Newsletter 999

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Best of the Moment

The Bombers’ World

Christian Caryl | New York Review Of Books | 6th May 2013

After his notable scoop in finding "Misha", who supposedly radicalised Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, here's Caryl's full report from within Boston's small Chechen community. "Any analysis must start with Tamerlan. Conversations with those who knew him well yield a portrait of a man who was the lodestar of his family. His mother Zubeidat, in particular, seems to have adored him with an intensity verging on the pathological"

The Language Of Cavemen

David Brown | Washington Post | 6th May 2013

Linguists speculate that seven modern language families — Indo-European, Altaic, Chukchi-Kamchatkan, Dravidian, Inuit-Yupik, Kartvelian, Uralic — all descend from a “proto-Eurasiatic” language spoken 15,000 years ago. Of which some two dozen "ultra-conserved" words have survived, more or less intact: "You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!"

The Thin Red Line

Dexter Filkins | New Yorker | 6th May 2013

Meticulous account of Obama's dilemma, to intervene or not, in Syria. The moral arguments are on one side, the political ones on the other. "He is worried that arming the rebels will have unintended consequences: a genocide against the Alawites; weapons falling into the hands of Islamist extremists, as happened when the U.S. armed Afghan jihadis in the nineteen-eighties; or a rapid political collapse that demolishes the state’s institutions"

DNA At 60

Donna Dickenson | Project Syndicate | 6th May 2013

Crick and Watson's discovery of DNA was expected to "revolutionize biological research". Sixty years later it is still hailed as “one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time.” But the practical impact has been strangely muted. Most diseases don't have simple genetic causes; genetic medicines tend to be prohibitively expensive; and if drug companies succeed in patenting genes, further research will be jeopardised

An Original Thinker Of Our Time

Cass Sunstein | New York Review Of Books | 6th May 2013

Review of Jeremy Adelman's Worldly Philosopher, a biography of Albert Hirschman, "an anti-utopian reformer" best known for his economic writing, notably Exit, Voice and Loyalty. But what amazes here is the courage of his youth. He escaped Nazi Germany, fought for the Republicans in Spain, and ran an underground railroad for Jews fleeing Vichy France that rescued Hannah Arendt, André Breton, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst

How To Spot A Weak Argument

Daniel Dennett | Medium | 6th May 2013

"When you’re reading or skimming argumentative essays, especially by philosophers, here is a quick trick that may save you much time and effort, especially in this age of simple searching by computer: look for 'surely' in the document, and check each occurrence. Not always, not even most of the time, but often the word 'surely' is as good as a blinking light locating a weak point in the argument"

Video of the day: Arizona, by Dustin Farrell

Thought for the day:

"I've come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version"— Don DeLillo

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