The United Nations wants more people to appreciate the potato's potential to fight world hunger. People in many parts of the world indulge in the curious practice of eating dirt, also known as geophagy, but why they do so has remained something of a mystery. Still with us: Two pre-modern ailments are making a comeback. Unintended victims of Gates Foundation generosity: Donations to fight AIDS, TB and malaria in Africa have inadvertently put many of those with other basic healthcare needs at risk. A review of Bad Samaritans: Rich Nations, Poor Policies and the Threat to the Developing World by Ha-Joon Chang. Tim Harford on measuring the effectiveness of foreign aid. Young economists show big goals such as curbing corruption can be addressed in little, randomised and quantifiable steps.
From Reason, here are some positive thoughts about negative campaigning; and a look at how authenticity wins in Iowa as phonies take a pounding. How to turn blue collars into blue voters: An article on the psychology of the working-class male. Our decisions about which politicians we trust often come down to a simple question: "How do they talk?" Group dynamics sway voters: A study of people making choices about music sheds some light on the process of choosing a president. Lawrence Lindsey on what we want in a president: Ruthlessness is important when it comes to foreign enemies; charity is essential for domestic opponents. Stirred, not shaken: Americans say they want change, and think they want it, but there is room for doubt. Bryan Caplan on 5 myths about voters: Many claims about how American democracy works — and how American voters think — just aren't true.
From The Bulletin, if people refuse to limit their resource consumption and subsequent carbon emissions, should we think about ways in which to limit the world's population? Experts confront the final taboo in environmentalism. There is nothing new, let alone sinister, about population control: Even before climate change became the central issue of modern politics, advocates were waging a battle of birth control — the issue now is how to tackle the cult of breeding in a way that is sustainable. Having kids really does make you think more about the world's future — luckily, today's children live in a culture of environmentalism. From Wired, a look at how the next victim of climate change will be our minds.
From Slate, can the CIA tapes investigation truly be an independent one? Dahlia Lithwick investigates. The introduction to Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad by Marnia Lazreg. An interview with Tara McKelvey, author of Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War. Tom Engelhardt on how Bush took us to the dark side. From HNN, an interview with Charlie Savage, author of The Return of the Imperial Presidency; and is Bush inventing another constitutional power? George McGovern on why Bush must go: Nixon was bad — these guys are worse. More on The Fall of the House of Bush by Craig Unger. Boy, was it time for an update: Here's TPM's Great List of Scandalized Administration Officials.
From Rolling Stone, an article on the death of high fidelity: In the age of MP3s, sound quality is worse than ever. Ripped to shreds: In the dying days of the music business as we once knew it, record labels are waging war on leaks—only to discover that many of the saboteurs come from within the industry itself. It's official: From the mighty executive to the humble songwriter to the savviest analyst, nobody has a clue what's going on in the music industry. Stop the music: Before the derogatory term elevator music was slapped onto it, there was a radio station format known as "Beautiful Music". From New Statesman, a review of Music at the Limits by Edward Said. More and more on The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross.
From Reason, scenes from the Ron Paul revolution: An article on the rise of an eclectic anti-statist movement (and more). Pimp My Ride: Tucker Carlson goes on the road with Ron Paul's merry band of misfits and his hooker fan club. Oh, to be young and in love with Ron Paul. Young and in love: The congressman from Texas has the race's best batch of student volunteers. Rick Perlstein on how Republican Party leaders are basically acknowledging that they have been relying on tricking working class voters into not voting on economic issues. By trying to help John McCain recapture the independence of his 2000 run while retaining the panders of his 2008 campaign, Joe Lieberman chips away at the authenticity of both.
From Truthdig, a review of Flying Close to the Sun by Cathy Wilkerson; Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Anti-War Movement by Carl Oglesby; and America's Child: A Woman's Journey Through the Radical Sixties by Susan Sherman. Todd Gitlin on how to remember 1968. The 40-year itch: Can America ever escape from the shadow of 1968? A review of The Great Funk: Falling Apart and Coming Together (On a Shag Rug) in the Seventies by Thomas Hine. From Counterpunch, remember the 80s: An article on social movements between Woodstock and the Web. A review of The Time of the Rebels: Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century Revolutions by Matthew Collin.
From The American Interest, Borderline Insanity: Thinking big about Afghanistan; and an article on drugs and development in Afghanistan. Joschka Fischer on Afghanistan and the future of NATO. Next-Gen Taliban: Pakistan’s younger Islamic militants are bringing the jihad waged in Afghanistan back home: breaking with senior mullahs, renouncing elections and killing police officers, soldiers and, perhaps, Benazir Bhutto. From The Economist, a cover story on Pakistan, the world's most dangerous place (and more). From Time, an article on why Pakistan matters. A review of The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...and How We Could Have Stopped Him by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins.
From Eurozine, "normality" has been close to the hearts of eastern Europeans during transition; yet a comparative history of the concept in eastern and western Europe reveals meanings that are multiple, changeable, even oxymoronic. From Monthly Review, from borderline to borderland: An article on the changing European border regime. From Cafe Babel, a look at the traditions and ideas which caused a rupture in vulgarity in Europe. A review of Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe by James J. Sheehan. The real fissure, it seems, runs not across the Atlantic, but across America between urban and rural spheres; those who argue that the transatlantic alliance is irreversibly drifting apart are doing little more than blowing smoke.
From The New York Times Magazine, can you count on these machines? After the 2000 election, counties around the country rushed to buy new computerized voting machines. But it turns out that these machines may cause problems worse than hanging chads — is America ready for another contested election? Our voting system is a loser: An interview with William Poundstone, author of Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do About It). Does the mass-media have political influence? It is not clear that the media imparts a bias; it could be that improving access to any media informs voters and prompts them to turn against an embattled incumbent. Vance Packard’s 1957 The Hidden Persuaders showed how sinister advertising techniques were being imported into politics.