Ahmed Chalabi, a con artist who spent a decade convincing America’s foreign policy establishment to topple a dictator so the Chalabi family could resume extracting their home nation’s wealth, died of a heart attack today, about 15 years too late. If you haven’t read it in a while (or at all), now is a good time to revisit Jane Mayer’s 2004 account of how long and how hard Chalabi worked to make regime change in Iraq the main foreign policy priority of a bunch of deeply stupid but powerful people, who grew to believe, despite of the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, that the deeply unscrupulous exile could be a credible leader of a secular and democratic Iraq.
Eight years after falling into a permanent vegetative state, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stopped breathing this morning at Sheba Medical Centre in Jerusalem. The former IDF general and politician, nicknamed "the Butcher of Beirut" for his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian civilians, was 85. He is survived by two sons, Omri and Gilad.
Ray Price, one of the great voices and storytellers of the Golden Age of country music, almost died over the weekend. His son, Clifton Ray Price, certainly believed that his father—who is 87 years old and is most certainly, and inevitably, dying of cancer—had passed away on Saturday. But after Price's wife angrily contradicted that report yesterday, the younger Price wrote on his dad's Facebook page that he had "been deceived by some cruel people" and that his dad was indeed "still hanging on." He's going to die, though. Soon. So listen to "Night Life," written by Price's old bass player Willie Nelson. It's the title track from the greatest concept record ever made, a louche, slightly slurred, lipstick-on-your-collar tour through the drunken disintegration of the middle-class American family.
William Weaver, the Italian translator who rendered Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco into English, has died at 90. If your obituary can include this sentence it's fair to say you led a good life: "Midway through our meal of pasta with lemon and cream sauce, Muriel Spark walked in with a basketful of forest mushrooms[.]"