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Results 26 - 50 of 11,980
26. Pagán’s planarians: the extraordinary world of flatworms

The earth is filled with many types of worms, and the term “planarian” can represent a variety of worms within this diverse bunch of organisms. The slideshow below highlights fun facts about planarians from Oné Pagán’s book, The First Brain: The Neuroscience of Planarians, and provides a glimpse of why scientists like Pagán study these fascinating creatures.



Oné R. Pagán is a Professor of Biology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and the author of The First Brain: The Neuroscience of Planarians.

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Images: The first five photos in this slideshow have been used courtesy of Dr. Masaharu Kawakatsu. Photo six is copyrighted (2003) by the National Academy of Sciences, USA and has been used with permission.

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27. Would You Want a Netflix for Books?

I came across an interesting article today by Joseph Esposito, Everybody Wants a Netflix for Books. First there was Amazon Prime and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library that allows Prime customers to borrow one Kindle book each month. Next came Oyster where for just $9.95 a month you have access to as many ebooks as you can read. The catch is that you can only choose from the books in their library and they may or may not have the newest book you want to read like, for instance, The Luminaries.

Esposito’s article is the best explanation I have read so far on just what we mean when we say we want a Netflix for books and why that is not likely to happen. Using Netflix as the example, he clearly explains the difference between getting DVDs in the mail and streaming video and then translates that to books. It all comes down to copyright which these days is all about money. If there are some publishers that won’t even allow libraries to lend ebooks, there certainly isn’t going to be a comprehensive service for ebook rental.

My question is though, do we really want such a service anyway? I mean, I can understand it if you like to tear through short genre kinds of books like mysteries, romance, scifi and fantasy. But what about longer, more substantial books? You know every book you read in a month is not going to be an ebook even if you could get everything you wanted to read without waiting in line for it. So let’s say you read two books a month from the book service, and let’s say the monthly fee is $10-15. Would you sign up? Would it be worth it?

I can’t help but think it isn’t worth it especially when I can go to the library. Sure, I have to wait in line for popular books, but I have so many books to read anyway waiting a few weeks or even a few months is no big deal. Plus, I don’t have to pay a monthly fee. The money I don’t spend on fees I can use to buy those books I just can’t wait for.

But maybe I am wrong. Maybe if there was an online ebook rental service that was reasonably priced and had everything I wanted to read resistance would be futile. What do you think? Do you want such a service? Would you sign up if it existed? What would be the monthly fee you’d be willing to pay?


Filed under: Books, ebooks, Reading

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28. Review – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

9780356502564This book draws immediate comparisons to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. But where Life After Life was about a character who kept reliving their life over and over without knowing they were doing so, this is about a character who keeps reliving their life over and over and remembers everything. And this difference changes everything.

I loved Life After Life and this feels in no way treading over familiar territory. In fact I would compare it more to Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls (minus the serial killer part) as there is a large mystery to solve that spans multiple times, places and of course lives.

Through Harry August we are introduced to people who live multiple lives. We meet Harry on the deathbed of his eleventh life where he has just been informed (by a seven year-old girl) that the world is ending. All the worlds; past, future and present. Time is literally running out.

9780316399616The story jumps back and forth between Harry’s past and future lives as he tries to slowly piece together what is bringing about the end of everything. Harry must race against the length of each of his lives to find out who is responsible and if they can be stopped. And the closer he gets the more high stakes the game of cat and mouse becomes.

Part unique and intriguing mystery, part philosophical look at life, memory and time travel this story kept me totally gripped from the opening words to the mind blowing finale. Now all I want to know is who is the pseudonymous Claire North?

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29. Series Collecting: How do you know?

Unless your library exists in the digital world rather than the physical one, everyone has experienced the limitations of shelf space at one point or another. With 3,000+ titles published each year for children, weeding is a way of life for the children’s librarian, lest our shelves begin to look like a particularly literary episode of hoarders! Older books and series that no longer have an audience have to make way for exciting new books and series that will become a whole new generation’s favorite books.

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's adventures - and they're always checked out!

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures – and they’re always checked out!

So my query today, fellow collectors of books for children, is this: how do you decide to take the plunge on a new series? There are some obvious indicators, like a rave review for the first title or a first printing size that indicates the publisher believes the book has legs. I place some of my trust in the selectors at Baker & Taylor, and ask to see all titles in my carts which my warehouse (South) has purchased 400 or more copies of.

Beyond that, deciding to purchase a new series that has decent but not astounding reviews becomes a puzzle with many pieces – do we have kids that read this type of fiction? Do we have similar series already? Does that series have any distinguishing factors, either character or plot, that will make it stand out for the pack? I admit that we have become very wary of purchasing new fantasy series without stellar reviews, as their popularity (at least in our library) seems to be on a slow decline.

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Our most recent series decision was a long time coming. We didn’t purchased those pink-and-purple, absolutely adorable Cupcake Diaries for the first 6 months of their lives, for a few reasons. The series was publishing at a fast rate, which meant we would have to devote ever-increasing amount of shelf space to it each month. Additionally, our library already had several multi-book series about girls, cooking, and cupcakes. Demand for the series rose and we made the decision to weed a few of the older cupcake/cooking series to make room for Katie and her friends. Of course, the series circ’d like hotcakes and I was kicking myself for not snapping them up immediately!

How do you know when to purchase? How do you know when to let a series go?

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30. Charles Burns completes his Nitnit trilogy with Sugr Skull and here’s the cover

sugar_skull_burns.jpg

The third volume of Charles Burns’ great Nitnit trilogy is finally coming out in December! It’s called Sugar Skull and it completes the story from The Hive and X’ed out about the varying levels of reality among a man who has overdosed, a weird world of worms where a reverse Tintin named Nitnit is finding his way, and angsty drama that will be familiar to readers of Black Hole.

Burns has been producing this work at a slow rate of 64 pages every two years so it hasn’t exactly been a quick ride but who cares. This is one of my favorite comics of recent years—despite the low page count, every panel is filled with allusions, color-coded mystery and a complete world that it takes many readings to unpack. And of course, perfect cartooning. I can’t wait to see how it ends.

Here’s another page of promo art I found floating around.

comics-charles-burns-sugar-skull-teaser.jpg

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31. Roberto Bolaño and the New York School of poetry

By Andrew Epstein


The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño is of course best-known as a novelist, the author of ambitious, sprawling novels like The Savage Detectives and 2666. But before turning to prose, Bolaño started out as a poet; in fact, he often said he valued poetry more highly than fiction and sometimes claimed he was a better poet than novelist. His work is marked by a deep and abiding fascination with poetry and the people who write, read, and teach it. As Ben Ehrenreich wrote several years ago in an essay for the Poetry Foundation, “through his legions of fictional poets (some more fictional than others), through their political compromises, their self-betrayals, their struggles and feuds both petty and grand, Bolaño built a world.”

Ehrenreich is surely right about the importance of poetry, and fictional poets, to Bolaño’s oeuvre, but the critical discussion of this element of Bolaño’s work thus far has mostly remained on a general plane, instead of connecting his writing to particular poets and poetry movements. However, with the recent publication of his unfinished novel Woes of the True Policeman and of his complete poetry in The Unknown University, Bolaño’s rather surprising links to a specific poetry movement — the New York School of poetry — have come into sharper focus.

It is common for readers to link Bolaño to Latin American and Spanish literary influences, to European avant-garde movements, or to other fiction writers. But Bolaño clearly read and absorbed the New York School of poetry and painting, along with a truly astonishing range of other sources. Although commentators on his work have barely mentioned it thus far, the New York School plays an important role in his work. It flickers just on the margins of Bolaño’s fictional universe, a ghostly example of the kind of poetry — as well as the type of intimate avant-garde community of like-minded others — that continually beckons and frustrates Bolaño and his characters.

Bolaño’s preoccupation with poetry can perhaps be seen best in his wonderful novel The Savage Detectives, which is actually a novel about poets. At its heart is a semi-fictional movement of young poets Bolaño calls the “Visceral Realists” (loosely based upon his own youthful involvement in a coterie called the Infrarealists). Throughout the remarkable opening section of the novel, this group — with all of its subversive energy, its iconoclasm and playfulness, its goofy, idealistic naivete, romanticism, and tragic flaws — reminds one of a host of other avant-garde communities, including the Surrealists, the Beats, and the New York School.

But it is more than just a novel about poets. The Savage Detectives is a moving meditation on poetry as a horizon of possibility and disillusionment. In fact, it’s one of the most exhilarating, devastating, exhausting, and revealing accounts of avant-garde poetry — and the movements and social worlds that sustain it — that I have encountered. It portrays the avant-garde as dream, as tragedy, as farce, as inspiring coterie and impossible community, tantalizing potential and heart-breaking, inevitable failure. In this, Bolaño echoes one of the hallmarks of the New York School itself: an intense, often ironic awareness of the paradoxes inherent in any avant-garde community, both its allure and its limitations.

