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The Edge of Terrorism

How ISIS Makes Money From The Art Market

July 27th 2015

Islamic State Destroys Nimrud April 2015

Imagine: you are window-shopping on a quiet street, perhaps in London or Paris or New York. Something remarkable catches your eye: an ancient coin, a gold chain, a tiny figurine. Impulsively, you enter the shop, where the owner explains to you that the sculpture comes originally from Mesopotamia, that the necklace is Byzantine. It isn't inexpensive, but the shopkeeper has guaranteed its provenance and the price seems fair; and besides, you quite love it. You say yes, and leave the shop with your new treasure tucked safely in a bag.

You may have just handed your money over to the Islamic State. Read more ..


Broken Bookselling

Barnes and Noble is Going to Kill the Nook

July 25th 2015

E-book readers

The future of Barnes and Noble Nook e-books, e-readers and tablets looks to be in jeopardy. The Nations largest bookseller has just hired Fred Argir to run the Nook division and e-commerce division, replacing Mahesh Veerina who had run it for the last two years.

The Barnes and Noble Nook division is in serious trouble. They recently unveiled a massive upgrade to their website. The new design gives us a sense on what the bookseller is hoping to sell more of, which are lifestyle products, print and e-books. Unfortunately there are a number of bugs with e-books and Nook that are preventing people from reading and this is resulting in a fair amount of apathy.

When you are looking to buy a new book and haven’t heard much about it, likely you want to check out the first few chapters with a digital sample. Barnes and Noble has an online reading platform called Nook for Web. Sadly, this system is totally broken and has not been revised to work in conjunction with the new B&N website. Users have also reported a myriad of problems with logging into their accounts and purchases randomly disappearing. Read more ..


Book Review

Book on Prewar Concentration Camps Well-Written But Not Well-Published

July 21st 2015

Before Auschwitz

Before Auschwitz -- Jewish Prisoners in the Prewar Concentration Camps, Kim Wunschmann, Harvard University Press 2014, pp 376.

Nazi concentration camps—eventually thousands of them sprang up—were known for their cruelty and human degradation. Historians have noted that the first of these camps to open was Dachau on March 22, 1933, accompanied by fanfare and international press releases. Actually, local Stormtroopers in Prussia had opened a camp on disused factory grounds at Oranienburg the day before Dachau’s inaugural media event. Oranienburg later became one of the Reich’s most pivotal camps by virtue of hosting Section D-2, which in its “T Building” supervised all camps throughout Nazi Europe via a complex array of IBM Hollerith machines. 

The hellholes of Nazi Germany have been written about in many scholarly works. Since the war, these monstrous camps have been characterized by the sheer scope of the tens of thousands incarcerated within their evil perimeters. Now comes Kim Wunschmann in Before Auschwitz -- Jewish Prisoners in the Prewar Concentration Camps to deliver an important, needed insight into the personal human suffering experienced at these inhuman sites.

Whereas many prior analysts and chroniclers, including myself, have taken the 50,000 foot view, recording the misery where high math intersects prodigious war crime, Wunschmann peers into the individual experiences of ordinary Jewish prisoners. She describes the torture and humiliation that accompanied their unjust incarceration. In other words, she describes these camps from the inside looking out. Wunschmann names victims’ names, and connects the dots of the specific agony experienced by these unfortunate prisoners. More importantly, Wunshmann’s cohesive narrative maps specific events in the day-to-day vicissitudes of the German Reich and then depicts how camp guards and administrators retaliated against their hapless prisoners as a matter of national sport, Nazi movement policy, and pure individualized cruelty. Thus the camps become more than monuments of inhumanity; they become burning infernos of hate and degradation. Read more ..


Book Review

The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President.

May 26th 2015

Click to select Image

Aaron David Miller. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 288 pp.

"Whether one agrees with his conclusions or not..."

"I doubt many readers will agree with all of his arguments – I don't..."

"You may disagree with him at times, as I did..."

That's three out of the four book jacket blurbs on Aaron David Miller's new book, The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. And it is the first clue that this book is an invitation (challenge) for you to go where Miller goes and envision American history as he envisions it — or not. In a political era that demands followers — left or right — it is refreshing to read a book that doesn't worry about what you think, but provides a clear and compelling picture of what the author thinks.

Best known as a Middle East policy adviser to both Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State, Miller takes on American political history, ranking Presidents as Indispensable, Near Great, Politically Astute, and the Rest of The Guys. Along the way, he wonders if the U.S. is ungovernable.

There are only three Indispensables: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Non-controversial. Most Americans would, and in fact do, say the same when asked. But why? According to Miller, these presidents fundamentally changed the country through a confluence of crisis, character, and capacity to shape events. "We assume inevitability for the American enterprise because of where we now sit, a kind of inexorability that everything was destined somehow to turn out the way it did. We should not." Read more ..


Book Review

Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief: the Arsenal Opposed to Israel's Survival

May 26th 2015

Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief. Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander H. Joffe. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2013. 254 pp.

Romirowsky and Joffe trace the involvement of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)—a Quaker organization founded long before 1948 to assist civilians caught up in the maelstrom of war—in its pivotal role as relief provider to Arab refugees in Gaza under the auspices of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). Painstakingly combing through personal memoirs, cables, and diplomatic communiqués, the authors construct a rich history of the immediate post-1948 period. The AFSC was determined that its relief mission be short-lived to thwart any "moral degeneration" that might occur from a continuing refugee status.

Its preferred solution was "repatriation" (return to homes in the territory that became Israel) but quickly changed to resettlement in adjacent Arab states, such as Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, as a more judicious option. This approach was also seriously considered by the U.S. government—then and now the principal source of monetary aid to the refugee operation—along with a program of political and economic development in the Middle East directly connected to larger Cold War policies.

But the idea of refugee resettlement in Arab states soon fizzled out. As the authors illustrate, both field personnel and those at the policy-making level within AFSC understood that the refugees were being used as pawns by the Arab governments in their propaganda war against Israel.

Once UNRPR's mandate expired in 1950, the United Nations established the U.N. Relief and Work's Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as its replacement, and from then on, the fix was in. For reasons ranging from bureaucratic inertia to self-interest, but most importantly Arab governments' clear desire to maintain the refugee problem, UNRWA has, for the last sixty-five years, provided "relief" to a population that has increased nearly ten-fold and whose questionable refugee status is handed down to each successive generation as their prized—and lucrative—legacy. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Bin Laden's Bookshelf: In the Shadow of Anders Breivik

May 23rd 2015

Osama bin Laden in mufti

On July 22, 2011, the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik killed seventy-seven people in and near Oslo. Not long before he attacked, he emailed a 1,500-page document titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," which included conservative critics of radical Islam among his sources. Immediately, some in the media, academic, and think tank worlds declared these persons guilty by association and charged them with shaping Breivik's thought, even though the manifesto cited about the same number of liberals and conservatives.

Yesterday we were given a look inside the mind of another mass killer when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released Bin Ladin's Bookshelf, a "sizable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin." The 409 items range from publicly available U.S. government documents to personal letters from bin Laden to family and fellow terrorists. Read more ..


Book Review

The Fall of the Ottomans: No Paradigm Shift in Thinking about the Mideast

May 15th 2015

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The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East. Eugene Rogan. Basic Books. 512 pp. 2015

A century after the catastrophic blunder that led to the destruction of the then longest-surviving empire on earth, culpability is still ascribed to the European powers. Rather than view the Ottoman entry into the First World War on the losing side for what it was – a failed imperialist bid for territorial aggrandizement and reassertion of lost glory – the Muslim empire has been portrayed as the hapless victim of European machinations, driven into the world conflict by overbearing powers eager to expedite its demise and gobble up its lands.

Emblematic of the wider tendency to view Middle Easterners as mere objects, whose history is but a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, this conventional wisdom has proved remarkably resistant to the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and Eugene Rogan's The Fall of the Ottomans (2015) is no exception to this rule.

To begin with, in an attempt to underscore the Ottoman Empire's untenable position on the eve of the war, Rogan reproduces the standard depiction of the protracted period preceding the empire's collapse, or the Eastern Question as it is commonly known, as the steady European encroachment on Ottoman territory. "The looming prospect of a European general war", he writes, "raised the imminent threat of a Russian annexation of Istanbul, the straits, and eastern Anatolia – and the ultimate dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire among the Entente Powers. France was known to covet Syria, Britain had interests in Mesopotamia, and Greece wished to expand its grip over the Aegean."

Far from setting their sights on Ottoman lands, European powers had consistently shored up the ailing empire. Read more ..


The Edge of Film

What Zombie Movies Tell Us About Us

May 5th 2015

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The zombie invasion is here. Our bookshops, cinemas and TVs are dripping with the pustulating debris of their relentless shuffle to cultural domination.

A search for “zombie fiction” on Amazon currently provides you with more than 25,000 options. Barely a week goes by without another onslaught from the living dead on our screens. We’ve just seen the return of one of the most successful of these, The Walking Dead, starring Andrew Lincoln as small-town sheriff, Rick Grimes. The show follows the adventures of Rick and fellow survivors as they kill lots of zombies and increasingly, other survivors, as they desperately seek safety.

Generational monsters

Since at least the late 19th century each generation has created fictional enemies that reflect a broader unease with cultural or scientific developments. The “Yellow Peril” villains such as Fu Manchu were a response to the massive increase in Chinese migration to the US and Europe from the 1870s, for example. Read more ..


Book Review

Why Place Matters: Identity and Civilization in Modern America

May 2nd 2015

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Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America by Wilfred M. McClay and Ted V. McAllister, eds. New York: Encounter Books, 2014

In any collection of essays, the most important objective is choosing the right topic that will open up and stimulate further discussion. The contributors on their part must represent diverse views, yet propose solutions that point in the same general direction.
In this respect, editors Wilfred M. McClay and Ted V. McAllister achieved success in their excellent book, Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America. It is a collection that challenges the reader to enter into discussion, yet also points toward organic solutions outside the box of modern academia. Read more ..


Book Review

The End of Greatness: and Why it Doesn't Matter Any More

April 30th 2015

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The End of Greatness Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. Aaron David Miller. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 288 pp. $28

Grading Presidents

"Whether one agrees with his conclusions or not..."

"I doubt many readers will agree with all of his arguments – I don't..."

"You may disagree with him at times, as I did..."

That's three out of the four book jacket blurbs on Aaron David Miller's new book, The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. And it is the first clue that this book is an invitation (challenge) for you to go where Miller goes and envision American history as he envisions it — or not. In a political era that demands followers — left or right — it is refreshing to read a book that doesn't worry about what you think, but provides a clear and compelling picture of what the author thinks.

Best known as a Middle East policy adviser to both Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State, Miller takes on American political history, ranking Presidents as Indispensable, Near Great, Politically Astute, and the Rest of The Guys. Along the way, he wonders if the U.S. is ungovernable.

There are only three Indispensables: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Non-controversial. Most Americans would, and in fact do, say the same when asked. But why? According to Miller, these presidents fundamentally changed the country through a confluence of crisis, character, and capacity to shape events. "We assume inevitability for the American enterprise because of where we now sit, a kind of inexorability that everything was destined somehow to turn out the way it did. We should not." "Nation-encumbering crises," the sort that make the country markedly different by their end, are ones that Miller finds can call forth the character and capacity of Great Presidents. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

French TV5Monde Hit by Islamic State Hackers

April 9th 2015

IS with Missile

French television network TV5Monde said Thursday that it had been hacked by individuals claiming to belong to the Islamic State group, who brought television broadcasts to a halt and and hijacked its websites and social networks. The Paris-based company was able to partially resume television broadcasts by 1:00 am (2300 GMT) after a three-hour blackout, the network's director-general Yves Bigot told AFP, but added its systems had been "severely damaged" by an "unprecedented attack".

The hackers posted documents on TV5Monde's Facebook page purporting to be the identity cards and CVs of relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-IS operations, along with threats against the troops.

Read more ..

The Edge of TV

'House of Cards' Renewed for Fourth Season

April 7th 2015

House of Cards

The popular Netflix original political drama, 'House of Cards', was renewed for a fourth season. Kevin Spacey won a Golden Globe and Screen Actor's Guild award for his portrayal of Francis Underwood, a ruthless politician who hungers for power.

In the first season as a member of Congress, Underwood strangles a suffering dog with his bare hands. In the second season, Underwood is elected as Vice President and by the third season he becomes the President. The series, filmed in Washington, DC and Maryland, is an adaptation of the BBC series with the same name. President Obama has said that he is a fan of the show.

Netflix has scored major nominations and awards since the show started in 2013 but has kept the statistics hidden. The internet-only video company gambled whether internet viewers would watch a scripted show that was available only online while viewers were abandoning cable in record numbers. Netflix posts the seasons in entirety, allowing consumers to binge-watch the shows. Read more ..

The Circus Edge

Matriarch of Wallenda Family of Circus Performers Dies at 87

April 6th 2015

Baby Boomer

Jenny Wallenda, 87, the matriarch of the famous family of high-flying circus performers, died late Saturday at her home in Sarasota, Florida, according to family members.

Wallenda's nephew, Rick Wallenda, said his aunt died following a lengthy illness.

"She had a great life in entertainment, a very rewarding and rich life," he said.

Wallenda was the oldest daughter of high-wire walker Karl Wallenda and grandmother of daredevil performer Nik Wallenda.

Jenny Wallenda's husband, Richard Faughnan, died in 1962 when a human pyramid collapsed. Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978.

Jenny Wallenda survived the invasion of Berlin by Soviet forces in 1947 and returned to the United States to perform with her family. Her parents sent her to Germany to live with her grandparents in 1934 at age 6.

Read more ..

The Edge of Film

Documentary Raises Curtain on Global Warming Acrimony

March 31st 2015

Hurricane Isabel

Merchants of Doubt, Robert Kenner’s latest documentary, argues that global warming deniers aim to sow doubt and confusion about the science on global warming because they have a financial agenda.

The film contends that these so-called climate experts are paid by the fossil fuel industry to mask the truth that global warming is happening and is primarily cause by CO2 emissions. The film accuses global warming contrarians of using the same strategy that was originally used by the tobacco industry when it tried to quell concerns about the dangers and addictiveness of smoking.

Kenner claims that some of the same people the tobacco industry used to spread doubt about tobacco’s harmful effects are now working for the fossil fuel industry to debunk climate change.

Read more ..

The Science of Art

New Method Reveals Unknown Details of Gauguin's Prints

February 18th 2015

French artist Paul Gauguin is well known for his colorful paintings of Tahitian life -- such as the painting that sold recently for nearly $300 million -- but he also was a highly experimental printmaker. Little is known, however, about the techniques and materials Gauguin used to create his unusual and complex graphic works.

Now a team of scientists and art conservators from Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago has used a simple light bulb, an SLR camera and computational power to uncover new details of Gauguin's printmaking process -- how he formed, layered and re-used imagery to make 19 unique graphic works in the Art Institute's collection.

Northwestern computer scientist Oliver S. Cossairt provided a a surprising new explanation of how Gauguin created one of these artworks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Jose, last week. He provided the first report of the Northwestern-Art Institute study of the 3-D surface of the print "Nativity (Mother and Child Surrounded by Five Figures)," made by Gauguin in 1902. Read more ..


Book Review

America's Great Game and the Arabist CIA

February 13th 2015

America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. Hugh Wilford. Basic Books, 2013. 384pp.

At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency.

In America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case.

Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency's three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of CIA covert action in the region; his cousin, Archie Roosevelt, was a Middle East scholar and chief of the Beirut station; while Miles Copeland was a covert operations specialist who joined the American intelligence enterprise during World War II.

Skillfully drawing on personal papers, autobiographies and other primary sources, Wilford illustrates the diplomatic history that created America's Great Game. More importantly, he underscores the political and ideological dogmas of these individuals – specifically, the rabidly pro-Arab and anti-Zionist views that shaped the CIA in its early years.

The CIA was created in 1947 and drew on the remains of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, which had been dissolved in 1945. Leaders of the new CIA were drawn from OSS veterans, but they were also members of a fading patrician class of American Protestants – with deep ties to elite universities like Harvard and Yale, and to missionaries with connections throughout the Middle East. Read more ..


The World on Edge

The Lunch Question

February 12th 2015

International Currency 2

At an event in Beijing last November, I had the good fortune to meet the French economist Thomas Piketty, who has sold 1.5 million copies of his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, since it was first published in 2013. Pacing up and down in front of a packed auditorium, Piketty explained that because the rate of return on capital is now higher than the growth rate of the global economy, the proportion of the world's wealth that is owned by a small elite will likely keep increasing; in other words, we should expect to see a divergence of wealth as the rich get much richer. As his book says, "capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based."

No strategic forecaster can afford to ignore this alarming prediction — or the enthusiastic response it got from the audience in Beijing. In the 20th century, the two world wars were the only force powerful enough to reverse the concentration of wealth in the elite and the mounting class conflict; in the 21st century, we seem to be falling back into a comparable world of revolution, political extremism and mass violence. Read more ..


The Arts and Society

'Fifty Shades of Grey' Perpetuates Violence Against Women

February 3rd 2015

Young adult women who read “Fifty Shades of Grey” are more likely than nonreaders to exhibit signs of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner, finds a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

Further, women who read all three books in the blockbuster “Fifty Shades” erotic romance series are at increased risk of engaging in binge drinking and having multiple sex partners.

All are known risks associated with being in an abusive relationship, much like the lead character, Anastasia, is in “Fifty Shades,” said Amy Bonomi, the study’s lead investigator. And while the study did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviors before or after reading the books, it’s a potential problem either way, she said.

“If women experienced adverse health behaviors such as disordered eating first, reading ‘Fifty Shades’ might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma,” said Bonomi, chairperson and professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

“Likewise, if they read ‘Fifty Shades’ before experiencing the health behaviors seen in our study, it’s possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviors.”

The study, which appears in the Journal of Women’s Health, is one of the first to investigate the relationship between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. Past research has tied watching violent television programs to real-life violence and antisocial behaviors, as well as reading glamour magazines to being obsessed with body image.

The researchers studied more than 650 women aged 18-24, a prime period for exploring greater sexual intimacy in relationships, Bonomi said. Compared to participants who didn’t read the book, those who read the first “Fifty Shades” novel were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours Read more ..


The Way We Are

'Gone With the Wind' Remains America's Favorite Film

January 19th 2015

It might be 75 years old, but the American Civil War saga Gone With the Wind remains firmly in the hearts of American moviegoers.

Based on Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize winning historical romance, the film premiered in 1939 and followed the tumultuous love story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler against the backdrop of the burning cities and hardships of war in the American South.

Films from a mix of genres–Star Wars, Titanic, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings–round out the top 5, according to a survey of 2,276 U.S. adults who were asked, “What is your favorite movie of all time?”

AMERICA’S TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS

1. Gone With the Wind
2. Star Wars
3. Titanic
4. The Godfather
5. Lord of the Rings
6. Sound of Music
7. Dirty Dancing
8. Wizard of Oz
9. It’s a Wonderful Life
10. E.T.

Source: Harris Interactive Poll Read more ..


Book Review

Marching into Darkness: A German Army Bent on Genocide

January 16th 2015

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Marching Into Darkness:The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus. Waitman Wade Beorn. Harvard University Press, 2014. 314 pages

It is a deeply held belief in some circles that the German military was a professional fighting force largely blameless in the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews in World War II.

But a University of Nebraska at Omaha history professor takes a close look at the German army’s complicity in rounding up and executing Jews in Belarus in the opening months of the Eastern Front in 1941.

Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus by Waitman Wade Beorn, assistant professor of history and the Louis and Frances Blumkin professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UNO, ought to be on the reading list of anyone interested in the German army or battles on the Eastern Front in World War II.

The writing style is more academic than in popular histories, but this book can be highly recommended for anybody interested in military ethics, and in the importance of strong and principled military leadership.

Beorn, a 2000 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and an Iraq war veteran, paints a complex picture. Most German soldiers in the region were, at the very least, willing to do nothing as Belarusian Jews were murdered. Others were willing to actively take part.

But there was a minority who refused to take part and even hid Jews. In many cases, these officers and soldiers were not punished — information that refutes postwar claims of German veterans that they had to go along or face dire consequences. Read more ..


The Edge of Film

Selma, Birdman and American Sniper Nominated for 2015 Oscars

January 15th 2015

Hollywood has named its 2015 Academy Award nominees for the coveted Oscar statuettes, with a mix of dramas, comedies and historical biographies dominating the list announced Thursday.

Two movies led the selections, each with nine nominations, including for best picture. The show business satire Birdman tells the story of a struggling actor trying to reinvent his career as a Broadway director, while a comedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, recounts the tale of a European concierge framed for murder as he tries to prove his innocence.

Two other best picture nominees are British biographical dramas, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, which portray the lives of, respectively, scientists Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing.

​​The other best picture nods went to Selma, a U.S. civil rights drama; the Iraq war-based American Sniper; Whiplash, about a young jazz drummer looking to achieve professional acclaim; and Boyhood, a coming-of-age tale filmed over 12 years that traces a boy's youth.

​​Hollywood watchers say Boyhood could walk away with the Best Picture award. It has already won the top award for the best drama in the Golden Globes competition.

The best actor nominees are Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton in Birdman and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything.

Marion Cotillard was a surprise nominee for best actress for the French-language film Two Days, One Night. She was joined by Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl and Reese Witherspoon in Wild.

Films from Poland, Russia, Argentina, Mali and Georgia were nominated for the Oscar as the best foreign-language movie.

Read more ..

Book Review

The End of Greatness: Grading the Presidents

January 7th 2015

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The End of Greatness Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. Aaron David Miller. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 288 pp.

"Whether one agrees with his conclusions or not..."

"I doubt many readers will agree with all of his arguments – I don't..."

"You may disagree with him at times, as I did..."

That's three out of the four book jacket blurbs on Aaron David Miller's new book, The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President. And it is the first clue that this book is an invitation (challenge) for you to go where Miller goes and envision American history as he envisions it — or not. In a political era that demands followers — left or right — it is refreshing to read a book that doesn't worry about what you think, but provides a clear and compelling picture of what the author thinks.

Best known as a Middle East policy adviser to both Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State, Miller takes on American political history, ranking Presidents as Indispensable, Near Great, Politically Astute, and the Rest of The Guys. Along the way, he wonders if the U.S. is ungovernable.

There are only three Indispensables: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Non-controversial. Most Americans would, and in fact do, say the same when asked. But why? According to Miller, these presidents fundamentally changed the country through a confluence of crisis, character, and capacity to shape events. "We assume inevitability for the American enterprise because of where we now sit, a kind of inexorability that everything was destined somehow to turn out the way it did. We should not." "Nation-encumbering crises," the sort that make the country markedly different by their end, are ones that Miller finds can call forth the character and capacity of Great Presidents. Read more ..


Authors on Tour

Author Road Warrior Looks Back on 2014

December 31st 2014

Edwin Black

If you’re award-winning bestselling human rights author Edwin Black, much of your life is spent on the road in book tours, lectures, media events, and scholar-in-residence sessions — scores of them each year. With 1.4 million books in print worldwide, why does he keep doing events?

"Because, even with a million copies," Black explains, "people have questions — shall we say a million questions about my work — issues I wrote about, and quite often, issues that I have not yet written about. That means, I must connect one on one, face to face. I never stop doing that, and never stop enjoying that."

Black wrote IBM and the Holocaust documenting Big Blue's coordination with the Third Reich in its war against the Jews, War Against the Weak about the medical crime known as eugenics, and nine other prize-winning volumes.

He adds, "My inbox receives hundreds of messages each year. In many ways, the book is just the beginning of a relationship. There is always so much more to communicate."

In 2014, Black embarked upon several major "themed" book tours. The publication of his bestselling human rights volume Financing the Flames found legislators worldwide startled at his discoveries about Palestinian terrorist salaries and the conduct of leading Israel-based NGOs, such as the New Israel Fund. Black alleged that NGOs in Israel that were purportedly pursuing peace and reconciliation were in fact misusing taxpayer monies to promote agitation and confrontation in Israel that promoted anything but peace and reconciliation.

Financing the Flames launched in November 2013 at the U.S. House of Representatives live on C-SPAN. That led to his "Parliamentary Tour" in February and March 2014. In a whirlwind effort, Black appeared at four parliaments in four weeks: The House of Commons in London, the European Parliament in Brussels, the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and as a sworn witness before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress. Read more ..


Book Review

41: A Portrait of My Father - The Dynamic Duo of the Bush Family

December 27th 2014

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41: A Portrait of My Father. George W. Bush. Crown Publishers. 2014. 304 pp.

In November 2014, George Walker Bush, forty-third president of the United States (hereafter “43”), published a book about the forty-first president, George Herbert Walker Bush (hereafter “41”). He is the second former president to have written a book about another (Herbert Hoover’s book on Woodrow Wilson). Few associates of either man -- father and son -- seemed to have had any inkling of this project until 43 announced in July that its release would coincide with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 41: A Portrait of My Father includes as frontispiece a photograph of an oil portrait the author has painted of his subject. The author narrates an audio version of the book as well. He has produced a compelling account of the life of a thoroughly decent man.

The first two-thirds of the book cover the period leading up to 41’s inauguration in January 1989. The reader learns of such things as the high standards of waltzing in Greenwich, Connecticut, where 41 first met Barbara Pierce at a country club dance in December 1941. And that, upon setting out to West Texas after World War II, young 43 in tow, the family once shared a house with a “mother-daughter pair who made their living by entertaining male clients throughout the night.” There is additional folksiness and a tale about an office party where 41 placing a rubber onion in a colleague’s martini.

There are also wrenching accounts of the two defining experiences in the lives of the author’s parents: 41’s surviving the 1944 downing of his Grumman TBM Avenger, when his two crewmembers did not; and the loss of three-year-old Paula Robinson “Robin” Bush, who succumbed to leukemia in 1953. Whether or not journalists covering 41 over the course his political career comprehended the magnitude of these devastating moments, they focused more on his privileged background than his humanity. 43 recalls an arresting moment in the 1980 presidential campaign when a reporter asked if 41 had ever experienced “personal difficulties.” The latter responded: “Have you ever sat and watched your child die? I did, for six months.” Read more ..


Film Review

Critics Hate 'The Interview'

December 25th 2014

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Movie critics say the controversy surrounding “The Interview” is much more interesting than the movie itself.

The movie is scoring just a 50 percent positive review from critics on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

It’s fairing even more poorly with top critics, who give it a measly 32 percent positive rating.
The film is doing better with regular fans, however. It gets a 73 percent “liked it” audience score from Rotten Tomatoes.

Critics say the satire about a television host and producer asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jung-un doesn’t deliver the goods. Read more ..


Author's on Tour

NY Times Bestselling Author Explains IBM's Pivotal Involvement with the Holocaust

December 21st 2014

Edwin Black

Newsweek called it “Explosive and Stunning.” The Washington Post called it “Beyond Dispute.” The Milwaukee Journal asserted it was “Impossible to Refute.”

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Now New York Times bestselling author Edwin Black comes to Tallahassee’s Holocaust Education Resource Council to deliver an electrifying presentation entitled “How IBM Co-Planned and Co-Organized the Holocaust,” based on his global bestseller IBM and the Holocaust. Black’s presentation is scheduled for 7 PM January 21, 2015 at the FSU Alumni Center Grand Ballroom, 1030 W. Tennessee St., Tallahassee, sponsored by the Florida State University College of Law & the Holocaust Education Resource Council.

More than 1.2 million copies of IBM and the Holocaust are in print in numerous editions in more than 14 languages in more than 65 countries. The author has lectured around the world explaining how IBM’s punch card technology, a precursor to the modern computer, organized and systemized the Nazi identification and extermination of six million Jews and millions of other Europeans. The custom-made processes for the Third Reich were micromanaged from the company’s New York headquarters and later its overseas offices after America entered WWII. Black explains how IBM programs organized all six phases of the Holocaust: 1) identification; 2) exclsuion from society; 3) confiscation; 4) ghettoization; 5) deportation; and 6) even extermination.

Brad Pitt and recently optioned the book for a major Hollywood feature film, according to press reports. Read more ..


