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- Slow and steady, the American prairies grow
A vibrant sea of grasses once flowed across the North American continent: the great prairies that Laura Ingalls Wilder described as “spreading to the edge of the sky.” All but a fraction vanished during the 19th century as migrants from Europe advanced across the heart of America, plowing the land into farms and settlements. “Most people, I think, would drive past a prairie and just see a lot of boring grass,” says Chris Helzer, director of science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska and author of a popular prairie photography blog. Over the last three decades, a dedicated community of conservationists and land managers has worked to preserve American grasslands in all their manifold forms: the tallgrass, shortgrass, and mixed-grass prairies of the Midwest, as well as lesser-known varieties, such as the northwest prairies in Oregon and Washington, or the sandplain grasslands in Massachusetts.
- Readers write: Enjoying home, recycling programs, and resilience in Flint
- Global Newsstand: The EU is more unified than many people think, and more
“The notion that the European Union has never been less united than now has taken hold in the public consciousness,” writes Miguel Otero Iglesias. “The recurring theme is that EU countries are unable to agree on euro reforms, on migratory flow management, on how to deal with growing aggressiveness from the US, Russia and China.... Divisions exist, and they are serious, but a calm and collected analysis, with historical perspective, shows that Europe is probably more united today than ever before. “When it comes to internet censorship, Russia has long followed China’s example...,” writes Leonid Kovachich.
- US-Taliban talks: Is Afghanistan ready for real peace?
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.