The War On Drugs, Robot Writing, Golf In China, How To Write, Yahoo, Kurdistan

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

On America’s Front Line

Christopher Jencks | New York Review Of Books | 23rd September 2014

Alice Goffmann's On The Run is "an engrossing book that should become an ethnographic classic". It describes the lives of young black men in Philadelphia caught up in America's "war" on drugs. "There is a lot of stopping, searching, chasing, and arresting. What’s missing is any effort, either by the police or by anyone else in authority, to provide these young jobless men with ways to make a living legally" (3,380 words)

When A Robot Writes You A Letter

Clive Thompson | Medium | 23rd September 2014

An alternative Turing test: Handwriting. Can you tell whether that manuscript letter in the mail came from human hand or robot? Probably not. The robots reveal themselves, to the professional eye, only by their perfection. The pressure of the pen is too uniform; every "i" is dotted precisely; margins don't wander. But the robots are learning to feign human weakness. Soon their handwriting will be as bad as ours (1,440 words)

Driving Towards The Chinese Dream

Maura Elizabeth Cunningham | LA Review Of Books | 15th September 2014

"Statistically, zero percent of the Chinese population plays golf". Officially the game is frowned upon, unofficially it thrives. The government banned construction of new courses in 2004 but hundreds have been built since, hiding in plain sight as "fitness centres". Officials play under false names, "afraid of leaving a paper trail connecting them to a game most often associated with capitalism and corruption" (2,220 words)

Why Good People Write Bad Prose

Gary Stephen Ross | Walrus | 22nd September 2014

Enjoyable review of Steven Pinker's Sense of Style, about how to write clearly. "A list is most easily grasped if the bulkiest item comes at the end: 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. Light-before-heavy is one of the oldest principles in linguistics. The mind must hold the early items in suspension before incorporating the final one, and it’s easier to retain simple things than more complex elements" (1,830 words)

Alibaba Could Buy Yahoo For Free

Matt Levine | Bloomberg View | 22nd September 2014

Corporate finance for fun and profit. Imagine that Alibaba makes a $43bn takeover bid for Yahoo, offering 384m Alibaba shares plus $7bn in cash — an 8% premium over Yahoo's current market price. But hold on: Yahoo's assets already include 384m Alibaba shares and $7bn in cash. So Alibaba gets Yahoos's businesses for nothing. Everyone wins. But it won't happen, because no company will admit to being worthless (2,100 words)

The Fight Of Their Lives

Dexter Filkins | New Yorker | 22nd September 2014

America has blocked Kurdish independence in the name of preserving a united Iraq. But the war against ISIS changes the calculation. The weakness of the Iraqi national government becomes a much greater liability. The strength of Kurdistan becomes a much greater asset. For the Kurds, ISIS is both a threat to be defeated, and an opportunity to be exploited. Can they use their new leverage to secure sovereignty? (10,300 words)

Video of the day: Big Data Is Better Data

What to expect: TED talk by Economist journalist Kenneth Cukier

Thought for the day

Immortality can always be assured by adequate error
J.K. Galbraith (

A Talk in London

Come and see Browser favourites Felix Salmon (ex-Reuters) and Izabella Kaminska (FT) discuss art, 3D printing and Bitcoin on September 24th. Admission is £5, and includes a glass of wine (or two). Tickets are available here ( .

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