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Boston Review Books

With more than a billion people now living on less than a dollar a day, and with eight million dying each year because they are simply too poor to live, most would agree that the problem of global poverty is our greatest moral challenge. The large and pressing practical question is how best to address that challenge. Although millions of dollars flow to poor countries, the results are often disappointing.

The revelations of prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib and more recently at Guant√°namo were shocking to most Americans. And those who condemned the treatment of prisoners abroad have focused on U.S. military procedures and abuses of executive powers in the war on terror, or, more specifically, on the now-famous White House legal counsel memos on the acceptable limits of torture. But in The Story of Cruel and Unusual, Colin Dayan argues that anyone who has followed U.S.

With the extinction rate at 3000 species a year and accelerating, we can now predict that as many as half of the Earth's species will disappear within the next 100 years. The species that survive will be the ones that are most compatible with us: the weedy species—from mosquitoes to coyotes—that thrive in continually disturbed human-dominated environments.

When the Bush administration's faith-based initiative was introduced in 2001 as the next stage of the "war on poverty," it provoked a flurry of protest for violating the church-state divide. Most critics didn't ask whether it could work.