Larry Rivers, "The Athlete's Dream" (1956) source: lunacommons.org

Larry Rivers, “The Athlete’s Dream” (1956) Source: Luna Commons

However, The Savage Detectives contains few direct references to the New York poets themselves (except for a passing reference to poets Ted Berrigan and John Giorno). Traces of the New York School stand out more prominently in the recently published book Woes of the True Policeman, one of the many (and perhaps the last) of Bolaño’s posthumous works that have appeared in recent years. At the novel’s center is a Chilean university professor named Óscar Amalfitano who falls in love with a young Mexican artist whose specialty is making forgeries of paintings by … Larry Rivers, of all people. Rivers, of course, was Frank O’Hara’s close friend, collaborator, and sometime lover, and the painter who is perhaps most closely allied, both socially and aesthetically, with the New York poets. This unusual detail — and the figure of Rivers himself — becomes a significant thread in Bolaño’s novel. The young artist, Castillo, explains that he sells the forgeries to a Texan who “then sells them to other filthy rich Texans.” When Castillo informs Amalfitano that Rivers is “an artist from New York,” he replies “I know Larry Rivers. I know Frank O’Hara, so I know Larry Rivers.”

Soon after, as Amalfitano meditates on the strangeness of this situation — the amateurish Rivers’ forgeries, the Texans who buy them, and the art market in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas — Bolaño writes:

“he immediately pictured those fake Berdies, those fake camels, and those extremely fake Primo Levis (some of the faces undeniably Mexican) in the private salons and galleries, the living rooms and libraries of modestly prosperous citizens… And then he imagined himself strolling around Castillo’s nearly empty studio, naked like Frank O’Hara, a cup of coffee in his right hand and a whiskey in his left, his heart untroubled, at peace with himself, moving trustingly into the arms of his new lover” (58).

Near the end of the book, the Rivers plot culminates with a strange and funny anecdote about running into Larry Rivers himself at an exhibition of his work.

The novel also features an amusing collection of Amalfitano’s “Notes for a Class in Contemporary Literature: The Role of the Poet.” This takes the form of an almost Buzzfeed-ready list that consists of items like “Happiest: Garcia Lorca,” “Banker of the soul: T.S. Eliot,” and “Strangest wrinkles: Auden.” Among other names cited in this rather crazy, irreverent list, one finds several important figures of the New York School – Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, and Diane Di Prima — getting top honors in some strange categories: “Biggest cock: Frank O’Hara,” “Best movie companion: Elizabeth Bishop, Berrigan, Ted Hughes, José Emilio Pacheco,” and under “Biggest nervous wreck: Diane Di Prima”.

Signs of Bolaño’s interest in poets of the New York School can be found elsewhere across the body of his work, as when Frank O’Hara pops up in a short story collected in Last Evenings on Earth in which two poets meet, share poems with one another, and discuss their influences: “We talked a while longer, about Sanguinetti and Frank O’Hara (I still like Frank O’Hara but I haven’t read Sanguinetti for ages).” In the newly published collection of his complete poetry, The Unknown University, Bolaño’s connection to O’Hara is considerably more substantial. He not only uses a passage by Frank O’Hara as an epigraph to a poem, but the (untitled) poem itself closely echoes O’Hara’s work:

I listen to Barney Kessel
and smoke smoke smoke and drink tea
and try to make myself some toast
with butter and jam
but discover I have no bread and
it’s already twelve thirty at night
and the only thing to eat
is a nearly full bottle
of chicken broth bought this
morning and five eggs and a little
muscatel and Barney Kessel plays
guitar stuck between a
rock and an open socket
I think I’ll make some consommé and
then get into bed
to re-read The Invention of Morel
and think about a blond girl
until I fall asleep and
start dreaming.

(translated by Laura Healey)

With its “I do this, I do that” narrative conjuring up an ordinary but melancholy-tinged everyday moment, its references to listening to music, and jazz at that (Barney Kessel), its intimate and conversational tone, its lack of punctuation and its headlong rush, Bolaño’s poem seems to intentionally evoke O’Hara’s signature style.

In another poem in The Unknown University, Bolaño chronicles his experience of reading Ted Berrigan’s 1963 book The Sonnets.

A Sonnet

16 years ago Ted Berrigan published
his Sonnets. Mario passed the book around
the leprosaria of Paris. Now Mario
is in Mexico and The Sonnets on
a bookshelf I built with my own
hands. I think I found the wood
near Montealegre nursing home
and I built the shelf with Lola. In
the winter of ’78, in Barcelona, when
I still lived with Lola! And now it’s been 16 years
since Ted Berrigan published his book
and maybe 17 or 18 since he wrote it
and some mornings, some afternoons,
lost in a local theatre I try reading it,
when the film ends and they turn on the light.

(translated by Laura Healey)

The poem portrays the speaker’s formative encounter with Berrigan’s ground-breaking collection of experimental sonnets, but also hints at the frustrations or limitations of his exposure to it: the “lost” speaker, who may also have recently lost his lover (Lola), merely tries to read the book. He seems to long for the energy he seems convinced Berrigan must have had so many years ago when he wrote those poems. The poem also underscores both the cosmopolitan nature of Bolaño’s imagination and the international reach of the New York School of poets. Berrigan’s book The Sonnets, like this sonnet itself, crosses time and space, speaking across 16 years, and sliding across boundaries and nationalities: written in New York, circulated around Paris by a Latin American poet who is now in Mexico, read by a young 26 year old Chilean poet in a movie theater in Barcelona.

Bolaño of course read voraciously, immersing himself fully in a wide range of 20th century avant-garde writing and art, but as the final pieces of his work appear in translation, it has become clearer than ever that he seems to have had a special connection to a poetry movement that sprouted from a place far from Santiago, Mexico City, Barcelona, and other key points in his own geography — the world of Frank O’Hara, Larry Rivers, Ted Berrigan, and other New York poets.

Poetry — especially the kind of poetry the New York School produced, and even more so, embodied, in its example and its ambivalent attitudes about community — seemed to exemplify Bolaño’s guiding belief about art in general: that it always promises us shimmering possibilities and perpetual disappointment at the same time.

Andrew Epstein is Associate Professor of English at Florida State University. He is the author of Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry.

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32. Five jazz concerts I wish I had been at

By Gabriel Solis


Most people who have listened to jazz for very long have a list in their minds of the best live performances they’ve ever been to. I know I do. I remember with particular fondness a performance by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson that I saw in the early 1980s in Modesto, California that was a benefit for local jazz musician and DJ Mel Williams’s Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. It wasn’t so much that it was a groundbreaking concert as such–though I still remember how tight and in-the-pocket his band swung–but it was one of the first I ever went to.

As a kid in California’s Central Valley, an agricultural backwater at the time, I didn’t have that many chances to hear live jazz, and it was a revelation. I remember equally fondly seeing Johnny Griffin at Birdland in New York, when I was doing research for my first book, Monk’s Music (University of California Press, 2008). I had dug Griff on vinyl since I was in high school, and to see that band take the stage and hear him—old by then, but still brimming with intensity–burn through two sets of serious hard bop felt a little like coming home.

And most people who go see jazz regularly will tell you that the particular features of the venues where jazz happens color their experiences in tangible ways. For me, The Village Vanguard when it’s full has a kind of electricity that comes from the tight seating and the quality of the light in its cramped little basement space, as well as from its storied past. Sitting cheek-by-jowl with a couple hundred other fans to hear jazz in dim twilight in the same room where John Coltrane once played has a power that can’t be overstated. And being so close to the musicians in a room which has crisp acoustics doesn’t hurt, either.

These features and more make it common for jazz fans to feel that club dates are the best — or even the most authentic — way to hear the music. And yet, concerts, whether they be in monumental halls originally designed for classical music or in the purpose-built, often open-air spaces used for jazz festivals, have been an important context for the music as well. Since the 1920s jazz has been presented in these settings, often to truly great effect. As I say in my book on the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane’s live recording at Carnegie Hall, while clubs may offer certain pleasures for musicians–a more interactive, intimate experience especially–concerts have had their value as well. Better pay, typically, for one, but also the opportunity to present their musical ideas in more formal venues.

I’ve seen some great jazz performances at clubs and in concerts, but still, sometimes, I wonder if I didn’t grow up at the wrong time, in the wrong place. There’s just so much I never had the chance to hear — Monk at the Five Spot, Coltrane at the Village Vanguard, Billie Holiday at Café Society, Ellington anywhere … With that in mind, here are five jazz concerts I wish I had seen, in no particular order:

5. Newport Jazz Festival, 1956

To have been at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 to hear Ellington’s band play the set that included “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” would have been, as the beatniks used to say, “beyond the beyond.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Duke Ellington Orchestra at Newport 1956, “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue,” separated, as Ellington puts it, “by an interval by Paul Gonsalves”

The story is well-enough known to jazz aficionados, that Ellington’s star was on the wane, and that this concert was a way back for them, that on this tune Gonsalves took a solo that was a standard part of the show and turned it into a 27-chorus blues tour-de-force, inspired by a woman in a little black dress who danced and danced and danced while he blew. What else is jazz but that?

I would have worn my groovy fedora, some high-waisted white slacks, combed Brylcreem through my hair and dug every minute of it.

4. Weather Report in Tokyo, 1972

Weather Report’s work, by the later 1970s, includes some pretty dispiriting instrumental pop, but in 1972, Zawinul, Shorter, and company made some music that was vital, and living somewhere on the edge of experimental funk, avant garde noise, and deep groove.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Medley of “Vertical Invader,” “Seventh Arrow,” “T.H.,” and “Doctor Honoria Causus,” from the live recording Weather Report Live in Tokyo

Recordings of this music can only begin to capture its range. Even on high fidelity equipment, the silences are not as heavy as they would have been in the concert hall, not as pregnant with expectation, and the band at full volume is not as overwhelming. In some sense jazz performances are always a bit of a ritual, but this seems like an immersive experience of another level.

