John Reed on Orwell, God, self-destruction and the future of writing

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It can be difficult to be John Reed.

Christopher Hitchens called him a “Bin Ladenist” and Cathy Young editorialized in The Boston Globe that he “blames the victims of terrorism” when he puts out a novel like Snowball’s Chance, a biting send-up of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm which he was inspired to write after the terrorist attacks on September 11. “The clear references to 9/11 in the apocalyptic ending can only bring Orwell’s name into disrepute in the U.S.,” wrote William Hamilton, the British literary executor of the Orwell estate. That process had already begun: it was revealed Orwell gave the British Foreign Office a list of people he suspected of being “crypto-Communists and fellow travelers,” labeling some of them as Jews and homosexuals. “I really wanted to explode that book,” Reed told The New York Times. “I wanted to completely undermine it.”

Is this man who wants to blow up the classic literary canon taught to children in schools a menace, or a messiah? David Shankbone went to interview him for Wikinews and found that, as often is the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Reed is electrified by the changes that surround him that channel through a lens of inspiration wrought by his children. “The kids have made me a better writer,” Reed said. In his new untitled work, which he calls a “new play by William Shakespeare,” he takes lines from The Bard‘s classics to form an original tragedy. He began it in 2003, but only with the birth of his children could he finish it. “I didn’t understand the characters who had children. I didn’t really understand them. And once I had had kids, I could approach them differently.”

Taking the old to make it new is a theme in his work and in his world view. Reed foresees new narrative forms being born, Biblical epics that will be played out across print and electronic mediums. He is pulled forward by revolutions of the past, a search for a spiritual sensibility, and a desire to locate himself in the process.

Below is David Shankbone’s conversation with novelist John Reed.


  • 1 On the alternative media and independent publishing
  • 2 On Christopher Hitchens, Orwell and 9/11 as inspiration
  • 3 On the future of the narrative
  • 4 On changing the literary canon
  • 5 On belief in a higher power
  • 6 On politics
  • 7 On self-destruction and survival
  • 8 On raising children
  • 9 On paedophilia and the death penalty
  • 10 On personal relationships
  • 11 Sources
  • 12 External links

US military to withdraw military trainers from Pakistan

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The United States military plans to begin to withdraw military training troops from Pakistan after the Pakistani government requested the departure of the troops.

Pentagon spokesperson David Lapan said that official sources from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad requested a scaling down of the American training force, which is estimated to be composed of between 120 and 300 troops, on Wednesday.

“We were recently notified in writing that the government of Pakistan wished for the US to reduce its footprint in Pakistan. Accordingly, we have begun those reductions.”

The majority of the US presence in question is comprised of Special Forces troops, who train, prepare and give advice to Pakistani soldiers as part of a wider effort to counter Islamist fighter and terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda. Mr. Lapan did not specify exactly how many troops would be leaving, though unnamed military sources have said that the total force will number around 50 after the reduction.

The impending withdrawal of troops highlights the tensions between the US and Pakistan in the wake of the American raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad home, resulting in the death of America’s most wanted terrorist. Prior to this announcement, concerns within Pakistan have been raised about whether the attack violated Pakistan’s sovereignty, and some lawmakers have called for a review of Pakistani–US relations.

In the days following the raid Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, said that any comparable raids in Pakistan in the future would lead to a re-evaluation of the nation’s military and political collaboration with the US. He also told his commanders of the desire to have the numbers of American troops in Pakistan be brought down to “the minimum level.”

News briefs:May 03, 2010

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Fires burn across eastern Australia amid summer heatwave

Sunday, January 13, 2013

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Despite earlier cooler weather, heatwave conditions are expected to resume in New South Wales, Australia. Local weather service forecasts expect temperatures to rise above 40°C (104°F), as-experienced earlier in the week. The percentage of uncontained fires jumped as high as 20%. On Friday, local fire authorities have declared total fire bans across Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Fire crews at the east coast of Australia are readying to battle an increased rate of bushfires during the weekend.

Uncontrolled fires have also been burning across the states of Tasmania, Victoria, and Queensland.

Extremely hot weather and strong winds played havoc with the fires early in the week. A minor change in the weather assisted crews on Thursday but the high temperatures are set to return on Friday and through the weekend.

Thirty devastating fires in Tasmania are now being controlled after burning 130 properties and 110,000 hectares of land throughout the past week.

In Victoria there are two significant fires being fought with several others now under control but concerns remain for the weekend with the temperature forecast to rise to 42°C in the north of the state.

Queensland firefighters continued to battle fires north of of the capital Brisbane on Bribie Island, with at least 22 fires still burning throughout the state.

New South Wales has 120 fires burning as of Friday with 370,000 hectares of land, 10,000 livestock and one property already destroyed.

…an awful lot of fireline for firefighters to monitor…

Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Rob Rogers briefed reporters on the bushfires at the Rural Fire Service Headquarters on Friday.

