Wednesday, April 27, 2016


World War II (Europe)

Szkolnikoff: Hitler's Jewish Smuggler
Nonfiction book by Pierre Abramovici
Publication Date: May 31, 2016

Pen & Sword Books, United Kingdom:
On 10 June 1945, a charred body was discovered near Madrid. The man was identified as Mendel Szkolnikoff, a Jew of Russian origin who was probably one of the biggest traffickers of the Occupation; since 1941 he had collaborated with the Germans by supplying textiles to the SS and the Kriegsmarine in particular. 
In a remarkably short space of time, Szkolnikoff amassed a spectacular fortune including prime real estate in the most sought-after areas in Paris and various hotels and "palaces" on the French Riviera. Although his property and fortune were impounded after the Liberation, the French authorities have continued to pursue his descendants to this day, which is in fact, illegal! 
Seventy years after his death there are still many questions that remain unanswered: Who did Szkolnikoff actually work for and who was it who protected him? What happened to the enormous amounts of money he deposited in his Monacan, Swiss and Spanish bank accounts before he died? Who was the mysterious commando unit who captured and killed Szkolnikoff in Spain in 1945? Was he actually killed or did he manage to escape? 
The true story of Mendel Szkolnikoff has never been fully investigated, until now. After consulting over 6,000 boxes of archives in 5 different countries, Pierre Abramovici is finally able to provide answers to these questions and reveal the truths behind the many myths that have surrounded this fascinating and complicated character.
 Related: Joseph Joanovici


Radio Free Asia (RFA):


Pew Research Center: "As strife in the Middle East continues to make headlines, from the militant group ISIS to Syrian refugees, the Muslim world is sharply divided on what the relationship should be between the tenets of Islam and the laws of governments. Across 10 countries with significant Muslim populations surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2015, there is a striking difference in the extent to which people think the Quran should influence their nation's laws."

Piracy at Sea

International Maritime Bureau (IMB):


The Girl From Venice
A novel by Martin Cruz Smith
Publication Date: October 18, 2016

Simon & Schuster:
The highly anticipated new stand-alone novel from Martin Cruz Smith, whom the Washington Post has declared "that uncommon phenomenon: a popular and well-regarded crime novelist who is also a writer of real distinction," The Girl from Venice is a suspenseful World War II love story set against the beauty, mystery, and danger of occupied Venice. 
Venice, 1945. The war may be waning, but the city known as La Serenissima is still occupied and the people of Italy fear the power of the Third Reich. One night, under a canopy of stars, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across a young woman's body floating in the lagoon and soon discovers that she is still alive and in trouble. 
Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is on the run from the Wehrmacht SS. Cenzo chooses to protect Giulia rather than hand her over to the Nazis. This act of kindness leads them into the world of Partisans, random executions, the arts of forgery and high explosives, Mussolini's broken promises, the black market and gold, and, everywhere, the enigmatic maze of the Venice Lagoon. 
The Girl from Venice is a thriller, a mystery, and a retelling of Italian history that will take your breath away. Most of all it is a love story.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Carnegie Museum of Natural History: "Paleontologists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that yields a wealth of insights into the biology and behavior of titanosaurs, the dinosaur group that includes the most massive land animals that have ever existed."


World Health Organization (WHO): "As efforts to bring an outbreak of yellow fever in Angola under control continue, WHO is reminding all travelers to the country that they are required to receive the yellow fever vaccination and to have a valid certificate of vaccination to prove that they are protected from the disease and to prevent its further spread."


