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By Jonathan Lowe


by Jonathan Lowe

THE COKE MACHINE by Michael Blanding is an eye opening expose which blows the plastic lids off a company known to associate itself with love and happiness through its billion dollar advertising campaigns. According to Blanding, an investigative journalist, Coca Cola has been complicit in brutality and murder against union organizers in their bottling plants in Colombia. They have usurped scarce water supplies in villages in India. And here in the U.S. they have lied to consumers about the ingredients in their products, contributing to an obesity epidemic in schools, while only pretending to be eco-friendly and cute. Regarding Coke's recycling program, launched in late 2007 due to a backlash against bottled water, Blanding states that it has proved deceptive. Coke built a $50 million facility in Spartanburg SC with the boast that it would recycle 100 million pounds per year by 2010. Promoting their "Give It Back" campaign during American Idol, they put out Coke-shaped recycling bins around parks, zoos, and stadiums as a clever way to further advertise their product while appearing eco-friendly. However, by 2010 the initial pledge of 30% recycled materials was quietly downgraded to 10% "where commercially viable." So Coke still gets 98% of its recycled materials from outside sources, driving up the cost of recycled materials, and doing next to nothing on the supply side. Meanwhile, they resist efforts to go for redeemable bottles, the most proven way of increasing recycling. With the subtitle "The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink," the book lays out the entire case against Coke in startling clarity, with 60 pages of footnotes. Can the company "spin doctor" its way out of this, as before? Time will tell. In the meantime, as Morgan Spurlock, author of SuperSize Me, says in endorsing the hardcover, "After reading this book, good luck having a Coke and a smile." (George K. Wilson narrates the audiobook version. For an interview with the author, go to
Next, Ray Porter reads QUANTUM by Manjit Kumar, a biographical exploration into the debates about the nature of reality held between Einstein, Bohr and others. The text is lucid and engaging, never over the heads of listeners, and as such is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in science or not. These geniuses were celebrities in their time, and what they thought is laid out here (for the layman) better than ever before. Porter's voice is commanding and engaging, and the text covers the mid-20s to the 60s (Einstein died in 1955), when quantum mechanics (which Einstein could never accept) had mostly been proven. Partial vindication for Einstein has since come with the consensus that quantum mechanics does not fully describe the nature of matter, although string theory (or the unified field theory Einstein sought in the last 30 years of his life, but did not find) is not covered here.
Anne Fortier has written an intriguing tale about a young woman who investigates her family's history after her beloved aunt Rose leaves an entire estate to her twin sister. Intriguing, because she discovers that an ancestor named Giulietta (whose parents were murdered in 1340) soon starts up a relationship with a man named Romero in Siena, Italy. Could this story have inspired Romeo & Juliet? Cassandra Campbell reads JULIET, which merges past with present, as the protagonist wonders whether she's now to be the next victim of a centuries old blood feud. (Anne is on Facebook, and will answer your questions, so you can find her there.)

Finally, THE MULLAH'S STORM is one of the first novels set in the Afghan war. It's about being shot down and attempting to survive, with a Taliban prisoner in tow, and the novel is garnering praise as a taut suspense. Writer is decorated airman Thomas W. Young. This is a visceral suspense novel which engagingly explores the concept of how love and hatred play out in war. Author Thomas W. Young and narrator Scott Brick combine their considerable talents to here present an absorbing tale of survival.

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