Al-Qaeda, Putin's Power, Atheism, American Collapse, London, Antibiotics

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The Spy Who Came In From Al-Qaeda

Peter Marshall | BBC | 3rd March 2015

Early member of Al-Qaeda talks about the group's methods and beliefs. Interesting throughout. "They all want martyrdom and redemption and to various degrees. Some people will come to you and say you know I'm really tired, I want to be martyred as soon as possible. And some people will come to you and say I want to be martyred but not before I give the enemies of god hell on this earth" (3,070 words)

Vladimir Putin’s Rise

Stephen Kotkin | Foreign Affairs | 2nd March 2015

How Vladimir Putin throttled Russia's struggling democracy and restored autocracy. "He seized an opportunity provided by historical contingencies, and proved up to the task. He made himself indispensable to all factions. He monetized his political position, but he also turned out to be dedicated to the cause of Russian statehood. Certain leaders do seem to fit certain moments in a country’s history. Putin only looks like an accident" (6,860 words)

What Scares The New Atheists

John Gray | Guardian | 3rd March 2015

"Religion is implicated in many human evils. Of course this is true. But the fault is not with religion, any more than science is to blame for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The fault is in the intractable human animal. Like religion at its worst, contemporary atheism feeds the fantasy that human life can be remade by a conversion experience – in this case, conversion to unbelief" (4,100 words)

American Democracy Is Doomed

Mathew Yglesias | Vox | 2nd March 2015

If we take seriously the claims made by politicians and political scientists that the American system of government is tending towards polarisation and paralysis, we should accept the possibility that the system may break down completely; not this year or next year, but in, say, 20-30 years. "If we seem to be unsustainably lurching from crisis to crisis, it's because we are unsustainably lurching from crisis to crisis" (5,300 words)

Disunited Kingdom

Janan Ganesh | Financial Times | 2nd March 2015

As London grows ever bigger and richer, a great world city, it grows apart from the rest of Britain. It may be the most diverse big city in world history. More than a third of the population is foreign-born. White Britons are in a minority. Property prices are sky-high, driven up by international buyers. "Britain should prepare for political disruption as its capital becomes a world of its own" (1,885 words)

The Social Science Of Antibiotics

Jeremy Farrar | Project Syndicate | 22nd January 2015

Overuse of antibiotics is undermining healthcare. We have lost our defence against gonorrhoea; we are helpless once more against strains of TB and malaria. "We regard antibiotics as consumer goods – ours to demand from doctors, ours to take or stop taking as we see fit. Even people who understand how resistance develops often contribute to the problem by giving their drugs to members of their family" (800 words)

Video of the day: Global Shipping Seen From Space

What to expect: Visualisation. A week of shipping traffic worldwide, as seen from space (1'40")

Thought for the day

Luck is statistics taken personally
Penn Jillette

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