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Michael Sweet (Greece)
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Blue Skies & Black Olives: A survivor's tale of housebuilding and peacock chasing in Greece
Blue Skies & Black Olives: A survivor's tale of housebuilding and peacock chasing in Greece
by John Humphrys
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hellenic insights, 30 Oct. 2009
In following the process of building a house in the Peloponnese, this is a story of contemporary Greece - in all its glory and frustration. The anecdote on how Chris had to undertake an Orthodox christening, in order to marry, is one of the book's many typical gems, revealing the culture and living traditions of an adopted homeland. The experiences of father and son, shared with great humour and insight, make Blues Skies and Black Olives a highly entertaining read. Few books make me laugh out loud, but this is one that did. Highly recommended for Greekophiles, or anyone who has ever wished to leave a northern winter behind!


Currency Wars
Currency Wars
by John Cooley
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Currency Wars - the real deal, 21 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Currency Wars (Hardcover)
The next time you check your loose change whilst on a trip to the Eurozone, it might be an idea to have a second glance at the coins in the mix. Evidence put forward in this finely researched book by the late John Cooley, suggests that one in ten Euro coins in circulation are forgeries, produced clandestinely in Russia and Eastern Europe. CURRENCY WARS tells the story of how mass counterfeiting is an age-old form of economic warfare, and a tactic used by governments to undermine the economies of their enemies since systems of currency were first invented. Cooley's skills as a meticulous researcher are evident from the first chapter which deals with the most brazen mass counterfeiting heist in living memory, when millions of `Supernotes' - superbly forged $100 bills were intercepted by American authorities en route to being injected into the US economy in 2004. The finger pointed to North Korea as the instigators, working with complex international networks of organised crime, to carry out its mission, which US officials claimed was one of Pyongyang's central strategies to earn hard currency to continue to develop its nuclear arms programme. Cooley clearly demonstrates that recent state sponsored counterfeiting is nothing new. It's beginnings can be evidenced in ancient times in Persia, Greece, China and Rome, and as the author unravels the fascinating technical minutiae of how counterfeit coins and notes have been produced over the centuries, he delves into the history of currency itself, and its foundation in creating strong and stable states.
Cooley's revealing analysis details how Britain used counterfeiting of the first American dollar bills, known as `Continentals' to undermine the nascent American economy. 200 years later he recounts how Britain repeated this tactic in the Great War by printing Imperial Reich Marks and smuggling them into Germany, and that this action may have been a significant stimulus for the politically destabilizing hyper-inflation experienced in Germany after the end of the first world war. A central theme of the book is the link between economic warfare and its effects - desired or undesired, and the rise or sustaining of totalitarianism. Stalin's pre-war preparations in the 1930s included an ambitious plan to debase the US dollar, using some of the best printers in the business, in Germany. From 1942 Hitler embarked on `Operation Bernhard' the massive forging of Sterling and Dollars in an effort to undermine the allies' economies. The master forgers were prisoners of Jewish origin, hand picked from Auschwitz and other death camps, and transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north west of Berlin. The devil is in the detail of Cooley's careful prose, relating for instance the story of printer Adolf Burger, one of the workers in Blocks 18 and 19 at the Sachsenhausen camp, whose `quick wits and fluent German' enabled him to survive Auschwitz and Birkenau, and whose skills and value to Operation Berhard would sustain him until liberation by the allies. Currency Wars is a revealing work of great detail, depth and insight. Narratives that range from ancient tyrants to Al Qaeda, map `how statesmen, scoundrels. spooks and just plain crooks have forged the currency of their adversaries' and the intended and often unintended repercussions of their actions. Obligatory reading for those interested in politics, history, war, mankind's capacity for self-deception and money itself.

For a full version of this review and a profile of John K Cooley, go to [...]


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