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Writing Worth Reading

King Of The Dump Pick of the day

Beguiling portrait of a refugee village atop a garbage dump on the Thai-Burmese border. An elderly Brit has been there for years. NGOs and aid workers come and go offering short-lived programmes and vying for attention. The villagers respond “like children of divorcées playing their parents against one another for better presents”. They treat aid “as a kind of consumable resource that allows them to remain on the trash” (2,860 words)

Alexandra Fuller’s African Childhood

Thrilling, lyrical account of Fuller’s memoir Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, about growing up in colonial Rhodesia. The country is at war, the whites are losing, her parents are mostly drunk. “They continue, through war, drought, bad harvests, the birth of their children and the loss of their children, to have fun, to drink and party and play cards, to dance and have another drink, and then drink a whole lot more” (1,900 words)

The Disappeared

Full and atrocious story of the 43 Mexican students kidnapped and murdered in September. Mexico has seen bigger massacres in recent years, but this one provoked unprecedented national anger: “Perhaps it was the scale of the violence, or the sheer brutality, or that the victims were college students, or that the perpetrators were mostly municipal police, or that the mayor and the police chief were probably behind the attack” (6,000 words)

Why Pakistan Shields Terrorists

The slaughter of school children in Peshawar ought surely be enough to persuade Pakistan that it cannot go on harbouring the Taliban. And yet, Pakistan will probably not change its behaviour. Its generals are determined to maintain the Taliban as a weapon against India. The Pakistani government will find it easier to ride out public outrage over this massacre than to take on its own army and intelligence services (1,050 words)

Interview: Edward Lucas On Russia

Discussion of best recent books on modern Russia, including Putin’s Kleptocracy by Karen Dawisha, and Internal Colonization by Alexander Etkind. “The whole idea of choice is anathema to the Kremlin. It believes that proximity to Russia should inherently limit the sovereignty of the countries concerned … Mr Putin is a man in a hurry. He needs a gamechanger, and I fear he will find one” (1,200 words)

The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong

Don’t trust any forecast for oil production or oil prices, however closely reasoned and however persuasive. There are thousands of known variables which influence the price, any number of unknown variables, and infinite complexity in their interactions. “That’s the thing about the conventional wisdom: It always makes sense at the time. It’s only later that we can see all the reasons it was wrong” (1,650 words)

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