The best reads of 2010

December 22, 2010

As part of our 2010 Year in Review coverage, Reuters Editor Toni Reinhold chooses the most interesting, informative, eye opening and enlightening Reuters stories of the past year.

luxorBulldozers overhaul Luxor, city of pashas and pharaohs
By Alexander Dziadosz

In the dusty streets behind the pasha’s grand villa, bulldozers and forklifts are tearing into the city where Agatha Christie found inspiration and Howard Carter unearthed Tutankhamen. Egypt has already cleared out Luxor’s old bazaar, demolished thousands of homes and dozens of Belle Epoque buildings in a push to transform the site of the ancient capital Thebes into a huge open-air museum. Officials say the project will preserve temples and draw more tourists, but the work has outraged archaeologists and architects who say it has gutted Luxor’s more recent heritage…

Worst of times, best of times: tale of two Irelands
By Peter Graff

Country A is drowning. A catastrophic recession has thrown a tenth of its workforce out of jobs. Firms are shutting, banks are barely solvent. The standard of living is eroding, taxes are being hiked, state spending is being slashed, and the deeply unpopular government is being forced into an election it is certain to lose.  Country B has a huge and growing trade surplus. It is attracting a flood of international investment, building thriving hi-tech export industries. Taxes are low and staying low, and the English-speaking population is highly skilled. Both countries are Ireland…

Africa mulls biofuels as land grab fears grow
By Simon Akam

Farmers in this iron-roof village in Sierra Leone say they didn’t know what they were getting into when they leased their land for a biofuel crop they now fear threatens their food harvests. Addax Bioenergy, says it went through long consultations with locals when it won a lease for around 50,000 hectares (123,600 acres) for ethanol sugarcane in the poor West African country’s centre…

farcPanama’s Darien teems with FARC drug runners
By Sean Mattson

Drug-running Colombian rebels are using the lawless jungle joining North and South America to smuggle cocaine past sea patrols. Squeezed in the Caribbean and the Pacific by Panamanian and U.S. patrols that  seize their loads, traffickers now zigzag through Panama’s Darien province, which joins the isthmus nation with Colombia. Forcing indigenous people to act as guides and mules, they haul packs of the white powder along Darien’s rivers and hike through swampy, mountainous rainforest to the Panamanian end of the Pan-American highway…

Four rhinos relocate to Africa with single mission
By Robert Waweru and Linda Muriuki-Mabuka

Resting under the cool of an acacia tree in Kenya, Fatu seems at home in the hot, grassy enclosure that has been her dwelling for the last month. The 1,800 kg (3,960 lb) female rhino is one of four white rhinos — the only ones now in a position to breed — sent to Kenya from a zoo in the Czech Republic with one purpose: to make babies. They have to adapt to 26 degrees Celsius temperatures and being outdoors all the time and the rhinos must learn a new language. They only respond to Czech commands but the rangers in Kenya mostly speak Swahili…

French fishermen fear end of sushi bonanza
By Michel Rose

As the clock on Sete’s city tower strikes 5 p.m., the clear blue sky of this Mediterranean seaport suddenly fills with seagulls, awaiting the return of fishing boats. “They will be disappointed today. Mackerel and sardines are just not there,” says a fish trader. “It’s the tuna, they eat the other fish and there are too many of them.” Environmentalists say the bluefin tuna must be saved from extinction, and want to ban international trade in it, but the local fishing industry wants France to stay out of any international agreement….

pompeiiPompeii collapses spark worry and outrage
By Philip Pullella

Pompeii mayor Claudio D’Alessio does not want to go down in history linked with Pliny the Younger, the Roman who chronicled the destruction of the ancient city nearly 2,000 ago in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. D’Alessio is worried not only because he loves culture. He knows the economy of his modern city of 25,000 people relies heavily on tourists who come to see the famed archaeological site. Last month the “House of the Gladiator” and a long retaining wall in the garden of the “House of the Moralist” collapsed…

Adventurers back for more in wilds of Chile
By Will Gray

After risking his life in freezing waters and on steep cliffs last year, American Druce Finlay returns to the annual Patagonian Expedition Race with two new weapons — his ex-Marine father and a nurse. Both should prove invaluable in an event regarded as the wildest and toughest adventure race in the world…

