Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mediterranean Sea

Italian oil company Eni S.p.A.: "Eni has made a world class supergiant gas discovery at its Zohr Prospect, in the deep waters of Egypt. The discovery could hold  a potential of 30 trillion cubic feet of lean gas in place covering an area of about 100 square kilometers. Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea."

Frederick Forsyth

BBC News: "The Day of the Jackal author Frederick Forsyth has revealed he was an MI6 agent for more than 20 years."

Related: The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue

Saturday, August 29, 2015


France 24: "Two French journalists were arrested Thursday evening on suspicion of trying to blackmail Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, allegedly demanding €3 million in exchange for not publishing a damaging book about the monarch."




Making Monte Carlo: A History
of Speculation and Spectacle
Nonfiction book by Mark Braude
Publication Date: May 10, 2016

Simon & Schuster:
A rollicking narrative history of Monte Carlo, capturing its nineteenth-century rise as the world's first modern casino-resort and its Jazz Age heyday as infamous playground of the rich. 
Monte Carlo has long been known as a dazzling playground for the rich and famous. Less well known are the shrewd and often ruthless strategies that went into creating such a potent symbol of luxury and cosmopolitan glamour. As historian Mark Braude reveals in his entertaining and informative Making Monte Carlo, the world's first modern casino-resort started as an unlikely prospect — with the legalization of gambling in tiny Monaco in 1855 — and eventually emerged as the most glamorous gambling destination of the Victorian era. The resort declined in the wake of WWI, and was reinvented, again, to suit the styles and desires of the new Jazz Age tastemakers, such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gerald and Sarah Murphy, and Coco Chanel. 
Along the way, we encounter a colorful cast of characters, including the fast-talking François Blanc (a professional gambler, stock market manipulator, and founder of Monte Carlo); Basil Zaharoff (notorious munitions dealer and possible secret owner of the casino in the 1920s); Elsa Maxwell (a brash society figure and Hollywood maven, hired as the casino's publicist); René Léon (a visionary Jewish businessman, who revitalized the resort after WWI); Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and other satellite members of Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russes dance company; as well as Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway and other American expats who 'colonized' the Riviera in the 1920s. 
A rollercoaster history of how a small, rural town grew into the prosperous resort epicenter of the late nineteenth century and rose again to greatness out of the ashes of WWI, Making Monte Carlo is a classic rags-to-riches tale set in the most scenic of European settings.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Caribbean Sea

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine (OAM) aircrews and interagency partners intercepted a drug-trafficking vessel in the Caribbean Sea stacked with approximately 3,000 pounds of marijuana. 
On Aug. 18, a CBP OAM P-3 crew detected a suspicious vessel during a patrol designed to disrupt the illegal flow of drugs and illegal activity in the Carribean. CBP Miami Air and Marine Branch personnel aboard a OAM DHC-8 aircraft and U.S. Coast Guard air and maritime assets continued tracking the go-fast vessel as suspected smugglers onboard attempted to elude authorities. 
Law enforcement partners intercepted the vessel and apprehended three individuals while seizing 1.5 tons of marijuana. The estimated street value of the drugs is $7.6 million.

Business E-Mail Compromise

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):


Voice of America: "Four months after a deadly earthquake, Nepal is struggling to revive mountain and trekking tourism, a vital source of jobs and income for the poor Himalayan country."


The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision
of the Future
Nonfiction book by Steve Case
Publication Date: April 5, 2016

Simon & Schuster:
The cofounder of America Online and the Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship shares a roadmap to success for future innovators. 
Steve Case was on the leading edge of the Internet revolution when he cofounded AOL in 1991. He was an entrepreneur in a business that hadn't even been invented, yet he saw how significantly his efforts could change not only America, but the world. In The Third Wave, Case uses his insights garnered from nearly four decades of working as an innovator, investor, and businessperson to chart a path for future visionaries. 
From his position as an investor in startups like Zipcar and LivingSocial, Case predicts the future of the economy and describes what he calls the "Third Wave of the Internet." AOL and other companies introduced early consumers to the Internet in the first wave; search giants such as Google and companies such as Apple have led us into the second wave, the app economy; and the third wave will be "the Internet of things," in which every experience, product, and service will be transacted online. Using his own experience, and examples from companies he's invested in, he lays out a vision for the future of success in a disrupted age.


