Despite an unsatisfying conclusion, Hendricks does a nice job sustaining interest in this convoluted spy case.

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A KIDNAPPING IN MILAN

THE CIA ON TRIAL

The vivid true story behind the kidnapping of Islamist troublemaker Abu Omar in Milan in 2003.

Tipped off by an American CIA chief to a terrorist plot led by an Egyptian exile who lived in the relatively liberal Milan and worshipped at an activist mosque, the Italian detectives helped put in motion a “rendition” in February 2003 that would have troubling repercussions. After 9/11, as journalist Hendricks (The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, 2006) writes, the CIA frequently outsourced its covert operations, and Abu Omar was presumed to be a militant leader recruiting for a terrorist group in Iraq, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of that country. Abu Omar was seized from the streets of Milan, stuffed in a van, driven to the international air base, loaded on a plane and imprisoned somewhere in Egypt. He was also badly tortured in prison, and the author provides a horrific examination of the current torture practices. After some months he was inexplicably released. Subsequently, the Italian court decided to take up Abu Omar’s case, even though a search of his apartment found incriminating evidence of his Islamic fanaticism. Magistrate Armando Spataro suspected that the Americans were involved. With a little research—and thanks to the spies’ sloppy tactics—the Italians discovered that at least 26 American amateurs had their hands in this case. However, in this new war on terror, “few governments had challenged the American warriors,” and both Silvio Berlusconi and Barack Obama defied the Italian court, which nonetheless tried the informant and the others involved in absentia. The author’s attempts to interview the depleted, money-grasping Abu Omar are largely unsuccessful, and the whole affair remains sordid and sticky—and still unresolved.

Despite an unsatisfying conclusion, Hendricks does a nice job sustaining interest in this convoluted spy case.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06581-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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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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