orchids or dandelions (links du jour)

Detroit urban laboratory and the American frontier
In Detroit (Michigan) urban decay, and there is plenty of it, is replaced by urban prairie.

Houses of the Future
Architecture experimentation in New Orleans, another kind of urban renewal, very different from Detroit.
Four years after the levee failures, New Orleans is seeing an unexpected boom in architectural experimentation. Small, independent developers are succeeding in getting houses built where the government has failed.
And the city's unique challenges—among them environmental impediments, an entrenched culture of leisure, and a casual acquaintance with regulation—are spurring design innovations that may redefine American architecture for a generation.
The Story of 'Operation Orchard': How Israel Destroyed Syria's Al Kibar Nuclear Reactor
This incident was mostly unknown, why?
In September 2007, Israeli fighter jets destroyed a mysterious complex in the Syrian desert. The incident could have led to war, but it was hushed up by all sides. Was it a nuclear plant and who gave the orders for the strike?
The Science of Success (The Atlantic)
Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.
No Good Choices (Foreign Policy)
In Afghanistan, democracy will not work and neither more US troops, every choices Mr Obama has to do is doomed, according to this study.
First, the combustible mix of Afghanistan's relatively immutable social and political characteristics -- its ethnic and religious divisions, low level of economic development, and large population -- almost guarantees continued insurgency. The country's poverty and large population encourage competition for scarce resources, and that competition gins up violence. Democracy itself seems to further destabilize the country: Our analysis shows that when foreign countries institute democracy in countries with deep ethnic and religious divisions (and Afghanistan is a tribal-based society), insurgency results.

A second factor suggesting that additional U.S. troops won't do much to quell political violence is the length of the war in Afghanistan. Insurgency develops momentum and is more difficult to eliminate the longer it persists. A force that might nip a fledgling insurgency in the bud is unlikely to do so once it is embedded -- and the rebels in Afghanistan have been around for nearly a decade.

While the continued high probability of insurgency in Afghanistan is bad news by itself, its implications for the survival of democracy in Afghanistan are even more sobering. Indeed, the same ethnic and religious divisions, poverty, and large population that make Afghanistan ripe for the Taliban also undermine the viability of the democratic government -- and additional foreign soldiers do little to ameliorate those underlying conditions.