The Strength Of The Wolf: The Secret History Of America’s War On Drugs-Douglas Valentine

wolfCurrently, in the Midwestern United States, Opioid addiction is causing the deaths of hundreds of men and women. Their deaths and the rise of Heroin use is a direct affront to the long-standing war on drugs. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan is fondly remembered for her eternal slogan “just say no”. Narcotics are still largely illegal but more states have begun to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana which has allowed entrepreneurs to invest their savings into a new and profitable industry. The story of America’s war on drugs is long and often misunderstood. Allegations , rumors and explosive revelations have all contributed to cast the dark cloud over the battle against narcotics. Douglas Valentine decided to explore the history of the war on drugs and in this eye-opening book, he tells the story of the history of America’s battle against drugs and the rise and fall of the legendary and infamous Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).

Students of history will be familiar with the story of Charles “Lucky” Luciano (1897-1962) and his participation with the U.S. Government to defeat the Axis powers during World War II. The story on the surface sounds simple enough, but as Valentine shows us, Luciano was only a small part of the puzzle and there was more to his role than meets the eye. Further, the relationship between Washington and the Italian American mafia would take on monstrous proportions an in the process taint the FBN’s reputation. The bureau was under the guidance of the later Harry Anslinger (1892-1975) and rivaled the Federal Bureau of Investigation, led by John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972). Anslinger made a name for himself as a director whose agents made cases that resulted in convictions but whose personal racial prejudices and desire for recognition caused him to make decisions that would have far-reaching effects for years to come. Valentine did an impeccable task of researching the topic and the revelations contained in the book are nothing short of jaw-dropping. And the interviews with former agents of the FBN are shocking to say the least but provide valuable insight into what made the FBN a success and what ultimately led to its failure.

Anslinger plays a prominent role in the book but the story heats up and takes on a life of its own as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) makes its appearance. Organized in 1947 through the National Security Act signed into law by President Harry Truman, the Agency, as its known, grew into an uncontrollable secret apparatus of the Unites Government that engaged in espionage, assassinations and as we learn in this book, narcotics trafficking. Rumors of the Agency’s involvement in the rise of drugs of America have held in place for decades. In fact, the allegations proved to be true and the story was broken by late journalist Gary Webb (1955-2004). But what many people did not know then and perhaps now, is that the story was far deeper and much uglier that most would be willing to accept. The FBI also plays a large role in the story of the FBN and Valentine brings the three together exposing the complicated and tension filled relationship between the three organizations.

Before beginning this book, it is necessary for the reader to accept that many unpleasant truths will be revealed. A complicated web of deceit and complicity was constructed that allowed thousands of people to profit off the misery of millions. But more frightening is are ways in which narcotics were able to enter the country with the help of those in high places and the impossibility we now face of their removal. The story is filled with legendary names such as Meyer Lansky (1902-1983), Vito Genovese (1897-1968), Tibor Rosenbaum, James Angleton (1917-1987), Richard Helms (1913-2002) and Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975), among others. But what is paramount is that Valentine has put together an extraordinary jigsaw puzzle that allows the reader to see the dark side of governments and the reality of war as highlighted in the conflict in Vietnam. The revelations about the CIA’s role in the war alone are enough to earn the wrath of veterans still with us today. Valentine spares nothing and gives us the facts, as ugly as they are. The beauty of the book however, is the author’s genius is connecting the characters and providing a mental map of the endless connections between law enforcement, politicians, mobsters, intelligence officers and rebels of all sorts. The information is staggering and at times during the book, I literally could not believe what I was reading. And I do not believe Valentine did either as he was writing this book. I forewarn readers that as an American citizen, this book may cause grief and outrage at the actions of the United States Government domestically and abroad. It is not an easy pill to swallow but the truth is rarely enjoyable.

The FBN earned a legacy as the most successful drug enforcement agency in American history, but paranoia of corruption and an internal investigation by Andy Tartaglino, devastated the bureau and changed the course of history forever. The story of the demise of the bureau is told here in the book from start to finish and it is sure to leave readers shaking their heads. Today the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is the premier federal organization responsible for investigating narcotics trafficking. Time will tell if the bureau will reach the heights of the famed FBN but as we can see very well, drugs are here to stay. As we look back through Valentine’s work, we can only hope that history does not repeat itself. This book is the place to start in understanding the true nature of the business of narcotics and how it propagated throughout our world.

