Friday, July 25, 2014

U.S. Commerce Dept.

Latest Country Commercial Guide for American companies:

Book

The China Mirage
Nonfiction book by James Bradley
Publication Date: November 11, 2014

Hachette Book Group:
From the bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise, a spellbinding history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao's ascent. 
In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind America's engagement in Asia. Now comes his most engrossing work yet. Beginning in the 1850s, Bradley introduces us to the prominent Americans who made their fortunes in the China opium trade. As they — good Christians all — profitably addicted millions, American missionaries arrived, promising salvation for those who adopted Western ways. 
And that was just the beginning.
From drug dealer Warren Delano to his grandson Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from the port of Hong Kong to the towers of Princeton University, from the era of Appomattox to the age of the A-Bomb, The China Mirage explores a difficult century that defines U.S.-Chinese relations to this day.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Feathers

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences: "The first ever example of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales has been discovered in Russia. Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers so this new find indicates that all dinosaurs could have been feathered."

Solar Superstorm

U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):
If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.  
Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn't mention it. The "impactor" was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.  
"If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado. 

Kazakhstan

RFE/RL: "A Kazakh court sentenced a local lawyer to three years in jail on July 24 for hitting a judge with a fly swatter."

Iraq

RFE/RL: "Russia is supplying Iraq's government with military helicopters and warplanes."

Maritime Piracy

International Maritime Bureau:
The Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) raises concerns over a worrying trend of small tanker hijacks in its 2014 half yearly report released Tuesday. 
Globally, 116 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been reported to the PRC in the first six months of 2014, down from the 138 incidents for the corresponding period for 2013. In 2014, 10 vessels were hijacked, seven fired upon, 78 boarded and 21 vessels reported attempted attacks against their vessels. Two hundred crew members were taken hostage, five kidnapped from their vessels and there were two fatalities according to the report. 
In Southeast Asia, at least six known cases of coastal tankers being hijacked for their cargoes of diesel or gas oil have been reported since April this year, sparking fears of a new trend in pirate attacks in the area. Until then, the majority of attacks in the region had been on vessels, mainly at anchor, boarded for petty theft. 
"The recent increase in the number of successful hijackings is a cause for concern," stated IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan. "These serious attacks have so far targeted small coastal tankers. We advise these vessels to maintain strict antipiracy measures in these waters, and to report all attacks and suspicious approaches by small craft." 
Indonesia accounts for 47 of the reported incidents with vessels boarded in 40 reports. The overwhelming number of these incidents are low-level thefts against vessels. At Pulau Bintan, 18 incidents were reported, prompting the Indonesian Marine Police to add this port to the list of 10 areas where patrols have increased this year. 
Off West Africa, 23 incidents have been reported, with Nigeria accounting for 10 of these reports. Four vessels were hijacked, including a product tanker taken off Ghana in early June and under the control of suspected Nigerian pirates for a week. Noting that Gulf of Guinea piracy was particularly violent, Mr. Mukundan gave an example where a crew member was killed and another injured during a shootout with armed pirates when they boarded a vessel off the coast of Nigeria at the end of April. A further three vessels came under fire from Nigerian pirates during this period. 
The number of Somali pirate attacks continues to remain low with 10 incidents reported, including three vessels fired upon. No vessels were boarded. However, Mr. Mukundan warned: "While we welcome the continued decline in the number of Somali incidents the risk of piracy has not completely diminished. Ship masters are reminded to remain vigilant and apply the Best Management Practices guidelines." 
Created by industry bodies with input from navies, the Best Management Practices assist masters in transiting the dangerous waters in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

Book

The Fortunes of Africa
Nonfiction book by Martin Meredith
Publication Date: October 14, 2014

Perseus Books Group:
Africa has been coveted for its riches ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew fortune-seekers, merchant-adventurers, and conquerors from afar. In modern times, the focus of attention is on oil, diamonds, and other valuable minerals.

Land was another prize. The Romans relied on their colonies in northern Africa for vital grain shipments to feed the population of Rome. Arab invaders followed in their wake, eventually colonizing the entire region. In modern times, foreign corporations have acquired huge tracts of land to secure food supplies needed abroad, just as the Romans did.

In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future.

His cast of characters includes religious leaders, mining magnates, warlords, dictators, and many other legendary figures, among them Mansa Musa, ruler of the medieval Mali empire, said to be the richest man the world has ever known. "I speak of Africa," Shakespeare wrote, "and of golden joys." This is history on an epic scale.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ukraine

U.S. Defense Department:

New Mexico

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico: "Bo Cai, 28, a Chinese national, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico this afternoon to violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by scheming illegally to export defense articles with military application to the People’s Republic of China."

Rosemary and Oregano

American Chemical Society: "The popular culinary herbs oregano and rosemary are packed with healthful compounds, and now lab tests show they could work in much the same way as prescription antidiabetic medication, scientists report."

Crimea

RFE/RL: "Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that allows gambling zones to be established in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March."

U.S. Commerce Dept.

Latest Country Commercial Guide for American companies:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

United Kingdom

Voice of America: "A racehorse owned by Britain's Queen Elizabeth has failed a drug test."

U.S. State Dept.

Travel Alert:

Book

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness
at the Dawn of Hollywood
Nonfiction book by William J. Mann
Publication Date: October 14, 2014

HarperCollins Publishers:
The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry. 
By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation's largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood's glittering ascendency was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies — including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now. 
In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him — including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly minted legends and starlets already past their prime — a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.
A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers — and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

Yemen

Voice of America:
Yemen's al-Qaida wing is declaring plans to establish an Islamic emirate in the remote eastern Hadramout province. 
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) announcement also orders men and women in the east to obey its strict interpretation of Islamic law. The terrorist group issued leaflets with the orders and its intent to create an Islamic state. 
The announcement comes weeks after the al-Qaida offshoot called the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) declared its own caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq. 
AQAP is one of the most active branches of the global militant network. Its militants have shifted operations to Hadramout after the army, backed by U.S. drones, helped drive the group out of southern strongholds earlier this year. 
In addition to AQAP, Yemen's government also is battling southern separatists and northern rebels amid political turmoil that surged after 2011.

Drug Traffickers

"A total of 36 people have been arrested and four others have been charged with belonging to an organized criminal group engaged in drug trafficking from the Spanish enclave of Melilla into Europe," Europol reports. "Among those arrested was the head of the criminal group, a Dutch national with Moroccan origin."

U.S. Commerce Dept.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

U.S. State Dept.

Travel Warning:

Book

Mademoiselle
Nonfiction book by Rhonda K. Garelick
Publication Date: September 30, 2014

Random House:
Certain lives are at once so exceptional, and yet so in step with their historical moments, that they illuminate cultural forces far beyond the scope of a single person. Such is the case with Coco Chanel, whose life offers one of the most fascinating tales of the twentieth century — throwing into dramatic relief an era of war, fashion, ardent nationalism, and earth-shaking change — here brilliantly treated, for the first time, with wide-ranging and incisive historical scrutiny.

Coco Chanel transformed forever the way women dressed. Her influence remains so pervasive that to this day we can see her afterimage a dozen times while just walking down a single street: in all the little black dresses, flat shoes, costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, and tortoiseshell eyeglasses on women of every age and background. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume is sold every three seconds. Arguably no other individual has had deeper impact on the visual aesthetic of the world. But how did a poor orphan become a global icon of both luxury and everyday style? How did she develop such vast, undying influence? And what does our ongoing love of all things Chanel tell us about ourselves? These are the mysteries that Rhonda K. Garelick unravels in Mademoiselle.

Raised in rural poverty and orphaned early, the young Chanel supported herself as best she could. Then, as an uneducated nineteen-year-old café singer, she attracted the attention of a wealthy and powerful admirer and parlayed his support into her own hat design business. For the rest of Chanel's life, the professional, personal, and political were interwoven; her lovers included diplomat Boy Capel; composer Igor Stravinsky; Romanov heir Grand Duke Dmitri; Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster; poet Pierre Reverdy; a Nazi officer; and several women as well. For all that, she was profoundly alone, her romantic life relentlessly plagued by abandonment and tragedy.

Chanel's ambitions and accomplishments were unparalleled. Her hat shop evolved into a clothing empire. She became a noted theatrical and film costume designer, collaborating with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Luchino Visconti. The genius of Coco Chanel, Garelick shows, lay in the way she absorbed the zeitgeist, reflecting it back to the world in her designs and in what Garelick calls "wearable personality" — the irresistible and contagious style infused with both world history and Chanel's nearly unbelievable life saga. By age forty, Chanel had become a multimillionaire and a household name, and her Chanel Corporation is still the highest-earning privately owned luxury goods manufacturer in the world.

Caribbean Sea

ICE: "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Coast Guard and other Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) partners, seized 3,500 pounds of marijuana July 8 and arrested five individuals for conspiracy to possess a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

U.S. State Dept.