Shinto: A History
Nonfiction Book by Helen Hardacre
Shipping Date: November 1, 2016

Oxford University Press:
Distinguished scholar of Japanese religion and culture Helen Hardacre offers the first comprehensive history of Shinto, the ancient and still vibrant tradition whose colorful rituals are practiced by some 80% of the Japanese people. Under the ideal of Shinto, a divinely descended emperor governs through rituals offered to deities called Kami. These rituals are practiced in innumerable shrines across the realm, so that local rites mirror the monarch's ceremonies. Through this theatre of state, it is thought, the human, natural, and supernatural worlds will align in harmony and prosper. 
Often called "the indigenous religion of Japan," Shinto's institutions, rituals, and symbols are omnipresent throughout the island nation. But, perhaps surprisingly, both its religiosity and its Japanese origins have been questioned. Hardacre investigates the claims about Shinto as the embodiment of indigenous tradition, and about its rightful place in the public realm. Shinto has often been represented in the West as the engine that drove Japanese military aggression. To this day, it is considered provocative for members of the government to visit the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors the Japanese war dead, and this features as a source of strain in Japan's relations with China and Korea. This is a debated issue in Japanese national politics and reliably attracts intensive media coverage. Hardacre contends, controversially, that it was the Allied Occupation that created this stereotype of Shinto as the religion of war, when in fact virtually all branches of Japanese religions were cheerleaders for the war and imperialism. 
The history and nature of Shinto are subjects of vital importance for understanding contemporary Japan, its politics, its international relations, and its society. Hardacre's magisterial work will stand as the definitive reference for years to come.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Radio Free Asia (RFA):
Vietnamese authorities are investigating a Taiwanese steel company in connection with a massive fish kill that is threatening the local seafood industry, according to media reports. 
Huge numbers of fish have washed ashore in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces. The dead fish that have been washing up on beaches along the country's central coast include rare species that live far offshore in deep water.
More (April 26, 2016)

Radio Free Asia (RFA):


Associated Press (AP):




Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages
and the Old Norse Sagas
Nonfiction book by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
Shipping Date: November 1, 2016

Oxford University Press:
In the dying days of the eighth century, the Vikings erupted onto the international stage with brutal raids and slaughter. The medieval Norsemen may be best remembered as monk murderers and village pillagers, but this is far from the whole story. Throughout the Middle Ages, longships transported hairy northern voyagers far and wide, where they not only raided but also traded, explored and settled new lands, encountered unfamiliar races, and embarked on pilgrimages and crusades. 
The Norsemen traveled to all corners of the medieval world and beyond; north to the wastelands of arctic Scandinavia, south to the politically turbulent heartlands of medieval Christendom, west across the wild seas to Greenland and the fringes of the North American continent, and east down the Russian waterways trading silver, skins, and slaves. Beyond the Northlands explores this world through the stories that the Vikings told about themselves in their sagas. 
But the depiction of the Viking world in the Old Norse-Icelandic sagas goes far beyond historical facts. What emerges from these tales is a mixture of realism and fantasy, quasi-historical adventures and exotic wonder tales that rocket far beyond the horizon of reality. On the crackling brown pages of saga manuscripts, trolls, dragons and outlandish tribes jostle for position with explorers, traders, and kings. 
To explore the sagas and the world that produced them, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough now takes her own trip through the dramatic landscapes that they describe. Along the way, she illuminates the rich but often confusing saga accounts with a range of other evidence: archaeological finds, rune stones, medieval world maps, encyclopedic manuscripts, and texts from as far away as Byzantium and Baghdad. As her journey across the Old Norse world shows, by situating the sagas against the revealing background of this other evidence, we can begin at least to understand just how the world was experienced, remembered, and imagined by this unique culture from the outermost edge of Europe so many centuries ago.

Sunday, April 24, 2016




The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles,
and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East
Nonfiction book by Jay Solomon
Publication Date: September 6, 2016

Penguin Random House:
For readers of Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower and Steve Coll's Ghost Wars comes an unprecedented exploration of the decades-long hostilities between the United States and Iran, a power struggle that led to a historic nuclear deal. Through economic sanctions, global diplomacy, and intelligence work, successive U.S. administrations have struggled to contain what many view as the Middle East's most alarming foreign policy threat. Meanwhile, Iran has used the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and their own formidable intelligence networks and proxies to undermine America's foothold in the region. From Jay Solomon, chief foreign affairs correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, this is the deeply reported, riveting account of a war waged on many levels — military, financial, covert. Most don't even realize it is being fought, let alone its depth and far-reaching implications.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Caspian Sea

From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "A fire broke out on a Russian oil tanker on the Caspian Sea, killing one crew member."


