Economy Still Not Running on All Cylinders

Though the recession may technically be over, we’re still slogging our way through troubled economic times, and there’s plenty of evidence for this in the news.

For example, Wall Street is spooked today over both Greece’s continuing debt crisis, as well as a rise in jobless claims.

And economist Martin Wolf opines in Financial Times that all that’s keeping the world economy going right now is “a degree of monetary and fiscal stimulus unprecedented in peacetime.” 

But a real solution for the global economy is a tough nut to crack.  Mere “reignition” of the credit engine which created the Financial Crisis of 2007-10 will only lead to another, according to Wolf.  What we really need, he says, is “a surge in private and public investment in the deficit countries or a surge in demand from the emerging countries.”  He doesn’t see anyone really entertaining “a radical post-crisis agenda” like this — but if we don’t start thinking out-of-the-box, history may well repeat itself.            

With respect to the local scene, the other night I was at McDonald’s over at Friendly Shopping Center, reading a book called Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman, the controversial UNC-Chapel Hill religious studies professor.  This stimulated a long conversation with another McDonald’s patron named Craig, and during the course of our talk I learned the unrelated fact that he had been out-of-work for quite a while — close to three years. 

And guess what, he’s in construction, which has been hit awfully hard during the Great Recession — and doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

There was plenty of evidence of the construction industry’s continuing woes in the news yesterday.  The Associated Press reported that new home sales dropped 11.2% in January, which puts annual sales at a pace described as “the lowest level on records going back nearly a half century.”

And the News and Record said Wednesday that existing home sales in Greensboro were down last month too.

If you want to read some literature on the financial crisis, Greensboro Public Library’s latest titles on this topic include:  On the Brink:  Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System by Henry M. Paulson, Jr.; Freefall:  America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph E. Stiglitz; 13 bankers:  The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown by Simon Johnson and James Kwak; A Failure of Capitalism:  The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent into Depression by Richard A. Posner; and A Colossal Failure of Common Sense:  The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers by Lawrence G. McDonald with Patrick Robinson.

And if you’re in the job hunt, like Craig, be sure and check out the library’s job links here.

UPDATE:  There’s also talk again of a possible double-dip recession.  Check links here, here, here, and here.

Did Fulke Greville Author Some of Shakespeare’s Plays?

Anybody with much interest in William Shakespeare (1564-1616) knows that there are doubters (known as anti-Stratfordians) who question the great bard’s authorship of some or all of the works attributed to him.

The theories of the anti-Stratfordians, which often attain a Da Vinci Code-like complexity, turn upon the notion that a mere commoner, lacking a university education, could hardly have been responsible for the greatest oeuvre in the English language. 

Over the years, some of the popular claimants for the “real Shakespeare” have included Edward de Vere, Sir Francis Bacon, and Christopher Marlowe.

Of course, most academics dismiss the theories of the anti-Stratfordians as nonsense, for they usually lack documentary records to back them up.  However, a UCLA statistical analysis of Shakespeare’s writings and those of his contemporaries, conducted in 1990, suggested another man who could not be ruled out as the “real Shakespeare”:  Sir Fulke Greville.   

A prominent Elizabethan courtier, as well as a dramatist and poet, Fulke Greville (1554-1628) is probably best remembered today as biographer of the much better known Sir Philip Sidney, who was a close friend.  

But now, true believers think a monument in Warwickshire’s St. Mary’s Church, built by Fulke Greville, may hold some proof of his connection to Shakespeare.

And this time they may have something, because a recent radar scan of the monument shows that three box-like objects lie within it.  Speculation is rife that they may contain manuscripts, such as a play in Shakespeare’s hand.

Researchers hope to explore the monument again within weeks using a device with a small video camera called an endoscope.  

Greensboro Public Library naturally has a large collection of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, as well as many books about him.  And these latter works include several on the authorship controversy, such as:  The Man Who was William Shakespeare by Peter Sammartino; The Mysterious William Shakespeare:  The Myth and the Reality by Charlton Ogburn; Who was Shakespeare?:  A New Enquiry by H. Amphlett; The Shakespeare Claimants; A Critical Survey of the Four Principal Theories Concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays by H.N. Gibson; and The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined; An Analysis of Cryptographic Systems Used as Evidence that Some Author Other than William Shakespeare Wrote the Plays Commonly Attributed to Him, by William F. Friedman & Elizabeth S. Friedman.

Nature Photography Contest at the Library

We’ve had lots of winter weather recently, and Spring may not seem close at hand, but here at the Kathleen Clay Branch we’ve already made plans for our annual Earth Day Celebration on April 10th. As part of the celebration we feature a Nature Photography Contest, and this year we’re opening it up to all grades, Kindergarten through 12th. The only requirement for the photographs is that they should depict nature in Guilford County.

