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Authors@Google: David Graeber, DEBT: The First 5,000 Years

Authors@Google: David Graeber, DEBT: The First 5,000 Years

Why cops lie Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America. Count this as one more casualty of the "war on drugs." Why do police, whom we trust as role models of legal conduct, show contempt for the law by systematically perjuring themselves? The first reason is because they get away with it. Another reason is the nature of most drug cases and the likely type of person involved. But the main reason is that the job of these cops is chasing drugs. Maybe the video tape scandal from the Henry Hotel will help change this culture.

Dylan Evans – On evolution and inequality When The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett came out in 2009, it chimed well with the post-crash mood. The book claimed that higher levels of inequality were associated with a whole range of poor health issues, including lower life expectancy, increased obesity, and higher murder rates. It seemed that those fat cat bankers hadn’t just wrecked the financial system: they were making us all ill, too. Subsequently, however, these claims came in for a great deal of criticism, especially from sociologists on the libertarian end of the political spectrum. Evolutionary biology casts considerable light on this question. It was only when the first humans started farming, around 10,000 years ago, that it became possible for one person to accumulate many more possessions than another. It would hardly be surprising then if the sudden appearance of inequality didn’t have deleterious consequences for the human mind and body. 17 January 2013 Comments

What if foreign policy officials suddenly told the truth Here's a little fantasy for you to ponder: what if one of our senior foreign policy officials accidentally swallowed some sodium pentothal (aka "truth serum") before some public hearing or press conference, and started speaking the truth about one of those issues where prevarication, political correctness, and obfuscation normally prevail? You know: what if they started saying in public all those things that they probably believe in private? What sorts of "inconvenient truths" might suddenly get revealed? In that spirit, here's my Top Five Truths You Won't Hear Any U.S. #1: "We're never gonna get rid of our nuclear weapons." But let's get serious for a minute. #2: "We don't actually care that much about human rights." #3: "There's not going to be a two-state solution." #4: "We like being #1, and we're going to stay there just as long as we can." #5: "We do a lot of stupid things in foreign policy. Like I said, this is just an idle fantasy. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bill Moyers: Why U.S. Internet Access is Slow, Costly and Unfair Photo Credit: Camilo Torres/ Shutterstock February 9, 2013 | Like this article? Join our email list: Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email. BILL MOYERS: You’ve heard me before quote one of my mentors who told his students that “news is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.” Back then, the U.S. was in the catbird seat – poised to lead the world down this astonishing new superhighway of information and innovation. In those days, it was muckrakers like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens rattling the cages and calling for fair play. SUSAN CRAWFORD: Thank you so much. BILL MOYERS: “Captive Audience?” SUSAN CRAWFORD: Us, all of us. BILL MOYERS: But we are a long way from F.D.R., the New Deal and those early attitudes toward industry.

World Bank’s IFC Arm Responds to Our Critique of Its Poverty Fighting Below is a letter from an official of the World Bank's International Finance Corp., taking issue with our article [1] posted Jan. 2 and co-published with Foreign Policy magazine. It is followed by our brief response. We are deeply disappointed by your article, "Can You Fight Poverty With a Five-Star Hotel?," which raises an important question about the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) impact fighting poverty in developing countries. It failed to be fair and it failed to fully examine our impact. What is our record? Every dollar of profit we make is reinvested to support private sector development, increasingly in the poorest countries. Since IFC began in 1956, we have invested more than $125 billion in developing countries, improving the lives of millions. The World Bank Group's recent World Development Report focused on the importance of creating jobs. In addition to failing to examine this record, the writer, Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, also made several factual errors. Sincerely,

Can You Fight Poverty With a Five-Star Hotel? Accra is a city of choking red dust where almost no rain falls for three months at a time and clothes hung out on a line dry in 15 minutes. So the new five-star Mövenpick hotel affords a haven of sorts in Ghana’s crowded capital, with manicured lawns, amply watered vegetation, and uniformed waiters gliding poolside on roller skates to offer icy drinks to guests. A high concrete wall rings the grounds, keeping out the city’s overflowing poor who hawk goods in the street by day and the homeless who lie on the sidewalks by night. The Mövenpick, which opened in 2011, fits the model of a modern international luxury hotel, with 260 rooms, seven floors, and 13,500 square feet of retail space displaying $2,000 Italian handbags and other wares. But it is exceptional in at least one respect: It was financed by a combination of two very different entities: a multibillion-dollar investment company largely controlled by a Saudi prince, and the poverty-fighting World Bank. But the policies continue.

