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Archive for the 'Featured Book' Category

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Francisco Varela and Waking, Dreaming, Being

Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. In today’s post on the final day of our feature, we are happy to post an excerpt from a fascinating interview of Thompson conducted by Joy Stocke at the Wild River Review. In the interview, Stocke and Thompson discuss the importance of his upbringing to his work, the influence of Francisco Varela, and the Dalai Lama, among many other topics, though we’ve chosen to focus on the discussion of Francisco Varela for this excerpt.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

WRR: Your book, ultimately, is a meditation on consciousness. Is consciousness wholly dependent on the brain or does it transcend the brain

Thompson: That’s the fundamental question of the book. I felt compelled to write about it because it kept coming up for me in different ways, some of which were personal and some intellectual. On a personal level I thought about the question a lot when I was working intensely with my friend and mentor, Chilean neuroscientist, Francisco Varela, just before he died. He was terminally ill and we knew that at some point soon he was going to die.

I write about the last real conversation I had with him, how it centered on consciousness and the question of its transcendence. It was fall of 2000 and Cisco and I were in my dad’s apartment in New York on the Upper West Side, writing a scientific article about consciousness and the brain. We weren’t raising that question at all in the article but we were talking about it a lot when we weren’t working. Cisco was a Buddhist, and knew that he was going to die soon, so transcendence was something he was contemplating. From a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, consciousness is the most fundamental luminous nature of awareness, underlying more ordinary cognitive forms of the mind, and it’s not considered to be brain dependent. Cisco took this perspective very seriously, but he was a neuroscientist, so he was also skeptical and doubtful.

The experience of talking to Cisco about this and watching him die and feel the loss intensified the question for me. It was a question that I had always thought about, having studied Asian and Western philosophy, but also having grown up in the New Age and yoga world where it was just taken for granted that people had multiple lives and that consciousness carried on after physical death. (more…)

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Waking, Dreaming, Being

Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Dreaming is one of the key parts of the human experience that Thompson examines in his book (it’s right there in the title, after all), and in today’s post, crossposted from the Huffington Post Blog, Thompson discusses the importance of dreaming to his work as a scholar, and to understanding what the concept of a “self” actually means.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Waking, Dreaming, Being
Evan Thompson

Dreaming and waking up have puzzled and fascinated humanity since prehistoric times. Paleolithic cave paintings, according to some art historians, depict mental images from dreams and the borderland between sleep and wakefulness. The ancient Indian texts called the Upanishads describe three states of the self — waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. The early Chinese Daoist philosopher, Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu, 369-298 B.C.E.), wrote that only after one is “greatly awakened” does one realize that it was all a “great dream,” while the fool thinks that he is awake. The word “Buddha” means “Awakened One.”

Lucid dreaming — being aware of dreaming while you’re dreaming — is a vivid way to experience waking up and dreaming at the same time. You wake up within the dream without waking up from the dream. In the 1980s scientists showed that lucid dreaming is a real and unique state of consciousness in sleep. In the past four years, brain-imaging experiments have been done with lucid dreamers. Instead of cave art depicting the dream world, we now have images of the dreaming brain. (more…)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Evan Thompson talks to Tricycle Magazine

Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Recently, Thompson spoke to Tricycle Magazine about his book, his view of the mind, and mindfulness as an object of scientific scrutiny. We’ve excerpted parts of this interview below.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Almost two and a half decades ago, in The Embodied Mind, you critiqued a notion of mind that was already prevalent then and that continues to frame much of the current neuroscience research on meditation. What is that view, and what is wrong with it?
We criticized the view that the mind is made up of representations inside the head. The cognitive science version says that the mind is a computer—the representations are the software, and the brain is the hardware. Although cognitive scientists today don’t think the brain works the way a digital computer does, many of them, especially if they’re neuroscientists, still think the mind is something in the head or the brain. And this idea shows up in the neuroscience of meditation. But this idea is confused. It’s like saying that flight is inside the wings of a bird. The mind is relational. It’s a way of being in relation to the world. You need a brain, just as the bird needs wings, but the mind exists at a different level—the level of embodied being in the world.