The deadline for submissions is March 17th, and you must deliver your photo to the Kathleen Clay Branch between 6 pm and 9 pm. To enter the contest, put a 4×6 photo in a sealed envelope along with an index card including the student’s name, address, telephone number, school, and grade level.  Also include a title for the photo, and the location in Guilford County where you shot it. Deliver your photograph early, because only the first hundred photos in each category (Elementary, Middle, and High School) will be accepted! (For more information about Earth Day and detailed rules for the contest, see the library website.)

When our Earth Day celebration rolls around on April 10th, we will put all the photos on display, and the contest winners will be those who receive the most votes. So come by between 1 pm and 4 pm to vote for your favorite, and encourage your friends to come as well! There will be prizes for the first and second place winners in each age category.

If you’re looking for inspiration or help with your technique, check out some of these books that we have at the library: National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography by Rob Sheppard; Galen Rowell : a retrospective  compiled by the Sierra Club, Hugh Morton, North Carolina Photographer, Carolina Nature : a Photographer’s View of the Natural World in the Carolinas by Eric Horan,  John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide, and Essential Skills for Nature Photography by Cub Kahn.

Iran Says It’s a “Nuclear State”

In a speech today marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad declared his country had produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level and that Iran could now claim to be a “nuclear state.”

Though the level of enrichment is said not to meet requirements for a bomb, and Ahmadinejad continues to insist that Iran’s intentions are peaceful, the move has led the U.S. and France to threaten a new round of sanctions.

Supposedly, the Iranians want the enriched uranium for a research reactor which would produce medical isotopes to treat cancer.  But much of the international community — especially the U.S., Israel and Europe — see uranium enrichment as a critical step on the slippery slope towards weaponization.     

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of unrest in Iran since last year’s controversial elections, and today’s anniversary celebrations in Tehran were marred by anti-government protestors.  In response, government security forces orchestrated a widespread crackdown — which even included disruptions to the internet.

To read more about the confrontation with Iran and its nuclear capability, try some of these titles from Greensboro Public Library:  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:  President of Iran by Matthew Broyles (juvenile); Deception:  Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark; Iran:  The Next Iraq? (DVD); The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran by Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar; The Iran Threat:  President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis by Alireza Jafarzadeh; Bitter Fiends, Bsom Eemies:  Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation by Barbara Slavin; Target Iran:  The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change by Scott Ritter; Confronting Iran: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Crisis in the Middle East by Ali M. Ansari; The Secret War with Iran:  The 30-year Clandestine Struggle Against the World’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Power by Ronen Bergman; Iran by Laura K. Egendorf, editor (juvenile); Jerusalem Countdown by John Hagee; and The Final Move Beyond Iraq:  The Final Solution While the World Sleeps by Mike Evans.

You can also keep up with the news on Iran in Facts on File’s World News Digest.

Birthplace of Roman Emperor Vespasian Found

Check out this story about the recent discovery of a large villa at what archaeologists believe was the location of Roman Emperor Vespasian’s birth.

The site is located near a town called Cittareale, about 130 km northeast of Rome, in the Falacrinae Valley.  Marble floors, mosaics, and ceramics number among the many artifacts recovered from the estimated 3,000-4,000 square meter villa.  

Vespasian, or Titus Flavius Vespasianus (9-79 AD), emerged as Roman emperor after a civil war in 69 which erupted following Emperor Nero’s suicide.  Along with his son Titus (who succeeded him as emperor), Vespasian commanded the Roman legions which conquered Judea and destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 (though, to be clear, it was Titus, and not Vespasian, who was commander in the field at the time of the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD).  Vespasian and Titus also befriended Josephus, the famous chronicler of 1st century Jewish history.

If you’d like to read more about Vespasian and the First Jewish-Roman War, Greensboro Public Library’s holdings include 69 AD:  The Year of Four Emperors by Gwyn Morgan; Jerusalem’s Traitor:  Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea by Desmond Seward; The Jews Against Rome by Susan Sorek; and Josephus:  The Complete Works, translated by William Whiston. 

Also, Lindsey Davis’ series of novels about the adventures of the freelance investigator Marcus Didius Falco are set during Vespasian’s rule.  The preceding Falco link will take you to the author’s website and a list of the Falco books with plot summaries.

Greensboro Celebrates Opening of New International Civil Rights Museum

The big news in Greensboro this week was of course the opening of the City’s new International Civil Rights Museum, located in the Woolworth’s Department Store where the historic sit-ins movement began in 1960.  Check out the extensive coverage from the News and Record

You may also want to have a look at the Museum’s website.

Greensboro Public Library has a page dedicated to the sit-ins here, and our index to newspaper articles on the sit-ins will soon include links to digital versions of articles which appeared in the Greensboro Daily News and the Greensboro Record between February and July, 1960.