Associated Press (AP):
Monday, February 20, 2017
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):
The volume of international transfers of major weapons has grown continuously since 2004 and increased by 8.4 per cent between 2007-11 and 2012-16, according to new data on arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Notably, transfers of major weapons in 2012-16 reached their highest volume for any five-year period since the end of the cold war.
The flow of arms increased to Asia and Oceania and the Middle East between 2007-11 and 2012-16, while there was a decrease in the flow to Europe, the Americas and Africa. The five biggest exporters — the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany — together accounted for 74 per cent of the total volume of arms exports.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Simon & Schuster:
Janesville: An American Story
Nonfiction book by Amy Goldstein
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Simon & Schuster:
A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors' assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin — Paul Ryan's hometown — and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class.
This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills — but it's not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up.
Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin, where the nation's oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America's biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it's so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class.
For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It's an American story.
Simon & Schuster:
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss,
and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home
Nonfiction book by Denise Kiernan
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Simon & Schuster:
From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Girls of Atomic City comes the fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore — the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.
Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York's best known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.
Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore — and secure the future of the region and her husband's legacy.
The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The Last Castle is the unique American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
University of Virginia Press:
Jamestown, the Truth Revealed
Nonfiction book by William M. Kelso
Publication Date: May 12, 2017
University of Virginia Press:
What was life really like for the band of adventurers who first set foot on the banks of the James River in 1607? Important as the accomplishments of these men and women were, the written records pertaining to them are scarce, ambiguous, and often conflicting, and those curious about the birthplace of the United States have had little to turn to except dramatic and often highly fictionalized reports. In Jamestown, the Truth Revealed, William Kelso takes us literally to the soil where the Jamestown colony began, unearthing footprints of a series of structures, beginning with the James Fort, to reveal fascinating evidence of the lives and deaths of the first settlers, of their endeavors and struggles, and new insight into their relationships with the Virginia Indians. He offers up a lively but fact-based account, framed around a narrative of the archaeological team's exciting discoveries.
Unpersuaded by the common assumption that James Fort had long ago been washed away by the James River, William Kelso and his collaborators estimated the likely site for the fort and began to discover its extensive remains, including palisade walls, bulwarks, interior buildings, a well, a warehouse, and several pits. More than 2,000,000 objects were cataloged, more than half dating to the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James. In the time since that major find, roughly coinciding with Jamestown's quadricentennial, Kelso and his team have made several critical discoveries.
He describes the recent excavations of numerous additional buildings, including the settlement's first church, which served as the burial place of four Jamestown leaders, the governor's row house during the term of Samuel Argall, and substantial dump sites, which are troves for archaeologists. He also recounts how researchers confirmed the practice of survival cannibalism in the colony following the recovery from an abandoned cellar bakery of the cleaver-scarred remains of a young English girl. CT scanning and computer graphics have even allowed researchers to put a face on this victim of the brutal winter of 1609-10, a period that has come to be known as the "starving time."
Refuting the now decades-old stereotype that attributed the high mortality rate of the Jamestown settlers to their laziness and ineptitude, Jamestown, the Truth Revealed produces a vivid picture of the settlement that is far more complex, incorporating the most recent archaeology and using twenty-first-century technology to give Jamestown its rightful place in history and thus contributing to a broader understanding of the transatlantic world.
Friday, February 17, 2017
The first sign of trouble was the monkeys dropping dead in the forest. Then people started getting sick and dying, too.
Brazil is in the midst of its worst yellow fever outbreak since the 1940s, when the country started mass vaccination and mosquito eradication campaigns to thwart the virus.
The Barefoot Navigator: Wayfinding With the Skills
of the Ancients
Nonfiction book by Jack Lagan
Publication Date (Hardback): November 14, 2017
The Barefoot Navigator introduces the navigation skills of the ancients — methods using the sun, sea, wind, and stars, and even the flight patterns of ocean birds. The Barefoot Navigator also shows today's sailors how to apply these methods to augment — and in the case of emergency, replace-their modern navigation systems. And it's not just for emergencies — sometimes it is just plain fun to create a simple astrolabe or polar stick and confirm what your GPS tells you.
Polynesians managed to populate an area of ocean larger than North America simply by analyzing clouds, currents, and wind direction — how did they do it? In the first portion of The Barefoot Navigator Lagan introduces these ancient seafarers and their powerful, accurate — and seemingly simple — navigation techniques. We also learn that the Vikings routinely traveled on the notorious stretches of water between Iceland, Greenland, and Scandinavia — no charts, no GPS; it seems mind-boggling but Lagan shows us how. The second section of The Barefoot Navigator teaches how to combine these ancient techniques — and even construct the simple devices if we desire — with today's modern navigational devices, especially in emergency situations (loss of power, loss of signal), to ensure a constant grasp on your vessel's location — no matter what.
