Thursday, October 19, 2017


Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
Nonfiction book by Serhii Plokhy
Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Hachette Book Group:
From a preeminent historian of Eastern Europe, the definitive history of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 
On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill. 
In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno. He lays bare the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing the disaster to the authoritarian character of Communist party rule, the regime's control of scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over all else. 
Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms in the mismanagement of nuclear power in the developing world. A moving and definitive account, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department: "The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable."


University of Vermont: "Sprawling mining operations in Brazil are destroying much more of the iconic Amazon forest than previously thought, says the first comprehensive study of mining deforestation in the world's largest tropical rainforest."

American Southwest

University of Arizona:
Turquoise is an icon of the desert Southwest, with enduring cultural significance, especially for Native American communities. Yet, relatively little is known about the early history of turquoise procurement and exchange in the region. 
University of Arizona researchers are starting to change that by blending archaeology and geochemistry to get a more complete picture of the mineral's mining and distribution in the region prior to the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish. 
In a new paper, published in the November issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, UA anthropology alumnus Saul Hedquist and his collaborators revisit what once was believed to be a relatively small turquoise mine in eastern Arizona. Their findings suggest that the Canyon Creek mine, located on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, was actually a much more significant source of turquoise than previously thought.


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): "A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 2.1 million people in the U.S. may be getting their drinking water from private domestic wells considered to have high concentrations of arsenic, presumed from natural sources."


University of Nottingham, United Kingdom:
Injecting DNA into injured horse tendons and ligaments can cure lameness, new research involving scientists at Kazan Federal University, Moscow State Academy and the University of Nottingham has found. 
The gene therapy technology was used in horses that had gone lame due to injury and within two to three weeks the horses were able to walk and trot. Within just two months they were back to full health, galloping and competing. 
The study has big implications not just for the veterinary world but the future of human medicine — injuries like these are common in people as well as animals, not just in lameness but in other illnesses and diseases from the legs and arms through to the back and hips.


Imperial Twilight: The Opium War
and the End of China's Last Golden Age
Nonfiction book by Stephen R. Platt
Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Penguin Random House:
The definitive history of the Opium War — a vivid narrative of the earliest Western efforts to open China to trade and the resulting war that ensured the decline of imperial China. 
When Britain declared war on China in 1839, it sealed the fate of what had been, for centuries, the wealthiest and most powerful empire in the world. But local corruption, popular uprisings, and dwindling finances had left the country much weaker than was commonly understood and the war set in motion the fall of the Qing dynasty which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the twentieth century. Imperial Twilight is the dramatic, epic story of the decades leading up to the war. Award-winning historian Stephen Platt recounts the first efforts by the British government to "open" China to trade — Western missionaries and traders venturing to the still mysterious empire while the Chinese emperor and officials struggled to manage their country's decline — and makes clear how the profits from opium ultimately lead to the war. Given the growing uncertainty in current relations between China and the West, the riveting history recounted in Imperial Twilight has important implications for the world today.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Andaman Islands

Survival International:
Tour operators in India's Andaman Islands are selling "human safaris" to the reserve of a recently contacted tribe, despite government promises to ban the practice. 
Tourists travel along a road through the Jarawa's forest, treating tribespeople like animals in a safari park.

Maritime Crime

Global Piracy Report

International Maritime Bureau (IMB): "A total of 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in the first nine months of 2017, according to the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) latest quarterly report on maritime piracy."


American Geophysical Union (AGU):
On May 29, 2006, mud started erupting from several sites on the Indonesian island of Java. Boiling mud, water, rocks and gas poured from newly created vents in the ground, burying entire towns and compelling many Indonesians to flee. By September 2006, the largest eruption site reached a peak, and enough mud gushed on the surface to fill 72 Olympic-sized swimming pools daily. 
Indonesians frantically built levees to contain the mud and save the surrounding settlements and rice fields from being covered. The eruption, known as Lusi, is still ongoing and has become the most destructive ongoing mud eruption in history. The relentless sea of mud has buried some villages 40 meters (130 feet) deep and forced nearly 60,000 people from their homes. The volcano still periodically spurts jets of rocks and gas into the air like a geyser. It is now oozing around 80,000 cubic meters (3 million cubic feet) of mud each day — enough to fill 32 Olympic-sized pools. 
Now, more than 11 years after it first erupted, researchers may have figured out why the mudflows haven’t stopped: deep underground, Lusi is connected to a nearby volcanic system.