What’s your alternative view of the mind?
The alternative view we put forward is that cognition is a form of embodied action. “Embodied” means that the rest of the body, not just the brain, is crucial; “action” means that agency—the capacity to act in the world—is central. Cognition is an expression of our bodily agency. We inhabit a meaningful world because we bring forth or enact meaning. We called this view “enaction” or the “enactive approach.”

In the enactive approach, being human is a matter of inhabiting the human world of culture and shared bodily practices. Of course we need our brain to do this, but we also need that world to be in place in order for the human brain to develop properly. The brain is what philosophers call a necessary “enabling condition” for mind and meaning, while enculturation is a necessary enabling condition for the brain. What’s important is not just what is inside the brain but what the brain is inside of—the larger space of the body and culture. That is where we find mind and meaning. (more…)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

The Dalai Lama’s Conjecture

Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Thompson’s prologue was recently excerpted at the Mind & Life institute, and we are happy to present the final section of that excerpt here.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Staying with the Open Question
Evan Thompson

Shortly before his death, Francisco Varela talked about the Tibetan Buddhist notion of “subtle consciousness” in an interview with Swiss filmmaker Franz Reichle (see Reichle’s film, Montegrande: What Is Life?, and also the Mind & Life Institute). Subtle consciousness isn’t an individual consciousness; it’s not an ordinary “me” or “I” consciousness. It’s sheer luminous and knowing awareness beyond any sensory or mental content. It’s rarely seen by the ordinary mind, except occasionally in special dreams, intense meditation, and at the very moment of death, when one’s ordinary “I” or “me” consciousness falls apart. It’s the foundation for every other type of consciousness, and it’s believed to be independent of the brain. Neuroscience can’t conceive of this possibility, while for Tibetan Buddhists it’s unthinkable to dismiss their accumulated experience testifying to the reality of this primary consciousness.

Varela’s position is to suspend judgment. Don’t neglect the Buddhist observations and don’t dismiss what we know from science. Instead of trying to seek a resolution or an answer, contemplate the question and let it sit there. Have the patience and forbearance to stay with the open question. (more…)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Stephen Batchelor’s Foreword to Waking, Dreaming, Being

Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor that we are proud to present below as the first post of the feature.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being!

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson

Waking, Dreaming, Being

This week our featured book is Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, by Evan Thompson, with a foreword by Stephen Batchelor. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Waking, Dreaming, Being. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, November 14th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Ten of Yong Chen’s Memorable Food Experiences in China

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. In today’s post, he gives ten of his most memorable experiences dining in China, from specific restaurants to types of dishes.

Ten of Yong Chen’s Memorable Food Experiences in China

1. Ginkgo Sichuan Restaurant, 12 Linjiang Middle Rd Wuhou, Chengdu, Sichuan, China, 610041; 1+ 86 28 8555 5588
For people looking for great food and legendary restaurants in the United States, there are well-known destinations, such as the Napa Valley region and New Orleans. Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, is such as destination in China. It does not have globally renowned celebrity chefs like Thomas Keller and Emeril Lagasse, but it does boast a world famous cuisine and countless fabulous dining establishments. Ginkgo Sichuan Restaurant is one of the best of these establishments. The duck smoked with tea leaves is one its specialties. The skin is crispy, and the seasoning nicely brings out the delicate flavor. Its dan dan noodle soup and the Sichuan-style dumplings uphold the reputation of such signature traditional Sichuan dishes.

2. Donkey Pie
“There is dragon meat in heaven; and there is donkey meat on earth.” I had never heard of this saying or tasted donkey meat until my first visit to China’s Hebei Province in 2009. Donkey meat is a local favorite. A wide range of donkey meat dishes can be found in restaurants: hot pot donkey meat, clay pot donkey, strewed donkey meat, donkey intestines, and donkey penis. A particularly popular food is the donkey pie. It is similar to a sandwich, consisting ground or finely sliced donkey meat between two buns with green onions and other vegetable. But all of the donkey pie is baked with the stuffing. It tastes better than a typical American beef sandwich. Numerous local people proudly told me that donkey was healthier than beef. (Scientific research actually does show, for example, that the total mineral content is higher in donkey meat than in beef.)

