Good Reads: From climate reporting, to Romas in France, to an ancient board game
This week's roundup of Good Reads includes the long tail of a 'cooling trend' article, how a Flemish town cares for the mentally ill, the rise of petty crime in France, a board game older than chess, and humor in politics.
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Public sentiment in France seems to be tied in knots these days over its tiny but increasingly visible Roma population. Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker delves into French attitudes toward this population, formerly known as “gypsies” in English, with his usual combination of nuance and clarity.Skip to next paragraph
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That attitude is one part fear and impatience with what is perceived as an epidemic of petty crime by young Roma – mainly pickpocketing and purse snatching. A Roma was recently convicted of running one of the largest pickpocket rings ever in Paris. And it is one part sympathy for poor immigrants without much support system.
The case of a high school age Roma girl pulled from a school bus and expelled, with her family, from France drew an outpouring of popular support. In the end, Mr. Gopnik suggests that the French obsession with the Roma is about their own fear of economic falling, finding echoes of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables,” as standards of living drop for the first time in 30 years.
Lessons in an ancient war game
Games can be a reflection of how people see the world. If the Western world, reared on chess, wants to understand the Chinese worldview, one way is to understand the strategies of Go.
Then there’s Hnefatafl, an ancient Viking game at least 600 years older than chess. Robert Beckhusen, writing in War is Boring for Medium.com, describes a game that is fundamentally asymmetrical: One side begins the game surrounded and outnumbered. He cites Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at US European Command’s Intelligence Directorate: “I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”
Never a dull moment for political satire
For a 30-second read, try humorist Andy Borowitz’s take on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s self-defense over the snarling-traffic-as-political-revenge scandal in The New Yorker. The governor argued, of course, that he knew nothing about what his aides were up to. We’re guessing from the brief dispatch “Christie unaware he was governor” that Mr. Borowitz isn’t buying it.