There’s no good news in this book, which both admonishes and forewarns. Somber but necessary reading for those interested in...

CYBERWAR

HOW RUSSIAN HACKERS AND TROLLS HELPED ELECT A PRESIDENT: WHAT WE DON'T, CAN'T, AND DO KNOW

Of partisans, trolls, and spooks: a stern dissection of the 2016 election.

Exactly who planned and executed the Russian hacking of the 2016 election is not yet wholly known outside cybercrime circles, but it’s clear that the beneficiary was Donald Trump. As Jamieson (Chair, Annenberg Public Policy Center/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Electing the President, 2012: The Insiders' View, 2013, etc.) writes, if you were to war-game out that cybercrime, you’d wind up with numerous scenarios. Only one is truly negative to the Russians: “The cyberattackers are unmasked by a vigilant intelligence community, condemned by those in both major political parties…the Russian messaging…blocked or labeled a Russian propaganda,” sanctions put in place, and so on. That did not happen. Characterizing the hacking not as “interference” or “meddling” but as an act of cyberwar demanding proportional response, Jamieson surveys the damage: Millions of Americans swallowed Russian-generated lies and went at each other even as the “electoral systems of twenty-one states by one count and thirty-nine by another were hacked.” Allowing that it wasn’t Russians but American voters (and the Electoral College) who put Trump in office, the author performs an after-battle analysis of the “social disruption,” with hackers hooking former FBI Director James Comey into reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and even gaming the presidential debates. Jamieson is clear on why the Russians would have targeted Clinton; she is just as clear that the “legacy media” failed in their task and swallowed narrative lines whole—attributing misinformation to WikiLeaks, for one, and not “St. Petersburg,” bypassing any discussion of Russian involvement until well after the fact. Chalking up the knowns and unknowns, the author concludes that by commission on one hand and omission on the other, both of the leading nominees "increased our collective vulnerability to Russian machinations in very different ways”—machinations, she adds, that aren’t likely to stop.

There’s no good news in this book, which both admonishes and forewarns. Somber but necessary reading for those interested in the democratic process and its enemies.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-091581-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2018

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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