Friday, December 9, 2016


Princeton University: "Monkeys known as macaques possess the vocal anatomy to produce 'clearly intelligible' human speech but lack the brain circuitry to do so, according to new research."

New York

U.S. Justice Department: "The son of a former Prime Minister of Gabon pleaded guilty earlier today in federal court to conspiring to make corrupt payments to government officials in Africa in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)."


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa Commercial Facility arrested a tractor-trailer driver Wednesday at the Port of Nogales after discovering more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana in a shipment of vacuum pump parts. 
CBP officers working with a narcotics-detection canine discovered the marijuana, worth an estimated $5.04 million, and arrested a 23-year-old man from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.


Havana: A Subtropical Delirium
Nonfiction book by Mark Kurlansky
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Bloomsbury Publishing:
A city of tropical heat, sweat, ramshackle beauty, and its very own cadence — a city that always surprises — Havana is brought to pulsing life by New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky. 
Award-winning author Mark Kurlansky presents an insider's view of Havana: the elegant, tattered city he has come to know over more than thirty years. Part cultural history, part travelogue, with recipes, historic engravings, photographs, and Kurlansky's own pen-and-ink drawings throughout, Havana celebrates the city's singular music, literature, baseball, and food; its five centuries of outstanding, neglected architecture; and its extraordinary blend of cultures. 
Like all great cities, Havana has a rich history that informs the vibrant place it is today — from the native Taino to Columbus's landing, from Cuba's status as a U.S. protectorate to Batista's dictatorship and Castro's revolution, from Soviet presence to the welcoming of capitalist tourism. Havana is a place of extremes: a beautifully restored colonial city whose cobblestone streets pass through areas that have not been painted or repaired since long before the revolution. 
Kurlansky shows Havana through the eyes of Cuban writers, such as Alejo Carpentier and José Martí, and foreigners, including Graham Greene and Hemingway. He introduces us to Cuban baseball and its highly opinionated fans; the city's music scene, alive with the rhythm of Son; its culinary legacy. Through Mark Kurlansky's multilayered and electrifying portrait, the long-elusive city of Havana comes stirringly to life.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Xinhua: "Archeological findings in suburban Shanghai showed that China's business and shipping center was already a trade hub for the maritime Silk Road more than 1,000 years ago."


Associated Press (AP):

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department: "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states."

IUCN Red List

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:


The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to Own
the Most Valuable Stamp in the World
Nonfiction book by James Barron
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Algonquin Books:
An inside look at the obsessive, secretive, and often bizarre world of high-profile stamp collecting, told through the journey of the world's most sought-after stamp. 
When it was issued in 1856, it cost a penny. In 2014, this tiny square of faded red paper sold at Sotheby's for nearly $9.5 million, the largest amount ever paid for a postage stamp at auction. Through the stories of the eccentric characters who have bought, owned, and sold the one-cent magenta in the years in between, James Barron delivers a fascinating tale of global history and immense wealth, and of the human desire to collect. 
One-cent magentas were provisional stamps, printed quickly in what was then British Guiana when a shipment of official stamps from London did not arrive. They were intended for periodicals, and most were thrown out with the newspapers. But one stamp survived. The singular one-cent magenta has had only nine owners since a twelve-year-old boy discovered it in 1873 as he sorted through papers in his uncle's house. He soon sold it for what would be $17 today. (That's been called the worst stamp deal in history.) Among later owners was a fabulously wealthy Frenchman who hid the stamp from almost everyone (even King George V of England couldn't get a peek); a businessman who traveled with the stamp in a briefcase he handcuffed to his wrist; and John E. du Pont, an heir to the chemical fortune, who died while serving a thirty-year sentence for the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. 
Recommended for fans of Nicholas A. Basbanes, Susan Orlean, and Simon Winchester, The One-Cent Magenta explores the intersection of obsessive pursuits and great affluence and asks why we want most what is most rare.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

North Korea

Radio Free Asia (RFA):


Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology
Nonfiction book by Eric H. Cline
With illustrations by Glynnis Fawkes
Available: February 7, 2017

Princeton University Press:
In 1922, Howard Carter peered into Tutankhamun's tomb for the first time, the only light coming from the candle in his outstretched hand. Urged to tell what he was seeing through the small opening he had cut in the door to the tomb, the Egyptologist famously replied, "I see wonderful things." Carter's fabulous discovery is just one of the many spellbinding stories told in Three Stones Make a Wall
Written by Eric Cline, an archaeologist with more than thirty seasons of excavation experience, Three Stones Make a Wall traces the history of archaeology from an amateur pursuit to the cutting-edge science it is today by taking the reader on a tour of major archaeological sites and discoveries, from Pompeii to Petra, Troy to the Terracotta Warriors, and Mycenae to Megiddo and Masada. Cline brings to life the personalities behind these digs, including Heinrich Schliemann, the former businessman who excavated Troy, and Mary Leakey, whose discoveries advanced our understanding of human origins. The discovery of the peoples and civilizations of the past is presented in vivid detail, from the Hittites and Minoans to the Inca, Aztec, and Moche. Along the way, the book addresses the questions archaeologists are asked most often: How do you know where to dig? How are excavations actually done? How do you know how old something is? Who gets to keep what is found? 
Taking readers from the pioneering digs of the eighteenth century to the exciting new discoveries being made today, Three Stones Make a Wall is a lively and essential introduction to the story of archaeology.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016



Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "As disinformation and misinformation extend their global reach and influence, Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) are teaming up to offer a new fact-checking resource."

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department:


United States

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money,
and the Quest to Bring Down
the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street
Nonfiction book by Sheelah Kolhatkar
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Penguin Random House:
The story of billionaire trader Steven Cohen, the rise and fall of his hedge fund SAC Capital, and the largest insider trading investigation in history — for readers of The Big Short, Den of Thieves, and Dark Money.
Steven A. Cohen changed Wall Street. He and his fellow pioneers of the hedge fund industry didn't lay railroads, build factories, or invent new technologies. Rather, they made their billions through speculation, by placing bets in the market that turned out to be right more often than wrong — and for this, they gained not only extreme personal wealth but formidable influence throughout society. Hedge funds now trade nearly $3 trillion in assets each day, and the competition between them is so fierce that traders will do whatever they can to get an edge. 
Cohen was one of the industry's biggest success stories, the person everyone else in the business wanted to be. Born into a middle-class family on Long Island, he longed from an early age to be a star on Wall Street. He mastered poker in high school, went off to Wharton, and in 1992 launched the hedge fund SAC Capital, which he built into a $15 billion empire, almost entirely on the basis of his wizardlike stock trading. He cultivated an air of mystery, reclusiveness, and excess, building a 35,000-square-foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, flying to work by helicopter, and amassing one of the largest private art collections in the world. On Wall Street, Cohen was revered as a genius: one of the greatest traders who ever lived. 
That image was shattered when SAC Capital became the target of a sprawling, seven-year investigation, led by a determined group of FBI agents, prosecutors, and SEC enforcement attorneys. Labeled by prosecutors as a "magnet for market cheaters" whose culture encouraged the relentless pursuit of "edge" — and even "black edge," which is inside information — SAC Capital was ultimately indicted and pleaded guilty to charges of securities and wire fraud in connection with a vast insider trading scheme, even as Cohen himself was never charged. 
Black Edge offers a revelatory look at the gray zone in which so much of Wall Street functions. It's a riveting, true-life legal thriller that takes readers inside the government's pursuit of Cohen and his employees, and raises urgent and troubling questions about the power and wealth of those who sit at the pinnacle of modern Wall Street.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Imperial College London, United Kingdom: "An analysis of current research shows that people who eat at least 20 grams of nuts a day have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases."


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "Fire has swept through a four-star hotel in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, killing at least 11 people."


