Category Archives: Investigative Report
As of July, 2017, 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2015, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death. My late grandmother suffered from it for many years prior to her death and my mother also deals with the disease. In their cases, they are among the millions that have been diagnosed as having type-2. And with the number of diabetics growing around world, the future prognosis is grim. More disturbingly, diabetes is just one of the several conditions that are considered to be effects of metabolic syndrome. The link between food and health has long been established. Food has been man’s source of energy and the key to life. But somewhere along the way, our approach to what we eat changed dramatically and in the process we face health epidemics never before seen.
Gary Taubes appropriately named this book The Case Against Sugar. What he has written in this book is sure to open your eyes and change the way you look at sugar which might possibly be the most common food ingredient in history. In fact, it is so common that it is hiding in plain sight in dozens of foods we would never suspect to contain added sugar. The first thing I should point out is that Taubes does not tell us to refrain from eating sugar nor does he tell us to consume it. He leaves that to the reader to decide. What he does tell us is the unfiltered truth about the history of sugar and its effects on the human body. Doctors and other health figures have told us for years that fat and salt were the culprits behind many of the illnesses we battled. But what if the real monster was there all along and ignored either unintentionally or even blatantly? Some readers may find the topic far-fetched and wonder if the sugar they put in their coffee and the sugar found in other products they consume daily are truly that bad. Well in order to answer that question, we first have to understand how sugar came to be developed and why it has been so important to business and the food industry. Taubes has done the leg work for us, presenting the material in an engaging format the pulls the reader in. Additionally, he helps us understand the different types of sugars and why it is important that we know them intimately.
The story is centuries old and incredibly, without sugar, many of the empires throughout history would have had enormous difficulty existing. In particular, the British Empire became extremely fond of the white crystals that bankrolled their imperialist machine. Throughout history, sugar has accompanied every civilization, empire and ethnic group. I dare to infer that its commonplace among all of these thing is precisely what made it so hard to believe for many that it could also be life threatening. But it is exactly that which we learn but more importantly, Taubes, like a seasoned professor, explores in-depth why sugar was so important to big industry and why it was necessary to be protected. He includes many facts that some readers may be completely unaware of. The section on the tobacco and sugar industries should frighten every reader, especially if they are a smoker.
Diabetes is far from a modern disease. In fact, it has been in existence for centuries and its rise has been well noted and documented. But what we see through Taubes, is that for a large portion of that time, the connection between sugar and diabetes never fully acknowledged. If you ask any diabetic today, they will readily inform you that sugar is at the same time their worst enemy and most needed substance. Their inability to produce enough insulin to handle rising blood sugar or inability to produce insulin at all, as in type-1 diabetics, highlights the precarious situation that exist for diabetics. In essence, they walk a daily tight rope that could spell success or doom.
Diabetes is a focus of the book but the not the main focus and in addition to what is the silent killer, Taubes makes the case for the relationship between sugar and the conditions classified as metabolic diseases. The connections form an intricate web and at times the reader may need to revisit a section more than once to understand the chain of events that occur in the body upon the ingestion of sugar, whether natural, refined or artificial. Gout, cancer, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks plague millions of Americans and for years, doctors have known that what we eat does affect how we feel and age. Inflammation has become a known factor in all of these conditions and other ailments that plague the human body. Sugar is also known to play a role in all of these conditions. But is it safe to say that the reduction or elimination of sugar could reverse all of these illnesses? Possibly so and incredibly, it is believed that at least 4 in 10 forms of cancer are preventable. I have always refrained from telling anyone what they should or should not eat. That is a highly personal decision. But what I can say is that I have had my own battle with sugar and dropped it from my diet well over ten years ago. When I did, my acne disappeared, I lost weight, my digestive tract improved and I saw a marked improvement in cognitive function in addition to a surplus of energy. However, there was a withdrawal process and I did suffer from headaches and irritability for a couple of weeks as my body readjusted to the absence of sugar and high levels of carbohydrates. Today, I do not even buy it, add it anything I eat or drink and also follow the mantra that if I cannot pronounce what is in a product then I do not eat it. It may sound extreme to some but we are only given one body on this earth and it is up to us to take care of it.
This is the ugly truth about sugar, the once believed to be harmless product that our parents and grandparents gave to us without the knowledge that we have today. The children of today are the first generation that may have a shorter lifespan than their parents. That is unacceptable and I believe, criminal. Our health has been sacrificed in the name of greed and mass production. But we can fight back and take care of our lives. And with books such as this one by Taubes, our minds are being awakened each step of the way. If you suffer from a metabolic condition, trying to quit sugar or even curious about its dangers, this book is a must read.
On August 5, 1962, newspapers around the world relayed the news of the death of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) the night before at her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California at the age of thirty-six. The cause of death was listed as suicide from an overdose of the drugs Pentobarbital and chloral hydrate. However, decades after her death, several question still remain regarding that tragic night of August 4, 1962. What really happened that night and why was she paid a visit by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford (1923-1984)?
The image we have been given of Monroe is a drug-addicted sex symbol, starved for validation from the opposite sex and unable to cope with the rigors of Hollywood. Her previous suicide attempts gave credence to this perpetuated image and for many, it was the ending that they expected for quite some time. Her life reads like a tragic novel of a heroine unable to fully come to terms with herself and seeking love and affection in all of the wrong places. However in just thirty-six years, she lived a live that some can only dream of. At at one point in her life, she was the most desired woman in the world. Donald H. Wolfe takes us back in time to the those final days in August, 1962 to piece together what really did happen and why.
The book opens by revisiting the night of August 4 and the pandemonium that ensued following Monroe’s death. Immediately we learn of several disturbing facts that set the tone of the book. Wolfe does an incredible job of keeping the suspense going and the reader engaged. And rightfully so, he not only explores her death but also provides a concise biography that sets the stage for events that took place later in her life. Behind the facade of a starlet singing happy birthday to the President, lay a woman raised in a childhood which could best be described as tragic. However, in order to understand Monroe’s life and her death, it is necessary to explore her beginnings which Wolfe presents to us without breaking the momentum of the book. And I can assure you that once you start you will be hard pressed to put it down.
Although the book is about Monroe’s final days, there are many sub-stories that are told which gives us an inside view of the inner-workings of Hollywood and politics in the middle of the twentieth century. As she moves through one circle to the next, some of the biggest names in show business, sports and politics make an appearance in her life such as John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Clark Gable (1901-1960), J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999). However, among all of the people who cross paths with her, her life takes a much darker and tragic turn through her association with the Kennedys and their associates and it is this relationship that forms the crux the remaining third of the book. After you have finished the book, you may come to see the administration in a different light. Today it is public knowledge that an affair did take place between Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. And if all accounts are correct, Monroe and Robert Kennedy also had their intimate moments. The sexual content is fodder for gossips and tabloid magazines. But what was critical was the true nature of their relationship and the many secrets Monroe possessed about the most powerful man in the country. In fact, it is quite possible that she did have the power to bring down a presidency. Was this the reason for the urgent visits by J. Edgar Hoover to the White House in May, 1962 and that last visit by Robert Kennedy on the day she died? Or was this the reason for the heated arguments that took place between Monroe and Robert Kennedy in the weeks leading up to her death? And how much did she know about their association with Frank Sinatra and mobster Sam Giancana? Certainly, many of their discussions which were likely picked up by the FBI may never be known. Other recordings by the President are locked away in the Kennedy library. A little over one year after Monroe’s death, John Kennedy himself was cut down in a hail of bullets in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Several years later, Bobby would be gone as well, also the victim of an assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968. In death they joined a long list of political figures and stars that died during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.
Marilyn Monroe remains a sex icon decades after her death. Young women still hang posters of her on their walls and purchase t-shirts with her image. In death, she became a legend whose left this world far too soon. Her life was in some ways a soap opera with affairs, fairy tale romances, political scandals, drugs, mental health issues and tragically, broken homes. Sadly, many people in her life failed her not just on one but on several occasions. But if there is one inspiring aspect of the story, it is her resiliency to move forward in life and command respect even in the most difficult of times. And had her life taken a slightly different course, then perhaps she might still be alive today well into her senior years and full of knowledge about Hollywood’s golden era. This is the story of the life and final days of Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood icon.
Previously, I reviewed Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 and The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976, investigative accounts into life under the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976). In the first volume, Tragedy of Liberation, we learned about the transformation of China following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975) and his Kuomintang Nationalist party. In the third volume, The Cultural Revolution, the behind the scenes political battles are put on display revealing the dysfunction that had engulfed Mao’s inner circle. Here in Mao’s Great Famine, Dikötter takes us back in time to the Great Leap Forward and its catastrophic failure between the years of 1958 and 1962. I feel the need to point out that by far, this part of the trilogy was the most difficult to read. As usual, Dikötter’s writing style is to the point and very concise. The difficult part is the material at hand. Today we know a fair amount about the Great Leap Forward and how it failed to transform Chinese society. The famine that ensued is known but what may not be known are the facts about what really happened behind the closed doors of China as a government struggled to move a nation forward as widespread hunger decimated its population.
If you are a reader with a sensitive stomach or easily disturbed, this may not be the book for you. But if you are a reader that is able to digest material that is emotionally and mentally difficult to accept, then this book will be one that you can add to your reading list. Some may wonder why a book such as this is needed. I believe it is important because it reveals to us what many probably did not and do not know. The details are sometimes gory and all around tragic. At several points in the book, I wondered to myself how human beings could do the things that they did to each other. The policy of collectivization and the labor mandated by the government devastated the country in ways from which it is still recovering. Mao’s grip over China was relentless and his failure to first grasp the severity of the situation and his lack of action to halt the descent is mystifying and infuriating. And considering what was known to have occurred in counties across the country, I am astounded that he was able to sleep at night with the blood of millions of Chinese on his hands. Perhaps towards the end of his life and in closed-door meetings, he did voice concern and repulsion about what was transpiring. But if that did happen, those facts have remained secret and are locked away from public view. One day we may find out more of the truth but for now we can only assume.
In between the descriptions of famine and violence, I did pick up a possibly unintended message in the book; we should all be grateful for the privileges and comforts in life that we have. I personally have never had the experiences detailed by Dikötter. And I can only imagine what life for them was like. Through his work, I now know their stories and can see their pain but I can never say that I know their struggle. Daily episodes of gratuitous violence, sexual assault, exhaustion, inhumane living conditions and death occurred with no reprieve. And when people did try to make their voices heard, they were met with severe resistance by cadres unwavering in their adulation to the Chairman. Lives were ended and others had their career ruined as the Red Guard made its presence felt throughout the country. Those who did not succumb to violence, often had to deal with extreme hunger, disease and mental degradation. The number of deaths that occurred is not known for sure but as we see in the book, it is believed that over 40 million Chinese people died during the Great Leap Forward. It is by far the worst case of systemic mass murder the world has ever seen and hopefully never will see again.
Today, Mao’s picture can still be found across China and his tomb in Beijing is open to the public. But as we come to know more about the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, we will be forced to reexamine what we thought we knew about the Chairman and the legacy that lives decades after his death. This book is a hard look at the Great Leap Forward and all of its infamy.
The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election-Malcolm Nance
The 2016 presidential election remains an event that bordered on the surreal and shocked not just American citizens but people around the globe. Donald J. Trump, the political outsider and least likely candidate to win, secured the Republican nomination and the electoral votes needed to become the 45th President of the United States of America. As we begin 2018 we can look back on his first year and office and reach various conclusions depending on our political outlook and beliefs about the state of the nation. What is certain, is that from the start, his administration has been plagued with allegations of collusion with nefarious figures hailing from Russia. Prior to his election, he often showed admiration for Vladimir Putin and since taking office, has taken a passive stance on the country that is believed by intelligence experts to have interfered in the elections of several nations. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed Special Counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and as of today, the investigation is still ongoing. And while there is no fire yet, there is a lot of smoke.
Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy senior chief petty officer in Naval Cryptology with over thirty years in intelligence and counter-intelligence decided to put together a short book that puts the known pieces of the Russia hacking scandal together giving us a clear and concise picture of what did happen and when. The book is not a smoking gun linking Trump directly to any Russian hackers and Nance does not imply such. However, there is a lot of potentially incriminating evidence and we know today that at least four people of Trump’s inner circle have pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and money laundering. The recent news of the publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury in which he interviews former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon has added more fuel to the fire and has mad the future grim for the 45th Commander-In-Chief. But what exactly did happen prior to November 8, 2016? And what did authorities know for certain? Further, Nance reveals a lot of interesting information, but how much more is there that is still unknown?
Nance takes us back to the beginning when officials realized that the servers of the Democratic National Convention had been hacked. Unlike Watergate, there were no intruders with flashlights who would later stand trial and attempt to extort the White House. This was all done through cyber warfare and the fallout would be staggering. Some may even say there is still more to come. As an IT Administrator (IT), I have experienced cyber threats on several fronts and can say with certainty that if the average person knew just how many cyber threats there are in existence, they would be scared nearly to death. To read the book, you do not need a background in Information Technology, Nance presents each topic in an easy to read format for the layman to follow. If you do have experience in IT, then you will nod your head at many of the things that he discusses. Regardless of your technical aptitude, what is revealed in this book should open the eyes of every American that cares about our electoral process.
Supporters of President Trump may be quick to dismiss the book as fake news or left-wing smear tactics. However, Nance does not take any sides politically and makes no direct accusations against Trump. What he does declare is that without a doubt, Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election and there is strong evidence that the orders came from Putin himself. At first it sounds like a very bold statement but Nance supports his conclusions with sound evidence that is thoroughly explained. And throughout the book, he reminds us that more investigations are needed to see if there was in fact direct collusion and/or espionage between Trump’s team and Russia operatives. According to Bannon, the answer is yes. But before we accept the proclamations of an individual that is as cunning as they come, it is imperative that a full investigation is conducted. We may not like what we find and the truth is rarely pleasant. No matter which party you belong to or how you voted in the election, what transpired prior to November 8, 2016, should be of grave concern to you for if it happened once, there is the fear that it could happen again. Nance gives us a dire warning imploring us not to make the same mistake again and to proactively fight cyber attacks in the future. But with a Commander-In-Chief who doesn’t believe in cyber attacks or seek to understand them, how safe will we be?
The title of the book sounds like it could be a television special or motion picture. But I assure you it is not fiction, this is a real as it gets. The United States and its democratic institutions were attacked and the depth of the crime is something that many people still do not fully understand. But with books such as this one by Nance, a clear picture emerges that can be used as a reference guide in understanding what really was the plot to hack America.
When I first saw the title of this book, I felt my body slightly recoil. In fact, the book was recommended to me by my boss who is a White-American. Previously, Amazon had placed the book on the list of recommended titles for my purchase but I had yet to take the plunge. This time around, I gave in and decided to see what was contained in the pages of this book. Having finished, I can say without a doubt that Nancy Isenberg has produced an eye-opening account of what truly is the untold 400- year history about class and race in America. At first glance, it may seem as if the book is a racist attack on people perceived to be of a lower social class. But in fact, the opposite is true. Isenberg brings light to the suffering and exploitation of a social class that is still disdained and mocked even today. The 2016 Presidential election brought the subject back into the public light provoking fierce debates about the success of the Republican Party and the election of Donald J. Trump. But the question truly remains, what does it mean to be called white trash?
History books typically portray the American Revolution as a movement bursting at the seams with a new-found patriotism as former colonies sought independence from Great Britain. It is a graceful and inspiring story but the reality is that the truth is often uglier and stranger than fiction. The story at hand begins as America is in its infant stages and Jamestown is established as the first settlement with immigrants formerly of England having made their way to North America. But what is often forgotten or in some cases ignored, are the many levels of class distinctions that existed then and still exist now. Slavery overshadows other dark parts of American history but as we see here, there was another class of people who were viewed just as poorly or in some cases, even worse than enslaved Africans. These issues and several others pushed the United States to the breaking point resulting in the Civil War that split the country in half and gave rise to the South, the region that became home to Jim Crow legislation and some of the worst cases of racial violence ever witnesses by American citizens. Isenberg brings even more clarity to the issue taking us back in time to relive the past with figures such as Presidents Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and the infamous Andrew Johnson. Other historical figures such as Davie Crockett, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and the Bakkers (Jim and Tammy Faye) also make an appearance.
The book is presented in an easy flowing chronological format allowing us to follow the development of the United States and continued deplorable existence of the lowest class of White Americans. As a Black-American, I am all too familiar with exploitation and discrimination. It is part of the history of this nation and something that we still struggle to fully confront. At times we have heard the term white trash, always used with a negative connotation. But what we should seek to understand is how the term originated and why. Further, it behooves us to understand how politicians, corporations and others with vested interests have manipulated, stoked fear and paranoia and ultimately exploited one of America’s most unwanted. Eugenics, greed and pseudo-science became the tools of the trade as one class pulled out all the stops to eradicate another.
From start to finish I literally could not put the book down. It pulls you and refuses to let go as the pages reveal a side of America you may be unfamiliar with. Breaking the facade of all White Americans being well-off, Isenberg brings the reality home that class is as important as race and is fully intertwined. This is a book I wish I had read in history classes in school. For an unfiltered and brutally honest look at the social structure of the United States, this is a good place to start. You will not only learn more about America but about yourself as well and what prejudice and exploitation really mean to those who employ it and those who suffer from it.
Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy-David O. Stewart
The American Civil War remains a key turning point in United States history. The nation nearly tore itself apart as the Union and Confederacy engaged in deadly conflict over several issues including States’ rights, secession, and the system of slavery. Prior to its conclusion, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) met his tragic end on April 15, 1965, falling victim to assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Andrew Johnson, then Vice-President and Democrat, succeeded Lincoln as the 17th President of the Unite States of America. He would only serve in office through 1869 when Lincoln’s term would have ended, but in that short period, his administration would be the center of one of the most critical trials in United States history.
David O. Stewart takes a look back in this well-researched and well-presented investigative account of the trial of Andrew Johnson, who faced impeachment by the Radical Republicans led by U.S. House of Representative Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868). From start to finish the book is spellbinding and Stewart writes in a style that never bores the reader while presenting the material in an easy to read and streamlined format. And as a result of his work, we now have one of the finest books on the attempted impeachment of a President who nearly pushed the nation into a second Civil War.
The book begins after Lincoln has passed and Johnson has become the next Commander-In-Chief. And nearly instantly, the dark side of Johnson is put on full display as he commits the first of several acts that will turn the Radical Republicans against him and dictate the course of history for the deep south for decades to come. It is not enough to say that Johnson was unfit for office. Stewart realizes this and details the nefarious policies which Johnson advocated. In time they would come to be viewed as the end of the legacy of Lincoln and an insult to those who truly believe that all men are created equal. Further, we come to learn about the personal side of Johnson or lack of it. Generally viewed as cold and rarely in good spirits, Johnson comes off as vindictive and in some cases delusional and out of his mind. Actions such as circumventing Congress to deal directly with southern states, vetoing the Reconstruction Acts and Civil rights bill of Lyman Trumbull (1813-1896), are just several of many that earned Johnson the wrath of many Americans. But his attempted removal of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (1814-1869) was the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in the Radical Republicans commencing impeachment proceedings against the despised President.
The impeachment trial is one of the best parts of the book. Johnson came extremely close to impeachment from office, saved only by one vote. Stewart revisits the trial and the events leading up to the trial as each Senator mulls over which way he will vote in deciding Johnson’s fate. For some of them, we see why they voted in the way that they did and for others, the question remains, did they really feel that way or were the allegations of bribery true? It may seem shocking to some to even think that bribery occurred. And while Stewart does not convict anyone with his words, he examines the evidence available reaching a quite startling conclusion.
Today it would be fair to say that the Civil War still haunts America. In the south, it is sometimes referred to as the war of “Northern aggression”. The tearing down of Confederate monuments and the tragedy in Charlottesville remind us of the struggle we continue to deal with in confronting the war that divided our nation. Reconstruction can been seen as a missed opportunity in American history. Millions of freed slaves and White Americans had their lives changed permanently by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Confederacy’s defeat. Congress realizing the opportunity before it, attempted to seize the opportunity but was confronted by a President deeply prejudiced and intent on maintaining the social structure of the south. His efforts would eventually come to pass in the system of Jim Crow that took decades and a Civil Rights Movement to finally defeat. We can only guess what would have happened if Johnson had not only complied but encouraged Congress to pass more legislation to move the nation forward after a brutal conflict and protected the lives of newly freed and disenfranchised Americans.
America now finds itself at a crossroad as we grapple with a political climate that borders on surreal at times. But regardless of what happens, America will survive as it always has. But while we continue to maintain the nation that we have, it is imperative that we do not forget the dark legacy of Andrew Johnson and remember why it is imperative to have a President that is able to unify us all and serve each and every citizen of the United States of America. Stewart’s book is an excellent place to start in understanding the rise and fall of Andrew Johnson.
The title alone is enough to grab a person’s attention. Because of the subject matter, it was bound to stir controversy for it touches a topic that remains taboo thirty-seven years after its publication. And with the events this past week regarding the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the contents of this book are as important now as they were then. Before you attempt to read this book, it is critical to understand the difference between Judaism and what is referred to as Zionism. There is a fundamental difference between the two that is often forgotten as charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias are leveled against those who dare to speak out. However, what I have learned from this book, is critical to understanding how our world functions and why peace is seemingly an impossible objective to accomplish in the Middle East.
For those who are of the Jewish faith, before reading this book, you must understand that you will learn many things that are not pleasant. And the temptation to feel or believe that the author is an anti-Semite might rise to the surface. But I caution you that any notion of Paul Findley (1921-) being anti-Semitic is far from the truth. In fact, Findley was U.S. Representative from Illinois from 1960-1982 and supported Israel at many times during his career. I firmly believe it is underestimated by many Americans, how much power and influence the Israeli lobby holds over the U.S. Government. Foreign policy and aid is highly scrutinized by the lobby and anything deemed to detrimental to the existence of Israel is quickly condemned and crushed, even at the expense of possible peace with its Arab neighbors.
I can only imagine how much pressure Findley had to endure to see this book all the way through. He discloses the difficulty in finding a publisher for a subject which many were reluctant to touch out of fear of severe backlash. In staying the course and braving the opposition, he has compiled the book that should be read by every American concerned with the past and future of the United States. You might ask yourself, is I agree with the material in the book, does it make me anti-Semitic? No it does not. Personally, I have Jewish friends and even dated a woman of the Jewish faith. I was never taught hate growing up and my parents invited everyone into their home regardless of creed, ethnicity and even sexual orientation. However my parents did teach us to examine all sides of an issue and make a decision based off of what is known and not by what is assumed. And it is for that reason that I believe this book is a critical read.
The book is not only an account of Findley’s difficulty in taking a strong stance on the Israeli lobby, but other politicians throughout history who have taken on the machine. Some of the names will be familiar to readers such as Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) and William J. Fulbright (1905-1995). Other names will be known only by few but their stories are as important as the rest in understanding the costs associated with speaking the truth about U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel. Careers were destroyed and lives ruined by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power hold over legislation and the media. The stories are too high in number to reveal here but I can say is that you might be surprised at how many people have had their lives ruined by the Israeli lobby for even questioning U.S. foreign aid to Israel of the occupation of the Gaza strip. Others have had their lives ruined for even meeting Arab officials from the PLO including Yassar Arafat (1929-2004) himself.
Findley has provided a staggering amount of information which is bound to confuse and in some cases anger the reader. But it is imperative that the reader recognizes that difference between the Israeli lobby and ordinary Jews in America who do not support what Israel does but are obligated to remain in silence and show unwavering support. As with any story, there are multiple sides and what sometimes seems to be black and white, will be revealed to have many shades of grey. The truth is rarely pleasant and in some cases upsetting. But if that is what the reader seeks, then books such as this are a necessity. The courage exemplified by Findley and others who have dared to speak out has give us the knowledge we need to make informed decisions before we lend our support to movements and causes.
As the book approached its end and I continued to digest everything that Findley had disclosed, I was haunted by the thought that there may never be true peace between Israel and Palestine. But if that is the ultimate goal then the first step is re-examine U.S. foreign policy. And doing so does not make anyone anti-Israel or anti-Semitic but an advocate of genuine and long-lasting peace. Furthermore, we are forced to remember that Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions, observed by millions of great men and women and unrelated to many of things we learn through Findley’s words.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple” – Oscar Wilde
A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East-David Fromkin
Ideology is sometimes as powerful of a tool as violence and in some cases has been the direct cause of violence. In the Middle East, ideology has maintain a stronghold as it finds itself on a crash course with modernity. Those who live outside the Middle East are at times confused and mystified by the traditions and events that occur throughout the Arab nations. In fact, many of us here in the United States do not know how the modern-day Middle East came into existence. To them, I say that the key to understanding the Middle East is to retrace its history to see why and how it developed into what we know it to be today. David Fromkin lends us a helping hand in this incredible historical investigative account of the fall of the legendary Ottoman Empire and the creation of a region that would never truly know peace.
I find it a bit ironic that the title is called A Peace to End All Peace because when the reader has finished the book, he or she will see that is far from what happened. But the question is why not? To find that answer, we revisit Constantinople, headquarters of the empire, prior to the outbreak of World War I. Iraq and Jordan (formerly Transjordan) had yet to be created. Iraq was then known as Mesopotamia and Jordan was still part of Palestine. The Zionist cause was still in its early stages and it would be several years before the signing of the Balfour Declaration. Regardless, these nations were caught in the middle of a bitter conflict as Britain and Russia took on the German Republic for control of the Ottoman Empire. But as casualties mounted and victories were won, what was really transpiring behind the scenes? And who were the major players? As we step back into time with Fromkin, we are re-introduced to long-lost figures such as the famous Winston Churchill (1874-1965), former Prime Minister Lloyd George (1864-1945), U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) and Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)(1888-1935). Lawrence has been transformed throughout the years into a larger than life character but Fromkin provides a good biographical sketch of him and investigates his true role in the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the British goal of conquering the Middle East. However, as Fromkin shows us, the heart of the entire stories lies in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the secret pledge between Britain, France and Russia to partition the Ottoman Empire after the defeat of Germany in World War I. The agreement shaped relations between the nations for decades to come.
The story is an incredible from start to finish and after you have completed the book, you will better understand why the Middle East is the way it is today. You will further understand how the Zionist cause for a homeland grew in strength due in part to the actions of the British Government. The story of Palestine is especially important for the effects of the actions then are still being felt today. Fromkin has done an excellent job of researching the topic and it is evident in his writing. The book reads like a historical novel full of intrigue, mystery and ultimately tragedy. Further, the relationship between Russia and the nations of the U.S.S.R. are examined highlighting the cultural diversity that once encompassed the Soviet Union. The Bolshevik revolution is discussed but not at great length. Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) and Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) make appearances but their story is only discussed regarding its relevance to the current topic. And throughout the book, developments in other nations are mentioned but the author never strays off topic. Like a master professor, he keeps us on course throughout a critical time in the history of the world that was complicated to say the least.
The book ends before the rise of Adolf Hitler and the start of World War II. And it would not be until 1948 that the nation of Israel was formally created. Readers may be surprised to reach the end of the book only to find that the story does not continue in the next decade. But the reality is that was never the intention and is irrelevant to the story at hand. True, the events in this book would affect the future in many different ways but that is a topic for another discussion. For those who wish to understand how an Empire came crashing down, the development of the modern-day Middle East and how several nations underestimated the power of the Islamic faith, this is a great place to start. And for others who have an active interest in the Middle East, this book is a much welcomed addition to any library.
“To the victor belongs the spoils” – New York Senator William L. Marcy
Author Frank previously published his spellbinding investigative account, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957, about the rise of Mao Zedong and the formation of the People’s Republic of China. That was followed by Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962. Here he returns with a third expose of the movement that changed the course of Chinese history. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proudly declared the new republic following the defeat of the Kuomintang forces led by Chiang Kai-Shek. The new communist government sought to emulate its Soviet icon and instituted the disastrous policy of collectivization under the banner of the “Great Leap Forward”. But as Dikotter showed us, reality soon set in as the aura of the new country began to fade as famine set in, the government began to seize property and a climate of deceit and suspicion spread across the country. The book was thorough in examining the failures of the program as the harsh effects it placed upon the people of China. In this third book, he takes us deep inside the revolution, showing us the very dark side behind the late Chairman’s government.
I forewarn the reader that this book is not for the faint at heart. The things we learn although factual are ugly to say the least. Behind the facade of a nation of comrades committed to revolution, was a society breaking away at the seems as anarchy ruled and those in charge plotted against each other as they sought to maintain their hold on power and avoid the Chairman’s wrath. Today it is no secret that the “Great Leap Forward” failed in many ways. But what is often not discussed and examined are the very things we learn in this book. Similar to Himmler’s SS, the Red Guards, under the guise of filtering out counter-revolutionary’s, unleashed a wave of terror across the country against anyone suspected of being against the regime, from a lower class family or related to those who held high positions in society before the revolution. The Third Reich used the classic technique of divide and conquer to control the people and purge those suspected of not harboring unwavering loyalty to the Führer and his ideology of the master race. In China, the faces were different but the same climate of suspicion and spying by one person on another is prevalent. In fact, one example we learn of is a child that turns in their own parent.
Dikötter as usual has done a great job researching this book. To say that it is eye-opening would be a severe understatement. Not only does he show us what really happened behind the closed off borders of China, he highlights the political battles that raged behind the scenes. His writing style is engaging, pulling the reader in from the beginning and refuses to let go. The lives and actions of major places at the time are examined in detail. Names such as Jiang Qing (1914-1991, Madame Mao and leader of the Gang of Four), Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), Zhou Enlai (1898-1976), Lin Biao (1907-1971) and Liu Shaoqi (1898-1969) appear throughout the book as the deadly politics of Communist China come to light. The members of the old guard have long passed but they still remain a part of China’s complicated history. What shocked me the most was the ease at which accusations were hurled and lives ruined in nearly every case without a shred of proof. Mao, concerned with maintaining an iron grip on his rule, let the division fester and rarely intervened. And as I think back to the book The Private Life of Chairman Mao by his personal physician Dr. Li Zhisui, I remember his words that the Great Leap Forward was used by Mao to expose those plotting against him. In fact, as I read the book, I found it increasingly hard to believe that those in charge actually did have concern for the millions of people affected by their actions. Dysentery, famine, pillaging and even cannibalism, turned the revolution into a living nightmare.
China continues to be haunted by the legacy of Mae Zedong. His successor, Deng Xiaoping, continued the government position of suppression of dissent and the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 became some of the most memorable of the twentieth century. Time will tell if democracy will ever take hold and if the young generation will be able leave Mao in a past that many do not care to relive. For students of the Cultural Revolution or those curious about what really happened across the country under Mao’s leadership, this book is a great addition of any historical library.
Amelia Earhart: The Truth At Last – Propaganda Versus Fact in the Disappearance of America’s First Lady of Flight-Mike Campbell
Eighty years after her disappearance and death, the life and tragic ending of Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) continues to incite curiosity not only among researchers but the general public in the United States. She is remembered as one of aviation’s true female pioneers and her ill-fated trip with navigator Fred Noonan (1893-1937) in July, 1937, is considered one of history’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Similar to the deaths of John F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa, myths, half-truths , conspiracy theories and fabrications have plagued the investigations into their final moments. Officially, their disappearance remains unsolved but there are many who believe that the U.S. Government knows far more than it is willing to admit.
Mike Campbell invested many years of his life researching the case and the result is this compendium that examines the case in what could be considered the most thorough account to date. One more than one occasion, focus had shifted to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific as the place were Earhart’s plane met its end. Although no irrefutable and conclusive proof has been provided by researchers such as Ric Gillespie of TIGHAR, the islands continue to be a point of focus. From start to finish, Campbell leaves no stone un-turned. Far from a crack pot conspirator, he supplements his words with statements from natives of the island of Saipan, military personnel present in the Marianas during World War II, Earhart’s mother and an examination of the actions of the U.S. Government. And it is this island that forms the crux of the book shedding light on overlooked parts of the story that have been forgotten or ignored over time.
To be fair, Campbell never says he has a smoking gun. He does have a theory which holds considerable weight throughout the book. In his final analysis, he believes many of the answers lie with Washington to reveal what President Roosevelt and the military really knew about the fate of Earhart’s plane. Roosevelt is long gone and unable to shed light on the matter. But even if he were alive, we can only guess as to how much he would actually tell us. But what is paramount are disturbing questions that arise towards the end of the book. Did Washington know where Earhart’s plane was? And if it was known, why was it withheld from the public? Was it to pacify Japan or protect vital national security secrets about U.S. intelligence gathering operations as the world inched closer to war? And did the military conceal what it knew to protect the image of President Roosevelt? Pearl Harbor would occur until several years later in 1941, but even in 1937, the Japanese military had been causing destruction across China, nearly destroying the cities of Shanghai and Nanking. Was it is this Japanese army that Earhart and Noonan encountered as they possibly landed at Milli Atoll before being transported to the island of Saipan? And why are several years of decoded Japanese communications surrounding 1937, missing from the national archives?
I admit that I love a good conspiracy but am ambivalent enough to avoid atrociously absurd theories. And Earhart’s story is filled with far too many extreme conspiracy theories which have only served to make a difficult case even more astounding. Campbell presents a compelling thesis and the support it receives from the statements of Saipan natives and former soldiers serves to arouse an even darker cloud over Earhart’s last flight. Campbell brilliantly debunks many rumors in order to give us the most accurate picture possible. And that picture results in more questions than answers. From the beginning, the book pulled me as I dived deep into the last moments of her life. Curiously though, as I read the section regarding her radio communications and lack thereof with the Itasca, I began to understand the many factors at play which doomed the flight from the beginning. In fact, many pilots today would probably tell you they would never attempt such a flight with such primitive radio equipment. However, hindsight is always 20/20 and I am sure that she had lived, she would have had endless stories about the flight that was intended to change the course of history for aviation. Regardless, she is one of America’s greatest aviators.
Some will read the book and write it off as another theory without sufficient evidence. But if we take the time to fully digest the staggering amount of research and effort put into the book, we can see that Campbell has gone to great lengths to get the story right and give us an idea of what could have very well have happened to the famed aviatrix. And perhaps one day, Washington may tell us more than we have heard for eighty years. If you are interested in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or already familiar with it and seeking to clear up any confusion you may have, this is a great addition to any library.