“They are very large, all either in excess or very close to 10,000 hectares (and) in some cases 100 kilometres of fireline.That’s an awful lot of fireline for firefighters to monitor and obviously that’s going to be troubling over today and particularly tomorrow when it will be even hotter.”

One fire at Dean’s Gap in New South Wales had authorities concerned due to its proximity to an old military range that contains unexploded ordinances at Tianjara plateau. Firefighters have used earth moving equipment to create containment lines and specialised gel to protect the range.

Red Shirts cause state of emergency in Thai capital

Friday, April 9, 2010

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, Thailand and its surrounding areas today with the intention of combating anti-government protesters. The proclamation was made shortly after a group of Red Shirts, the common name for a political group in Thailand, stormed parliament. Senior officials were airlifted in a Black Hawk helicopter while other ministers were forced to jump over a wall at the back of the compound. The protesters left without violence after meeting opposition from members of parliament in the building.

The declaration of a state of emergency terminated military regulations and suspended certain civil liberties; one of these being the right to public gatherings of more than five people. This is the fourth state of emergency declared in Thailand because of political turmoil. Although the army has used violence in the past, they have been largely reluctant to attack or disperse large mobs. With a disabled military, one soldier carrying an M16 rifle was forced to flee from protesters; his weapon was stolen from him after being wrestled to the ground. Prime Minister Abhisit and army officials understand that a violent clash between authorities and anti-government protesters would worsen the political climate.

The military has been cautious about taking violent action against the people, but these feelings have not been reciprocated by Red Shirts. Two policemen were harmed by a grenade explosion at the central headquarters of the Abhisit’s Democrat party in an altercation on Tuesday. These protesters view their prime minister as an “Oxford-trained economist” being controlled by an unelected cabal. The protesters have resolved that if another election went underway they would respect the results and call off further disturbances.

Australian treasurer attacks opposition leader’s tax question error

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

File:AUS$20 John Flynn.jpg

The ability of Australian opposition leader, Kevin Rudd to run the country’s economy has been questioned by the Government after he made an error responding to a question on Australia’s current tax system today. Speaking in Queanbeyan, New South Wales earlier today, Mr Rudd was asked if he could name the current tax rates and the thresholds at which they kick in.

Mr Rudd said that he thought the top tax rate started at AUD$175,000. In fact, Australia’s top taxation rate begins at $150,000. “Well, as of July 1, if you went through the four thresholds, I think the high threshold kicks in I think at $175,000, then I think it cascades down the spectrum,” Mr Rudd told reporters.

Australian treasurer Peter Costello, who introduced the tax threshold changes, has seized on the opposition leader’s uncertainty, claiming that “he has never cared about economic policy, he has no interest in it,” he said.

Treasurer Costello claimed: “He was exposed as a fraud on productivity and we don’t hear him talking about productivity very much anymore.

“Now he has been exposed as being naked when it comes to understanding the tax system.”

Mr Costello demanded that the opposition release their taxation policy. “Since the Labor Party demands an election to be called on a daily basis, you would think they might have the decency of releasing a policy so that people can know what it is,” said Costello.

A Federal election is expected in Australia in the next three months and the Coalition Government is trailing the Opposition by ten percentage points on a two-party preferred basis.

Bus crash in Victoria, Australia injures twenty, some critical

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A bus crash in Victoria, Australia has injured at least 20 people, two of whom are listed as critical. One victim is reported to be still trapped in the wreckage.

The accident occurred between a bus and a semi-trailer on the Princes Highway in the Traralgon area around 10:50am AEST. The La Trobe Valley Busliner bus was traveling east when it collided with the back of a heavy haulage truck.

Those critically injured are being airlifted to a hospital in Melbourne. Others are being transported by Ambulance to La Trobe Valley Hospital in Traralgon.

SES crews are on scene, along with St. John Ambulance and fire crews.

The eastbound lanes of the highway have been blocked by police and traffic is being diverted.

Child virus outbreak reaches Beijing

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Over 40 children have died in an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in China, and the country’s capital of Beijing reported its first death due to the disease on Wednesday. According to Xinhua News Agency, Beijing Health Bureau spokeswoman Deng Xiaohong said that the 13-month-old boy died Sunday while en route to the hospital. Health authorities state that 24,934 children in mainland China are afflicted with the disease, and 42 children have died from it. The cause of the disease has been identified as Enterovirus 71 (EV-71). HFMD can also be caused by Coxsackievirus.

Another child infected with the virus died Monday, but as he died in Hebei province his death was counted there. Xinhua News Agency also reported that a 21-month-old boy died Monday of the virus in Hubei province. After an order was given last week by the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China that all cases must be reported, the count of those infected has increased markedly.

Eastern China saw a large number of cases in early March, but this information was not made public until late April. In March, Children under age six in eastern Anhui province began being admitted to hospitals with symptoms of the virus, and the outbreak spread quickly after that. The city of Fuyang in Anhui province was especially hard-hit by the outbreak. “The majority of patients who were in critical condition have recovered,” said a Health Ministry official in a statement on Monday. As of Monday, 3,606 HFMD infections had been reported in Beijing. Deaths have occurred in the provinces of Anhui, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Beijing and Hubei.

