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THE RELENTLESS REVOLUTION: A HISTORY OF CAPITALISM

Joyce Appleby
Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

the-relentless-revolutionArguing that capitalism is a cultural—rather than purely economic—phenomenon, Appleby (Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination) traces its trajectory through European, American, and Asian successes and setbacks, its unhappy experiments in colonization, the world wars, and into contemporary India and China.

She narrates the rise of capitalism as a process of accretion, starting with Dutch agricultural innovations that were adopted and improved upon by the British. This set England on the path to controlling famine and, ultimately, freed capital and labor for trade.

Appleby turns Marxism on its head as she proposes that the new social relations introduced in England as a result of converting common land into freeholds were the consequence, not the cause, of the transformation in English farming.

If this sounds like breathless global time travel, it is still a laudable effort at demonstrating that there was nothing inevitable about the rise of capitalism.

Both scholarly and accessible, this book unpacks a complex web of seemingly unrelated events; its dazzling achievements are tarnished only by multiple misnomers: there is no city called Calico in India (there’s a Calicut) and no language called Hindu (it’s Hindi). (Jan.)

Historian Appleby traces capitalism (a system based on individual investments in the production of marketable goods) from early industrialization to the present global economy. She explores the benchmarks in capitalism’s ascent, looking at how this system transformed politics while churning up practices, thoughts, values and ideals that had long prevailed within the cocoon of custom. It changed the way people thought and planned, and the author shows how different societies respond to its challenges up to the twenty-first century and the world recession of 2008–09.

She explains that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by the era of deregulation from the late 1970s to 1999, while vast sums of money circulated through global markets and the growth in financial assets outpaced real economic activity. Appleby concludes that since capitalism is a set of practices and institutions that permits billions of people to pursue their interests in the marketplace, it is highly likely that panics and bubbles will occur again. This is an excellent book. –Mary Whaley

In this stimulating history, Appleby insists that, far from being inevitable, the advent of capitalism was “a startling departure from the norms that had prevailed for four thousand years,” and required a radical reconception of human nature.

Her early chapters, which trace the peculiar factors that caused capitalism to flourish in eighteenth-century England first, rather than in another of the world’s merchant behemoths, are the strongest. Appleby excels at stripping away revisionist layers to give the reader the perspective of past actors. As for the present, she recommends globalized capitalism as a remedy for easing poverty, but warns that mathematical models often ignore the messiness of social relations. Capitalism, she argues, “is as much a cultural as an economic system,” dependent on turbulence and risk, yet, once established, “poised to crush any opposition to its expansion.”

Politics and technology fill many pages, yet Appleby insists that capitalism is above all a matter of culture.  (I might almost say “mentalité” although the Annales school remains outside the author’s ken.) For this reason, she chooses Max Weber over both Adam Smith and Karl Marx as the prophet of Capitalism.  She situates the decisive mental turn that produced capitalism in the political upheavals that swept England between 1640 and the Glorious Revolution.

Having previously written on English economic thought in this period, she argues that England emerged from the time of troubles with at least some share of power in the hands of people who viewed economic activity as legitimate and not as demeaning or morally suspect.  Furthermore, economic calculation and forward-thinking action had become relatively pervasive on the part of producers and even of consumers.  Institutions favorable to economic development grew out of the changed attitudes, while progress in agriculture and the expansion of commerce played important supporting roles as necessary conditions for sustained expansion.

With the industrial revolution underway, the new spirit of inquiry having hatched scientific discoveries as well as the familiar “wave of gadgets,” the rest was a matter of diffusion and imitation and of leapfrogging in later waves of technological change.  Most attention in the next phase centers on the U.S. and secondarily on Germany.  In the later nineteenth century, the subject of imperialism gets a good airing.  As with slave-worked plantation agriculture earlier, Appleby tries hard to bring the Western land grab in Africa and elsewhere under the umbrella of capitalism, but to this reader less than convincingly.

In fact, nineteenth century imperialism, like the wars of the first half of the twentieth century, owes more to militant nationalism, in my view, than to capitalism.  The chapter title, “rulers as capitalists,” is clever but does not add greatly to the force of the argument.  This is not to deny that the colonial powers strove to turn a profit from their ventures, but that falls short of making profit the dominant motive for the last great expansion overseas.

Appleby manages to devote fully a hundred pages to the period since the end of fast postwar growth, say from 1973 on.  All the expected bases are touched, from the emerging economies of Asia to the explosion in information technology and the recent (current?) financial crisis.  While many crisp set pieces here (as elsewhere) enliven the account, Appleby has little new to add, and I would have wished that the space had been devoted to more detailed and nuanced treatment of the earlier material, some of which flew by like the near landscape from a high-speed European train.  A botched reference to J. de Vries’ industrious revolution, a single dismissive reference to D. Landes and none to F. Braudel, and almost nothing on pre-factory industry seems to me to leave out too much.   There is also, in my view, too great an emphasis on nation states as units of analysis, and too little on the role of cities and regions.

REVIEW:
‘THE RELENTLESS REVOLUTION’ BY JOYCE APPLEBY
for Chicago Tribune :

