Money, Sapiens, Missiles Debt, Drink

How A Prison Economy Works

Richard Davies | Guardian | 30th August 2019

How do American prison inmates get cash to trade drugs and bribe guards? At Louisiana State Penitentiary, where compulsory prison work pays just 4c per hour, the informal economy relies on pre-paid payment cards. An inmate’s friend on the outside buys a $500 top-up for a payment card; the top-up is a scratch card revealing a unique 14-digit code; the friend texts the code to the inmate; the inmate shares the code with the payee; the payee uses the code to add $500 to their own payment-card account (4,300 words)


If Sapiens Were A Blog Post

Neil Kakkar | 29th June 2019

Yuval Noah Harari’s epic history of human evolution is condensed here into a 30-minute summary — and superbly well. The writing starts off a little scrappily, but soon beds down. Much is gained in the abridgement: The main points of Sapiens are more readily accessible, the arguments appear in sharper relief, the reader saves nine hours to do other things. But how to resolve the free-rider problem, that the long book must first be written in order to make the summary possible and preferable? (6,500 words)


Good Riddance To The INF Treaty

Andrew Erickson | Foreign Affairs | 29th August 2019

America is right to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia was the sole co-signatory of the treaty and never respected its terms. China has been free to develop ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles of the very kind denied to the US. China’s missiles now threaten the US and its allies throughout East Asia. They are “the single biggest factor eroding U.S. power and influence in Asia”. By exiting the treaty, America gains the chance to “reset the military balance with Beijing”  (1,350 words)


What Happens When You Don’t Pay A Hospital Bill

Olga Khazan | Atlantic | 28th August 2019

What happens is that the hospital sells the debt to a collection agency, which hounds the patient ever after. In this case, the patient thought she had flu, which turned out to be a major heart infection, which necessitated a heart transplant. The surgery was covered by health insurance — but the hospital still billed the patient $50,000 for “out-of-network services”, which she declined to pay on the grounds that she was unconscious at point of sale. Two years later her debt collector was stalking her on LinkedIn (2,040 words)


The Death Of Alexander The Great

Anthony Everitt | Literary Hub | 28th August 2019

One of history’s great unsolved mysteries: Was it murder, was it natural causes, or did Alexander drink himself to death in Babylon on a spell of rest and recreation after conquering the known world? Alcohol was very likely a factor. The Macedonians and their monarchs drank heavily. It was not at all uncommon for a dinner to end with all at table passing out. By one account, Alexander became visibly ill after trying to down a “crater” of wine — a jug holding five or six litres — for a bet, over lunch (2,240 words)


Video: Rock Climbing Questions. Q&A with Alex Honnold, the greatest free solo climber of his time and probably all time. Lively and amusing throughout (10m 35s)

Audio: A Mind-Bending Conversation | The Ezra Klein Show. Ezra Klein talks to John Higgs, historian of the weird 20th century. Topics include psychedelics, sacrifice, reality tunnels and postmodernism (1h 30m)

Afterthought:
”Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none is undeservedly remembered”
— W.H. Auden