Links — May 11, 2009, 11:48 am

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Her daughter, Fatima Abdul Karim, 5, has barely left the house since she was injured in late 2003 during the chaos that erupted when a car bomb exploded. ‘I dropped her,’ Hassan said quietly. ‘She was in my arms, and I dropped her. She’s never going to walk again.’ When Blauser began fitting the first child, he realized that the wheelchair was missing the custom-made tool that allows parents to adjust the chair as the child grows. He soon discovered that all the chairs were missing the critical part. The U.S. officer in charge of the event called the Iraqi soldiers and questioned them. Minutes later, the Iraqis walked in with 11 of the 32 tools. They had no explanation for the fate of the rest or for a wheelchair that they didn’t deliver. ‘Iraqis enjoy some sense of civility with us here,’ Blauser said later.”

The exceptionally sluggish pace of new-vehicle sales, moreover, in the face of extremely attractive incentives being offered by the automakers might imply that Americans are considering making more-permanent adjustments to their lifestyles. And the denigration of the brand of the Big Three automakers in light of their financial difficulties— about one third of Americans have generally told pollsters they will buy only an American-made car— might reduce some of the patriotic associations with the activity of driving. Building a light-rail system might not persuade Bubba to get rid of his vehicle— but forcing him to buy foreign might.

One can hardly imagine anything that would have better justified the established social and economic theories of the Industrial Revolution than the claim that our very biological natures are examples of basic laws of political economy. How else are we to explain the immediate and continued commercial success of Darwin’s books? The entire first edition of 1,250 copies of the Origin was immediately snapped up by booksellers. The expectation of public interest is revealed by the fact that a circulating library took five hundred copies.[3] The sixth edition, only thirteen years later, sold 11,000 copies. One cannot understand the origin and the immediate success of the Origin outside of the social and economic setting in which it was conceived, nor have historians of science ignored the question. The pages of the Journal of the History of Biology have certainly not been devoid of papers on the subject. Yet what we have been provided with in 2009 is biography and annotations on the Origin, Perhaps it is time for a socioeconomic analysis of our own preoccupations.

Mostly women with dogs, from the Library of Congress

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I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

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“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
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Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

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