Life for Captive Elephants More than half of Thailand’s elephants are in captivity. Once used for transportation, religious festivals, and war stemming back to 2000 BCE, adult elephants today work in illegal logging and tourism camps, while calves simply wander the city streets. Most of Thailand’s working elephants are considered private property. As the only source of revenue for their owners, they are often overworked, underfed, and maltreated. I spoke with Carol Buckley, who co-founded a 2,700 acre natural-habitat elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, as well as rescued eight circus elephants. Why do you prefer to work with elephants in captivity? It is the journey I found myself taking. How would a captive elephant’s demeanor differ from a wild elephant’s? They are the same animal, in captivity and the wild. Could it ever be a good idea to keep elephants in captivity to protect them from poachers? A young elephant taking a dust bath as adult looks on. What are the common problems captive elephants face in Asia?

What Is a Good Life? by Ronald Dworkin Morality and Happiness Plato and Aristotle treated morality as a genre of interpretation. They tried to show the true character of each of the main moral and political virtues (such as honor, civic responsibility, and justice), first by relating each to the others, and then to the broad ethical ideals their translators summarize as personal “happiness.” Here I use the terms “ethical” and “moral” in what might seem a special way. We can—many people do—use either “ethical” or “moral” or both in a broader sense that erases this distinction, so that morality includes what I call ethics, and vice versa. In my book Justice for Hedgehogs—from which this essay is adapted—I try to pursue that interpretive project. We might argue, for example, that it is in everyone’s long-term interests to accept a principle that forbids lying even in circumstances when lying would be in the liar’s immediate interests. The austere view that virtue should be its own reward is disappointing in another way.

The Strangely Underreported Decline in the Incarceration Rate I hereby submit my nomination for the most underreported public policy story of the past year: The continuing decline in the number of Americans who are behind bars or on probation/parole. Both the change itself and low level of attention it has garnered are worthy of reflection. At the time of President Obama’s inauguration, the incarceration rate in the United States had been rising every single year since the mid 1970s. The relentless growth in the proportion of Americans behind bars had persisted through good economic times and bad, Republican and Democratic Presidents, and countless changes in state and local politics around the country. If a public policy trend with that much momentum had even slowed significantly, it would have been merited attention, but something far more remarkable occurred: The incarceration rate and the number of people under correctional supervision (i.e., including people on probation/parole) declined for three years in a row.

Paradise regained? They live in the most biodiverse country on earth and Brazilians’ attitudes to their natural resources have changed dramatically. Sustainability, not exploitation, is now the key for a nation that is aiming to become the world’s largest food producer ©Eduardo Martino/Documentography The eroded red soil is still visible, but a new forest of eucalyptus trees now mitigates the impact of this former mine in Minas Gerais, southeast Brazil At first they just said she was crazy. Vitória da Riva Carvalho’s eyebrows pucker into a deeper frown as she remembers the years. “Everyone in Alta Floresta thought I was mad,” recalls da Riva, 68, as she fingers the reading glasses hanging around her neck. Da Riva went ahead anyway – but then a vein of craziness evidently runs in her family. It was in 1976 that Ariosto abandoned his work as a diamond trader in São Paulo and sold all he had to buy 800,000 hectares of rainforest on the southern edge of the Mato Grosso state. Instead his dream turned to ashes.

Margaret Paxson – On peace Let’s just say that suddenly you are a social scientist and you want to study peace. That is, you want to understand what makes for a peaceful society. Let’s say that, for years in your work in various parts of the world, you’ve been surrounded by evidence of violence and war. From individual people, you’ve heard about beatings and arrests and murders and rapes; you’ve heard about deportations and black-masked men demanding your food or your life. You’ve heard about family violence and village violence and state violence. You’ve heard these stories from old women with loose, liquid tears and young men with arms full of prison tattoos. Let’s say that, in the world of ideas that swirled around you, approximations were made of how to make sense of this mess: the presence of certain kinds of states; the presence of certain kinds of social diversity; the presence of certain kinds of religions. As it turns out, it’s harder to study peace than you might think. Or it has been for me.

The Insourcing Boom - Charles Fishman After years of offshore production, General Electric is moving much of its far-flung appliance-manufacturing operations back home. It is not alone. An exploration of the startling, sustainable, just-getting-started return of industry to the United States. Thomas Porostocky For much of the past decade, General Electric’s storied Appliance Park, in Louisville, Kentucky, appeared less like a monument to American manufacturing prowess than a memorial to it. The very scale of the place seemed to underscore its irrelevance. In 1951, when General Electric designed the industrial park, the company’s ambition was as big as the place itself; GE didn’t build an appliance factory so much as an appliance city. By 1955, Appliance Park employed 16,000 workers. The arc that followed is familiar. Yet this year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers.