Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book

Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?
Nonfiction book by Karen Dawisha
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 30, 2014

Simon & Schuster:
The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha's brilliant Putin's Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia. 
Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin's kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle's use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the U.S.; the rise of the Ozero cooperative, founded by Putin and others who are now subject to visa bans and asset freezes; the links between Putin, Petromed, and "Putin’s Palace" near Sochi; and the role of security officials from Putin's KGB days in Leningrad and Dresden, many of whom have maintained their contacts with Russian organized crime. 
Putin’s Kleptocracy is the result of years of research into the KGB and the various thriving Russian crime syndicates. Dawisha's sources include Stasi archives; Russian insiders; investigative journalists in the US, Britain, Germany, Finland, France, and Italy; and Western officials who served in Moscow. Russian journalists wrote part of this story when the Russian media was still free. "Many of them died for this story, and their work has largely been scrubbed from the Internet, and even from Russian libraries," Dawisha says. "But some of that work remains."
 From a Simon & Schuster press release, June 6, 2014:
Dawisha expected to publish the book with Cambridge University Press (CUP), her publisher for seven previous books. Last month CUP declined to proceed with publication out of concern with the cost of defending libel accusations, however unfounded, in the U.K., where libel laws lack the First Amendment protections afforded U.S. publishers. That decision has given the book an international profile, months ahead of publication.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Aviation

Boeing: "Boeing [NYSE: BA] and Ethiopian Airlines today announced an order for 20 737 MAX 8s. The order, previously unidentified on the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website, is worth more than $2.1 billion at list prices and also includes options and purchase rights for a further 15 737 MAX 8s. The order represents the largest single Boeing order by number of airplanes from an African carrier."

Australia

In Australia's Northern Territory a crocodile attacked a goose hunter.

Art

Lady Godiva by English artist John Collier, c. 1897

Book

The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty
Nonfiction book by Alexander Lee
Publication Date: October 7, 2014

Random House:
A fascinating and counterintuitive portrait of the sordid, hidden world behind the dazzling artwork of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and more. 
Renowned as a period of cultural rebirth and artistic innovation, the Renaissance is cloaked in a unique aura of beauty and brilliance. Its very name conjures up awe-inspiring images of an age of lofty ideals in which life imitated the fantastic artworks for which it has become famous. But behind the vast explosion of new art and culture lurked a seamy, vicious world of power politics, perversity, and corruption that has more in common with the present day than anyone dares to admit.
In this lively and meticulously researched portrait, Renaissance scholar Alexander Lee illuminates the dark and titillating contradictions that were hidden beneath the surface of the period's best-known artworks. Rife with tales of scheming bankers, greedy politicians, sex-crazed priests, bloody rivalries, vicious intolerance, rampant disease, and lives of extravagance and excess, this gripping exploration of the underbelly of Renaissance Italy shows that, far from being the product of high-minded ideals, the sublime monuments of the Renaissance were created by flawed and tormented artists who lived in an ever-expanding world of inequality, dark sexuality, bigotry, and hatred. 
The Ugly Renaissance is a delightfully debauched journey through the surprising contradictions of Italy's past and shows that were it not for the profusion of depravity and degradation, history's greatest masterpieces might never have come into being.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie

Reuters: "Actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has been hired to direct Africa, a feature film about paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey and his campaign against ivory poachers that threaten Africa's elephants."

Dinosaur

China

Xinhua: "The China branch of British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been fined 3 billion yuan (489 million U.S. dollars) for paying bribes."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Michigan

U.S. Justice Department: "A federal grand jury in Detroit returned two separate indictments against seven executives from two Japanese manufacturers of automotive parts for their participation in a conspiracy to fix prices of certain automotive parts, the Department of Justice announced today."

New Jersey

U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey: "A New Brunswick, New Jersey, couple was arrested today and charged with harboring undocumented aliens to serve as prostitutes in a string of at least eight brothels scattered across the state."

Pangolins

Reuters:

Syria

AAAS: "In war-torn Syria, five of six World Heritage sites now 'exhibit significant damage' and some structures have been 'reduced to rubble,' according to new high-resolution satellite image analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)."