Interlacing fascinating history with useful advice and enjoyable writing, The Barefoot Navigator is unlike every other navigation reference out there.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
ETH Zurich, Switzerland: "If degraded and logged areas of tropical forests are left to nature, the populations of certain endangered tree species are not able to recover. This applies in particular to trees with large fruit where the seeds are distributed by birds, as ETH scientists have shown in a rain forest in India."
Grave New World: The End of Globalization,
the Return of History
Nonfiction book by Stephen D. King
Publication Date: May 23, 2017
Yale University Press:
A controversial look at the end of globalization and what it means for prosperity, peace, and the global economic order.
Globalization, long considered the best route to economic prosperity, is not inevitable. An approach built on the principles of free trade and, since the 1980s, open capital markets, is beginning to fracture. With disappointing growth rates across the Western world, nations are no longer willing to sacrifice national interests for global growth; nor are their leaders able — or willing — to sell the idea of pursuing a global agenda of prosperity to their citizens.
Combining historical analysis with current affairs, economist Stephen D. King provides a provocative and engaging account of why globalization is being rejected, what a world ruled by rival states with conflicting aims might look like, and how the pursuit of nationalist agendas could result in a race to the bottom. King argues that a rejection of globalization and a return to "autarky" will risk economic and political conflict, and he uses lessons from history to gauge how best to avoid the worst possible outcomes.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
University of California, Riverside (UCR):
A new study by a team of researchers, including one from the University of California, Riverside, found that the fault under Ventura, Calif., would likely cause stronger shaking during an earthquake and more damage than previously suspected.
The Ventura-Pitas Point fault in Southern California has been the focus of a lot of recent attention because it is thought to be capable of magnitude 8 earthquakes. It underlies the city of Ventura and runs offshore, and thus may be capable of generating tsunamis.
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign: "A new study contradicts decades of thought, research and teaching on the history of corn cultivation in the American Bottom, a floodplain of the Mississippi River in Illinois. The study refutes the notion that Indian corn, or maize, was cultivated in this region hundreds of years before its widespread adoption at about 1000 A.D."
Off the Deep End: A History of Madness at Sea
Nonfiction book by Nic Compton
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
In the eighteenth century, the Royal Navy's own physician found that sailors were seven times more likely to suffer from severe mental illness than the general population.
On the high seas, beyond the rule of law, away from any sight of land for weeks at a time — often living in overcrowded and confined spaces, where anything that goes wrong could be fatal — the incredible pressures on sailors were immense. The ever-present fear drove some men to faith in God and superstition — and drove others mad.
Off the Deep End is the first detailed study of the effect on sanity that the vast, lonely, and powerful sea has always had on sailors. Eminently readable, Off the Deep End explores accounts that span the centuries, from desperate shipwreck stories and cannibalism in the Age of Sail to inexplicable multiple murders, to Donald Crowhurst's suicide in the middle of the 1968 solo Golden Globe Race, leaving behind two rambling notebooks of mounting neurosis and paranoia.
Of interest to readers of maritime history, psychology, sociology, and behavioral science, as well as sailors of all constitutions, this unique and fascinating book offers insight and analysis — a thoroughly absorbing read about the effects of the cruel sea on the human mind.
Associated Press (AP):
Monday, February 13, 2017
Voice of America (VOA):
A U.S. federal grand jury has indicted 12 suspects, including six current or former airport baggage security inspectors, in connection with a massive cocaine smuggling operation at the international airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, in a statement Monday, said the case is built on evidence that the defendants smuggled suitcases containing as much as 15 kilograms of cocaine through the airport's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security system. Other defendants include at least one former airport security manager and suspected couriers.
Between 1998 and 2016, the statement alleges, the defendants helped smuggle 20 tons of cocaine through San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
Radio Free Asia (RFA): "The Bangkok arrest of an alleged Laotian kingpin of a major Southeast Asian drug trafficking ring helped expose links between narcotics smuggling operations on both sides of the Thailand-Malaysia border and an insurgency in the Thai Deep South, officials said."
U.S. Treasury Department: "Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Venezuelan national Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah (El Aissami) as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking. El Aissami is the Executive Vice President of Venezuela."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Miami Air and Marine Branch DHC-8 aircraft while on routine patrol on February 7, 2017 detected a maritime human smuggling venture 11 nautical miles east, southeast of Government Cut, Miami. The boat operator would not comply with commands from the Miami Marine Unit to stop. After a short chase disabling tactics were employed. There was one U.S. legal permanent resident boat operator, and fourteen migrants of various nationalities from China, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and Ecuador without proper documentation for entry into the United States.
