Saint Bernards, Apple TV, Thomas Piketty, Rafsanjani, James Mattis, Language

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Saint Of Saint Bernards

Elena Passarello | Paris Review | 10th January 2017

In affectionate memory of Barry, the greatest Saint Bernard, who saved at least 40 lives in the Pennine Alps between 1800 to 1812, probably including some of Napoleon’s soldiers. He was “close to the size of an Airedale”, much smaller than today’s picture-postcard Saint Bernards, which date from the 1820s, when the monks of the Saint Bernard hospice brought in Newfoundlands for cross-breeding. The big new dogs proved too clumsy for rescue work — but ideal as pets and film stars (1,250 words)

The Ten-Year Anniversary Of Apple TV

Ben Thompson | Stratechery | 9th January 2017

On the same day that Apple unveiled the iPhone ten years ago, and with the same enthusiasm, it also unveiled the Apple TV. Apple was hedging its bets. “None of us ultimately know anything, including the late Steve Jobs. There’s no question that Jobs knew that Apple was on to something. And yet, had he truly known that the iPhone would be exponentially more consequential, the Apple TV would have not made an appearance. Dents in the universe are only observable after they have occurred” (990 words)

France Versus Germany

Thomas Piketty | Le Monde | 9th January 2017

Labour productivity is almost identical in France and Germany, at the very top of the world scale. So why is Germany generally seen as a strong economy and France as a struggling one? Mainly because they use their high rates of productivity in very different ways. “In recent years, when France produced 100 units of goods and services, it consumed and invested 101 and 102 units on its territory. On the contrary, when Germany produces 100 units it only consumes and invests 92 units” (4,800 words)

Obituary: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Karim Sadjadpour | Atlantic | 9th January 2017

Rafsanjani anointed his longtime comrade Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to lead Iran after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, apparently thinking Khameini would be his puppet. He spent the next three decades of his life “trying, unsuccessfully, to wrestle power back from the man he enthroned”, even coming to be seen as something of a moderate, at least by régime standards. “He advocated mercy and moderation when out of power, but he exhibited insufficient amounts of it when he was in power” (1,200 words)

A General At The Pentagon

Mattathias Schwartz | Intercept | 9th January 2017

America’s 1947 National Security Act required that the secretary of defense be “appointed from civilian life”, a new political safeguard after the huge expansion of the military in World War II. The Senate made an exception for George Marshall, appointed defense secretary in 1950 by Harry Truman. Now Donald Trump wants a second exception for his own nominee, retired General James Mattis. A waiver for Mattis will require 60 votes in the Senate. The Democrats could block it. Should they? (1,900 words)

Chomsky, Wolfe And Me

Daniel Everett | Aeon | 10th January 2017

The anthropologist whose fieldwork in the Amazon jungle seems to disprove Chomsky’s theories of language, and who stars in Tom Wolfe’s recent book, Kingdom of Speech, sticks to his guns. “Chomsky is no Einstein. And linguistics is not physics. Language does not seem to be innate. There seems to be no narrow faculty of language nor any universal grammar. Language is ancient and emerges from general human intelligence, the need to build communities and cultures” (4,700 words)

Video of the day: Darwin Deez — Constellations

What to expect:

As if Napoleon Dynamite grew up and became a presenter of popular science programmes (3’30”)

Thought for the day

A free person does not need to win arguments
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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