Barack Obama, Birdwatching, Business Tips, Maple Syrup, Sacred Cows, Richard Nixon

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

My President Was Black

Ta-Nehisi Coates | Atlantic | 13th December 2016

Read and weep. “I remembered what I felt through much of 2008, as I watched Barack Obama’s star shoot across the political sky. I had never seen so many white people cheer on a black man who was neither an athlete nor an entertainer. And it seemed that they loved him for this, and I thought in those days, which now feel so long ago, that they might then love me, too, and love my wife, and love my child, and love us all in the manner that the God they so fervently cited had commanded” (16,900 words)

Searching For The World’s Rarest Bird

The Economist | Medium | 12th December 2016

Birdwatching notes. In search of the Chinese crested tern, thought for decades to be extinct, on Hainan Island. “The Li men jostle to sell me supper, all of it live: white-breasted waterhens, little egrets, a black-crowned night heron and a spot-billed duck. Upright, herons and their egret cousins have the gaunt, hunched air of sharp-eyed spinsters dressed for an Edwardian salon. Hung upside down, they turn limp, resigned to their fate except for the occasional mild jab at their captor’s hand” (3,900 words)

Business Tips From A Refugee Camp

Richard Davies | 1843 | 8th December 2016

Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees opened in 2012. Within nine months it had 200,000 residents and a thriving economy. “Companies sprang up everywhere. By the time the camp was two years old it had more than 1,400 firms. They have continued to be founded at an incredible rate.” Zaatari’s Market Street is “a consumer hub” where you can “choose from a host of products and services: a decent coffee, a haircut, a wedding dress or a delicious falafel wrap or chicken shawarma” (1,200 words)

Quebec’s Great Maple-Syrup Heist

Rich Cohen | Vanity Fair | 12th December 2016

The Great Maple Syrup Heist of 2012 was “among the most fantastic agricultural crimes ever committed, which, granted, is an odd subset”. Somebody somehow spirited away one-eighth of Quebec’s Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve — 540,000 gallons of syrup worth $13.4 million. “There were no security cameras. Who would steal syrup? Syrup is heavy. And sticky. How do you hide it? Who do you get to smuggle it? Where can you sell it? It’s like stealing the salt out of the sea” (4,300 words)

The Cult Of The Hindu Cowboy

Snigdha Poonam | Granta | 9th December 2016

Conversations with members of the Cow Protection Army, a pro-cow, anti-Muslim Hindu militia in northern India. “If an infidel kills a cow, we are to pump his body with bullets”. Armed with guns and baseball bats they patrol country roads at night hunting for cattle trucks and lynching the drivers. “If you are not allowed to punish the traffickers sufficiently, how can you stop them from messing with the cow mother again? You have to establish fear in their hearts” (4,500 words)

He Was A Crook

Hunter S. Thompson | Atlantic | 1st July 1994

Hunter S. Thompson’s obituary of Richard Nixon. The two were not friends. “He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable” (2,600 words)

Video of the day: Holiday Books 2016

What to expect:

Bill Gates talks about his favourite books of the past year, including “String Theory” by David Foster Wallace (2’35”)

Thought for the day

What is not surrounded by uncertainty cannot be the truth
Richard Feynman

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