3. Mushrooms in Yunnan
Another great destination for unforgettable food experiences, Yunnan is a southern Chinese province, bordering Tibet and Sichuan provinces and Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. Lateral-spatially, it has three climate zones: temperate zone, sub-tropical, and tropical, as well as mountains that are perennially covered by snow. The province’s extraordinary biodiversity has created a rich culinary tradition and a multitude of foodstuffs. One of my memorable experiences in Yunnan comes from savoring a multitude of mushrooms.

One of them is ji cong, or the termite mushroom. When put in a stir fry or soup, it adds a lingering savory taste to the dish. Song rong (matsutake) is a delicacy, used almost solely as a flavor enhancer in upscale Japanese restaurants in California. But in restaurants in Yunnan you can order stir fry dishes, soups, and hot pots that feature this mushroom as the main ingredient. Domestic production of song rong has driven down the price significantly. Another mushroom to taste is the morel mushroom, known locally as yang du jun or sheep belly mushroom because of its shape. Local people told me that it is one of the most expensive mushrooms in Yunnan because its production has not been domesticated. A local friend in the city of Lijiang generously invited me to a hot pot dinner highlighting this delicacy. However, for both economic and gastronomic reasons, it is better used in small quantities in soups or stir fry dishes. Lately, my wife and I have discovered that it is best when made as a morel mushroom risotto. (more…)

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Yong Chen’s Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in America

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. In today’s post, he lists and describes his ten favorite Chinese restaurants in the U.S., and offers some advice on dining in a Chinese restaurant.

Yong Chen’s Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in America

This is a list of some of my personal favorites, rather than an attempt to rank the top ten among all the more than 30,000 Chinese restaurants in America. Taste is highly subjective, shaped by a wide range of socioeconomic and geographical factors as well as personal preferences and backgrounds. Those who have attempted to rank Chinese restaurants can seldom achieve a consensus. In 2012 CNN, for example, came up with a list of the best 50 Chinese restaurants in the United States. Many Chinese food lovers would find several of its selections quite questionable. Among them, Class 302, a decent Taiwanese style establishment that started first in Rowland Heights, California, is a great place for shredded/shaved ice but it would not make my list of top Chinese restaurants.

[Note: tips on dining in a Chinese restaurant.
1. If you are in a non-Chinese neighborhood and want “authentic” Chinese food namely, the kind of Chinese food that the Chinese like to eat, always ask for a pair of chopsticks.
2. Talk to the servers and ask if they have a menu in Chinese (it helps even if you do not read Chinese). Try to order at least one dish in Chinese.
3. Find a restaurant with Chinese customers inside. But do not be fooled by a token Chinese person sitting by the window (I was unconsciously made to play that role several times).
4. If you want plain rice, order it steamed, not fried.]

1. Blue Ginger, 583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482; (781) 283-5790.
I cannot claim that I know which Chinese restaurant is the best in metropolitan Boston. Before my 2004 trip there, I had heard a great deal about Blue Ginger. I went there with a friend from China, and we both were very satisfied with its service, décor, and food. The chef owner, Ming Tsai, graciously came out to greet us. My favorite was the tender butterfish marinated in sake and miso. My friend liked his grilled Long Island duck breast with Asian duck confit, but he asked: “Do you consider this a Chinese restaurant?” Indeed, if there is something Chinese about the restaurant, it is well hidden in the background. The restaurant represents the creative efforts of Chinese American chefs to blend Asian food with other cuisines.

2. Tommy Toy’s Cuisine Chinoise, 655 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94111.
San Francisco is where Chinese restaurants first started in America. The Bay Area remains an area for great Chinese food. Tommy Toy’s was an interesting restaurant because it was one of the few Chinese establishments to serve traditional Chinese food in a fine dining environment and charge find dining price – the two things that few other Chinese restaurants have been able to do (see chapter seven of Chop Suey, USA, for more discussions). But in early 2013 the restaurant ended its twenty-seven-year run, revealing how difficult it still is for Chinese food to climb up the gastronomical hierarchy.

