Saturday, August 19, 2017
BBC: "For centuries, the origin of Lalibela's rock-hewn churches has eluded everyone except locals, who firmly believe they were carved by angels."
Deutsche Welle (DW):
Penguin Random House:
Nonfiction book by Ron Chernow
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Penguin Random House:
Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.
Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant's military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members.
More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him "the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race." After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.
With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as "nothing heroic … and yet the greatest hero." Chernow's probing portrait of Grant's lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America's greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Thursday, August 17, 2017
The Bedlam Stacks
A novel by Natasha Pulley
The eagerly anticipated new novel from the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street ― a treacherous quest in the magical landscape of 19th-century Peru.
In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall [United Kingdom] after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather's pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.
When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine ― essential for the treatment of malaria ― from deep within Peru, he knows it's a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who's made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.
Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairy tale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick's grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany:
The earliest introduction of domestic chickens and black rats from Asia to the east coast of Africa came via maritime routes between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. In a paper published August 17, 2017 in the journal PLOS ONE, an international team of researchers, led by Director Nicole Boivin of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, used new techniques to analyze ancient DNA and proteins from 496 bone samples from 22 island, coastal and inland sites in eastern Africa. The earliest confirmed samples of chickens and rats were found at open-air island port sites, suggesting the animals were introduced by traders engaged in the robust Indian Ocean maritime trade, and subsequently spread inland.
University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Denmark:
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Penguin Random House:
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon,
Apple, Facebook, and Google
Nonfiction book by Scott Galloway
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Penguin Random House:
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet.
Just about everyone thinks they know how they got there.
Just about everyone is wrong.
For all that's been written about the Four over the last two decades, no one has captured their power and staggering success as insightfully as Scott Galloway.
Instead of buying the myths these companies broadcast, Galloway asks fundamental questions. How did the Four infiltrate our lives so completely that they're almost impossible to avoid (or boycott)? Why does the stock market forgive them for sins that would destroy other firms? And as they race to become the world's first trillion-dollar company, can anyone challenge them?
In the same irreverent style that has made him one of the world's most celebrated business professors, Galloway deconstructs the strategies of the Four that lurk beneath their shiny veneers. He shows how they manipulate the fundamental emotional needs that have driven us since our ancestors lived in caves, at a speed and scope others can't match. And he reveals how you can apply the lessons of their ascent to your own business or career.
Whether you want to compete with them, do business with them, or simply live in the world they dominate, you need to understand the Four.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have demonstrated that consuming walnuts activates an area of the brain associated with regulating hunger and cravings."
Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey
Into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley
Nonfiction book by Corey Pein
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
A scathing exploration into the heart of Silicon Valley, laying bare the greed, hubris, and retrograde politics of an industry that aspires to radically transform society for its own benefit.
At the height of the startup boom, journalist Corey Pein set out for Silicon Valley with little more than a smartphone and his wits. His goal: to learn how such an overhyped industry could possibly sustain itself as long as it has. Determined to cut through the clichés of big tech ― the relentless optimism, the incessant repetition of vacuous buzzwords ― Pein decided that he would need to take an approach as unorthodox as the companies he would soon be covering. To truly understand the delirious reality of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he knew, he would have to inhabit that perspective ― he would have to become an entrepreneur. Thus he begins his journey ― skulking through gimmicky tech conferences, pitching his over-the-top business ideas to investors, and interviewing a cast of outrageous characters: cyborgs and con artists, Teamsters and transhumanists, jittery hackers and naive upstart programmers whose entire lives are managed by their employers ― who work endlessly and obediently, never thinking to question their place in the system.
In showing us this frantic world, Pein challenges the positive self-image that the tech tycoons have crafted ― as benevolent creators of wealth and opportunity ― to reveal their self-justifying views and their insidious visions for the future. Vivid and incisive, Live Work Work Work Die is a troubling portrait of a self-obsessed industry bent on imposing its disturbing visions on the rest of us.
City College of New York: "From the lab of City College of New York chemical engineer and Fulbright Scholar Teresa J. Bandosz comes a groundbreaking development with the potential to thwart chemical warfare agents: smart textiles with the ability to rapidly detect and neutralize nerve gas."
