With the United States eyeing a withdrawal from America’s longest war, a fledgling peace process in Afghanistan involving direct talks between the US and Taliban insurgents has created the most optimism in years. The colossal challenges yet to come in bringing the Islamist Taliban and Afghan government to a peace agreement are encapsulated in a story surrounding a single “hanging” tree in Wardak Province, southwest of Kabul. It was from that tree that the Taliban, three years ago, hung the body of Rahmatullah, an off-duty army officer and father of seven, after kidnapping, starving, and torturing him for two weeks.
The polar vortex that dipped from the Arctic down through North America in January briefly turned the Canadian capital into the world’s coldest, with thermometers reading -24 C (- 11.2 F.). Ottawa has been walloped by blizzards, including one this week that dumped 31 centimeters (12.2 inches) of snow. In a country that prides itself on its northern stoicism but increasingly finds itself begrudging the climate, the festival is an ode to Canadian winter.
Maryam Abubakar was bent in prayer when she heard the first blast crack over Kano’s central mosque, a sound so loud it felt like the stately building had cracked in two. It was Nov. 28, 2014, and in the nerve center of Nigeria’s largest Muslim-majority city, the terror group Boko Haram was sending a message: Nowhere is safe. “You saw a woman in a hijab who you didn’t know, and you wondered, is she one of them?” says Kemi Fadipe, a teacher, referring to Boko Haram’s infamous use of female suicide bombers.
The more questions the potential jurors are asked, the more questions they seem to have. A howling winter wind is audible through the drawn curtains of a fifth-floor courtroom in the Mendocino County Superior Court, punctuating questions from the defense attorney and the prosecutor. “The judge does the sentencing?” a potential juror asks.