“In ‘The Relentless Revolution’ Professor Joyce Appleby, a past president of the American Historical Association, offers a sweeping new history of capitalism, from its origins in the trading empires of the late Middle Ages all the way through to the Great Crisis of 2008.Appleby’s capitalism, in the spirit of Schumpeter, is defined by change, by “creative destruction,” driven by private initiative rather than state power. She locates its origins, preeminently, in 18th century England, where command of the seas meshed with the first application of industrial energy sources to large machines. In this, she seems to agree with Karl Marx, who in the Communist Manifesto wrote:
“The bourgeoisie…has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground…”The difference is that Marx was a critic and Appleby, frankly, is a booster. Here is her take on the late 18th century potter Josiah Wedgwood who “approached pottery making like a scientist, an artist, and a taskmaster”:“Wedgwood took the mixed bag of humanity on his payroll and shaped it into a modern workforce. He used bells and clocks to instill punctuality. Exact record keeping enabled him to identify and fine refractory employees. … He had no tolerance for the easy work habits of his father’s generation, but he did take care of his workers’ material needs, paying high wages, looking after their health…Their health? In Capital, Marx visits the same scene in the full flush of 19th century industrialization. Here he quotes an official inquiry, from 1863: “The potters, as a class…are stunted in growth, ill-shaped, and frequently ill-formed in the chest; they become prematurely old, and …certainly short-lived; they are phlegmatic and bloodless, and exhibit their debility of constitution by obstinate attacks of dyspepsia, and disorders of the liver and kidneys, and by rheumatism. But in all diseases they are especially prone to chest-disease, to pneumonia, phthisis, bronchitis and asthma. One form … is known as potter’s asthma, or potter’s consumption.”Why doesn’t Appleby talk about this? Marx was no gadfly, and he had the facts. Whether progress in the industrial art of bone china was worth the cost in human bones can be debated – up to a point. But a text which glamorizes the Staffordshire pottery sheds without even noting — let alone disputing — the evidence so famously brought against them in Capital is, properly, to be suspected of cleaning things up. On American slavery, Appleby does confront what she calls the “ugly face” of capitalism, “made uglier by the facile justifications that Europeans offered for using men until they literally dropped dead.” Fair enough. But then … was American slavery really “capitalism?” The classical political economists – Adam Smith and David Ricardo – didn’t think so. The main class conflict in their world was between factory men and landlords; to them slaveholders were a feudal throwback. Even Josiah Wedgwood was an abolitionist — yet he and his successors did not scruple at using “free” workers “until they literally dropped dead.” But Appleby needs slavery as capitalism, for comparison’s sake. The comparison helps her to argue that industrial capitalism was relatively “benign.”Consistently uncritical, Appleby passes over the Great Crash of 1929 and even the Great Depression with banalities. Of the crash, she states inaccurately that the “experts do agree” that it “didn’t trigger the Depression.” Actually, they don’t. Of the Depression, its causes are “hidden” and they “elude experts.” (John Maynard Keynes would not agree with that.) Of the New Deal, she states that the “National Industrial Recovery Act ran afoul of one of the strongest and most distinctive American values, the commitment to freedom over social planning.” In fact, the NIRA was highly popular, especially among businesses desperate to keep their prices up. They displayed the Blue Eagle with enthusiasm, until the Supreme Court shot it down.It would have been better – more manageable, more clear — to end the history of capitalism in 1930. For Keynesianism, the Wagner Act, Social Security, the alphabet agencies and the WWII mobilization gave us economic recovery in new forms, in which the private sector was – once again — reshaped by the state. The modern economy – regulated and guided by public policy, for better or worse – is capitalist in name only. Appleby’s attempt to discuss today’s United States – let alone China – as though they are capitalist in the same sense as in Wedgwood’s day serves mainly to empty the word of meaning.This brings us, finally, to the Great Crisis of 2008. Here Appleby’s treatment of some details isn’t bad — for instance she recognizes that financial deregulation was disastrous. But we do not get what we deserve, after reading so far: thoughtful closure on a grand theme. Instead, there is a certain jaded, seen-it-all-before quality to the prose. After all, isn’t capitalism all about change, and what is the crisis, if not just another round of change? Move along, nothing to see here.There is something about this book that doesn’t gel, and I think the problem is, the author never quite decided what argument to make. As a result, ‘The Relentless Revolution’ is, well, dull. In the late 1800s, the emerging discipline of economics was riven by conflict between a “Historical School” and the torchbearers of what would become modern economic theory, eventually rendered in mathematics. The Historicists favored factual narrative, and Joyce Appleby’s work represents an extreme expression of their view. Still, pure narrative needs theory to give it theme. Appleby is rightly wary of facile models – however fancy their math – that fail to come to grips with technological and social change. But to shovel bits and pieces of everything into the kitchen sink — labeling it all “change” and occasionally repeating the title phrase, “relentless revolution” – is no solution either.’The Relentless Revolution’ by Joyce Appleby
WW. Norton, 494 pagesJames K. Galbraith is the author of ‘The Predator State’ and most recently of a new foreword to ‘The Great Crash, 1929′ by John Kenneth Galbraith. He teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin.”
http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/printers-row/2010/01/review-relentless-revolution-appleby.html

Politics and technology fill many pages, yet Appleby insists that capitalism is above all a matter of culture.  (I might almost say “mentalité” although the Annales school remains outside the author’s ken.) For this reason, she chooses Max Weber over both Adam Smith and Karl Marx as the prophet of Capitalism.  She situates the decisive mental turn that produced capitalism in the political upheavals that swept England between 1640 and the Glorious Revolution.  Having previously written on English economic thought in this period, she argues that England emerged from the time of troubles with at least some share of power in the hands of people who viewed economic activity as legitimate and not as demeaning or morally suspect.  Furthermore, economic calculation and forward-thinking action had become relatively pervasive on the part of producers and even of consumers.  Institutions favorable to economic development grew out of the changed attitudes, while progress in agriculture and the expansion of commerce played important supporting roles as necessary conditions for sustained expansion.
With the industrial revolution underway, the new spirit of inquiry having hatched scientific discoveries as well as the familiar “wave of gadgets,” the rest was a matter of diffusion and imitation and of leapfrogging in later waves of technological change.  Most attention in the next phase centers on the U.S. and secondarily on Germany.  In the later nineteenth century, the subject of imperialism gets a good airing.  As with slave-worked plantation agriculture earlier, Appleby tries hard to bring the Western land grab in Africa and elsewhere under the umbrella of capitalism, but to this reader less than convincingly.  In fact, nineteenth century imperialism, like the wars of the first half of the twentieth century, owes more to militant nationalism, in my view, than to capitalism.  The chapter title, “rulers as capitalists,” is clever but does not add greatly to the force of the argument.  This is not to deny that the colonial powers strove to turn a profit from their ventures, but that falls short of making profit the dominant motive for the last great expansion overseas.
Appleby manages to devote fully a hundred pages to the period since the end of fast postwar growth, say from 1973 on.  All the expected bases are touched, from the emerging economies of Asia to the explosion in information technology and the recent (current?) financial crisis.  While many crisp set pieces here (as elsewhere) enliven the account, Appleby has little new to add, and I would have wished that the space had been devoted to more detailed and nuanced treatment of the earlier material, some of which flew by like the near landscape from a high-speed European train.  A botched reference to J. de Vries’ industrious revolution, a single dismissive reference to D. Landes and none to F. Braudel, and almost nothing on pre-factory industry seems to me to leave out too much.   There is also, in my view, too great an emphasis on nation states as units of analysis, and too little on the role of cities and regions.
Perhaps I am underestimating the appeal this book might have for, say, a history undergraduate or a general reader looking for a survey and preferring a literate narrative to an account filled with tables and graphs (there are none).  But for the economic historian, despite pithy accounts of particular episodes, the stress on the overly familiar and the inability to engage closely with the hard questions causes the book to fall a bit short.

