Mysteries of Benghazi


An embassy in flames

November 6 is not only Election Day, it's also the eight-week anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

 Regardless of which candidate wins, the American people deserve answers to the many unanswered questions about the attack—and the events that preceded and followed it. The Benghazi debacle is a drama in three parts: the lack of security before the attacks, the flaccid response during the attacks, and the misleading narrative after the attacks. There are unanswered questions about each part. Here are some of the most important.

New York, post-Sandy

FEMA—Too Big to Succeed


As people in New York were suffering and hospitals were being evacuated, the New York Times editorial page seized the occasion to score political points: “Disaster ...


Too Charitable

North Korea’s favorite philanthropists.


North Koreans and Mercy Corps take tea

North Koreans have been starving for nearly two decades. The worst period of famine, from 1994 to 1998, killed some three and a half million people, and chronic food shortages have persisted since then, with untold lives lost. Death tolls can understate human suffering, too: The millions who manage to survive chronic hunger still bear scars for life. One North Korean defector that I interviewed in Seoul several years ago, who had been a child in the mid-1990s, stood no taller than five feet—though judging by the size of his hands and his head, he should have been a much bigger man.

Obama throws the pitch

Good Riddance...

To the 2012 campaign.


Aside from who won or lost, there was a lot not to like in the 2012 campaign. I say this as one who has followed campaigns from the local to the presidential level ...

A supporter of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,  right, engages a critic.

Brotherly Love

The wrong way to influence Egypt’s new leaders.


There is one curious beneficiary of the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that cost four American lives: Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood government. The attack ...

Next in the illegitimate line: Xi Jinping

No Vote in China

A billion people disenfranchised.


China and the United States both launch leadership transitions this week. Earnest persons, in fear or hope, turn a raindrop of coincidence into a storm of meaning. In fact, ...


Last Rights

You can have the ‘right to die’—once you surrender all the others


A billboard advertising death

In 1990, as I was nursing a mortally ill magazine, I got a call from a literary agent. “I have a great idea for a book. Your dad [a neurologist at the University of Chicago] could do the medical part, and you could write it. The book is called How We Die. Let me explain it.”

I told him not to bother with the explanation—I got it instantly. I saw the book in my mind and understood why it was such a brilliant idea. I phoned my father with the good news about our new family project. An unworldly man, Dad would surely be puzzled by the notion that a book about the physiology of dying would be a bestseller.

A young Korean girl

Where Have All the Children Gone?

Vanishing Korea


South Korea has a baby problem. It’s not alone, of course. Fertility rates have been falling in nearly every country in the world for years, and no industrialized ...

Henry Wallace, the Progressive candidate for president, faces down hecklers

A Story Told Before

Oliver Stone’s recycled leftist history of the United States


Two years ago, Oliver Stone announced that he was preparing to make a documentary about recent American history. It premieres on the CBS-owned cable network Showtime on November 12. ...

Books & Arts

Wars of Words

The story behind the stories about Webster’s Third.


Students with dictionary, Chubb Library, Ohio University, ca. 1961

Of the making of books, Ecclesiastes informs us, there is no end. But of some books, perhaps, there should never have been a beginning. One such book, or so many believed when it first appeared, was Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. When published in 1961, it was mocked by the New York Times, mauled by Life, dismantled by the Atlantic, and (in the Mafia sense) whacked by the New Yorker, which turned loose Dwight Macdonald, a famous hit man of the day, to do the job. Other, lesser media piled on, agreeing that the new dictionary was a grave ...

Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady

Their Fair Lady

The making of a postwar/Broadway/Hollywood musical blockbuster.


In 1956, Alan Jay Lerner and ...

Kirkpatrick at the UN

Voice of America

How Professor Kirkpatrick became Ronald Reagan’s woman at the U.N.


solipsistic, brooding president fights for reelection. A bold attack by terrorists on a U.S. embassy takes the administration by surprise. National malaise increases. Most people are not better off than they were four years before, and many worry that their best days are behind ...

Ariel makes her appearance

‘Tempest’ for Moderns

Sandy was not the only storm to arrive in Manhattan.


New York
A premiere at the country’s foremost opera company always meets with a certain level of excitement. But the man in the orchestra section two seats past me became positively giddy as he scanned the program notes before the curtain rose on The Tempest late last month ...


Chains of Love

Geoffrey Norman on the power of a power tool


A lumberjack and his love

Hurricane Sandy showed Vermont some mercy, where Irene did not.  The storm passed to the west, and we got a lot of rain and enough wind to knock out power to a few thousand people, including, 

to my absolute nonastonishment .  .  . me.  The pine trees in our neighborhood fall over in a faint if the weatherman so much as mentions strong winds.

A couple of hours before the storm reached peak strength and before we lost power, my wife left for a business appointment, then shortly returned and reported that there was a tree ...


Phantom Maecenas

Lucas, George, and friends

The Scrapbook notes, with some amusement, that George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars franchise, sold his lucrative Lucasfilm enterprise last week to the Disney Company, which announced in turn that it intends to revive and extend the Star Wars saga. We leave it to the experts to judge whether this cinematic/economic event is a cultural landmark, or a sign that the Disney empire (like Lucasfilm) has finally run out of fresh ideas.

What attracted our attention was Lucas’s announcement that he will devote a substantial portion of his $4 billion windfall to philanthropy, for which he is being showered with praise, and which is described by Lucas in the usual string of phrases ...


Profiles in Courage?

In case you were wondering who the “Brave Thinkers” of 2012 are, the Atlantic has helpfully compiled a list of 21 people who are “risking their reputations, ...

A traffic camera

Speed Demons

A few issues back, The Scrapbook noted that the proliferation of traffic cameras in this country is getting out of hand. Local municipalities are increasingly turning ...

The Big Wave


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