UPI

As you may have heard, there’s been chatter this week about Rick Santorum’s views on women—their effect on the emotions of soldiers in combat, their right to have some control over when they bear children, their decision to enter the workplace.

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In the summer of 1995, when I was an intern at The New York Times’ Warsaw bureau, we received an unusual news tip. A flea-market vendor in Gdansk had been selling what he described as “authentic soap” made out of fat taken from the bodies of Jews murdered at the Stutthof concentration camp. He had been displaying the soap, complete with a sign advertising both its price and provenance, at his stall for several days before anyone seemed to have taken note.

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Now that Helen Thomas has retired, the inevitable nostalgia has followed. Dana Milbank, while condemning her comments on Israel, lauds her as a needed voice of journalistic skepticism: Yet the White House press corps will be diminished without Helen front and center, and not only because she was in that job before the current president was born. She brought a ferocity to her questioning that has eluded too many in subsequent generations.

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Front Man

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam By Neil Sheehan (Random House, 861 pp., $24.95) In Neil Sheehan's apt and accurate phrase, John Paul Vann was "the soldier of the war in Vietnam." He began his extraordinary career there as a military adviser to a South Vietnamese division, and he went on to become the single greatest influence on the young American journalists in Vietnam who were to come into such fierce conflict with their government. Then, in 1963, Vann suddenly quit the Army, in what appeared to be an act of conscience.

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The Humanist Phantom

I should not have any inclination to call myself a humanist, as I think, on the whole, that the non-human part of the cosmos is much more interesting and satisfactory than the human part. —Bertrand Russell Most of us have only a vague idea what humanism is. We tend to think of a humanist as someone who is concerned with other humans, a humanitarian, an all-around nice guy. For example, that’s how Deborah Weisner of Auburn, Maine, sees it. For five days last March she was held hostage on a Pakistani jetliner by armed hijackers.

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The Powers That Be by David Halberstam (Knopf; $15) David Halberstam. Halberstam, that was what everybody called him (after all, it was his name). They always said what Halberstam needed was a good editor, his sentences ran on and on, he piled phrase upon phrase and clause upon clause, he used commas the way other men used periods.

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He Was a Man of Principle

Headline, New York Times, September 10, 1962:  GENERAL WALKER SEIZES CAPITAL;    TANKS CIRCLE THE WHITE HOUSE;       NEW JUNTA PROMISES ELECTIONS From a “Letter from Washington, The New Yorker, September 22, 1962. Even in this blasé capital, there were some eyebrows raised by the whirligig of events that have made Major General Edwin A. Walker the provisional President of the United States until—or so his aides inform us—new elections are held in 18 months. That the army had become increasingly involved in the perturbations of politics had been known.

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