3. Cheng Du Tian Fu (Heavenly City of Chengdu), 41-28 Main Street, Flushing, New York.
For Chinese food lovers, metropolitan New York is another exciting place. Manhattan’s Chinatown and the other Chinese communities in the area offer a great diversity of food representing different regions in China. In New York proper, culinary connoisseurs can have unforgettable dining experiences in several upscale establishments like the dazzlingly decorated restaurant Buddakan. The multiple-course banquet that the documentary film maker Julia Marchesi invited me to in Mr. K’s, in the summer of 2011, rivaled the signature dinner at Tom Toy’s.

But I have found even more interesting Chinese food in small places. One of them is Cheng Du Tian Fu in Flushing’s Golden Mall. The food at the little basement stall is almost as spicy as that in the provincial capital of Sichuan. When I dined there early in 2011, I was surprised to see two European visitors. “Why are you guys here?” My curiosity made me almost rude. “We read an article in the New York Times.” The Times article they remembered, as I found out later, was a piece published by Julia Moskin back in 2008 (in her article, she described several dining stores in the basement food court of the Golden Mall but not Cheng Du Tian Fu, which was discussed by Joe DiSefano in “Off the Beaten Path” Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing”). Among the dishes I tried, the dan dan noodle ($4) and ox tongue & tripe ($6) were more than worth the money, reminiscent of the same dishes in Chengdu. The most famous dish was the “hot spicy soup” – a dish consisting of vegetables and other ingredients boiled in pork stock served with spicy sauce. Served by numerous restaurants in Flushing, it represented the increasingly popularity of simple local foods from China in a fast changing community.

(more…)

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Stiglitz and Greenwald’s Introduction to Creating a Learning Society

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“The fact that markets on their own are not efficient when innovation is endogenous raised the question which is at the heart of our lecture and the book to which it gave rise: What should be the role of policy in promoting economic efficiency?” — Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today is the final day of the book giveaway, and we are featuring the introduction to Stiglitz and Greenwald’s Creating a Learning Society!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Arrow and the Impossibility Theorem, by Amartya Sen

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“The informational foundation of modern social choice theory relates to the basic democratic conviction that social judgments and public decisions must depend, in some transparent way, on individual preferences, broadly understood.” – Amartya Sen

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today, we are focusing on The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, and in this post we are offering Amartya Sen’s essay from that book: “Arrow and the Impossibility Theorem.”

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

The Origins of the Impossibility Theorem, by Kenneth J. Arrow

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“I was concerned with the fact that firms in the modern world typically had many owners (shareholders). If one ignored the time dimension, this posed no problem; each owner was interested in maximizing profits, and therefore they would all make the same choice. In the more general temporal situation, each owner would want to maximize expected profits. But the owners might easily hold different expectations. Therefore, they would not agree what investment policy would be optimal.” – Kenneth J. Arrow

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today, we are proud to present an article written by Kenneth J. Arrow and included in Sen and Maskin’s The Arrow Impossibility Theorem in which Arrow looks back on the steps by which he came to prove his impossibility theorem for social choices.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Kenneth J. Arrow comments on José Scheinkman’s Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“I think José correctly emphasizes that a belief system and a rational information system are not the same, even apart from the logical difficulties I have raised…. Individuals can of course err in self-assessment, but this result does not come from random error.” – Kenneth J. Arrow

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today, we are focusing on Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles in particular. In this post, we’ll take a look at Kenneth J. Arrow’s Commentary on Scheinkman’s arguments.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz introduces José A. Scheinkman’s Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“Much of the research of the past forty years has focused on assessing market behavior in the presence of rational expectations, where individuals use all available information to make inferences about the future, and in which all individuals share the same beliefs. And much of the literature has focused on situations where, even though there may not be a complete set of markets, there are not constraints, such as on short sales. In practice, of course, individuals do differ in their beliefs.” – Joseph Stiglitz

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today, we are focusing on Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles in particular. In this post, we are happy to present Joseph E. Stiglitz’s introduction to José Scheinkman’s book.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz discusses the creation of The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

“When we initiated the series, we had hoped that it would open up a lively discussion about a variety of areas within economics, political science, and philosophy. The Committee of Global Thought spans multiple disciplines, and Arrow is one of the few scholars of recent decades whose work has cut across fields, having profound implications on each.” — Joseph E. Stiglitz

This week we are excited to feature The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, and are giving away free copies of the first three books in the series (Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen) in our book giveaway! Today, we are posting an excerpt from Joseph Stiglitz’s preface to Creating a Learning Society, in which he discusses the impact of Kenneth Arrow’s work, and the Committee of Global Thought at Columbia University’s decision to discuss Arrow’s work in the yearly Arrow Lectures.

