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CUBA IN SPLINTERS is reviewed at Hyperallergic

July 21, 2014
[Cuba in Splinters] expresses a very different kind of longing, not so much for a romanticized, real or imagined past, but for the soul-stirring future the revolutionary government and self-styled utopian state promised but notoriously failed to deliver.

Read the full review at Hyperallergic.

Biblioklept speaks to Kevin Thomas about HORN!

July 18, 2014
Kevin Thomas’s new book Horn! (from OR Books) collects the book reviews he’s been doing for the past few years at the Rumpus. Kevin reviews new books (and occasionally reissues) in comic strip form. Over a series of emails, Kevin talked with me about his process, how he got started, the books that have stuck with him the most over the years, and his theory that The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a secret remake of Three Amigos! Find Kevin on Goodreads,Twitter, and Tumblr.

Read the full interview on Biblioklept.

PATRICK COCKBURN speaks to Democracy Now! about the situation in Iraq

July 16, 2014

Iraq remains on the verge of splintering into three separate states as Sunni militants expand their stronghold in the north and west of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself a caliphate last month and now controls large parts of northern and western Iraq and much of eastern Syria. Recent advances by ISIS, including in the city of Tikrit, come amidst leaks revealing extensive Pentagon concerns over its effort to advise the Iraqi military. Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, are scrambling to form a power-sharing government in an effort to save Iraq from splintering into separate Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish states. We are joined by two guests: Reporting live from Baghdad is Hannah Allam, foreign affairs correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers; and joining us from London is Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent and author of the forthcoming book, "The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising."

Watch the full interview at Democracy Now!.

FREELOADING author CHRIS RUEN writes for the New Statesman

July 16, 2014

I was troubled by the knowledge that millions of music fans were freeloading music from these artists without a second thought, and more so that I was one of them, hypocritically claiming to “love” music all the while. Once I realised that the great majority of artists and musicians actually needed their legal rights enforced under copyright just to have the chance to break even, the usual excuses for digital piracy started to look like sophomoric drivel.

It’s true that some of the classic excuses for piracy had their brief moments of seeming credibility. In 2000, when the debate over digital piracy sprung to life, we didn’t have content providers like Spotify or Netflix, much less iTunes. The fact that there were so few legal options for consuming digital content was one of the main rationalisations for taking a soft stance toward piracy. The legitimate digital market was either too inconvenient or nonexistent, and piracy filled in these gaps in the developing web.

Read the full article on the New Statesman.

The Prague Post reports on TOM KEENAN's TECHNOCREEP

July 15, 2014

In his new book Technocreep, Keenan goes into great detail covering the many varieties of creepiness related to our growing and unsettling intimacy with technology. He says his “book is about the unseen ways in which technology is already changing our lives.” He provides countless startling examples from areas ranging from sensor creep to biological creep to intelligence creep to bolster his thesis that humans are quickly reaching a point –the so-called Singularity – wherein humans and machines will no longer function side-by-side but merge finally, with unknown consequences for our species.

His basic premise here is, to simplify, that computing power has grown so exponentially that no one human can any longer understand its processes and that in the near-future the only way to keep up with machines is by partially merging with them – i.e., voluntarily cyborging ourselves.

Read the full article on the Prague Post.

Socialist Worker publishes a review of THE PRICE OF EXPERIENCE by Mike Marqusee

July 15, 2014

THERE IS life after a cancer diagnosis. It's not all pleasant, but as Mike Marqusee shows us in The Price of Experience: Writings on Living with Cancer, it is not necessary, or even healthy, to accept the enforced isolation of most treatment regimens.

Marqusee, who has already exceeded the prognosis for his multiple myeloma by several years, widens our understanding of what such a diagnosis means for the patient caught up in the complex world of the cancer industry. This is not a confessional cancer story, but a provocative examination of what having cancer in the 21st century can tell us about social relationships, and what an encounter with mortality might achieve.

Read the full review at Socialist Worker.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN and MOUIN RABBANI appear on Democracy Now! to discuss their book HOW TO SOLVE THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT, forthcoming from OR Books this fall

July 15, 2014

It is widely thought that the flare-up in Israel and the Occupied Territories began with the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank just more than a month ago. But our guests — author Norman Finkelstein and Palestinian political analyst Mouin Rabbani — argue that such a narrative ignores the broader context of decades of occupation, and recent events highlighting the expansionist goals of the Israeli government in the Palestinian land under its control. "Whenever the Palestinians seem like they are trying to reach a settlement of the conflict — which the [Fatah-Hamas] unity government was — at that point Israel does everything it can to provoke a violent reaction, in this case from Hamas, break up the unity government, and then Israel has its pretext," Finkelstein says. Rabbani and Finkelstein are co-authors of the forthcoming book, "How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict."

Watch the full interview at Democracy Now!

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN appears on Russia Today's CrossTalk to discuss the assault on the Gaza Strip

July 11, 2014

As Israel appears to be preparing for yet another assault on the Gaza Strip, what does it want to achieve? Is the goal to completely destroy Hamas? And should we expect Washington to stand by and watch the killing of civilians?

