Tag Archives: new republic

Ursula K. Le Guin, Literary Legend and Cat Blogger

Writers gonna write. Fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin may have given up publishing fiction in her ’80s, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing: she’s been blogging since 2010. Internet citizens may want to know: does she write about her cat, Pard? Why yes, yes she does — while examining the human condition, of course. Robert Minto writes about Le Guin’s blog at New Republic.

A running theme is the life of her cat, Pard. Between each of No Time to Spare’s four topical sections are essays entitled “Annals of Pard.” Devoting such time and interest to the observation of a cat might seem to represent the commonest impulses both of internet culture and old age; but, as always, Le Guin wades into her new genre to deepen and expand it. When Pard brings her a living mouse to and drops it on her bed in the night, her solution is to lock them together in the kitchen until the mouse disappears (whether through elusion or ingestion, she doesn’t know). She reflects on the ethical implications and possible reasons for her resistance to intervention:

I want to say clearly that I do not believe any animal is capable of being cruel. Cruelty implies consciousness of another’s pain and the intent to cause it. Cruelty is a human specialty, which human beings continue to practice, and perfect, and institutionalize, though we seldom boast about it. We prefer to disown it, calling it “inhumanity,” ascribing it to animals. … Wild cat and wild mouse have a clear, highly developed, well-understood connection—predator and prey. But Pard’s and his ancestors’ relationship with human beings has interfered with his instincts, confusing that fierce clarity, half taming it, leaving him and his prey in an unsatisfactory, unhappy place.

Read the story

Why Fiction Haunts Us: Pulitzer Prize Winner Viet Thanh Nguyen on His Ghosts

In a profile at New Republic, Josephine Livingstone talks with Viet Thanh Nguyen about the ghosts that inhabit his life, his writing, and his birthplace in Vietnam. Nguyen’s book, The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The ghost is an apt figure for the war that is fought a second time. It is a metonym for the memory of a living person, as well as the vocalizing embodiment of death itself. The ghost is a kind of walking death-in-life principle. “I don’t think I have ever seen a ghost,” Nguyen told me. “But I do know people who have.” He believes in them “as a figurative sign of haunting, given everything that [he] experienced growing up in the Vietnamese refugee community.” Back in Vietnam, Nguyen explained, “I had an adopted sister that we left behind.” He only knew her by a black and white picture that belonged to his parents. “So I grew up literally knowing there was a missing person in the family, and not really understanding why. That is a kind of a haunting.”

In a way, the novelist’s role in the culture is similar to a ghost’s within a family. A work of fiction haunts us: It watches over the shoulder, inspires memories, encourages reflection. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s books are almost overwhelming in their capacious embrace of a war that was so very, very big. But Nguyen’s career is evidence that patience and memory are intertwined parts of the brain. Sometimes a writer must wait and remember, until the voice of memory emerges. Then, like a ghost, it can never die.

Read the story

Can a Company Really Disrupt Itself? Roger Hodge on Zappos and Holacracy

zappos

Roger Hodge went inside Zappos for his October 2015 in the The New Republic, investigating CEO Tony Hsieh’s radical decision to eliminate management and fully embrace the concept of Holacracy at the online shoe retailer.  Read more…

Why is the AIDS Epidemic So Severe in the United States?

Michael Hobbes is a human rights consultant living in Berlin.

* * *

Last May I wrote an article for The New Republic about how the AIDS epidemic has been way more severe in the United States than the rest of the developed world. More people have died of AIDS in New York City, for example, than Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland combined.

I know, it sounds like I’m making this up, that I’m reading the numbers wrong. I spent months trying to figure out what explained this huge gap.

Writing the article didn’t get me un-obsessed with this, and this winter, I started working on a video that put all the numbers and reasons in one place.

The nice thing about videos is that you can present a ton of information without having to explain each data point. Here’s the differences in death rates between US states, for example. I could only mention a few of these in my story, but I put all of them in my video.

US HIV Death Rates

And here’s one of the most major, most obvious reasons we do so poorly in keeping people with HIV alive in this country: We don’t get them on treatment early or consistently enough.

Treatment Rates cropped

But it’s not just our health care system. The virus arrived here earlier, and it spread faster. By 1995, when anti-retroviral therapy became available, the U.S. had more than 750,000 people living with HIV. Germany and Britain had fewer than 40,000.

