In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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During the observance of Yom Kippur, I received a text from one of my oldest and dearest friends as she sat in synagogue that read, “I just prayed for the Kurds. This is nuts.” Although texting during service was a violation of temple norms, especially on Judaism’s most solemn day, the message was spot on amid news alerts of Turkey’s new offensive in Syria. U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last weekend to redeploy American forces in northeastern Syria and disavow the U.S. security relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has caused an uproar in Washington. The Beltway’s hot take machine went into overdrive with a combination of thinly veiled apologia and high dudgeon, though heavy on the condemnation end of the scale.
The criticism of Trump’s damaging and morally egregious decision may feel good, but—without giving the president a pass—it also reeks of hypocrisy. U.S. officials across the past two administrations could never credibly warn the Turkish government of the consequences of invading Syria because officials in Ankara knew there would be none. The United States barely protested when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered two other incursions in northern Syria and threatened U.S. soldiers in the process.
Associate Editor Alex Brock
Excerpt from “There’s Always a Next Time to Betray the Kurds” in Foreign Policy
I want to send a message that we have one life to live, Mr. President,” [Elijah Cummings] replied. “This is no dress rehearsal. And that the American people simply want to live their lives without fear of their leaders. And we, as leaders, have a duty and a responsibility to keep our promise to them when we ran for office and won—and that is to make their lives better. While we’re all on this earth, that’s my message.
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “Elijah Cummings, Powerful Democrat Who Investigated Trump, Dies at 68” in the New York Times
Although Freed was thriving at Amazon, he could see that there was something dizzying about its flywheel mentality. “It was hard,” he said. “That’s the culture—do whatever it takes, even if it seems impossible.” Amazon’s obsession with expansion made it the corporate equivalent of a colonizer, ruthlessly invading new industries and subjugating many smaller companies along the way. In 2006, the company had launched Fulfillment by Amazon, an initiative in which outside sellers—everyone from mom-and-pop venders to major Chinese manufacturers—housed inventory inside Amazon’s giant warehouses and paid a fee for Amazon to handle logistics, such as packing and shipping products and fielding customer-service calls. Companies enrolled in Fulfillment by Amazon often appeared in the Buy Box, the top search listing on Amazon.com. To participate, many venders had to pay about two dollars per item. They also had to let Bezos collect valuable data on which products were becoming popular and which companies were having trouble satisfying demand. Soon, some venders felt as though they had to participate in Fulfillment by Amazon; they couldn’t otherwise attract much attention on Amazon.com, or ship products inexpensively enough to compete with rivals.
Social Media Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from “Is Amazon Unstoppable?” in the New Yorker