Monthly Archives: November 2009

Press Release: Becker-Posner, Uncommon Sense

November 4, 2009
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Press Release: Becker-Posner, Uncommon Sense

What do you get when you combine one of the world’s most influential economists and one of its most important legal thinkers? Well, when the two men concerned are Gary Becker and Richard Posner, you get sharp commentary, serious analysis, and innovative thinking about a stunning range of contemporary political and social issues. Week after week for nearly five years, that’s what Becker and Posner have been offering at the Becker-Posner blog, and with Uncommon Sense, they gather the best of the posts and running debates that have informed, surprised, and confounded a host of readers. Arranged by topic, and updated to take account of subsequent developments, the essays in this volume bring an economic perspective to such questions as the sale of human organs, the use of steroids in professional sports, the regulation of CEO compensation, and many more. To watch two such erudite thinkers trade ideas—and even forceful disagreements—is a sheer pleasure, and a testament to the power of minds unfettered by convention and unwilling to settle for received wisdom. Read the press release. . . .

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Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1908-2009

November 3, 2009
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Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1908-2009

The weekend death of Claude Lévi-Strauss was announced in Paris this morning. He would have turned 101 later this month. One of the most influential anthropologists in the history of the discipline, Lévi-Strauss achieved international renown for his seminal works in structural anthropology which sought to understand human social relationships in terms of their most basic formal qualities. His La Pensée Sauvage or The Savage Mind, published in 1966, is considered the work that most firmly established his groundbreaking ideas in the social sciences, followed closely by his application of that theory in his four volume Mythologiques—a series of books that trace the structural similarities of a single myth originating in South America through its many variations and re-tellings in cultures throughout Central America and all the way to the Arctic Circle. Born in Brussels, Strauss grew up in France and attended the Sorbonne in Paris where he agrégated in Philosophy in 1931. He briefly became a visiting professor at the University of São Paulo in Brazil where he also made one of his first forays into ethnographic fieldwork conducting research in the Matto Grosso and Amazon rainforest in 1935. His return to Paris roughly coincided with the beginning of . . .

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Press Release: Klotz and Sylvester, Breeding Bio Insecurity

November 2, 2009
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Press Release: Klotz and Sylvester, Breeding Bio Insecurity

In the tense months that followed the 9/11 attacks, the public’s fears of further terrorism were fanned by the deadly anthrax letters, which seemed to symbolize the ease with which terrorists could kill using biological weapons. But in the subsequent years the United States government has spent billions of dollars on combating bioweapons—so citizens can rest easy, knowing we’re much safer. Or are we? Far from it, say Lynn Klotz and Edward Sylvester, and with Breeding Bio Insecurity they make a forceful case that not only has all of that money and research not made us safer, it’s made us far more vulnerable. Laying out their case clearly and carefully, they show how the veil of secrecy in which biosecurity researchers have been forced to work—in hundreds of locations across the country, unable to properly share research or compare findings—has caused no end of delays and waste, while vastly multiplying the odds of theft, sabotage, or lethal accident. Meanwhile, our refusal to make this work public causes our allies and enemies alike to regard U.S. biodefense with suspicion. True biosecurity, Klotz and Sylvester explain, will require that the federal government replace fearmongering with a true analysis of risk, while openly . . .

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Creating a public debate about ‘Honor Killing’

November 2, 2009
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Creating a public debate about ‘Honor Killing’

As an article in the November London Review of Books points out, the term “honor killing” is relatively new to the western legal system, but in recent years it has increasingly come into play as cases of filicide in Middle Eastern immigrant communities—often motivated by inter-generational culture clashes over arranged marriages—become more common. To explore this topic the LRB article cites several recent books on the subject including Unni Wikan’s In Honor of Fadime: Murder and Shame—the tragic tale of Kurdish emigre Fadime Sahindal, murdered in Uppsala, Sweden in 2002 by her father because of her relationship with a man outside of their community—a tragedy compunded by her efforts to avoid such a fate by bringing the issue to the public’s attention. As Jacqueline Rose writes for the LRB: Fadime is remarkable for the way she went public. She secured convictions against her father and brother for threatening to kill her, and then again against her brother for seriously assaulting her during a return visit to Uppsala: he was given a five-month prison sentence.… Fadime’s successes in court gave her every reason to believe that her boldness was paying off. A month before her father and brother were due to . . .

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Press Release: Graham, The Moon, Come to Earth

November 2, 2009
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Press Release: Graham, The Moon, Come to Earth

Though the telegram may be long gone, the allure of a dispatch from a foreign land remains strong. So when Philip Graham began chronicling his sojourn in Portugal at the popular McSweeney’s Web site, it didn’t take long for his dispatches to attract a following of readers eager to experience the faded glories and living mysteries of Lisbon. Now Graham has expanded on those dispatches, and the resulting book, The Moon, Come to Earth, is travel writing at its lyrical, introspective best. Whether wandering Lisbon’s cobbled medieval streets or wrestling with complicated local customs on the subway, Graham brings an attentive eye and love of idiosyncrasy to scenes that epitomize the paradox of living in a foreign city: Neither a tourist nor a local, he is forever between cultures, fascinated and admiring, but at the same time separate and uncertain. Through his explorations, the culture of Portugal—its rich literary culture, inventive cuisine, and saudade-drenched music—comes vibrantly to life. The Moon, Come to Earth is both a love letter to Lisbon and a testament to the pleasures and discoveries of travel itself. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt and see the author’s website. . . .

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