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Steering clear of ‘neighborhood clashes’ in Asia

East and South Asia have been more prone to wars over sovereignty issues than any other region in the world since World War II. India-Pakistan and China-India conflicts were frequent in the 1960s. Communist countries in East Asia have not been immune from fighting each other. Soviet Russia and China clashed in border disputes, as have Vietnam and China.

A wry look at communist Cuba today

In October 2015 author Nelson DeMille and his wife toured Cuba. Mr. DeMille made good use of his field research trip and in his new action-adventure novel “The Cuban Affair” we are offered his wry observations and running commentary on Cuba via his fictional character, Daniel “Mac” MacCormick.

A tale of leaving previous sorrows behind

Novels about women leaving a dismal marriage are legion. One of the first in English was Anne Bronte’s “Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” whose heroine Helen takes her young son and runs away from her alcoholic husband. This was published in 1848 when divorce was not possible, and legally the child and any property the wife might have owned belonged to the father.

The melancholy memoir of a little engine that couldn’t

There are plenty of snappy titles that Hillary Clinton might have chosen for her personal account of the 2016 presidential race. “Born to Lose,” “Running on Empty,” “The Sun Also Sets” and “What a Way to Go” all spring to mind. “What Happened” does not. A question mark at the end might have helped. But then people could point to the name written in oversized capital letters directly under the title on the dust jacket, concluding that the answer to “What Happened?” was “Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Bringing terror and its practitioners into focus

Al Qaeda’s horrendous attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 represented a transformative moment in the history of international terrorism, with a foreign terrorist group daring to deploy its operatives from its training camps in Afghanistan to inflict catastrophic damage on its adversary’s soil, and with America deciding to counter this terrorist threat with all means necessary, including pursuing such terrorists wherever they operate.

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The engaging mystery of Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer is regarded as one of the great 17th century Dutch painters. No visit to Amsterdam's Rijskmuseum, The Hague's Mauritshuis or Paris' Louvre, among others, is complete without an examination of his magnificent work in its permanent collection.

Solving the mystery of a war crime in Bosnia

In comparing the legal writers John Grisham and Scott Turow, one is tempted to call Scott Turow "the thinking man's John Grisham." But, to quote a famous American, "That would be wrong."

A grunt's eye view of the Vietnam War

During the Paris Peace talks in the early 1970s, American Col. Harry Summers was talking to his North Vietnamese counterpart during a break. Summers reportedly told the Vietnamese that we had won every battle in the war. The Vietnamese replied, "That is true, but it is also irrelevant." It is not irrelevant to the surviving veterans who fought those battles or to the families of Americans who did not return.

Recalling the small, plain woman with the upper hand

If I had read this admirable study by John Pfordresher, a professor of English at Georgetown University, of the enormous amount of lived experience Charlotte Bronte put into her novelistic Magnum Opus "Jane Eyre" even a few months ago, I would have thought it a little bit superfluous. After all, more than any other novel I have read, it strikes one with such immediate force, inducing a visceral reaction, an immediate empathy with the eponymous heroine.

Revisiting how Eastern European borders came to be

When did you first hear of Belarus? What about Ruthenia? Do you know in which country the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, by which Russia withdrew from World War I, was signed? Most of us would fail a quiz that posed these questions. But here are some answers gleaned from Anne Applebaum's "Between East and West Across the Borderlands of Europe," first published in 1994 and just released in paperback from Anchor.

The magnificent mind of a flawed Founder

If words were all that mattered, Thomas Jefferson would, indeed, have been the "Architect of American Liberty" that John Boles proclaims in the subtitle of his impressive new biography. Had Thomas Jefferson never written another word after the Declaration of Independence, he would be remembered as author of one of the most influential documents in the history of political thought.

The Cromwell behind the creation of the British Empire

An unfortunate side-effect of the otherwise admirable success of Hilary Mantel's novel "Wolf Hall" and its subsequent blockbuster television and stage adaptations has been a tendency to make its protagonist, the relatively minor figure Henry VIII's chief minister Thomas Cromwell, eclipse his hitherto far more famous collateral descendant Oliver Cromwell.

The mathematical prodigy who gave the world 'bits'

Many people, most notably Al Gore, have claimed to be the father of the information age; but Claude Shannon probably deserves the most credit. In 1948, he wrote an article that is considered to be the "Magna Carta" of information technology. In their book "A Mind at Play," Jimmy Son and Rob Goodman explain how this nearly forgotten American genius revolutionized the way we think about communications.

When 16th-century Venice and the Washington suburbs don't square

In the fifth of the Hogarth Press Shakespeare series, "New Boy," Tracy Chevalier transplants her version of Shakespeare's "Othello" from 16th century Venice and Cyprus to a 1970s Washington D.C. suburban school playground.

The Gilded Age versus the Gelded Age

David Callahan is worried. He sees America headed toward a period of ever-growing influence by the super rich: a new Gilded Age dominated by men and women of wealth, especially those who are interested in giving away -- as well as amassing -- their wealth.

Pictures of thriving communities in the Holy Land

The State of Israel and its capital Jerusalem are perennially in the news. Recently, Israel joyously celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, which after nearly two decades when Jews could not visit their holiest site The Western Wall, opened the holy places of all three Abrahamic religions to all their worshipers.

Giving the early champions of individual freedom their due

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a former federal prosecutor who serves on several key Senate committees and chairs the Senate Steering Committee, is also author of "Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document."

Faith made him stronger and a better ball player

Jackie Robinson's inspirational story has long been immortalized in books and movie adaptations. He broke major league baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947. He played for the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers from 1947-1956. He won many individual awards, as well as the 1955 World Series, and is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Ambiguities among the cruelties of the caste system

Arundhati Roy hit the literary news big time when her first novel, "The God of Small Things," won the Booker Prize in 1997. Now 20 years later she has published a second novel, "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness." She notes has been working on it "for many years," and it shows.

Mary McCarthy's fiction, collected at last

When I heard this spring that the Library of America, that magisterial institution devoted to the most important American writers, had finally gotten around to bestowing the accolade of inclusion in its ranks to Mary McCarthy's fiction, I had two visceral reactions.

A blogging mom and her evil friend

Moms of the world, take a break from blogging and give a thought to murder. That is the message of this wickedly satirical psychological assessment of two apparently perfect suburban moms and how they made victims of each other. Queen of the flying fingers is Stephanie whose idol in life is Emily, a more glamorous mom who is everything that Stephanie isn't.

How Heligoland loomed large in European power politics

If there is any sphere where size does not necessarily count, it is a place's geopolitical importance. Thirty-five years ago, when Margaret Thatcher sent a formidable armada 8,000 miles down both the North and South Atlantic Oceans to recapture the Falkland Islands, recently seized by Argentina, she demonstrated that in no uncertain terms.