

"A novela das nove," or the daily telenovela at 9 p.m., is an institution in Brazil. Around 50 million tune in every evening. Everybody in this TV-crazed country is talking about what is currently happening in the final episodes of A Força do Querer, or Edge of Desire, the current telenovela shown. The plot is based on a true story: Escobar's life.

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At the vegetarian-vegan restaurant Veganic in Krakow
food / travel

Hold The Kielbasa! Touring A Surprisingly Vegan-Friendly Poland

POZNAN — We're in an old bar mleczny, a so-called "milk bar," a gastronomic remnant from Soviet times where workers could get fed for very little. The lunch at this dining spot, situated in the central city of Poznan, will capture the essence of what would be a two-week trip around Poland. Mind you, this is Day 1.

The young couple, waiting behind the bar to take our order, do not speak English and we don't speak Polish. My hesitation, however, seems to trigger some sort of sixth sense with the owner who employs one of the two words of English she has mastered and asks me if I am "vegan" (which I am, the other half of the traveling duo being simply vegetarian). And so our journey into the vegan and vegetarian world of Polish cuisine begins with two plates of gigantic, steaming pierogi, Polish ravioli, filled with lentils (the second word our host knows).

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Looking up in Songdo
Smarter Cities

Welcome To Songdo, South Korea: The Smartest Of Smart Cities

Many have hailed the innovations of Songdo, a planned community near the South Korean capital of Seoul. But the city, which once served as a set for the “Gangnam Style” music video, also has its critics.

SONGDO — On Saturday morning, Mr. Lee brings the trash downstairs, one bag with combustible waste, the other with organic. His wife is already working at the cafe they own in "Central Park." There are two high-tech garbage chutes — green and red — in the collection point of the high-rise building where the Lee family lives.

Lee holds his identity card over the sensor. The hatch opens. Inside, he places the bags, which he purchased at the supermarket for about fifty cents. At the collection point, there are other bins for glass and plastic bottles and other sorts of refuse. A sign overhead warns: "24-hour video surveillance." Sensors in the garbage chute determine whether Lee has properly separated his trash and used the correct bags. If the machine accepts the deposit, they will be sucked through the pipe system under high pressure from a central station.

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In Kramatorsk, Ukraine
Ukraine

An Inside Look At Ukraine's Terrifying TB Outbreak

Strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis are spreading across Ukraine, where armed conflict and market misgivings are making a bad situation even worse.

KRAMATORSK — My car turns off the multi-lane main street, filled with 50-year-old Ladas and Soviet-style trucks, onto a road full of potholes and scrub. Beyond that is the Narkologia Dispenseria, a hospital somewhat hidden in a park in Kramatorsk, a city of more than 150,000 inhabitants in eastern Ukraine. With its crumbling, mint green walls it looks more like more of a bunker than a healthcare facility. Plaster falls off the walls and staircases inside. Neon lights cast a pale glow in the corridors.

The Dispenseria is like an outpost of the Ukrainian health care system, and Natalia Nikolaeva is the border guard. In silver shoes, the doctor keeps watch behind a desk on the ground floor. A pearl necklace embellishes her white laboratory coat. For about 100 euros a month, Nikolaeva stands here every morning, sorting methadone into cups and dispensing the pills to patients, who at 8 a.m. are already standing in a line to alleviate their withdrawal symptoms.

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Not quite normal
Germany

In Sickness Or In Health? My Exhausting Life As A Hypochondriac

For the entire time that I was in the Caribbean on vacation, I was convinced I had lymphoma.

-Essay-

BERLIN — On my Disney Cruise, my eternal bathroom door problem was finally solved. You see, it has always been difficult to figure out how to get out of the bathroom without touching the handle, which other people might have touched without washing their hands? I always take a piece of toilet paper or paper towel. Often, though, neither is near the door. So I have to go get it from inside a stall or from near the sinks, opening the door with the contaminated piece in my hand and with no place to then discard it.

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Bonding
Germany

Facebook Limits, When A Sharing American Lands In Germany

-Essay-

"Germans are coconuts, Americans peaches..." In the German Studies department at the University of Michigan, this saying bounced around as a shorthand way for us to describe the supposed social differences between the two nationalities: Germans come with tough shells, but inside lies the sweetness of coconut milk. Americans, instead, are soft on the surface with a hard pit hidden at the core.

