Browser Newsletter 1057

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

Best of the Moment

Reinventing The Bookstore

Virginia Postrel | Bloomberg View | 15th July 2013

People still want to browse, so monetise that. "Separate the discovery and atmospheric value from the book-warehousing function. Make them smaller, with the inventory limited to curated examination copies — one copy per title. Charge for memberships that entitle customers to hang out, browse the shelves, buy snacks and use the Wi-Fi. Give members an easy way to order books online"

Benjamin Disraeli, “Unscrupulous Charlatan”

Sam Leith | Spectator | 13th July 2013

Review of two new books on Disraeli, flamboyant 19C British prime minister — "A bizarre, overdressed, bankrupt novelist" who ran for parliament to gain immunity from arrest, and so avoid debtor's prison. He treated politics as a game; and, once he had won it, he "dismissed as humbug the idea that a prime minister should do anything, let alone concern himself with the details of policy or the drudgery of departmental work"

Urumqi: Central Asia’s Capital City

Alexandros Petersen | The Atlantic | 12th July 2013

And it's not even in Central Asia, as conventionally defined. It's in China. Population 3 million, capital of Turkic-speaking Xinjiang region on China's western edge. Transport and business hub. "You find pudgy Guangzhou businessmen next to nervous-looking Pakistani merchants from Peshawar, Farsi-speaking Tajiks, entrepreneurs from Mumbai and Bangkok. Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Turkmen and Azeris mingle with Uighurs and Turks"

Con Man Wins The War On Terror

Adam Higginbotham | Business Week | 11th July 2013

Jaw-dropping tale of British ex-soldier who sold 6,000 bogus bomb-detectors to the Iraqi government for $38m. "According to sales brochures, the equipment could locate explosives, narcotics, cash, diamonds, gold, ivory, and missing persons — even underwater, underground, or from an aircraft flying up to three miles overhead". Other countries bought them too. He's now serving ten years in jail, but his plastic dowsing rods are still in use

“The KGB Was A Funny Bunch”

Simon Shuster | Roads And Kingdoms | 12th July 2013

On Chechen culture and, especially, Chechen food. "Their staples seem designed for preparation in the context of guerrilla warfare, over a fire in the mountains, using ingredients and tools that are easily pillaged, scavenged or carried on a man’s back". The national dish doesn't even have an agreed name: it's just called "national dish". Main ingredients: raw garlic, fatty sour cream, cornflour dumplings, fist-sized chunks of beef

The Doctors Who Control Medicare

Haley Sweetland Edwards | Washington Monthly | 8th July 2013

American Medical Association organises a committee of doctors which meets secretly every few months to set prices that doctors everywhere charge Medicare for procedures — MRI, heart-stent insertion, etc. In effect, doctors themselves decide how much the government will pay them. In almost any other business, such price-rigging would be illegal. In health care, it's both legal and horribly expensive

Video of the day: In Detroit, With Charlie LeDuff

Thought for the day:

"Be the first to not do what nobody has ever thought of not doing before" — Brian Eno

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