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Looking back at who Obama could have been

In the great swirl of people and ideas and the high winds of political rhetoric and journalistic overkill howling through Washington during the early days of the Trump administration, it’s hard to remember just what preceded it all — an extended period of not much presided over by a somewhat detached figure with an academic sense of irony who did no irreparable damage, presided over no catastrophes, quietly turned over the keys to the White House when the moment arrived, and just as quietly, seemed almost to fade away.

Life of the doctor who murdered innocents

I followed the Kermit Gosnell murder trial in 2013, which was covered by the local Philadelphia media, but ignored largely by the national media.

Revealing the spirit of Ike

Bret Baier’s new book, “Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission,” highlights Ike’s passing of the torch as commander in chief to Jack Kennedy as the key to opening the door to a better, more accurate understanding of Ike. Change of command in military units, large and small, is always arresting, and from president to president is unique, as we just saw again on Jan. 20, 2017.

Murder, a memory problem and justice

Commander William Monk has been haunted for many years by loss of memory suffered in an accident and that disaster has turned into a nightmare in which he finds himself facing charges of murder and a possible death sentence.

Casanova only loved once

There was never another country quite like the Venetian Republic, and there was never another Venetian quite like Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). Con artist, poet, spy, philosopher, polymath, librarian, lecher and proud owner of one of the most indestructible egos of all time, Casanova the man is largely forgotten today while his name lives on as a generic label for chronic Don Juanism.

The prolific lyricist who brought life to tunes

Pop music fans may not recognize the name Carole Bayer Sager, but they have heard many of the 400 songs for which she wrote the lyrics. Songs such as “Nobody Does it Better,” “Groovy Kind of Love,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best You Can Do)” and “The Prayer” received extensive radio airplay and sold millions of copies and have been featured in major films.

New Zealand’s poet laureate looks back

For a country with a population of only a little more than four-and-a-half million, New Zealand has produced more than its fair share of notable writers, starting a century ago with Katherine Mansfield,

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When a nation's secrets were not protected

Nonfiction writers on two continents have dined out for decades with books on the gaggle of British officials who served Stalin, collectively known as the "Cambridge Spy Ring." The names of Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean live in history with well-earned infamy, and the story of how they stole secret information of enormous value to the USSR is a familiar one.

China and America, and the romance of history's oddest couple

Trying to understand China has been compared to gazing into jade. Cloudy and yet softly glowing, jade, in the words of the great Japanese novelist and essayist Tanizaki Junichiro, "quite lacks the brightness of a ruby or an emerald or the glitter of a diamond. But this much we can say: When we see that shadowy surface, we think how Chinese it is, we seem to find in cloudiness the accumulated sediment of the long Chinese past, we think how appropriate it is that the Chinese should admire that surface and that shadow."

The Van Gogh that, perhaps, we didn't know

We occasionally hear about the discovery of a previously unknown artifact, such as a painting or musical composition. This revelation tends to lead to vigorous debates, disagreements and denials from experts in a particular field.

When a vaunted life and fiction converge

The very term Dame of the British Empire -- the female equivalent of a knighthood in the British gentry -- inevitably summons up a majestic figure. But there was nothing genteel about the British novelist Dame Beryl Bainbridge DBE (1932-2010).

Family troubles and war-torn London

Those people were war dead and the memory as portrayed by Elizabeth Wilhide is that of Julia and her existence in the World War II blitz of London. The scenes of what Londoners suffered in 1944 are harrowing not only for their gruesome qualities but for their chilling emphasis on how much trivia came to matter.

Where spies plied their trade in Washington

Let us show a bit of civic pride, if you please. As a center for spies and espionage, Washington and environs are the equal -- or better -- of such renowned cloak-and-dagger meccas as Vienna or Istanbul.

The flow of life in post-Brexit Britain

Autumn always arrives trailing clouds of mist and mellow fruitfulness. And melancholy, too. The harvests presage winter. Death is not far away. It is very close to Daniel Gluck in Ali Smith's "Autumn" -- whose first pages describe him washing up on a sea shore. "Is this it? Really? This? Is death?" he thinks as he spits sand from his mouth.

An exiled Kaiser Wilhelm's last days

When it comes to fictionalized portraits of real historical figures and events, generally speaking I am skeptical of such projects. With all due respect to artistic license and the benefits of unleashing a writer's imagination to enhance our understanding, it has to involve taking liberties with historical fact, which makes me uneasy.

The bumpy road to self-government in India

British military and political historian Walter Reid has written one of the most provocative original books on a well-worn subject. The bumpy road toward self-government in the Indian jewel in Britain's crown and its extraordinarily bloody achievement of independence on a scale without parallel anywhere else in its imperial history.

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Pier Falls and Other Stories'

Piers are to English seaside resorts as boardwalks are to American beaches, but instead of paralleling the water they poke out at right-angles from the shore. These tall, many-girdered structures house vendors of everything from ice-cream, to tropical shells, from video games to tattoo parlors, bandstands to fortune-tellers. Most were built decades ago when millions of urbanites spent vacations on local coasts.

BOOK REVIEW: 'The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic'

Michael Medved is one of America's most successful talk radio hosts. An Orthodox Jew, he attended law school, worked as a Democratic Party aide and speechwriter, and eventually found a permanent home in the Republican Party. He's a member of USA Today's board of contributors, a former New York Post film critic, and has written books on everything from politics to Hollywood.