Paul Hohenberg, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is past president of the Economic History Association.  The book he co-wrote with Lynn Hollen Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, 1000-1994 (Harvard University Press, 1995), recently appeared in a Chinese edition.

Pages: 494 p.
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition; First Printing edition (January 4, 2010)
Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
ISBN-10: 0393068943
ISBN-13: 978-0393068948

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THE LONGEST WAR

Inside The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda
Peter L. Bergen
Free Press / 1St Edition

the-longest-warWhat makes “The Longest War,” a new book by Peter L. Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, particularly useful is that it provides a succinct and compelling overview of these huge, complex subjects, drawing upon other journalists’ pioneering work as well as the author’s own expertise in terrorism and interviews with a broad spectrum of figures including leading counterterrorism officials, members of the Taliban, failed suicide bombers, family and friends of Osama bin Laden and top American military officers.

TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED since the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center, and after seven years of conflict, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq—only to move into Afghanistan, where the ten-year-old fight continues: the war on terror rages with no clear end in sight. In The Longest War Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from the strategies devised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.

Unlike any other book on this subject, here Bergen tells the story of this shifting war’s failures and successes from the perspectives of both the United States and al-Qaeda and its allies. He goes into the homes of al-Qaeda members, rooting into the source of their devotion to terrorist causes, and spends time in the offices of the major players shaping the U.S. strategic efforts in the region. At a time when many are frustrated or fatigued with what has become an enduring multigenerational conflict, this book will provide an illuminating narrative that not only traces the arc of the fight but projects its likely future.

Weaving together internal documents from al-Qaeda and the U.S. offices of counterterrorism, first-person interviews with top-level jihadists and senior Washington officials, along with his own experiences on the ground in the Middle East, Bergen balances the accounts of each side, revealing how al-Qaeda has evolved since 9/11 and the specific ways the U.S. government has responded in the ongoing fight.

EDITORIAL REVIEWS
From Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: At nearly a decade and counting, and with tens of thousands of American troops still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq–and with Osama bin Laden still at large–we remain well within the post-9/11 era, almost to the point where we take its conditions for granted. Many of the aspects of the ongoing, often indirect battles between America and al-Qaeda have been well covered, but there hasn’t until now been a full overview of the conflict, and few are more qualified to write it than Peter Bergen, the print and television journalist who, as a CNN producer, arranged bin Laden’s first interview with the Western press in 1997. He has been on the story ever since, as the author of Holy War, Inc., and The Osama bin Laden I Know, but in The Longest War he synthesizes his knowledge for the first time into an insightful portrait of both sides in this asymmetrical struggle between superpower and shadowy scourge. Readers of reporters like Lawrence Wright, Thomas Ricks, and Bob Woodward will be familiar with much of the story, especially on the American side, but Bergen’s rare understanding of bin Laden’s world–often based on personal interviews with present and former jihadists–along with his sharp assessments of each side’s successes and failures (he considers the 9/11 attacks to have been more of a failure than a success for their perpetrators), make it necessary reading for anyone wanting to understand our times. –Tom Nissley

the-longest-war1EDITORIAL REVIEWS
From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know), CNN’s national security analyst, revisits the personality and career of the al-Qaeda leader and his immediate circle, while delving into the conflict between al-Qaeda and associates and the U.S. and its coalition. Much of the narrative conforms in outline to other recent books on the conflict, but Bergen adds much detail and contour to his analyses. He finds serious miscalculations on the part of the terrorist organization, and sees the “surge” in Iraq signaling a larger decline in al-Qaeda’s potency. At the same time, he argues that the widespread backlash in the Middle East against the September 11 attacks confirms it is mainstream Islam that poses the greatest “ideological threat” to al-Qaeda. The U.S., meanwhile, has let incompetence and a misguided obsession with Iraq undermine its efforts to extinguish al-Qaeda and the enduring influence of bin Laden, who, Bergen argues, is still alive. Drawing on vast firsthand knowledge of the region and mining a huge stock of primary and secondary material, including his own interviews with combatants, the book’s depth of detail and breadth of insight make it one of the more useful analyses of the ongoing conflict. (Jan.)

PRESS REVIEW /
Sunday Book Review (January 16, 2011),
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times:

