W.P. Norton

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Ghosts of 1986

In W.P. Norton on February 13, 2016 at 8:02 pm

From US sales of arms to Iran to fund a secret Latin American war and the bombing of Libya to the Challenger and Chernobyl disasters, the ghosts of 1986 haunt us still.



News broke in November that a Reagan White House aide named Oliver North had cooked up the idea to sell arms to Iran and use the proceeds to fund a CIA-directed secret war against the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

“I thought it was a neat idea,” North said.



Then-Sandinista president Daniel Ortega again rules Nicaragua.











Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch launched Fox Broadcasting Co. on Oct. 8.

Fox now dominates the public conversation and leads ratings markets across the country.







Postal employee Patrick Henry Sherrill in effect invented the phrase “going postal.” Although he didn’t coin the phrase while he was alive.

He did it by shooting to death 14 co-workers and wounding six before committing suicide in Edmond, Okla., on Aug. 20.

Mass shootings are now a matter of near-daily occurrence in the US.







The Vladimir Ilyich Lenin nuclear plant in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine killed at least 4,056 people in the Chernobyl disaster of April 26.

The near-meltdown may  ultimately kill 100,000 lives or more, according to estimates.





That same month, US planes bombed the Libyan capital and Benghazi region on April 15, killing 15.

Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi has been dead for almost five years.

But the chaos in Libya and the rest of the Arab world is seen today as the cause of Europe’s worst migrant crisis since WWII.



Speaking of evil dictators … Baby Doc Duvalier fled Haiti on Feb. 7, 1986, ending 28 years of family rule, leaving behind an essentially failed state.

Today Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere—an ignominious fate for a former slave nation that was the first in world history to rise up and achieve liberation from its French colonial overlords.



The Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch, killing seven astronauts on January 28.

Since 2011, no US space shuttle has left the ground.

Indeed, the US has largely outsourced a space program that put the first man on the Moon. To whom? Our former Space Race adversaries the Russians, and to Silicon Valley billionaires.



GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ on journalism, the best job in the world

In Literature, W.P. Norton on February 13, 2016 at 12:19 am



The Nobel Laureate in a whimsical moment.

“Journalism is an unappeasable passion that can be assimilated and humanized only through stark confrontation with reality. No one who does not have this in his blood can comprehend its magnetic hold, which is fueled by the unpredictability of life. No one who has not had this experience can begin to grasp the extraordinary excitement stirred by the news, the sheer elation created by the first fruits of an endeavor, and the moral devastation wreaked by failure. No one who was not born for this and is not prepared to live for this and this only can cling to a profession that is so incomprehensible and consuming, where work ends after each news run, with seeming finality, only to start afresh with even greater intensity the very next moment, not granting a moment of peace.”


Copyright: Gabriel Garcia Marquez; courtesy: Inter-American Press Association
–excerpted from The Reading Room blog

A reckoning: Nixon, Kissinger, Chile and Nicaragua

In W.P. Norton on February 12, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Copied from Rachel Nolan’s Facebook page

In the tradition of distinguished author Salman Rushdie, who perfectly captured the mid-80s gestalt of the tragedy and comedy of a CIA-run amok in The Jaguar SmileRobert Ritzenthaler brings to vivid life the people and the times of a post-Vietnam tragedy  that reminds us all how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise.

Think about it: Korea. Vietnam. Chile. Argentina. El Salvador. Guatemala. Death squads … trading weapons with Iran for hostages … all these things make you want to dump it in the memory hole and forget the horror.

But some 50,000 Nicaraguan men, women and children were estimated killed by counter-revolutionary fighters during the US-backed Contra war against the Sandinista government. And no-one with a pulse, let alone a heart, can disagree: it’s time for a reckoning.

Ritzenthaler gives us that and more in “The Jungles of Tiritipa,” a re-imagined journey of two young men looking for truth in a Latin America country torn by conflict during the death-spasms of the Cold War.

If only we could print the conversations Reagan had with his minions about the brutal and lawless US intervention in Nicaragua that was Reagan’s own backyard Vietnam.

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