Thursday, July 30, 2015

Salamanders

University of California, Berkeley:
Five California amphibian experts warn that a recently discovered fungus already devastating salamanders in Europe could imperil American salamanders, and urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately halt salamander imports until there is a plan to detect and prevent the spread of the fungus. 
Salamanders are an important part of forest ecosystems but also a popular pet worldwide. Nearly three quarters of a million salamanders were imported into the U.S. between 2010 and 2014, 99 percent of them from Asia, where the fungus likely originated. 
Because of this, the scientists and other herpetologists worry that the fungus could spread from Asia, where the salamanders seem to tolerate the fungus, to more vulnerable parts of the globe. Since it was first recognized in 2013, the fungus has caused a 96 percent fatality rate among the European salamander species that it infected. 
What makes a U.S. ban urgent is that a recent study showed that two common American salamanders — the rough-skinned newt found all over the Pacific Coast and the iconic Eastern newt of the Eastern U.S. — are highly susceptible to the fungus.

Canids

Cell Press: "Despite their remarkably similar appearance, the 'golden jackals' of East Africa and Eurasia are actually two entirely different species."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

United Kingdom

Henry Ridgwell, Voice of America:
Billions of dollars of so-called "dirty money" from the proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, are being laundered through the London property market, according to anticorruption activists. The British government has pledged to crack down on the practice. 
During the past five years, prime London property has risen in value by 42 percent, and campaigners say it is partly fueled by "dirty" money from the proceeds of crime.

New York City

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
The Health Department is currently investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the South Bronx. Thirty-one cases have been reported since July 10. There have also been two deaths reported in patients with Legionnaires' disease in these neighborhoods. The Health Department is actively investigating these deaths and their relationship to the outbreak. The Health Department is testing water from cooling towers and other potential sources in the area to determine the source of the outbreak. New Yorkers with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and muscle aches, are advised to promptly seek medical attention.

Book

The Legendary Detective: The Private Eye
in Fact and Fiction
Nonfiction book by John Walton
Publication Date: October 26, 2015

Chicago University Press:
"I'm in a business where people come to me with troubles. Big troubles, little troubles, but always troubles they don't want to take to the cops." That's Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, succinctly setting out our image of the private eye. A no-nonsense loner, working on the margins of society, working in the darkness to shine a little light. 
The reality is a little different — but no less fascinating. In The Legendary Detective, John Walton offers a sweeping history of the American private detective in reality and myth, from the earliest agencies to the hard-boiled heights of the 1930s and '40s. Drawing on previously untapped archival accounts of actual detective work, Walton traces both the growth of major private detective agencies like Pinkerton, which became powerful bulwarks against social and labor unrest, and the motley, unglamorous work of small-time operatives. He then goes on to show us how writers like Dashiell Hammett and editors of sensational pulp magazines like Black Mask embellished on actual experiences and fashioned an image of the PI as a compelling, even admirable, necessary evil, doing society's dirty work while adhering to a self-imposed moral code. Scandals, public investigations, and regulations brought the boom years of private agencies to an end in the late 1930s, Walton explains, in the process fully cementing the shift from reality to fantasy. 
Today, as the private detective has long since given way to security services and armed guards, the myth of the lone PI remains as potent as ever. No fan of crime fiction or American history will want to miss The Legendary Detective.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

France

Agence France-Presse (AFP):

New Jersey

U.S. Justice Department: "A member of the Lucchese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN) was sentenced today to serve 360 months in prison for participating in a racketeering conspiracy and related offenses."

