Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "A new measure adopted by Belarus says people who work less than half the year will have to pay the government for their idleness."

Solomon Islands

Oregon State University:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the San Ysidro port of entry was bitten by a woman Monday, after several officers encountered her attempting to walk up through the vehicle lanes into the United States.
At about 2:45 p.m. on Monday, May 4, CBP officers roving the lanes of vehicles waiting to enter the United States encountered a woman walking up through the lanes of traffic.  People on foot are not permitted to walk up and enter the U.S. through the vehicle lanes, and instead must use the pedestrian lanes in the processing building. 
The CBP officers advised the woman to leave the vehicle lanes and instead make entry into the U.S. through the pedestrian lanes. When she failed to comply, and attempted to walk past CBP officers, they took her into custody. As the officers took her into custody, she became verbally and physically aggressive, including biting one officer on the leg. 
The woman, a 41-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested and booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center; she will face federal charges related to assaulting an officer. 

Queen of the South

From BBC News: "A Guatemalan woman who ran one of the largest drug trafficking and money laundering rings in Central America has been sentenced in secret in the U.S."


Gangs of Russia: From the Streets
to the Corridors of Power
Nonfiction book by Svetlana Stephenson
Available: Summer 2015

Cornell University Press:
Since their spectacular rise in the 1990s, Russian gangs have remained entrenched in many parts of the country. Some gang members have perished in gang wars or ended up behind prison bars, while others have made spectacular careers off the streets and joined the Russian elite. But the rank and file of gangs remain substantially incorporated into their communities and society as a whole, with bonds and identities that bridge the worlds of illegal enterprise and legal respectability. 
In Gangs of Russia, Svetlana Stephenson explores the secretive world of the gangs. Using in-depth interviews with gang members, law enforcers, and residents in the city of Kazan, together with analyses of historical and sociological accounts from across Russia, she presents the history of gangs both before and after the arrival of market capitalism. 
Contrary to predominant notions of gangs as collections of maladjusted delinquents or illegal enterprises, Stephenson argues, Russian gangs should be seen as traditional, close-knit male groups with deep links to their communities. Stephenson shows that gangs have long been intricately involved with the police and other state structures in configurations that are both personal and economic. She also explains how the cultural orientations typical of gangs — emphasis on loyalty to one's own, showing toughness to outsiders, exacting revenge for perceived affronts and challenges — are not only found on the streets but are also present in the top echelons of today's Russian state.


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL):
Update (6May15):


Washington State University: "Washington State University researchers have found a way to make jet fuel from a common black fungus found in decaying leaves, soil and rotting fruit. The researchers hope the process leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years."

Monday, May 4, 2015


BBC News:


University of Wisconsin-Madison:
As with rivers, civilizations across the world rise and fall. Sometimes, the rise and fall of rivers has something to do with it. 
At Cahokia, the largest prehistoric settlement in the Americas north of Mexico, new evidence suggests that major flood events in the Mississippi River valley are tied to the cultural center’s emergence and ultimately, to its decline.


Associated Press (AP):


Agence France-Presse (AFP):

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The Tears of Re: Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt
Nonfiction book by Gene Kritsky
Shipping Date: October 1, 2015

Oxford University Press:
According to Egyptian mythology, when the god Re cried, his tears turned into bees upon touching the ground. Beyond the realm of myth, the honey bee is a surprisingly common and significant motif in Egyptian history, playing a role in the mythology, medicine, art, and food of the ancient culture. 
In The Tears of Re: Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt, entomologist Gene Kritsky presents the first full-length discussion of the ways in which bees were a part of life in ancient Egypt, shedding light on one of the many mysteries of the ancient world. Kritsky delves into ancient Egypt's complex society, revealing that bees had a significant presence in everything from death rituals to trade. In fact, beekeeping was a state-controlled industry, and in certain instances honey could even be used to pay taxes! Honey was used both to sweeten foods and treat cuts, and was sometimes used as a tribute or offering. From the presence of bees in paintings and hieroglyphs in tombs to the use of beeswax in a variety of products, bees had a significant presence in ancient Egyptian culture. 
Richly illustrated and engagingly written, The Tears of Re will appeal to anyone with a passion for beekeeping, Egypt, or the ancient world.

Friday, May 1, 2015

New York

U.S. Justice Department:
BNP Paribas S.A. (BNPP), a global financial institution headquartered in Paris, was sentenced today for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) by processing billions of dollars of transactions through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban entities subject to U.S. economic sanctions. BNPP was sentenced to a five-year term of probation, and ordered to forfeit $8,833,600,000 to the United States and to pay a $140,000,000 fine. Today's sentencing is the first time a financial institution has been convicted and sentenced for violations of U.S. economic sanctions, and the total financial penalty — including the forfeiture and criminal fine — is the largest financial penalty ever imposed in a criminal case.

Washington, DC

U.S. Justice Department: "An alleged leader of an international drug trafficking organization based in Guatemala was extradited to the United States yesterday to face international narcotics trafficking charges in the District of Columbia, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division."


Thursday, April 30, 2015


Reuters: "Scientists in China on Wednesday described one of the weirdest flying creatures ever discovered: a pigeon-size dinosaur with wings like a bat that lived not long before the first birds."


Kat Devlin, Pew Research Center:
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, a national holiday in Vietnam better known as Liberation Day. The event signified the end of the Vietnam War, culminating with a North Vietnamese army tank bulldozing through the gates of the Reunification Palace — the residence of the president of South Vietnam — and major helicopter evacuations of American military personnel and Vietnamese citizens. 
Yet four decades after the controversial war, the Vietnamese public sees the United States as a helpful ally and even embraces some of the core tenets of capitalism. 
Today, the Vietnamese view the U.S. in a positive light. About three-quarters of Vietnamese (76%) expressed a favorable opinion of the U.S. in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. More highly educated people (89%) gave the U.S. especially high marks. Young people ages 18-29 were particularly affirmative (89%), but the U.S. is seen positively even by those who are old enough to have lived through the Vietnam War. Among those ages 50 and older, more than six-in-ten rated the U.S. favorably.
Related: "The Frightened Vietnamese Kid Who Became a U.S. Army General"


Xinhua: "China launched a second excavation project on Thursday on a burial pit in the ancient capital of Xi'an, where an army of terracotta warriors guards the mausoleum of China's first emperor."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Disciples: The World War II Missions
of the CIA Directors Who Fought
for Wild Bill Donovan
Nonfiction book by Douglas Waller
Publication Date: October 6, 2015

Simon & Schuster:
The author of the critically acclaimed bestseller Wild Bill Donovan tells the story of four OSS warriors of World War II. All four later led the CIA. 
They are the most famous and controversial directors the CIA has ever had — Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby, and William Casey. Disciples is the story of these dynamic agents and their daring espionage and sabotage in wartime Europe under OSS Director Bill Donovan. 
Allen Dulles ran the OSS's most successful spy operation against the Axis. Bill Casey organized dangerous missions to penetrate Nazi Germany. Bill Colby led OSS commando raids behind the lines in occupied France and Norway. Richard Helms mounted risky intelligence programs against the Russians in the ruin of Berlin after the German surrender. 
Four very different men, they later led (or misled) the successor CIA. Dulles launched the calamitous operation to land CIA-trained, anti-Castro guerrillas at Cuba's Bay of Pigs. Helms was convicted of lying to Congress over the CIA's role in the coup that ousted Chile's president. Colby would become a pariah for releasing to Congress what became known as the "Family Jewels" report on CIA misdeeds during the 1950s, sixties and early seventies. Casey would nearly bring down the CIA — and Ronald Reagan's presidency — from a scheme that secretly supplied Nicaragua's contras with money raked off from the sale of arms to Iran for American hostages in Beirut. 
Mining thousands of once-secret World War II documents and interviewing scores of family members and CIA colleagues, Waller has written a brilliant successor to Wild Bill Donovan.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


A leopard killed an 80-year-old man in India's state of Gujarat.

Update: Forest rangers captured the cat.


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):
Everglades National Park, Fla. The largest and longest Burmese python tracking study of its kind — here or in its native range — is providing researchers and resource managers new information that may help target control efforts of this invasive snake, according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey. 
Among the findings, scientists have identified the size of a Burmese python's home range and discovered they share some "common areas" that multiple snakes use.  
"These high-use areas may be optimal locations for control efforts and further studies on the snakes' potential impacts on native wildlife," said Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist and lead author of the study. "Understanding habitat-use patterns of invasive species can aid resource managers in designing appropriately timed and scaled management strategies to help control their spread." 
Using radio and GPS tags to track 19 wild-caught pythons, researchers were able to learn how the Burmese python moved within its home range. The 5,119 days of tracking data led researchers to conclude that python home ranges are an average of 22 square kilometers, or roughly an area 3 miles wide-by-3 miles long, all currently within the park.  
The study found pythons were concentrated in slough and coastal habitats, with tree islands being the principal feature of common-use areas, even in areas where they were not the predominant habitat type. The longest movements of individual pythons occurred most often during dry conditions, but took place during "wet" and "dry" seasons. 
Burmese pythons are long-lived, large-bodied constricting snakes native to Southeast Asia. Highly adaptable, these ambush predators can reach lengths greater than 19 feet and produce large clutches of eggs that can range from eight to 107 eggs. Burmese pythons were first observed in South Florida's Everglades National Park in 1979. Since then, they have spread throughout the park. Although recent research indicates the snakes may be having a significant effect on some populations of mid-sized mammals, it has also shown there is little risk to people who visit Everglades National Park. 


The Real Planet of the Apes: A New Story
of Human Origins
Nonfiction book by David R. Begun
Available: October 2015

Princeton University Press:
Was Darwin wrong when he traced our origins to Africa? The Real Planet of the Apes makes the explosive claim that it was in Europe, not Africa, where apes evolved the most important hallmarks of our human lineage — such as bipedalism, dexterous hands, and larger brains. In this compelling and accessible book, David Begun, one of the world’s leading paleoanthropologists, transports readers to an epoch in the remote past when the Earth was home to many migratory populations of ape species. 
Drawing on the latest astonishing discoveries in the fossil record as well as his own experiences conducting field expeditions across Europe and Asia, Begun provides a sweeping evolutionary history of great apes and humans. He tells the story of how one of the earliest members of our evolutionary group — a new kind of primate called Proconsul — evolved from lemur-like monkeys in the primeval forests of Africa. Begun vividly describes how, over the next 10 million years, these hominoids expanded into Europe and Asia and evolved climbing and hanging adaptations, longer maturation times, and larger brains, setting the stage for the emergence of humans. As the climate deteriorated in Europe around 10 million years ago, these apes either died out or migrated south, reinvading the African continent and giving rise to the lineages of the gorilla, chimpanzee, and, ultimately, the human. 
Presenting startling new insights about our fossil ape ancestors, The Real Planet of the Apes is a book that fundamentally alters our understanding of human origins.