Books

Dying for a Smoke

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Review of 'Cigarettes', Tara Parker-Pope, The New Press £9.95

I'll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It's addictive. And there's fantastic brand loyalty.'

So said investment tycoon Warren Buffet. With damages payouts against tobacco companies now becoming commonplace, it is easy to forget that until nine years ago the companies making up the huge US tobacco industry, intensely competitive as they are, were united on one important point--they all insisted categorically that nicotine was not addictive and that the link between smoking and cancer was unproven.

Start Worrying and Loathe the Bomb

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Review of 'The New Nuclear Danger', Helen Caldicott, The New Press £10.95

While the war on Iraq focused attention on conventional weapons, the US continues to develop its Star Wars programme. With the 'war on terror' replacing the Cold War, it might seem logical that nuclear weapons would lose some of their strategic importance. But George W Bush's recent hike in the US military budget did not neglect nuclear projects.

In Backalleys and Palaces Alike

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Review of 'The Land Where the Blues Began', Alan Lomax, The New Press £19.95

The blues of the Mississippi Delta, together with its close neighbour, gospel music, has been at the heart of western popular music for the last 70 years, and the well shows no signs of running dry. From the 1930s swing bands, through rock and roll, soul and on to rap and house music, black American rhythms and sensibilities have provided much of the soundtracks of our lives. Alan Lomax's indispensable book provides one of the best accounts of the richness and diversity of that tradition.

Trading on Tragedy

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Review of 'Fallout', Juan Gonzalez, Verso £10.95

When the World Trade Centre collapsed, the pulverised remains formed a torrential dust cloud that rapidly dispersed into the atmosphere over Manhattan. But this was no ordinary dust. It contained many highly toxic substances. This book, by New York journalist Juan Gonzalez, is a shocking account of the failure of the authorities to safeguard the health of the residents and workers of Manhattan and the rescue workers who toiled in the disaster zone.

Our Friends in the North

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Review of 'Born under Punches', Martyn Waites, Simon & Schuster £10.99

1984: Coldwell, a fictional north east mining town, is under siege by the police. Stephen Larkin, a passionate young journalist, wants to expose the truth about the miners' strike--what's at stake for Coldwell and the country, and what Thatcher and the police are prepared to do to win.

Migrating Across the Waves

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Review of 'Welcome to Paradise', Mahi Binebine, Granta £12.99 and 'The Broken Cedar', Martin Malone, Scribner £12.99

Both these new novels are about faraway people. 'Welcome to Paradise' is about North African would-be emigrants waiting through the night on a Moroccan beach for the moment their trafficker decides it is safe to cross the Straits of Gibraltar. 'The Broken Cedar' is about the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on everyday Lebanese life in 1994, before the Israelis leave Lebanon, and an act of horrifying violence this gives rise to in the past of Khalil, who is an electrical shopkeeper catering to the needs of United Nations troops on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

A Matter of State

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Review of 'Class Theory and History', Stephen A Resnick and Richard D Wolff, Routledge £16.99

Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, two American sociologists, set out to explain in this book the nature of Soviet society. Their argument is that the USSR was 'state capitalist', by which they mean that the economic rules of that society were no different from those of the established class societies of America and the west. Such an argument is timely and important, but not entirely new.

The Gospel Truth

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Review of 'Apocalypse', Neil Faulkner, Tempus £25

Resistance to imperial expansion is not a phenomenon confined to modern times, as Neil Faulkner demonstrates in this richly detailed survey of the Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire in Palestine in the middle of the 1st century AD.

Conspiracy to Kill

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Review of 'An Act of State', William F Pepper, Verso £17

Martin Luther King is often viewed as being at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Malcolm X. The latter is seen as the uncompromising radical of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, while King is portrayed as a reformer who could not keep pace with the growing militancy of the times. The truth is not so black and white. King was increasingly shifting to the left, coming out against the Vietnam War and organising on class lines through the Poor People's Campaign and supporting strike action. The US was in flames, with 131 riots in the first six months of 1968.

Striking Back Against Empire

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Review of 'Anti-Imperialism', ed. Farah Reza, Bookmarks £10

'I used not to use the word imperialism. I thought young people wouldn't even know what it meant... Suddenly I find that everyone is using the words imperialism and anti-imperialism.' George Galloway is spot on. The war in Iraq has meant that millions of people are asking questions about imperialism, questions that this excellent and timely handbook goes a long way to answering.

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