Aliens, Jeff Bezos, Nuclear Football, Ray Davies, Poison


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Do Aliens Have Inalienable Rights?

Peter Singer | Nautilus | 13th April 2017

“We have at least some obligations to avoid inflicting suffering on nonhuman animals, and the same would surely hold for any extraterrestrial beings who we discover to be capable of suffering. Pain and suffering are equally bad, no matter what the origins of the being suffering. The only thing that matters is the intensity and duration of the suffering. We can think of this as a form of equality — equal consideration for similar amounts of suffering or happiness” (1,400 words)

The Jeff Bezos Playbook

Jeff Bezos | Recode | 12th April 2017

Jeff Bezos on how to run a company so that it never gets tired. “Use the phrase ‘disagree and commit’. This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, ‘Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?’ By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes. I disagree and commit all the time” (1,900 words)

The President And The Bomb

Alex Wellerstein | Restricted Data | 10th April 2017

Digging down into the chain of command if an American president orders a nuclear strike. The order goes straight from the president to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who relays it to the duty officers. The Secretary of Defense is out of the loop. “I have even less faith than before in the idea that such an order would be disobeyed. Maybe you do — that’s fine, and I appreciate the company of optimists. But the notion that the system won’t work as intended is not a real check” (3,300 words)

Out Of Time

Michael Hofmann | Times Literary Supplement | 5th April 2017

Immensely elegant review of Megan Marshall’s biography, Elizabeth Bishop, which is also a review of Bishop herself. “One hesitates to say whether she was lazy, unfocused, distracted, self-critical, inhibited, perfectionist, or some or all of these, but it colours one’s sense of the kind of poet she was: somehow precious, strangely hindered, not really there. Perhaps over the years the reader shifts his emphasis from gratitude for the poems that are to perplexity over those that aren’t” (3,950 words)

A Conversation With Ray Davies

Kate Mossman | New Statesman | 12th April 2017

A joy throughout if you have a soft spot for Ray Davies and the Kinks (and, if not, pass by on the other side). “I think of the Sixties as black and white, the Fifties as colour. The Seventies were black and white, too. The Eighties were definitely bad colour.” “There’s only one person who’s more insecure than I am, and his name is Pete Townshend.” On his grandchildren: “They’re warming to me. They understand I’m not a stockbroker, not a banker, I don’t work at Tesco’s. It’s not a job you can define” (3,100 words)

Sarin And Sentimentality

Brooke V. Higgins & Charles P. Blair | Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists | 7th April 2017

The modern taboo on chemical weapons echoes the pre-modern disdain for poison, which was associated with treachery and cowardice. Poison “empowered the weak, notably women, and was therefore considered illegitimate in conflict among elite male warriors”. And, because modern wars are supposed to be fought by professionals trained in violence, admitting poison would “threaten to undermine the class structure of war, a carefully preserved social institution” (1,600 words)

Video of the day: Cash For Spies

What to expect:

Chinese public service announcement promising rewards to citizens who report spying to the police (1’14”)

Thought for the day

Most decisions should be made with 70% of the information you wish you had
Jeff Bezos

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