Underground London: adventures in the secret city beneath our feet

“Today, we’ve been so inculcated with fear and distracted by obligations and consumer junk, we can’t even be bothered to ask why numerous miles of warm, fluorescently lit tunnels under Chancery Lane are laying mothballed while people with no homes freeze to death on the streets above them—forced to sleep in hypothermic conditions by anti-homeless spikes installed on ledges outside shops, luxury flats and offices.” Bradley Garrett regards urban exploration as an apathy killer, spreading stories that help us perceive worlds other than the ones presented to us.
www.theguardian.com

David Simon on why he created The Wire¹

“Collective responsibilty without personal freedom or without personal liberty is tyranny, it’s totalitarianism. Conversely, personal freedom and personal liberty without a collective responsibility where we have a shared sense that you are part of society and that you owe it to society to participate fully and to seek utilitarian solutions to society’s problems—that’s just selfish. That’s just bad citizenship. That’s a recipe for a second rate society. [sic]” David Simon speaking at the Observer Ideas festival 2014 in London.
www.theguardian.com

1. “Despite only receiving average ratings and never winning major television awards, The Wire has been described by many critics as one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.”

They’d find a cure if Ebola came to London

“We must also tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research to produce treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and social framework.” Dr John Ashton asks us to respond to the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa as if it took place in Kensington, Chelsea, and Westminster.
www.independent.co.uk

Also see Face to face with Ebola, a report by Anja Wolz on working for Médecins sans Frontières in Sierra Leone.

Sale of the century: the privatisation scam

“But the gap where the economic rationale for privatising council houses should be becomes a window through which it becomes possible to see beyond the individual privatisations to the meta-privatisation, and its one indisputable success: that it put more money into the hands of a small number of the very wealthiest people, at the expense of the elderly, the sick, the jobless and the working poor.” In an article that should be regarded as compulsory reading for citizens everywhere, James Meek looks back at 35 years of privatising UK industries.
www.theguardian.com

The most wanted man in the world

“The question for us is not what new story will come out next. The question is, what are we going to do about it?” James Bamford interviews Edward Snowden, who regards the use of strong encryption in your everyday communication as a viable means to end mass surveillance.
www.wired.com

Also watch United States of Secrets, a two-part series detailing how the US government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions around the world.

Secrecy concerns around TTIP

“Shrouded in secrecy, our world leaders are currently negotiating a deal that will let multinational corporations wield power over national governments; lower environmental and safety standards across the EU; bring workers’ rights down to appalling US levels; and threaten the NHS as we know it.” Jim Sheridan expresses his concerns about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its implications for the United Kingdom. Similar anxieties exist in Germany. Is Europe about to be sold down the river?
www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

Now then

“What Amazon and many other companies began to do in the late 1990s was build up a giant world of the past on their computer servers. A historical universe that is constantly mined to find new ways of giving back to you today what you liked yesterday—with variations.” Adam Curtis highlights the mechanisms that help to narrow and simplify our experiences to the point that we are in danger of getting stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of ourselves, locked into place, “perpetually repeating the past and terrified of change and the future”.
www.bbc.co.uk

World processor

“Such are the perverse rewards we reap when we permit tech culture to become our culture. The profits and power flow to the platform owners and their political sponsors. We get the surveillance, the data mining, the soaring inequality, and the canned pep talks from bosses who have been upsold on analytics software.” Jacob Silverman critically examines today’s employment practices using past issues of Processed World as a guide to the great digital reorganization of work.
www.thebaffler.com

David McCoy on The Lancet Commission

“In contrast to the easy cross-border flow of capital, commodities and profits, the Commission notes the lack of freedom for ordinary people to migrate in pursuit of a safe and secure life, and it deplores the plight of undocumented migrants who are denied essential health care in spite of international treaties that are supposed to guarantee universal rights and entitlements.” After correctly identifying the undemocratic and unequal distribution of power as an underlying cause of health inequities, David McCoy sees The Lancet-UiO Commission on Global Governance For Health Commissioners falling disappointingly short in its recommendations.
www.medact.org

Wenn die Maschinenstürmer doch recht behalten

In German
“Einerseits steige die Verfügbarkeit von digitalisierbaren Dingen und Diensten dramatisch, bei immer weiter sinkenden Preisen. Andererseits kämen die Erträge der neuen Produktionsweisen nur wenigen zugute, was in einer potenziell extremen Polarisierung von Einkommen und Entfaltungschancen resultiere.” Henrik Müller sieht uns einem verarmenden Produktivitätswachstum ausgeliefert.
www.spiegel.de

The secret government rulebook for labeling you a terrorist

“This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.” Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux report on the Obama administration’s expansion of the terrorist watchlist system.
firstlook.org

The Piketty Panic

“But how do you make that defense if the rich derive much of their income not from the work they do but from the assets they own? And what if great wealth comes increasingly not from enterprise but from inheritance?” After reviewing Capital in the Twenty-First Century by french professor Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman reflects on why this particular book is reshaping the debate on wealth and inequality.
www.nytimes.com

What the Tamiflu saga tells us about drug trials and big pharma

“And so, paradoxically, after everything you have read above, with the outrage fresh in your mind, on the day when it feels harder than any other, I hope you will join me in saying: Bravo, Roche. Now let’s do better.” Ben Goldacre highlights the deficiencies of a regulatory system which governs the approval of pharmaceutical drugs.
www.guardian.com

Facebook pays $19bn for WhatsApp. Yep. $45 for your phone book

“WhatsApp notoriously rifles through your address book, scoops up your phone numbers, and uploads them to its servers. This is something Facebook has wanted for some time since its own phone records are incomplete.” Andrew Orlowski is convinced that what Facebook actually bought are your contact’s phone numbers.
www.theregister.co.uk