Illustration by Golden Cosmos

James Comey Makes His Case to America

The former F.B.I. Director James Comey aimed to be above politics, but in the 2016 election he stepped directly into it. In his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey makes the case to America that he handled the F.B.I. investigations into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and Donald Trump’s campaign correctly, regardless of the consequences. Even after being fired by President Trump, the former F.B.I Director says he feels sorry for the President. Trump “has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult,” Comey says. “He lacks external reference points. Instead of making hard decisions by calling upon a religious tradition, or logic, or tradition or history, it’s all, ‘what will fill this hole?’ ” As a result, Comey says, “The President poses significant threats to the rule of law,” and he chides Congressional Republicans for going along with the President’s aberrations. “What,” he rhetorically asks Mitch McConnell and others, “are you going to tell your grandchildren?” David Remnick’s interview with James Comey was taped live at New York’s Town Hall on April 19, 2018.

The New Yorker Radio Hour

Each Age Gets the Bloodshed It Needs: 20,000 Years of Violence

20,000 years ago, the average person stood a 10-20% chance of dying violently. Today, the chance is under 1%. We have cut rates of violent death by 90% by creating large organisations that impose peace; but the main method for creating these organisations has been war. In effect, violence has slowly been putting itself out of business. The broad trends suggest that this process will probably continue. A talk by Prof. Ian Morris, Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at LSE IDEAS for 2015-16.

LSE Ideas

Illustration: The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series

Lessons for the Euro from America’s Past

In discussions about the EU monetary union the United States have been oftentimes set as an example, though the US didn’t really have a common currency until 1863, nearly eighty years after independence, and didn’t have the central bank until 1913. For all intents and purposes the US didn’t really have a common fiscal policy with automatic fiscal stabilizers until 1950s. It emerged only after a massive political conflict. Before the Civil War there was the kind of political strife that Europe is currently undergoing. To what extent could the timescale for the EU be different?

A talk by Professor Jeffry Frieden, Professor of Government at Harvard University. He specializes in the politics of international monetary and financial relations. Frieden is the author of Currency Politics: The Political Economy of Exchange Rate Policy (2015); and (with Menzie Chinn) of Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery (2011).

The United States Centre at LSE

Supplements and Safety

supplements_and_safety_1It’s estimated there are 85,000 dietary supplements for sale in the United States today. You might assume that some government agency has approved them before allowing them onto the market. Though the FDA does not do any review of dietary supplements before they come onto the market.

“It almost takes a sacrificial lamb to die of liver injury or some other injury before the Food and Drug Administration can take any action” – Herbert Bonkovsky, M.D.

People with health problems may need additional nutrients. But for most Americans, researchers don’t know for sure whether extra doses really help — and caution that in some cases, they might hurt. It’s incredibly hard to quantify the current problem, how much harm are supplements are doing. There’s no effective system to detect the harm.

It wasn’t until a major league pitcher, 23-year-old Steve Bechler died after taking a weight loss supplements containing an ingredient called ephedra, that sales were halted. By then, more than 160 deaths had been linked to the supplement. In another instance, the FDA has linked dietary supplement OxyElite Pro to more than 70 cases of liver damage. Are you safe?

Frontline

The Machiavelli of Maryland

Edward Luttwak; drawing by David Levine

“People contact Edward Luttwak with unusual requests. The prime minister of Kazakhstan wants to find a way to remove ethnic Russians from a city on his northern border; a major Asian government wants a plan to train its new intelligence services; an Italian chemical company wants help settling an asbestos lawsuit with a local commune; a citizens’ group in Tonga wants to scare away Japanese dolphin poachers from its shores; the London Review of Books wants a piece on the Armenian genocide; a woman is having a custody battle over her children in Washington DC – can Luttwak “reason” with her husband? And that is just in the last 12 months.”

Military strategist, classical scholar, cattle rancher – and an adviser to presidents, prime ministers, and the Dalai Lama. Just who is Edward Luttwak? And why do very powerful people pay vast sums for his advice?

The Experiment Experiment

the-experimentA famous psychologist published a series of studies that found people could predict the future — not all the time, but more often than if they were guessing by chance alone. The paper left psychologists with two options. “Either we have to conclude that ESP is true,” says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, “or we have to change our beliefs about the right ways to do science.” Nosek is going with Option B — and not just for psychology experiments. He thinks there’s something wrong with the way we’re doing science. And he launched a massive project to try to fix it.

Planet Money

The Trumpian Side of Pope Francis

As a conservative columnist at the New York Times, Ross Douthat fills the post once held by no less a figure than William Kristol. A devout Catholic, Douthat opposes the progressive direction in which Pope Francis is leading the Church—to prioritize caring for poor people and migrants over opposing abortion and the culture of sexual revolution—even though he acknowledges to David Remnick that this puts him at odds with the Church’s emphasis on mercy. In his new book, “To Change the Church: Pope Francis of the Future of Catholicism,” Douthat provocatively compares Francis to Donald Trump, painting him as a disruptive figure who is determined to bring change fast and damn the consequences.

The New Yorker: Politics and More

 

Wood burning stove

Did Cooking Make Us Human?

Is there one thing responsible for humans becoming human? Some evolutionary biologists think that the way we process our food, namely cooking it, could explain why our species developed so differently from others. Did cooking make us human? Dr. Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Dr. Rachel Carmody of UCSF and Harvard discuss the impact that cooked food has had on human evolution.

Origin Stories – The Leakey Foundation

Economics of Migration

Are the British people worse off because of the immigrants? When in 2013 the Royal Statistical Society did a survey and asked people to name a percentage of the United Kingdom population that are not born in the UK, the average response was 31%, more than double the actual number – 12.5%. The talk starts with a description of change in migration levels and attitudes to it in the UK and other countries then focuses on the labor market impact of immigration. Do not wish for clear-cut answers!

The Department of Economics at LSE