Deal for $10b Defense Department data contract "rigged" in Amazon's favor

Vanity Fair reports that a $10 billion deal to move all of the Defense Department's data, both classified and unclassified, to the cloud appears to be rigged in Amazon's favor. The Defense Department's request for proposals was written with a "host of technical stipulations that only Amazon can meet," and put together only after Secretary James Mattis hired Sally Donnelly, a lobbyist who had previously consulted for Amazon. Even the language in the RFP mirrors Amazon's descriptions of its own technology.

Posted on 16 August 2018 | 3:34 pm

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sir VS Naipaul dies aged 85

Novelist V.S. Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize in literature, has died at his home in London aged 85. He was born in rural Trinidad in 1932 and wrote more than 30 books including A Bend in the River and his masterpiece, A House for Mr Biswas.

Posted on 12 August 2018 | 10:00 am

UK bookstore stormed and vandalized by far-right protestors

Bookmarks Bookshop, a socialist bookstore in Bloomsbury, in London, has received outpourings of support after 12 far-right protesters stormed in and vandalized the store on Saturday evening, the Guardian reported.

As two staff members were closing the store on August 4, a dozen men, one of them wearing a Donald Trump mask, entered the store and began "knocking over displays and ripping up magazines while chanting far-right slogans." It is believed that the men took part in demonstrations earlier that day protesting the "censorship" of Alex Jones's website InfoWars.

Posted on 8 August 2018 | 10:00 am

Amazon grew 20% in UK in 2017 but halved its taxes

Although Amazon's sales in the U.K. continue to grow--rising 20%, to $11.4 billion, in 2017--for the second straight year the company was able to halve the amount of corporate tax it paid.

Posted on 6 August 2018 | 10:00 am

Is Dr. Seuss's Lorax Real?

New research suggests that Dr. Seuss's Lorax is based on a particular monkey that the writer encountered in Kenya...

Recently, a group of researchers posited that the Lorax is not entirely invented, like Sam I Am or Things 1 and 2. Instead, it's inspired by a particular real-life species, a fuzzy-faced primate called the patas monkey that Geisel got to know in Kenya. Their conclusion, a paper called "Dr. Seuss and the Real Lorax," was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution earlier this week.

Posted on 30 July 2018 | 10:00 am

Why is China afraid of bookseller Gui Minhai?

The Washington Post asks why China is so afraid of author and book publisher Gui Minhai (also known as Michael Gui):

Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen, was riding a train from Shanghai to Beijing in the company of two Swedish diplomats in January when 10 Chinese plainclothesmen stormed aboard, lifted him up and carried him off the train and out of sight.

Three weeks later, Gui was paraded before Chinese media to recite a bizarre and apparently coerced confession. He hasn't been heard from since.

This is what passes for the rule of law in China today.

I think of Gui sometimes when I hear Chinese President Xi Jinping boasting about a country that "has stood up, grown rich and is becoming strong."

Would a truly strong and self-confident nation behave this way? Why would it feel the need to kidnap -- for the second time, no less -- a peaceable 54-year-old gentleman such as Gui and keep him, in poor health, locked up for, now, more than a thousand days?

Posted on 30 July 2018 | 10:00 am

Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them

Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get around to reading?

If this sounds like you, you might be unwittingly engaging in tsundoku - a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature.

Posted on 29 July 2018 | 10:15 pm

10 of the best words in the world (that don't translate into English)

One of the many great things about languages worldwide is the sizeable number of words for which there is no real English translation. Often they tell us about concepts and ideas that we are missing out on in the anglophone world.

As the northern hemisphere heads abroad in the coming holiday season, here are a few to be looking out for:

SPAIN: sobremesa
You may have witnessed the ritual, knowingly or not, while on the hunt for a coffee or a cold beer towards the end of another long Spanish afternoon...

Posted on 28 July 2018 | 4:28 pm

'Lost chapters' of Malcolm X's autobiography sold at auction

"Lost" material from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, reportedly seen as too controversial to publish in the 1960s, has emerged this week at an auction in New York.

Along with the original typed manuscript, which reveals the back and forth between the black activist and his collaborator Alex Haley, to whom he told his story, the unpublished writing was put up for sale on Thursday by New York auctioneer Guernsey's. The papers, including an unpublished chapter and a series of unpublished pages, were acquired by the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Posted on 28 July 2018 | 4:26 pm

Revisiting Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" on the bicentennial of her birth

Even the light of 200 birthday candles couldn't pierce the gloom of "Wuthering Heights." But the fire that burned within Emily Brontë roars across the centuries.

How remarkable that on the bicentennial of her birth, this reclusive woman should still be crying at our window like Catherine, "Let me in -- let me in! I'm come home!" ...

Posted on 27 July 2018 | 10:00 am