3. The Clef Club Orchestra, Massed Gala 1912 and 1913

Under the leadership of James Reese Europe, the Clef Club orchestra played at some of the best private dances New York society had in the early years of the 20th century, but they also presided over at least two “massed galas” in Carnegie Hall in the years 1912 and 1913. While Europe’s bands as they were recorded around the time included fewer than a dozen musicians, an image of the full group on stage at Carnegie Hall has better than fifty. The excitement generated by the group’s sheer size and its range of instruments including cellos, harp-guitars, drums, brass, and who knows what is born out in descriptions from the time that emphasize spectacle.

Click here to view the embedded video.

James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra, “The Castle Walk,” 1914

Somehow the recordings we know Europe by just don’t seem like they do justice …

2. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall

I’ve written about Monk for so many years now, it is a particular sadness to say I never saw him play. Our lives overlapped a bit–I had just turned 10 when he died–but he had stopped playing in public for the most part by the time I was born, and even if he had been playing, he wouldn’t likely have played where I was.

I would love to have seen him play with any of his groups, but there was something special about that band and that night in November, 1957.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, “Monk’s Mood”

It’s not just that the band gave a brilliant performance–though they did. It’s more. As I say at some length in my book on this concert recording, the selection of tunes is great, the chance to hear Coltrane working out a sound in relation to Monk’s established style is a treat, and there is something brilliant about the way Shadow Wilson and Ahmed Abdul-Malik come together to underpin the whole event.

Though only Monk’s set was released on CD, I would love to have had the chance to hear this performance in context with the rest of the groups on that evening’s remarkable bill, including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Zoot Sims, Sonny Rollins.

1. Newport Jazz Festival 1969, Final Night

OK, so technically this wasn’t necessarily, strictly speaking, a jazz concert, as such, but I would kill to have been at the NJF the night Miles Davis famously saw Led Zeppelin drive the kids wild. This is another one that is well-known and the stuff of legend, but everything about it would have felt like a lightening bolt at the time. Would Zeppelin play or wouldn’t they? Promoter George Wein was convinced that they would start a riot, but after some controversy, they did close an evening that also included Herbie Hancock’s sextet, and the Buddy Rich band, among others.

We often hear about Zeppelin in this story, but the whole festival was kind of incredible. The British rock band played at the end of a weekend that included George Benson, Bill Evans, Sun Ra’s Arkestra, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimmy Smith hosting a jam session that included Sonny Stitt and Ray Nance, among others.

So maybe I was born too soon. Though, in the past month I’ve had my head expanded by Vijay Iyer’s trio, by William Parker, and by the Bad Plus, all in the little college town in East Central Illinois where I live, so perhaps it’s all just fine.

Gabriel Solis is Associate Professor of music, African American studies, and anthropology at the University of Illinois. A scholar of jazz, American popular music, and the transnational politics of race, his work has appeared in leading journals of ethnomusicology, music history, and sociology. He is the author of Monk’s Music: Thelonious Monk and Jazz History in the Making (California, 2008), co-editor with Bruno Nettl of Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society (Illinois, 2009), a forthcoming book on singer, songwriter, and performing artist, Tom Waits titled Sounding America: Gender, Genre, Memory, and the Music of Tom Waits (California), and Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall.

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33. Review – Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

GalvestonI have been completely and utterly addicted to (and obsessed by) True Detective so when I found out the show’s creator and writer had written a crime novel I had to read it. And what a cracking book it is. Using some of the same elements as his television show Pizzolatto has constructed a highly atmospheric, slow burning thriller.

Roy Cady is a bagman who has just been diagnosed with cancer and sent on a job where he thinks his boss has tried to have him whacked. Now on the run he must navigate his way from New Orleans to East Texas with a young woman and her sister in tow. Roy is conflicted between his own short-term survival and that of the two girls now under his protection.

Just like True Detective Pizzolatto shifts time perception to perfection, drip feeding you bits of information, past and future, that leave you craving to know more.The raw emotion of Roy Cady is brutally and poignantly displayed and the way Pizzolatto describes the gulf coast landscape is an amazing blend of desolation and beauty.

We already know from True Detective that Nic Pizzolatto knows how to tell a story. Galveston proves that this talent was evident well before his HBO series.

Via Buzz Feed A list of dark, weird, and southern gothic books that every fan of HBO’s True Detective should read.

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34. Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

Holden_aprilartEdith Holden was an artist and naturalist. She lived most of her life in the West Midlands of England where she spent her time teaching art to students at Solihull School for Girls and working as an illustrator of children’s books. Holden’s paintings were often exhibited by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and in 1907 and 1917, by the royal Academy of Arts. But as these things go, women were not at that time taken seriously as artists and by the mid-twentieth century she was nearly forgotten.

In 1906 Holden created a diary notebook of watercolor paintings. The text that went along with them included excerpts of poems related to the month and time of year and short notes about nature walks she took. She did not create the book as a diary but as a text for teaching in order to model nature observation for her students.

In the mid-1970s, Holden’s great-niece showed the notebook to a publisher. It was published in facsimile in 1977 as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Through the years over six million copies have been sold. There is a second book, Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady, that was published in facsimile in 1989.

Holden_aprilI read the first book, The Country Diary, and what a delight it is. At first I thought it was meant to be a diary and was disappointed that the text was not more detailed. I do love her neat hand though and the sepia color of her ink makes me want to find a bottle for my own pen.

The beauty and detail of the book is in the paintings. They are a real delight. She had a keen eye for color and composition. While I rushed through the text, I spent time just looking at and enjoying each drawing.

Sadly, Holden died in 1920 when she was only 49. While reaching out over a backwater of the Thames to break off a branch of chestnut buds she fell in and drowned.

I borrowed my copy from the library because of Grad. I am glad I spent time with this book. It was a pleasure to look at the paintings when the snow was deep, the temperatures arctic, and spring seeming so far away. For a little bit more about Holden and some more photos of her art, visit Morning Earth.


Filed under: Art, Books, Diaries, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: Edith Holden

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35. What would your ideal early 20th century novel be like?

I’m in a mood where I want to read something like The Blue Castle or Gertrude Haviland’s Divorce or A Woman Named Smith, but with less nature imagery and more domesticity and no mummies. Something with a spinster defying her horrible family somehow, and making friends with a cranky guy with a secret insane wife. I would like them to get along really well as friends before they fall in love, and for there to be a happy ending without the secret insane wife having to die. Actually, I’d like for the heroine to make friends with the secret insane wife.

Or, wait. This would be super cool: The heroine is the secret insane wife, but she’s not all that insane, and she runs off and takes a job somewhere and slowly learns to be awesome at it. That is the book I would like to read. If there could also be a lot of detail about exactly how much money she’s making, and what she does with it, as well as a lot of descriptions of really excellent clothing, that would be great. Wherever the heroine lands there would be a lot of museum-quality furniture and a library for me to be jealous of, and sympathetic people for her to make friends with, and eventually her awful family and/or husband would have their noses rubbed in her excellent new life. There doesn’t even have to be romance, although it would be a plus.

If you could concoct an late 19th or early 20th century novel to suit your tastes, what would it be about? And does anyone have a spinster-remaking-herself story to recommend?


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36. Enter to Win a Paperback Copy of Flutura

 

We are giving away three paperback copies of  Flutura (The Alpha Girls Series, book one) from now until April 18th. Book one of The Alpha Girls series introduces you to Alexis, Brittany and Caitlin who have grown up together since birth. Caitlin is ready to become a woman, but she’s fourteen and has yet to experience her first French kiss or her first period. The summer before high school will change all of that.

Caitlin is taken by surprise when Joshua reveals his feelings for her. As Caitlin sorts out her own feelings toward Josh the memory of the kiss she shared with Trick on the beach continues to invade her thoughts.

Good thing she’ll never see Trick again or things could get complicated.

You can also find Larva (The Alpha Girls Series, book two) available now on Amazon kindle and paperback.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flutura by Angela Muse

Flutura

by Angela Muse

Giveaway ends April 18, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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37. Make the tax system safe for interstate telecommuting: pass H.R. 4085

EZ Thoughts

By Edward Zelinsky


Telecommuting benefits employers, employees, and society at large. Telecommuting expands work opportunities for the disabled, for those who live far from major metropolitan areas, and for the parents of young children who value the ability to work at home. Telecommuting also removes cars from our crowded highways and enables employers to hire from a wider and more diverse pool of potential employees.

It is thus anomalous that New York State’s personal income tax discourages interstate telecommuting by taxing the compensation non-resident telecommuters earn on the days such telecommuters work at their out-of-state homes. Under the misleading label “convenience of the employer,” New York subjects telecommuters to double income taxation by their state of residence as well as by New York – even though New York provides non-resident telecommuters with no public services on the days such interstate telecommuters work at their out-of-state homes outside of New York’s borders.

Some of New York’s elected officials profess interest in making New York tax policy more rational and family-friendly. These officials, however, have shown no willingness to repeal the “convenience of the employer” rule to stop New York’s double state income taxation. Taxing non-resident, non-voters for public services they do not use is just too politically tempting for Albany to resist.