ISBN-10: 1844675645
ISBN-13: 978-1844675647

Another Country-James Baldwin

jimmy-another worldAmerica continues to find itself in the midst of social and political upheaval.  The era of Jim Crow and racial persecution are reminders of a not too distant past.  The young generation of today will have their own causes to fight and believe in and some of them will resemble the monumental effort behind the push for racial equality that culminated with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  James Baldwin (1924-1987) served as an unofficial historian, transforming what he witnessed into the books he left us with that examine the ills of society and human nature.  Race and sexuality have been the focus of several of his works based in part of his own ethnic makeup and homosexuality.  In the classic Giovanni’s Room, he addressed the inner conflict faced by those who struggle with bisexuality.   In this book, he once again touches on that topic and love in general while supplementing the main topics with the complicated and tragic concept of human nature.

The story begins in Harlem, New York as we are introduced to a musician named Rufus Scott.  He has just met a recent transplant to New York City from Georgia named Leona. Sparks fly between the two and Rufus invites her to an after party at the apartment of a friend. It is there that they come intimate and that encounter sets into motion a chain of events that affects nearly every single character in the book.  Rufus’ best friend in Vivaldo, a young Italian from Brooklyn.  He is involved with an older woman named Jane, who has a drinking problem but somehow manages to function and continue painting.  At first, Rufus and Leona are on the path to love but reality quickly sets in.  You see, Rufus is a Black American and Leona, a white woman from the South.   And this is before laws against interracial marriage were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Their trials and tribulations are heartbreaking and Rufus struggles with Leona and himself all the way to the end.  Incredibly, the two of them only take up a third of book, the rest is devoted to Rufus’ friends and former flame, who all converge to add unexpected twist and turns to each other’s lives.

Readers beware, this book is not for the faint at heart. The language at times is crass and the speech blunt.  But Baldwin did not write this for an afternoon special, this is an unfiltered look into the relationships between friends and lovers of both sexes.  Rufus’ younger sister Ida, eventually falls for his friend Vivaldo and in some way, they become a reincarnation of Rufus and Leona with a few notable exceptions. Ida becomes part of the inner circle of Richard and Clarissa “Cass” Silenski, Steve Ellis, and Eric Jones, the wildcard of the group who will remind readers of the character David in Giovanni’s Room.  Those familiar with Baldwin’s life will recall that he not only died in France but spent a considerable amount of time in his life there and in Istanbul, Turkey.  Paris is a part of the book and the place in which we learn more about Eric Jones, the “prodigal son” who returns to the United States even more uncertain of his understanding of what love truly is. His partner in France, Yves, is scheduled to arrive in the United States a few weeks after he arrives but before he does, Eric impacts the story in a major way which will never be forgotten by any of the characters.  Incredibly, despite all that happens in the book, the story still belongs to Rufus who none of us can forget for too long as we make it through the book.   And I do believe that at some parts of the book are based off of Baldwin’s life experiences or at the least, the characters composites of people he did know.

Where the book truly shines is in its examination of infidelity and the struggle that plagued interracial couples.  Monogamy proves to be difficult for the characters in the book but we are reminded that they are human beings and humans do fail and make mistakes.  But if we look past the shocking revelations, we can see the characters making a valiant effort to show us how and why we sometimes do the things that we do.  And for those readers who have a spouse of love interest of a different background, the story of Rufus and Leona followed by Ida and Vivaldo will touch you directly as you find yourself able to relate to some of the challenges they face.   Times have certainly changed since Baldwin finished this classic in 1961, but what is paramount, is that it takes a large amount of courage, sacrifice and understanding when one is involved in an interracial relationship.  But love can and does prevail, and Baldwin does a great job of showing us the complicated ways in which we are able to make it last.   I have always understood that it is far easier to hate someone than it is to love them.   Loving another person is truly one of the hardest things we ever have to in life.  But the reward is both fulfilling and to those who are the recipients of our affection.

Baldwin truly shines here, and the book is one of his greats.  This is New York City and the story of a group of friends, bonded by tragedy and nearly separated by love, sex and the demons that come with all parts of life.  And when you have finished this incredible story, you will have more of an appreciation for one of the greatest writers America has ever produced.

