After last week’s diplomatic overtures on Syria, we’ve entered a period of relative calm and back to our mixed bag of stories of interest. NPR is running a fabulous series on Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, which is also timely since the Brazilian president cancelled her plans to visit the United States as a result of U.S. spying on her and other Brazilians, a revelation that came out of the Snowden affair.

In other news, I’m going to link to stories on Chinese extraordinary measures to address pollution, how much energy electricity your average refrigerator uses, Nathan Jensen’s cautionary tale on the peer review process, a story on poverty tourists in South Africa, and more from international politics and academia!

Energy and the Environment

– China says no new coal plants in and around Beijing and Shanghai, a massive effort to try to clean up their air but will it yield results in a timely manner?

– Your refrigerator consumes as much energy electricity in a year as the average per capita consumption in many African countries

– Obama’s new rules on power plants likely to make new coal plants unlikely

Academia

– Nathan Jensen reminds us that the peer review process is a slog, takes forever, so don’t bank on one big project, five years from initial submission to publication for an award-winning paper!

– Peter Campbell and Mike Desch deconstruct academic rankings from the National Research Council and why the undervalue IR (no books, no pubs like Foreign Affairs)

– Ever wondered what those fake scientific conferences that you get invited to are like? An attendee reports:

On the first day we had 13 scheduled talks. Of these, we ended up having only 8. The other speakers never arrived.

Development

– A white South African couple leaves their gated community to live in a township for a month with their kids and surprise, there is controversy, poverty tourism or empathy?

– Krugman wonders whatever happened to endogenous growth theory, suggests that it has run out of steam and concludes:

The reasons some countries grow more successfully than others remain fairly mysterious

Somalia

– Will Somalia finally free itself from being a failed state? Peter Dorrie suggests that Al Shabaab are making a comeback as the country fractures still further.

– Remember that American jihadist who moved to Somalia and joined Al Shabaab, gained fame for rapping and engaging journalists on Twitter? After turning against Al Shabaab, they finally killed him

– Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout spent 15 months in captivity in Somalia. Her memoir of that experience just came out

Comedy

Russell Brand gets kicked out of GQ awards party where he accepted an award for being an “oracle” and proceeded to make a joke out of how the sponsor Hugo Boss had once made clothes for the Nazis (true). His column recounting that experience is epic:

It had the vibe of a wedding dinner where the best man’s speech had revealed the groom’s infidelity. With Hitler.

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