Sunday, July 22, 2007

Q&A Helen Epstein

First appeared in the Boston Globe.

THE JULY ISSUE of Vanity Fair, dedicated to Africa and guest-edited with much fanfare by U2's Bono, trumpets the "lifesaving" impact of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) on AIDS patients in Rwanda, where the drugs are distributed for free by clinics. But when I spoke to public health activist and writer Helen Epstein last week, she said the magazine's version of events fails to acknowledge that the "HIV infection rate in Rwanda began to decline dramatically in the mid-1990s, well before ARVs, which only started arriving in the last four years."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Book Review: "Zugzwang" by Ronan Bennet

"Zugzwang" by Ronan Bennet:
A Chess Thriller

It's an understatement to say chess has been good for literature; the game has even inspired people not known for the written word to produce memorable prose. Consider the following, for example, by composer Sergey Prokofiev apropos a game he witnessed in pre-World War I Russia: "I watched the . . . board descending into a state of incomprehensible complexity, with virtually every piece exposed to attack; this sent me into a state of pure ecstasy."

One doesn't really need to play chess to recognize the ecstatic state Prokofiev describes; it arises, as well, from other deeply obsessive pursuits. Similarly, one isn't really required to play chess in order to relish the twin peaks of twentieth-century chess fiction, Vladmir Nabokov's "The Defense", and Stefan Zweig's "Chess Story".

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dennis Ross Q&A

First appeared in the Boston Globe 7/8/07

The professional:

The former Mideast envoy takes a hard look at Palestine, Tony Blair’s new mission, and the failure of American statecraft

By Harvey Blume

LAST MONTH, WHEN Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, threatening the Palestinian Authority with chaos, and Tony Blair stepped into his new role as special envoy to the Middle East representing the "Quartet" of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, few people were more in demand to interpret these events than Dennis Ross.