Waste, Economics Nobel, Ebola, Genetically Modified People, Beethoven, Simon Cowell, Obituaries, Shi

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Blessed Are The Wastrels

Stuart Armstrong | The Conversation | 8th October 2014

Waste is what resilience looks like in times of plenty. It's bad that Western shoppers throw away half the food they buy; but it's good that there is so much slack in food supply. Luxury goods sustain a manufacturing base that can be repurposed in time of crisis. It might be better in theory if the economy operated more efficiently and governments stockpiled reserves, but that would be politically and practically hard to do (1,150 words)

2014 Nobel Laureate In Economics: Jean Tirole

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 13th October 2014

Tirole specialises in "the more mathematical forms of game theory". His papers have been influential in finance, financial regulation, regulatory capture, behavioural economics and public choice. "Say a firm knows its costs and the regulator can only guess. The regulator and the firm play a game. Tirole figured out which principles govern how this game works and what a second-best regulatory solution might look like" (1,930 words)

The Military And Ebola

Sophie Arie | British Medical Journal | 10th October 2014

Western countries belatedly mobilise troops to contain the Ebola epidemic in Africa. But they are "approaching this with the mindset of going to war”; their top priority is their own soldiers' welfare. Which adds another layer of problems. “A treatment centre may cost €7m over one year. But if it’s done by the US military, it’s going to cost €70m, because they are going to come with their own bubble so they won’t get sick" (1,940 words)

The Genetics Epidemic

Jamie Metzl | Foreign Affairs | 12th October 2014

What if China finds an effective way of making people smarter? What if cults genetically re-engineer their followers on the high seas? We have "five years to get serious" before scenarios like this become real policy questions. Competition between countries will drive genetics forward whether the science is safe or not. But how will a public so suspicious of genetically-modified crops respond to genetically-modified humans? (3,017 words)

Deus Ex Musica

Alex Ross | New Yorker | 13th October 2014

Beethoven defined classical music for his own generation and for those to come. He froze it in time. Before him the classical repertoire was largely the work of living composers. After him it became a corpus of music increasingly dominated by dead composers. His genius cast such a long shadow because his music aged almost too well. You could enjoy it on the hundredth or thousandth hearing. There was no need for more (4,930 words)

Interview: Simon Cowell

John Gapper | Financial Times | 10th October 2014

Cowell's cheesy taste made him a figure of fun in his early days as record producer, when his "blend of arrested development and obsessive compulsion might have taken him nowhere and it very nearly did". But with the boom in reality television, his moment came. "He did not need to dumb down." The clown of the old industry became the ringmaster of the new one. "You get a One Direction, and the whole thing turns on its head” (4,390 words)

The Art Of The Obituary

Alex Ronan | Paris Review | 23rd September 2014

Interview with Margalit Fox, senior writer at the New York Times and author of 1,200 obituaries over 20 years. "This work does skew your worldview a bit. For obit writers, the whole world is necessarily divided into the dead and the pre-dead. That’s all there is ... I have maybe one suicide a year and they all seem to be poets. If I were an insurance company, I’d never write a policy for poets" (1,900 words)

The Capitalist Cure For Terrorism

Hernando de Soto | Wall Street Journal | 10th October 2014

To defeat terrorism durably you must give poor people hope of a better life. People would rather work than fight — if they and their families can gain by doing so. The key ingredients for inclusion are property rights and the rule of law. "Just as Shining Path was beaten in Peru, so can terrorists be defeated by reforms that create an unstoppable constituency for rising living standards in the Middle East and North Africa" (2,550 words)

Holder Of Secrets

George Packer | New Yorker | 12th October 2014

Film-maker Laura Poitras was the person to whom Edward Snowden turned when he decided to leak his NSA documents. He admired her documentaries and her grasp of security issues. She connected him with journalist Glenn Greenwald, and incorporated both of them into a documentary, Citizenfour, about whistle-blowers. A rough-cut suggests that it is a good and gripping film, but too respectful of Snowden to be a great one (8,200 words)

Video of the day: The Me Bird

What to expect: Paper-and-stencil animation with music, interpreting a poem by Pablo Neruda

Thought for the day

Everyone knows how to talk, and no one knows what to say
Nick Hornby (https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2929.Nick_Hornby)

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