Peacocks


University of Leeds (United Kingdom):
The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.  
Dr. Graham Askew, from the university's School of Biomedical Sciences, filmed five Indian peacocks taking off using two high-speed video cameras to try to work out what price male birds pay for carrying the spectacular iridescent feathers they use in displays to attract females.
"These feathers weigh about 300g and can exceed 1.5m, so it's expected that the male birds would be making a significant sacrifice in their flight performance for being attractive — possibly giving up their lives if the train restricts escape from predators such as tigers and leopards in their natural environment," Dr. Askew said. 
He filmed the take-offs of birds carrying full plumage in 3D, and then filmed the same birds taking off without their trains. The display feathers, which naturally molt at the end of the breeding season, were clipped to judge the change in take-off performance between the two states.
To his surprise, Dr. Askew found there was no significant difference.
 (Photo Credit: Jebulon)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dogs

University of Sydney (Australia):
Dogs generally seem to be cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters, so you might expect that most would have an optimistic outlook on life
In fact, some dogs are distinctly more pessimistic than others, research from the University of Sydney shows.

Book

Kim Dae-jung and the Quest for the Nobel: How
the President of South Korea Bought the Peace Prize
and Financed Kim Jong-il's Nuclear Program
Nonfiction book by Kisam Kim and Donald Kirk
Publication Date: December 17, 2014

Palgrave Macmillan:
Kim Kisam, a former South Korean intelligence officer, has collaborated with Donald Kirk, journalist and author, in a study of the campaign waged by Kim Dae-jung, the former South Korean president, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This book, relying heavily on files that Kim obtained from Korean intelligence files before seeking asylum in the U.S., reveals an array of resources dedicated to the quest that culminated in Kim Dae-jung's winning the prize in 2000. The book details the strategy and tactics used to win over highly placed Norwegians and Swedes as well as foreign journalists with emphasis on the misallocation of resources. Most importantly, the book shows the relentless pursuit of the prize as the motive for bringing about the inter-Korean summit of June 2000 at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars paid to North Korea's Kim Jong-il — funds used to finance missile and nuclear programs that threaten the region and the world.

Hawaii

U.S. Justice Department:
Assistant Attorney General  for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Florence T. Nakakuni for the District of Hawaii announced today that Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 60, a former Honolulu, Hawaii, civilian defense contractor and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi to serve 87 months imprisonment and three years' supervised release for willfully communicating classified national defense information to a person not authorized to receive it and unlawfully retaining classified national defense information at his home. 
Bishop pleaded guilty to the two charges on March 13, 2014. In a plea agreement filed with the court and during court proceedings, Bishop admitted that, on March 12, 2012, he e-mailed classified information to a 27-year-old Chinese woman with whom he had a romantic relationship and who was present in the United States as a graduate student on a J1 Visa.

Human History

Harvard Medical School:

Australia

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "Researchers have found that cane toad venom kills off prostate cancer cells while sparing healthy cells."

China

Xinhua:
Two people were killed in a gunfight late Tuesday night, when police were trying to capture a suspected drug dealer in south China's Guangzhou City, police said on Wednesday. 
At 6:17 p.m. Tuesday, police raided a reported drug-producing den in Haizhu District and were resisted by the suspect with a gun. The suspect also set the apartment on fire during his confrontation with police.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Agent Fifi

United Kingdom During World War II

BBC News: "Wartime records have revealed the existence of a glamorous female secret agent whose job was to see if other agents could keep their mouths shut."

New York State

U.S. Justice Department:
Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. for the Western District of New York announced today that a federal grand jury in Rochester [New York] has returned a seven-count indictment charging Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, with three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), aka the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. In addition, Elfgeeh is also charged with one count of attempted murder of current and former members of the United States military, one count of possessing firearms equipped with silencers in furtherance of a crime of violence, and two counts of receipt and possession of unregistered firearm silencers.

Shipwrecks

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." The researchers also located the 1863 wreck of the clipper ship Noonday, currently obscured by mud and silt on the ocean floor. 
These and other shipwreck investigations mark the first mission of a two-year project to locate, identify and better understand some of the estimated 300 wrecks in Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 
"The waters of the sanctuary and the park are one of the great undersea museums in the nation," said James Delgado, director of Maritime Heritage for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Crickets

The New Yorker: "Big Cricket Farms, of Youngstown, Ohio, opened six months ago. It is the first (and, so far, only) farm in America to raise crickets exclusively for human consumption."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wyoming

Associated Press:

Brazil

Survival International:
Ka'apor Indians in the Amazon rainforest have formed an indigenous "army" to combat illegal invasions of their land, following the government's failure to protect their territory. 
The Ka'apor men track down and detain gangs of illegal loggers, set fire to their trucks, and confiscate their chainsaws.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book

Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey
into the Heart of Russia
Nonfiction book by David Greene
Publication Date: October 20, 2014

W.W. Norton & Company:
Travels with NPR host David Greene along the Trans-Siberian Railroad capture an overlooked, idiosyncratic Russia in the age of Putin.
Far away from the trendy caf├ęs, designer boutiques, and political protests and crackdowns in Moscow, the real Russia exists. 
Midnight in Siberia chronicles David Greene's journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 6,000-mile cross-country trip from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. In quadruple-bunked cabins and stopover towns sprinkled across the country's snowy landscape, Greene speaks with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. 
These travels offer a glimpse of the new Russia — a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity but continues to endure oppression, corruption, a dwindling population, and stark inequality.
We follow Greene as he finds opportunity and hardship embodied in his fellow train travelers and in conversations with residents of towns throughout Siberia. 
We meet Nadezhda, an entrepreneur who runs a small hotel in Ishim, fighting through corrupt layers of bureaucracy every day. Greene spends a joyous evening with a group of babushkas who made international headlines as runners-up at the Eurovision singing competition. They sing Beatles covers, alongside their traditional songs, finding that music and companionship can heal wounds from the past. In Novosibirsk, Greene has tea with Alexei, who runs the carpet company his mother began after the Soviet collapse and has mixed feelings about a government in which his family has done quite well. And in Chelyabinsk, a hunt for space debris after a meteorite landing leads Greene to a young man orphaned as a teenager, forced into military service, and now figuring out if any of his dreams are possible.
Midnight in Siberia is a lively travel narrative filled with humor, adventure, and insight. It opens a window onto that country's complicated relationship with democracy and offers a rare look into the soul of twenty-first-century Russia.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

U.S. Navy

DoD News: "After an extensive search, the Navy today has ended search-and-rescue efforts for the pilot of one of the F/A-18C Hornet aircraft that crashed Sept. 12 approximately 250 nautical miles off the coast of Wake Island."

Book

Life and Death in the Garden: Sex, Drugs,
Cops, and Robbers in Wartime China
Nonfiction book by Kathryn Meyer

Rowman & Littlefield:
This compelling book provides a rare glimpse into the heart of wartime China. Kathryn Meyer draws us into the perilous world of the Garden of Grand Vision, a ramshackle structure where a floating population of thousands found shelter from the freezing Siberian winter. They had come to the northern city of Harbin to find opportunity or to escape the turmoil of China in civil war. Instead they found despair. As the author vividly describes, corpses littered the halls waiting for the daily offal truck to cart the bodies away, vermin infested the walls, and relief came in the form of addiction. Yet the Garden also supported a vibrant informal economy. Rag pickers and thieves recycled everything from rat pelts to cigarette butts. Prostitutes entertained clients in the building's halls and back alleys.

These people lived at the very bottom of Chinese society, yet rumors that Chinese spies hid among the residents concerned the Japanese authorities. For this population lived in Manchukuo, the first Japanese conquest in what became the Second World War. Thus, three Japanese police officers were dispatched into the underworld of occupied China to investigate crime and vice in the Harbin slums while their military leaders dragged Japan deeper into the Pacific War. While following these policemen, the reader discovers a remarkable and unexpected view of World War II in East Asia. Instead of recounting battles and military strategy, this book explores the margins of a violent and entrepreneurial society, the struggles of an occupying police force to maintain order, and the underbelly of Japanese espionage. Drawing on the author's years of rediscovering the historical trail in Manchuria and research based on top-secret Japanese military documents and Chinese memoirs, this book offers a unique and powerful social and cultural history of a forgotten world.