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Good Reads: From Chinese dreams, to the Tsarnaevs, to a QWERTY challenger

This week's round-up of Good Reads includes a vague dream for the Chinese, the Boston bombers' connection to radical Islam, why Obama has been so slow to respond to Syria's civil war, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not seen since the Pliocene era, and a new keyboard configuration for mobile phones.

By Senior Editor / May 16, 2013

A user tries out the QWERTY keyboard on a smart phone.

Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press/AP


China asks its citizens to dream

A nation confidently on its way to becoming the biggest economy in the world ought to be chasing its own special dreams. So Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has taken on promoting “the Chinese dream” as his personal motto, and the Chinese character for “dream” has been declared the “character of the year” in China. But what do Chinese think about when they dream? In “Chasing the Chinese dream,” The Economist points out the term’s vagueness is both an advantage and a difficulty, a meme able to be fitted to many goals. Militarists see it as more than just an “American dream” of middle-class prosperity; it’s their dream of a powerful China preeminent on the world stage. Democratic reformers see a move toward Western-style personal and political freedoms. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently tried to lasso the term in the service of better Sino-American relations, proposing that Chinese and American dreams merge into a vision of a “Pacific Dream” that the two nations pursue together. But where it’s all headed is uncertain: When a people are allowed, even encouraged, to “dream,” the process may set off a series of unintended consequences.

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Senior editor

Gregory M. Lamb is a senior editor and writer.

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How radical were the Tsarnaev brothers?

What caused Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to carry out their bombing of the Boston Marathon? We may never get a definite answer. But in “The Bombers’ World,” Christian Caryl in The New York Review of Books digs for facts and theories and concludes that despite possible links to radical Islamists “there are many other details of the Tsarnaev brothers’ case that make it seem starkly unique, more of an outlier than something that can be easily slotted into a larger pattern.” Those particulars include the Chechen culture, which places a high value on family and “honor” (and put immense pressure on Tamerlan, the older brother, to succeed when at the same time he was failing). Among the unanswered questions: Why was this particular Chechen family unable to assimilate into American culture when other Chechens have?

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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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