Fortunately, federal officials have begun to recognize the unfairness and irrationality of the double state income taxation inflicted on non-residents by New York’s “convenience of the employer” rule. Most recently, US Representative Jim Himes, joined by his House colleagues Elizabeth Esty and Rosa DeLauro, introduced H.R. 4085, The Multi-State Worker Tax Fairness Act of 2014.

Representative Himes, and his colleagues, are to be commended for introducing this much needed legislation. If enacted into law, H.R. 4085 would make the tax system safe for interstate telecommuting.

Metro-North EMD FL9 leaving Stamford, CT. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In previous incarnations, legislation along these lines was denominated as The Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act. The legislation’s goal remains the same. For Congress, using its authority under the commerce clause of the US Constitution, to forbid New York and other states from double taxing no-nresidents’ incomes on the days such non-residents work at their out-of-state homes.

Consider in this context the spate of service stoppages experienced by MetroNorth railroad commuters this winter. During these stoppages, public officials quite sensibly urged MetroNorth commuters to work from home rather than clog the already crowded highways to reach Manhattan. However, no public official spoke candidly about the tax penalty such commuters triggered by working at their Connecticut homes.

New York’s double taxation of non-resident telecommuters is not limited to those who live and work at home in the northeast. Under the banner of employer convenience, New York projects its taxing authority throughout the nation. In widely reported cases, New York imposed its personal income tax on Thomas L. Huckaby for days he worked at his home in Tennessee, on Manohar Kakar for days he worked at his home in Arizona, and on R. Michael Holt for days he worked at his home in Florida.

Nor is the threat of double taxation limited to New York’s personal income taxes imposed on non-resident telecommuters. Fortunately, many states recognize that double taxing non-resident telecommuters is ultimately self-destructive, driving telecommuters and the firms which employ them to states with more welcoming tax policies. However, other states emulate the Empire State’s tax hostility to interstate telecommuting. For example, Delaware taxed Dorothy A. Flynn’s income for the days she worked at her Pennsylvania home, even though Ms. Flynn did not set foot in Delaware on these work-at-home days.

The unfairness and inefficiency of the double state income taxation of interstate telecommuters has led a broad national coalition to favor federal legislation like H.R. 4085. Among those supporting such legislation are the American Legion, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the National Taxpayers Union, The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the Association for Commuter Transportation, The Military Spouse JD Network, and the Telework Coalition.

Representative Himes, along with Representatives Esty and DeLauro, are to be commended for introducing H.R. 4085. If enacted into law, this much needed legislation would make the tax system safe for interstate telecommuting by forbidding double state income taxation of non-resident telecommuters.

ZelinskiEdward A. Zelinsky is the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. He is the author of The Origins of the Ownership Society: How The Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America. His monthly column appears on the OUPblog.

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Image credit: Metro-North EMD FL9 leaving Stamford, CT. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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38. Bookworms comic: Dinner conversation

From the archives...

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39. A brief history of ethnic violence in Rwanda and Africa’s Great Lakes region

By J. J. Carney


A few years ago an American Catholic priest asked me about my dissertation research. When I told him I was studying the intersection of Catholicism, ethnicity, and violence in Rwandan history, he responded, “Those people have been killing each other for ages.”

Such is the common if misguided popular stereotype. But even the better informed are often unaware of the longer historical trajectories of violence in Rwanda and the broader Great Lakes region. Although the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has garnered the most scholarly and popular attention–and rightfully so–it did not emerge out of a vacuum. As the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide, it is important to locate this epochal humanitarian tragedy within a broader historical and regional perspective.

Northwestern Rwanda by CIAT. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Northwestern Rwanda by CIAT. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

First, explicitly “ethnic” violence has a relatively recent history in Rwanda. Although precolonial Rwanda was by no means a utopian paradise, the worst political violence occurred in the midst of intra-elite dynastic struggles, such as the one that followed the death of Rwanda’s famous Mwami Rwabugiri in 1895. Even after the hardening of Hutu and Tutsi identities under the influence of German and Belgian colonial rule, there was no explicit Hutu-Tutsi violence throughout the first half of the 20th century.

This all changed in the late 1950s. As prospects for decolonization advanced, Hutu elites began to mobilize the Rwandan masses on the grounds of “Hutu” identity; Tutsi elites in turn encouraged a nationalist, pan-ethnic paradigm. The latter vision may have carried the day save for the sudden July 1959 death of Rwanda’s long-serving king, Mwami Mutara Rudahigwa. Mutara’s death opened up a political vacuum, emboldening extremists on all sides. After an escalating series of incidents in October 1959, a much larger wave of ethnic violence broke out in November 1959. Hutu mobs burned Tutsi homes across northern Rwanda, killing hundreds and forcing thousands from their homes. Scores of Hutu political leaders were killed in retaliatory attacks. Even here, however, motivations could be more complicated than an ethnic zero-sum game. For example, many Hutu militia leaders later claimed that they were defending Rwanda’s Tutsi king, Mwami Kigeli V, from a cabal of Tutsi chiefs. In other cases Hutu and Tutsi self-defense forces collaborated to defend their communities.

Supported by key figures in the Catholic hierarchy and the Belgian colonial administration, Hutu political leaders like Gregoire Kayibanda soon gained the upper hand in the political struggle that followed the November 1959 violence. In turn, political violence took on increasingly ethnic overtones during election cycles in 1960 and 1961; hundreds of mostly Tutsi civilians were killed in a series of local massacres between March 1960 and September 1961. Marginalized inside Rwanda, Tutsi exile leaders launched raids into Rwanda in early 1962, sparking further retaliatory violence against Tutsi civilians in the northern town of Byumba. For their part, European missionaries and colonial officials deplored the violence even as they blamed much of it on Tutsi exile militias, attributing the Hutu reactions to uncontrollable “popular anger.”

If these earlier episodes could be classified as “ethnic massacres,” a larger genocidal event unfolded in December 1963 and January 1964. Shortly before Christmas, a Tutsi exile militia invaded Rwanda from neighboring Burundi. The incursion was quickly repulsed by a combined force of Belgian and Rwandan army units. In the immediate aftermath, the Rwandan government launched a vicious repression of Tutsi opposition political leaders. In the weeks that followed, local government “self-defense” units executed upwards of 10,000 Tutsi civilians in the southern Rwandan province of Gikongoro. Vatican Radio among other media sources deplored “the worst genocide since World War II.” Local religious leaders like Archbishop André Perraudin stood by the government, however, calling the invoking of “genocide” language “deeply insulting for a Catholic head of state.”

Rwanda’s “ethnic syndrome” spread to neighboring Burundi during the 1960s. After a failed Hutu coup d’état in April-May 1972, Burundi’s Tutsi-dominated military launched a fierce repression known locally as the “ikiza” (“curse”). Over 200,000 mostly educated Hutu were killed that summer. In Rwanda, anti-Tutsi violence broke out in February 1973. Although the number of deaths was much lower than in 1963-64, hundreds of Tutsi elites were driven into exile as pogroms broke out at Rwanda’s national university, several Catholic seminaries, and a multitude of secondary schools and parishes.

Rwanda and Burundi were both dominated by one-party military dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. For some years each regime paid lip service to a pan-ethnic ideal. However, as economic and political conditions worsened in the late 1980s, ethnic violence flared again in 1988 in the northern Burundian provinces of Ntega and Marangara. In October 1990, the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front invaded northern Rwanda, sparking a three-year civil war that profoundly destabilized Rwandan society. Following the pattern of the early 1960s, Hutu militias responded by targeting Tutsi civilians in six separate local massacres between October 1990 and February 1994. In turn, the October 1993 assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, Burundi’s first Hutu Prime Minister, sparked a massive outbreak of ethnic violence and civil war in Burundi that would ultimately take the lives of over half a million.

In turn, one should not forget the post-1994 violence that continued to plague the region. Not only did Rwanda suffer more massacres (some directed at Hutu) between 1995 and 1998, but Burundi’s civil war continued until 2006. Perhaps worst of all, Eastern Congo after 1996 became the epicenter of what many scholars have dubbed “Africa’s World War.” The precipitous cause of the conflict was Rwanda’s invasion of Congo in October 1996, ostensibly to clear Hutu refugee camps that were serving as staging grounds for cross-border raids into Rwanda. Upwards of four million Congolese died from war-related causes over the next six years. Over a decade later, Rwandan-backed militias continue to dominate Congo’s Kivu provinces. The “afterlife” of the Rwanda genocide thus continues even in 2014.

The 1994 genocide took the lives of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them Tutsi. This genocide–and the world’s utter abandonment of the Rwandan people–should never be forgotten. But nor should we overlook the political and ethnic violence that preceded and followed the genocide, whether in Rwanda, Burundi, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One can only hope that the next 20 years will be kinder to a region that has suffered so much over the past generation.

J. J. Carney is Assistant Professor of Theology at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. His research and teaching interests engage the theological and historical dimensions of the Catholic experience in modern Africa. He has published articles in African Ecclesial Review, Modern Theology, Journal of Religion in Africa, and Studies in World Christianity. He is author of Rwanda Before the Genocide: Catholic Politics and Ethnic Discourse in the Late Colonial Era.