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Oregon State University:
An Unlikely Trust: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan,
and the Improbable Partnership That Remade
Nonfiction book by Gerard Helferich
Available: January 2018
Rowman & Littlefield:
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt and J. Pierpont Morgan were the two most powerful men in America, perhaps the world. As the nation's preeminent financier, Morgan presided over an elemental shift in American business, away from family-owned companies and toward modern corporations of unparalleled size and influence. As president, Theodore Roosevelt expanded the power of that office to an unprecedented degree, seeking to rein in those corporations and to rebalance their interests with those of workers, consumers, and society at large.
Overpowering figures and titanic personalities, Roosevelt and Morgan could easily have become sworn enemies. And when they have been considered together (never before at book length), they have generally been portrayed as battling colossi, the great trust builder versus the original trustbuster. But their long association was far more complex than that, and even mutually beneficial.
Despite their many differences in temperament and philosophy, Roosevelt and Morgan had much in common — social class, an unstinting Victorian moralism, a drive for power, a need for order, and a genuine (though not purely altruistic) concern for the welfare of the nation. Working this common ground, the premier progressive and the quintessential capitalist were able to accomplish what neither could have achieved alone — including, more than once, averting national disaster. In the process they also changed forever the way that government and business worked together.
An Unlikely Trust is the story of the uneasy but fruitful collaboration between Theodore Roosevelt and Pierpont Morgan. It is also the story of how government and business evolved from a relationship of laissez-faire to the active regulation that we know today. And it is an account of how, despite all that has changed in America over the past century, so much remains the same, including the growing divide between rich and poor; the tangled bonds uniting politicians and business leaders; and the pervasive feeling that government is working for the special interests rather than for the people. Not least of all, it is the story of how citizens with vastly disparate outlooks and interests managed to come together for the good of their common country.
Monday, August 14, 2017
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB):
Covering 70 percent of Earth's surface, the world's oceans are vast and deep. So vast, in fact, that nearly every coastal country has the potential to meet its own domestic seafood needs through aquaculture. In fact, each country could do so using a tiny fraction of its ocean territory.
So finds a study led by scientists from UC Santa Barbara and including researchers from the Nature Conservancy, UCLA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their research, published today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, demonstrates the oceans' potential to support aquaculture. Also known as fish farming, the practice is the fastest-growing food sector, and it's poised to address increasing issues of food insecurity around the globe.
"There is a lot of space that is suitable for aquaculture, and that is not what's going to limit its development," said lead author Rebecca Gentry, who recently completed her Ph.D. at UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. "It's going to be other things such as governance and economics."
According to the study, among the first global assessments of the potential for marine aquaculture, the world's oceans are rife with aquaculture "hot spots" that provide enough space to produce 15 billion metric tons of finfish annually. That is more than 100 times the current global seafood consumption.
More realistically, the researchers note, if aquaculture were developed in only the most productive areas, the oceans could theoretically produce the same amount of seafood that the world's wild-caught fisheries currently produce globally, but in less than 1 percent of the total ocean surface — a combined area the size of Lake Michigan.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods
in Modern Brazil
Nonfiction book by Henry Glassie
and Pravina Shukla
Publication Date: November 20, 2017
Indiana University Press:
Sacred art flourishes today in northeastern Brazil, where European and African religious traditions have intersected for centuries. Professional artists create images of both the Catholic saints and the African gods of Candomblé to meet the needs of a vast market of believers and art collectors.
Over the past decade, Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla conducted intense research in the states of Bahia and Pernambuco, interviewing the artists at length, photographing their processes and products, attending Catholic and Candomblé services, and finally creating a comprehensive book, governed by a deep understanding of the artists themselves.
Beginning with Edival Rosas, who carves monumental baroque statues for churches, and ending with Francisco Santos, who paints images of the gods for Candomblé terreiros, the book displays the diversity of Brazilian artistic techniques and religious interpretations. Glassie and Shukla enhance their findings with comparisons from art and religion in the United States, Nigeria, Portugal, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, and Japan and gesture toward an encompassing theology of power and beauty that brings unity into the spiritual art of the world.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Hachette Book Group:
The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness
at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century
Nonfiction book by Simon Baatz
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Hachette Book Group:
From New York Times bestselling author Simon Baatz, the first comprehensive account of the murder that made the Gilded Age — and of the trial that shocked the world.
