"Like the CIA, North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau is steeped in clandestine overseas plots: assassinations, abductions and lots of spying. But it is perhaps better understood as a mash-up between the CIA, the KGB and the Yakuza.
What distinguishes the bureau is its entrepreneurial streak — one with a distinctly criminal bent."
"These shores were once among the world’s most coveted. For more than a millennium, waves of outsiders — from Hindu conquerors to rapacious Dutch colonists — lusted after the paradisiacal beauty of Java. But today, any seafarer arriving on this beach will find a saltwater garbage dump.
How terrifying. Not just for this village but for every human on the planet. The ocean and its creatures are now awash in chemicals oozed by plastic — and it’s seeping into human bodies from Bali to Boston."
"For Fatima, a 13-year-old girl from Myanmar’s western marshlands, the new year began with a grueling escape. She spent the first days of 2017 on the run, slogging through rice fields in the dark.
With each step, cold muck sucked at her ankles. The sky above was dark — just a dim crescent moon and a thousand pinpricks of starlight.
She was grateful for the blackness of night. At least there was no sign of armed border guards on the horizon. No distant flashlight beams scanning for intruders in the fields."
"The world is filled with boys and girls who lose their childhoods to hard labor. That children slave away in Congo mines or stitch blouses in Bangladesh is known to everyone who follows the news.
But in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly titled Burma, child labor is not a minor social blight. It is a pillar of the economy.
Child labor in Myanmar looks a lot like child labor in the United States circa the Industrial Revolution. The kids in South Okkalapa resemble children in those sepia-hued photos shot in industrial America’s factories and farms: bare feet, smudged faces, weary eyes."
"There was a time when the most fearsome sound in warfare was not the crack of a rifle or the eerie hum of a drone. It was the shriek of an elephant, tusks slick with blood, skulls crunching underfoot.
War elephants tend to conjure up Iron Age battles, those archaic campaigns in which hordes dismembered other hordes with arrows and blades. They were exotic cavalry for long-dead empires: Carthage and Macedon, the Mughals and the Khmer.
But there is one corner of the planet — and only one — where war elephants persist into the 21st century."