Somalia pirates undaunted by navy patrols
By Mohamed Ahmed

Adam Shine waited months for the chance to join one of Somalia’s growth industries. He has now completed his training and is ready to use his boat-handling and global-positioning skills to hijack ships.    The new 20-year-old  is one of hundreds of youths desperate to sign up in the hope of earning a tiny slice of hijack ransoms worth millions of dollars. Pirate gang masters are confident their business model will survive and are keen to hire more manpower…

tunnelGaza’s once vibrant tunnel trade caves in
By Nidal al-Mughrabi

Jamal al-Shatli scours Gaza’s scruffy border area looking for a job where he once worked in the tunnels used by smugglers to outwit Israeli controls and sneak in goods from neighboring Egypt. While Israeli air strikes and Egyptian bombs hurt the once-flourishing trade, they failed to close it down. But Israel’s decision to let imports flow more freely to Gaza has put many tunnels out of business…

Zimbabwe slowly returning to normality
By Marius Bosch

The hordes of black-market currency traders in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare have gone out of business.    Just over a year ago, Zimbabwe had the world’s worst modern-day hyperinflation and the national currency was worthless. Streets in central Harare were lined with black-market traders exchanging huge wads of Zimbabwean dollars for U.S. dollars or South Africa rand. One trader, who did so well illegally dealing in foreign exchange he could afford to take a second wife, has taken up his old job as a taxi driver…

Far from US Gulf, Nigerian thieves mop up oil spills
By Randy Fabi

Using two large yellow tubes to funnel polluted water into his small boat, Daniel Muukor helps to “mop up” the latest oil spill in the creeks of the Niger Delta. But the 15-year-old is not part of a federal response to contain the spill. He is stealing the oil to sell on the black market. The only evidence of a clean-up effort is an orange containment boom, which residents say was placed there by oil company workers. No robotic submarines to contain the spill, no high-profile investigation into the cause, no compensation to communities. This is Nigeria, not the United States…

cubaCuba’s golf future promising
By Esteban Israel

If Cuba plays it right, thousands of tourists could eventually be swinging their clubs at an 18-hole golf course overlooking the turquoise waters and golden beaches east of Havana. They will moor their yachts at a swank marina and drive electric carts to luxury villas built around the course’s scenic artificial lake. The project, one of at least a dozen awaiting a thumbs-up from the island’s communist authorities, appears closer than ever to becoming reality…

Rural schools from apartheid cloud S.Africa’s future
By Jon Herskovitz

A tap with running water came when apartheid ended, electricity came 14 years later but the text books for each student have yet to arrive at Knoppiesfontein Primary Farm School. It is one of nearly 2,600 remaining schools set up by white farmers to warehouse the offspring of farmhands until they could work the fields. The school also stands as a symbol of 16 years of unfulfilled promises after the African National Congress took over, ending white minority rule…

Cape Verde: no resources, no problem
By David Lewis

For a small string of barren volcanic islands that have no natural resources, suffer from chronic droughts and are perched far off Africa’s west coast, Cape Verde is punching well above its weight. Unscathed by conflict or political instability, the country has quietly become a middle-income nation and looks set to be one of few in Africa to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals set for measuring progress in improving livelihoods. Yet it has loftier ambitions…

petraPetra’s ancient paintings emerge from campfire smoke
By Suleiman al-Khalidi

Cloaked for centuries in grimy soot from Bedouin camp fires, the blackened murals appeared beyond repair. But three years of restoration revealed intricate and brightly-colored artwork, and some of the very few surviving examples of 2,000-year-old Hellenistic wall painting…

Modern threat to Syria’s ancient Aleppo soap industry
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

The deep perfume of olive and laurel oil hangs in the air of old Aleppo, home to an ancient soap industry.  Nestled among the 2,000-year-old labyrinthine streets in courtyard houses and old hotels known as khans, are a handful of workshops that have been making the famed “Savon d’Alep”, or Aleppo soap, by hand for hundreds of years. But the guardians of the old tradition say greedy imitators who have begun marketing cheap industrial soap under the same name are threatening to undermine the brand in lucrative European export markets…