Book Review

Syria and Lebanon International Relations and Diplomacy in the Middle East

December 13th 2014

Syria and Lebanon International Relations and Diplomacy in the Middle East. Taku Osoegawa London: I. B. Tauris, 2013. 246 pp.

Trying to understand and explain the ins-and-outs of the Lebanon-Syria relationship is a difficult and often bewildering task. This new attempt by Osoegawa of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies provides useful information to students interested in case studies applicable to general courses on international relations. It is not recommended for those seeking answers about the dynamics of Lebanese political subservience to Syria.

The book's format suggests it was adapted from a doctoral dissertation that was insufficiently revised for more generalized audiences. Its structure is somewhat mechanical and comes with too many subtitles and redundant summaries. Most importantly, the book does not provide enough background information about Lebanon.

The contours of Lebanese politics and the country's interactions with the outside world date back to its independence in 1943. By focusing on Lebanese-Syrian relations from 1970 on, the author glosses over other important factors in the development of that relationship. Viewing Syrian influence on Lebanon in isolation from the changing patterns of foreign influence that went hand-in-hand with the creation of an independent Lebanon does a great disservice to anyone trying to understand the topic.

Despite this, the book is rich in factual information, illuminating not only the formation of expedient alliances with Syria by Lebanese politicians from different persuasions but also the ease in which they come to infelicitous endings. However, there is little analysis until the work's conclusion when the author explains the nuances of the sectarian divisions in Lebanon and how these shape perceptions towards Syria.

Hilal Khashan writes for the Middle East Quarterly, from where this article is adapted.


Book Review

Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: the Result of Competing Priorities

December 12th 2014

Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan in an Unstable Political Landscape. Noah Coburn and Anna Larson. Columbia University Press, 2013. 304 pp.

The international intervention in Afghanistan that began after the attack on the United States on 9/11 has taken on many forms, some more successful than others. Coburn, a political anthropologist at Bennington College, and Larson of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, focus on elections, critiquing that effort not only in its Afghan specifics, but in its larger context, as part of other and similar international interventions.

The authors provide a detailed analysis of what went progressively wrong with the implementation of elections in Afghanistan, which were supported and funded by the international community. Democracy-promoting "workshops," for example, complete with flip-chart presentations attended by drowsy participants were largely pointless but, nevertheless, were favored by aid agencies because attendance figures produced an easily quantifiable result. Even more troubling is the authors' description of funding "spikes" for elections shortly before they occurred, which were offset by substantial underfunding between campaigns of efforts to sustain democratization.

Yet while the authors demonstrate the problems in international efforts to create a viable electoral democracy in Afghanistan, the images that emerge of its successes are at least as compelling. Campaign posters prominently featured both male and female candidates while the sight of former warlords competing for office alongside academics and average citizens presents a dramatic and hopeful contrast to what prevailed under the Taliban. That the wealthy and well-connected tend to win such elections is hardly unique to Afghanistan. Read more ..


Books and Authors

Author Edwin Black Schools Students on American and Nazi Roots of Racism

December 11th 2014

Edwin Black appears with University of Michigan-Flint students.

Nearly all modern genocides “begin on the campus,” the author of notable books on the Holocaust and U.S. indirect financing of terrorists told an audience at the University of Michigan-Flint. Edwin Black, an investigative journalist and human-rights activist, assailed academics who fail to adequately teach students the historical facts they should know. Black is touring in support of his latest book, Financing the Flames, which documents that American taxpayers are effectively subsidizing terror and instability in the Middle East through public support of nongovernmental organizations.

Black outlined the specific elements of international law in the Middle East, treaty by treaty, chapter and verse. Black then asked rhetorically, “How come you now know more than all the teachers in this city about the history of international law in the Middle East?,” referring to professors in general during a Q&A session. Read more ..


Book Review

The Good War: Why We Shouldn't Have Gone to War in Afghanistan

November 29th 2014

The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan. Jack Fairweather. Basic Books. 2014. 416 pp.

The American war in Afghanistan goes on and on and on. General Martin Dempsey, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quite honest when he said that to get rid of ISIS, our latest enemy in the never-ending War on Terror, 80,000 US troops will be needed.

While few in Washington will publicly admit that we are in a trap from which we cannot easily extricate ourselves, unable to withdraw or “win” in so complex, varied and perplexing region, there’s something about the place that has attracted would-be conquerors’ passion to control and change so poor, largely illiterate, intensely religious and tribal poppy-growing country as Afghanistan.

Many veteran journalists have been on the scene and written about their experiences. Among the latest and best are the Wall Street Journal’s Anand Gopal’s new, fresh, and biting No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, in which he reveals over and again the failures of America’s military intervention, perhaps even worse than even cynics back home believed. General (ret.) Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, places much of the blame on US Generals – A bit too much, since he omitted politicians, lobbies and our bellicose home front warriors. Still, his NY Times Op Ed put it best when he defined insanity and US military policies in Afghanistan “as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think we’re there.”

Other worthy books detail how our two wars have badly damaged, even broken so many of our troops. Among the more haunting are Anne Jones’ They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Returned from America’s Wars, the Untold Story and Yochi Dreazon’s new book The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. Read more ..


Books and Authors

How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street America

November 25th 2014

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Seventy-five years ago, paperback books returned to the United States with the brandname Pocket Books, which began publishing its mass-market paperbacks, sold at a quarter each, with ten titles, among them: Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive, Bambi by Felix Salten, James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Returned, because nineteenth-century printers often bound books in paper, yet the practice had all but disappeared during the early part of the twentieth century. It may seem odd to commemorate the advent of cheap pulpy books instead of the far more significant anniversary: the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact on August 23, 1939.

But the saga of cheap paperbacks’ arrival on American soil is intimately tied to the Second World War and its aftermath in a number of ways, deriving from and contributing to wartime innovation, necessity, mobility and censorship. Read more ..


