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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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Oscar Dystel, paperbacks pioneer who published ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ ‘Jaws,’ dies in NY at 101

NEW YORK (AP) - Oscar Dystel, a leader of the paperbacks market who transformed Bantam Books into a prolific powerhouse that released best-selling editions of “The Catcher in the Rye,” ”Jaws,” Ragtime” and many others, died Wednesday at age 101.

He had been in failing health in recent years and died at his home in Rye, just north of New York City, said his daughter, literary agent Jane Dystel.

Millions of people who loved to find quick reads for the airport or beach could thank Dystel, who had been a magazine editor when he was hired in 1954 to take over the then-struggling Bantam imprint. Alert to the growing appeal of cheap and portable books, Dystel soon presided over popular paperbacks of Leon Uris’ “Battle Cry” and John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” and within years had made Bantam the dominant publisher of mass market paperbacks.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, Bantam was releasing hundreds of books a year, from Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime” to a million-selling edition of the Warren Commission’s report on President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Jacqueline Susann’s sensational “Valley of the Dolls.” At the time of Dystel’s departure, Bantam accounted for an estimated 15 percent of mass market sales.

“My whole concept was to be an effective merchandiser of books,” Dystel said in a 2006 interview with Move! Magazine. “When we considered new titles, we didn’t read for the sake of enjoying the book but of considering its commercial potential. We learned how to read the first and last part of the book and make a judgment as to its potential sales.”

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Seeking to redefine US foreign policy, Obama straddles line between intervention and isolation

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) - Seeking to redefine America’s foreign policy for a post-war era, President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared that the United States remains the only nation with the capacity to lead on the world stage but argued it would be a mistake to channel that power into unrestrained military adventures.

Obama’s approach, outlined in a commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy, underscored his efforts to straddle the line between global isolation and intervention. Neither view, he said, “fully speaks to the demands of this moment.”

“It is absolutely true that in the 21st century, American isolation is not an option,” Obama said in remarks to more than 1,000 of the military’s newest officers. “But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.”

Obama has often struggled to articulate not only what should fill the space between intervention and isolation but also any success the administration has had in finding that middle ground. His preferred tool kit, which includes economic sanctions, diplomatic negotiations and international coalition building, rarely generates quick fixes and is often more ambiguous than more easily explained military action.

The president’s strategy also has garnered mixed results. While diplomacy and sanctions have brought the U.S. and Iran closer to a nuclear accord than ever before, neither approach has stopped the bloodshed of Syria’s four-year civil war or prevented Russia from annexing territory from Ukraine.

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Poet Maya Angelou, author of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ dies at 86 in North Carolina

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