CrossTalking with Dan Arbell, Norman Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani.

Watch the full segment at Russia Today.

RAJA SHEHADEH writes an article for the New Yorker

July 10, 2014

On July 2nd, a sixteen-year-old boy named Mohamed Abu Khdeir was sitting outside a mosque near his home in East Jerusalem when he was pulled into a car and kidnapped by Israeli Jews. His body was found in the Jerusalem Forest; he had been battered in the head and then, according to autopsy reports, burned alive. (There was soot in his lungs, and burns on ninety per cent of his body.) Six Israeli Jews, some of whom are minors, were arrested; three have confessed to the crime, according to Israeli reports.

Abu Khdeir’s murder came in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach—who were murdered and buried by their Palestinian abductors in shallow graves. After their abduction, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that Israel’s working assumption was that they were alive, even though the evidence, including a desperate cell-phone call from one of the boys, suggested otherwise. The search for the boys took the form of a brutal, sweeping search and arrest operation conducted by the Israeli Army throughout the West Bank, and helped to aggravate the climate of hatred and revenge. Two months after the nine-month U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations folded, Israel is now mobilizing its forces for a possible ground attack on the Gaza Strip, and Hamas is firing rockets. War, not peace, is the agenda of the day.

To read the full piece, visit the New Yorker.

PATRICK COCKBURN pens diary on the "Battle for Baghdad" in the London Review of Books

July 9, 2014

In early June, Abbas Saddam, a private soldier from a Shia district in Baghdad serving in the 11th Division of the Iraqi army, was transferred from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq, to Mosul in the north. The fighting started not long after he got there. But on the morning of 10 June the commanding officer told his men to stop shooting, hand over their rifles to the insurgents, take off their uniforms and get out of the city. Before they could obey, their barracks were invaded by a crowd of civilians. ‘They threw stones at us,’ Abbas recalled, ‘and shouted: “We don’t want you in our city! You are Maliki’s sons! You are the sons of mutta!​* You are Safavids! You are the army of Iran!”’

The crowd’s attack on the soldiers shows that the fall of Mosul was the result of a popular uprising as well as a military assault by Isis. The Iraqi army was detested as a foreign occupying force of Shia soldiers, regarded in Mosul – an overwhelmingly Sunni city – as creatures of an Iranian puppet regime led by Nouri al-Maliki. Abbas says there were Isis fighters – always called Daash in Iraq after the Arabic acronym of their name – mixed in with the crowd. They said to the soldiers: ‘You guys are OK: just put up your rifles and go. If you don’t, we’ll kill you.’ Abbas saw women and children with military weapons; local people offered the soldiers dishdashes to replace their uniforms so that they could flee. He made his way back to his family in Baghdad, but he hasn’t told the army he’s here because he’s afraid of being put on trial for desertion, as happened to a friend. He feels this is deeply unjust: after all, he says, it was his officers who ordered him to give up his weapon and uniform. He asks why Generals Ali Ghaidan Majid, commander of ground forces, and Abboud Qanbar, deputy chief of staff, who fled Mosul for Kurdistan in civilian clothes at the same time, haven’t been ‘judged and executed as traitors’.

Read the full diary at the London Review of Books.

At Buzzfeed, Kevin Thomas shares nine favorites from HORN! THE COLLECTED REVIEWS

July 7, 2014

Artist Kevin Thomas likes to review books in comic strip form. The following nine reviews are excerpted from Thomas’s new book, HORN! THE COLLECTED REVIEWS.

See the full listicle at Buzzfeed.

West End Extra reviews Mike Marqusee's THE PRICE OF EXPERIENCE

July 7, 2014

IN a remarkable book, political activist and writer Mike Marqusee, who is suffering from cancer, makes an unusual appeal from “one grateful patient” to the hard-working NHS staff who are providing his excellent care.

“The government takes advantage of your sense of commitment to your patients,” he writes in The Price of Experience. “But by letting them do so you are doing no favours for those patients.”

Read the full review at West End Extra.


July 2, 2014

Watch the full reading on Youtube.

CUBA IN SPLINTERS is featured on PBS's Summer 2014 Reading List

July 1, 2014

Americans are understandably eager to explore Cuba, a country long off-limits to them. The music, the architecture, the sea, and the liveliness of the Cuban people charm almost all who visit. But for many Cubans, daily life is dirty and difficult. These short stories, by Cuban writers who work on the thin edge of official disapproval, recall the authenticity of Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller and vividly portray the grittiness of the Cuban experience.

- Tom Gjelten, NPR

See the full list at PBS.

Counterfire reviews CREDITOCRACY by Andrew Ross

July 1, 2014

The government may try to put a positive spin on the economy and claim that economic growth is increasing but James Meadway has shown this is a flawed assessment. In any case, growth since 2008 has continued to be debt-driven, producing a false prosperity and a financial bubble which will only get worse.While bankers continue to pay themselves million-pound bonuses, working people are still working harder for less and falling back on credit to make ends meet.

