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"The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse" ed. Marjorie Cohn

"Experience, we are told, is a great teacher. If this is so, then my classroom was a clandestine prison and my teachers, experts in the commission of crimes against humanity." (Sister Dianna Ortiz, from Preface)
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The Instinct for Cooperation: A Graphic Novel Conversation with Noam Chomsky & Jeffrey Wilson

How about this for a hybrid: take an 80-something professor, sit him down for a conversation, and turn it into a graphic novel. It really shouldn't work, but it does.

Noam Chomsky has long been the world's foremost intellectual, an unrivaled authority on human rights and world affairs. I would say he's forgotten more than the current U.S. administration knows about world history, but that would be absurd. Firstly, Chomsky doesn't seem to forget anything, and secondly a monkey on acid could probably produce a more coherent historical worldview than the current U.S. administration.

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The Other 9/11: Chile in the time of Pinochet

A few days ago, my 10-year-old son asked me why I’d scheduled an event on 9/11. “Bad timing!” he said. He knew about the Twin Towers. But he didn’t know about 9/11/73, a date of infamy in Latin America.

9/11/73 was the day General Augusto Pinochet launched a military coup that ousted democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende. Allende’s crime was that he’d put too much power in the hands of the people: actually allowing workers to own their labor, nationalizing industries such as copper, which had been taken over by foreign “investors,” and introducing a free milk program for half a million malnourished children. This experiment in democratic socialism was too much for the conservative right. Kissinger shrieked that this was the incubus of Communism – a virus that would spread as far as Europe. And so, with the help of the CIA, Pinochet began his reign of terror.

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Ngugi Wa Thiong'o: "The scars of history are on every writer"

The great Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is known for at least four things:

  • writing a series of superb novels such as The River Between and A Grain of Wheat while still in his twenties;
  • writing the novel Devil on the Cross on toilet paper while imprisoned in Kenya’s Kamiti maximum-security prison;
  • turning from writing in English – the coloniser’s language – to Kikuyu, his native language;
  • not winning the Nobel Prize in Literature (yet).

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Shakespeare in the Age of the Tyrant

Stephen Greenblatt's new book, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, is a timely tome. As Greenblatt well knows, we're living in an age of ruthless strongmen. The world's recent and lamentable swing to the right is embodied by all-powerful authoritarians.
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Human Flow: a film by Ai WeiWei

For a film with ‘flow’ in its title, the only surprise in this superlative documentary is that the most powerful images are those of stillness. An old refugee woman sits incongruously on a bench in the middle of nowhere. A young man stares out at us, daring us to enter his life. The implacable sea, the perfect symbol of Man’s voyaging and Nature’s complete indifference to us, begins and ends the film not with the appearance of flow but of stasis.
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Review of "Extracting Profit: Imperialism, Neoliberalism, and the New Scramble for Africa" by Lee Wengraf

Here's a quote from the Berlin Conference of 1885, in which the European powers set out their goals for Africa:

"... all the powers bind themselves to watch over the preservation of the native tribes, and to care for the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being."

If an African read that today, she'd die laughing. By "preservation of the native tribes", what the European powers really meant was "the rape of the land and resources." By "care for the improvement of the conditions ..." they meant "murder the natives if they resist."

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PEN America announces Writing for Justice Fellowship

PEN America has run a prison writing program for over forty years. The program provides mentors, free resources and an audience for the incarcerated. This program benefits the prisoners, who get a chance to reflect on their lives through the written word and to express themselves in new ways. But the program also benefits society. Why? Because it results in less recidivism and because it humanizes those who, perhaps through circumstances beyond their control, are largely seen as statistics.
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Ankara, Turkey: Trash Collectors Salvage Books, Open Library

Trash collectors in Ankara, Turkey, salvaged so many discarded books that they decided to open a library.
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Review of "In the Wake: On Blackness and Being" by Christina Sharpe

Part memoir, part thesis, and part lyrical examination of what it means to be black in the 21st century, In The Wake is simply a great, great book. It bridges so many fields - social justice, poetry, fiction, Critical Race Theory, semiotics, semantics - yet retains complete coherence. It is beautiful, ingenious and tragic.
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