Thursday, June 30, 2016

Russia

Deutsche Welle (DW):

Vietnam

Reuters: "One of the biggest environmental disasters to hit Vietnam was caused by a unit of a Taiwanese conglomerate leaking toxic waste into the sea, the Hanoi government said Thursday, ending months of mystery and rare public outrage."

United Kingdom


(Photo Credit: Nick Saffell)

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department:

Pea Plants

University of Oxford, United Kingdom: "An international team of scientists from Oxford University, UK, and Tel-Hai College, Israel, has shown that pea plants can demonstrate sensitivity to risk — namely, that they can make adaptive choices that take into account environmental variance, an ability previously unknown outside the animal kingdom."

Snakes

Flinders University, Australia:
The evolution of snakes is a slippery debate but new research is pointing to an aquatic rather than underground primordial origin. 
One of the enduring controversies in evolution is why snakes evolved their long, limbless body. 
Many scientists now think snakes evolved their serpentine form for burrowing. 
However, a new study of a primordial fossil snake reveals that it was probably aquatic — which means that snakes evolved their long bodies for eel-like swimming in their transition from the dinosaur age.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Frigate Birds

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): "Frigate birds can stay aloft for months by hitching rides on massive drafts of wind that allow them to preserve energy while flying hundreds of miles a day or more, a study in the 1 July issue of Science shows."

Indonesia

University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book

The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel
Nonfiction book by Uri Bar-Joseph
Publication Date: August 2, 2016

HarperCollins Publishers:
A gripping feat of reportage that exposes — for the first time in English — the sensational life and mysterious death of Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian senior official who spied for Israel, offering new insight into the turbulent modern history of the Middle East. 
As the son-in-law of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and a close advisor to his successor, Anwar Sadat, Ashraf Marwan had access to the deepest secrets of the country's government. But Marwan himself had a secret: He was a spy for the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service. Under the code name "The Angel," Marwan turned Egypt into an open book for the Israeli intelligence services — and, by alerting the Mossad in advance of the joint Egyptian-Syrian attack on Yom Kippur, saved Israel from a devastating defeat. 
Drawing on meticulous research and interviews with many key participants, Uri Bar-Joseph pieces together Marwan's story. In the process, he sheds new light on this volatile time in modern Egyptian and Middle Eastern history, culminating in 2011's Arab Spring. The Angel also chronicles the discord within the Israeli government that brought down Prime Minister Golda Meir. 
However, this nail-biting narrative doesn’t end with Israel's victory in the Yom Kippur War. Marwan eluded Egypt's ruthless secret services for many years, but then somebody talked. Five years later, in 2007, his body was found in the garden of his London apartment building. Police suspected he had been thrown from his fifth-floor balcony, and thanks to explosive new evidence, Bar-Joseph can finally reveal who, how, and why.
 Background: "Who Killed the 20th Century's Greatest Spy" (The Guardian, 15 Sep 2015)

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department:

Malaysia

Voice of America:
Eight people were injured when a grenade exploded at a Malaysian café early Tuesday, while patrons were up late watching Euro 2016 soccer games. 
Police have not yet established a motive for the incident, but they have ruled out terrorism, indicating instead that it may be the result of a personal or business feud.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book

The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths,
Lies and Blunders on Maps
Nonfiction book by Edward Brooke-Hitching
Publication Date: November 3, 2016

Simon & Schuster:
The Phantom Atlas is an atlas of the world not as it ever existed, but as it was thought to be. These marvelous and mysterious phantoms — nonexistent islands, invented mountain ranges, mythical civilizations and other fictitious geography — were all at various times presented as facts on maps and atlases. This book is a collection of striking antique maps that display the most erroneous cartography, with each illustration accompanied by the story behind it. 
Exploration, map-making and mythology are all brought together to create a colorful tapestry of monsters, heroes and volcanoes; swindlers, mirages and murderers. Sometimes the stories are almost impossible to believe, and remarkably, some of the errors were still on display in maps published in the 21st century. Throughout much of the 19th century more than 40 different mapmakers included the Mountains of Kong, a huge range of peaks stretching across the entire continent of Africa, in their maps — but it was only in 1889 when Louis Gustave Binger revealed the whole thing to be a fake. For centuries, explorers who headed to Patagonia returned with tales of the giants they had met who lived there, some nine feet tall. Then there was Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish explorer who returned to London to sell shares in a land he had discovered in South America. He had been appointed the Cazique of Poyais, and bestowed with many honors by the local king of this unspoiled paradise. Now he was offering others the chance to join him and make their fortune there, too — once they had paid him a bargain fee for their passage... 
The Phantom Atlas is a beautifully produced volume, packed with stunning maps and drawings of places and people that never existed. The remarkable stories behind them all are brilliantly told by Edward Brooke-Hitching in a book that will appeal to cartophiles everywhere. 