ISBN-10: 0679744711
ISBN-13: 978-0679744719

The Fire Next Time-James Baldwin

Every yeaJimmyr that I age, I have noticed that I have a growing appreciation for classic literature and the works of other authors that are no longer with us.  James Baldwin (1924-1987) is near the top of my list of authors whose books are critical to American history and the current day state of affairs in the United States.  The Harlem native who took his last breath in France, stands out as a commentator on race in America. His observations which he then put into words, were sharp, analytical and deeply profound. Baldwin lived what could only be described as an eventful but complicated life.   He was a Black American and homosexual in a time in which both were considered to be crimes of the highest nature. America had yet to see the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and homosexuality was still considered a crime against nature in many states. Baldwin was both and carried himself with an aura of confidence and intellect that has remained impressive many years after his death.  In this short but intriguing book, Baldwin comments on race in America based off of his experience and encounters with White Americans and even Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.  He never joined the nation but his account of his meeting with Muhammad is one of the highlights of the book.   Racial discrimination is never an easy topic to discuss and many of us would prefer to discuss more pleasant issues.  But Baldwin was a master of taking a explosive topic and relaying it to the reader in a way that forces one to do deep soul-searching if they are not African-American and reevaluate their own existence if they are.

Too often, it is assumed that books about racial inequality are attacks against White Americans.  That is not Baldwin’s goal. In fact, Baldwin’s social circle was very diverse, consisting of White Americans, Black Americans, Europeans and Turkish individuals among others.  In fact, in the book there is a part in which he feels conflicted about his White friends and his own social situation in America.  His experience is not meant to demean or drive a wedge between friends but highlights the inner conflict that can engulf anyone. The key to appreciating Baldwin’s work is to remember that it was written in a time period that is much different from 2017.     Jim Crow, voter suppression, poverty and class based war made life deplorable for minorities and poor White Americans.    And before the courage of the Loving family, interracial marriage was illegal throughout the country.   Every great movement needs voices like Baldwin, to remind of us where we come from and what we need to do in order to move forward. It is a shame that today, his voice has been largely forgotten by a generation that has no connection of one of the greatest writers in American history.

I truly wish Baldwin had completed more books before his death.  His mind was uncanny and we are fortunate to have the works that he left behind.  This book is not just for Black or White Americans, but for anyone who wishes to examined and understand America’s unpleasant history with racial equality.   History is not always pleasant but the darkness in it, helps us  not to make the same mistakes again but to try a different path that works and exemplifies what progress truly is.  Baldwin does it again with another classic.

ISBN-10: 003055442X
ISBN-13: 978-0030554421

 

 

 

 

Revolution Within The Revolution: Women and Gender Politics in Cuba 1952-1962-Michelle Chase

23937036The Cuban Revolution has served as a blueprint as a successful campaign for independence from imperialism.   Fidel Castro (1926-2016),  Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967) and Raul Castro (1931-) became legendary figures in Cuba and around the world.  Raul is remaining member of the trio and is currently the President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba following Fidel’s retirement in 2008. In March, 2016, United States President Barack Obama made a historic visit to the island in an effort to restore severely strained diplomatic relations between the two nations. Time will tell if Washington and Havana continue down that path.

When Fidel Castro died in December, 2016, he joined the ranks among the now deceased leaders from the Cold War Era.  Raul remains carrying the Castro name and the torch of the revolution.  As fascinating as the revolution is, there are many stories that have never been told.  Che’s march in Santa Clara and Fidel’s triumphant march into Havana are typically referred to as the shining moments of the movement.  But upon closer inspection as Michelle Chase shows us, a revolution took place within the revolution. Examining the importance of women and gender politics, Chase shows the revolution from the view of the female revolutionary and the struggle of women prior to and post-revolution. Admirers of the Castro brothers and Guevara might be tempted to believe that the Cuba became a glorious paradise following Batista’s overthrow.  But the reality is that women waged their own battle to achieve equality and a voice in Cuban society.

When we think of the Cuban revolution, we often conjure up the image of the Barbudo, the bearded guerrilla fighter in the jungles of the small Caribbean island.  In truth, behind the heroic figures, were women who saw the revolution as a chance to transform Cuban society and prove that they had just as much courage, will and goals as their male counterparts. To reinforce the importance of women in the effort, Chase revisits the events prior to Batista’s fall as young Cubans began to form resistance groups opposed to the tyrannical dictator supported by the United States.   And interesting, the effort was far more widespread than  the Twenty Sixth of July Movement which is the default resistance group examined in books, magazines and documentaries.   Women participated in this group and many others in the effort to establish a free Cuba.  Their voices and stories come alive in this book to enlighten even the most serious student of the revolution. I found the book to be significant for it touches of a largely unknown topic outside of Cuba.

Where the book shines is in its unfiltered examination of Cuba post-revolution. There is no glorification of Castro here.  We see what was happening and the effect on everyday Cubans.  And without women, there was no way Cuban society could have continued to function.    Also highlighted in the book are the areas in which the revolution was failing its citizens.  Even today, Cuba is still in need of much reformation but is still constrained under the banner of revolution.  We can only guess as to what will happen after Raul Castro leaves office for the final time.   Regardless of how or when he leaves office, it is imperative that we remember the lives and efforts of the Cuban women, who marched, carried signs, put their lives on the line and challenged the establishment.  Today they are grandmothers and great grand-grandmothers.  But there was a time in their lives where they took part in one of the 20th Century’s greatest events.

ISBN-10: 14 le69625008
ISBN-13: 978-1469625003

King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.-Wil Haygood

acpHarlem, New York has been and still is crucial to New York City politics.  The area that was home to the majority of African-Americans has been affected by the wave of gentrification that has reached nearly every major city across the nation.  Musicians, actors, gangsters and politicians have found fame and fortune in the neighborhood with a storied past.  And of all of the colorful characters to use Harlem as their base of activity, perhaps none is as famous as the late Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972) There is a street named in his honor in the area but sadly, the generation of today is largely unaware of his story and his contributions to American society.  He has been described as flamboyant, stubborn, cunning and of great intelligence. He earned the affection of his congregation and millions of minorities and the wrath of presidents and senators determined to put an end to his career.  Forty-five years have passed since his death on April 4, 1972.  Cancer proved to be his biggest opponent, taking his life at the age of sixty-three.  But who was the real Adam Clayton Powell, Jr? And why is he so important to the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American experience?  Wil Haygood has researched Powell’s life and compiled this definitive account of the late congressman’s life.

Powell’s life was anything but ordinary and Haygood brings the past alive as we become more acquainted with Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as we follow him through life as he attends Colgate University, succeeds his father as pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church and takes the plunge into politics.  Legendary figures of the past make an appearance throughout the book, some of whom are still alive today. Some loved him and some hated him, but all can agree that there was no other like him.   The Powell amendment, which mandated the withholding of funds to cities that refused to follow federal law mandating desegregation was a landmark piece of legislation and remains his crowning achievement.  But for all of his highlights, there was also another side to the famed politician. And Haygood, as a biographer, does not avoid the darker parts of his life.

Several marriages, a playboy like lifestyle and a larger than life character are just some of the many dimensions that composed Powell.  The revelations in the book are not easy to accept but they reinforce the notion that in life we do have to take the negative with the positive.   And flawed as he was, he lived his life on his own terms and without compromise.   Today, many would not blink an eye to the escapades of Powell but in his era, far more conservative than today, Powell was pushing the boundaries of acceptability at every turn. And for millions of young men and women of color, he became a source of pride and inspiration. His power allowed him to move through political circles but also earned him the wrath of powerful enemies who would come together as the cast of villains in the hearings that resulted in Powell losing his congressional seat which he eventually obtained again following a successful litigation campaign.

Life for Powell was fast and full of highs and lows.   In hindsight, we can see the habits and decisions that led to his early death.  And in death, he is remembered as one of Harlem’s greats.  Powell’s is long gone but through this book, his memory to continues. The children of Harlem and across the nation today have no connection to Powell, but if he were alive, he would be fighting right now in their best interest.  And for New York City residents, we should remember his life every time we drive down Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.  This is his life, the story of a New York City legend whose legacy shall never fade.  Haygood’s book is a welcomed addition to any library.

 

ISBN-10: 0060842415
ASIN: B006G87YK4

The Teeth May Smile But The Heart Does Not Forget: Memory And Murder In Uganda-Andrew Rice

lakiThe death of Idi Amin Dada on August 16, 2003,  caused a stir of emotions in Uganda, the country he once ruled with an iron fist.  His name is infamous and the crimes of his regime are endless.  He ranks high among the worst dictators in world history and is a case study of the rampant abuse of power by a malevolent tyrant.  Actor Forest Whitaker brilliantly played the late dictator in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland.  The film was fictionalized in part, but Whitaker capture the essence of Amin’s character and his performance was nothing short of phenomenal. The real Idi Amin was far worse as we know and there is a chance that the true number of the crimes committed by him and his henchmen will never be known.  The fates of hundreds of Ugandans remain a mystery with no sense of closure in sight. Nearly four decades have passed since Amin fled into exile but he is a permanent part of Ugandan history.   In this book by journalist Andrew Rice, we take a different look at the Amin regime, not through his life but through the lives of those who served him.  The lives and stories intersect around the murder of Eliphaz Laki,  the former county chief of Ibanda, Mbarara.  In 1972, he was apprehended by Amin’s enforcers, led by Yusuf Gowon, assisted and abetted by Nasur Gille and Mohamed Anyure.  His murder was covered up until his son Duncan returned to his native country in a quest to find his father’s killers.   Duncan emigrated to the United States, settling in New Jersey with his wife.  Their union produced four children and Laki supports his family as a lawyer. But the laws of the United States are different from Uganda as we see in the book.   This is his story and a step back into time as we revisit the Protectorate of Uganda under the all watchful eye of Amin.

Before you open this book, I recommend that you remove any pre-conceived notions about Uganda.  Personally, I found that after reading this book, there was much about the African nation that I did not know.  In contrast to the picture of Africa being a land of savages, the truth is that colonialism, tribalism and corruption combined to eliminate any semblance of a properly functioning society.   As Rice follows Duncan on his mission to bring his father’s killers to justice, the complex web of jealousy and suspicion ignited by Amin’s paranoia becomes evidently clear.  Tragically, what could have been a great country, seemed to regress upon finally gaining its independence. In the book, as each character is introduce, Rice retraces their history, explaining in detail why they’re relevant to the current story.   Expectedly,  former leader Milton Obote appears throughout the story as he and Amin end up on a collision course for control of the country.  The book develops into a history lesson on Ugandan politics and is a social study of the issues that continue to plague it today.  It should be pointed out that the book is not a biography of Amin. In fact, as Rice points out, Amin’s early life is highly obscure and his exact date of birth was never been attained.  The focus instead is on Duncan’s investigation with the help of a local investigator, Alfred Orijado.  Their investigation leads them to the three suspects who are arrested and interrogated before signing confessions explaining their role in Eliphaz Laki’s death.   And similar to the former Nazi officials, the Nuremberg defense once again rears its ugly head.

The trial eventually reveals the many flaws in the Uganda system while highlighting the progress that had been made administratively under the direction of former President Yoweri Museveni.  Along with Amin and Milton Obote, Museveni is a permanent fixture in Ugandan history with the distinction of having served thirty-one years as the ruler of Ugandan.  He has been called a dictator and if he should move to change the law to exempt him from retiring at the mandatory age of seventy-five, the accusations will hold more weight.   Nonetheless, he is a walking piece of history at the age of seventy-one, having witnessed Uganda’s darkest times first hand.  His prominence is slowly slipping as younger Ugandans look towards a brighter future with change in a new direction.

Westerners may find it hard to relate to the events in the book.  For those of us lucky enough to have grown up in the United States, a civil war is unknown to us personally and something we have read about in textbooks.  But for immigrants from Uganda who remember Amin’s reign, the terror remains with them every day reminding them of how tragic their lives once were.  And while the ending is not what the reader may expect, the book is invaluable is showing what life was like in Uganda during that era.  In death, Amin has joined the ranks of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and other dictators whose dark legacies continue to haunt the nations they once ruled.  Uganda continues to heal and the story of Eliphaz and Duncan Laki, is just one of thousands to be told about the maniacal Idi Amin Dada.

ISBN-10: 0312429738
ISBN-13: 978-0312429737

Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident-Keith McCloskey

DPI

The Dyatlov Pass incident has reemerged as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the world.  On January 23, 1959, ten hikers set out on an expedition to Otorten Mountain in the Norther Ural Mountain range. One member of the group turned back and the remaining nine met their deaths at the Kholat Syakhl (Dead Mountain) under mysterious circumstances.  Several theories have been put forth to explain what happened on the night of February 1-2, 1959, but each explanation seems to cast more doubt over the official explanation.   There is a strong possibility that we may never know the truth about the incident but we do have a fairly accurate picture of the hiker’s last trip up until their deaths. Author Keith McCloskey has written several books and takes on the Dyatlov Pass in this investigative account of the mystery that puzzled investigators and sent chills down the spines of those who have studied the case.

While researching the book, McCloskey visited the Ural region and reviewed old case files and reports from other strange occurrences in the Ural region.  There is no “smoking gun” here but where the book excels is the exploration of the theories that exists about their final moments.  He leaves nothing to chance and considers everything in the effort to put together the most accurate picture of what really happened. And the result is a good look at the incident that is as equally well-researched and written as Donnie Eichar’s Dead Mountain: The Untold Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident , released in October, 2013. Eichar also traveled to the former Soviet Union, befriending Yuri Kuntsevich, the head of the Dyatlov Foundation.   Eichar does not present a “smoking gun” either but touches more on the personal side of the hikers. In fact, he met with Igor Dyatlov’s younger and only surviving sister and spoke to the tenth hiker, Yuri Yudin in person.  Sadly, as McCloskey reports, Yudin died on April 27, 2013 and his final resting place is with his old friends.

Conspiracy theorist will be tempted to get caught up in the boundless theories that persist about the case. But McCloskey does a good job of separating actual possibilities from ideas that are nothing short of ridiculous.   He addresses the concept of infrasound and one story in particular stands out,  the “revelation” by Shimon Davidenko, who claims to have been the tenth hiker in the group.   He claimed other things as well but it is highly unlikely that he is being completely truthful as the book reveals.  When thinking about the incident, the word strange comes to mind quickly but is actually an understatement.  Many bizarre events took place following the deaths of the hikers that have never been fully explained. And with many of the individuals involved in the search and subsequent investigation now being deceased, many of their beliefs and possible secrets are gone forever.  Lead investigator Lev Ivanov, went to his grave convinced of a paranormal event.  Was he correct or suffering from an overactive imagination? Perhaps we will never know. McCloskey and Eichar have done a great service to the memory of the hikers in preserving their memories through these two excellent books on a real life haunting. And as time goes on, I believe that the case will draw more interest and possibly result in classified Soviet files being released at some point.  If you love a good mystery and have an interest in Soviet history, this is a great read to add to your library.

ISBN-10: 0752491482
ISBN-13: 978-0752491486

If you find yourself drawn into the case and want to learn more about the author of the incident, McCloskey has given several audio interviews online. One in particular that I did enjoy listening to, is a question and answer session that was published on February 15, 2017 by YouTube member DK Zealand. Below is the video for viewing purposes.

 

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident-Donnie Eichar

Dead_Mountain_1024x1024On January 23, 1959, Igor Dyatlov (1936-1959) and several of his classmates at the Ural Polytechnic Institute in the City of Sverdlosky, board a train as they commence their hiking expedition to the Otorten Mountain in the Northern Urals in Siberia.  On February 12, they are expected to return from their trip but there is no sing of the explorers, some of whom are as young as twenty years of age.  Eight days later, a formal search team is put together to find the missing hikers. Over the next several weeks, their remains are found and returned back home. Lev Ivanov is assigned to investigate their deaths and to this day, the official explanation is that they died due to some “unknown force”. The incident that has become known as the Dyatlov Pass, remains one of history’s darkest mysteries.  Donnie Eichar, a film producer and author revisits the incident in this chilling look into a mind-boggling event that is nothing short of surreal.

As part of his research, Eichar traveled to Russia and re-traced the hikers route with the help of several knowledgeable individuals such as Yuri Kuntsevich, the leader of the Dyatlov Foundation.  Leaving his girlfriend and infant son behind, Eichar exhausted his savings and pushed his body to the limit in the Siberian extreme as he searched for answers to a historical event that gains a greater aura of mystique as the years continue to go by.  At first glance, some readers may be tempted to think that the book contains a smoking gun. In fact, it does not and nowhere in the book does Eichar insinuate such.  What is contained in the book is a timeline of the events and a reconstruction of each day according to their journals and what investigators learned after their deaths.   Towards the end of the book, he does put forth a plausible explanation as to what could have happened to them on February 2.

Rumors have surrounded the case for decades. And due to the puzzling locations at which the bodies were found and the post-mortem examinations, many trouble facts arose that caused more confusion for even seasoned investigators.  Eichar lays out all of the most exclaimed theories behind their deaths, refuting each one with the evidence on hand.  And through his own work he brings our attention to the concept of infrasound or low-frequency sound. The phenomenon can be caused by environmental factors such as wind, storms and even earthquakes.  The revelation that some of the hikers had suffered internal blunt force trauma and had been exposed to high levels of radiation compounds the difficulty in solving the case.  The theory is not an official explanation but is highly plausible and puts the event in a whole new light.