United States

The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School,
the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure
of the MBA Elite
Nonfiction book by Duff McDonald
Publication Date: April 25, 2017

HarperCollins Publishers:
A riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, Harvard Business School [HBS], from the bestselling author of The Firm. 
With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School. 
Harvard University occupies a unique place in the public's imagination, but HBS has arguably eclipsed its parent in terms of its influence on modern society. A Harvard degree guarantees respect. An HBS degree is, as the New York Times proclaimed in 1978, "the golden passport to life in the upper class." Those holding Harvard MBAs are near-guaranteed entrance into Western capitalism's most powerful realm — the corner office. 
Most people have a vague knowledge of the power of the HBS network, but few understand the dynamics that have made HBS an indestructible and powerful force for almost a century. As McDonald explores these dynamics, he also reveals how, despite HBS's enormous success, it has failed with respect to the stated goal of its founders: "the multiplication of men who will handle their current business problems in socially constructive ways." While HBS graduates tend to be very good at whatever they do, that is rarely the doing of good. 
In addition to teasing out the essence of this exclusive, if not necessarily "secret" club, McDonald explores two important questions: Has the school failed at reaching the goals it set for itself? And is HBS therefore complicit in the moral failings of Western capitalism? At a time of pronounced economic disparity and political unrest, this hard-hitting yet fair portrait offers a much-needed look at an institution that has a profound influence on the shape of our society and all our lives.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Global Arms Industry

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): "Sales of arms and military services by the largest arms-producing and military services companies — the SIPRI Top 100 — totaled $370.7 billion in 2015, according to new data on the international arms industry released today by SIPRI."


Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "Australians may not equate illegal tobacco smuggling with drug trafficking or terrorism fundraising, but senior border security officials are warning it may be fuelling both and posing a national security risk."

Note: 1 Australian Dollar = 0.74 U.S. Dollar


Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils
Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew
Nonfiction book by John Pickrell
Foreword by Philip Currie
Available: February 14, 2017

Columbia University Press:
From the outback of Australia to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and the savanna of Madagascar, award-winning science writer and dinosaur enthusiast John Pickrell embarks on a world tour of new finds, meeting the fossil hunters working at the frontier of discovery. He reveals the dwarf dinosaurs unearthed by an eccentric Transylvanian baron; an aquatic, crocodile-snouted carnivore bigger than T. rex, which once lurked in North African waterways; a Chinese dinosaur with wings like a bat; and a Patagonian sauropod so enormous it weighed more than two commercial jet airliners. 
Other surprising discoveries hail from Alaska, Siberia, Canada, Burma, and South Africa. Why did dinosaurs grow so huge? How did they spread across the world? Did they all have feathers? What do sauropods have in common with 1950s vacuum cleaners? The stuff of adventure movies and scientific revolutions, Weird Dinosaurs examines the latest breakthroughs and new technologies radically transforming our understanding of the distant past. Pickrell opens a vivid portal to a brand new age of fossil discovery, in which fossil hunters are routinely redefining what we know and how we think about prehistory's most iconic and fascinating creatures.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "Iran’s highest court has upheld a court decision imposing the death penalty on billionaire businessman Babak Zanjani, who was convicted of massive embezzlement and sentenced in March."


The New Geopolitics of Natural Gas
Nonfiction book by Agnia Grigas
Available: March 27, 2017

Harvard University Press:
We are in the midst of an energy revolution, led by the United States. As the world's greatest producer of natural gas moves aggressively to expand its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), America stands poised to become an energy superpower — an unanticipated development with far-reaching implications for the international order. Agnia Grigas drills deep into today's gas markets to uncover the forces and trends transforming the geopolitics of gas. 
The boom in shale gas production in the United States, the growth of global LNG trade, and the buildup of gas transport infrastructure worldwide have so transformed the traditional markets that natural gas appears to be on the verge of becoming a true global commodity. Traditional suppliers like Russia, whose energy-poor neighbors were dependent upon its gas exports and pipelines, are feeling the foundations of the old order shifting beneath their feet. Grigas examines how this new reality is rewriting the conventional rules of intercontinental gas trade and realigning strategic relations among the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, and beyond. 
In the near term, Moscow's political influence will erode as the Russian gas giant Gazprom loses share in its traditional markets while its efforts to pivot eastward to meet China's voracious energy needs will largely depend on Beijing’s terms. In this new geopolitics of gas, the United States will enjoy opportunities but also face challenges in leveraging its newfound energy clout to reshape relations with both European states and rising Asian powers.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Travel Warning

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

U.S. State Department: "The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa warns U.S. citizens of the potential for large-scale demonstrations and civil unrest on/around December 19, the date on which President Kabila's term in office was due to end before elections were delayed. U.S. citizens in the DRC should seriously consider leaving the country in advance of this date."




Insider Trading: How Mortuaries, Medicine and Money
Have Built a Global Market in Human Cadaver Parts
Nonfiction book by Naomi Pfeffer
Official Publication Date: August 8, 2017 (Available
sooner from some booksellers)

Yale University Press:
The cadaver industry in Britain and the United States, its processes and profits. 
Except for organ transplantation little is known about the variety of stuff extracted from corpses and repurposed for medicine. A single body might be disassembled to provide hundreds of products for the millions of medical treatments performed each year. Cadaver skin can be used in wound dressings, corneas used to restore sight. Parts may even be used for aesthetic enhancement, such as liquefied skin injections to smooth wrinkles. 
This book is a history of the nameless corpses from which cadaver stuff is extracted and the entities involved in removing, processing, and distributing it. Pfeffer goes behind the mortuary door to reveal the technical, imaginative, and sometimes underhanded practices that have facilitated the global industry of transforming human fragments into branded convenience products. The dead have no need of cash, but money changes hands at every link of the supply chain. This book refocuses attention away from individual altruism and onto professional and corporate ethics.

New York

U.S. Justice Department: "Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 43, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, to be used to kill Americans in Colombia."

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Deutsche Welle (DW):

West Africa

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) :
Moscow says three Russian sailors have been taken hostage by "bandits" after an attack on a commercial ship off the western coast of Africa during the weekend. 
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on December 1 that the sailors were "abducted and taken away to an unknown location" as a result of the attack off the coast of Benin.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

North Korea

Radio Free Asia (RFA): "Following North Korea's sale to China of fishing rights in large areas of surrounding seas, competition among North Korean fishing boats for what is left has led to robberies and other clashes, sources say."


Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics
of the World's Oceans
Nonfiction book by Admiral Jim Stavridis,
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Penguin Random House:
From one of the most admired admirals of his generation, the only admiral to command NATO, comes a remarkable voyage through all of the world's most important bodies of water in service of the story of naval power as a driver of human history and our current affairs. 
From the time of the Greeks and the Persians, clashing in the Mediterranean, sea power has determined world power. To an extent that is often underappreciated, it still does.  No one understands this more than Admiral Jim Stavridis. In Sea Power, Admiral Stavridis takes us with him on a tour of the world's oceans from the admiral's chair, showing us how the geography of the oceans has shaped the destiny of nations, and how naval power has in a real sense made the world we live in today, and will shape the world we live in tomorrow. 
Not least, Sea Power is marvelous naval history, giving us fresh insight into great naval engagements from the battles of Salamis and Lepanto through to Trafalgar, the Battle of the Atlantic, and Cold War submarine blind man's bluff. It is also a keen-eyed reckoning with the likely sites of our next major naval conflicts, particularly the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea. Finally, Sea Power steps back to take a holistic view of the plagues to our oceans that are best seen that way, from piracy to pollution. 
When most of us look at a globe, we focus on the shape of the seven continents. Admiral Stavridis sees the shapes of the seven seas. After reading Sea Power, you will too. Not since Alfred Thayer Mahan's legendary The Influence of Sea Power on History have we had such a magisterial reckoning with this vital subject, which is also an implicit argument for its abiding significance.


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Deutsche Welle (DW): "Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) has discovered an Islamist working within its own ranks, according to domestic media reports on Tuesday."


United States

The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives Control
What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote
Nonfiction book by Sharyl Attkisson
Publication Date: May 2, 2017

HarperCollins Publishers:
Ever wonder how [American] politics turned into a take-no-prisoners blood sport? The New York Times bestselling author of Stonewalled pulls back the curtain on the shady world of opposition research and reveals the dirty tricks those in power use to influence your opinions. 
Behind most major political stories in the modern era, there is an agenda; an effort by opposition researchers, spin doctors, and outside interests to destroy an idea or a person. The tactic they use is the Smear. Every day, Americans are influenced by the Smear without knowing it. Paid forces cleverly shape virtually every image you cross. Maybe you read that Donald Trump is a racist misogynist, or saw someone on the news mocking the Bernie Sanders campaign. The trick of the Smear is that it is often based on some shred of truth, but these media-driven "hit pieces" are designed to obscure the truth. Success hinges on the Smear artist's ability to remain invisible; to make it seem as if their work is neither calculated nor scripted. It must appear to be precisely what it is not. 
Veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson has witnessed this practice firsthand. After years of being pitched hit jobs and puff pieces, she's an expert at detecting Smear campaigns. Now, the hard-hitting investigative reporter shares her inside knowledge, revealing how the Smear takes shape and who its perpetrators are — including Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal and, most influential of all, "right-wing assassin turned left-wing assassin" (National Review) political operative David Brock and his Media Matters for America empire. 
Attkisson exposes the diabolical tactics of Smear artists, and their outrageous access to the biggest names in political media — operatives who are corrupting the political process, and discouraging widespread citizen involvement in our democracy.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Voice of America (VOA): "A skating rink in Kitakyushu, Japan, has been forced to close following public uproar over a decision to embed dead fish into the ice."


Dragon Teeth
A novel by Michael Crichton
Publication Date: May 23, 2017

Official Site of Michael Crichton:
Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel — a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting. 
The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America's western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars. 
Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition. But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William's newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West's most notorious characters. 
A page-turner that draws on both meticulously researched history and an exuberant imagination, Dragon Teeth is based on the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Cope and Marsh; in William Johnson readers will find an inspiring hero only Michael Crichton could have imagined. Perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted, this enormously winning adventure is destined to become another Crichton classic.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


The Pygmy Hippo Story: West Africa's Enigma
of the Rainforest
Nonfiction book by Phillip T. Robinson,
Gabriella L. Flacke, and Knut M. Hentschel
Shipping Date: February 15, 2017

Oxford University Press:
Though the pygmy hippopotamus has been designated as a flagship species of West African forests (meaning that by raising conservation efforts for a single species, an entire ecological region could benefit), very little research has been published on the animal. They are solitary, nocturnal, and highly evasive, and until recent developments in "camera trap" technology, they were considered the least-photographed large mammal species in the world. The information currently available on this endangered species is scattered, limited, redundant, and often inaccurate, and no major volume exists as a resource for those interested in the conservation effort for the species, until now. 
Phillip Robinson and his coauthors provide a treatment of the natural history, biology, and ecology of the pygmy hippo, along with a discussion of the rare animal's taxonomic niche and a summary of the research initiatives involving it up to this point. The authors show the ways in which the pygmy hippo has come into contact with people in West African countries, both in terms of ecological and cultural impact. This creature has been the subject of local folktales, and is treated as almost mythic in some regions. Information on issues related to captivity, breeding, and zoos is provided. The book is heavily illustrated with original photographs and anatomic drawings. The project should be of use to conservation biologists, zoologists and natural history readers, and will be the definitive single-volume account of an animal that the scientific community has designated to be ecologically significant to West Africa.