Travel Warning:

Nearsightedness

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany): "Education and behavior have a greater impact on the development of nearsightedness than do genetic factors: With each school year completed, a person becomes more nearsighted. The higher the level of education completed, the more severe is the impairment of vision."

After the Fall

From Der Spiegel: "The shooting down of a jet carrying 298 people on Thursday could mark the turning point in the conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the West. With evidence suggesting pro-Russian separatists fired the missile, pressure is mounting on Vladimir Putin."

Sanctions

Matthias Schepp and Cornelia Schmergal at Der Spiegel: "The United States and Europe last week announced the imposition of stronger sanctions against Russia in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. German industry may be among the losers."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bret and Bart Maverick

James Garner, left, and Jack Kelly

I didn't know James Garner. But I knew and liked Jack Kelly. Jack occasionally stopped by my office to chat in the 1970s.

Philippines

Official Gazette of the Philippines (July 21, 2014):
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly reiterates its call to all Filipino nationals in Libya to return home as soon as possible. Alert Level 4 has been raised due to the latest security developments in Libya, the increasing violence and lawlessness, the closure of major airports, the heightened security threat to Filipinos, particularly in Benghazi, where a Filipino worker was kidnapped on July 15 and confirmed dead yesterday. 
These events indicate that it is no longer safe for our OFWs* to remain in Libya. For their own safety, the DFA urges them to immediately contact the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli to register for repatriation.
* Definition of OFW: Overseas Filipino Worker

Book

Death in the Congo
Nonfiction book by Emmanuel Gerard and Bruce Kuklick
Available January 12, 2015

Harvard University Press:
Death in the Congo is a gripping account of a murder that became one of the defining events in postcolonial African history. It is no less the story of the untimely death of a national dream, a hope-filled vision very different from what the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo became in the second half of the twentieth century. 
When Belgium relinquished colonial control in June 1960, a charismatic thirty-five-year-old African nationalist, Patrice Lumumba, became prime minister of the new republic. Yet stability immediately broke down. A mutinous Congolese Army spread havoc, while Katanga Province in southeast Congo seceded altogether. Belgium dispatched its military to protect its citizens, and the United Nations soon intervened with its own peacekeeping troops. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, both the Soviet Union and the United States maneuvered to turn the crisis to their Cold War advantage. A coup in September secretly aided by the UN toppled Lumumba's government. In January 1961, armed men drove Lumumba to a secluded corner of the Katanga bush, stood him up beside a hastily dug grave, and shot him. His rule as Africa's first democratically elected leader had lasted ten weeks. 
Fifty years later, the murky circumstances and tragic symbolism of Lumumba's assassination still trouble many people around the world. Emmanuel Gerard and Bruce Kuklick pursue events through a web of international politics, revealing a tangled history in which many people — black and white, well-meaning and ruthless, African, European, and American — bear responsibility for this crime.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Egypt

Gunmen killed 21 Egyptian border guards.

Spain

Cops nabbed one of Colombia's most wanted criminals.

Proxy Wars

The New Yorker: "Tragedies like the crash in Ukraine are often a consequence of arming violent men who feel that their sponsors allow them to commit crimes with impunity."

Book

The Struggle for Pakistan
Nonfiction book by Ayesha Jalal
Available August 18, 2014

Harvard University Press:
Established as a homeland for India's Muslims in 1947, Pakistan has had a tumultuous history that has unfolded in the vortex of dire regional and international conflicts. Beset by assassinations, coups, ethnic strife, and the breakaway of Bangladesh in 1971, the country has found itself too often contending with religious extremism and military authoritarianism. Now, in a probing biography of her native land amid the throes of global change, Ayesha Jalal provides an insider's assessment of how this nuclear-armed Muslim nation evolved as it did and explains why its dilemmas weigh so heavily on prospects for peace in the region. 
Attentive to Pakistan's external relations as well as its internal dynamics, Jalal shows how the vexed relationship with the United States, border disputes with Afghanistan in the west, and the conflict with India over Kashmir in the east have played into the hands of the generals who purchased security at the cost of strong democratic institutions. Combined with domestic ethnic and regional rivalries, such pressures have created a siege mentality that encourages military domination and militant extremism. 
Since 9/11, the country has been widely portrayed as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. Assessing the threats posed by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as American troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Jalal contends that the battle for Pakistan's soul is far from over. Her definitive biography reveals how pluralism and democracy continue to struggle for a place in this Muslim homeland, where they are so essential to its future.