“For readers interested in a highly informed, wide-angled, single-volume briefing on the war on terror so far, “The Longest War” is clearly that essential book.
Mr. Bergen, who was part of the CNN team that interviewed Mr. bin Laden in 1997, and who has written two earlier books about the Al Qaeda leader, writes with enormous authority in these pages. He gives the reader an intimate understanding of how Al Qaeda operates on a day-to-day basis: he says it’s a highly bureaucratic organization with bylaws dealing with everything from salary levels to furniture allowances to vacation schedules. And he creates a sharply observed portrait of Mr. bin Laden that amplifies those laid out by earlier writers like Lawrence Wright (“The Looming Tower”), Steve Coll (“The Bin Ladens”) and Jonathan Randal (“Osama: The Making of a Terrorist”).
Although some of Mr. Bergen’s conclusions are bound to be controversial, the lucidity, knowledge and carefully reasoned logic of his arguments lend his assessments credibility and weight, even when he is challenging conventional wisdom.
On the matter of the dangers posed by Pakistan, Mr. Bergen says that a rapidly increasing population combined with high unemployment will play into the hands of militants, but adds that “despite years of hysterical analysis by the commentariat in the United States, as the Obama administration came into office Pakistan was not poised for an Islamist takeover similar to what happened in the shah’s Iran.”
“There was no major religious figure around which opposition to the Pakistani government could form,” he writes, “and the alliance of pro-Taliban parties known as the MMA, which had come to power in two of Pakistan’s four provinces in 2002 and had implemented some window-dressing measures such as banning the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims, did nothing to govern effectively and in the election in 2008 they were annihilated in the polls. Ordinary Pakistanis were also increasingly fed up with the tactics used by the militants. Between 2005 and 2008, Pakistani support for suicide attacks dropped from 33 percent to 5 percent.”
In these pages Mr. Bergen also disputes parallels drawn between the experiences of America and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (an argument invoked by the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld as a reason for keeping the number of United States troops there to a minimum). Mr. Bergen argues that there is no real analogy since “the Soviets employed a scorched-earth policy,” killing “more than a million Afghans and forcing some five million more to flee the country,” while more American troops have been needed — and wanted by the Afghan people — to secure the country from the Taliban and to “midwife a more secure and prosperous country.”
Mr. Bergen also contends that “the growing skepticism about Obama’s chances for success in Afghanistan” was “largely based on some deep misreadings of both the country’s history and the views of its people, which were often compounded by facile comparisons to the United States’ misadventures” in Vietnam and Iraq.
Skeptics who argue for a reduced American presence in Afghanistan are wrong, he contends, because “the United States had tried this already” twice: first, when it abandoned the country in the wake of the Soviet defeat there, creating a chaotic vacuum in the 1990s from which the Taliban emerged; and second, when the administration of George W. Bush got distracted with the war in Iraq and allowed the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The sections of this book dealing with 9/11, the war in Iraq and the prosecution of the war on terror retrace a lot of ground covered by the important work of other journalists, most notably Thomas Ricks, author of the book “Fiasco”; Bob Woodward of The Washington Post; and Jane Mayer, Seymour M. Hersh and George Packer of The New Yorker. These chapters by Mr. Bergen provide an utterly devastating indictment of the Bush administration on all levels — from its failure to heed warnings about a terrorist threat, to its determination to conduct the war in Afghanistan on the cheap, to its costly, unnecessary and thoroughly misguided invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Mr. Bergen gives us a sampling of the ominous threat reporting distributed to Bush officials in 2001 (not just the famous Aug. 6 brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”) and concludes that the problem “was not a lack of information about Al Qaeda’s intentions and capabilities, but the Bush administration’s inability to comprehend that an attack by Al Qaeda on the United States was a real possibility.” This failure, he says, came about partly because the thinking of the Bush White House was “frozen in a cold war mind-set” and partly because it saw Iraq as the No. 1 danger and “bin Laden and Al Qaeda were politically and ideologically inconvenient to square” with its worldview.
Both Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush, Mr. Bergen argues, made large strategic errors. Just as the Qaeda leader, in Mr. Bergen’s view, misjudged the consequences of the 9/11 attacks — which resulted in his terrorist organization’s losing a secure base in Afghanistan — so, he argues, did Mr. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq have the perverse consequence of breathing “new life into bin Laden’s holy war.”
Echoing other experts like the former C.I.A. analyst Michael Scheuer, Mr. Bergen argues that the Iraq war represented “the very type of imperial adventure that bin Laden had long predicted was the United States’ long-term goal in the region.” Moreover, he notes, it “deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden had long despised,” ignited “Sunni and Shia fundamentalist fervor in Iraq” and provoked “a ‘defensive’ jihad that galvanized jihadi-minded Muslims around the world.”
For that matter, Mr. Bergen goes on, none of the war goals articulated by the Bush administration were achieved: “An alliance between Saddam and Al Qaeda wasn’t interrupted because there wasn’t one, according to any number of studies including one by the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Pentagon’s own internal think tank. There was no democratic domino effect around the Middle East; quite the opposite: the authoritarian regimes became more firmly entrenched.” And the war did not pay for itself as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz had predicted, but instead turned Iraq into “a giant money sink for the American economy.”
the-longest-war-1Not only did the war in Iraq divert crucial resources from Afghanistan, but a series of errors made by the Bush administration, Mr. Bergen says, also created a “perfect storm” that gave birth to the bloody Iraqi insurgency and led to the very thing the White House said it wanted to prevent, “a safe haven for Al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world.”
Those errors, Mr. Bergen observes, included the decision to subject Iraq to a “full-blown American occupation” under the inept Coalition Provisional Authority; failing to provide sufficient troops to secure the country and establish order (which, in turn, led to huge weapons caches’ going unprotected); mandating the removal of some 30,000 Baath party officials from their former positions (which deprived the country of experienced administrators); and dissolving the Iraqi military, thereby taking jobs from hundreds of thousands of young men in an economy already reeling from unemployment.
Although the Sunni Awakening (in which Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar Province began cooperating with American forces in the battle against insurgents) and the surge in United States forces eventually helped put Al Qaeda in Iraq on the defensive, Mr. Bergen warns that the terrorists could still regain a role in that country.
So what is Al Qaeda’s future around the world? On one hand, Mr. Bergen writes that “many thousands of underemployed, disaffected men in the Muslim world will continue to embrace bin Laden’s doctrine of violent anti-Westernism” — he cites a 2008 survey showing that people in countries as diverse as Morocco, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey expressed more “confidence” in the Qaeda leader than in President Bush by significant margins. On the other, he says that half a decade after 9/11 there emerged powerful new critics of Al Qaeda who had jihadist credentials themselves: Abdullah Anas, who had been a friend of Mr. bin Laden during the anti-Soviet jihad, denounced the 2005 suicide bombings in London as “criminal acts,” and Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, a leading Saudi religious scholar, personally rebuked Mr. bin Laden for killing innocent children, the elderly and women “in the name of Al Qaeda.”
In the end, Mr. Bergen says, Al Qaeda has four “crippling strategic weaknesses” that will affect its long-term future: 1) its killing of many Muslims civilians — acts forbidden by the Koran; 2) its failure to offer any positive vision of the future (“Afghanistan under the Taliban is not an attractive model of the future for most Muslims”); 3) the inability of jihadist militants to turn themselves “into genuine mass political movements because their ideology prevents them from making the kind of real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in normal politics”; and 4) an ever growing list of enemies, including any Muslims who don’t “exactly share their ultra-fundamentalist worldview.”
“By the end of the second Bush term,” Mr. Bergen writes near the end of this valuable book, “it was clear that Al Qaeda and allied groups were losing the ‘war of ideas’ in the Islamic world, not because America was winning that war — quite the contrary: most Muslims had a quite negative attitude toward the United States — but because Muslims themselves had largely turned against the ideology of bin Ladenism”.”