Voice of America:
"Nigeria Eyes New National Airline"

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Radio Free Asia (RFA): "A Vietnamese-run nightclub featuring scantily clothed pole dancers in the historic Viengxay caves in northeastern Laos has closed down a few days after its opening after it received a barrage of criticism on social media, a provincial official said."


Good for the Money: My Fight to Pay Back America
Nonfiction book by Robert Benmosche
with Peter Marks and Valerie Hendy
Publication Date: April 12, 2016

Macmillan Publishers:
In 2009, at the peak of the financial crisis, AIG — the American insurance behemoth — was sinking fast. It was the peg upon which the nation hung its ire and resentment during the financial crisis: the pinnacle of Wall Street arrogance and greed. When Bob Benmosche climbed aboard as CEO, it was widely assumed that he would go down with his ship. In mere months, he turned things around, pulling AIG from the brink of financial collapse and restoring its profitability. Before three years were up, AIG had fully repaid its staggering debt to the U.S. government — with interest. 
Good for the Money is an unyielding leader's memoir of a career spent fixing companies through thoughtful, unconventional strategy. With his brash, no-holds-barred approach to the job, Benmosche restored AIG's employee morale and good name. His is a story of perseverance, told with refreshing irreverence in unpretentious terms. 
Called "an American hero" by Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of Too Big to Fail, Benmosche was a self-made man who never forgot what life is like for the nation's 99-percent; again and again, he pushed back against obstinate colleagues to salvage American jobs and industry. Good for the Money affords you a front-row seat for Benmosche's heated battles with major players from Geithner to Obama to Cuomo, and offers incomparable lessons in leadership from the legendary CEO who changed the way Wall Street does business.


Voice of America: "The deal struck between Iran and six world powers over its nuclear program should see sanctions against the country beginning to ease by next year — and Iranians are hoping the lifting of travel restrictions could prompt an influx of international tourists. Travel agencies already are seeing an increase in demand."


Xinhua: "A Chinese firm has signed a deal worth 1.487 billion U.S. dollars with Nigeria-based cement giant Dangote Group to build cement plants in several African countries."


Wall Streeters: The Creators and Corruptors
of American Finance
Nonfiction book by Edward Morris
Publication Date: October 13, 2015

Columbia University Press:
The 2008 financial collapse, the expansion of corporate and private wealth, the influence of money in politics — many of Wall Street's contemporary trends can be traced back to the work of fourteen critical figures who wrote, and occasionally broke, the rules of American finance. 
Edward Morris plots in absorbing detail Wall Street's transformation from a clubby enclave of financiers to a symbol of vast economic power. His book begins with J. Pierpont Morgan, who ruled the American banking system at the turn of the twentieth century, and ends with Sandy Weill, whose collapsing Citigroup required the largest taxpayer bailout in history. In between, Wall Streeters relates the triumphs and missteps of twelve other financial visionaries. From Charles Merrill, who founded Merrill Lynch and introduced the small investor to the American stock market; to Michael Milken, the so-called junk bond king; to Jack Bogle, whose index funds redefined the mutual fund business; to Myron Scholes, who laid the groundwork for derivative securities; and to Benjamin Graham, who wrote the book on securities analysis. Anyone interested in the modern institution of American finance will devour this history of some of its most important players.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Ian Ellery, BBC News: "When it comes to offering good customer service, many may argue that luxury watchmaker Gronefeld goes a little over the top."

Khobar Towers Bombing

Associated Press (AP):


The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World
Nonfiction book by Sally Denton
Publication Date: February 16, 2016

Simon & Schuster:
From the bestselling coauthor of The Money and the Power (which the Los Angeles Times called "one of the most important nonfiction books published in a half century" — the inside story of the Bechtel family and the empire they've controlled since the construction of the Hoover Dam. 
The tale of the Bechtel family dynasty is a classic American business story. It begins with Warren A. "Dad" Bechtel, who led a consortium that constructed the Hoover Dam. From that auspicious start, the family and its eponymous company would go on to "build the world," from the construction of airports in Hong Kong and Doha, to pipelines and tunnels in Alaska and Europe, to mining and energy operations around the globe. 
Today Bechtel is one of the largest privately held corporations in the world, enriched and empowered by a long history of government contracts and the privatization of public works, made possible by an unprecedented revolving door between its San Francisco headquarters and Washington. Bechtel executives John McCone, Caspar Weinberger, and George P. Shultz segued from leadership at the company to positions as Director of the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, respectively. 
Like all stories of empire building, the rise of Bechtel presents a complex and riveting narrative. In The Profiteers, Sally Denton, whom the New York Times called "a wonderful writer," exposes Bechtel's secret world and one of the biggest business and political stories of our time.


