Flooding, Alcohol, Tasers, James Holman, Logistics

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

How Washington Made Harvey Worse

Michael Grunwald | Politico | 29th August 2017

Adverse selection, American edition. Government-subsidised flood insurance encourages Americans to build in flood-prone areas. One house in Houston has flooded 16 times in 18 years, netting its owners $800,000 on a valuation of $115,000. Not only do the new buildings get flooded; they also pave over wetlands and pastures that previously soaked up rain, ensuring more and worse floods. Small wonder that Houston has declared three “500-year” floods in the past three years (1,400 words)

America’s First Addiction Epidemic

Christopher Finan | Longreads | 29th August 2017

Giving whisky to Native Americans was a winning strategy for white settlers, and a catastrophic one for Native Americans who had no experience of drinking spirits and no social protocols for doing so in moderation. Their vulnerability to alcoholism made them easier to exploit, and confirmed the settlers’ sense of racial superiority. “The records of colonial traders who operated in Indian country show that 80 percent of the charges to government accounts were for gifts of alcohol to the natives” (7,526 words)

Shock Tactics

Peter Eisler et al | Reuters | 22nd August 2017

Much to ponder, none of it good, in this investigation of more than 1,000 deaths involving American police tasers since 2000. Police routinely use Tasers to subdue people in emotional or mental distress — including those they have been called to help. “More than 100 fatal encounters began with a 911 call for help during a medical emergency. In nine out of 10 incidents the deceased was unarmed. A quarter of the victims were suffering from a mental health breakdown or neurological disorder” (6,300 words)

The Blind Traveller

Lucas Reilly | Mental Floss | 28th August 2017

James Holman was arguably the most prolific explorer in history. By his death in 1857 at the age of 70 he had walked, climbed, ridden, hiked and sailed a distance equivalent to the Moon and back. He was, moreover, totally blind — which he accounted a partial advantage. “The picturesque in nature, it is true, is shut out from me; but perhaps this very circumstance affords a stronger zest to curiosity than would be considered necessary to a traveller who might satisfy himself by the superficial view” (8,200 words)

The Temptations Of The Brown Box

Jobie Turner | Strategy Bridge | 30th August 2017

Logistics are “the apex of US military asymmetry and advantage”. Nobody matches the US Army in shipping the millions of items needed to maintain distant bases and resupply frontline troops. Logistics is “a deep-seated cultural norm for Americans and the US military in particular”. But the US model consumes huge resources. Is this still the best way of doing things? Is there an Amazon model for the military which leverages flexible spot deliveries over hard-wired supply lines? (3,600 words)

Video of the day: Nox Atacama

What to expect:

Views over the Atacama Desert, home to the darkest and clearest skies on Earth (5’24”)

Thought for the day

Always tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember
David Mamet

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