What I know is the death rate has gone down drastically since early May.

“What I know is the death rate has gone down drastically since early May. There are very, very few cases with complications — 99 percent of these are mild cases,” said World Health Organization (WHO) China representative Hans Troedsson in a statement on Wednesday. Incidents of the disease are expected to peak in June and July.

Children with mild cases of the disease generally recover rapidly after manifesting a rash and a fever. Other symptoms include diarrhea, cold-like symptoms, and sores on the extremities and mouth. In severe cases, fluid may accumulate in the brain, and result in meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema, paralysis and death. The EV-71 virus is spread through contact with fluid secreted from blisters, nose and throat mucus, feces and saliva. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus. The disease is unrelated to foot-and-mouth disease, which affects livestock.

China is confident that it can control the spread of the disease with effective prevention methods.

United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was visiting in the country, and said in a statement Monday in Shanghai that the U.S. is assisting China fight the outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, symptomatic treatment can be given to address possible fever and aches and pains. The CDC advises children and adults to practice proper hand washing technique, and to wash and disinfect contaminated items and surfaces using diluted solution of chlorine-containing bleach.

China is also dealing with a magnitude-7.9 earthquake which hit the country Monday and has killed almost 15,000. The outbreak is a concern to the government, as the country prepares for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing this August. “We are confident the potential outbreak will not affect the Beijing Olympic Games,” China’s Health Ministry spokesman Mao Qunan stated. And at a joint press conference held by China’s Ministry of Health and the WHO, he further noted that, “China is confident that it can control the spread of the disease with effective prevention methods.”

Hawaii governor Lingle lobbies GOP for Akaka Bill passage

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle wrote a letter to Republicans in the U.S. Senate urging passage of the controversial Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (S. 147), commonly known as the Akaka Bill after Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), its main proponent.

In a letter dated May 15, 2006 addressed to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Lingle cited a recent report by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that urged defeat of the measure on the grounds that it is racially based, calling it a “misguided action” and saying that it was based on a “grossly flawed understanding of the history of Hawaii and of the law itself.”

Lingle cited the fact that Native Hawaiians were governed by their own leaders prior to Western contact, and that the U.S. itself recognized Hawaii as a sovereign nation and entered into treaties with it as far back as 1826. After the overthrow of the monarchy and Hawaii’s subsequent annexation in 1900, the government of the former kingdom was “subordinated to the federal government,” Lingle said, asserting that Native Hawaiians’ relationship to the U.S. has been political in nature rather than purely racial. She claims that this relationship was not adequately reflected in the Civil Rights Commission’s report.

Opponents of the Akaka Bill have disputed the accuracy of Lingle’s claims, as well as those of her Attorney General, Mark J. Bennett. They point out that throughout the Hawaiian Kingdom period, through the annexation of Hawaii and into statehood, no racial group in Hawaii ever had an exclusive government for their race alone, and that the Akaka Bill specifically creates a new government based on race, not on politics.

Attached to her letter was a three-page summary written by Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett, outlining the state government’s criticisms of the CRC’s report. Bennett said that the report reflected “a complete lack of understanding of this country’s longstanding practice of dealing specially with its native peoples.” Bennett also cited congressional precedent in legislation that compares the situation of Native Hawaiians to that of Native Americans. Bennett sums up the criticism by saying that there is “simply no legal or moral distinction between Native Hawaiians and American Indians or Alaska Natives, that would justify denying Native Hawaiians the same treatment other Native American groups in this country currently enjoy.”

According to the Civil Rights Commission’s report, a panel of experts briefed the commission on January 20, 2006; and public comment was solicited until March 21, 2006. The Commission noted that most of the comments received were in opposition to the legislation, and that while the supporters “took great pains to analogize the situation of Native Hawaiians with those of Native Americans,” many of the opponents argued, “in very personal terms, that the proposed legislation would be inconsistent with basic American principles of equality, traditional Hawaiian values, and their own personal ethics.”

In the end, the Commission recommended against passage of S. 147 as reported out of committee or any similar bill that “would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.”

Two of the seven commission members reportedly rejected the conclusion and are expected to file formal dissents.

Frist had pledged to file a cloture motion before the Senate to bring the measure to a vote when the body returns from May recess. Should 60 of the 100 senators approve the cloture motion, a vote would occur after a maximum of 30 hours of debate. The bill, if approved by the Senate, would still need to pass the House by the end of the year.

Author Amy Scobee recounts abuse as Scientology executive

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wikinews interviewed author Amy Scobee about her book Scientology – Abuse at the Top, and asked her about her experiences working as an executive within the organization. Scobee joined the organization at age 14, and worked at Scientology’s international management headquarters for several years before leaving in 2005. She served as a Scientology executive in multiple high-ranking positions, working out of the international headquarters of Scientology known as “Gold Base”, located in Gilman Hot Springs near Hemet, California.