This debt fuelled economy, or ‘Creditocracy’ is the subject of Andrew Ross’s book. Ross is an academic and activist in the USA who has been involved in debt resistance initiatives arising out of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Ross’s view the USA is currently a ‘full blown creditocracy’ (p.11), which is his definition of liberal democracy coupled with a heavily financialised economy, where the costs of social goods such as education, health and social care are debt financed.As more responsibility for welfare is privatized and falls to individuals, private debt financing becomes more significant.He also points out that debt, and the austerity measures associated with it, is not only part of the re-structuring of neoliberal capitalism but also exists as form of social control where people are afraid to risk their jobs or are ashamed to ask for help in repaying debt.

Read the full review at Counterfire.

openDemocracy posts an extract from Mike Marqusee's THE PRICE OF EXPERIENCE

June 26, 2014

In recent months, I’ve been taking a medication called Revlimid, given as a “late therapy” for multiple myeloma. Since it looks like I may be Revlimid-dependent for a while, I decided to educate myself about the drug. As the chemistry is beyond me, I focused my attention elsewhere.

The first thing I discovered was that Revlimid is phenomenally expensive.

A single twenty-one-day cycle of treatment at the lowest dose of 5 mg daily costs the NHS £3,570. As the dose rises, so does the price: for a single twenty-one-day cycle at the high dose of 25 mg, it’s £4,318. The increment is small because the costs of actually manufacturing the drug are minimal. But whatever it is that we’re paying for, we’re paying for it through the nose: between £42,000 and £51,000 per patient for a year’s treatment. This is a treatment we need, and to which we have a right. That does not, however, mean that its cost should be taken for granted.

Read the full extract at openDemocracy.

Micah L. Sifry's THE BIG DISCONNECT is reviewed on AlterNet

June 24, 2014

I’ve just paid for my ticket on New Jersey Transit using the app MyTix, saving me from the tense rush at the ticket machines outside the station. I join the throng of people waiting on the platform and--by sheer luck--the train stops in front of me. I manage to find a seat, grateful to be so fortunate, because little else has changed. Commuters still fight for parking spaces and seats just as we did when I first started working in the city seven years ago, and we’re still wondering if things could be a little bit better. Couldn’t there be more trains? Couldn’t the train open its doors in the same spot every time? How about a queuing system like they have in Taipei to make things more orderly, and more fair? Don’t get me wrong, I love the app, but it didn’t change the basic misery of riding a train during rush hour on an overcrowded commuter line.

Has the internet made our lives better? Your inclination might be to say yes—you may have recently reconnected with a long lost friend on Facebook, paid a bill online, or, like me, avoided some inconvenience through a new app. But what about the fundamental structures that affect your well being, such as improving your work-life balance, bettering your child’s school, or choosing a more effective elected representative? Would you still say yes?

In Micah Sifry’s new book, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet), the answer is a resounding no.

Read the full review at AlterNet.

TECHNOCREEP is reviewed by ZDNet

June 23, 2014

Not so long ago, people gave a wide berth to anyone walking down the street talking to themselves. They looked crazy. They might lash out or do something weird or dangerous. They were…creepy. Now, no one notices. They're probably talking on their mobile phone.

What happened is that the widespread adoption of a single technology changed our perception of 'normal'. We now have a reasonable explanation of what formerly seemed to be weird — even creepy — behaviour. As computer security expert Thomas P. Keenan says in Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy, many factors come together to make up 'creepy'. One of them is uncertainty or, as he calls it 'mystery': the inability to form a mental model that accurately predicts how something mechanical behaves, coupled with a lack of control.

Read the full review at ZDNet.


June 23, 2014

In this wild and disruptive age of digital monopolies, mass surveillance, whistleblowers, and Internet Freedom Hipsters, admitting you’re not well versed in the United States v. Manning trial might as well be blasphemy. Clark Stoeckley’s graphic novel of the courtroom drama, The United States vs. Pvt. Chelsea Manning, then, is practically a godsend.

Whether or not you agree with Manning’s actions, there is no denying her historic importance. As the first whistleblower (years before Snowden) known to digital natives, Manning set off the United States government’s persecution of WikiLeaks and changed the public conversation about the wars in the Middle East, the importance of digital rights and the rights of whistleblowers, and even how to properly cover a trans woman in the press. Wading through Alexa O’Brien’s extensive database of the Manning trial or the transcripts from the Freedom of the Press stenographers, however, is a dry and boring chore that no one but the most dedicated Internet Freedom Hipster has time for.

Read the full review at Vice.


June 23, 2014

Underlying curiosity is this sense of not having the fear of the unfamiliar and the ability to cope with the unfamiliar. It’s this tension between curiosity being met by one or many of our avoidance instincts. It’s important to be aware of these hard-wired avoidance instincts and do the opposite of what they tell you. We have a hard-wired instinct to run from surprise and uncertainty. One theory of the brain’s global function is that it is always trying to reduce surprise. The instinct tells us it’s dangerous, but our environment is very different now. In our current culture we mostly do not have to worry about surprise from predators.

Read the full article at Forbes.