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A Company Man

Extract from Héctor Tobar’s book, Deep Down Dark, about the 2010 Chilean mine collapse which trapped 33 underground. The miners knew the pit was dangerous well before its collapse — and that the owners had stopped seismic monitoring. But they worked on. “Mining is an inherently dangerous occupation, and those who have decades of experience working underground take pride in facing its risks” (3,930 words)

The Syria We Don’t Know

With each American sortie against ISIS, Bashar Al-Assad’s prospects improve. Damascus is enjoying “a respite of sorts from war”. The peaceful pro-democracy protestors have given up; they fear ISIS more than Assad. The Free Syrian Army holds some outlying areas of Damascus, and fights on in Aleppo, but its grip is weakening. “People are exhausted. Even those who fought the regime are moving toward reconciliation” (2,980 words)

I’m Pregnant, So Why Can’t I Tell You?

The hardest part of the first trimester is morning sickness. The next-hardest part is keeping it all a secret. And why? “From what I can gather, this code of silence is meant to protect you, the pregnant woman, from the (supposed) shame of reporting back to your community that this pregnancy is not to be”. This is doubly wrong. There is no shame in a miscarriage; and in pregnancy you need the support of your friends (2,220 words)

The Political Marketplace

How government works across much of Africa and the Greater Middle East. Rulers buy loyalty for cash. The political system exists for the welfare of its participants, not for the production of public goods. Violence is a means of bargaining. Skilfully managed, the system is robust. “The political marketplace is not a transitional or outdated system that is about to replaced, but a flexible and dynamic governance order” (4,570 words)

Transportation, Divergence, And Industrial Revolution

Horse-power made the industrial revolution happen. North-west Europe took the lead thanks to its developed system of roads, horses and agriculture. China fell far behind because its local haulage relied on human porters. Efficient transport became a powerful economic multiplier. “A reduction in transportation costs by a factor of two increases the potential value of a trade network by a factor of sixteen” (1,480 words)

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