Fri, 25 March 2011
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Claudia Cragg speaks here with Leah McGrath Goodman about her new book 'The Asylum'.
"They were a band of outsiders unable to get jobs with New York's gilded financial establishment. They would go on to corner the world's multitrillion-dollar oil market, reaping unimaginable riches while bringing the economy to its knees.
Meet the self-anointed kings of the New York Mercantile Exchange. In some ways, they are everything you would expect them to be: a secretive, members-only club of men and women who live lavish lifestyles; cavort with politicians, strippers, and celebrities; and blissfully jacked up oil prices to nearly $150 a barrel while profiting off the misery of the working class. In other ways, they are nothing you can imagine: many come from working-class families themselves. The progeny of Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrants who escaped war-torn Europe, they take pride in flagrantly spurning Wall Street.
Under the thumb of an all-powerful international oil cartel, the energy market had long eluded the grasp of America's hungry capitalists. Neither the oil royalty of Houston nor the titans of Wall Street had ever succeeded in fully wresting away control. But facing extinction, the rough-and-tumble traders of Nymex—led by the reluctant son of a produce merchant—went after this Goliath and won, creating the world's first free oil market and minting billions in the process. Their stunning journey from poverty to prosperity belies the brutal and violent history that is their legacy.
For the first time, The Asylum unmasks the oil market's self-described "inmates" in all their unscripted and dysfunctional glory: the happily married father from Long Island whose lust for money and power was exceeded only by his taste for cruel pranks; the Italian kung fu–fighting gasoline trader whose ferocity in the trading pits earned him countless millions; the cheerful Nazi hunter who traded quietly by day and ambushed Nazi sympathizers by night; and the Irish-born femme fatale who outsmarted all but one of the exchange's chairmen—the Hungarian emigre who, try as he might, could do nothing to rein in the oil market's unruly inhabitants.
From the treacherous boardroom schemes to the hookers and blow of the trading pits; from the repeat terrorist attacks and FBI stings to the grand alliances and outrageous fortunes that brought the global economy to the brink, The Asylum ventures deep into the belly of the beast, revealing how raw ambition and the endless quest for wealth can change the very nature of both man and market.
Showcasing seven years of research and hundreds of hours of interviews, Leah McGrath Goodman reveals what really happened behind the scenes as oil prices topped out and what choice the traders ultimately made when forced to choose between their longtime brotherhood and their precious oil monopoly".
Sun, 20 March 2011
Chang-rae Lee speaks here with Claudia Cragg about his latest novel 'The Surrendered'. [See below for an extract from the book]. The Korean-American author was born in Seoul, South Korea and emigrated to the US in 1968, aged two. He grew up in the New York City area and began his university education at Yale, before moving on to the University of Oregon, where he earned an MFA. His first novel, "Native Speaker" won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the American Book Award and the ALA Book of the Year Award.
Another much acclaimed work "A Gesture Life" grew out of four years work. It originally focused on the experience of a Korean comfort woman, and was told from her perspective. Chang-rae Lee went to Korea to interview surviving comfort women. He currently directs the creative writing program at Princeton University in the US. His 2004 novel Aloft features an isolated suburbanite forced to deal with his world.
“It was June’s decision to climb atop the overcrowded train. Since that night she had often wondered if it would have been better to wait for the next one, or to have taken their chances on foot, or else steered the twins and herself far off the main road without any provisions and simply waited for the one merciful night that would lift them away forever. The twins would not have suffered and she would not be here now. For what had surviving all the days since gotten her, save a quelled belly? She had merely prolonged the march, and now that her hunger had an altogether different face, it was her heart that was deformed, twisting with an even homelier agony.”
Sun, 13 March 2011
Interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott on Japan Nuclear Safety (originally recorded after an incident in July 2007)
It was three years ago that Claudia Cragg spoke with Dr Helen Caldicott about the inherent risks (or so it would now appear) in the Japanese nuclear industry. Now following a massive earthquake and the explosions that took place at the Fukushima plant Japan's nuclear crisis has become more complex than ever. The earthquake(s) is (are) tragic enough, but the proven record of incompetence with nuclear incidentis unforgiveable? This piece was part of Cragg's coverage of an 'incident' after a large earthquake at the world's largest nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Japan, and was first broadcast in July 2007. In this week's earthquake, no reports have (yet?) surfaced about damage at the K-K plant.