In 1901, Evelyn Nesbit, the pin-up girl and penniless young actress, dined with Stanford White, the legendary architect whose works defined the New York landscape, at his 24th St. apartment. Evelyn drank champagne and was dazzled by a tour of White's decadent rooms, which included a sumptuous velvet couch swing on which Evelyn played. Evelyn was given more champagne, and lost consciousness. She woke, nearly naked, in bed next to White. White was 47 years old. Evelyn Nesbit was just 16.
Four years later, tarnished by the air of impropriety that in those days surrounded a lowly career in the theater, Evelyn would marry Harry Thaw, a playboy millionaire rumored to be mentally unstable, and in whom she confided the story of her encounter with Stanford White. One night in 1906, a vengeful Thaw shot and killed White before hundreds of theater-goers during a performance at Madison Square Garden — a venue designed by none other than White himself.
The city — and the nation that looked to it — erupted with news of the murder and ensuing trial, then the most sensational scandal in history: one so sordid that President Teddy Roosevelt himself would try and stop the press from covering it. But the murder of Stanford White stood for far more than tabloid scandal. Evelyn's shocking testimony would propel her to an uneasy stardom, an uncertain fortune, and send the case before the Supreme Court.
Filled with the glamor, jealousy, and danger of the Gilded Age, The Girl on the Velvet Swing is an immersive, richly detailed look at an America dominated by men of outsize fortunes, and at the women whose lives depended on them.
Friday, August 11, 2017
Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism
Nonfiction book by Ian Bremmer
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Penguin Random House:
From bestselling author and Time magazine columnist Ian Bremmer, a definitive guide to understanding the global wave of populist nationalism.
From political upheaval in Europe and the United States to an explosion of anger in the developing world, social and political turmoil has dominated recent headlines. What explains public rejection of the entire political establishment in country after country? What does this mean for the future of the United States? For the European Union? How will rising powers like China, India, and Russia manage the building pressures? How high will this wave rise before it crashes?
Globalism has winners and losers, and today's globalist administrations have failed to listen to the losers. Those who have seen their jobs disappear as a result of increased immigration and relatively open trade are understandably unsympathetic to the claims that globalism is good for everyone. And now that technology gives the losers a glimpse of the winners' slice of the pie, the losers are pushing for a more equal share. Some governments will respond to these pressures with digital-age tools of repression. Others will find creative new ways to rewrite the contract that binds citizens and the state. What does this all mean for democracy, free trade, and the future of the international order?
No one is better suited to explore these questions than Ian Bremmer, who has built his career on assessing global risk and explaining complex political dynamics in accessible terms.
Bremmer argues that the globalists have failed to respond to the real concerns of their critics and that there is no chance for a do-over; public demand for political transformation is inevitable. Citizens, the state, and the private sector in some parts of the world will invent and adapt. Other nations will fail. This book offers a guide to navigating the shifting political landscape and weathering the growing storm.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Washington University in St. Louis:
For many, the commute to and from work is a lengthy, stressful process. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it takes the average American about 26½ minutes to get to work. That's nearly an hour each day — to work and back — to face traffic snarls and congested highways. That commute can also be hazardous to your health, exposing drivers to an increased amount of air pollutants that have been linked to a whole host of medical maladies, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues and even lung cancer.
After conducting a new research approach using actual commutes, a group of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis discovered a simple shift in driving habits can help to reduce those risks while out on the road.
University of Colorado at Boulder: "Ancient DNA used to track the mass exodus of Ancestral Pueblo people from Colorado's Mesa Verde region in the late 13th century indicates many wound up in the Northern Rio Grande area north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, inhabited today by the Tewa Pueblo people."
