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Keep Calm - Taking world events in stride.

Good Reads: How India failed to live up to its hype

This week's best reads deal with India's economic disappointment, Germany's problematic switch from nuclear energy, Al Qaeda, and the Great Un-American Western.

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Reading about Germany’s economic problems is not a matter of schadenfreude (that peculiar German word for taking pleasure in another person’s pain), but rather quite the opposite. If Germany, the strongest economy in a sluggish Europe, is struggling, that has implications for the broader global economy, including the US.

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Al Qaeda’s conveyor belt

US bombs killed another Al Qaeda leader the other day, a fellow named Abu Yahya Al-Libi. US officials say that Al-Libi was Al Qaeda’s No. 2 guy, a man The New York Times called “a virtual ambassador for global jihad” because of his frequent video harangues on jihadi websites.

But the Atlantic’s Robert Wright asks an interesting question: “Is there anybody left in al Qaeda to kill?” With the death of Osama bin Laden (Al Qaeda’s big cheese), and the killing of Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader (“at least three times”), it becomes clear that Al Qaeda keeps replacing its leadership as fast as US drones can kill them. And the global jihad plays on.

As Wright writes:

Even if al Qaeda per se goes out of business, this killing won't have made us much safer in the long run and may have made us less safe.
Why? Because the war on terrorism is like the war on drugs. We keep locking up drug dealers, but the demand for drugs is so strong, and selling them so lucrative, that there's always someone to fill the imprisoned drug dealer's shoes. 

Politics of spaghetti westerns

Back in the 1960s, something happened to that great American art form, the cowboy movie. Audiences stopped rooting for the clean-cut, square-jawed good guys, like Gene Autry and John Wayne, and switched their alliances to the squinty, unshaved villains, like Clint Eastwood and Marlon Brando.

One of the men who wrote those edgier Westerns – many of them produced in Italy – was Franco Solinas, a journalist, Communist Party member, and firm believer in the fugitive as hero. At a time when many young Americans had come to see the flaws of their society because of the brutal and senseless Vietnam War and the continued racism in free societies, these so-called Spaghetti Westerns were immensely popular.

Read this week’s New York Review of Books for a fascinating review of some of Solinas’s films by writer J. Hoberman, who previews some of the choicer bits in a film series that is now playing at New York’s Film Forum from June 1- 21, as well as a bizarre collection of East German and other left-wing European films that turned the original pro-American mythology of Westerns on its head.


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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

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The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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