In the News 17.03.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 17.03.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Into the Woods: How One Man Survived Alone in the Wilderness for 27 Years


Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he walked away from society, not to be seen again for more than a quarter of a century. He had been working for less than a year installing home and vehicle alarm systems near Boston, Massachusetts, when abruptly, without giving notice to his boss, he quit his job. He never even returned his tools. He cashed his final pay cheque and left town.

Knight did not tell anyone where he was going. “I had no one to tell,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends. I had no interest in my co-workers.” He drove down the east coast of America, eating fast food and staying in cheap motels – “the cheapest I could find”. He travelled for days, alone, until he found himself deep into Florida, sticking mostly to major roads, watching the world go by.

Eventually, he turned around and headed north. He listened to the radio. Ronald Reagan was president; the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had just occurred. Driving through Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia, blessed with invincibility of youth, buzzed by “the pleasure of driving”, he sensed an idea growing into a realisation, then solidifying into resolve.

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

Orphans Of Progress


Yang Xiaojun’s world runs from the bamboo groves on the mountainside to the last of the rice paddies that stretch into the valley. At six years old, he can do what he likes and answers to nobody. With his younger brother Yang Dousheng and a gang of friends, he roams his domain from border to border whenever he feels like it. No one stops him from ripping his clothes in the brush or splashing in the mud after a rainfall. He lives up to his nickname, Little General; the other children are his brothers-in-arms. Together they own the place.

Every novelty is a game, every object a toy. A heap of rubble is a hillock to climb and jump off. A spare tyre is a chariot, a bamboo shoot a spear, a twig a cudgel. A stone bench is a victory podium, or an obstacle course, or a drawing board. Every day Xiaojun is given two yuan of spending money (30 cents), left for him by his grandfather in the morning. It’s a princely sum in an economy of sweets that cost one mao (2 cents) each, which are then bartered or shared, their wrappers littering the ground. In the daytime, this sugar-fuelled army of children runs free with no supervision. There are barely any adults in sight.

Read the rest of this article at 1843 Magazine


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Malcolm Gladwell Wants to Make the World Safe for Mediocrity

Journalist, author, and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell joins Tyler for a conversation on Joyce Gladwell, Caribbean identity, satire as a weapon, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, Harvard’s under-theorized endowment, why early childhood intervention is overrated, long-distance running, and Malcolm’s happy risk-averse career going from one “fur-lined rat hole to the next.”

TYLER COWEN: Most of my questions will be quite short, but my first question will be really, really long. Since everyone knows you and your work so well, I asked myself, “Who is Malcolm Gladwell?” And I tried to come up with an answer. I’ll give you my answer, and then you can correct me or add to that, and this will take a little while.

So, I think of you as a figure set, really, coming out of the postwar Caribbean Enlightenment. I put you in a context with, say, Sylvia Wynter, C. L. R. James, Frantz Fanon. A common theme in their work is the notion that science is something potentially liberating and emancipatory. You’re picking up on that, with one of the channels of influence being your mother, who is herself a very well-known Caribbean writer and intellectual. So there’s that Caribbean background: power of science to liberate human individuals.

There’s, then, on you a Mennonite influence both from your childhood and your family, where you grew up in Canada. My understanding of Mennonites is, they tend to stress the notion that in the Scriptures, there’s not much talk of original sin, so you see the possibility for goodness in people. You then spent much of your life in Canada, so there’s a modesty that comes from that temperament, and also intellectual modesty. You then have a father who is a mathematician, so there’s the emphasis on data. And you got your 10,000 hours of practice, mostly at the Washington Post, as an early person behind the rise of data-based journalism.

Key themes in your work: I think of them as contingency, optimism, and voluntarism; power of the individual. Your first book, Tipping Point, is about how small moves can lead to big changes. Your last book, David and Goliath, is about how David can beat Goliath in many contexts. So again, contingency, optimism, voluntarism, the individual, and whether it boils down to: Is there a better way to shoot NBA free throws or could Elvis Costello have improved on his recording of Goodbye Cruel World?

Read the rest of this article at Medium

‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death


In the plans that exist for the death of the Queen – and there are many versions, held by Buckingham Palace, the government and the BBC – most envisage that she will die after a short illness. Her family and doctors will be there. When the Queen Mother passed away on the afternoon of Easter Saturday, in 2002, at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, she had time to telephone friends to say goodbye, and to give away some of her horses. In these last hours, the Queen’s senior doctor, a gastroenterologist named Professor Huw Thomas, will be in charge. He will look after his patient, control access to her room and consider what information should be made public. The bond between sovereign and subjects is a strange and mostly unknowable thing. A nation’s life becomes a person’s, and then the string must break.

There will be bulletins from the palace – not many, but enough. “The Queen is suffering from great physical prostration, accompanied by symptoms which cause much anxiety,” announced Sir James Reid, Queen Victoria’s physician, two days before her death in 1901. “The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close,” was the final notice issued by George V’s doctor, Lord Dawson, at 9.30pm on the night of 20 January 1936. Not long afterwards, Dawson injected the king with 750mg of morphine and a gram of cocaine – enough to kill him twice over – in order to ease the monarch’s suffering, and to have him expire in time for the printing presses of the Times, which rolled at midnight.

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

The Blow – It – All – Up Billionairs

When politicians take money from megadonors, there are strings attached. But with the reclusive duo who propelled Trump into the White House, there’s a fuse.


Last December, about a month before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Rebekah Mercer arrived at Stephen Bannon’s office in Trump Tower, wearing a cape over a fur-trimmed dress and her distinctive diamond-studded glasses. Tall and imposing, Rebekah, known to close friends as Bekah, is the 43-year-old daughter of the reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer. If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging.

That support partly explains how Rebekah secured a spot on the executive committee of the Trump transition team. She was the only megadonor to frequent Bannon’s sanctum, a characteristically bare-bones space containing little more than a whiteboard, a refrigerator and a conference table. Unlike the other offices, it also had a curtain so no one could see what was happening inside. Before this point, Rebekah’s resume had consisted of a brief run trading stocks and bonds (including at her father’s hedge fund), a longer stint running her family’s foundation and, along with her two sisters, the management of an online gourmet cookie shop called Ruby et Violette. Now, she was compiling lists of potential candidates for a host of official positions, the foot soldiers who would remake (or unmake) the United States government in Trump’s image.

Rebekah wasn’t a regular presence at Trump Tower. She preferred working from her apartment in Trump Place, which was in fact six separate apartments that she and her husband had combined into an opulent property more than twice the size of Gracie Mansion. Still, it quickly became clear to her new colleagues that she wasn’t content just to chip in with ideas. She wanted decision-making power. To her peers on the executive committee, she supported Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, but argued against naming Mitt Romney secretary of state. Her views on these matters were heard, according to several people on and close to the transition leadership. Rebekah was less successful when she lobbied hard for John Bolton, the famously hawkish former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be deputy secretary of state. And when Bolton was not named to any position, she made her displeasure known. “I know it sounds sexist, but she was whiny as hell,” says one person who watched her operate. Almost everyone interviewed for this article, supporters and detractors alike, described her style as far more forceful than that of other powerful donors.

Read the rest of this article at Huffington Post

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @parisandpups; @georgiannalane; @antoniocarini