Quote of the day

"Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies"
Anthony Daniels

The Weather Underground

Dizzying exposé of the counter-cultural terrorist group which detonated dozens of bombs across America in the early 1970s aimed at police and soldiers. They posed as idealists, lived as criminals, and succeeded mainly in killing themselves: Three died when their New York bomb factory exploded. The others, incredibly, more or less got away with it. When they surrendered, only one went to prison, for less than a year (7,900 words)

Born Red

Portrait of Xi Jinping, President of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the sixth ruler of communist China and the first born after the 1949 revolution. Xi was a dull fish during his early career as a well-born provincial bureaucrat; he was nudged into the top job by fellow princelings who expected him to be weak and biddable; instead he is emerging as China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao (11,300 words)

Breaking The Banks

The universal banking model is broken; specialist banks produce much higher returns; JP Morgan and its peers should be broken up or whittled down. The supposed economies of scale and scope claimed for universal banks appear not appear to exist. The banks will doubtless argue for more time to tweak their business models. But that may prove to be just a way of postponing more fundamental change (1,895 words)

Biggest Sellout

How the Guinness Book Of Records works. It isn’t just about selling books. Don’t be old-fashioned. Publicity-hungry companies pay the publisher’s consulting arm for help in setting up stunts. If the stunt comes off, Guinness certifies the record. “Playing record-breaking huckster and record-keeping historian at the same time, and getting paid to do so on both ends, seems like a classic conflict of interest” (1,900 words)

The FedEx Problem

A post to Hacker News argues that FedEx’s Memphis hub is 315 miles from the optimal point for serving all America’s major cities. Whereupon the executive who wrote the scheduling software for the FedEx fleet shows up in the comments and explains what else determined the choice of hub besides geometry; and discusses how FedEx plans delivery routes for planes serving multiple cities, a famously complex maths problem (6,100 words)

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