The Edge of Art

Young Nigerian Sculptor Explores Hair, Her African Roots

November 19th 2014

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The young Nigerian sculptor scanned the gallery with satisfaction. Drinks and snacks were laid out neatly on a corner table while her works of sculpture lit up the white walls of the gallery like art on a canvas. Her solo exhibition was about to open and she expected guests from all over Lagos.

Taiye Idahor had mounted her three-week exhibition at WhiteSpace in Ikoyi Lagos Nigeria to display her own exploration of the themes of reincarnation, culture and identity. She used her hair as a navigator to find her roots and her voice, and to bring back memories. So, she called the show Hairvolution. Read more ..


Authors on Tour

Tifereth Israel Stages Edwin Black Series on New Israel Fund, IBM and the Holocaust, Oil Addiction and Iran Warhead.

November 7th 2014

Edwin Black

New York Times bestselling investigative author Edwin Black will feature some of his best known investigations at a widely-anticipated Kristallnacht weekend scholar-in-residence at Tifereth Israel in Bensalem outside Philadelphia, November 7-11, 2014.

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His six events kick off with November 7 Friday night report detailing the exact design of the Iranian nuclear warhead, and the latest information from the International Atomic Energy Agency, reportedly released just hours before the event.

See the Weekend Program

Saturday afternoon, November 8, Black will chronicle how America and the world became addicted to oil and what might happen if the oil supply is interrupted by Iranian or terrorist action. The presentation is based on his award-winning books, Internal Combustion and British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement, as well as the Plan. Black recently appeared in a Hollywood documentary on oil addiction, called Pump.

Saturday night, Black will reveal newly discovered information about how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust, based on his New York Times bestselling book IBM and the Holocaust soon to be a Brad Pitt blockbuster. IBM has never disputed his explosive findings which Newsweek called “explosive” and “stunning.”

Sunday morning, November 9, 2014, Black will conclude his scholar-in-residence with the latest revelations about the New Israel Fund’s involvement in the effort to boycott Israel and obtain prosecution of its leaders for war crimes. He will also detail how terrorists receive salaries [paid by American taxpayers. The presentation will be drawn from Black’s recent bestseller, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel, and related research. In February and early March 2014, Black delivered his findings before four parliaments in four weeks: The British House of Commons in London, the European Parliament in Brussels, the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and finally the U.S. House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. Read more ..


Books and Authors

'What Would Lincoln Do?: Wrong Question

November 2nd 2014

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While on a speaking tour for a new book on Lincoln recently, appearing in bookstores and museums and libraries from Washington DC to Mill Valley, California, one question has been repeatedly asked of me in venue after venue: What would Lincoln do? Of course, it isn't phrased precisely that way, but the content is the same: If Abraham Lincoln were president today, do you think he would be striking ISIS? Would he endorse universal health care? What would be his policy towards immigration, privacy, campaign finance, global warming, gay marriage? Would he detain enemies at Guantanamo? How would he respond to the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, to the outbreak of the Ebola virus?

I usually beg off these pleas. Lincoln, after all, had a hard enough task determining policy for his own time, much less generating a blueprint for problems 150 years hence and, anyway, I am uncomfortable with such responsibility being thrust upon me, as if writing a single book about Lincoln makes me capable of channeling his thoughts. Still, there is something poignant in the repeated asking: Americans so desperately want someone to lead them, to make sense of the confusing world they inhabit, to impose sturdy values upon the confusing array of options before us. Who better than Abraham Lincoln?

The fact that we so revere him today would have amused many in Lincoln's own day even - perhaps especially - Lincoln himself. He had been elected in 1860 with the lowest voting percentage (39.8) of any president in American history and it would be many years before he would be etched into the nation's consciousness as the savior of the Union and the Great Emancipator, our most respected president. Americans were judging him in the moment and many of them – in the North as well as the South – judged him unfavorably. Read more ..


Book Review

Death of a King: MLK's Final Year

November 1st 2014

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Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. Author: Tavis Smiley. Little, Brown & Co), 2014. 288 pp.

Television and radio talk show host and author Tavis Smiley plays an important role in our culture. The mass media’s discussions are so limited in scope and distorted by prejudice that most people have little opportunity to become well informed. Smiley provides that opportunity. As an avid reader and provocative thinker, he keeps pressing in new directions through his Public Broadcasting and Public Radio programs, his sixteen books on various subjects, and his book tours and town hall meetings. His new book, Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year (Little, Brown, and Co., 2014) now moves us toward reconsidering the legacy one of the most important human rights leaders of the twentieth century.

Those of us who lived our lives in the movement or who write about it now have often commented on the startling trajectory of King’s last year of life. On April 4, 1967, at a speech in Riverside Church in New York City, he excoriated the American war in Vietnam as a travesty; he named U.S. policy as state-inspired murder, economic imperialism, and racial and political arrogance. All of it, he warned, could lead the U.S. down the path of great nations that wasted their resources and moral authority on the mass violence of war.

Often titled “Beyond Vietnam,” King’s speech remains the most powerful indictment of the interplay of American militarism, racism, and poverty. Leading to the deaths of over two million Vietnamese and a cascading series of tragedies in Laos and to mass genocide in Cambodia, American policy was not a “mistake,” as both liberal and conservative commentators often supposed. Rather, in King’s view, it represented the systemic illness of an American capitalism hooked on war. Read more ..


Author's on Tour

Human Rights Author Focuses on Money and the Mideast Crisis in North Carolina Series

October 29th 2014

Edwin Black

New York Times bestselling investigative author Edwin Black will detail the financial undercurrents of Mideast conflict during an eight-event, multi-campus scholar-in-residence in Greensboro, North Carolina, sponsored by Guilford College. The presentations will be drawn from Black’s recent bestseller, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel, and related research.

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Learn More About Financing the Flames

On November 3, 2014, Black will open the series at Greensboro College exploring the challenge of the ISIS terrorism threat with an emphasis on the group’s financial resources, including oil smuggling.

On November 4, 2014, reflecting the findings of Financing the Flames, Black will explore the health impacts of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and their relationship to human rights organizations and finances, during a speech at Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences. That same day he will also answer general questions about the Mideast crisis for African-American leadership at the Winston-Salem Urban League. The evening of November 4, 2014, Black will deliver the main lecture of the series, “Financing the Flames -- Money and Human Rights in Israel” at Guilford College in Greensboro.

On November 5, 2014, Black will provide a breakfast briefing for Guilford’s international studies majors, emphasizing international law and the Israel crisis. Later that day, he concludes the series with an open discussion for Guilford students about all aspects of the Mideast crisis.

While in the area, Black will also deliver two events for journalism students. “Journalism in the Misinformation Age” is for Guilford College journalism students. The second event, which will be videotaped for the Charlotte Law School Viewpoint Project, will be a memoir about “becoming an investigative reporter” along with insights into oil addiction. Read more ..


Books and Authors

The Long Forgotten History of Tolerance for Religions of All Kinds in the Middle East

October 28th 2014

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The Middle East is fertile ground for religions. Its deserts, mountains and marshes have inspired mystics and prophets; its tribes have provided followers and fighters who can form a new prophet’s core following; and older, persecuted religions can find refuge in its impassable topography. Also, although much of that region seems today to be suffused with cruelty and violence beyond our imagining, it has historically often been a place of intellectual freedom and creativity - a place for the exchange of ideas, and for their intermingling to create new and startling creeds. The survival there of some of the world’s smallest and most remarkable faith communities proves that.

From the Mediterranean as far as the Zagros mountains that divide Iran from Iraq, there are peoples who believe passionately in reincarnation: one of these, the Druze of Lebanon, will sometimes settle inheritance cases with the help of the dead man’s supposedly re-embodied spirit. A belief, inherited from pre-Christian religions, that the essence of God can be manifest in earthly form means that the Alawites of Syria can regard the Greek philosophers, and also the sun and moon, as worthy of religious reverence. In Iran, the Zoroastrians have clung on to their country’s ancient, pre-Islamic customs: as late as the 1950s they were waging regular war on flies, as creatures of darkness, while they treated dogs (which in the Avesta, are seen as allies of good) with great respect and kindness, giving a dead house-dog an almost human funeral. Underlying these customs are philosophies whose origins lie millennia back in time.

Until the eleventh century AD, the Middle East’s Muslim rulers were disinclined to enforce their religion on their subjects. In subsequent centuries, this changed; many non-Islamic communities were brought close to extinction. But those minorities have never been so threatened as they are today. Iraq’s Christians have declined in number by over 50% in twenty years. The Mandaeans, whose religion was actually founded in Iraq in probably the third century AD, have almost all left their country and are scattered across the world. Even Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who form the region’s largest surviving religious minority, have begun to leave their country in accelerating numbers. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

NYC Mayor De Blasio Slams Protest Against Controversial 'Death of Klinghoffer' Opera

October 20th 2014

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday criticized his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani for objecting to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of The Death of Klinghoffer and defended the Met’s right to stage the controversial performance that has been labeled anti-Semitic, the New York Daily News reported on Monday, hours before the play was set to open.

“The former mayor had a history of challenging cultural institutions when he disagreed with their content. I don’t think that’s the American way. The American way is to respect freedom of speech. Simple as that,” de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference.

Giuliani plans to lead the latest protest against the opera outside the Met on Monday, as the show opens. Critics have labeled the performance anti-Semitic for glorifying the murder of Jewish-American cruise ship passenger Leon Klinghoffer, 69. Wheel chair-bound, Klinghoffer was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship 29 years ago. The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean Sea and his corpse washed up on the Syrian shoreline a few days later. Read more ..


The Edge of Art

MOMA Hails Henri Matisse With 'Cut-Outs' Exhibition

October 15th 2014

MoMA

Blue figures swim around walls, dancers prance in a circle and flowers sprout on a huge canvas in an exhibition of the cut-out works of French artist Henri Matisse that opened this week.

The show, “Henri Matisse: the Cut-Outs,” which runs from Oct. 12 through Feb. 8 at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), includes 100 works from private and public collections, drawings, textiles and stained glass from the final years of the renowned artist, who died in 1954 aged 84.

“It is the most extensive exhibition of this period of Matisse's work ever mounted,” said Jodi Hauptman, a curator of the show, which was organized in collaborations with the Tate Modern in London. Matisse was already famous for his vivid paintings when he began to draw with scissors, cutting colored and painted paper into various shapes, then mounting and pinning them on paper, canvas and the walls of his studio.

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The Edge of Music

Tony Bennett Breaks Own Record as Oldest Artist Atop Billboard Chart

October 3rd 2014

Music

From the VOA comes this Reuters report:

At 88, veteran crooner Tony Bennett broke his own record as the oldest living artist to land a No. 1 record on the weekly U.S. Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday with his latest compilation of duets with Lady Gaga.

“Cheek to Cheek,” which features New York singers Bennett and Gaga singing classics such as “Anything Goes” and “Let's Face The Music And Dance,” sold 131,000 copies in its first week according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan.

Bennett previously set the record for becoming the oldest-living artist to land a No. 1 album in 2011 aged 85, with his compilation “Duets,” which included a track with Gaga.

“Cheek to Cheek” is the second compilation of classic songs to top the Billboard 200 chart for the second consecutive week, after fellow New York songstress Barbra Streisand's “Partners” debuted at No. 1 last week.

Read more ..


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