Anyway, I’m getting carried away, it’s probably quicker if you just watch the video. One of the challenges of these explainers is that it’s easier to present data, but harder to present caveats. HIV surveillance systems differ pretty significantly across countries, and even the term ‘AIDS death’ means something different depending on which country is reporting it.

All the epidemiologists I talked to for this story told me to think of the numbers as a range, subject to updates and re-estimations as more data comes in. I don’t think I did a great job expressing that in the video. Luckily, it’s on YouTube, so I’m sure we’ll have a sophisticated methodological discussion in the comments.

 

* * *

You can read more from Michael Hobbes over at his blog, Rotten in Denmark.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

Why One ‘Big Idea’ Won’t Save the World

In the late ’90s, an MIT economics professor named Michael Kremer wanted to find out if school kids in Kenya were better served by being given free textbooks or medicine that would eradicate stomach worms. Reports Michael Hobbes in The New Republic:

The deworming pills made the kids noticeably better off. Absence rates fell by 25 percent, the kids got taller, even their friends and families got healthier. By interrupting the chain of infection, the treatments had reduced worm infections in entire villages. Even more striking, when they tested the same kids nearly a decade later, they had more education and earned higher salaries. The female participants were less likely to be employed in domestic services.

And compared with Kremer’s first trial, deworming was a bargain. Textbooks cost $2 to $3 each. Deworming pills were as little as 49 cents. When Kremer calculated the kids’ bump in lifetime wages compared with the cost of treatment, it was a 60-to-1 ratio.

These findings led to the founding of an NGO called “Deworm the World” which went on to help 40 million children in 27 countries. But there has been little evidence that giving school children deworming pills in other countries have had similar effects. Hobbes writes:

In the 1980s and early ’90s, a series of meta-analyses found that textbooks were actually effective at improving school performance in places where the language issues weren’t as complex. In his own paper reporting the Kenya results, Kremer noted that, in Nicaragua and the Philippines, giving kids textbooks did improve their test scores.

But the point of all this is not to talk shit on Kremer—who has bettered the world more with his career than I ever have with mine—or to dismantle his deworming charity, or to advocate that we should all go back to giving out free textbooks. What I want to talk shit on is the paradigm of the Big Idea—that once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket.

There are villages where deworming will be the most meaningful education project possible. There are others where free textbooks will. In other places, it will be new school buildings, more teachers, lower fees, better transport, tutors, uniforms. There’s probably a village out there where a PlayPump would beat all these approaches combined. The point is, we don’t know what works, where, or why. The only way to find out is to test these models—not just before their initial success but afterward, and constantly.

Read the story

Related: Michael Hobbes talks about writing the story on his blog.

Photo: Susana Secretariat

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo: The New York Times

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

“Oh, Jeff, that’s like asking which of my four grandchildren I prefer.”

JEFFREY ROSEN: What is the opinion that you’ve written that you think has done the most to advance civil liberties?

RUTH BADER GINSBURG: Oh, Jeff, that’s like asking which of my four grandchildren I prefer. There have been so many. Well, in the women’s rights arena, the Virginia Military Institute case. So many people said to me, “Why would women want to go to that school?” I wouldn’t, and perhaps you, a man, wouldn’t either, but there are women who are ready, willing, and able to undergo that form of education, so why should they be held back by artificial barriers?

There was a decision on the civil side that didn’t get much press, it’s called M.L.B. v. S.L.J. The Court’s precedent was, if you are too poor to afford counsel or to afford a transcript in a felony case, the state must provide legal assistance for you. M.L.B. was a woman facing a deprivation of parental-rights proceedings. She was charged with being an unfit mother. She lost in the first instance and wanted to appeal, but the state’s rule was, to appeal, you must purchase a transcript. M.L.B. didn’t have funds to pay for one. It was technically a civil case, but I was able to persuade a majority of the Court that depriving a parent of parental status is as devastating as a criminal conviction. The Court decided that, if she can’t get an appeal without a transcript, then the state must provide the transcript at no cost to her. That was a departure from the rigid separation of criminal cases, on the one hand, with the right to counsel paid by the state and a transcript paid by the state, and civil cases, in which you do not have those rights. You must be able to pay. I thought M.L.B. was a significant case in that regard, getting the Court to think about the impact on a woman like M.L.B. of being declared a non-parent. It is devastating, much worse than six months in jail.

—From Jeffrey Rosen’s recent interview of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which appeared in The New Republic. 

 

Read the story here

Photo: Wake Forest University School of Law, Flickr

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

***

Read more…