In this issue, we're delighted to announce the start of a new Browser tradition: a weekly cryptic crossword, edited by legendary cruciverbalist Dan Feyer.
Jack Hitt | VQR | 8th September 2020
Letter from Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Serbs waged genocidal war against Muslim Bosniaks in the mid-1990s. The Serbs are still in charge, and are rewriting history in their favour. The mass graves of their victims are unmarked; their torture chambers have been converted into a health spa; the only war memorials honour Serb soldiers (8,470 words)
Diana Santos Fleischman | Dianaverse | 10th October 2020
On sex-robots. The sex industry has been a leader in online and virtual tech. What is it signalling now about robotics? That men want sex-robots as more obedient alternatives to human partners. "Men can build alternatives to a sexual market made less navigable by ideology. Substitutes are built, bargaining power dissipates. Sex robots are to gender politics as scabs are to labour relations" (2,800 words)
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Ed Simon | Public Domain Review | 24th November 2020
When we imagine early New England, we think of stern-faced Puritans and black-hatted Pilgrims. But not all settlers were so straitlaced. In 1626 Thomas Morton founded a breakaway community called Merrymount, described variously as a "neo-pagan experiment" and a "fountainhead of erotic energy". Appalled Puritans shut it down after two fun-filled years. Morton went home in fetters (2,400 words)
Alice Gorman | MIT Press Reader | 1st December 2020
The ancient Greeks knew that birds came and went with the seasons, but it was only in the late 18th century that European naturalists worked out where the birds went to each winter. Conjectures that they hid and hibernated, or went to the moon, were still common in the 17th century. The lunar theory assumed that a round trip to the moon would take the birds a couple of months (1,330 words)
Ian Leslie | The Ruffian | 8th December 2020
Let us first agree that Paul McCartney is the best and the best-loved British songwriter of the past century. Even so, we risk undervaluing his achievement, if we think it ephemeral. McCartney is arguably the greatest songwriter since Schubert, perhaps the greatest of all time. "His achievement is immense, historic, and will be remembered for centuries if anything will" (9,700 words)
Bellingcat | 21st December 2020
Russian agents discuss how they tried to kill opposition leader Alexey Navalny, and why Navalny survived. They poisoned Navalny's underwear with Novichok; he survived because his plane made an emergency landing and the medics who met the plane were not in on the plot. This information is extracted by Navalny himself, who telephones the agents while posing as a Russian investigator (16,200 words)
Editor's note: The polymathic prognosticator and Axios columnist Felix Salmon will be joining our editor Robert Cottrell for an open Zoom conversation on Sunday 3rd January at 5pm GMT (noon ET, 9am PT); Robert will be asking Felix what we can expect from the year to come. Non-paying subscribers can purchase tickets for $10 here — Raymond Douglas
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