Free Press
January 2011
Illustrated.
496 pages
ISBN-10: 0743278933
ISBN-13: 978074327893

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Conversations with Myself

Foreword by President Barack Obama

Nelson Mandela
Macmillan

nelson-mandelaNelson Mandela is widely considered to be one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. Now, after a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he has bestowed his entire extant personal papers, which offer an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life.
A singular international publishing event, Conversations with Myself draws on Mandela’s personal archive of never-before-seen materials to offer unique access to the private world of an incomparable world leader. Journals kept on the run during the anti-apartheid struggle of the early 1960s; diaries and draft letters written in Robben Island and other South African prisons during his twenty-seven years of incarceration; notebooks from the postapartheid transition; private recorded conversations; speeches and correspondence written during his presidency—a historic collection of documents archived at the Nelson Mandela Foundation is brought together into a sweeping narrative of great immediacy and stunning power. An intimate journey from Mandela’s first stirrings of political consciousness to his galvanizing role on the world stage, Conversations with Myself illuminates a heroic life forged on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and justice.
While other books have recounted Mandela’s life from the vantage of the present, Conversations with Myself allows, for the first time, unhindered insight into the human side of the icon.

Nelson Mandela: Conversations with Myself
Graham Boynton wonders whether we will ever know the truth about Nelson Mandela
By Graham Boynton
It would be easy to dismiss this book on the world’s greatest living statesman as exploitation. Nelson Mandela is nearing the end of his life and one gets the feeling that any book published within some proximity of his drawing his last breath will sell by the lorry load.

So, I have to confess that my first thought was: “Here we go again.” We have, after all, had any number of authorised, semi-authorised and completely unauthorised biographies of the man in recent years – on top of his own Long Walk to Freedom and Mandela: the Authorised Portrait, a coffee-table book that serves as a good photojournalistic record. There are also Mandela cartoon books, Mandela children’s books and the sayings of Mandela.
Despite my misgivings, and the unnecessary foreword by Barack Obama, I found myself drawn into this well-organised and annotated compilation of personal files, correspondence, prison notes, interview transcripts and extracts from the unpublished sequel to his 1994 autobiography.
Whereas all the previous works on the subject seemed controlled, contained and distant – and that applies equally to Long Walk to Freedom, which was written with Time magazine editor Richard Stengel, and thus has rather strange traces of Harvard-speak throughout – this collection reveals the man for what he is: extraordinarily self-disciplined and with a capacity to forgive his persecutors. In other words, the very qualities that enabled him to lead his country out of the apartheid era.
Most compelling about this collection is that it jumps from the mundane (blood pressure readings taken at 7am and again at 2.30pm; trouser size noted as 34R; his disappointment at the ending of the film Amadeus), through to the historic (his arrest by a plain clothes policeman who he describes as being “very, very, very correct and courteous”) with barely a breath taken. As Mandela himself puts it: “In real life we deal, not with gods, but with ordinary people: men and women who are full of contradictions.”
What comes across is that Mandela is an African leader from another age, at once regal, conservative and chivalrous and at the same time emotionally reticent, seemingly unable to express spontaneous warmth about those closest to him. When his friend Ahmed Kathrada raises the subject of how the young Winnie reacted to his marriage proposal, he says: “I am simply not answering that question.”
I have one caveat. Despite the volume of Mandela material now in the public domain, I have a feeling he will go to his grave carrying secrets. For example, how much did he know about his wife Winnie’s reign of terror in Soweto in the late Eighties that brought great shame to the name Mandela? I have it on good authority that he was apprised of the details throughout those terrible days, and yet there is barely a passing mention here or in any of the other authorised books.
Such omissions mean we shall probably never know the whole truth about Nelson Mandela.

01/11/2010
6 x 9 inches
480 pages
ISBN  : 978-0-230-74901-6
EAN : 9780230749016

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Freedom™

Daniel Suarez
Dutton Adult

freedomFreedom is a solid sequel to Deamon and together they form a compelling thriller. For those that like big ideas and technological innovations you are in for a treat. No longer are big ideas and fully realized stories mutually exclusive. This is Michael Crichton meets Michael Chabon meets Joseph Campbell - ideas meets characters meets mythology. You do have to read Daemon first, but together they are a fun, intellectually stimulating joy ride through the near future.

The question on the future of our technologically-complicated world - does it have one? - seems to be DS obsession and maybe it should be everyone’s because dark times may lie ahead. Uncovering the answer or thinking of some viable solution seems to be Suarez’ life’s passion and he has the technical skills, the literary talent and the imagination to engage the reader.

Suarez’ premise is that we can’t keep going this way. We just can’t. Most resources are limited and they are being wasted away and so are our lives, increasingly lacking meaning and purpose. We live in an overpopulated and shrinking world controlled or manipulated by bloated, soulless corporations where increasingly totalitarian and violence-prone states and governments serving their corporate masters or serving the political class unquenchable thirst for ever more power.

Suarez attempts to answer 2 big questions: ‘do we have a future’ or can we even survive in this world that we built? And, ‘can we live free’ and what are the limits to our individual freedom and, given humans’ general inability to resist the temptation of grabbing and exercising power over their fellow humans, who is going to enforce those limits and how?

