My semi-regular Sunday piece of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring). This week: google vs death, poverty vs policy, freewill, temptation & prejudice, and humans vs climate change.
First up, a look at how policy affects poverty. The US has no worse poverty percentages before taxes and welfare etc than Scandinavian nations – but 3 times the level of those nations after government transfers. So poverty is very much a choice for governments – we can lift those 270,000 kids out of it.
It’s not just on poverty the US diverges from the OECD. With the annual leaders’ day at the General Assembly, the Washington Post looks at how lonely the US is at the UN. Over the last 50 years the US has slowly drifted away from everybody else when it comes to voting. Other than after the fall of the Wall when the Eastern European states suddenly moved closer (from a long way away), the drift has been constant against all geographical groupings and across presidents.
Speaking of the Wall, this week’s German elections showed up how much the Wall still exists – by voting patterns at any rate. Die Left – from the remnants of the East German Communist party strong on the east, and western parties on the west.
The BBC also looks at how democracy is working out for Africa – with the supposed outbreak of it in the 90s, still no nation on the continent ranks higher than “flawed democracy”.
Meanwhile at the Guardian some fun is poked at UK Labour, defining the party, its beliefs and important terms that came up at their conference.
Also on a democracy theme, we can see the joy of unlimited funding for political groups with the Koch brothers funding a variety of hideous anti-Obamacare ads.
Of course they are usually busy funding climate denial groups. Something that’s got harder with the recent release of the latest science in IPCC5.
Here’s also a handy guide to replying to a top 4 climate change myths.
If we all want to live as long as possible to see how hot it gets, you might be interested in looking at how Google is now taking on death as their latest technological challenge.
A look at how we react to temptation when no-one’s looking goes on to think about how we could structure society – and particularly those who govern us – a lot better to avoid the worst excesses of humanity.
In short, we know the recipe for harmful behaviour – stress, poor or absent guidelines, a strict hierarchy with dissociation from others and from the consequences of our actions, established group culture and lack of oversight. These factors create sick workplaces, rogue military units, feral banks, abusive care homes, abusive marriages, countries apparently consumed by madness. Surveys now show bankers and doctors amongst the least trusted professions. They used to be touchstones of reliability – what happened? Highly influential bad situations happened.
And when we consider [..] politicians – stressed by intense competition and workloads in an environment that makes Gormenghast look like Butlins, led to believe they’re a class apart, working in a gilded palace where they operate, in some senses, literally above the law… It’s a testament to their moral fibre that they don’t eat constituents in the lobbies.
A couple of deeper pieces:
- how our belief in whether free-will exists affects our actions.
- what sparks prejudice. Further on that: a look at why women writers still struggle to succeed - from a woman who’s now giving out reading lists on an online-dating site, when she just wanted to meet a suitable man…
On a final note, here’s a profile of a man who saved the world – but not launching Soviet missiles when his computer said he was about to be obliterated by US nukes.