U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): "The FBI is alerting art collectors and dealers to be particularly careful trading Near Eastern antiquities, warning that artifacts plundered by terrorist organizations such as ISIL are entering the marketplace."


Pennsylvania State University:
Compounds found in purple potatoes may help kill colon cancer stem cells and limit the spread of the cancer, according to a team of researchers.
Baked purple-fleshed potatoes suppressed the growth of colon cancer tumors in petri dishes and in mice by targeting the cancer's stem cells. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and responsible for more than 50,000 deaths annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race
to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts
Nonfiction book by Joshua Hammer
Publication Date: April 19, 2016

Simon & Schuster:
To save precious centuries-old Islamic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean's Eleven. 
In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers. 
In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 300,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. 
Over the past twenty years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara's heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali's — and the world's — literary patrimony. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu explores the city's manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about Al Qaeda in northwest Africa. But above all, it's an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature against extremism.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers assigned to the Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team (A-TCET) at Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex intercepted and seized more than 424 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of tires originating from South America. The estimated street value of the confiscated cocaine is $8.08 million."


U.S. Justice Department:
A leader of a human trafficking ring pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to charges that he lured Guatemalan minors and adults into the United States on false pretenses, then used threats of physical harm to compel their labor at egg farms in Ohio. The guilty plea was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio. 
Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, of Guatemala, pleaded guilty to a labor trafficking conspiracy, one count of labor trafficking, one count of witness tampering and a related immigration offense. His co-conspirator, Conrado Salgado Soto, 52, of Mexico, pleaded guilty on Aug. 5 to participating in the same labor-trafficking conspiracy, as well as an immigration offense, the Justice Department also announced today.  The guilty pleas are pending approval from a federal court judge and are not final until that approval is granted. 
According to the indictment, which was unsealed on July 2, the defendants and their associates recruited workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school in the United States. The defendants then smuggled and transported the workers to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio, where they ordered them to live in dilapidated trailers and to work at physically demanding jobs at Trillium Farms for up to 12 hours a day for minimal amounts of money. The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, debeaking chickens and vaccinating chickens. 
The defendants threatened workers with physical harm and withheld their paychecks in order to compel them to work. Castillo-Serrano also pleaded guilty to convincing a witness to lie to the FBI about the scheme. Eight minors, as young as 14, and two adults were identified in the indictment as victims of the forced labor scheme.

Monday, August 24, 2015


The Genius of Birds
Nonfiction book by Jennifer Ackerman
Publication Date: April 12, 2016

Penguin Random House:
Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. In fact, according to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence. Like humans, many birds have enormous brains relative to their size. Although small, bird brains are packed with neurons that allow them to punch well above their weight. 
In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds and how it came about. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research — the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia, the ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states — Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are revolutionizing our view of what it means to be intelligent. 
Consider, as Ackerman does, the Clark's nutcracker, a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember where it put them several months later; the mockingbirds and thrashers, species that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours; the well-known pigeon, which knows where it's going, even thousands of miles from familiar territory; and the New Caledonian crow, an impressive bird that makes its own tools. 
But beyond highlighting how birds use their unique genius in technical ways, Ackerman points out the impressive social smarts of birds. They deceive and manipulate. They eavesdrop. They display a strong sense of fairness. They give gifts. They play keep-away and tug-of-war. They tease. They share. They cultivate social networks. They vie for status. They kiss to console one another. They teach their young. They blackmail their parents. They alert one another to danger. They summon witnesses to the death of a peer. They may even grieve. 
This elegant scientific investigation and travelogue weaves personal anecdotes with fascinating science. Ackerman delivers an extraordinary story that will both give readers a new appreciation for the exceptional talents of birds and let them discover what birds can reveal about our changing world. Incredibly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds richly celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL):
Gunmen from the Islamic State (IS) militant group have blown up a first century A.D. temple in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syrian government officials and a monitoring group have said.
However, there is confusion over when the detonation is thought to have taken place.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL):
The U.S. firm DynCorp International has confirmed that its employees were targeted in a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including three U.S. contractors, and wounded at least 60 people. 
Most of those killed and wounded in the August 22 attack were Afghan civilians.
The suicide attack [occurred] outside a hospital on a residential street during rush hour, with the attacker driving an explosives-laden car towards an armored truck owned by DynCorp that was part of a NATO convoy.
Update: DynCorp International


The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House,
My Journey Through a Turbulent World
Nonfiction book by Zalmay Khalilzad
Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Macmillan Publishers:
Zalmay Khalilzad grew up in a traditional family in the ancient city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. As a teenager, Khalilzad spent a year as an exchange student in California, where after some initial culture shocks he began to see the merits of America's very different way of life. He believed the ideals that make American culture work, like personal initiative, community action, and respect for women, could make a transformative difference to his home country, the Muslim world and beyond. Of course, 17-year-old Khalilzad never imagined that he would one day be in a position to advance such ideas. 
With 9/11, he found himself uniquely placed to try to shape mutually beneficial relationships between his two worlds. As U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, he helped craft two constitutions and forge governing coalitions. As U.S. Ambassador to the UN, he used his unique personal diplomacy to advance U.S. interests and values. In The Envoy, Khalilzad details his experiences under three presidential administrations with candid behind-the-scenes insights. He argues that America needs an intelligent, effective foreign policy informed by long-term thinking and supported by bipartisan commitment. 
Part memoir, part record of a political insider, and part incisive analysis of the current Middle East, The Envoy arrives in time for foreign policy discussions leading up to the 2016 election.


Voice of America: "Nigeria's army chief has survived an attack on his convoy by suspected Boko Haram fighters in volatile Borno state."

Update: "Nigeria's military said it repelled a Boko Haram attack Saturday in northeastern Borno state but denied the attack had been aimed at its army chief."

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence
in the Age of Terror
Nonfiction book by Michael V. Hayden
Publication Date: February 23, 2016

Penguin Random House:
An unprecedented high-level master narrative of America's intelligence wars, from the only person ever to helm both the CIA and the NSA, at a time of heinous new threats and wrenching change. 
For General Michael Hayden, playing to the edge means playing so close to the line that you get chalk dust on your cleats. Otherwise, by playing back, you may protect yourself, but you will be less successful in protecting America. "Play to the edge" was Hayden's guiding principle when he ran the National Security Agency, and it remained so when he ran the CIA. In his view, many shortsighted and uninformed people are quick to criticize, and this book will give them much to chew on but little easy comfort; it is an unapologetic insider's look told from the perspective of the people who faced awesome responsibilities head on, in the moment. 
How did American intelligence respond to terrorism, a major war and the most sweeping technological revolution in the last 500 years? What was the NSA before 9/11 and how did it change in its aftermath? Why did the NSA begin the controversial terrorist surveillance program that included the acquisition of domestic phone records? What else was set in motion during this period that formed the backdrop for the infamous Snowden revelations in 2013? 
As Director of [the] CIA in the last three years of the [George W.] Bush administration, Hayden had to deal with the rendition, detention and interrogation program as bequeathed to him by his predecessors. He also had to ramp up the agency to support its central role in the targeted killing program that began to dramatically increase in July 2008. This was a time of great crisis at [the] CIA, and some agency veterans have credited Hayden with actually saving the agency. He himself won't go that far, but he freely acknowledges that [the] CIA helped turn the American security establishment into the most effective killing machine in the history of armed conflict. 
For 10 years, then, General Michael Hayden was a participant in some of the most telling events in the annals of American national security. General Hayden's goals in writing this book are simple and unwavering: No apologies. No excuses. Just what happened. And why. As he writes, "There is a story here that deserves to be told, without varnish and without spin. My view is my view, and others will certainly have different perspectives, but this view deserves to be told to create as complete a history as possible of these turbulent times. I bear no grudges, or at least not many, but I do want this to be a straightforward and readable history for that slice of the American population who depend on and appreciate intelligence, but who do not have the time to master its many obscure characteristics."