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Three titles from The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series

This week we are featuring The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz. Kenneth J. Arrow’s work has shaped the course of economics for the past sixty years so deeply that, in a sense, every modern economist is his student. His ideas, style of research, and breadth of vision have been a model for generations of the boldest, most creative, and most innovative economists. His work has yielded such seminal theorems as general equilibrium, social choice. and endogenous growth, proving that simple ideas have profound effects. The Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series highlights economists, from Nobel laureates to groundbreaking younger scholars, whose work builds on Arrow’s scholarship as well as his innovative spirit. The books in the series are an expansion of the lectures that are held in Arrow’s honor at Columbia University.

To celebrate this exciting new series, we are offering FREE copies of the first three Arrow Lecture Series titles: Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald; Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles, by José Scheinkman; and The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, by Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the books and their authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, July 18th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Carlos DeLuna, Carlos Hernandez, and Wanda Lopez: the Story in Pictures

The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Today, see the story of Carlos DeLuna, Carlos Hernandez, and the murder of Wanda Lopez through images in our Pinterest board for The Wrong Carlos.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

View the story of the case of Wanda Lopez’s murder here:
Follow Columbia University Press’s board The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution on Pinterest.

(more…)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Do we execute innocent people?

The Wrong Carlos

“Our book challenges readers to consider the evidence we have carefully arrayed—and to test each phrase in the book against all of the relevant evidence on the point to which readers can quickly link on the web site—and decide for themselves whether our criminal and capital justice systems are reliable enough to keep innocent people from being executed.” — James S. Liebman

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. In today’s guest post, James S. Liebman gives an account of the origin of The Wrong Carlos as a research project and book, and explains how he hopes readers will read and react to the story of Carlos DeLuna’s execution.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Do we execute innocent people?
James S. Liebman

Do the three dozen American states that authorize death as a punishment for murder execute innocent people? That is the fundamental question at the heart of The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, a book coauthors and I published last week with Columbia University Press.

I began thinking about this question in 2000 and 2002, when colleagues and I issued two studies of rates of serious error found by courts in U.S. capital cases: Broken System I: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995 and Broken System II: Why Is There So Much Error in Capital Cases and What Can Be Done About It?. The studies and a follow-up article documented judicial findings of serious error in over two-thirds of all U.S. capital cases that courts reviewed between 1973 and 1995. Nearly all of those findings involved the kinds of legal errors known to undermine the accuracy of the determination that the defendant committed the crime and that he or she deserved to die for it. (more…)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

The Death of Wanda Lopez

The Wrong Carlos

“Forty minutes after Wanda’s call, the police closed the case with an arrest. They caught Carlos DeLuna in a residential neighborhood a few blocks east of the Sigmor.” — James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Today, we are taking a look at the crime that started it all: the murder of Wanda Lopez. In this excerpt from The Wrong Carlos, Liebman et al. lay out the scene of the crime and give the information that the police had received from various witnesses.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Wrong Carlos, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project

The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

“A masterful deconstruction of the Lopez murder and police investigation followed by the prosecution and execution of the wrong man. Given the number of men already exonerated from death row and the unacceptable incidence of innocent men convicted of capital crimes, there can be no doubt that innocent men have been executed by the state. Liebman’s command of the facts and intellectual precision, ultimately infused with a moral urgency, makes a compelling claim that Carlos DeLuna is one of those innocent men.” — Peter J. Neufeld and Barry Scheck, directors, Innocence Project

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Wrong Carlos. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, July 18th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Collapse of Western Civilization, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The Collapse of Western Civilization

This week our featured book is The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Collapse of Western Civilization to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, July 11 at 1:00 pm.

“A chilling view of what our history could be. Ignore it and it becomes more likely. Read this book, heed its warning, and perhaps we can avoid its dire predictions.” — Timothy Wirth, vice chairman, United Nations Foundation, and former U.S. Senator and Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Read the introduction and the first chapter, “The Coming of the Penumbral Age”: