India, Chinese Vice, Swiss Banking, Selma, Psilocybin

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

The Fixer

Snigdha Poonam | Granta | 9th February 2015

Portrait of Pankaj Prasad, Indian village fixer. If you want a driving licence or an identity card, a mobile phone or a bank account, a pension or a railway ticket, Prasad is your man. He has the only computer and the only internet connection. He knows how to take and give a bribe. The queue outside his house forms at crack of dawn. "Nobody is considered more resourceful than the person who knows how to work the government" (5,790 words)

The Bro Code

James Palmer | China File | 4th February 2015

The role of vice in Chinese business. A drunken evening at a brothel is a common, almost obligatory, part of deal-making. "The purpose of these visits isn’t a good time. It’s to cement business and personal ties, binding men together through the power of taboo and mutual self-exposure". Such interludes also serve as a screening process, "weeding out the rare few who might have moral qualms about future dealings" (4,260 words)

HSBC Shelters Murky Cash For Dictators

Gerard Ryle et al | ICIJ | 8th February 2015

Leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, filleted here in glorious detail, show that, at least until recently, the bank was running secret accounts in Switzerland holding more than $100 billion for an extraordinary array of tax-dodging international clients, including pop stars and princes but also "arms dealers, bag-men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws" (6,700 words)

Different Ways Of Looking At Selma

Darryl Pinkney | New York Review Of Books | 9th February 2015

It's puzzling that director Ava DuVernay misrepresented President Lyndon Johnson as a bad guy in her film Selma, given that she had plenty of authentically bad guys to choose from — J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace among them — as a dramatic foil for Martin Luther King. That aside, Selma is an "admirable" and "beautiful" film. It simplifies the story, but that is what films do. If you want complications, read a book (4,300 words)

The Trip Treatment

Michael Pollan | New Yorker | 9th February 2015 | Metered paywall

Doctors rediscover the therapeutic properties of hallucinogens. LSD carries too much political baggage, but psilocybin scores highly as a treatment for end-of-life anxiety. “Many cancer patients in the trials reported that their fear of death had lifted or at least abated ... People don’t realize how few tools we have in psychiatry to address existential distress. How can we not explore this, if it can recalibrate how we die?” (10,300 words)

Video of the day: I, Rose

What to expect: Popular economics. The market in Valentine's Day roses explained (2'30")

Thought for the day

You can tell a lot about a person by the way she handles tangled Christmas lights
Maya Angelou

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