PRESS REVIEW
From Publishers Weekly:

“Starred Review. Bestseller Suarez’s sequel to Daemon (2009), in which the late, mad-genius game designer Matthew Sobol launched a cyber war on humanity, surpasses its smart, exciting predecessor. This concluding volume crackles with electrifying action scenes and bristles with intriguing ideas about a frightening, near-future world. Sobol’s bots continue to roam the Internet, inciting mayhem and siphoning money from worldwide, interconnected megacorporations out to seize control of national governments and enslave the populace. FBI special agent Roy Merritt is dead, but still manages to make a dramatic comeback, while detective Pete Sebeck, thought to be executed in Daemon, rises from the supposed grave to lead the fight against the corporations. What the trademark letters affixed to the title signify is anyone’s guess. Those who haven’t read Daemon should read it first. The two books combined form the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured.”

PRESS REVIEW
From Booklist:

“Picking up a few months after the end of Daemon (2009), Suarez continues his popular technothriller and SF saga. The computer program Daemon has taken over the Internet, and millions have joined its virtual world. Now the effect is spilling into the real world as Daemon assumes control of financial institutions, and the program’s real-life converts flock to small towns to re-create a sustainable lifestyle amid the agribusiness monoculture of the Midwest. Despite a slow start, Freedom picks up speed by the second half with Daemon’s supporters and detractors facing off for the control of civilization. Only readers who have also read Daemon will be fully able to enjoy and understand Freedom, as most of the characters and plot elements are drawn directly from the previous story, and only so much backstory is possible, given the elaborate premise. On the other hand, Daemon fans will be well be pleased with the exciting conclusion, as will anyone who enjoys lots of gaming elements and virtual worlds in their science fiction. –Jessica Moyer”

PRESS REVIEW
By K. Sampanthar “Inventor of ThinkCube” (Boston, MA)
(VINE VOICE):

“Freedom is Daniel Suarez’s follow up to his 2008/2009 surprise best seller, Daemon. Last year I was blown away by Daemon. Suarez managed to write a compelling thriller around some big ideas. I have been a huge fan of Michael Crichton for years but I always felt his characterizations were weak and the big ideas were shoe horned into a thriller plot. Suarez stays true to the big idea and manages to weave a realistic plot with fully fleshed out characters and situations. This isn’t some made-for-movie screenplay, this is a fully realized thriller with deep ideas and a compelling story. I was sucked in from the first page and devoured the first book and left gasping at the end for the follow up. Freedom, just released, doesn’t disappoint (except maybe I was hoping for a trilogy). Freedom is a different kind of book to Daemon, the plot continuation is smooth, but the atmosphere of Freedom is very different. While Daemon was a techno thriller, Freedom morphs into a hero’s quest/mythological story. The technological ideas are still there and actually they are fully realized in Freedom. Suarez manages to flesh out the technological vision he alluded to Daemon. The convergence of life and augmented reality are smoothly juxtaposed to provide a glimpse of a near future. Suarez is a technologist and it shows. His use of current technology to create his vision is accurate and realistic. He explores the implications of social network theory, augmented reality, game design and ad-hoc network topologies to form a backdrop for a dystopian future. Even his underlying message of governments gone amuck are well researched and realistic; if a little paranoid.
These are tough questions and, if ‘Daemon’ deals mostly with the first question, not necessarily hinting at an answer, in Freedom(tm) there’s Suarez’ answer to both. DS suggests a solution to the survivability dilemma and he wraps it around an engaging, well written, technologically plausible action/techno-thriller Utopian-dystopia. Besides the how-to’s on avoiding the fate of the long gone Maya or Anasazi civilizations, many pages in Freedom(tm) are dedicated to chronicling the emergence of a radically new, technologically advanced but sustainable civilization while the old order crumbles and dies and not without a vicious fight. When it comes to personal freedom… it’s complicated but the author is unafraid to present us his own, intensely geeky but quite original solution.
In the good tradition of H.G. Wells and Orwell, Freedom(tm) chronicles the birth of a brave new world and the struggles and tribulations of a few humans who either play a role in facilitating it or are followed in the story so that we may witness their gradual transformation and evolution. Unlike ‘Daemon’ which was almost exclusively about about struggle, revenge and mayhem, ‘Freedom(tm)’, while keeping the carnage going, introduces us to ‘new growth’. Suarez did an incredible amount of research - how many fiction books come with a bibliography? - and found in himself the talent and the dedication to put together a new world. Yes, it’s Utopian and yes, it’s improbable. DS’ mix of open hostility toward the way we do things today is combined with a love/hate/hope/fear at what might become of us if we just keep going or stampeding the way we are now. Daemon and Freedom fascinating and stimulating reads. Can’t we too dream while reading this beautifully constructed and almost plausible story? Yes, we can and Suarez’ work is a great dream facilitator.
Had he tried philosophy, sociology or religion (as a prophet?), Suarez would have been quickly marginalized. His assessment of today’s world with its senseless but seemingly unstoppable march toward an almost certain catastrophic discontinuity would be ignored or summarily rejected. Today’s opinion makers avoid discussing or even thinking (the unthinkable?) of a future were very little seems to get ‘better’ and where an individual’s quality of life and personal freedom have ceased to improve or expand for a generation already and there’s very little hope left. Suarez did the right thing writing a book - two books. Works such as Suarez’ novels, movies such as Avatar, the very few real life heroes that refuse to compromise their freedom and integrity and do not trade away their individuality in exchange for some false recognition - thinking of people such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (I’m reading him now) or Stephen Hawking or even a politician such as Ron Paul - they inspire and challenge us to transcend our limitations and our inherent smallness and to dare ask questions and sometimes even to suggest answers. Daemon/Freedom are the literary expression of someone who dares suggest an answer. To the extent that these books are read and they make us think and more aware of the world we live in, Suarez’ effort was worthwhile.
My hope is that Daemon/Freedom will be read by many and, because they were read some of the readers’ lives will change, even in small ways. And, as some might have guessed, the hero I was thinking of - see my review’s title - is not a character in the book. I was thinking about the author. He is one of my heroes now.
And, since I mentioned Orwell and Wells a few paragraphs above, I am now wondering if Suarez is going to follow the path of Wells - a prolific and uncompromising writer not much read these days - or, like Orwell, say it all in a few books but not yet forgotten. ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ was Orwell’s last book and his peak accomplishment. Is Suarez already working on his next amazing tale of cybergods and freedom-loving humans battling today’s destructive and venal corporations and self-serving ‘authorities’? One can only hope but no matter what Daniel Suarez does for the rest of his life, he’s earned his place as one of my pen-carrying heroes, along with the likes of Solzhenitsyn, Orwell, Dostoevsky, Borges, (yes) Spengler, a few others”.