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40. Challenges to the effectiveness of international law

For the first time in its history, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) is partnering with the American Branch of the International Law Association (ILA) to combine each organization’s major conference into an extraordinary joint event. Oxford University Press is looking forward to exhibiting at the conference taking place in Washington on 7-12 April 2014. The conference theme is “The Effectiveness of International Law,” and no doubt there will be much to debate and discuss during the week. Organizers released a set of questions they hope will be addressed during the course of the conference. To kick off the debate we posed two of them to Ademola Abass, author of Complete International Law.

Are there greater challenges to effectiveness in some areas of international law practice than in others? If so, what are they, and how can they be addressed?

Keen followers of international affairs often wonder why, despite the prohibition on the use of force by the UN Charter, States still resort to this means of addressing international disputes. Explanations vary. Legal experts offer various technical explanations for this development. This includes that the rules governing the use of force are outdated and do not offer enough protection for States. Non-lawyers blame the ‘double-standard’ of international law which allows rich and powerful States to act with impunity while weak and poor States are held accountable for their conducts. Others blame the special status accorded to the five permanent members of the Security Council by the veto vote. Regardless of divergent viewpoints, all agree the prohibition of the use of force is less effective than other areas of international law. This is due principally to lack of compliance by some States, and lack of enforcement against rich and powerful States. It is also difficult for States not to defend themselves against threatening States until those have attacked them. The presence of nuclear weapons makes it difficult for most States to sit and wait for an attack before they respond. Overcoming these challenges requires making the Security Council work more evenly and responsibly; ensuring greater transparency and consistency in the administration of collective security by the United Nations. More importantly, it requires the interpretation of the law prohibiting the use of force in accordance with the reality of the twenty first century.

The United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York. Photo by Patrick Gruban, 2006. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons.

Do the challenges facing international law vary in different parts of the world, and, if so, how might those challenges be met?

It is often argued that international law began in the West. While one can contest whether it is possible (or purposeful) to seek locating the birthplace of international law, in contradistinction from its development, not many will argue that international law faces severe challenges in the developing world in contrast to the developed world. In the developing world, the first problem of international law is lack of its popularity. This arises through a combination of lack of awareness, of most law students, about the utility and relevance of international law to their societies. Secondly, the marketing of international institution and materials, has almost a Western bias: international institutions such as the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court (ICC), World Bank, are all located in the West. Most international law books report cases and jurisdictions that are preponderant Western as if cases and courts in developing countries make no contribution to international law development.

Addressing these challenges calls for a greater balancing acts in the citing and administration of international institutions; it requires a more even coverage of international law; it necessitates making international law more visible to developing countries, and making their contributions to international law more visible to the world. On their own, developing countries must do more to popularize international law in their academic curricula, expose their judges more greatly to international law, and afford international lawyers from the developing countries more opportunity in the dissemination and practice of international law.

Professor Ademola Abass joined the UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) as a Research Fellow in Peace and Security in 2010. He is also the Head of Peace and Security Programme. He is a former Professor of International Law and Organisation at Brunel University, West London and was educated at the Universities of Lagos, Cambridge, and Nottingham. He holds a Ph.D. in International Law and has previously taught in several British universities. He is the author of Complete International Law.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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Image credit: The United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York. Photo by Patrick Gruban, 2006. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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41. What Do Libraries and Poetry Have in Common?

April is the month we will honor and celebrate to very reading/writing related things: Poetry and Libraries.  April is National Poetry Month and also National School Library Month. What better way to celebrate than to gather poetry books from the school library and read aloud in class. This could be a lead-in to having kids write their own poetry.  Ken Nesbitt has a great website especially for kids:  http://www.poetry4kids.com   You’ll find all kinds of wonderful poems, a rhyming dictionary and even poetry contests.  Be sure to check out this wonderful sight.

To learn more about activities to celebrate School Libraries, visit the American Library Association website at: http://www.ala.org


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42. Persecution in medicine

By Arpan Banerjee


Recently I had the good fortune to see an excellent production of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Life of Galileo at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Brecht has a tenuous connection with the medical profession; he registered in 1917 to attend a medical course in Munich and found himself drafted into the army, serving in a military VD clinic for a short while before the end of the war. Brecht’s main interest, however, was drama (in 1918 he wrote his first play Baal) and it was in this field that he made his lasting contribution.

Galileo.arp.300pix

Galileo Galilei

Galileo was persecuted by the Church and the established authorities for his scientific research. His major crime was using his telescope to confirm the Copernican model of the Sun being at the centre of the solar system with the earth revolving around it. This challenged the cultural consensus and the leaders of the day were not prepared to listen to scientific evidence which challenged old dogmas. Galileo was interrogated in the Vatican, tortured, and forced to retract his theories.

The medical profession has also seen more than its fair share of persecution. I will illustrate with two examples in the relatively new speciality of radiology. The people concerned were not radiologists as such but were conducting pioneering research in imaging. Wilhelm Rötgen, the German physicist who first discovered x-rays in 1895, did himself meet relatively few obstacles regarding the dissemination of his thoughts and findings. But Werner Forssmann, a physician from the small town of Eberswalde in Germany, was not so lucky. In 1929, it is claimed, Forsmann performed the procedure of catheterisation of the heart upon himself and incurred the wrath of his boss as a result. He was sacked and had to switch from a career in cardiology to urology.

Forssmann was to have the last laugh a quarter century later when he shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for his contribution to cardiac catheterisation. This is now a commonplace procedure worldwide.

Werner Forssmann

Werner Forssmann

The next case concerns the plight of Moses Swick, an American urology intern who went to Germany in 1928 to work with Professor Lichtenberg in Berlin. Swick performed scientific studies of a new intravenous contrast agent which would enable visualisation of the renal tract. He and Professor Lichtenberg fell out about who should be given the accolade for the discovery; Lichtenberg stole the limelight and was invited to talk about intravenous urography at the American Urological Association Scientific meeting. For 35 years Swick worked as an urologist in New York until in 1966 it was realised that he had been the victim of injustice and his role in the discovery was belatedly recognised.

These stories are examples where justice prevailed in the end. There are several others which did not and still do not realise fair outcomes.

Arpan K Banerjee qualified in medicine from St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School in London, UK and trained in Radiology at Westminster Hospital and Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital. In 2012 he was appointed Chairman of the British Society for the History of Radiology of which he is a founder member and council member. In 2011 he was appointed to the scientific programme committee of the Royal College Of Radiologists, London. He is the author/co-author of six books including the recent The History of Radiology. Read his previous blog posts.

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Image credits: (1) Galileo, public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Wilhelm Röntgen, by NFejza, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Werner Forssmann nobel, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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43. The American Noah: neolithic superhero

By William D. Romanowski


Reports suggest that Hollywood’s sudden interest in Bible movies is driven by economics. Comic book superheroes may be losing their luster and the studios can mine the Bible’s “action-packed material” without having to pay licensing fees to Marvel Entertainment. Maybe this explains why director Darren Aronofsky’s pitch to studio executives was not based on religious precursors, but the fact that Noah’s ark might be “the only boat more famous than the Titanic.” Did Paramount executives picture Titanic meets The Passion of the Christ?

Noah, first and foremost, follows the conventions of the Hollywood blockbuster. The studio is targeting not just churchgoers, but more importantly, the most frequent moviegoers (the under-25 crowd), and foreign audiences.

To heighten the film’s universal appeal, Aronofsky tried to meld the “fantastical world à la Middle-earth” for nonbelievers with a treatment that would please those “who take this very, very seriously as gospel.” The scorched earth magically sprouts a lush forest—lumber for ark-building—with Noah and his family helped by the Watchers, powerful earth-encrusted angels resembling Transformers. For the religiously devout, well, the movie “contains just enough spiritual pretention to make you wonder afterward if you have missed something important,” as Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson observes.

The film is “inspired by the story of Noah” with the Book of Genesis providing characters and setting. Noah is however more centrally shaped by American mythology, which is of course laced with Biblical motifs. In his classic study, R. W. B. Lewis describes the archetypal American as an Adamic figure, his innocence restored by virtue of having shed the baggage of history and ancestry. He is “an individual standing alone, self-reliant and self-propelling, ready to confront whatever awaited him with the aid of his own unique and inherent resources.”

Transplant this mythic character into Genesis and voilà! There you have it. The American Noah: Neolithic Superhero. Indeed, as Aronofsky said, “You’re going to see Russell Crowe as a superhero, a guy who has this incredibly difficult challenge put in front of him and has to overcome it.” Like the usual action-adventure lead (think of Crowe’s Maximus in Gladiator), Noah is stoic, fearless, determined, and not only capable of violence, but adroit in combat. Faith serves as Noah’s superpower with God providing some “magical outside assistance” that makes for amazing special effects (Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America). Forget the forty days and nights; in an SFX instant geysers erupt and the skies unleash a torrent of rainfall submerging the earth in the apocalyptic flood. Wow!

Logan Lerman and Russell Crowe in Noah. Source: noahmovie.com.

Logan Lerman and Russell Crowe in Noah. Source: noahmovie.com.

As expected, characterizations are stark and simplified. Conflict results from the different positions that characters embrace on two important Biblical themes.

The Biblical creation account is referred to variously in several scenes. The Creator of all that exists invests His image bearers with the care and cultivation of human life and the creation: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). Noah understands the Creator’s charge to have “dominion” in terms of creational caretaking. In contrast, his archenemy, the wicked Tubal-Cain, employs it as a divine license for exploitation of people and the creation.