The Next Factory of the World:
How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa
Nonfiction book by Irene Yuan Sun
Available: November 7, 2017
Harvard Business Publishing (HBP):
China is now the biggest foreign player in Africa: largest trade partner, largest infrastructure financier, and fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment. Chinese entrepreneurs are flooding into Africa, investing in long-term assets, such as factories and heavy equipment. The fact that China sees Africa not for its poverty but for its potential wealth is a striking departure from the attitude of the West, in particular the United States. For fifty years the West has engaged in countless poverty-alleviation and development-aid programs in Africa, yet Africa still has the largest number of people living in extreme poverty of any region in the world. Considering Africa's difficult history of colonialism, one might suspect that the current story of China in Africa is merely a story about exploitation of resources. Author Irene Yuan Sun follows these entrepreneurs and finds, instead, that they are factory owners, building in Africa what they so recently learned to build in China — a global manufacturing powerhouse. This gives rise to a tantalizing possibility: that Africa can industrialize in the coming generation. With a manufacturing-led transformation, Africa would be following in the footsteps of the United States in the nineteenth century, Japan in the early twentieth, and the Asian Tigers in the late twentieth century. Many may consider this an old-fashioned way to develop, but it's the only one that's proven to raise living standards across entire societies for generations. And with every new Chinese factory boss setting up machinery and hiring African workers, that possibility becomes more real for Africa. With fascinating stories of entrepreneurs, workers, and government officials in Africa, along with incisive business and economic analysis, The Next Factory of the World will make you rethink both China's role in the world and Africa's future in the globalized economy.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom: "Evidence in a new research report published today shows that the government of Uzbekistan acted as an organized crime network, with state agencies conducting racketeering activity that benefited political heiress Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan from 1989 to his death in 2016."
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Penguin Random House:
Franklin Foer (The Atlantic): "When Silicon Valley Took Over Journalism"
World Without Mind: The Existential Threat
of Big Tech
Nonfiction book by Franklin Foer
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Penguin Random House:
Franklin Foer reveals the existential threat posed by big tech, and in his brilliant polemic gives us the toolkit to fight their pervasive influence.
Over the past few decades there has been a revolution in terms of who controls knowledge and information. This rapid change has imperiled the way we think. Without pausing to consider the cost, the world has rushed to embrace the products and services of four titanic corporations. We shop with Amazon; socialize on Facebook; turn to Apple for entertainment; and rely on Google for information. These firms sell their efficiency and purport to make the world a better place, but what they have done instead is to enable an intoxicating level of daily convenience. As these companies have expanded, marketing themselves as champions of individuality and pluralism, their algorithms have pressed us into conformity and laid waste to privacy. They have produced an unstable and narrow culture of misinformation, and put us on a path to a world without private contemplation, autonomous thought, or solitary introspection — a world without mind. In order to restore our inner lives, we must avoid being co-opted by these gigantic companies, and understand the ideas that underpin their success.
Elegantly tracing the intellectual history of computer science — from Descartes and the enlightenment to Alan Turing to Stuart Brand and the hippie origins of today's Silicon Valley — Foer exposes the dark underpinnings of our most idealistic dreams for technology. The corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, he argues, are trampling longstanding liberal values, especially intellectual property and privacy. This is a nascent stage in the total automation and homogenization of social, political, and intellectual life. By reclaiming our private authority over how we intellectually engage with the world, we have the power to stem the tide.
At stake is nothing less than who we are, and what we will become. There have been monopolists in the past but today's corporate giants have far more nefarious aims. They're monopolists who want access to every facet of our identities and influence over every corner of our decision-making. Until now few have grasped the sheer scale of the threat. Foer explains not just the looming existential crisis but the imperative of resistance.Related
Franklin Foer (The Atlantic): "When Silicon Valley Took Over Journalism"
Monday, August 7, 2017
Associated Press (AP):
The Return of Marco Polo's World: War, Strategy,
and American Interests in the Twenty-first Century
Nonfiction book by Robert D. Kaplan
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Penguin Random House:
A bracing assessment of U.S. foreign policy over the past two decades, anchored by a major new essay commissioned by the Pentagon about changing power dynamics among China, Eurasia, and America — from the bestselling author of The Revenge of Geography.