PRESS REVIEW
From John’s Blog:

“Since I read this two book series back-to-back (in about a week and a half — have been home sick), I figure it’s okay to post about both of them together. I first read about Daemon on Joi’s blog, and it sounded interesting enough to give a try.
Anyway, I liked them both a lot — probably Daemon a little more than Freedom (TM). They’re sort of a mix between Fight Club and World of Warcraft, with maybe some Blade Runner thrown in — lots of great ideas, lots of real implications of the technologies we all use constantly.
I will say that Daemon is the first novel I’ve ever read that included the syntax for a SQL injection attack on a web site — but maybe that’s just me.
There’s a lot of technical jargon for fiction, and lots of solid ideas about how technology works and what the future could hold — and clearly researched extremely well.
Anyway, they’re a fun couple of books — if you’re wondering what World of Warcraft grafted onto our own everyday world might look like, these are a great place to start. (That particular part gets a lot more pronounced in the second book.)”

PRESS REVIEW
From Bav club rating :

“Freedom™ is the greatest ever liberal utopian fantasy featuring autonomous killer motorcycles. Daniel Suarez’s sequel to his popular Daemon, the story of a deeply buried computer program that slowly takes over the world, Freedom™expands on some of the original book’s ideas of how using computer networks as a model for rebuilding society could work, and its vision of a program that turns the world into one big MMORPG is endlessly creative. But the book is also highly problematic, with Suarez biting off more than he can chew throughout.
Suarez has gotten lots of praise for how much he knows about technology. If you can get past the fact that the story’s central notion is patently impossible, Suarez gets everything else right, from near-future inventions to the nuts and bolts of hacking. And while there’s less of this stuff in Freedom™than there was in Daemon, Suarez also knows his way around the progressive political bookshelf, dropping in ideas and concepts pointing to everything from The Populist Moment to The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Again, once you get past some implausibility issues, Suarez knows his stuff, and he has a true believer’s passion for regional sustainability.
Unfortunately, “regional sustainability” isn’t as exciting a premise to build a novel around as “computer program takes over the world.” With most of the horrifying build-up to the revolution in his first novel, Suarez spends a surprising amount of time in the sequel having his characters talk about the virtues of direct democracy or non-factory farming or what have you. Since Suarez isn’t the world’s deftest writer, this consists of lots of scenes of characters standing around, declaiming large swathes of information at each other.
But there’s something so giddy about the way Suarez introduces his concepts or rips through an action setpiece involving a giant battle between privately operated paramilitaries and unmanned vehicles (occasionally equipped with swords) that it’s hard to stop compulsively turning pages, guilty-pleasure fashion. And just when it seems as though the novel is strictly an anti-corporate screed, Suarez adds in new wrinkles that suggest people with too much power can rise anywhere and hurt anyone. Freedom™is undeniably a lot of fun, but it’s too bad Suarez doesn’t write people as well as he writes machines.”

Pages: 416 p.
ISBN-10: 0525951571
ISBN-13: 978-0525951575

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ISRAEL AND ITS ARMY. FROM COHESION TO CONFUSION

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Stuart A. Cohen

Routledge


The Israel Defense Force (IDF) plays a key role in Israeli society, and has traditionally been perceived not only as the guardian of national survival, but also as a ‘people’s army’ responsible for the custody of national values.


This volume analyses the circumstances currently undermining these perceptions, and explores both the changes occurring in Israel’s military framework, and their potential implications.

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CANTONA - THE REBEL WHO WOULD BE KING

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Philippe Auclair

Macmillan; Édition

Lovereading view…

One of the worlds most famous and enigmatic footballers retired from football at the age of thirty when many thought he was at the peak of his game. Eric Cantona has never returned to football but instead become a successful actor working most recently with Ken Loach on the film ‘Looking for Eric’.

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ALONG THE ENCHANTED WAY. GREAT BOOKS ABOUT ROMANIA IN ENGLISH NO. 4


along-the-enchanted-way

William Blacker

Publisher: John Murray


Apparently, in 1997, planes bound for Romania departed from the great media and financial centres of the western world carrying a sinister cargo: slick advertising executives hell bent on selling Romania’s dirt poor yet blissfully happy peasants all sorts of evil goods (such as - God forbid - shampoo) that they ‘neither needed nor wanted.’

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BURMA/MYANMAR. WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW

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David I. Steinberg

Bookshot


Description: In the past two decades, Burma/Myanmar has become a front-page topic in newspapers across the world. This former British colony has one of the most secretive and repressive regimes on the planet, yet it houses a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is and in and out of house arrest. It has an ancient civilization that is mostly unknown to Westerners, yet it was an important–and legendary–theater in World War II.

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MÉDITATIONS EN VERT

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Stephen Wright

Traduit de l’américain par François Happe

Éditions Gallmeister

 

“magistral” - TÉLÉRAMA

Véritable “trip” hallucinogène, Méditations en vert suit les membres d’une unité de renseignement militaire durant la guerre du Vietnam : Claypool, à qui l’on avait promis un emploi de bureau et qui se retrouve au milieu des combats ; Payne, obsédé par le film qu’il est en train de tourner sur la guerre ; Kraft, un agent de la CIA qui finira par se fondre dans la jungle … Dans cette compagnie qui vit en autarcie en attendant avec inquiétude une possible attaque, la drogue est omniprésente, les ordres capricieux, le cynisme rampant.

