Great Reads, Gripping Images: Facts and Opinions this Week


A silkmoth that has hatched out of its cocoon is seen at the Campoverde cooperative, Castelfranco Veneto, Italy June 4, 2015. Despite having wings, the adult moth cannot fly. Clusters of silkworms munch on piles of locally-grown mulberry leaves in a white marquee in Italy's northern Veneto region. They are nourishing hopes of a revival of Italy's 1,000 year-old silk industry. Picture taken June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Decades after Veneto’s last silk mills were shuttered as a post-war economic boom lured farmers to cities, budding silkmakers – or “sericulturists” – are trying to spin a niche around a traceable supply chain of high-quality material. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

It’s been, as it often is in these times, a heavy week in the world — and so let’s begin on the lighter side of life. We offer a gorgeous photo essay about an Italian revival of silk worms, Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter column with Barry Morse, and Jim McNiven’s baseball yarn.

An Italian Renaissance — of Silkworms, a photo essay by Alessandro Bianchi of Reuters

Decades after the last silk mills in Veneto, Italy, were shuttered, budding silkmakers – “sericulturists” – are spinning a new niche for high-quality material. 

Critiquing the Critics: Barry Morse, Brian Brennan, Brief Encounters column (paywall)

I wanted to talk to Barry Morse about Lieutenant Gerard, the dogged detective he had played for four seasons in The Fugitive, one of the biggest TV hits of the 1960s. But Morse wanted to talk about theatre critics; ill-informed theatre critics. He’d suffered at the hands of a few.

The Yankee Origins of Baseball, Jim McNiven: Thoughtlines column

America’s Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, is a standard tourist trap: an attraction surrounded by a large number of related souvenir shops and restaurants. In the 1930s, the baseball establishment accepted Cooperstown as the place where Abner Doubleday supposedly devised the rules of the game in 1839. The attribution of Doubleday as baseball’s inventor was made on very improbable evidence, however. The Abner Doubleday — and there could have been more than one living in upstate New York at the time — was a noted Civil War general, but in 1839 had been a cadet at West Point and unable to leave its grounds.

In more weighty matters:

REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files
Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State. Humeyra Pamuk of Reuters reports. Photo: REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Beijing collides with China’s new community of human rights lawyers, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs column (paywall)

The recent assault by President Xi Jinping on China’s community of human rights lawyers may be too late to insulate the Communist Party against a coming storm. There is a tacit acknowledgement by the party that China’s swelling community of about 300 human rights lawyers, their associates and like-minded advocacy groups have become a serious challenge to the one-party state. 

Are countries legally required to protect from climate change? By Sophia V. Schweitzer, Ensia  

On June 24, 2015, a court in The Hague ruled that greenhouse gas reduction is a state obligation. This marks the first time the issue has been legally declared a state obligation, regardless of arguments that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend on one country’s efforts alone. Here’s what that could mean for the rest of the world.

Iran, nuclear waste, and Fukushima. By Penney Kome

Unfortunately, one thing that two years of US+5 negotiations with Iran did not achieve is to remove the most urgent nuclear threat to the world: the fact that the world contends with every scrap of radioactive nuclear waste generated since Enrico Fermi’s first controlled chain reaction in 1942 – some 250,000 glowing toxic tons of used fuel alone. 

What the Iran nuclear deal does, and does not, mean. By Scott Lucas

Iran and the 5+1/E3+3 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) have at last completed a comprehensive nuclear agreement after years of discussions and threats of conflict. The deal sets out requirements for keeping Iran’s nuclear programme from producing nuclear weapons, and establishes a timeline for lifting sanctions that have pushed the country to the brink.  But how can the complexities of the 139-page document be understood, especially amid the already charged argument between those who support and those who oppose the deal?

 Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State. By Humeyra Pamuk

 Cemal Dede fled his home in a remote Turkmen village in Syria after warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State bombed the house next door. He had no idea he wouldn’t be coming back. Dede says the Kurdish YPG militia did not let his family of seven return to Dedeler near the Turkish border, telling him it was now Kurdish territory and Turkmens like him had no place there.

The Banality of Ethics in the Anthropocene. By Clive Hamilton

Among the great crimes of the 20th century the most enduring will surely prove to be human disruption of the Earth’s climate. Duty to the truth and the obligation to avoid actions that harm others are powerful principles firmly rooted in the universal framework of legal and ethical codes. Yet before the enormity of what humankind has now done, I cannot help feeling that these grand constructions are frail and almost pathetic. Let me explain why.

Notebook: Secret IMF staff report shocks Greece deal, by F&O

“Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far,” the staff of the International Monetary Fund said in a report released Tuesday, hours after Monday’s controversial agreement between Greece and 18 partners on a third bailout for the indebted country. The Debt Sustainability Analysis noted it was published without the input or approval of the organization’s executive board.

Updated: Our coverage earlier this week of the arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft near Pluto. See  Monica Grady’s essay, Up close with Pluto plus our blog post with a photo gallery, recommended reads, and NASA’s video.

Elsewhere on the Internet:

The conviction by a German court of Oskar Groening marks the last of the major trials from the Nazi era. The”Bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” now aged 94, was sentenced to four years for his role in the murder of 300,000 people — his job included sorting seized money. His trial is expected to be the last of the big court cases from the Nazi era. In a comment evocative of Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” term, used in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, German judge Franz Kompisch said Groening’s choice to be a bureaucrat instead of a fighter did not mitigate his guilt.”I don’t want to call you a coward, Mr. Gröning, but you took the easier path, and stayed in your desk job,” said the judge. Reports here by Deutsche WelleHaaretz; Reuters


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