Good Reads

Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Photo by Andreas Metz, Creative Commons
Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Photo by Andreas Metz, Creative Commons

U.S. Financial Reform: Secret Recordings and a Culture Clash. By Jake Bernstein

One day Carmen Segarra purchased a tiny recorder at the Spy Store and began capturing what took place at Goldman Sachs. In the tale of what happened next lie revelations about the challenges of reforming the American financial system, in the wake of  the 2008 crisis that crippled global finances and continues to reverberate through the world economy.

Kool-Aid Economics. By Chris Wood (paywall)

Canadians have been aware for some time that their Prime Minister subscribes to an arcane fundamentalist strain of Christianity. Being the polite and generally go-along types we are, we have quite properly left his faith between the man and his God. However, it is now evident that Canada’s P.M. is a credulous disciple of another not-so-fringe and much more dangerous faith, about which we have every right to be deeply concerned. That cultic faith is Old Testament economics.

Islamic State threat a media creation. By Jim McNiven (paywall)

The popular media, always looking for the next big thing, has fastened upon the swift victories and social media brutalities of the group calling itself Islamic State. The various media have portrayed the organization as a worldwide threat and a number of governments have organized themselves to deal with it, led by the United States. You have to read between the lines on this one. First, this terrible threatening force is actually weaker than the Taliban force that was over-running Afghanistan in 2002.

The Poison in Afghanistan’s Politics: Afghan unity deal ensures future conflict. By Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

As rival candidates for power in Afghanistan signed a power-sharing deal on Sunday, an understandable sigh of relief swept through the corridors of power in those countries that have expended troops and treasure in the last dozen years trying to get the central Asian nation on its feet. In the six months since the first round of the presidential elections it looked as though the whole Afghan project might collapse into new chaos as the two main candidates, former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, exchanged increasingly bitter allegations of vote-rigging.

Twisting the Years Away: Chubby Checker. A Time Capsule By Brian Brennan (paywall)

At age 36, dressed in spangled white jumpsuit with neckline plunging to the waist, Chubby Checker looked vaguely silly, like Elvis in Vegas. A dance routine in which a man pretends to grind out cigarette butts with his feet might seem a shaky foundation on which to build an enduring musical career. But there he was, 17 years after hitting the big time with The Twist, still twisting away as if his life depended on it.

War photography shocked and sanitized, but changed little. By Jonathan Long

Taken immediately after the ceasefire that ended the first Gulf War in 1991, Kenneth Jarecke’s photograph of the charred corpse of an Iraqi soldier in his burned-out jeep is one of the few memorable images of that conflict. Yet as a recent article in The Atlantic explains, high-level editors of news periodicals in the US refused to publish the image at the time, despite being urged to do so by their photo directors. The problems and debates that surround such images of war, violence, and atrocity, never quieten. And it is striking how many of the problems they address emerged during and after World War I.

The haunted painting of Sir John Franklin’s ship. By Laura MacCulloch

At Royal Holloway College at the University of London, Edwin Landseer’s picture Man Proposes, God Disposes (1864) is covered by a Union Flag every year during exams. Not because of any fears of cheating during history exams but because students believe they will fail their exams (or even go mad) if they look at it. This fear of the painting goes back a long way in the history of the college. The subject matter of the picture is highly grisly and macabre. 

“Man Proposes, God Disposes” by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1864

The Hitchbot’s Guide to a Continent. By  Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith

How do you rate your chances of completing a transcontinental road trip? What if you can’t drive and don’t have car? What if you can’t even move unaided? In fact, what about if you’re not even human? Tweeting, GPS-equipped robot Hitchbot managed it, hitchhiking across Canada this summer from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. The cylindrical robot, sporting a digital LCD smile and a fetching line in matching yellow rubber gloves and boots, completed the 6,000km journey in around 20 days.

And in case you missed these from earlier this month:

 Britain’s New World. By Deborah Jones

Britain will never be the same. The day after Scots voted 55-45 to support the United Kingdom, on promises by unionists for a new range of Scottish powers, Prime Minister David Cameron set in motion a process to empower not just Scotland, but also Wales and Northern Island — and potentially to remake the British political system.

Scotland Decided: what the experts say

In its independence referendum, Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom by 55 versus 45 per cent. An expert panel looks at what happened, and where it leaves the UK and Scotland.

ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot. By Murray Leith

If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

Gerontocracies rule Africa. By Stephen Chan

There are many African presidents whose age far outstrips that of their peers on other continents. David Cameron (47), Barack Obama (53), François Hollande (60), Merkel (60), Vladimir Putin (61) – these are striplings compared with the gerontocrats of Africa. Even the Chinese, long committed to respect for the old and wise and venerable, now seemingly have a commitment to presidential and politiburo appointments under the age of 60.

 — Deborah Jones

You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, while much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. Journalism has value; and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop me a note at, and I will email you a complimentary day pass.