This event took place on the Florida Straits via a 25' Dusky cabin cruiser vessel. This movement of illegal migrants into South Florida came directly from the Bahamas. The interdiction was safely and successfully accomplished by CBP Marine Unit assets and partner agency assistance. The aliens will be deported and the smuggler was arrested and detained by the Miami Marine Unit.
From eyes the size of basketballs to appendages that blink and glow, deep-sea dwellers have developed some strange features to help them survive their cold, dark habitat.
But with one normal eye and one giant, bulging, yellow eye, the "cockeyed" squid Histioteuthis heteropsis has perhaps the strangest visage of all.(Photo Credit: Kate Thomas)
Sunday, February 12, 2017
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa:
Africa is a tough place. It always has been. Especially if you have to fend off gigantic predators like saber-toothed carnivores in order to survive. And, when you're a small, dog-sized pre-mammalian reptile, sometimes the only way to protect yourself against these monsters is to turn your saliva into a deadly venomous cocktail.
That is exactly what a distant, pre-mammalian reptile, the therapsid Euchambersia, did about 260 million years ago, in order to survive the rough conditions offered by the deadly South African environment. Living in the Karoo, near Colesberg in South Africa, the Euchambersia developed a deep and circular fossa, just behind its canine teeth in the upper jaw, in which a deadly venomous cocktail was produced, and delivered directly into the mouth through a fine network of bony grooves and canals.
"This is the first evidence of the oldest venomous vertebrate ever found, and what is even more surprising is that it is not in a species that we expected it to be," says Dr. Julien Benoit, researcher at the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions
Nonfiction book by Alexander Todorov
Available: April 25, 2017
Princeton University Press:
We make up our minds about others after seeing their faces for a fraction of a second — and these snap judgments predict all kinds of important decisions. For example, politicians who simply look more competent are more likely to win elections. Yet the character judgments we make from faces are as inaccurate as they are irresistible; in most situations, we would guess more accurately if we ignored faces. So why do we put so much stock in these widely shared impressions? What is their purpose if they are completely unreliable? In this book, Alexander Todorov, one of the world's leading researchers on the subject, answers these questions as he tells the story of the modern science of first impressions.
Drawing on psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science, and other fields, this accessible and richly illustrated book describes cutting-edge research and puts it in the context of the history of efforts to read personality from faces. Todorov describes how we have evolved the ability to read basic social signals and momentary emotional states from faces, using a network of brain regions dedicated to the processing of faces. Yet contrary to the nineteenth-century pseudoscience of physiognomy and even some of today's psychologists, faces don't provide us a map to the personalities of others. Rather, the impressions we draw from faces reveal a map of our own biases and stereotypes.
A fascinating scientific account of first impressions, Face Value explains why we pay so much attention to faces, why they lead us astray, and what our judgments actually tell us.
Friday, February 10, 2017
Beating the Odds: Jump-Starting Developing Countries
Nonfiction book by Justin Yifu Lin and Célestin Monga
Available: April 18, 2017
Princeton University Press:
Contrary to conventional wisdom, countries that ignite a process of rapid economic growth almost always do so while lacking what experts say are the essential preconditions for development, such as good infrastructure and institutions. In Beating the Odds, two of the world's leading development economists begin with this paradox to explain what is wrong with mainstream development thinking — and to offer a practical blueprint for moving poor countries out of the low-income trap regardless of their circumstances.
Justin Yifu Lin, the former chief economist of the World Bank, and Célestin Monga, the chief economist of the African Development Bank, propose a development strategy that encourages poor countries to leap directly into the global economy by building industrial parks and export-processing zones linked to global markets. Countries can leverage these zones to attract light manufacturing from more advanced economies, as East Asian countries did in the 1960s and China did in the 1980s. By attracting foreign investment and firms, poor countries can improve their trade logistics, increase the knowledge and skills of local entrepreneurs, gain the confidence of international buyers, and gradually make local firms competitive. This strategy is already being used with great success in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and other countries. And the strategy need not be limited to traditional manufacturing but can also include agriculture, the service sector, and other activities.
Beating the Odds shows how poor countries can ignite growth without waiting for global action or the creation of ideal local conditions.
For the 100 million people who live within 3 feet of sea level in East and Southeast Asia, the news that sea level in their region fluctuated wildly more than 6,000 years ago is important, according to research published by a team of ocean scientists and statisticians, including Rutgers professors Benjamin Horton and Robert Kopp and Rutgers Ph.D. student Erica Ashe. That's because those fluctuations occurred without the assistance of human-influenced climate change.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, Horton, Kopp, Ashe, lead author Aron Meltzner and others report that the relative sea level around Belitung Island in Indonesia rose twice just under 2 feet in the period from 6,850 years ago to 6,500 years ago. That this oscillation took place without any human-assisted climate change suggests to Kopp, Horton and their co-authors that such a change in sea level could happen again now, on top of the rise in sea level that is already projected to result from climate change. This could be catastrophic for people living so close to the sea.
