Alligators, Lagos, War Crimes, Capitalism, Cosmology

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

My Dad Tried To Kill Me With An Alligator

Harrison Scott Key | Outside | 12th May 2015

Hair-raising tales of growing up in Mississippi with a brother called Bird and a father who had strange ways of showing his love: "In the summer of 1987 my father tried to murder me with an alligator. Sometimes he told us to put gas on the fire because he believed a fire could teach boys about life. Sometimes he tried to murder us with recreational watercraft. To this day, I cannot injure my coccyx without thinking fondly of the man" (3,000 words)

Lagos Must Prosper

Alexis Okeowo | Granta | 9th April 2015

Portrait of Lagos and its outgoing governor, Babatunde Fashola, who took office in 2007 when "the entire city was a slum" and has since smartened it up a bit. Crime is down, tax collection is up, shanty-towns make way for apartments and offices. But with each slum clearance the rich get richer, while the poor — who have no property title — get poorer. Fashola is OK with that: "Before you can repair, things need to be destroyed" (3,950 words)

Syria’s Truth Smugglers

Julian Borger | Guardian | 12th May 2015

Inspiring account of an activist network smuggling government records out of Syria in the hope that a war-crimes tribunal will some day convene. The archive runs to half a million pages so far. As the Yugoslav prosecutions showed, it is one thing to prove atrocities, quite another to prove political responsibility. The Syrian papers trace the chain of command right to the top. "To put Assad in jail for murder, you just need one victim” (5,400 words)

What Caused Capitalism?

Jeremy Adelman | Foreign Affairs | 12th May 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

Discussion of Sven Beckert's Empire Of Cotton and other recent books about the origins of capitalism, highlighting the distinction between 'internalist' explanations, which see capitalism as the outcome of particular conditions within Western societies; and 'externalist' explanations, which see capitalism as the product of Western exploitation of the rest of the world through conquest and enslavement (4,130 words)

In The Beginning: The End Of Cosmology

Ross Andersen | Aeon | 12th May 2015

Science bumps up against the frontiers of philosophy: "Cosmologists have looked deep into time, almost all the way back to the Big Bang itself, but they don’t know what came before it. Cosmologists don’t know if the world we see around us is spatially infinite, or if there are other kinds of worlds beyond our horizon, or in other dimensions. And then the big mystery: no cosmologist has a clue why there is something rather than nothing" (9,400 words)

Video of the day: China Through The Looking Glass

What to expect: Guided tour of the New York Met exhibition tracing Chinese influence on Western fashion (8'13")

Thought for the day

What makes equality such a difficult business is that we only want it with our superiors
Henry Becque

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