The worst place on Earth

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The New York Review of Books offers an excellent primer on Sierra Leone for Westerners — and not just about the current civil war there, which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and the temporary kidnapping of UN peacekeepers in April.

On top of all that, the tiny West-African country ranks dead last in “human development” (life expectancy, quality of life, etc.) according to the UN — behind Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Laos, Afghanistan, and even Haiti. To help lend context to the current chaos, author James Traub gives us a tour of the beautiful but decaying Freetown, and traces the history and consequences of 40 years of misguided English colonial rule, as well as the destructively naive local leadership that followed.


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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