Future Earth:
Around 245 BCE Ptolemy III, ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, made a decision that still puzzles many historians: After pursuing a successful military campaign against the kingdom's nemesis, the Seleucid Empire, centered mainly in present-day Syria and Iraq, Ptolemy III suddenly decided to return home. This about-face "changed everything about Near East history," says Joseph Manning, a historian at Yale University. 
Now, Manning and his colleagues have identified a possible reason for Ptolemy III's trek back to Egypt: volcanoes.


Yale University: "Why do dogs, unlike wolves, make eye contact with people?  New Yale University research suggests that the unique history of the Australian dingo can help fill out the evolutionary history of the deep and enduring connection between humans and dogs."

Yesterday: University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria


United States

The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search
for the Lost Colony of Roanoke
Nonfiction book by Andrew Lawler
Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Penguin Random House:
A sweeping account of a four-hundred-year-old mystery, the archeologists racing to unearth the answer, and what the Lost Colony reveals about America — from colonial days to today. 
In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived on Roanoke, an island off the coast of North Carolina. Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, their colony was to establish a foothold for England in the New World. But by the time the colony's leader, John White, returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission in England, his settlers were nowhere to be found. They had vanished into the wilderness, leaving behind only a single clue — the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree. 
The disappearance of the Lost Colony became an enduring American mystery. For four centuries, it has gone unsolved, obsessing countless historians, archeologists, and amateur sleuths. Today, after centuries of searching in vain, new clues have begun to surface. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler offers a beguiling history of the Lost Colony, and of the relentless quest to bring its fate to light. He accompanies competing archeologists as they seek out evidence, each team hoping to be the first to solve the riddle. In the course of his journey, Lawler explores how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness, working its way into literature, popular culture, and politics. 
Incisive and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony, but of how its absence continues to define — and divide — America.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Israel Antiquities Authority:
Eight stone courses of the Western Wall that had been buried under an eight-meter layer of earth were recently uncovered in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem. These stone courses, completely preserved, are built of massive stones and are outstanding in the quality of their construction. 
Furthermore after the removal of this layer of soil, the archaeologists were surprised to discovered that it covered remnants of an extraordinary theater-like structure from the Roman period confirming historical writings that describe a theater near the Temple Mount.

Migrant Smuggling

IRIN: "An IRIN investigation exposes a rising trend of migrant smuggling from Turkey to Romania over a notoriously dangerous body of water."

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department: "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of ongoing instability and sporadic violence in many parts of the country."


Field Museum:
Bats often get the short end of the stick — when you look around in October, they're featured in Halloween decorations right up there with unsavory characters like monsters and ghosts. But these animals are key to their environments as pollinators, dispersers of seeds, and insect eaters. Plus, in the case of flying fox fruit bats, they have faces that even a bat-hating chiroptophobe could love — they look like German shepherd puppies with wings. 
A new study out of the Field Museum and the University of Queensland, published in the conservation journal Oryx, delves into bat conservation on the Solomon Islands, where flying foxes play an important role in local tradition: the bats' teeth are used as currency. 
"Island flying foxes are a diverse group of bats, and they're nearly all in trouble. Many species are endangered or extinct from some islands," says lead author Tyrone Lavery of the Field Museum. In other Pacific islands outside of the Solomons, hunting has led to drastic reductions of flying fox populations. So, when Lavery learned about the custom of using flying fox teeth as currency on one of the islands making up the Solomons, Makira, he was curious how the practice played into locals' hunting habits. "Many island flying foxes are endangered, but the effects of using their teeth as currency hasn't been studied before," he notes.

Whales and Dolphins

University of Manchester, United Kingdom: "Whales and dolphins (cetaceans) live in tightly knit social groups, have complex relationships, talk to each other and even have regional dialects — much like human societies."