There is much dialogue about whether human nature is basically good or evil. Noah’s wife Naameh stresses goodness as a counterbalance to Noah’s mounting pessimism. He believes he is chosen only because he would complete a task that is “much greater than our own desires.” Noah is convinced there is “wickedness in all of us” and that he and his family will eventually perish “like everyone else.” However, early on, one of the Watchers perceives “a glimmer of Adam” in Noah. This is more than a wistful allusion to pre-Fall innocence and foreshadows the anticipated payoff in the climax.

True to the blockbuster formula, the conflict peaks with a face-to face confrontation between Noah and his evil nemesis, but with a crosscutting twist that puts the fate of humankind in Noah’s hands (like all apocalyptic movies). The scene recalls Abraham’s test with his son Isaac (Genesis 22). At the decisive moment in Noah, however, it is not God’s intervention, but Noah’s “good” and better judgment that ultimately prevails. Such is the film’s deference to American self-reliance and the blockbuster formula that the ending is never in doubt. But let’s consider possible meanings of this crucial, if ambiguous scene.

Perhaps Noah is to be likened to the Creator, who punishes sin and remains faithful by preserving a remnant of humanity. Or maybe it’s just that Noah has seen enough devastation, which appears to have driven him (temporarily) mad, and now refuses to complete what he believes is his “mission.” The story is flawed here with Noah’s apparent—though plausible—confusion seeming contrived. The real effect of the scene is to elicit viewer empathy and admiration for the tried and true hero whose commendable faith turned dangerous. But Noah explains that when it came down to it he has “only love in his heart.” It’s a disappointing and obtuse cliché that I suppose is meant to be a comment by the narrator on both the divine and human nature. More than theological reflection, the line serves a thematic purpose: the American Noah’s autonomy and own integrity trump his trust in God.

Then again, this is an American-made blockbuster designed to attract the largest global audience possible. Among the trailers for Noah was Paramount’s next scheduled release, Transformers: Age of Extinction.

William Romanowski is Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College. His books include Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture (a 2002 ECPA Gold Medallion Award Winner), Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in America Life, and Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies. Read his previous blog posts.

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44. China’s exchange rate conundrum

By Ronald McKinnon


In late February, the slow appreciation of China’s currency was interrupted by a discrete depreciation from 6.06 to 6.12 yuan per dollar. Despite making front page headlines in the Western financial press, this 1% depreciation was too small to significantly affect trade in goods and services—and hardly anything compared to how floating exchange rates change among other currencies. Why then the great furor? And what should China’s foreign exchange policy be?

Foreign governments and influential pundits continually pressure China to appreciate the yuan in the mistaken belief that China’s large trade—read: saving—surplus would decline. This pressure is often called China bashing. And since July 2008 when the exchange rate was 8.28 yuan/dollar (and had been held constant for 10 years), the People’s Bank of China has more or less complied. So even the small depreciation was upsetting to foreign China bashers.

But an unintended consequence of sporadically appreciating the yuan, even by very small amounts, is (was) to increase the flow of “hot” money into China. With US short-term interest rates near zero, and the “natural” rate of interbank interest rate in the more robustly growing Chinese economy closer to 4%, an expected rate of yuan appreciation of just 3% leads to an “effective” interest rate differential of 7%. This profit margin is more than enough to excite the interest of carry traders: speculators who borrow in dollars, and try to circumvent the China’s exchange controls on financial inflows, to buy yuan assets. True, the 4% interest differential alone is enough to bring hot money into China (and into other emerging markets). But the monetary control problem is more acute when foreign economists and politicians complain that the Chinese currency is undervalued and the source of China’s current account surplus.

However, China’s current account surplus with the United States does not indicate that the yuan is undervalued. Rather the trade imbalance reflects a big surplus of saving over investment in China, and a bigger saving deficiency—as manifest in the ongoing fiscal deficit—in the United States. Indeed, the best index for tradable goods prices in China, the WPI, has been falling at about 1.5% per year—as if the yuan were slightly overvalued.

Although movements in exchange rates are not helpful in correcting net trade (saving) imbalances between highly open economies, they can worsen hot money flows. Thus, to minimize hot money flows, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) should simply stabilize the central rate at whatever it is today, say 6.1 yuan per dollar, to dampen the expectation of future appreciation. Upsetting the speculators by introducing more uncertainty into the exchange system, as with the temporary mini devaluation of the yuan in late February, is a distant second-best strategy for China to minimize inflows of hot money.

Beijing skyline and traffic jamIn addition, there is a second, less well recognized argument for keeping the yuan-dollar rate stable. In a rapidly growing economy like China’s with large gains in labor productivity, wage levels become quite flexible because wage growth is so high. That is, if wages grow at 15% instead of 10% per year (roughly the range of wage growth in China in recent years), the wage level moves up much faster. But wage growth better reflects productivity gains if the yuan/dollar rate is kept stable. If an employer (particularly in an export industry) fears future yuan appreciation, he will hesitate to increase workers’ pay by the full increase in their productivity. Otherwise, the firm could go bankrupt if the yuan did appreciate.

Thus, to better balance international competitiveness by having Chinese unit labor costs approach those in the mature industrial economies, China should encourage higher wage growth by keeping the yuan-dollar rate stable and so take away the threat of future appreciation. Notice that in the mature, not to say stagnant, industrial economies, macroeconomists typically assume that wages are inflexible or “sticky”. They then advocate flexible exchange rates to overcome wage stickiness. But for high-growth China, flexible wages become the appropriate adjusting variable if the exchange rate is stable. Unlike exchange appreciation, wages can grow quickly without attracting unwanted hot money inflows.

China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) has now accumulated over $4 trillion in exchange reserves because of continual intervention to buy dollars by the PBC. This stock of “reserves” is far in excess of any possible Chinese emergency need for international money, i.e., dollars. In addition, the act of intervention itself often threatens to undermine the PBC’s monetary control. When it buys dollars with yuan, the supply of base money in China’s domestic banking system expands and threatens price inflation or bubbles in asset prices such as real property.

Thus to sterilize the domestic excess monetary liquidity from foreign exchange interventions, the PBC frequently sells central bank bonds to the commercial banks—or raises the required reserves that the commercial banks must hold with the central bank—in order to dampen domestic credit expansion. Both sterilization techniques undermine the efficiency of the commercial banks’ important role as financial intermediaries between domestic savers and investors. Currently in China, this sterilization also magnifies the explosion in shadow banking by informal institutions not subject to reserve or capital requirements, or interest rate ceilings.

To better secure domestic monetary control, why doesn’t the PBC just give up intervening to set the yuan/dollar rate and let it float, i.e., be determined by the market? If the PBC withdrew from the foreign exchange market, the yuan would begin to appreciate without any well-defined limit. The upward pressure on the yuan has two principal sources:

  1. Extremely low, near-zero, short interest rates in the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, and Japan. With the more robust Chinese economy having naturally higher interest rates, unrestricted hot money would flow into China. Once the yuan began to appreciate, carry traders would see even greater short-term profits from investing in yuan assets.
  2. China is an immature international creditor with underdeveloped domestic financial markets. Although China has a chronic saving (current account) surplus, it cannot lend abroad in its own currency to finance it.


Why not just lend abroad in dollars? Private (nonstate) banks, insurance companies, pension funds and so on, have a limited appetite for building up liquid dollar claims on foreigners when their own liabilities—deposits, insurance claims, and pension obligations— are in yuan. Because of this potential currency mismatch in private financial institutions, the PBC (which does not care about exchange rate risk) must step in as the international financial intermediary and buy liquid dollar assets on a vast scale as the counterpart of China’s saving surplus.

Even if there was no hot money inflow into China, the yuan would still be under continual upward pressure in the foreign exchanges because of China’s immature credit status (under the absence of a natural outflow of financial capital to finance the trade surplus). That is, foreigners remain reluctant to borrow from Chinese banks in yuan or issue yuan denominated bonds in Shanghai. This reluctance is worsened because of the threat from China bashing that the yuan might appreciate in the future. Thus the PBC has no choice but to keep intervening in the foreign exchanges to set and (hopefully) stabilize the yuan/dollar rate.

Superficially, the answer to China’s currency conundrum would seem be to fully liberalize its domestic financial markets by eliminating interest rate restrictions and foreign exchange controls. Then China could become a mature international creditor with natural outflows of financial capital to finance its trade surplus. Then the PBC need not continually intervene in the foreign exchanges.

This “internationalization” of the yuan may well resolve China’s currency conundrum in the long run. However, it is completely impractical—and somewhat dangerous—to try it in the short run. With near-zero short term interest rates in the mature industrial world, China would be completely flooded out by inflows of hot money, which would undermine the PBC’s monetary control and drive China’s domestic interest rates down much too far. China is in a currency trap. But within this dollar trap, China has shown that its GDP can grow briskly with even more rapid growth in wages—as long as the yuan-dollar rate remains reasonably stable. And China’s government must recognize that there is no easy way to spring the trap.

Ronald McKinnon is the William D. Eberle Professor Emeritus of International Economics at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1961. For a more comprehensive analysis of how the world dollar standard works, and China’s ambivalent role in supporting it, see Ronald McKinnon’s The Unloved Dollar Standard from Bretton Woods to the Rise of China, Oxford University Press (2013), and the Chinese translation from China Financial Publishing House (2013).

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Image credit: Beijing skyline and traffic jam on ring road, China. Photo by coryz, iStockphoto.

