Recommended Reading (2010-01-10) – SUNDAY Edition

The next couple weeks will see some longer link collections than usual (if I remember to do them, that is). So much happens these days…

A nifty little infographic from The Economist on the “global tinderbox” that is the world of 2010. Merry New Year, everyone!

– An amazing story in New York about the self-destruction of John Edwards and the sheer absurdity of the Rielle Hunter affair’s cover-up. The depths and the self-delusion… On a semi-related note, is it possible that the National Enquirer deserves a Pulitzer for first breaking the story?

– Yet another relevant TED talk: ‘how the net aids dictatorships’. Tech enables blowback. And where do you start, when it comes to the internet? With the very alphabet you use to type a URL with.

– Michael Totten conducts an excellent interview with Christopher Hitchens. Highlights: the “cultural and moral suicide” of the west, the Taliban’s 6% approval rating in Afghanistan, and the weird embrace/assumption that the most radically conservative forms of religion are the norm (“It has to be, always, the most embittered, the most fanatical, the most absolutist, and the most totalitarian”).

– The United Nations might be ready to curtail the freedom of the seas. Illegal fishing is one thing, but even so… Another overly restrictive clamp?

Scientific American [subscription required] considers the ramifications of an Indian-Pakistani nuclear exchange. They’re not just localized, as it turns out. World-wide, global effects would result; a three-year nuclear winter, and other similar horrors await. Somethings just can’t be decentralized anymore.

– I try to describe my occasional despair here as an American in London without offending the ‘natives’. But I’ve never been able to really articulate the cultural differences like Geoff Dyer does in the New York Times. And reading his article actually cheers me up a bit.

Mexican-style law enforcement: coming soon to an American border near you!

– In all the hubbub over the Nigerian Pants Bomber, the actual statistics have been ignored (naturally). Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has put together a superb quantitative analysis of airborne casualties and terrorism over the past seventy years, and the conclusions are surprising. The first decade of the new millennium was the safest for air travel since the 1950’s. The ineffective security measures that have sprung up in the wake of every attempted attack do nothing to prevent what is in many cases a non-existent, or at least severely overrated threat. Patrick Porter writes along similar lines, and perhaps agrees with the idea of reducing al-Qaeda to a “second-rate nuisance.”

– The War Nerd reposts an article  on Yemen from 2002. Absolutely still worth a look (as the War Nerd always is).