Alligators Eat Sharks

Kansas State University: "Jaws, beware! Alligators may be coming for you, according to a Kansas State University researcher."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Saudi Arabia

From King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia: "Wind turbines suspended high in the sky have potential as an alternative power source for Saudi Arabia."

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Nefertiti's Face: The Creation of an Icon
Nonfiction book by Joyce Tyldesley
Available: February 12, 2018

Harvard University Press:
Little is known about Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen whose name means "a beautiful woman has come." She was the wife of Akhenaten, the pharaoh who ushered in the dramatic Amarna Age, and she bore him at least six children. She played a prominent role in political and religious affairs, but after Akhenaten's death she apparently vanished and was soon forgotten. 
Yet Nefertiti remains one of the most famous and enigmatic women who ever lived. Her instantly recognizable face adorns a variety of modern artifacts, from expensive jewelry to cheap postcards, T-shirts, and bags, all over the world. She has appeared on page, stage, screen, and opera. In Britain, one woman has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on plastic surgery in hope of resembling the long-dead royal. This enduring obsession is the result of just one object: the lovely and mysterious Nefertiti bust, created by the sculptor Thutmose and housed in Berlin's Neues Museum since before World War II. 
In Nefertiti's Face, Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley tells the story of the bust, from its origins in a busy workshop of the late Bronze Age to its rediscovery and controversial removal to Europe in 1912 and its present status as one of the world's most treasured artifacts. This wide-ranging history takes us from the temples and tombs of ancient Egypt to wartime Berlin and engages the latest in Pharaonic scholarship. Tyldesley sheds light on both Nefertiti's life and her improbable afterlife, in which she became famous simply for being famous.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Gambia

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): "When a group of naturalized Americans from The Gambia tried to help overthrow the government of their West African homeland in 2014, they thought they would be hailed as heroes. Not only did they fail, they were charged in the United States under the Neutrality Act — a little-known federal law that prohibits Americans from waging war against friendly nations."


The New Chimpanzee: A Twenty-First-Century Portrait
of Our Closest Kin
Nonfiction book by Craig Stanford
Available: February 12, 2018

Harvard University Press:
Recent discoveries about wild chimpanzees have dramatically reshaped our understanding of these great apes and their kinship with humans. We now know that chimpanzees not only have genomes similar to our own but also plot political coups, wage wars over territory, pass on cultural traditions to younger generations, and ruthlessly strategize for resources, including sexual partners. In The New Chimpanzee, Craig Stanford challenges us to let apes guide our inquiry into what it means to be human. 
With wit and lucidity, Stanford explains what the past two decades of chimpanzee field research has taught us about the origins of human social behavior, the nature of aggression and communication, and the divergence of humans and apes from a common ancestor. Drawing on his extensive observations of chimpanzee behavior and social dynamics, Stanford adds to our knowledge of chimpanzees' political intelligence, sexual power plays, violent ambition, cultural diversity, and adaptability. 
The New Chimpanzee portrays a complex and even more humanlike ape than the one Jane Goodall popularized more than a half century ago. It also sounds an urgent call for the protection of our nearest relatives at a moment when their survival is at risk.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Easter Island

University of California, Santa Cruz:
Easter Island is a place of mystery that has captured the public imagination. Famous for ancient carved statues and a location so remote it boggles the mind, the island presents a captivating puzzle for researchers eager to understand how and when it became inhabited, and by whom. 
New paleogenomic research conducted by an international team led by UC Santa Cruz sheds light on those questions by ruling out the likelihood that inhabitants of Easter Island intermixed with South Americans prior to the arrival of Europeans on the island in 1722.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mediterranean Sea

University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), Australia: "A review of geological evidence for tsunamis during the past 4,500 years in the Mediterranean Sea has revealed that as many as 90 percent of these inundation events may have been misinterpreted by researchers and were due to storm activity instead."

Myanmar (Burma)

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society): "The Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota), a medium-sized tortoise found only in Myanmar's central dry zone, has been brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to an aggressive captive-breeding effort spearheaded by a team of conservationists and government partners."

