Sumo & Seppuku, Iraq, Post-Communism , Richard Branson, Sculpture, Britain & Germany


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The Sea Of Crises

Brian Phillips | Grantland | 5th November 2014

Two stories entwined. The first is a profile of Mongolian-born sumo wrestler Hakuho, the greatest sumotori in history, "vaguely serpentine" and "fathomlessly calm". The second is a journey across Japan in search of Hiroyasu Koga, who as a young law student beheaded Yukio Mishima when Mishima's ritual suicide failed. I don't see that the stories add much to one another, but each is captivating in its own right (10,300 words)

Islamic State In Iraq

Jane's 360 | 2nd November 2014

Defeating the Islamic State in Iraq will demand Sunni forces capable of recapturing and stabilising the large parts of Iraq that have majority-Sunni populations. Good luck with that. Existing Sunni militias in Iraq are generally committed to "revolution" on their own terms. If they did reclaim territory from Islamic State, they would advance their own struggles to overthrow the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad (3,230 words)

For Whom The Wall Fell

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 3rd November 2014

Five countries provide the economic success stories of post-communist Europe: Albania, Poland, Belarus, Armenia and Estonia. Each has achieved more than 3% average annual growth with no great endowment of natural resources. Twelve have managed more modest growth, sometimes supported by mineral wealth, as with Russia. Seven have been complete failures, with incomes still languishing well below 1990 levels (1,735 words)

Brand It Like Branson

Sarah Gordon | Financial Times | 5th November 2014

Deft unravelling of ties between Richard Branson and operating companies using the Virgin name. Branson "manages very little"; he has some minority stakes; he earns about $120 million a year from licensing the Virgin brand, which makes the brand worth around $1bn. But he is the main investor in Virgin Galactic, the space tourism business — and last week's crash could squeeze him very hard, if it devalues the Virgin name (1,945 words)

Giacometti: Six Of The Best

Felix Salmon | New Yorker | 5th November 2014

Sotheby's sold a Giacometti sculpture for $101 million, almost a world record — even though Chariot was from an edition of six. You might expect art buyers to demand uniqueness, but the market doesn't always think that way. "Other versions of the sculpture don’t dilute the value of the art so much as ratify it. Increasing an edition size can increase the value of a work, so long as the other versions end up in high-prestige collections" (1,100 words)

The British Don’t Understand The Germans

Andrew Gimson | Conservative Home | 6th November 2014

The British capacity for self-deception about Germany "is exemplary", says this former Daily Telegraph Berlin correspondent. We don't understand Angela Merkel (and neither do the Germans). We don't understand German manners or German history, save for a few years in the middle of the last century. Most of us don't even understand the German language. No wonder our politicians struggle to find common ground (2,170 words)

Video of the day: Monty Python's Best Bits

What to expect: Collection of sketches from the original television shows (19 minutes)

Thought for the day

Great dreamers' dreams are never fulfilled, they are always transcended
Alfred North Whitehead (https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/148309.Alfred_North_Whitehead)

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