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The Tragedy Of The American Military Pick of the day

Thirteen years of fighting in the Middle East have cost America $1.5 trillion, thousands of lives, and achieved nothing. Yet nobody is held to account. American politicians glorify the military, but they have lost the expertise and the confidence to manage it effectively. “The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win” (10,400 words)

How To Make Difficult Conversations Easy

Notes from a psychologist on dealing with hysterical and psychotic interlocutors, also useful in less demanding encounters. Seven main insights, including the advice to say something along the lines of: “Please speak more slowly. I’d like to help”. It signals that you are interested; it will probably cause the distressed person to lower their voice; it works better than saying “calm down”, which tends to have the opposite effect (2,250 words)

Please Steal Our Fossil Fuels

The world is “cursed with fossil fuels in dangerous abundance”. Falling oil prices “threaten to undermine investment in green energy and stimulate wasteful consumption”. Humanity would be much better off if “some extra-terrestrial thief came in the night and stole two-thirds of the planet’s oil, gas and coal reserves”; we would still have enough energy to maintain our quality of life, and more incentive to innovate (930 words)

Can AIDS Be Cured?

AIDS has been transformed from a fatal into a treatable condition. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the human immunodeficiency virus, but they do not eradicate it. Reservoirs of HIV lie dormant within the cells of the affected body, invisible to current drugs, and liable to reactivate when treatment stops. A permanent cure will require tricking these last viruses into revealing themselves, then destroying them (4,500 words)

What I Did In 2014

Diary extracts. Subjects include: Gloucester Crescent, Sue Townsend, preaching in King’s College Chapel, Oxford high table, film-making, Kim Philby, Debo Devonshire, boa constrictors, Richard Hoggart, Richard Branson, dogs, old age. “Once upon a time when one saw an old couple walking along holding hands the thought was of Darby and Joan. Nowadays one just wonders which of them has Alzheimer’s” (5,400 words)

Seven Impressions Of A Difficult Journey

The headline, for once, understates the story, which consists of notes from ten days as a guest of the Islamic State. More detail to follow. Worth knowing: Islamic State recognises the “religions of the book” — Islam, Judaism, Christianity. They will kill all “moderate Muslims approving of democracy” for putting human laws above God’s laws. Jews and Christians will be tolerated if they pay a tax of “several hundred dollars a year” (1,495 words)

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