Australian politics, society & culture

The Shortlist Daily

The best reads from around the world

1st of June 2016

Dozens in Russia imprisoned for social media likes, reposts “Anastasia Bubeyeva shows a screenshot on her computer of a picture of a toothpaste tube with the words: ‘Squeeze Russia out of yourself!’ For sharing this picture on a social media site with his 12 friends, her husband was sentenced this month to more than two years in prison. As the Kremlin claims unequivocal support among Russians for its policies both at home and abroad, a crackdown is underway against ordinary social media users who post things that run against the official narrative. Here the Kremlin's interests coincide with those of investigators, who are anxious to report high conviction rates for extremism. The Kremlin didn't immediately comment on the issue. At least 54 people were sent to prison for hate speech last year, most of them for sharing and posting things online.”

Associated Press

31st of May 2016

Chad’s ex-ruler convicted of crimes against humanity “Hissene Habre has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison at a landmark trial in Senegal. The judge convicted him of rape, sexual slavery and ordering killings during his rule from 1982 to 1990. Victims and families of those killed cheered and embraced each other in the courtroom after the verdict was given. It was the first time an African Union-backed court had tried a former ruler for human rights abuses. Habre, who received strong backing from the US while in power, has been given 15 days to appeal … The ex-president denied accusations that he ordered the killing of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990. His critics dubbed him ‘Africa’s Pinochet’ because of the atrocities committed during his rule. Survivors had recounted gruesome details of the torture carried out by Habre’s feared secret police. One of the most notorious detention centres in the capital N’Djamena was a converted swimming pool. Witnesses said victims endured electric shocks, near-asphyxia, cigarette burns and having gas squirted into their eyes.”


30th of May 2016

Three shipwrecks as migrant crisis flares on Mediterranean “First came a battered, blue-decked vessel that flipped over on Wednesday as terrified migrants plunged into the Mediterranean Sea. The next day, a flimsy craft capsized with hundreds of people aboard. And on Friday, still another boat sank into the deceptively placid waters of the Mediterranean. Three days and three sunken ships are again confronting Europe with the horrors of its refugee crisis. At least 700 people from the three boats are believed to have drowned, in one of the deadliest weeks in the Mediterranean in recent memory. The latest drownings — which would push the death toll for the year to more than 2,000 people — are a reminder of the cruel paradox of the Mediterranean calendar: As summer approaches with blue skies, warm weather and tranquil waters prized by tourists, human trafficking along the North African coastline traditionally kicks into a higher gear.”

The New York Times

27th of May 2016

The crazy climate technofix “The term ‘geoengineering’ raises the spectre of a James Bond villain cackling in his lair and planning to make volcanoes erupt at the push of a button. And that’s quite fitting, given that one approach to solar radiation management consists of mimicking the fallout from such giant explosions. Treating the problem like an outlandish movie script may be the only way of comprehending the scale of the challenge. To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by 1ppm – approaching the volume needed to stabilise global temperature – requires the withdrawal of 18 gigatonnes of gas, the equivalent of 18,000 South West Hub plants running for a year. Tim Flannery, the former Australian of the Year who helped raise the profile of climate change, is vocal in supporting some geoengineering approaches. He prefers the less-toxic term ‘Third Way technologies’, based on the Earth's natural processes.” (Also: Australia scrubbed from UN climate change report after government intervention)


26th of May 2016

Silicon Valley billionaire secretly funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against Gawker “According to people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hulk Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker. During court proceedings, which ended in late March with a $140 million victory for Hogan, there had been rumors that a wealthy individual had funded Hogan’s case though there was never any hard evidence that surfaced to prove that was true. Thiel, who is gay, has made no secret of his distaste for Gawker, which attempted to out him in late 2007 before he was open about his sexuality.” (Also: Why this is a huge deal and How can we make you happy today, Peter Thiel? and Is Donald Trump’s hair a $60,000 weave? A Gawker investigation)


25th of May 2016

Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right “A leftwing, independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat. Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor backed by the Green party, defeated Norbert Hofer, of the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic Freedom party, a day after polling closed and only when more than 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of available votes – were taken into account.”

The Guardian

24th of May 2016

Syria: Deadly blasts rock Assad strongholds “A series of car and suicide bombings has hit two government strongholds on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. State media said at least 78 people were killed, while a monitoring group put the death toll at more than 145. Four bombings targeted bus stations in the port city of Tartous and in Jableh, a town to the north, which have until now escaped the worst of the civil war. A news agency linked to so-called Islamic State said the jihadist group was behind the attacks. Amaq cited an IS source as saying militants had targeted ‘gatherings of Alawites’, a reference to the heterodox Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.”


23rd of May 2016

A world of walls “Border walls and fences are currently going up around the world at the fastest rate since the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War helped usher in unfettered globalization, but now a backlash is underway. Globalization has gradually produced a desire in certain parts of the world for separation—particularly after a series of traumas, including the 9/11 attacks and the global financial crisis, exposed the hazards of freewheeling integration. And separation is increasingly being achieved through physical barriers. Such boundaries—structures like the existing U.S.-Mexico border fence, the Israel-West Bank barrier, and the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border fence—tend to be constructed by wealthy countries seeking to keep out the citizens of poorer countries.”

The Atlantic

20th of May 2016

Astronomers crack the secret of this gorgeous poem by Sappho “‘Tonight I’ve watched // The moon and then / the Pleiades / go down // The night is now / half-gone; youth / goes; I am // in bed alone’ This is one of my favorite poems by the ancient Greek poet Sappho. She was a master of packing a lot into a very tiny lyric — which is good since, tragically, only 200 scraps of her verse survive. This one is magnificent. In a mere eight lines, she paints the melancholy of middle age onto the canvas of the night sky. There’s something else about this poem, though: Its astronomical specificity!”

Clive Thompson

19th of May 2016

Nigerian schoolgirl abducted by Boko Haram in Chibok found “The first of the 219 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria’s Chibok more than two years ago has been found and has met with her mother, officials said, raising hopes for those still being held. Amina Ali was discovered on Tuesday in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno state, and was brought back to her home town of Mbalala, near Chibok. The head of the Abducted Chibok Girls Parents’ group, Yakubu Nkeki, said the teenager, who was 17 when she was abducted, was brought to his house where she was reunited with her mother … Soldiers working together with a civilian vigilante group rescued the teenage girl and her four-month-old baby in the remote north-east of Nigeria.”