The Shortlist Daily

The best reads from around the world

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.”


18th of May 2016

Bombings in Baghdad leave at least 77 dead, more than 140 injured “Three bombings have hit Baghdad killing at least 77 people and injuring more than 140, police and medical sources say, extending the deadliest spate of attacks in the Iraqi capital so far this year. A suicide bombing in a marketplace in the northern district of al-Shaab killed 41 people and injured more than 70, while a car bomb in the southern neighbourhood of al-Rasheed left six dead and another 21 injured, the sources said. A spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command told state television that the attacker in al-Shaab — a predominately Shiite Muslim area — had set off an explosives-filled vest in coordination with a planted bomb. The Islamic State (IS) militant group said in a statement distributed online by supporters that one of its fighters had targeted Shiite militiamen with hand grenades and a suicide vest.”


17th of May 2016

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to urge Congress to introduce public hangings “President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to re-introduce the death penalty for a range of crimes including drugs, rape, murder and robbery. In his first press conference since winning election in landslide on May 9, Mr Duterte declared he preferred death by hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping a spine with a noose was more humane. He said last year that he preferred public hangings. This would cause widespread outrage in the majority Catholic nation where the death penalty was abolished in 2006 under then president Gloria Arroyo.”

The Sydney Morning Herald

16th of May 2016

The feel of bespoke suits “From a distance the causes of the Brazilian crisis seem obvious. A corrupt government, after fourteen years in power, begins to suffer the consequences of erratic policies: a deep recession follows, and protesters then take to the streets to overthrow the government. This explanation isn’t so much unfounded as insufficient. The government is corrupt, but so are all the other parties. The economy is in recession, but there have been other periods of turbulence in the past, and not all of them led to a coup. Protesters are on the streets, yet they make up a small demographic, and are unrepresentative of the larger population. To state that a couple of organs in a body have failed says little of the disease that overtook it. I’m not sure, though, that watching the corpse decompose from up close yields any kind of special explanatory power. It may well be that those farther away are better equipped to explain things.”