Political Correctness, Life Under ISIS, Pandering, Pregnancy, Encryption, Enya

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Private, Is That A Swastika Tattoo?

Elspeth Reeve | New Republic | 24th November 2015

To put campus "coddling" in perspective, look at another institution that houses and trains a lot of "angry and hormonal 18 to 24-year-olds": The US Army. Even young people who stand ready to fight and kill don't like to be the butt of racist jokes. So the military has "procedures for dealing with conflicts over identity politics that can be far more intrusive than any university faculty training on microaggressions" (2,070 words)

A Trip To The Caliphate

Omar Al-Wardi | Syria Comment | 23rd November 2015

Interesting if true. A generally favourable account of everyday life under ISIS in Syria. "In al-Bukamal, I found a city that was surprisingly safe. Indeed, the city looked cleaner and seemed healthier than I had ever seen it. The residents of al-Bukamal cannot hate members of the organisation and those who work with them when they see them trying to deliver water and electricity to the people at affordable prices" (1,480 words)

Iran’s Hidden Treasure

Golnar Motevalli & Peter Waldman | Bloomberg Businessweek | 17th November 2015

If the the Tehran Museum Of Contemporary Art were in New York or London there would be crowds jostling every day to see major works by Pollock, Bacon, Rothko, Gauguin and Warhol. In Tehran it's practically deserted. The Shah's wife bought the pictures in the 1970s, a fact which is no longer be mentioned. “This is one of the great unseen collections of postwar European and American art in the world” (3,130 words)

On Pandering

Claire Vaye Watkins | Tin House | 23rd November 2015

Discursive essay about sexism, privilege, parenting and writing. What does it mean to "write like a man", and how can one avoid doing so? "I spend my days with a baby and that, patriarchy says, is not the stuff of art. Once again I am a girl and not a writer ... Motherhood has softened me. I don’t want to write like a man anymore. I don’t want to be praised for being 'unflinching'. I want to flinch. I want to be wide open" (5,200 words)

Hard Labour

Emily Anthes | Mosaic Science | 24th November 2015

Should clinical trials of new drugs include pregnant women? The scientific consensus is No. But the result is that doctors know very little about the effect of prescription drugs on pregnant women. Thalidomide was an extreme example of such ignorance. "Thalidomide wasn’t actually tested in pregnant women before it went on sale. Even a small trial would likely have revealed its dangers, sparing thousands of children" (4,500 words)

On Encryption And Terrorism

Nadim Kobeissi | 23rd November 2015

A cryptographer explains and defends his trade. "The premise of writing encryption software is not that we’re giving people new rights or taking some away: it’s that we can enforce your existing rights to free speech and reasonable privacy in your daily life. When you make a credit card payment, you’re using the same fundamental encryption that, in another continent, an activist could be using to organise a protest" (1,312 words)

Keys To Enya’s Kingdom

Anne Helen Petersen | Buzzfeed | 22nd November 2015

Portrait of Enya, the Irish musician who enjoys worldwide success but chooses not to be famous, staying happily and elusively in Dublin. "She does not tour, and never has toured". She takes up to seven years between albums. Her scarcity is at the heart of her appeal. Her music "seems to exist outside of time. In her songs, there are no references to objects, technological or otherwise: just emotions, swells, landscapes" (6,140 words)

Video of the day: Curator's Corner: Irving Finkel

What to expect: The curator of cuneiform at the British Museum explains his work (7'02")

Thought for the day

Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies
Anthony Daniels

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