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NFL Showtime! NY Giants vs. Cleveland Browns
Germany

How NFL 'Socialism' Can Help Save European Soccer

Salary caps, financial compensation, and transfer preferential rights for weak teams level the playing field in the NFL and MLB. While Europe's top soccer salaries spiral out of control, and the same teams always win.

BERLIN — Not everything about big-time professional soccer is bad. Among the players, there are still good guys doing decent things. This summer, French left-back Lucas Digne jumped into action to help the injured after the terrorist attack in Barcelona. And Juan Mata of Manchester United decided to permanently give 1% of his salary to an NGO. Mats Hummels, a defensive midfielder for Bayern München, joined the initiative too.

And yet, the past few months have put many fans and bigwigs of European soccer ill-at-ease, with the word "madness' running in an endless loop. The problems aren't new: Some of the transfer fees were already monstrous; the financial backers dubious; the players egotistical. But just as the world seems to turn on its head at times in this era of globalization and technological revolution, so too has soccer seemed to gone berserk.

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Netanyahu and Mogherini on Monday in Brussels
Israel

Jerusalem And The Politics Of Distraction

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, to discuss his own country's de facto seat of power, Jerusalem. His visit to the city, the first by an Israeli prime minister in 22 years, comes just days after President Donald Trump's announcement that he was moving the U.S. embassy to the Holy City.

In Brussels, Netanyahu met with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. While the Israeli government has welcomed the American move, Europe and much of the world fear it will harm the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

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Statue of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa
WORLDCRUNCH

O Mandela, Where Art Thou?

-Analysis-

Exactly four years have passed since Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon, died at the age of 95. Over the course of his remarkable life, the South African became the embodiment of moral political leadership, forgiving his jailers and rising to the nation's presidency.

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School comings and goings in Istanbul
Turkey

Islam, Ottoman, Erdogan: New Core Of Turkey's Education System

Turkish schools are taking steps to cultivate a 'pious generation' by rewriting history and placing a greater emphasis on religion.

ISTANBUL — Forget about Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Starting this year, Turkish students will instead be taught that human beings were created by God. They'll also learn about jihad, an announcement that triggered an outcry in secular circles.

To be sure, Turkish Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz rushed to assure everyone that students would not learn about religious wars. The true meaning of the word "jihad," he contends, is "love of country." The secular opposition party CHP has responded that the government is instilling in "children's brains the same attitude that turned the Middle East into a bloodbath."

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Why Sanders? As a 'post-Soviet rebel,' Shkliarov said.
Geopolitics

Russian Operative: I Tried To Sway U.S. Election (For Bernie)

Now Vitali Shkliarov has headed home to oppose Vladimir Putin.

Russians who have attempted to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election usually don't have names: They're known simply as "the Russians." Vitali Shkliarov, however, kept a relatively high profile as a political operative working for Senator Bernie Sanders' understaffed and overworked campaign. His motive for taking that job and for later getting involved in Russia's peculiar presidential election is the same: He doesn't like entrenched elites.

The adventure-filled story of Shkliarov, 41, explains something about the nature of the complex relationship between Russians of my generation and the West. Born in the Soviet Union, many of us didn't see the U.S. and other Western countries as adversaries but rather as models for our country to emulate. As the Soviet project failed and Russia and its satellites opened up to the world, we saw the West as a place to acquire knowledge and experience that would help us fix things back at home. But as we traveled to the West, we saw warts that hadn't been visible from behind the Iron Curtain. Some of us saw them as evidence that the world was rotten in certain universal ways. Some of these people now power the troll farms, spy operations, corruption networks that exploit the warts. But others, Shkliarov included, stuck to the original plan — and besides, they tried to fix what they didn't like in the West.

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'Welcome' written in Farsi at a migrant reception center in Tubingen, Germany
Germany

Islamists Target Christian Converts In German Refugee Centers

Islamists are known to target apostates. For the growing number of Muslim arrivals in Germany, a minority of those who have converted to Christianity say they are subject to attack.

BERLIN — One spring evening in 2015, he said goodbye to his old life. He grabbed that despised book with the white cover, the Holy Koran, and line-by-line, page-by-page, marked all the verses on the topic that troubled him most: sura 2:191; sura 8:39; sura 33:61. These are verses that call on believers to hunt down, seize and kill apostates.

When he was done, he had marked more than 700 verses. Then and there, he decided to be baptized.

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