1. Go read Jeffrey Gettleman’s article regarding the current state of affairs in Somalia over at Foreign Policy. Here’s a sneak preview:
In more than a dozen trips to Somalia over the past two and a half years, I’ve come to rewrite my own definition of chaos. I’ve felt the incandescent fury of the Iraqi insurgency raging in Fallujah. I’ve spent freezing-cold, eerily quiet nights in an Afghan cave. But nowhere was I more afraid than in today’s Somalia, where you can get kidnapped or shot in the head faster than you can wipe the sweat off your brow. From the thick, ambush-perfect swamps around Kismayo in the south to the lethal labyrinth of Mogadishu to the pirate den of Boosaaso on the Gulf of Aden, Somalia is quite simply the most dangerous place in the world.
The whole country has become a breeding ground for warlords, pirates, kidnappers, bomb makers, fanatical Islamist insurgents, freelance gunmen, and idle, angry youth with no education and way too many bullets.
H/T Matt Yglesias
2. Mother Jones offers a heart rending story about how the working poor survive on $195 a week. Here’s a hint on how it works:
To balance the budget, Edick often skimps on food, some weeks spending little more than $10 on groceries, about one-quarter what the federal food stamp program calculates is needed for three "thrifty meals" a day. She patronizes the grimy discount stores whose prices run even lower than Wal-Mart's, and can tick off their notable sales going back for months. "I had some oranges," she recalls with a self-deprecating smile. "A couple of months ago, they had grapes on sale." And, "If it's less than three dollars for a package of six steaks, that looks like a good deal to me." (She tries not to think too hard about the quality of a 50-cent steak.)
3. William Saletan's article regarding the decision to lift the ban on government funded stem-cell research, is a must read. I personally am torn over this issue, and the article does a good job of providing context to the debate that will continue into the forseable future:
Obama's stem-cell order shows "his commitment to evidence and biomedical hope over his predecessor's ideological distortion of science," says the Center for American Progress. The order will "remove politics from science," says the president of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. It will "keep politics out of science," says the vice president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It signals that policy will no longer be "driven more by ideology than by facts," says the director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology.
Think about what's being dismissed here as "politics" and "ideology." You don't have to equate embryos with full-grown human beings—I don't—to appreciate the danger of exploiting them. Embryos are the beginnings of people. They're not parts of people. They're the whole thing, in very early form. Harvesting them, whether for research or medicine, is different from harvesting other kinds of cells. It's the difference between using an object and using a subject. How long can we grow this subject before dismembering it to get useful cells? How far should we strip-mine humanity in order to save it?
4. The NYTimes has a short documentary profiling an 11-year-old Pakistani girl on the last day before the Taliban close down her school in the Swat Valley. Which reminds me that I still need to read “Three Cups of Tea.”
5. No one could have predicted our current economic crisis... oh, now you tell me: