Mother Nature dominated Canadian news headlines this week, with storms pounding the East and earthquakes shaking the West. In case you missed them amidst the coverage of nature's fury, here are five must-read stories from the past several days.

CBC News in Syria

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The ancient city of Aleppo is being turned to rubble. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

A CBC News team has just returned after several days in Aleppo province, near Syria's northern border with Turkey. In stories, video and pictures, they've documented the plight of the region's people, the efforts of Canadian doctors trying to help the wounded and the images of an ancient city being steadily turned to rubble. The region became involved in the now 19-month uprising later than others, but it has recently seen some of the most severe violence.

U.S. campaigns back in gear

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Neil Macdonald, Senior Washington Correspondent

America's biggest, most important city is seriously wounded, and millions more along the Eastern Seaboard are still wallowing, dazed, in the soggy filth left behind by this week's superstorm. But the two men running for president have been providing insights into the art of capitalizing politically on a disaster, and have now decided the respectful pause is over. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were back on the stump Thursday, peddling the mixture of distortions, nose-stretchers, preening and pandering that passes for serious political discourse in modern America. Meanwhile, Obama's failure to live up to the inspiration he initially generated among voters in his first presidential election has taken some of the shine off his reputation, but much of his popularity endures — and in many places, including Canada and Europe, it far exceeds what it is at home on the eve of the election.

Challenges for Canada's new military chief

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Jean Audette of Sûreté du Québec says the operation dismantled a large criminal network. (CBC)

Gen. Tom Lawson is Canada's new chief of the defence staff following a change of command ceremony at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa Monday, where he took over the post from outgoing Gen. Walt Natynczyk. A former fighter pilot with 37 years of air force experience, Lawson served most recently as the deputy commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command in Colorado. He takes over a military facing new challenges, including up to $2.5 billion in budget cuts by 2015. "We're now in a position where we have to stay within a budget that will be tighter than what we had expected," Lawson said.

Massive police raids

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Dave Bruno's 100 Things Challenge encourages people to reduce their collection of possessions to just 100 items. (iStock)

Nearly 1,000 police officers from Quebec services and the RCMP carried out searches in 30 municipalities in Ontario and Quebec Thursday, seizing cash, drugs, homes and vehicles and making more than 100 arrests in connection with a major crackdown on organized crime and the drug trade. Officials said the arrests included important members of the Hells Angels and the Italian Mafia. Police in B.C. were also involved in Operation Loquace, as it is being referred to, and investigators say more arrests are expected. "It's a very large operation — we're talking about one almost as large as the ones we made in [operations] Springtime and SharQC," said Sgt. Benoit Richard of Sûreté du Québec, referring to previous investigations into biker gangs in Quebec.

The '100 Thing Challenge'

Tired of being on the "status-quo, middle-class treadmill" of mindless consumption and mounting debt, the Glad-Timmons family of Montreal undertook a project that most people would consider drastic: paring their worldly possessions down to 100 items. "We just decided that life's too short to just be doing this," says Jenni Glad-Timmons, a 36-year-old public health nurse, referring to the North American consumer lifestyle. "We weren't really being good role models for the kids, either." The challenge is an initiative started by blogger and father of three Dave Bruno, an online marketing manager and adjunct history professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He tells CBC News he believes that divesting ourselves of unnecessary items not only frees up physical space, but also leads to a spiritual transformation.

(OK, just one Mother Nature story…)

The recent West Coast earthquake appears to have shut off the water at the popular hot springs in Haida Gwaii's national park. After Saturday's 7.7 magnitude earthquake — the largest recorded in Canada in 60 years — Parks Canada workers went to Hotspring Island to check the springs and found they had run dry. The popular natural attraction in Gwaii Haanas National Park had become a major tourist draw in recent decades.