Syria, Cynthia Payne, Sinfulness, Bad Science, Statues, Surveillance

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The War Of Western Failures

Benjamin Bidder et al | Spiegel | 17th February 2016

Russia's is "intentionally aggravating Syria's refugee crisis" in order to destabilise the European Union. Its bombing campaigns have been calculated to strengthen Assad, weaken Western-backed rebels, and increase the tide of refugees — while leaving Islamic State untouched. "The West has been observing the consequential brutality of Putin's new foreign policy strategy with a mixture of awe, indignation and horror" (5,600 words)

Teatime With Cynthia Payne

Paul Bailey | The Oldie | 5th February 2016

An audience with London's best-loved brothel-keeper. "Slave Peter, dressed only in a skimpy apron, brought us coffee and biscuits, while Slave Robert toiled in the garden, trimming the lawn. They paid their Superior Mistress £40 a week for the honour of working on her behalf. Cynthia carried a small cane, to remind them of the consequences if they cut corners. It was a perfect arrangement, they all agreed" (870 words)

The Dark Side Of The Soul

Terry Eagleton | Guardian | 17th February 2016

It used to be thought that virtue was beguiling and vice was boring. For Aristotle and Aquinas the good life was the life worth living, whereas wickedness was a lack or defect. How and when did wickedness manage to grab all the glamour? Blame the middle classes. "Once the merchants and accountants got their hands on virtue, they redefined it as prudence, thrift, chastity, meekness, sobriety and self-discipline" (830 words)

The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bulls**t

Brian Earp | Quillette | 15th February 2016

The amount of energy needed to refute bad science is far greater than the effort needed to produce it. And whereas the producers of bad science are typically motivated by monetary or reputational gain, the motive for refuting them is usually much weaker — a diffuse sense of the public or the scientific interest. The best systematic counter to bad science would be higher editorial standards at scholarly publications (1,740 words)

Rhodes Must Fall

Alex von Tunzelmann | History Today | 17th February 2016

All statues fall. The question is when, not if. "Statues are not history in the sense of having significant pedagogical value. They are political symbols, which drift in or out of favour along with political and aesthetic tastes. The protesters who hauled down Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad did not deny or diminish the history of Iraq. They remembered Saddam’s legacy; for that reason, they rejected his glorification" (1,100 words)

A Letter To Our Customers

Tim Cook | Apple | 16th February 2016

Apple confronts the US government in a test case for privacy. CEO Tim Cook says the FBI wants iPhone software modified so that the FBI can access a phone's data directly. "While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect" (1,120 words)

Video of the day: Samuel Pepys, Commuter

What to expect: Andrew O’Hagan compares Samuel Pepys’s journey to work in London with the modern equivalent (some strong language from Pepys) (7'50")

Thought for the day

Philosophy makes progress not by becoming more rigorous but by becoming more imaginative
Richard Rorty (

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