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45. The Dorrance Domain

Cathlin recommended The Dorrance Domain, and I was frustrated enough with Peter the Brazen (which I’m still reading, bit by excruciatingly awful bit) that I started it almost immediately. It’s by Carolyn Wells, and it’s about a family consisting of four kids and their grandmother, who sick of life in New York boarding houses, decide to try living in a defunct hotel.

It’s a good concept, and it’s Carolyn Wells, so the execution should be good, too. But instead the whole thing just feels kind of halfhearted. I hear “kids living in an empty hotel” and yeah, I think, “oh cool, everyone can choose whichever room they want” and “they can spread out all across the hotel dining room.” And Wells provides that. But I also think I’m going to get kids biting off more than they can chew at first, and making mistakes, and slowly becoming more competent, and there’s barely any of that. Saying “barely any” instead of “none” is really nice of me, actually.

The problem, I guess, is that there’s no conflict. The Dorrance kids are like, “let’s try this thing,” and it goes really well, and then they’re like, “oh, cool, let’s try this other thing,” and that goes really well, too. And the magic of Carolyn Wells is that she can usually make that work, but, for whatever reason, she can’t pull that off here. I’ve talked before about how good she is at making her characters enjoy themselves convincingly, but she only manages it once in a while in The Dorrance Domain. Moments like the one in which Dorothy and Leicester collapse into giggles after signing in their first hotel guests, not knowing that their guests are basically doing the same thing upstairs, were too few and far between.

This feels like hackwork, basically. And — because it’s Carolyn Wells, and she is great — it’s not bad (except for some offensive stereotypes that seemed pretty mild in comparison to the ones in Peter the Brazen) just uninspired.


Tagged: 1900s, carolynwells, childrens, hotels

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46. The week’s reading

lilies at balboa

Before it gets away from me…

The King’s Fifth, two chapters with Rose and Bean

Story of Science, chapter on Newton and light/optics (of course we had to get down our prism and paint rainbows all over the walls)

Sonnet 49, Shakespeare, “Against that time…” with Rose

“Neglect” by R. T. Smith (Poetry 180) with all kids

A number of spring-themed poems from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children

Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” with Rose, and background reading on Swift on my own for prep

The beginning of Gulliver’s Travels, also with Rose

Where the Sidewalk Ends, about half the book, with Rilla and Huck

Now We Are Six, selected poems, with Rilla

The Secret Garden, continued with Rilla (Colin!)

Curriculum Vitae, Muriel Spark, first forty pages or so

Plus all sorts of interesting longform articles for my editorial gig

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47. Gone Girl

Gone GirlI’m probably the last person in the universe to getting around to reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, so let me preface this blog with: I finally got round to reading it after (and despite) being subjected to its enormous hype.

I’m also an aspiring book writer, so commercially and critically successful books invoke in me a complicated mix of envy and awe. Suffice to say, I wasn’t an entirely objective Gone Girl readerer.

The Cliff Notes version of this blog is I will concede Flynn is eminently talented and Gone Girl is fantastically wrought. It’s definitely worth a read. But does it warrant such breathy discussion as it’s inspired? My jury’s still out.

That annoying twist that everyone eludes to before saying, ‘But I can’t say any more without spoiling it’? I spent at least half the book going: Is that the twist? Because if it is, it’s not that great. Is that the twist? Because if it is, that’s not that great either. When it came about, I have to admit I thought not about how clever it was, but: Finally. Then: It’s not that ground-breakingly spectacular.

Had I not had so much forewarning there was a GIANT TWIST coming, I might have been gushing like everyone else did. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. I wouldn’t put this book quite in the hype-worthy, game-changing realm of something like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. But it was solid in the way that solid is a compliment.

Love is the world’s infinite mutability; lies, hatred, murder even, are all knit up in it; it is the inevitable blossoming of its opposites, a magnificent rose smelling faintly of blood (Tony Kushner, The Illusion) is the epigraph setting the book’s theme. I rarely go back and re-read epigraphs, but Gone Girl’s was apt and striking, especially by the time I reached the book’s final page.

Flynn has an undeniably excellent way with words:

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily. I’d know her head anywhere.

It’s an ominous opening in a book that we know involves a woman going missing and her husband, the narrator, being suspected of having something to do with that disappearance.

My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian fluttering of the lashes, no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awakening was mechanical. A spooky ventriloquist-dummy click of the lids: The world is black and then, showtime!

It’s a recognisable and yet fresh way of describing a way of waking up. So is: ‘Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it.’

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you are, like me, coming late to the book, here’s what you need to know: Man (Nick) and woman (Amy) are married. They’ve relocated from New York to small-town Missouri, his childhood home, because his mother is terminally ill.

Native New Yorker Amy isn’t enjoying the move, and their relationship begins to fracture. Then she disappears the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. All clues point to Nick as the guilty husband. Except he’s not guilty (at least, that’s what he’s telling us).

Flynn uses the old unreliable narrator technique, which is one I’ve long found a little annoying. So I’ll not deny I wasn’t entirely involved in the plot—more aware of the practices she was using to red herring us readers and keep us tenterhooked. Likewise, the Amy-as-muse-for-books and warped effect that infused her relationship with her parents seemed a little contrived.

But I sound like a positive grump. I will say Gone Girl is smart. The cover art is minimal and great. The title is memorable and intriguing. Flynn’s writing is exquisite. The kind of cut-above that makes any and every other writer feel more utterly inadequate than usual.

She uses such words as ‘uxorious’ and, not packing it in my everyday vocabulary repertoire, I had to via a dictionary remind myself it stands for having, or demonstrating, a great or excessive fondness for one’s wife. I mean, with that definition, it is the most impossibly perfect word for this book. Which is why Flynn’s book is attracting the attention it is.

The Secret HistoryGone Girl isn’t the first time Flynn’s writing has been lauded. Her first novel, Sharp Objects, won two CWA Dagger Awards and was shortlisted for both the CWA Gold Dagger Award and for an Edgar.

Her second, Dark Places, was a bestseller. So she released Gone Girl to a relatively established and rather rapturous audience. Not having read her previous two books, but basing it on the hype I’ve witnessed, I’m guessing this is her best work yet (feel free to correct me if this isn’t the case).

With passages like the below, I’m inclined to admit I’m impressed with Flynn’s writing (and impressed enough to want to check out her previous two books):

The camera crews parked themselves on my lawn most mornings. We were like rival soldiers, rooted in shooting distance for months, eyeing each other across no-man’s-land, achieving some sort of perverted fraternity. There was one guy with a voice like a cartoon strongman whom I’d become attached to, sight unseen. He was dating a girl he really, really liked. Every morning his voice boomed in through my windows as he analysed their dates; things seemed to be going very well. I wanted to hear how the story ended.

Flynn exquisitely captures the in-fighting and the gradual wearing away of each other that occurs in marriages. She blends that with the in-jokes and resentments and us-against-the-world-ness married life brings. ‘Who are you?’ the book asks. ‘What have we done to each other?’ They’re invaluable questions as the book reveals it’s possible to both know and not know the person you’re supposed to know better than anyone else.

I felt the backstory build-up to the big twist was too great, although my are-we-there-yet knowledge that the twist was coming up probably contributed to that. For others, it may have offered an enthrallingly detailed examination of a complex marriage between complex people.
Either way, Gone Girl inspires discussion beyond the page, which Flynn and her publisher oblige, offering bookclub questions at the back of the book—and solid, thought-provoking ones too. It also provides a Q&A with Flynn on her insights into the characters and tale and why she wrought them as she did.

Hindsight makes you a smart ass, but I have to say I’d probably have picked the twist even had I not been forewarned there would be one. Still, it’s not enough to temper my agreement that Flynn is a talented writer and Gone Girl—if you are, like me, in the not-yet-read-it minority—is one you should brave the hype and attempt to lower your expectations for, as you’ll likely find you really quite like it.

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48. Is Amanda Knox extraditable from the United States to Italy?

By M. Cherif Bassiouni


The Amanda Knox case is complex in view of Italy’s complicated procedure in matters involving serious crimes. These crimes are tried before a special court called the Court of Assizes. These courts have two professional judges and six lay judges, much like a jury in Anglo-American cases. But, in Italy, the lay judges sit alongside the ordinary judges and decide on questions of law and fact. In the Italian system, a conviction or an acquittal can be appealed to the Court of Appeals, which can either examine the merits of the case and hold a new hearing on the facts or decide on the proper application of law, or both. It can also remand a case to the trial court for a new trial. Such appeals are trials de novo, but the Appeals Court of Assizes seldom hears witnesses again, though it can. Usually, it decides on the record both questions of facts and law. Any case can be appealed to the Court of Cassation. If any court certifies there is a constitutional question at issue, that court can refer the case to the Constitutional Court. This complex procedure is designed to benefit the rights of the accused.

The Facts and the Procedural History of the Case


Amanda Knox, a US citizen, was a student at the University of Perugia in November 2007 when she was arrested for the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. The two women were studying in Perugia, Italy. Meredith Kercher was found dead in the apartment she shared with Knox with her throat slit and with evidence of a sexual assault. Knox, her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede from the Ivory Coast, an acquaintance of the couple, were all charged with murder and sexual violence.

2009 – The Perugia Trial Court of Assizes convicted Amanda Knox for murder and slander.

