On the coast of Cumbria, in the Lake District, there is a nuclear reprocessing plant called Sellafield, formerly Windscale, that daily pumps up to a million gallons of radioactive waste down a mile and a half of pipeline, into the Irish Sea. It has done this for thirty-five years. The waste contains caesium and ruthenium and strontium, and uranium, and plutonium. Estimates published in The Times and in the Observer are that a quarter of a ton of plutonium has passed into the sea through this pipeline–enough, in theory, according to The Times, to kill 250 million people; much more than enough, in theory, according to the Observer, to destroy the population of the world. The plant was designed on the assumption that radioactive waste would lie harmlessly on the sea floor. That assumption proved false, but the plant has continued to operate in the hope that radioactive contamination may not be so very harmful, after all. If this hope is misguided, too, then Britain, in a time of peace, has silently, needlessly, passionlessly, visited upon us all a calamity equal to the worst we fear.

The complete article

Marilynne Robinson — Granta

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Today’s needull for my poet friend.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness, –
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

The complete article

Luke Neima — Granta

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Granta has published answers from various writers to the question — Is travel writing dead? I liked Karan Mahajan’s piece as it talks about blurring of nation state boundaries to create a new kind of space.

The second thing about modern travel writing: I am tired of the nation state. I grew up in India and moved to the US when I was seventeen; for the last fifteen years I have ping-ponged haplessly, crazily, self-destructively, between countries, unable to a choose one place over the other, always missing or mourning one when I should be enjoying where I was. In my mind, India and the US are two incommensurate universes – places where not only the air, water and food differ, but I, by association, change as well. I see them not as part of a continuum of humanity but as levels in a video game I must leap between – quantum states, almost.

The complete article

Granta — Karan Mahajan

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The new age of information has brought in a revolution. The good thing is that anyone has access to the vast information available and the information arbitrage seems to have lessened. The bad thing is the digital wildfire – lies and fake news spreading like wildfire.

Many blame technology. Instead of ushering a new era of truth-telling, the information age allows lies to spread in what techies call ‘digital wildfires’. By the time a fact-checker has caught a lie, thousands more have been created, and the sheer volume of ‘disinformation cascades’ make unreality unstoppable. All that matters is that the lie is clickable, and what determines that is how it feeds into people’s existing prejudices. Algorithms developed by companies such as Google and Facebook are based around your previous searches and clicks, so with every search and every click you find your own biases confirmed. Social media, now the primary news source for most Americans, leads us into echo chambers of similar-minded people, feeding us only the things that make us feel better, whether they are true or not.

The complete article

Peter Pomerantsev — Granta

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Bastard Alias the Romantic

Today’s needull is a beautiful short story published in Granta by Yuri Herrera.

Oh please, oh please, oh please
May he, the drunken me
May he, the dumbfuck me
May he, the me who never ever ever knows where shit is
May he have saved one
Just one

Lubricated or corrugated
Colored or flavored
Magnum or tight-fit
Oh please
Holy Saint of horndogs
Grant me just one condom

The complete story

Yuri Herrera – Granta