"This research is a very important piece of work that illustrates the potential rates of sea-level rise that can happen from natural variability alone," says Horton, professor of marine and coastal sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. "If a similar oscillation were to occur in East and Southeast Asia in the next two centuries, it could impact tens of millions of people and associated ecosystems."
Pew Research Center: "While it remains to be seen whether [U.S.] President Donald Trump will act on campaign promises to get tough on Beijing, the American public has largely soured on China in recent years. In a January survey by Pew Research Center, 65% said China is either an adversary (22%) or a serious problem (43%), while only about a third (31%) said China is not a problem."
Thursday, February 9, 2017
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): "Over a quarter of European grasshopper, cricket and bush cricket species are being driven to extinction by unsustainable agricultural practices and the growing frequency of wildfires in Europe, a new IUCN report has found."
The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used
Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub
in the Most Daring Covert Operation
Nonfiction book by Josh Dean
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Penguin Random House:
An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War — a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo — about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and a crazy billionaire spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watching.
In the early hours of February 25, 1968, a Russian submarine armed with three nuclear ballistic missiles set sail from its base in Siberia on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii. It never arrived.
As the Soviet Navy searched in vain for the lost vessel, a top-secret American operation using sophisticated deep-sea spy equipment found it — wrecked on the sea floor at a depth of 16,800 feet, far beyond the capabilities of any salvage that existed. But the potential intelligence assets onboard the [vessel] — the nuclear warheads, battle orders, and cryptological machines — justified going to extreme lengths to find a way to raise the submarine.
So began Project Azorian, a top-secret mission that took six years, cost an estimated $800 million, and would become the largest and most daring covert operation in CIA history.
After the U.S. Navy declared retrieving the sub "impossible," the mission fell to the CIA's burgeoning Directorate of Science and Technology, the little-known division responsible for the legendary U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. Working with Global Marine Systems, the country's foremost maker of exotic, deep-sea drill ships, the CIA commissioned the most expensive ship ever built and told the world that it belonged to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, who would use the mammoth vessel to mine rare minerals from the ocean floor. In reality, a complex network of spies, scientists, and politicians attempted a project even crazier than Hughes's reputation: raising the sub directly under the watchful eyes of the Russians.
The Taking of K-129 is a riveting, almost unbelievable true-life tale of military history, engineering genius, and high-stakes spy-craft set during the height of the Cold War, when nuclear annihilation was a constant fear, and the opportunity to gain even the slightest advantage over your enemy was worth massive risk.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): "In 1980, a California man named John E. Fox opened a wine store near San Francisco called Premier Cru. More than a decade later, when the business was struggling financially, Fox devised a way to make a lot of money — all at his customers' expense."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL):
A top U.S. commander says the war against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has ground to a stalemate.
General John Nicholson also told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 9 that Russia had significantly increased covert and overt support for the Taliban, with a goal of "undermining the United States and NATO."
The assessment by Nicholson, the commander of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, was one of the most candid admissions by U.S. officials that the fight there faces problems.
There are some 8,400 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan since most NATO forces withdrew in 2014.
Since then, however, Afghan forces have struggled to fend off the Taliban, which has gained control of more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Singapore Airlines (SIA):
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
World War II
Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews
Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned
With the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler
Nonfiction book by Bruce Henderson
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory.
In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secret weapons in the battle to defeat Adolf Hitler: training nearly 2,000 German-born Jews in special interrogation techniques and making use of their mastery of the German language, history, and customs. Known as the Ritchie Boys, they were sent in small, elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe, where they interrogated German POWs and gathered crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win the war.
Though they knew what the Nazis would do to them if they were captured, the Ritchie Boys eagerly joined the fight to defeat Hitler. As they did, many of them did not know the fates of their own families left behind in occupied Europe. Taking part in every major campaign in Europe, they collected key tactical intelligence on enemy strength, troop and armored movements, and defensive positions. A postwar Army report found that more than sixty percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys.
Bruce Henderson draws on personal interviews with many surviving veterans and extensive archival research to bring this never-before-told chapter of the Second World War to light. Sons and Soldiers traces their stories from childhood and their escapes from Nazi Germany, through their feats and sacrifices during the war, to their desperate attempts to find their missing loved ones in war-torn Europe. Sons and Soldiers is an epic story of heroism, courage, and patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.