Rare Blood, Stalin, Microsoft Word, Ben Bradlee, Mafia


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The Man With The Golden Blood

Penny Bailey | Mosaic | 21st October 2014

Only 43 people in the world are known to have Rhesus-null blood, of whom a mere six are regular blood donors. They are "infinitely precious to medicine and science". The "null" means that their blood has no Rhesus antigens; it can be used for transfusions without fear of rejection. “It’s the golden blood”. Those who have it can save "countless lives". But their gift becomes a curse if they ever need a transfusion themselves (3,490 words)

The Personality of Stalin

Sheila Fitzpatrick | Guardian | 22nd October 2014

Another fine discussion of Stephen Kotkin's revisionist biography of Stalin (Anne Applebaum's review (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/understanding-stalin/380786/?single_page=true) is also recommended). Stalin was "a man acting out of deeply held ideological convictions". His action were "only understandable in these terms, not in terms of maximisation of personal power". Without Stalin, the Soviet Union "would have been transformed into something else or fallen apart" (2,480 words)

Escape From Microsoft Word

Edward Mendelson | 21st October 2014

Microsoft Word is "a work of genius that’s almost always wrong as an instrument for writing prose". Its developers "did not think about writing as a sequence of words set down on a page", but instead "dreamed up a new idea about what they called a document," an ideal form "magnificent in its inner coherence but mostly irrelevant to the real world". The document sets the rules; the writer must try to obey them (1,375 words)

Postscript: Benjamin Bradlee

David Remnick | New Yorker | 21st October 2014

Eulogy for Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, "the least dull figure in the history of postwar journalism", who has died at 93. As editor of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1991, through the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, he "took a mediocre-to-good paper and turned it into something ambitious, wealthy, and brave". He was "a driven newspaperman, a man of his time and of his institution, and more alive than a major weather system" (1,800 words)

Organised Crime Pays

Roberto Saviano | Vice | 17th October 2014

When you join the Mafia in southern Italy you work cheap. The starting salary might be $2,500 a month. The same again for a contract killing. But if you do well you move up fast. A local boss gets $130,000 a month. And you get looked after. "If you make a mistake, you die or go to prison for a long time. But someone will take care of your family, and someone will pay for your lawyers. This is the true appeal of the Mafia" (1,230 words)

Video of the day: Momentum And Inertia

What to expect: A giant saves a village from a falling rock. Animation. (1'11")

Thought for the day

Chaos always defeats order because it is better organized
Terry Pratchett (https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1654.Terry_Pratchett?page=2)

The Death of Old Europe 3rd November, St Mary Moorfields Church, 7pm
The brilliant and charming David Hargreaves, editor of The Browser Looks Back, will be our guide to the extraordinary parallel world of 1914. Admission is free. Click here to register. (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/august-december-1914-the-death-of-old-europe-tickets-13574558871)

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