BBC News:


Voice of America:
A university professor was murdered in northwestern Bangladesh Saturday, in an attack similar to other killings by suspected Islamist militants. 
Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked from behind as he waited for a bus near his home in the city of Rajshahi, apparently to go to the university campus.
More (April 25, 2016)

Voice of America:
A gay rights activist and his friend have been hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants in an apartment in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. 
At least five attackers came to Xulhaz Mannan's apartment posing as couriers and attacked him and his friend with sharp weapons. They also injured a security guard.  Witnesses say the men shouted "Allahu Akbar" ((God is great)) as they fled the scene. 
Mannan was a USAID official who had also worked as a protocol officer at the U.S. embassy in Dhaka. 


Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights
Nonfiction book by Paulo Lemos Horta
Available: December 12, 2016

Harvard University Press:
Although many of its stories originated centuries ago in the Middle East, the Arabian Nights is regarded as a classic of world literature by virtue of the seminal French and English translations produced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Supporting the suspicion that the story collection is more Parisian than Persian, some of its most famous tales, including the stories of Aladdin and Ali Baba, appear nowhere in the original sources. Yet as befits a world where magic lamps may conceal a jinni and fabulous treasures lie just beyond secret doors, the truth of the Nights is richer than standard criticism suggests. 
Marvellous Thieves recovers the cross-cultural encounters — the collaborations, borrowings, and acts of literary larceny — that produced the Arabian Nights in European languages. Ranging from the coffeehouses of Aleppo to the salons of Paris, from colonial Calcutta to Bohemian London, Paulo Lemos Horta introduces readers to the poets and scholars, pilgrims and charlatans who made crucial but largely unacknowledged contributions to this most famous of story collections. Each version of the Nights betrays the distinctive cultural milieu in which it was produced and the workshop atmosphere of its compilation. Time and again, Horta shows, stories were retold and elaborate commentaries added to remake the Nights in accordance with the personalities and ambitions of the storytellers and writers. 
Untangling the intricate web of invention and plagiarism that ensnares the Nights, Horta rehabilitates the voices hidden in its long history — voices that mirror the endless potential of Shahrazad's stories to proliferate.

Friday, April 22, 2016


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) :
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa Commercial Facility in Nogales, Arizona, seized $7.4 million in marijuana — approximately 14,800 pounds — from a Mexican national April 21 when he attempted to enter the United States. 
After an alert by a CBP narcotics-detection canine, officers found the drugs co-mingled within a shipment of watermelons in a tractor-trailer driven by a 51-year-old driver from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. 
Officers seized the tractor-trailer and shipment. The driver was arrested and referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. 
The incident represents the third largest such seizure of marijuana at an Arizona port of entry.


From the University of York, United Kingdom: "Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that Swiss cheesemaking dates back to prehistoric times, paving the way for such delicacies as Gruyère and Emmental."


On 12-13 April the Spanish Guardia Civil and Chinese Police, in close cooperation with Europol, successfully dismantled a Chinese organized crime group which was actively trafficking to Spain Chinese women for sexual exploitation. The action days carried out in Madrid, Soria, Lleida, Girona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Toledo were further supported by representatives from the police forces of France and Andorra. 
As a result of this joint operation, 22 locations were searched, 29 victims of trafficking safeguarded and 29 suspects arrested. Significant amounts of cash and valuable items were seized from the suspects, alongside mobile phones and money transfer documents.


Tibet in Agony: Lhasa 1959
Nonfiction book by Jianglin Li
Translated by Susan Wilf
Available: September 12, 2016

Harvard University Press:
The Chinese Communist government has twice invoked large-scale military might to crush popular uprisings in capital cities. The second incident — the notorious massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989 — is well known. The first, thirty years earlier in Tibet, remains little understood today. Yet in wages of destruction, bloodshed, and trampling of human rights, the tragic toll of March 1959 surpassed Tiananmen. 
Tibet in Agony provides the first clear historical account of the Chinese crackdown in Lhasa. Sifting facts from the distortions of propaganda and partisan politics, Jianglin Li reconstructs a chronology of events that lays to rest lingering questions about what happened in those fate-filled days and why. Her story begins with throngs of Tibetan demonstrators who — fearful that Chinese authorities were planning to abduct the Dalai Lama, their beloved leader — formed a protective ring around his palace. On the night of March 17, he fled in disguise, only to reemerge in India weeks later to set up a government in exile. But no peaceful resolution awaited Tibet. The Chinese army soon began shelling Lhasa, inflicting thousands of casualties and ravaging heritage sites in the bombardment and the infantry onslaught that followed. Unable to resist this show of force, the Tibetans capitulated, putting Mao Zedong in a position to fulfill his long-cherished dream of bringing Tibet under the Communist yoke. 
Li's extensive investigation, including eyewitness interviews and examination of classified government records, tells a gripping story of a crisis whose aftershocks continue to rattle the region today.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Deutsche Welle (DW):

Operation Balkan Trigger

Interpol: "An Interpol-led operation targeting illicit firearms in the Western Balkans has resulted in the arrest of 14 people and the seizure of explosives, weapons and ammunition."

Philippines Travel Warning

U.S. State Department: "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid all nonessential travel to the Sulu Archipelago and through the southern Sulu Sea, and to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the island of Mindanao, due to continued terrorist threats, insurgent activities and kidnappings."


World War I

Treacherous Passage: Germany's Secret Plot
Against the United States in Mexico During World War I
Nonfiction book by Bill Mills
Expected Availability: January 1, 2017

University of Nebraska Press:
While the Great War raged across the trench-lined battlefields of Europe, a hidden conflict took place in the distant hinterlands of the turbulent Mexican Republic. German officials and secret-service operatives plotted to bring war to the United States through an array of schemes and strategies, from training a German-Mexican army for a cross-border invasion to dispatching saboteurs to disrupt American industry and planning for submarine bases on the western coast of Mexico. 
Bill Mills tells the true story of the most audacious of these operations: the German plot to launch clandestine sea raiders from the Mexican port of Mazatlán to disrupt Allied merchant shipping in the Pacific. The scheme led to a desperate struggle between German and American secret agents in Mexico. German consul Fritz Unger, the director of a powerful trading house, plotted to obtain a salvaged Mexican gunboat to supply U-boats operating off Mexico and to seize a hapless tramp schooner to help hunt Allied merchantmen. 
Unger's efforts were opposed by a colorful array of individuals, including a trusted member of the German secret service in Mexico who was also the top American spy, the U.S. State Department's senior officer in Mazatlán, the hard-charging commander of a navy gunboat, and a draft-dodging American informant in the enemy camp.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California: "Federal officials have seized what is believed to be the longest cross-border tunnel ever discovered along the California-Mexico border, with an estimated length of more than eight football fields, plus officials confiscated more than a ton of cocaine, making it the single-largest cocaine seizure ever associated with a Southern California tunnel."

El Salvador

Deutsche Welle (DW): "The government of El Salvador has deployed a new, heavily armed unit to hunt crime bosses in the country's rural areas."


Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape,
and the Making of Winston Churchill
Nonfiction book by Candice Millard
Publication Date: September 20, 2016

Penguin Random House:
From New York Times bestselling author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt, a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill's extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War. 
At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him. 
Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape — but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him. 
The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned. 
Churchill would later remark that this period, "could I have seen my future, was to lay the foundations of my later life." Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters — including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi — with whom he would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from [the] Boer War would profoundly affect 20th-century history.
Related: Candice Millard

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Voice of America: "The Islamic State (IS) may have raised as much as $100 million by digging up and selling priceless antiquities from territory it controls, according to experts consulted by a U.S. congressional panel."




BBC News:
More than 250 people have been arrested in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, to curb xenophobic violence which has hit the city, police say. 
At least 62 Rwandan-owned shops have been looted in the riots which have spread to nine poor neighborhoods, police added.


BBC News:
Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Egypt's capital, Cairo, to protest after a tea vendor was allegedly shot dead by police. 
The unrest erupted after a policeman allegedly killed the man and wounded two others during an argument over the price of a cup of tea.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Shadow Warriors of World War II:
The Daring Women of the OSS and SOE
Nonfiction book by Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis
Publication Date: January 1, 2017

Chicago Review Press:
In a dramatically different tale of espionage and conspiracy in World War II, Shadow Warriors of World War II unveils the history of the courageous women who volunteered to work behind enemy lines. Sent into Nazi-occupied Europe by the United States' Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), these women helped establish a web of resistance groups across the continent. Their heroism, initiative, and resourcefulness contributed to the Allied breakout of the Normandy beachheads and even infiltrated Nazi Germany at the height of the war, into the very heart of Hitler's citadel — Berlin. Young and daring, the female agents accepted that they could be captured, tortured, or killed, but others were always readied to take their place. Women of enormous cunning and strength of will, the Shadow Warriors' stories have remained largely untold until now.


Voice of America: "A vehicle in a motorcade transporting Samantha Power, the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, struck and killed a young boy Monday while traveling through northern Cameroon."

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department:

United Kingdom

Historic England: "The remains of an extensive Roman villa have been discovered in the garden of a Wiltshire home."

Sunday, April 17, 2016


United States

Chin: The Life and Crimes of Mafia Boss Vincent Gigante
Nonfiction book by Larry McShane
Publication Date: May 31, 2016

Kensington Publishing Corp.:
"Full of astonishment . . . a kind of dark wonder." —Pete Hamill 
This is the story of Vincent Louis Gigante, the Genovese Family crime overlord who ruled a sprawling criminal empire for a quarter century with an iron — and deadly — fist. Vinnie "Chin" Gigante displayed signs of insanity that stunned the public, stymied the police and the FBI, and secured his power for decades. Was he really crazy? Or crazy like a fox? 
Vincent "Chin" Gigante 
He started out as a professional boxer — until he found his true calling as a ruthless contract killer. His doting mother's pet name for the boy evolved into his famous alias, "Chin," a nickname that struck fear throughout organized crime as he routinely ordered the murders of mobsters who violated the Mafia code — including a contract put out on Gambino family boss John Gotti. 
Vincent Gigante was hand-picked by Vito Genovese to run the Genovese Family when Vito was sent to prison. Chin raked in more than $100 million for the Genovese family, all while evading federal investigators. At the height of his power, he controlled an underworld empire of close to three hundred made men, extending from New York's Little Italy to the docks of Miami to the streets of Philadelphia — making the Genovese Family the most powerful in the U.S. 
And yet Vincent "Chin" Gigante was, to all outside appearances, certifiably crazy. 
A serial psychiatric hospital outpatient, he wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in a ratty bathrobe and slippers, sometimes adding a floppy cap to complete the ensemble. He urinated in public, played pinochle in storefronts, and hid a second family from his wife. On twenty-two occasions, he admitted himself to a mental hospital — evading criminal prosecution while insuring his continued reign as "The Oddfather." It took nearly thirty years of endless psychiatric evaluations by a parade of puzzled doctors for federal authorities to finally bring him down. 
This is an American Mafia story unlike any other — a strange and shocking account of one man's rise to power that's as every bit as colorful and bizarre as the man himself.