Weekly Roundup 5/2/2011

Why being a foodie isn’t elitist
Eric Schlosser, The Washington Post, May 1, 2011

Synopsis: The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation has attacked critics of large-scale industrial agriculture in the United States as “self-appointed food elitists.” Eric Schlosser, one of the most prominent of those critics and author of “Fast Food Nation” (2001), says the name-calling is “an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies.” Current agricultural practices and food marketing, he says, short-change farmers and ranchers and contribute to obesity and food-borne illnesses.

Takeaway: Schlosser will be one of more than 30 speakers from industry, government, academia and advocacy groups at a day-long Washington Post Live conference, “The Future of Food,” to be streamed live beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4 (washingtonpostlive.com). Among the other speakers is the Prince of Wales, identified as a lifelong environmentalist and an organic farmer.

For background, see Peter Katel, “Food Safety,” [subscription required] CQ Researcher, Dec. 17, 2010.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


A Beast in the Heart of Every Fighting Man
Luke Mogelson, The New York Times Magazine, April 27, 2011

Synopsis: Mogelson delves into the possible reasons behind the murders of three civilians in Afghanistan by young U.S. soldiers.

Takeaway: After talking with experts, he finds that extreme dysfunction in the soldiers’ unit may have been a factor. “Ten years into an unconventional war whose end does not appear imminent, the murder of civilians by troops that are supposed to be defending them might reveal more than the deviance of a few young soldiers in a combat zone,” the author says.

--Tom Colin, Contributing Editor


What’s Left of the Left
Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New York Times, April 24, 2011

Synopsis: Paul Krugman, the Nobel-Prize winning Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist and blogger, argues for economic policies much more liberal than those embraced by the Obama administration. In response, some of his critics, such as Larry Summers, former director of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, call him a bomb-thrower.

Takeaway: “Krugman’s purism is partly tactical, his way of correcting for the inevitable dilutions of legislative negotiation,” writes Wallace-Wells. “You want to have a pretty clear vision of what it is you want even though you know what you’re going to get is only a small fraction of that,” says Krugman.

"Sendak, Picturing Mortality
Amy S. Rosenberg, Philadelphia Inquirer, April. 24, 2011

Synopsis: Sometimes criticized for depicting too many harsh truths in his books for children, Where the Wild Things Are author/illustrator Maurice Sendak regrets a personal truth he didn’t share. Sendak, age 82, never told his parents he was gay. “I wish I had…trusted them more,” he says.

Takeaway: Adult critics may not understand this, but children understand darkness, mortality and pain, Sendak says. His books’ persistent success with generations of youngsters comes from the fact that "I take kids seriously. They have a lot of things wrong. They protect their parents. Children are brave little creatures."

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


The Trinity Six, Charles Cumming, St. Martin’s Press, 2011

In a field crowded with entries that amount to comic books without the pictures, spy fiction has also always enjoyed a few practitioners who rise to the literary heights. John le Carré is the classic example. Now, a younger British author shows he may soon reach the pinnacle. An editor who, like le Carré, has some spook experience delivers an ingeniously plotted and believable novel that manages to connect Britain’s best-known spy scandal with contemporary events. One offstage but important character sounds a lot like a leader of a very important country. A great read – with the bonus of describing how personal technology has affected espionage.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer