Islamic State, Nato, Slavery, Bagels, Louis Brandeis, Jack Parsons


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Returnees From Islamic State

Jörg Diehl et al | Der Spiegel | 8th August 2016

German recruits lose faith in Islamic State, return home, and tell what they have seen and done. “Nils D. spent a year serving the terrorist militia, performing guard duty and working as a cook. He discovered severed heads on the street and watched beheadings. He listened to the screams of people being tortured and looked on as they were hung from metal poles with their hands tied behind their backs. Today, Nils D. is being held in a German prison as a convicted terrorist” (3,400 words)

The World’s Largest Diamond

Matthew Hart | Vanity Fair | 8th August 2016

Diamond pricing is an “arcane, rapacious art”. The per-carat price of diamonds rises exponentially with size. A top-color, best-cut white weighing a single carat runs about $30,000. A 100-carat stone of the same quality sold at Sotheby’s in New York last year for $22 million — $220,000 per carat. But a diamond weighing more than a thousand carats? “The stock market flailed around for a value. Clearly there was no easy way to fix a price, but everyone knew it would be a lot” (2,000 words)

The House That Slavery Built

Tasha Williams | Pacific Standard | 5th August 2016

On the place of slavery in the rise of America as a world power. “If we gave the two-and-a-half centuries of slavery the same scholarly attention as European feudalism and the Industrial Revolution, we could talk today about important threads running through our national and world history. And if those conversations could explore the economic facets of slavery, we could see that slavery was a critical factor in the economic growth of the U.S. and the rise of global capitalism” (1,400 words)

The Ultimate Food To Eat While Driving

Jason Torchinsky | Jalopnik | 5th August 2016

“The ultimate driving food should be shaped and scaled exactly like a standard 12-ounce beverage can. Car cupholders have been designed with these cans in mind, so they have a place to sit, comfortably and with very easy access, in almost every car on the road. The cylinder should be made of something edible; the housing of this food is an integral component of the meal itself. That’s why I’ve chosen bagel dough as the material for the primary structure of the ultimate driving food” (1,100 words)

Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet

Thomas Healy | LA Review Of Books | 8th August 2016

Discussion of Jeffrey Rosen’s biography of Louis Brandeis, “the Jewish Jefferson”, “the most farseeing constitutional philosopher of the 20th century”. Brandeis “railed against bankers” for their risk-taking in ways that anticipated the crash of 2008; he “predicted the ways in which technology would threaten privacy”. But he did not argue for a “larger national bureaucracy” as the solution. He “lived in a simpler time when it was still possible to imagine society governed on the local level” (2,500 words)

The Occultist Rocketeer

Strange Remains | 8th August 2016

Profile of Jack Parsons, an “explosives aficionado” who worked at the rocketry research lab in Caltech, and helped the US Government to formulate stable solid rocket fuels in World War Two. His life changed when he encountered Alastair Crowley. He befriended “a young sci-fi writer named L. Ron Hubbard”, married a woman whom he “believed was sent to him to help him conceive the goddess Babalon in human form”, and was blown to pieces in 1952, possibly by his own hand (2,100 words)

Video of the day: Mondegreen

What to expect:

“A series of kinetic sculptures each representing a word that rhymes with found” (2’13”)

Thought for the day

By nature’s kindly disposition, most questions which it is beyond a man’s power to answer do not occur to him at all
George Santayana

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