Filter Feeder

University of Kansas:

Canada Geese

(Photo Credit: M. Horath)

America's Pacific Northwest

Washington State University: "The Pacific Northwest was home to one of the Earth's largest known volcanic eruptions, a millennia-long spewing of sulfuric gas that blocked out the sun and cooled the planet, Washington State University researchers have determined."

Monday, October 9, 2017


Deutsche Welle (DW): "A man dressed as a shark has been fined under new anti-burqa laws in Austria. The shark was advertising the opening of a new electronics store called McShark."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Indian Ocean

Voice of America (VOA):
Somali regional officials say the Iranian captain of a fishing boat was killed and another sailor was injured after security forces opened fire during an operation in the Indian Ocean. 
Officials said the shooting occurred after Puntland Maritime Police Forces spotted two boats suspected to be fishing illegally Friday in Somali waters.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Traditional Magic Spells for Protection and Healing
Nonfiction book by Claude Lecouteux
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Simon & Schuster:
An in-depth collection of ancient spells and magic practices drawn from rare and newly discovered texts 
• Presents more than 600 magical prescriptions for healing and protection from both pagan and Christian sources 
• Examines the practice of diagnosing illness through magic and explores ancient beliefs about curses and other evil spells and about devils, demons, and ghosts 
• Includes spells from the heavily guarded gypsy tradition of magic and healing, drawn from newly discovered materials 
Since the beginning of history, people have sought remedies for the many ills that have beset them, from illnesses afflicting the body to threats posed by evil and hostile individuals. In many folk healing and pagan traditions, it was believed that one must gain the assistance of the guardian spirit of a healing plant or substance through prayers or offerings before its chemical properties would be effective. The Church decried these spells and practices as pagan superstition but did not seek to exterminate these beliefs, instead transferring the responsibility for their healing powers to the apostles and saints. 
Drawing on his extensive knowledge of ancient texts, Claude Lecouteux presents more than 600 magical prescriptions from both pagan and Christian sources from the last 2,000 years, covering everything from abscesses and shingles to curses and healing animals. He examines the practice of diagnosing illness through magic and looks at the origins of disease according to the evolving beliefs of magic practitioners over the centuries. He explores ancient beliefs about curses and about devils, demons, and ghosts and provides an in-depth look at protection magic, including protection of health, animals, and cultivated land, protection against curses, witchcraft, bad weather, and beasts, protection of a home, and protection while traveling. He includes spells from the heavily guarded gypsy tradition of magic and healing, drawn from newly discovered materials collected by two Romanian ethnologists who lived and traveled with gypsies in Transylvania in the mid-19th century. The author also reproduces rare texts on magic healing from the 14th and 15th centuries. 
Revealing the vitality of these practices in the remoter areas of Eastern Europe, Lecouteux shows how the influence of this pagan worldview is still detectable in the work of modern folk healers in France and Scandinavia. He also shows how the condemnation of unorthodox methods of healing has not vanished from the contemporary world: the medieval legislation against healing by wizards and bonesetters is echoed in modern health codes that challenge the authority of naturopaths and faith healers.


Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA): "An international law enforcement operation has resulted in the seizure of close to four tonnes of cocaine from a vessel in the mid-Atlantic."

Friday, October 6, 2017


Interpol: "Two of East Africa's most wanted wildlife criminals have been arrested in Malawi."


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "A brawl in Kyiv's parliament on October 6 was just the latest case of Ukraine's politicians opting to bust heads rather than filibuster."


