Seven of the week's best reads

Vancouver skyline at night Light pollution, and why the night sky is turning red

Seven articles published elsewhere on the web this week, as selected by Bob Trevelyan, editor of The Browser.

1. Life with Syria's rebels in a cold and cunning war

CJ Chivers | New York Times | 20 August 2012

Reporter embeds with the "Lions of Tawhid", a rebel group fighting near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The commander was an accountant in civilian life, married with two children, before he took up arms. His colleagues include an estate agent, several farmers and construction workers, and a nurse who owned a fast-food restaurant. They've since been joined by army defectors. Together they roam the Aleppo region "plotting attacks with other commanders, evading air strikes, meeting with smugglers and bomb makers to gather more weapons, and rotating through front-line duties in a gritty street-by-street urban campaign". As Chivers says, it's a cross-section of a nation at war with itself.

2. Schmooze or lose

Jane Mayer | New Yorker | 20 August 2012

We've heard a lot recently about Super Pacs and fundraising for the Republican Party's challenge to President Obama. So how do things sit on the Democratic side? Bill Clinton was a past master at cosying up to billionaire donors. But Barack Obama doesn't like it. Good for him. He believes he has more important things to do and wants to reform campaign finance anyway. But will it cost him? With the election a matter of months away, and despite his personal reluctance, the president is having to upgrade his "donor maintenance" skills. Mayer enters the world of liberal donors to find out what they want.

3. Dear Mr Akin, I want you to imagine...

Start Quote

Todd Akin

If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing [conception] down”

End Quote Todd Akin

Eve Ensler | Huffington Post | 20 August 2012

This is a short, very powerful piece of writing in which the author of The Vagina Monologues takes aim at the Missouri congressman, Todd Akin, for his recent comments about rape and pregnancy.

She asks Akin to imagine, and describes, what it feels like to be raped.

She continues: "Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face."

4. Follow the money

David Conn | London Review of Books | 22 August 2012

This is the story of how English football became a business. It's an excellent account of how the sport has changed from the 1980s to the present day, which is not to say that there won't be parts of Conn's analysis that some will take issue with. There are good explanations of how new corporate structures enabled owners to get around the rules set by the game's governing body and how some other countries took different routes. The crux of the piece, though, is the creation of the Premier League, which was a far more significant event than many of us realised at the time. Conn explains how it happened, what it changed, and the spectrum of outcomes - not to say random consequences - that ensued when England's football clubs were sold in the global marketplace.

5. Guns 'R Us

Jeanne Marie Laskas | GQ | 21 August 2012

In the US north-east where Laskas lives, it's assumed that guns are bad things used by bad people for bad business. So she crosses the country to Yuma, Arizona, to see how people relate to firearms there. It's a place where shooting ranges host birthday parties and popular ladies' nights and assault rifles make good gifts for six-year-olds. And where it's the "liberals" who are derided in her conversations with clerks and customers in a gun store: "These liberals think, 'Well, if we get all the guns away, there will be no crime, no one will get shot, everybody will live in harmony.' That's how stupid they are. It's so scary."

6. Why is the night sky turning red?

Amy Shira Teitel | The Crux, Discover Magazine | 23 August 2012

"Red sky at night, shepherd's delight" - a saying many of us grew up with. But in recent decades, red skies at night have taken on a new meaning. As outside lighting has become more prominent, so our night skies have been gradually turning from black to red. So what, you say? Well, the growing popularity of LED lights, which emit shorter wavelengths than gas-discharge lamps, is making the night sky brighter still. And it could have a significant effect on nature, by disrupting the circadian rhythms of animals, ourselves included.

7. Life on board a British nuclear submarine

Start Quote

I stumble backwards and accidentally press a button. Luckily, it is not the one that says 'attack'”

End Quote

Stephen Moss | Guardian | 21 August 2012

In this lovely, gently humorous piece, Moss describes the week he spent in the cramped confines of HMS Triumph, learning what it takes to graduate from "oxygen thief" to submariner. "Climbing the ladders between decks exhausts me; I am forever hitting my head on protruding bits of metal; and once in the control room, while leaning against the periscope, I stumble backwards and accidentally press a button. Luckily, it is the button that says 'search' and not the one next to it that says 'attack'. I don't want to be responsible for a missile assault on Algeria, to which we happen to be close at the time."

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