Dinosaurs


University of Toronto Mississauga:
The Tyrannosaurus rex and its fellow theropod dinosaurs that rampage across the screen in movies like Jurassic World were successful predators partly due to a unique, deeply serrated tooth structure that allowed them to easily tear through the flesh and bone of other dinosaurs, says new research from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). 
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by Kirstin Brink, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biology at UTM; Professor Robert Reisz of the Department of Biology and the UTM vice-principal of graduate studies; and colleagues at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center in Taiwan. 
Brink and her colleagues determined that this deeply serrated — or sawlike — tooth structure is uniquely common to carnivorous theropods such as T. rex and Allosaurus, and even one of the first theropods, Coelophysis. Other extinct animals had teeth that were superficially similar, but it was the special arrangement of tissues inside the tooth that strengthened and improved the function of the teeth. The deep serrations made them much more efficient at chomping on bones and ripping flesh of larger animals and reptiles, and allowed them to prosper for about 165 million years as fearsome, top predators. 
The only reptile living today that has the same superficial tooth structure is the Komodo dragon, native to Indonesia. It, too, preys on larger animals.
 (Painting by Danielle Dufault)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sweden

BBC News: "Sweden is investigating a report that a submarine wreck has been discovered in the country's territorial waters."

Book

Chinese in the Woods: Logging and Lumbering
in the American West
Nonfiction book Sue Fawn Chung
Estimated Shipping Date: October 6, 2015

University of Illinois Press:
Though recognized for their work in the mining and railroad industries, the Chinese also played a critical role in the nineteenth-century lumber trade. Sue Fawn Chung continues her acclaimed examination of the impact of Chinese immigrants on the American West by bringing to life the tensions, towns, and lumber camps of the Sierra Nevada during a boom period of economic expansion. 
Chinese workers labored as woodcutters and flume herders, lumberjacks and loggers. Exploding the myth of the Chinese as a docile and cheap labor army, Chung shows Chinese laborers earned wages similar to those of non-Asians. Men working as camp cooks, among other jobs, could make even more. At the same time, she draws on archives and archaeology to reconstruct everyday existence, offering evocative portraits of camp living, small town life, personal and work relationships, and the production and technical aspects of a dangerous trade. Chung also explores how Chinese used the legal system to win property and wage rights and how economic and technological change ultimately diminished Chinese participation in the lumber industry. 
Eye-opening and meticulous, Chinese in the Woods rewrites an important chapter in the history of labor and the American West.
 Previous: In Pursuit of Gold: Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West

Vikings

University of York, United Kingdom:
The Viking hit-and-run raids on monastic communities such as Lindisfarne and Iona were the most infamous result of burgeoning Scandinavian maritime prowess in the closing years of the eighth century. 
These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles. But Dr. Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity. 
Previous research has considered environmental, demographic, technological and political drivers, as well as the palpable lure of silver and slave and why these forms of wealth became important at this stage. 
Dr. Ashby said: "I wanted to try to discover what would make a young chieftain invest in the time and resources for such a risky venture. And what were the motives of his crew?" 
In research published in Archaeological Dialogues, Dr. Ashby argues that focusing on the spoils of raiding is to ignore half the picture as the rewards of such voyages consisted of much more than portable wealth. 
Dr. Ashby says: "The lure of the exotic, of the world beyond the horizon, was an important factor. Classic anthropology has shown that the mystique of the exotic is a powerful force, and something that leaders and people of influence often use to prop up their power base. It is not difficult to see how this would have worked in the Viking Age." 
The acquisition not just of silver but of distinctive forms of Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, and Celtic metalwork were tangible reminders of successful sorties, symbols of status and power, as well as calls-to-arms for future raids. Many of the large quantity of Christian artifacts found in Scandinavian contexts (particularly Norwegian pagan burials) escaped melting and recycling, not because of some form of artistic appreciation, but because they were foundation stones for power, and touchstones in any argument for undertaking military activity. 
Dr. Ashby says there was also a clear motive for joining raiding parties rather than blindly following their leaders. Raiding activity provided not only an opportunity for violence and the accumulation of wealth, but an arena in which individuals could be noticed by their peers and superiors. It was an opportunity to build reputations for skill, reliability, cunning, or courage. Just as leaders of raiding parties stood to gain more than portable wealth, so too their followers could seek intangible social capital from participation. 
"The lure of the raid was thus more than booty; it was about winning and preserving power through the enchantment of travel and the doing of deeds. This provides an important correction to models that focus on the need for portable wealth; the act of acquiring silver was as important as the silver itself," Dr Ashby adds.