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LE CAMP DES MORTS

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Craig Johnson

Traduit de l’américain par Sophie Aslanides

Éditions Gallmeister

 

 

“une puissance narrative digne des hautes plaines de l’ouest américain” - TÉLÉRAMA

Lorsque Mari Baroja est empoisonnée à la maison de retraite de Durant, Wyoming, le shérif Walt Longmire se trouve embarqué dans une enquête qui le ramène cinquante ans en arrière. Il se plonge alors dans le passé mystérieux de cette femme et dans celui de son mentor, le shérif Lucian Connally à la poigne légendaire.

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REPEAT IT TODAY WITH TEARS

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by Anne Peile

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

 

This is a transgressive love story by a singular new voice. A secretive child by nature, Susanna makes a covert list of everything she knows about her absent father, waiting for the day that she is reunited with him. Deeply unhappy at home, living with her overbearing mother and promiscuous sister, she stays out of the house as much as possible. When she finally discovers …more This is a transgressive love story by a singular new voice.

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CHOWRINGHEE

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By Sankar / trans. Arunava Sinha

Publisher: Atlantic Books, Limited

 

Welcome to the Shahjahan, one of Calcutta’s oldest and most venerable hotels. In “Chowringhee”, the Shahjahan’s new receptionist regales his audience with stories of the people who spend their days and nights within the Shahjahan’s grand facade. Like Bengal itself, this is a place where greed, seduction and death live alongside love, luxury and pride.

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A DEATH IN CALABRIA

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by Michele Giuttari

Publisher Little, Brown

 

‘More murder most Italian,’ says Rebecca. ‘The latest title to feature Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara sees the cat-like investigator caught up in a massacre in New York.’

In an apartment on the nineteenth floor of a Madison Avenue skyscraper, six people have been slaughtered. Among the victims is the owner of the apartment: Rocco Fedeli, a Calabrian from San Pietro d’Aspromonte, a man with no criminal record, an ordinary citizen, one of the many immigrants who has made his fortune in America. But the investigation begins to suggest that the murders ? or rather the executions ? are linked to the drugs and the Calabrian Mafia ? the ‘Ndrangheta.

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L’IMPOSTEUR

imposteur

Damon Galgut

Ed. de l’Olivier

“Quelque chose, dans un secret, demande à être dit.”

 

Damon Galgut est un écrivain d’atmopshère (déjà dans “Un docteur irréprochable”). Il met ici en scène un homme entre deux âges, Adam, qui vient de perdre son travail. Recueilli par son jeune frère, Gavin, dont il réprouve la façon de vivre, il ne sait pas quelle direction donner à sa vie. Sur un coup de tête, il s’installe dans une vieille maison du bush sud-africain que Gavin a achetée, pour y écrire mollement des poèmes. Assez vite, il y souffre de solitude et l’aboulie règne. Il a bien un voisin un peu étrange mais il a du mal à sympathiser avec lui.

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DECOUVERTE : H2G2 . L’INTEGRALE DE LA TRILOGIE EN CINQ VOLUMES

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Douglas Adams, Jean Bonnefoy (Traducteur) , Michel Pagel (Traducteur)

 

Avant d’être la série de SF humoristique la plus vendue au monde, H2G2 était un feuilleton radiophonique, douze épisodes de trente minutes, diffusé à la BBC en 1978 et 1980.

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HANS MAGNUS ENZENSBERGER : HAMMERSTEIN ODER DER EIGENSINN - EINE DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE

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Ein großes Werk über die verhängnisvollste Periode der deutschen Geschichte und über die herausragende Gestalt eines Mannes, dessen Biographie bislang nicht geschrieben wurde. Hans Magnus Enzensberger hat die Geschichte des Generals Kurt von Hammerstein aus allen erreichbaren Quellen recherchiert und entfaltet sie in einem Genre, das er beherrscht wie kein zweiter: in der literarischen Biographie.

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HANS MAGNUS ENZENSBERGER : HAMMERSTEIN OU L’INTRANSIGEANCE. UNE HISTOIRE ALLEMANDE

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Pour nos lecteurs francophones, la traduction française du livre de Hans Magnus Enzensbergers vient de paraître chez GALLIMARD

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STRATFOR RED ALERT : TALIBAN ASSAULT ON KABUL

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Stratfor Today » / January 18, 2010

 

A major Taliban attack began on Kabul Jan. 18. The fighting is being reported by both American and Taliban sources. According to one American source, reports of an imminent attack began circulating Jan. 17. Heavy fighting is being reported at multiple locations, apparently focused around the Serena Hotel. The hotel, which is frequented by foreign journalists and government officials, has been attacked in the past. According to the Taliban, 20 suicide bombers are taking part in the attack. They claim the Presidential Palace, Ministries of Justice, Finance, Mines and Industry are among the targets. There reports of casualties, but numbers and locations are unclear.

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LES FRANÇAIS QUI ONT FAIT LA FRANCE

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Philippe Boitel

 

Le point de vue de l’éditeur : ” L’histoire de France, c’est d’abord une histoire de Françaises et de Français qui ont laissé une trace plus ou moins profonde et repérable. J’ai choisi 5000 de nos compatriotes qui, à un moment ou un autre de notre longue saga, se sont distingués. Les uns font partie à jamais de notre panthéon national. Les autres, les plus nombreux, ont sombré dans l’oubli malgré leurs mérites qui purent être grands. Seuls des ouvrages spécialisés, des dictionnaires (et encore…) ou des noms de rues tes protègent d’un enfouissement éternel! Le but de cet ouvrage (qui ne peut être exhaustif) est de présenter ces marqueurs d’histoire.

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DIANA ET GISCARD ? LES AMOURS ROMANESQUES DE LA PRINCESSE ET DU PRESIDENT …

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LE FIGARO ressemble dans cette affaire au chien qui court après sa queue. C’est en effet le quotidien parisien qui a lancé la polémique Diana/Giscard, ce 21/09/2009, en publiant les « bonnes feuilles » du roman de Giscard et de longs commentaires sur l’affaire :

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