East New York, Navies, Taxonomists, Bones, Afghanistan
What The Hell Happened In East New York?
Kevin Heldman | Digg / Big Roundtable | 8th April 2016
Portrait of Brooklyn’s baddest neighbourhood. “Walk the streets and you’ll pass scrapyards; junkyards; auto dismantlers; methadone clinics; prostitution motels that charge by the hour; seventeen mental health facilities; fifteen drug-treatment facilities; twelve homeless shelters; half-way houses and three-quarter houses. Walk more and you’ll pass a drugstore with a handwritten sign on the front window: We have no Oxycontin” (8,100 words)
Navies: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
John Quiggin | Inside Story | 17th March 2016
Why do we have navies? To “keep the sea lanes open”. Is that an efficient use of public spending? No. Closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 cost Britain about 0.06% of GDP annually; Britain’s navy costs ten times as much to maintain. The Asian naval nightmare scenario, a Chinese takeover of the South China Sea, would have even less direct economic impact, since four-fifths of South China Sea trade goes to and from China (1,300 words)
The Meanest Science
Ansel Payne | Nautilus | 7th April 2016
Taxonomy is the pursuit of perfect ordering in the natural world — and yet its practitioners are notorious for their arguments and enmities, which rage for decades in the journals and continue into the obituary columns precisely because they cannot be resolved within the science. The “principle of taxonomic freedom” gives any individual the right to change a classification, including trolls, charlatans and the merely incompetent (3,300 words)
Is It OK To Dig Up The Dead?
Mark Strauss | National Geographic | 7th April 2016
The skeleton in the laboratory is an object of science, but also the remains of a person — and respect for the dead, at least the in-group dead, is a mark of civilisation. Public anger over the desecration of Native American graves has taught archaeologists to treat new discoveries of human remains with much greater sensitivity. But should we also rebury the human remains held in museums and research labs? (5,200 words)
Azam Ahmed | Granta | 17th March 2016
This short story about Afghanistan is categorised here as “fiction”, but it is wiser by far than most writing which poses as fact. A Pashtun farmer explains why he works with the Taliban to bury dead fighters, even enemy fighters: “You cannot draw a line. I do not do this work for the government, or the Taliban, or even the men who I collect from the battlefield and return to their loved ones. All these years I have done this for God” (5,600 words)
Video of the day: Who Can We Love?
What to expect:
Animated talk from Alain de Botton’s School of Life. Why do we have such restrictive priors about who we can love? (4’58”)
Thought for the day
A little inaccuracy saves a ton of explanation