EDITOR’S CHOICE: BEST READS
The best of the web, all in one place. The Hoopla’s editor spends hours trawling the web so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Asma al-Assad: A “desert rose” crushed by Syria’s strife
Shopping while her country crumbles. We know the story of the emails uncovered by the Guardian that expose the gilded lifestyle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma.
The image of her spending tens of thousands of dollars in internet shopping sprees on handmade furniture from Chelsea boutiques, jewellery, chandeliers, expensive curtains and paintings while people are slaughtered around her has forever tainted the woman once named “a desert rose”.
The Times of India says understanding Asma – a British-educated former investment banker – may prove vital to understanding the Assads and the future of Syria.
Writing in The World, journalist Gideon Rachman takes a different tack: “… while Mrs Assad clearly has a taste for fancy shoes, she does not come across as the Imelda Marcos of the Middle East. Certainly by the standards of other regional dictators, the Assads seem relatively sane.”
Rachman says while the Assads are unlikely to be giving the direct orders for torture, surely they must know what is happening in their name? “So maybe he and his wife, really are in denial about what is going on?”
“Yet, clearly, at the very least they must know that thousands are being killed and displaced by the Syrian army. So if the Assads are not psychopaths, how do they live with themselves?”
Hugh Grant: ‘I love getting into a taxi and saying House of Lords instead of Soho – again’
This is the only newspaper interview Hugh Grant’s given in 16 years. And the only reason he’s doing it is because he wants to be nice to the Guardian, because as the exposers of the News of the World hacking scandal “I think they’ve been brilliant”.
That sounds like the leading actor we know of romantic comedy fame, but this is a different character… this is Grant the poster boy of the UK’s Hacked Off campaignagainst press criminality and corruption. His stand has cost him; the tabloids are relentlessly pursuing him and the mother of his young child and accused him of lying to the Leveson inquiry.
While not exactly forthcoming in this interview – writer Decca Aitkenhead says he looks excruciatingly uncomfortable – this is a fascinating look at an unlikely hero who’s standing up for what’s right. (And he does talk about becoming a dad for the first time).
Why Americans won’t do dirty jobs
In the US state of Alabama some 211,o00 people are unemployed. In this state the government has passed an immigration law that it said would free up jobs that immigrants had stolen from recession-battered Americans.
And it’s worked… the largely Guatemalan workforce has fled for other states, opening up these positions for locals. But the locals aren’t buying.
“… native Alabamians have not come running to fill these newly liberated positions,” says this feature in Bloomberg Businessweek. “At a moment when the country is relentlessly focused on unemployment, there are still jobs that often go unfilled. These are difficult, dirty, exhausting jobs that, for previous generations, were the first rickety step on the ladder to prosperity. They still are—just not for Americans.”
While the article looks specifically at the Alabama situation, it’s an interesting portrait of class, immigration and the American psyche, especially since as late as the 1940s, most farm labor in Alabama and elsewhere was done by Americans.
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