Assassins, Jared Kushner, Minamata, Sermons, Cambrian Explosion, Uber

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The Killing Of Kim Jong-Nam

Doug Bock Clark | GQ | 25th September 2017

How North Korean secret agents arranged — rather impressively — the murder of Kim Jong-Nam, unruly elder brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un, by sending two young women to rub poison on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport. The women, from Vietnam and Indonesia, thought they were taking part in a You Tube stunt. The North Koreans rehearsed them before the attack by paying them to smear other strangers — and abandoned them afterwards to face trial and possible execution (7,020 words)

Jared Kushner Dismantles The Family Empire

Rich Cohen | Vanity Fair | 26th September 2017

Classic Vanity Fair profile, awash with power and money and gossip, in which everything is interesting except Kushner himself. “Something about him remains opaque, unknowable. Something held in reserve. He’s a beautiful new house made to look old, a beautiful new house with fogged windows. You lean close and stare inside and still see nothing. The rooms may be filled with antique furniture. Or maybe it’s Ikea. Or maybe the house is empty” (7,300 words)

Something In The Water

Mosaic | 26th September 2017

Report from Minamata Bay, Japan, where a chemical factory leaked hundreds of tonnes of mercury into the sea from 1932 to 1968. The mercury was eaten by plankton, the plankton were eaten by fish, the fish were eaten by humans. Tens of thousands of people suffered neurological damage. The factory is still in business. Much of the bay has been reclaimed for parks and gardens. “Under all this new land is a plastic seal. And under that are millions of tonnes of mercury sludge” (59,800 words)

Here Be Sermons

Kevin Simler | Melting Asphalt | 11th September 2017

On the sermon as a genre. “Contrast sermons with lectures. Both take roughly the same form: a one-to-many broadcast. But they have different functions (moralizing vs. imparting knowledge), and to fulfill these different functions they require different topologies. Whereas a lecture addresses its ‘many’ as a collection of individuals, a sermon addresses its ‘many’ as a community or flock, a network of listeners whose relationships stand to change by listening to the sermon” (4,500 words)

Notes From An Apocalypse

Toggle | Less Wrong | 22nd September 2017

Current state of conjecture about the Cambrian Explosion, a threshold some 540 million years ago when advanced animal life — cognition, basically — appeared on earth. Why, and how? “It’s like somebody flipped a light switch. The rise in diversity and in disparity is unequalled by any other moment in Earth’s history. Take all the creative power of the last five hundred million years of animal evolution, compress it down to a fraction of a geological instant – that’s the power of the Cambrian Explosion” (4,300 words)

Understanding Uber

John Bull | Reconnections | 25th September 2017

Powerful account of the arguments and incidents leading up to the impending revocation of Uber’s licence to operate in London. A lot of detail, but well marshalled, leaving you with the rare sense of seeing close up how business really gets done. The break-point for London was Uber’s refusal to report passengers’ claims of sexual assaults by Uber drivers directly to the police. Uber’s routing of bookings through the Netherlands to avoid paying UK tax didn’t help (5,200 words)

Video of the day: Don’t Say Velcro

What to expect:

Bizarre and delightful musical appeal from Velcro for its trademark name to be respected (2’14”)

Thought for the day

Life is only lived full-time by women with children
Marguerite Duras

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