Drawing on decades of firsthand experience as a foreign correspondent and military embed for The Atlantic, and deep reading that ranges from the lessons of Thucydides and Sun Tzu to contemporary outcomes in the Middle East, Robert D. Kaplan makes a powerful case for what timeless principles and factors should shape America's role in the world: a respect for the limits of Western-style democracy; a delineation between American interests versus American values; an awareness of the psychological toll of warfare; a projection of military power via a strong navy; and much more.
In a series of vivid and clear-eyed assessments, renowned foreign policy analyst Kaplan describes an increasingly unstable world — and how American strategy should adapt accordingly.
Food and Environment Reporting Network:
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Ritz & Escoffier: The Hotel, the Chef,
and the Rise of the Leisure Class
Nonfiction book by Luke Barr
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Penguin Random House:
In a tale replete with scandal and opulence, Luke Barr, author of the New York Times bestselling Provence, 1970, transports readers to turn-of-the-century London and Paris to discover how celebrated hotelier César Ritz and famed chef Auguste Escoffier joined forces at the Savoy Hotel to spawn the modern luxury hotel and restaurant, where women and American Jews mingled with British high society, signaling a new social order and the rise of the middle class.
In early August 1889, César Ritz, a Swiss hotelier highly regarded for his exquisite taste, found himself at the Savoy Hotel in London. He had come at the request of Richard D’Oyly Carte, the financier of Gilbert & Sullivan's comic operas, who had modernized theater and was now looking to create the world's best hotel. D'Oyly Carte soon seduced Ritz to move to London with his team, which included Auguste Escoffier, the chef de cuisine known for his elevated, original dishes. The result was a hotel and restaurant like no one had ever experienced, run in often mysterious and always extravagant ways — which created quite a scandal once exposed.
Barr deftly re-creates the thrilling Belle Epoque era just before World War I, when British aristocracy was at its peak, women began dining out unaccompanied by men, and American nouveaux riches and gauche industrialists convened in London to show off their wealth. In their collaboration at the still celebrated Savoy Hotel, where they welcomed loyal and sometimes salacious clients, such as Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt, Escoffier created the modern kitchen brigade and codified French cuisine for the ages in his seminal Le Guide Culinaire, which remains in print today, and Ritz, whose name continues to grace the finest hotels across the world, created the world's first luxury hotel. The pair also ruffled more than a few feathers in the process. Fine dining would never be the same — or more intriguing.
Friday, August 4, 2017
University of Guelph, Canada:
Using cutting-edge DNA-based technology, University of Guelph researchers have conducted the first-ever Canadian study examining sausage mislabeling.
The researchers found mislabeling and cross-species contamination of meat ingredients in 20 per cent of the sausage samples selected from grocery stores across the country.
"This study now provides us with a baseline that we can use when working with meat processors to help ensure we have a high quality and transparent food supply," said Prof. Robert Hanner, who worked on the study with a team of researchers.
Published this week in Food Control, the study revealed a majority of the mislabeling occurred with sausage meat that was substituted with another type of meat. Some sausages labeled as beef also contained pork. Others labeled as chicken also contained turkey and one pork sausage sample contained horsemeat.
In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement
Nonfiction book by John Heminway
Publication date: February 13, 2018
Penguin Random House:
A woman's quest for a new life in Africa in the wake of World War II — and a heroic career that hid a secret past.
Over the span of fifty years, Dr. Anne Spoerry, French by birth, treated hundreds of thousands of individuals across rural Kenya. A member of the renowned Flying Doctors Service, Spoerry earned the cherished nickname "Mama Daktari" — "Mother Doctor" — from the people of Kenya. Yet few knew what drove her from post-World War II Europe to Africa. Now, in the first comprehensive story of her life, her revered selflessness gives way to a past marked by rebellion and submission, during which she earned another nickname — this one sinister working as a "doctor" in a Nazi concentration camp. In Full Flight explores the question of whether it is possible to rewrite one's troubled past simply by doing good in the present. Informed by Spoerry's own journals, a trove of previously untapped files, and numerous interviews with those who knew her in Europe or Africa, John Heminway takes readers on a remarkable journey through Africa and into a dramatic life punctuated by both courage and weakness and driven by a powerful need to atone.