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Good Reads: Sept. 11 and Somalia famine pieces that rise above

The New Yorker's Sept. 11 coverage is a keeper, while the Globe and Mail's reporting from a Somalia famine victims' camp introduces you to one family's tragic trek toward safety. The Monitor explains how the US allegedly sent Libyan Al Qaeda suspects back to Tripoli, knowing they'd be tortured.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / September 6, 2011

People walk by the ground zero construction site in New York, Monday, Sept. 5. Sept. 11, 2011 will mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Oded Balilty/AP

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We’ll be reading a lot about the World Trade Center attacks in the next few days, ahead of the 10-year anniversary of that horrific attack this Sunday.

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But nobody does it like the New Yorker magazine.

From David Remnick’s elegiac foreword piece on how the Sept. 11 terror attacks changed the world and the mindsets of Americans, to more personal reminisces and reported pieces, this week’s New Yorker looks like a keeper.

One of the things that has changed about the world in the past decade is that readers have become more and more inured to shocking images of human suffering. Reports of fathers burying their sons, color-coded alerts, and recurring fears of large-scale terror attacks have made it difficult now for people to feel shock.

But the images coming out of the Horn of Africa, where famine is spreading and an estimated 750,000 Somalis are at risk of starvation, may challenge even the most desensitized heart. In the Somali capital of Mogadishu, Geoffrey York visits a displacement camp, and writes a heart-rending piece about Somali parents losing their children one by one. It’s not an easy read, but it’s an important issue, particularly as donor nations dawdle on making good on their pledges of aid relief.

It’s not easy to ask a mother to tell about how her children died, but Mr. York’s gentle touch coaxed Faduma Hashi to tell about her trek from the rebel-held port city of Kismayo to Mogadishu with her 10 children.

For 17 days, the family trudged along the 400-kilometre road to Mogadishu. By day, food was scarce, and the children grew weaker. By night, they slept outside, quaking in fear of hyenas.

“As their food and water supplies ran low, two of the children died. “I was too weak to bury them,” Ms. Hashi said. “I had to keep walking. We just left them in an open space and someone else buried them.”

Later this week, look for stories in the Monitor by Mike Pflanz reporting from Mogadishu on security conditions in Somalia’s capital, and the likelihood – if any – of bringing an end to that country’s 20-year civil war.

For those who might have missed this story yesterday, the Monitor’s Scott Peterson writes from Tripoli about a set of documents uncovered in Libya that showed how US and British intelligence worked together with Libyan intelligence against their common enemy, Al Qaeda – a useful reminder that there are no permanent friends in international politics, just permanent national interests.

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