We may never know what happened to those nine hikers on the night of February 2, 1959, but today, many years later, we have enough evidence and testimony to know what whatever did cause their deaths, was something they were completely unprepared for. Eichar has done his part to bring the truth about their deaths closer to light.  This is an interesting read about an even more interesting unsolved mystery.

ISBN-10: 1452140030
ISBN-13: 978-1452140032

And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out) Wall Street, the IMF, and the Bankrupting of Argentina-Paul Blustein

MKRIOn Tuesday, June 27, 2017,  Argentine President Mauricio Macri of Argentina and Michelle Bachelet of Chile met in Santiago, Chile to discuss a trade agreement between the two South American nations.  A trade agreement would be a boost to the economies of both nations and help the Argentine economy recover from years of devaluation of the peso and loans on which the country was forced to default.  In three weeks I will revisit the Argentine Republic, landing in Buenos Aires, appropriately called the “Paris of South America”.   As of today, the exchange rate between the United States Dollar and Argentine Peso is  $1=16.4ARS. The peso continues to struggle to regain its value as the Macri administration continues its mission to reform the economy.  Incredibly, between the late 1800s and 1930, Argentina was one of the richest nations on earth and boasted a high rate of exports.  Changing world markets and political instability plunged the nation in dark times as the grip of Juan Perón (1895-1974) tightened over Argentina giving birth to the Peronist party.  Even today, his influence and that of the late Evan Peron (1919-1952) continue to be felt in Argentine society.

Students of Argentine history will often ask the question, why did Argentina end up in a financial collapse in 2001?  Paul Blustein (1951- ) tackles this questions and provides answers to help us understand how and why it happened.  Blustein is former writer for the Washington Post and has written about economics for more than 35 years. It was during a post in Buenos Aires that he began the project that became this phenomenal book that tells the story of what proved to be the inevitable.   As part of his research, he interviewed dozens of individuals who were direct participants in the events in the book and others knowledgeable about what really happened.  And what he explains in the book is eye-opening and prophetic not just for Argentina but for every country across the globe that has to confront a rising deficit and possible financial collapse.

On April 1, 1991, Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo (1946- ) adopted the convertibility system which fixed the exchange rate at $1=1ARS.  The new policy initially proved to be a blessing for the Argentine economy, allowing citizens to improve their quality of life, invest, improve savings and travel abroad.  But behind the scenes the government was struggling to reign in spending and raise enough taxes to maintain the newly placed system which required banks to keep an equal amount of U.S. Dollars to Argentine Pesos. A pesos crisis in Mexico and changing world markets, set the ball in motion for what was to come in the next decade. As Argentina grappled with a looming financial disaster,  the International Monetary Fund (IMF) became a prime player in the effort to save its economy.  The Fund, created in 1944 in New Hampshire, engaged in protracted negotiations with Argentina to save the Republic even in the face of financial mismanagement and a severe inability to stimulate economic growth.  The two would eventually reach an agreement that showed signs of being the saving grace needed to save the nation.   Despite IMF intervention, a second agreement would be reached before the long feared collapsed occurred dropping the value of the peso completely.  In fact, things got so bad that President Fernando De La Rúa (1937- ) escaped by helicopter after resigning along with Cavallo, who had previously instituted a zero deficit policy and enacted the corralito, the infamous rule that capped the amount of money citizens could withdraw from their bank accounts sending the public into a rage.

With the whole world watching, Argentina sank deeper into financial distress but in recent years has enjoyed a streak of years of political stability. Its economy still has a long way to go to reach pre-2000 levels and time will tell if the Macri administration can fully rebuild the country’s bank accounts while avoiding another financial catastrophe. For those in control, the lessons of the past will need to be remembered moving forward. What I did like deeply about this book is that not only does Blustein tell us the story but he helps us understand how the IMF works and the value of currency.  And no matter where you live, your country has the potential to suffer the same fate as the Argentines if adequate controls are not placed on spending and taxation. For those seeking to understand the crisis that crippled Argentina, this is a good place to start. I highly recommend supplementing Blustein’s compendium with Luis Alberto Romero’s A History of Argentina in the Twentieth Century. Both books will give the reader tremendous insight of a country that has to be seen in person to be appreciated.

ISBN-10: 1586483811
ISBN-13: 978-1586483814

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