Afghanistan

Frud Bezhan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL):
Hot dogs. Bodybuilding. Leonardo DiCaprio's Titanic hairdo. They're all Western fads that have gripped the Afghan capital at some point in the past few years.  
But these days it's nonalcoholic beer, a popular thirst-quencher among young men eager to keep up with Western tastes in a country where alcohol is forbidden (but readily available, for a price).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book

Hero of the Crossing: How Anwar Sadat
and the 1973 War Changed the World
Nonfiction book by Thomas W. Lippman
Expected Availability: January 1, 2016

University of Nebraska Press:
In eleven dramatic years, Anwar Sadat changed history — not just that of Egypt, or of the Middle East, but of the entire world. As the architect of the 1973 war against Israel, he gained the support of other Arab nations and inspired the oil embargo that transformed the global economy. Following the war, however, he forever ended Arab aspirations of unity by making peace with Israel. Early in his presidency, Sadat jettisoned Egypt's alliance with the Soviet Union and turned to the United States, thereby giving the West a crucial Cold War victory. Sadat's historic tenure still resonates in the twenty-first century as the Islamic activists — whom he originally encouraged but who opposed his conciliatory policy toward Israel and ultimately played a role in his assassination — continue to foster activism, including the Muslim Brotherhood, today. 
Thomas W. Lippman was stationed in the Middle East as a journalist during Sadat's presidency and lived in Egypt in the aftermath of the October War. He knew Sadat personally, but only now, after the passage of time and the long-delayed release of the U.S. State Department's diplomatic files, can Lippman assess the full consequences of Sadat's presidency. Hero of the Crossing provides an eye-opening account of the profound reverberations of one leader's political, cultural, and economic maneuverings and legacy.

Afghanistan

Voice of America:
At least 100 Afghan police and border officers have defected to the Taliban in the largest mass surrender since the United States and NATO forces ended their combat mission at the end of last year. 
The Afghan security forces surrendered late Saturday after clashing with Taliban fighters for three days at the Tirgaran base in Badakhshan province, in the remote northeastern part of the country. The local police commander was among those who defected, turning over the base's weapons and ammunition.

Somalia

Voice of America: "At least 13 people were killed and 25 were wounded in Somalia's capital Sunday when a car bomb exploded outside a hotel that hosts the Chinese and Egyptian embassies."

Update here.

China

Associated Press (AP):

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Egypt

BBC News: "The first cargo ships have passed through Egypt's second Suez Canal, amid tight security, ahead of the new waterway's official opening next month."

Down Under

From Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "A recreational scallop diver was killed in front of his daughter on Saturday by what is understood to be a great white shark off Tasmania's east coast."

Book

The China Triangle: Latin America's China Boom
and the Fate of the Washington Consensus
Nonfiction book by Kevin P. Gallagher
Shipping Date: January 6, 2016

