Rating Agencies, Fraud, Computer Science, Looting, Doughnut Boxes, Tohoku


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Ratings And Hegemony

Karthik Sankaran | Pointless Handwaving | 29th May 2017

Accessible and persuasive conjecture about the ideological blind-spots of bond-rating agencies. They are biased, but they do not know they are biased. They are formed by a Western culture which is content to believe that capitalist democracies talking the language of neo-liberalism are “inherently likely to have better prospects for economic growth and political stability”, and thus are “better credit risks, even when the numerical indicators of creditworthiness point the other way” (2,900 words)

Rise And Fall Of A Conman

Michael Lista | Walrus | 29th May 2017

Enthralling account of the methods of a small-time but prolific Canadian swindler. “His cons have been machine-tooled to weaponise the safeguards of due process. He represents himself, but always claims to have a lawyer who can’t make his hearings, so he is allowed adjournment after adjournment. He appeals all his evictions and is granted stays. He can fight an endless war of attrition because he’s immune to costs. Regan is the superbug produced by our legal hygiene” (6,600 words)

The Loneliness Of Computer Science

Dan Wang | 29th May 2017

Coders make good money. Coding is a high-status job. Why do so few American students take computer science degrees? The number has been almost flat for the past decade, while the tech industry has boomed. Only 59,000 computer-science majors graduated in 2015 — half the number of engineers, or biologists. It’s true that you don’t absolutely need a computer-science degree to get work as a coder, but even so, it’s the best preparation. Why aren’t students flocking? (3,600 words)

The Nazi Passion For Books

Noah Charney | Salon | 28th May 2017

The Nazis looted 200 million books from occupied countries, dwarfing their theft of artworks. Why? For two main reasons. First, because the Nazis wanted to minimise the intellectual capabilities of the subjugated nations. Second, because they wanted to erase and rewrite European memory. “It was important to control the memory of Jews, not as a way to eradicate them from written memory, but to establish the Jews as an incarnation of evil for all future generations” (1,300 words)

Why Are Doughnut Boxes Pink?

David Pierson | LA Times | 25th May 2017

A seemingly silly question yields a truly fascinating answer linking culture, economics, and chance. “A Cambodian doughnut shop owner asked Westco some four decades ago if there were any cheaper boxes available other than the standard white cardboard. Westco found leftover pink cardboard stock. It didn’t hurt that pink was a few shades short of red, a lucky colour for the refugees, many of whom are ethnic Chinese. White, on the other hand, is the colour of mourning” (2,300 words)

Letter From Tohoku

Ramona Bajema | Milken Review | 28th April 2017

Japan is repairing the physical devastation around Fukushima, but the stigma of radiation will depress the region for generations to come. “Farmers give gifts of rice to relatives in Tokyo, later to find out they have been tossed out. Young women from Fukushima conceal their hometown identity because their dates might think they won’t be able to bear healthy children. The word ‘Fukushima’ printed on a food product means that consumer demand will be nil for the foreseeable future” (3,400 words)

Video of the day: Cream

What to expect:

Dazzling science-fiction short. What if we could solve all the world’s problems? (12’21”)

Thought for the day

When a soldier complains of his hard life, try giving him nothing to do
Blaise Pascal

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