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Arsenic And Old Leeches

Lydia Kang & Nate Pedersen | Lapham's Quarterly | 31st October 2017

Notes on pre-scientific medical treatments that survived into the 20th century. Leeches, for example. “Leeches prefer to bite clean, freshly shaved skin. No stubble! Even with the smoothest of skin, the dainty beasts sometimes needed a little coaxing. The Lancet reported in 1848 that they bit more vigorously if dunked in a nice dark beer or some diluted wine. The area of skin could be bathed in milk, sugar water, or best, a little bit of fresh blood” (1,738 words)

Typos On The Skins Of Men

Jay Herndon | Strategy Bridge | 2nd November 2017

Perceptive account of the “quiet failures” of economic reform in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority. American administrators were told to create a “vibrant, free market” as a check on any future dictatorship. But their confidence far outstripped their expertise, and their mistakes laid the foundations for much of the chaos that followed. Said one: “I don’t give a s–t about international law. I made a commitment to the president that I’d privatize Iraq’s businesses” (2,750 words)

Beneath The Yew Tree’s Shade

Thomas Laqueur | Paris Review | 31st October 2015

The association between yew trees and death goes back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks — as do some great yew trees, which can live for thousands of years. “The yew tree was sacred to Hecate, the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft, death, and necromancy. It was said to purify the dead as they entered Hades”. The yew was a symbol of sadness for British painers and poets until it was displaced by the more picturesque weeping willow, an eighteenth-century import from China (1,500 words)

Love In The Time Of Robots

Alex Mar | Wired | 17th October 2017

Portrait of Hiroshi Ishiguro, computer scientist, android-builder, “engineer of human intimacy”. His creatures are “beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas”. He uses them “to analyse and cultivate our evolving relationship with robots”, with a view to understanding why and when we are willing to interact with, even feel affection for, a machine. With each android he produces, Ishiguro “believes he is moving closer to building that trust” (12,600 words)

A Very Old Man For A Wolf

Emma Marris | Outside | 30th October 2017

A black-furred wolf from Idaho swims the Snake River into Oregon, where he finds a mate. “They made a den inside a huge felled ponderosa and cared for their first round of pups, born blind and helpless in early spring”. They are officially the first wolf-pack in Oregon since the last eradication in 1947. “A state biologist tracked him, collared him, counted his pups, weighed him, photographed him, and protected him. But then the animal known as OR4 broke one too many rules” (5,700 words)

Video of the day The Failure Of Fyre Festival

What to expect:

Comic, collage-style re-telling of an incompetent and possibly fraudulent attempt to stage a music festival in the Bahamas (11’10”)

Thought for the day

Depression is sadness gone wrong
Lewis Wolpert

Podcast of the day Red Famine | Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes talks to Anne Applebaum about Stalin’s systematic starvation of Ukraine in the 1930s

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