Oxford University Press:
Since 1980, China has evolved from a poor and mostly rural society into one of the largest economies in the world. As it grew into a major industrial power, it demanded enormous amounts of steel for new factories and cities, copper for electronic wires, petroleum for cars and manufacturing plants, and soybeans and cattle to feed its workers. By the 1990s, many Latin American countries were riding China's coattails and beginning to prosper from the new demand. Ever since China entered the World Trade Organization at the turn of the century, Latin America supplied China with more and more of the primary commodities it needs and more. That in turn has produced one the most impressive periods of economic growth on the continent in fifty years. And it was more evenly spread too — a region infamous for its extreme inequality saw it decline by a couple of percentage points over the course of the era. 
In The China Triangle, Kevin P. Gallagher traces the development of the China-Latin America trade over time and covers how it has affected the centuries-old (and highly unequal) U.S.-Latin American relationship. He argues that despite these opportunities Latin American nations have little to show for riding the coattails of the "China Boom" and now face significant challenges in the next decades as China's economy slows down and shifts more toward consumption and services. While the Latin American region saw significant economic growth due to China's rise over the past decades, Latin Americans saved very little of the windfall profits it earned even as the region saw a significant hollowing of its industrial base. What is more, commodity-led growth during the China boom reignited social and environmental conflicts across the region. 
Scholars and reporters have covered the Chinese expansion into East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australasia, Africa, the U.S., and Europe. Yet China's penetration Latin America is as little understood as it is significant — especially for America given its longstanding ties to the region. Gallagher provides a clear overview of China's growing economic ties with Latin America and points to ways that Latin American nations, China, and even the United States can act in order to make the next decades of China-Latin America economic activity more prosperous for all involved.

China

Xinhua: "Chinese police have cracked down a Beijing-based company which allegedly made more than 40,000 fake iPhones worth about 120 million yuan (19.6 million U.S. dollars) this year, they announced Saturday."

Hebei Province

Associated Press (AP):

Friday, July 24, 2015

Aviation

Air & Space magazine: "A boom in Chinese air travel is sending hundreds of novices to flight school in Arizona."

Book

CRACK99: The Takedown
of a $100 Million Chinese Software Pirate
Nonfiction book by David Locke Hall
Publication Date: October 19, 2015

W.W. Norton & Company:
The utterly gripping story of the most outrageous case of cyber piracy prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. 
A former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, David Locke Hall was a federal prosecutor when a bizarre-sounding website, CRACK99, came to his attention. It looked like Craigslist on acid, but what it sold was anything but amateurish: thousands of high-tech software products used largely by the military, and for mere pennies on the dollar. Want to purchase satellite tracking software? No problem. Aerospace and aviation simulations? No problem. Communications systems designs? No problem. Software for Marine One, the presidential helicopter? No problem. With delivery times and customer service to rival the world's most successful e-tailers, anybody, anywhere — including rogue regimes, terrorists, and countries forbidden from doing business with the United States — had access to these goods for any purpose whatsoever. 
But who was behind CRACK99, and where were they? The Justice Department discouraged potentially costly, risky cases like this, preferring the low-hanging fruit that scored points from politicians and the public. But Hall and his colleagues were determined to find the culprit. They bought CRACK99's products for delivery in the United States, buying more and more to appeal to the budding entrepreneur in the man they identified as Xiang Li. After winning his confidence, they lured him to Saipan — a U.S. commonwealth territory where Hall's own father had stormed the beaches with the Marines during World War II. There they set up an audacious sting that culminated in Xiang Li's capture and imprisonment. The value of the goods offered by CRACK99? A cool $100 million. 
An eye-opening look at cybercrime and its chilling consequences for national security, CRACK99 reads like a caper that resonates with every amazing detail.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Snowbird Bandit

Orange County (California) Sheriff's Department:
RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. – (July 23, 2015) – On Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Orange County Bank Robbery Apprehension Team (BRAT) investigators arrested Randolph Bruce Adair, 70, Rancho Santa Margarita, in connection with a series of robberies over that last several months in the south Orange County area. 
On Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at approximately 12:30 p.m., several family members of Adair contacted Sheriff’s deputies in the city of Rancho Santa Margarita. The family indicated they had seen recent media reports about the "Snowbird Bandit" and had information about the suspect. BRAT investigators were contacted and with the assistance and cooperation of family members, Adair was taken into custody in a nearby Rancho Santa Margarita parking lot. 
Based on the follow up investigation, evidence was collected connecting Adair to the five recent bank robberies in south Orange County. The following are details of the five robberies:

 7/21/15 – First Citizens Bank, Rancho Santa Margarita
 7/06/15 – U.S. Bank, Ladera Ranch
 6/11/15 – Wells Fargo Bank, Mission Viejo
 5/22/15 – First Citizens Bank, Rancho Santa Margarita
 3/20/15 – California Bank & Trust, Dana Point

Adair is a retired Los Angeles Police Department detective.