Dictionary of Gypsy Mythology: Charms, Rites,
and Magical Traditions of the Roma
Nonfiction book by Claude Lecouteux
Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Simon & Schuster:
A comprehensive A-to-Z reconstruction of the oral tradition of the Rom — gypsies — based on sources never before available in English  
• Presents the origin myths and magical traditions of the gypsies, including their legendary ties to Egypt, animal ancestors, and tree spirits 
• Examines the three major settings of gypsy folktales — the forest, the waters, and the mountain — and shows how their world is full of spirits 
• Shows how the religious concepts of the Rom testify to a profound syncretism of the pagan traditions and Christianity 
Although their own myths and their common name point to Egyptian origins for the gypsies, the Rom, as they call themselves, originated in India, as evidenced by studies of their language. They arrived in Europe in the ninth century and spread across the continent from East to West, reaching England in the 15th century and Scandinavia by the end of the 16th century. A nomadic people, these wanderers were reviled by local populaces wherever they went and regarded as misfits, intruders, foreigners, and thieves. 
Drawing on a number of sources never before available outside of Eastern Europe, Claude Lecouteux reconstructs the gypsy oral tradition to provide a comprehensive A-to-Z look at gypsy mythology, including their folktales, rites, songs, nursery rhymes, jokes, and magical traditions. His main source is material collected by Heinrich Adalbert von Wlislocki (1856-1907), an ethnologist who lived with gypsies in Romania, Transylvania, and Hungary in the latter half of the 19th century. He presents the origin myths of the gypsies, legends which form the ancestral memory of the gypsy tribes and often closely touch on their daily life. 
Lecouteux explores the full range of supernatural beings that inhabit the gypsy world, including fairies, undines, ogres, giants, dog-people, and demons, and he examines the three major settings of gypsy folktales — the forest, the waters, and the mountain, which they worshiped as a sacred being in its own right. He also reveals how coexisting with peoples of different religions led the gypsies to adapt or borrow stories and figures from these groups, and he shows how the religious concepts and sacred stories of the Rom testify to a profound syncretism of pagan traditions and Christianity. 
Complete with rare illustrations and information from obscure sources appearing for the first time in English, this detailed reference work represents an excellent resource for scholars and those seeking to reconnect to their forgotten gypsy heritage.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Prehistoric Humans

University of Cambridge, United Kingdom: "Early humans seem to have recognized the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found."


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany:
After humans and Neanderthals met many thousands of years ago, the two species began interbreeding. While Neanderthals aren’t around anymore, about two percent of the DNA in non-African people living today comes from them. Recent studies have shown that some of those Neanderthal genes have contributed to human immunity and modern diseases. Now researchers have found that our Neanderthal inheritance has contributed to other characteristics, too, including skin tone, hair color, sleep patterns, mood, and even a person's smoking status.
Related: "Researchers Sequence a New Neanderthal Genome"


Pennsylvania State University (Penn State): "While unethical behavior in organizations is often portrayed as flowing down from top management, or creeping up from low-level positions, a team of researchers suggest that middle management also can play a key role in promoting widespread unethical behavior among their subordinates."


Carnegie Mellon University:
It may surprise many, especially those susceptible to the CSI effect, but fingerprint evidence is not conclusive beyond a reasonable doubt. 
A new American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) working group report on the quality of latent fingerprint analysis says that courtroom testimony and reports stating or even implying that fingerprints collected from a crime scene belong to a single person are indefensible and lack scientific foundation.


The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons From the Sawtooth Pack
Nonfiction book by Jim and Jamie Dutcher
Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Penguin Random House:
From the world-famous couple who lived alongside a three-generation wolf pack, this book of inspiration, drawn from the wild, will fascinate animal and nature lovers alike. 
For six years Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived intimately with a pack of wolves, gaining their trust as no one has before. In this book the Dutchers reflect on the virtues they observed in wolf society and behavior. Each chapter exemplifies a principle, such as kindness, teamwork, playfulness, respect, curiosity, and compassion. Their heartfelt stories combine into a thought-provoking meditation on the values shared between the human and the animal world. Occasional photographs bring the wolves and their behaviors into absorbing focus.


Stanford University: "If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil's ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to Stanford researchers who claim the resource could 'significantly' offset increasing global emissions."


"The government in the western state of Maharashtra has ordered a probe after suspected pesticide poisoning killed at least 50 farmers," BBC News reports.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


University of Central Florida (UCF): "Hurricane Irma took a devastating toll on incubating sea turtle nests in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most important loggerhead and green turtle nesting sites in the world, according to new estimates from the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group."