All three pled innocent but were convicted by the Assizes Trial Court in December of 2009 for murder and sexual violence. Amanda Knox was also convicted for slander, having accused Mr. Patrick Lumumba (the owner of the bar in which she occasionally worked) as the murderer. Amanda Knox was sentenced to 26 years in jail, Raffaele Sollecito to 25 years, and Rudy Guede (who had opted for the accelerate procedure) to 30 years (a conviction now affirmed by the Italian Court of Cassation, but with a reduction of the sentence to 16 years).

The convictions of Knox and Sollecito were due to the court not being convinced of Knox’s story that she and Sollecito were not in the apartment the night of the murder but were instead at Sollecito’s apartment. Witnesses testified that they had seen Knox and Sollecito near the apartment where Meredith Kercher’s body was found at around 23.00 hours; and the main scientific exhibits—specifically, Exhibit 36, a 6.5 inch knife found in Sollecito’s apartment with Knox’s DNA on the handle and Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade (low quantity of DNA)—were compatible with the wounds according to court experts, and Exhibit 165, a clasp, was found on the murder scene with Meredith Kercher’s DNA and Sollecito’s DNA.

The Appeal Is Held Of Amanda Knox Over The Guilty Verdict In The Murder Of Meredith Kercher

2011 – Amanda Knox appealed to the Appeals Court of Assizes of Perugia, which acquitted her of murder and affirmed her conviction for slander.

In October 2011, the Appeals Court of Assizes of Perugia acquitted both Knox and Sollecito after questions were raised by the defense regarding the protocol followed by the Italian police while gathering the forensic evidence that was used to convict them in 2009. The court’s judgment was also based on new scientific examinations that were previously requested by the defense during the first trial but were not authorized by the trial court. This evidence, according to the defense, would have disproved the presence of Knox and Sollecito at the crime scene. The appeals court concluded that the evidence that proved persuasive to the Perugia Trial Court of Assizes was obtained in a contaminated environment. More specifically, the appeals court concluded that (1) certain footprints initially attributed to Sollecito were also compatible with the size of Rudy Guede’s feet and (2) subsequent analysis on the 6.5 inch kitchen knife supposedly used to slit Meredith Kercher’s throat showed that the kitchen knife did not contain Knox’s DNA and that the kitchen knife could not have been the murder weapon.

2013 – The Prosecution appealed that decision to the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), which remanded the case to the Appeals Court of Assizes of Florence.

Following the acquittal by the first appeals court in 2011, Knox left Italy and returned to the United States. In March 2013, the Prosecution in the Knox and Sollecito cases appealed to the Court of Cassation, Italy’s Supreme Court, which remanded the case to the Appeals Court of Assizes in Florence for reconsideration on the basis that there were discrepancies in testimony, inconsistencies, omissions, and contradictions in the ruling of the Appeals Court of Assizes of Perugia in 2011. The Court of Cassation upheld each of the grounds raised by the Perugia Chief Prosecutor. The Court of Cassation concluded that the Assizes Court of Appeals of Perugia, which reversed the murder conviction for Amanda Knox in 2011, had weighed the evidence in an inconsistent and piecemeal fashion.

2014 – The Appeals Court of Assizes of Florence overturned the acquittal by the Court of Appeals of Perugia for murder and affirmed the previous conviction of the trial court for murder and slander.

The case was then assigned to the Appeals Court of Assizes of Florence, which, on 30 January 2014, overturned the acquittals of the Perugia Assizes Court of Appeal based on the Court of Cassation’s previous judgment. This appeals court convicted Knox in absentia and sentenced her to 28 years and six months of imprisonment and sentenced Sollecito to 25 years of imprisonment. The Presiding Judge of the Florence Court has 90 days as of January 30, 2014 to write his judgment (with reasons) on the ruling. Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito have stated that as soon as the judgment is filed, they will appeal it to the Court of Cassation. The judgment is not final until the Court of Cassation rules on the eventual appeal of Knox and Sollecito.

Extradition from the United States to Italy


Italy is one of the few countries with this complex procedure, which it does not consider to be in violation of the constitutional prohibition of ne bis in idem (double jeopardy) reflected in article 649 of the Italian Code of Criminal procedure. The prohibition of ne bis in idem is included in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, but, so far, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) has not interpreted Italian law as violating the European Convention. Thus, the procedure described above has not been found to be in violation of ne bis in idem under the ECHR.

The 1983 U.S.–Italy Extradition Treaty states in article VI that extradition is not available in cases where the requested person has been acquitted or convicted of the “same acts” (in the English text) and the “same facts” (in the Italian text). Treaty interpretation needs to ascertain the intentions of the parties by relying on the plain language and meaning of the words. Italy’s law prohibiting ne bis in idem specifically uses the words stessi fatti, which are the same words used in the Italian version of article VI, meaning “same facts.” Because fatti, or “facts,” may include multiple acts, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals applied the test of “same conduct” in Sindona v. Grant, citing international extradition in US law and practice, based on this writer’s analysis.

Whatever the interpretation of article VI may be—“same act,” “same facts,” or the broader “same conduct”—Amanda Knox would not be extraditable to Italy should Italy seek her extradition because she was retried for the same acts, the same facts, and the same conduct. Her case was reviewed three times with different outcomes even though she was not actually tried three times. In light of the jurisprudence of the various circuits on this issue, it is unlikely that extradition would be granted.

The US Supreme Court can also make a constitutional determination under the Fifth Amendment of the applicability of double jeopardy to extradition cases, particularly with respect to a requesting state’s right to keep on reviewing its request for the same acts or facts in the hope of obtaining a conviction. But, no such interpretation was given to the Fifth Amendment in any extradition case to date. Surprising as it may be, neither the Supreme Court nor any Circuit Court has yet held that the Fifth Amendment’s “double jeopardy” provision applies to extradition. So far, double jeopardy defenses have been dealt with as they arise under the applicable treaty.

Conclusion: Amanda Knox’s extradition from the United States to Italy under existing jurisprudence is not likely.

M. Cherif Bassiouni is Emeritus Professor of Law at DePaul University where he taught from 1964-2012, where he was a founding member of the International Human Rights Law Institute (established in 1990), and served as President from 1990-2007, and then President Emeritus. He is also President, International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences, Siracusa, Italy since 1989. He is the author of International Extradition: United States Law and Practice, Sixth Edition.

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Image credit: PERUGIA, ITALY – NOVEMBER 24: Amanda Knox is led away from Perugia’s Court of Appeal by police officers after the first session of her appeal against her murder conviction on November 24, 2010 in Perugia, Italy. © EdStock via iStockphoto.

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49. Children in Verse Fifty Songs of Playful Childhood

All words and images taken from Children in Verse fifty songs of playful childhood collected by Thomas Burke with illustrations by Honor C Appleton.

Here you have the faery songs, the golden, glad, and airy songs, when all the world was morning, and when every heart was true; Songs of darling Childhood all a-wander in the wild wood, songs of life's first loveliness - songs that speak of you!
Thomas Burke

All night long their nets they threw for the fish in the twinkling foam, then down from the sky came the wooden shoe, bringing the fishermen home; 'Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed as if it could not be; and some folk thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed of sailing that beautiful sea; But I shall name you the fishermen three,
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Dutch Lullaby by Eugene Field.

No skies so blue or so serene as then; - no leaves looked half so green as clothing the playground tree! All things I loved are altered so, nor does it ease my heart to know that change resides in me!
A retrospective Review by Thomas Hood.

Bartholomew is very sweet, from sandy hair to rosy feet. Bartholomew is six months old, and dearer far than pearls or gold. Bartholomew has deep blue eyes, round pieces dropped from out the skies. Bartholomew is hugged and kissed! He loves a flower in either fist. Bartholomew's my saucy son; No mother has a sweeter one!
Norman Gale

The boxes about our courtyard we carpeted to our mind, and lived there both together kept house in a noble kind. The neighbour's old cat often came to pay us a visit; we made her a bow and curtsey, each with a compliment in it. After her health we asked, our care and regard to evince, we have made the very same speeches to many an old cat since.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When the voices of children are heard on the green, and laughing is heard on the hill, my heart is at rest within my breast, and everything else is still. "Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down, and the dews of night arise; Come, come, leave off play, and let us away. Till the morning appears in the skies."
William Blake  

Children in Verse fifty songs of playful childhood with illustrations by Honor C Appleton.



Regular readers of this blog may remember a previous post called health-food pudding and nursery cake.  My sister left a comment saying how much she would like to own the featured cookbook. I sent it to her and when Terry and I visited yesterday she had cooked one of the cakes from it (thank you lovely sister!)

This is the deliciously gooey chocolate cake. 

 This is the very talented chef (my sister Sue)

Terry on the left and Sue’s husband Brian on the right enjoying a little spring sunshine in the garden

Sisters

Sue and Brian's pretty courtyard garden 



Orchids on the windowsill

Thanks to Sue and Brian for a lovely day and thanks to everyone who takes the time to call in at my blog.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

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50. Poetry Friday: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Today's poem comes from the novel A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Early in the book, the main character, Felicity, creates and recites this poem on the fly for her little sister:

"Frannie Jo lives in a house of stars.
She has a cloud for a pillow
And a comet for a car.
She smiles like a sunrise,
Cries a rainbow when she's hurt.
She'll dance across the sky tonight,
Then shake the stardust for her skirt."


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