Economic Espionage

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) :
Industries in the United States spend more on research and development than any other country in the world. The amount of effort and resources put into developing a unique product or process that can provide an edge in the business world is not unsubstantial. But what happens if someone comes in and steals that edge — a company's trade secrets — for the benefit of a foreign country? The damages could severely undermine the victim company and include lost revenue, lost employment, damaged reputation, lost investment for research and development, interruption in production — it could even result in the company going out of business. 
It's called economic espionage, and it's a problem that costs the American economy billions of dollars annually and puts our national security at risk. While it is not a new threat, it is a growing one, and the theft attempts by our foreign competitors and adversaries are becoming more brazen and more varied in their approach. 
Historically, economic espionage has been leveled mainly at defense-related and high-tech industries. But recent FBI cases have shown that no industry, large or small, is immune to the threat. Any company with a proprietary product, process, or idea can be a target; any unprotected trade secret is ripe for the taking by those who wish to illegally obtain innovations to increase their market share at a victim company's expense. 
To raise awareness of the issue, the FBI, in collaboration with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, has launched a nationwide campaign and released a short film aimed at educating businesses, industry leaders, and anyone with a trade secret about the threat and how they can help mitigate it. Based on an actual case, The Company Man: Protecting America's Secrets illustrates how one U.S. company was targeted by foreign actors and how that company worked with the FBI to resolve the problem and bring the perpetrators to justice. 
The Bureau has provided more than 1,300 in-person briefings on the economic espionage threat to companies and industry leaders over the past year, using The Company Man as a training tool. But through this campaign, the FBI hopes to expand the scope of the audience to include a wider range of industry representatives, trade associations, and smaller companies and encourage them to come forward if they suspect they are a victim of economic espionage. 
Understandably, companies are often hesitant to reach out for help when faced with a potential threat of this nature, usually because they don't want to risk their trade secrets being disclosed in court or compromised in any way. But the FBI will do all it can to minimize business disruption and safeguard privacy and data during its investigation and will seek protective orders to preserve trade secrets and business confidentiality whenever possible. The [U.S.] Department of Justice also has a variety of protections in place to ensure that sensitive information is protected throughout any criminal prosecution. 
Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has a strategic partnership coordinator (SPC) whose role is to proactively develop relationships with local companies, trade groups, industry leaders, and others so that if an incident occurs, a liaison has already been established. To report suspected economic espionage-related activity, please contact the SPC at your local FBI field office or submit a tip at tips.fbi.gov.

Book

Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat'ovi Massacre
Nonfiction book by James F. Brooks
Publication Date: February 15, 2016

W.W. Norton & Company:
A scrupulously researched investigation of the mysterious massacre of Hopi Indians at Awat'ovi, and the event's echo through American history. 
In the fall of 1700, Awat'ovi, a Hopi community that had existed peacefully on Arizona's Antelope Mesa for generations, was decimated, its inhabitants the victims of a massacre carried out by their neighbors — fellow Hopi Indians. The story of that night, during which scores of men, women, and children were brutally slain, has been shrouded in mystery and fraught with controversy ever since. Drawing on oral history and extensive archival and archaeological research, James F. Brooks unravels the story and its significance. Though many theorized the attack was in retribution for Awat'ovi's willingness to welcome Franciscan missionaries or for the residents' practice of sorcery, Brooks reveals that the Hopis lived in a society in which cycles of ritual acts of purification were deeply engrained. As he recounts this haunting tale, Brooks questions how communities can confront a violent history better left untold, and he lends insight into why communal violence still plagues us today.