Spending our days on the interwebs has its advantages, one being that we come across lots of excellent pieces of journalism. Every week, we'll bring you our favorite online reads that didn't appear on our site. Disagree with the selection? Leave your suggestions in the comments or tweet #bestreads at @HuffPostWorld.
The Unquenchable Fire
Al-Qaeda has staged a comeback -- that's the assertion made by The Economist, highlighted by this week's three-day siege of a Kenyan mall. Though the magazine concedes al-Shabab's attack was not a sign of strength in itself, it may be emblematic of a broader pattern of al-Qaeda and offshoots targeting businesses and areas of known Western patronage, taking hostages to prolong the standoff, and recruiting foreign fighters to join their ranks. Although the network's core leadership has been mostly dismantled, it maintains many allies capable of extending its mission.
"While attacks on the far enemy are important both as a deterrent and as a source of jihadist inspiration, they are not al-Qaeda’s main purpose," The Economist writes. "Its overriding aim remains ... the creation of a new caliphate across the Islamic world based on unswerving adherence to sharia law. That requires the corrupting influence of the 'Zionist-Crusader alliance' in the region to be extirpated and all apostate Muslim governments removed.
"Seen from that point of view, things are not going badly."
Yao Ming: China's Basketall King
FT Magazine -- Patti Waldmeir
The 2002 arrival of Chinese phenomenon Yao Ming in the NBA coincided with his country's rise as an economic superpower, thus thrusting the soft-spoken giant into an unexpected role in foreign relations. "By succeeding at something that millions of Americans genuinely care about," Patti Waldmeir writes, "he achieved more than an army of ping-pong-playing diplomats. Yao made people start to look up to China, not down."
Despite the modest Yao downplaying his role in a better American understanding of East Asian counterparts, his presence resonates in Beijing. The former All-Star has leveraged the enormous celebrity afforded him by a 7-foot, 6-inch frame to take a stand on issues currently plaguing China, including shark finning and air pollution. As Waldmeir concludes, "Yao Ming has changed the way the world sees Chineseness – and it is so much more than just a height thing."
The President Of Twitter
BuzzFeed -- Max Seddon
Here at HuffPost World, we're big fans of world leaders using social media, but it's rare to see one doing much more than posing with tigers and/or Gerard Depardieu. Max Seddon's piece on the president of Estonia's Twitter activity demonstrates how a head of state can channel his own power through the Internet. Though Toomas Hendrik Ilves' following pales in comparison to Barack Obama's, as Seddon writes, "Ilves really gets it."
"His account is not just a public relations tool. It’s really him there touting Estonia’s buoyant startup scene; warning of Russia’s aggressive policies toward its former satellite states in Eastern Europe; and rebuking people who put his country down. Not bad for the head of a tiny Baltic state of 1.3 million with little in the way of executive power (most of which is concentrated in the prime minister’s office)."
A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming
The New York Times -- Suzanne Daley
Hailed for his radically innovative designs, architect Santiago Calatrava has built more than just grandiose structures -- he's built a reputation that may prevent him from ever again working on the types of projects associated with his name. Despite an initial operating budget of 300 million euros, Calatrava's riverbed complex in Valencia, Spain, has cost three times as much. According to Suzanne Daley, Calatrava's cost overruns have become a recurring theme, with pragmatic design flaws and construction delays causing frustration from Bilbao to New York.
"What you see over and over again is that rather than searching for functionality or customer satisfaction, he aims for singularity," Jesús Cañada Merino, the president of Bilbao’s architects’ association, told Daley. "The problem is that Calatrava is above and beyond the client."
The Unsexy Forefathers Of London's Trendy Food Trucks
The Atlantic Cities -- Mark Byrnes
Granted, this isn't a long read, but why not start your weekend with awesome photos of food trucks? Amid London's blossoming street-meat culture, Mark Byrnes and Reuters photographer Stefan Wermuth take a look at the origin of Britain's rest-stop movement, showing fairly unglamorous portraits of the country's original meals on wheels.