No end in sight to Congo’s violence
By Katrina Manson

Each day Joyce goes out into the bush and assembles five tiny bundles of wood for sale, only to have one taken from her by former rebels now in the ranks of the national army. “I have to submit as I don’t want to be raped,” she said,  her baby wrapped to her back in a camp for thousands of displaced people in Kitchanga in Congo’s troubled east…

seedsAncient seeds in Mexico help fight warming effects
By Mica Rosenberg

More than 500 years after Spanish priests brought wheat seeds to Mexico to make wafers for the Catholic Mass, those seeds may bring a new kind of salvation to farmers hit by global warming.  Scientists working in the farming hills outside Mexico City found the ancient wheat varieties have particular drought- and heat-resistant traits, like longer roots that suck up water and a capacity to store more nutrients in their stalks…

For crisis-weary Icelanders, it only gets worse
By Mia Shanley

The call for help starts with a posting on Facebook. Members of a loose-knit group known as the Icelandic “Home Guard” hear of a foreclosure, share details and meet on site to tell authorities to get lost. For Arnar Mar Thorisson, an unemployed construction worker, the turnout of 50 Home Guard members was enough to lift his spirits as he waited for the sheriff to come. He and his 11-year-old son were due to be evicted from a flat bought six years ago when the economy was booming. Icelanders say life has never been harder…

Short of talent, Islamic finance taps women scholars
By Liau Y-Sing

When Malaysian Aida Othman signed up for the new law program at the Islamic university, she did not expect to become one the few women with their hands on the levers of the world’s $1 trillion Islamic finance sector. Rising global demand for scholars who can advise firms on compliance with Islamic legal principles called sharia is behind the quiet and almost accidental way in which women are growing into a small but powerful force in a male-dominated business…

hebronDivided city of Hebron shows challenge of peace
By Tom Perry

The growth of a Jewish settlement next to Hany Abu Haykel’s home means the Palestinian needs an Israeli permit to use his front gate. Guests need permission to reach the house where he was born 41 years ago, in an old neighborhood of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. Abu Haykel’s family must trek through an olive grove patrolled by Israeli soldiers to enter the house the back way. Around 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians in the parts of the ancient city that are under Israeli control…

After diamonds, iron foments Sierra Leone tensions
By Simon Akam

In the civil war of the 1990s, rebels in Sierra Leone went into battle singing “Mr. President, where are our diamonds?” Eight years after the end of hostilities that claimed 50,000 lives, Sierra Leone faces tensions over resources. This time, the controversy surrounds not gemstones but iron ore. In a country where average income is $340 a year, emotions run high over a resource wealth which if managed properly could allow Sierra Leone to enjoy some semblance of prosperity.

Iraq business elite flourish in Jordan safe haven
By Suleiman al-Khalidi

In the luxury of his smart office in a Jordanian duty free zone, Iraqi entrepreneur Sahib Al-Haddad takes orders for his new milk powder factory from merchants in Baghdad. Visitors are met by a painting of Iraq’s once mighty Tigris River and palm trees, hundreds of miles from Al-Haddad’s factory in the dusty Jordanian re-export zone.  Although violence is decreasing back home and the economy slowly recovering, he says his Crescent Company for Milk Products is staying in Jordan…

rosesEcuador wants you to smell the roses, and eat them
By Hugh Bronstein

Ecuador has long been a major exporter of colorful flowers that please the eye and nose. Now its farmers are exploring a new idea — roses you can eat. Restaurants from New York to Barcelona have started serving food containing organic rose petals grown on farms like Roberto Nevado’s in Ecuador’s central highlands. His farm has three million bushes under cultivation. Only 100,000 of them are grown without pesticides and meant for eating.

Poor Egyptians seek better life with plastic surgery
By Sarah Mikhail

Working-class Egyptians are getting botox, breast implants and tummy tucks in the hopes that the cosmetic surgery once reserved for a wealthy elite will boost their own marriage and job prospects.   Illiterate housewives fearing abandonment, soldiers mocked for flabby chests and overweight women struggling to find a husband sometimes pay with their own blood, rely on charity, borrow money from family and friends or turn to unlicensed cut-price private clinics for a procedure…

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