Borneo

University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia: "A new study of the 37,000-year-old remains of the "Deep Skull" — the oldest modern human discovered in island Southeast Asia — has revealed this ancient person was not related to Indigenous Australians, as had been originally thought."

Laos

Radio Free Asia (RFA): "Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has ordered officials in a heavily polluted southern province of the country to reject proposals for new mining projects in their area, citing severe damage already caused to the local environment, sources in the country said."

Miscellany

Smithsonian.com:

California

Stanford University: "California's drought-stricken Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, Stanford scientists have found. Accessing this water in an economically feasible way and safeguarding it from possible contamination from oil and gas activities, however, will be challenging."

Ohio

U.S. Justice Department: "The leader of a human trafficking organization and a co-defendant were sentenced to prison today for their roles in luring Guatemalan minors and adults to the United States under false pretenses and then using threats of physical harm to compel them to work on egg farms in Ohio."

Europe

Europol:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Book

France

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic,
and the First Police Chief of Paris
Nonfiction book by Holly Tucker
Publication Date: March 21, 2017

W.W. Norton & Company:
Appointed to conquer the "crime capital of the world," the first Paris police chief faces an epidemic of murder. 
In the late 1600s, Louis XIV assigns Nicolas de la Reynie to bring order to the city of Paris after the brutal deaths of two magistrates. Reynie, pragmatic yet fearless, tackles the dirty and terrifying streets only to discover a tightly knit network of witches, poisoners, and priests whose reach extends all the way to Versailles. As the chief investigates a growing number of deaths at court, he learns that no one is safe from their deadly love potions and "inheritance stews" — not even the Sun King himself. 
Based on court transcripts and Reynie's compulsive notetaking, Holly Tucker's riveting true-crime narrative makes the characters breathe on the page as she follows the police chief into the dark labyrinths of crime-ridden Paris, the glorious halls of royal palaces, secret courtrooms, and torture chambers in a tale of deception and murder that reads like fiction.

Italy

Deutsche Welle (DW):

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book

France

The Courtesan and the Gigolo: The Murders
in the Rue Montaigne and the Dark Side
of Empire in Nineteenth-Century Paris
Nonfiction book by Aaron Freundschuh
Publication Date: January 11, 2017

Stanford University Press:
The intrigue began with a triple homicide in a luxury apartment building just steps from the Champs-Elyseés, in March 1887. A high-class prostitute and two others, one of them a child, had been stabbed to death — the latest in a string of unsolved murders targeting women of the Parisian demimonde. Newspapers eagerly reported the lurid details, and when the police arrested Enrico Pranzini, a charismatic and handsome Egyptian migrant, the story became an international sensation. As the case descended into scandal and papers fanned the flames of anti-immigrant politics, the investigation became thoroughly enmeshed with the crisis-driven political climate of the French Third Republic and the rise of xenophobic right-wing movements. 
Aaron Freundschuh's account of the "Pranzini Affair" recreates not just the raucous courtroom trial and the grotesque aftermath of Pranzini's public guillotining, but also the jockeying for status among rival players — reporters, police detectives, doctors, and magistrates — who all stood to gain professional advantage and prestige. Freundschuh deftly weaves together the sensational details of the case with the social and political undercurrents of the time, arguing that the racially charged portrayal of Pranzini reflects a mounting anxiety about the colonial "Other" within France's own borders. Pranzini's case provides a window into a transformational decade for the history of immigration, nationalism, and empire in France.

Mediterranean Sea

Voice of America:
Italian officials say at least 7,000 migrants have been rescued from small boats in the Mediterranean Sea in just two days. 
Officials say about 2,000 migrants were rescued Friday after 5,000 were pulled from the sea the previous day.

Brazil

BBC News: "A rare blue parrot which was believed to be extinct in the wild has been spotted in Brazil for the first time in 15 years."

Book

Wisconsin

Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir
Nonfiction book by Thomas Pecore Weso
Publication Date: September 23, 2016

Wisconsin Historical Society Press:
For Menominee Indians, the "good seeds" of life are the manoomin, or wild rice, that also gives the tribe its name. This new food memoir by tribal member Thomas Pecore Weso takes readers on a cook's journey through the North Woods tribal lands. Weso connects Menominee food — beaver, trout, blackberry, wild rice, maple sugar, partridge — to the colorful individuals who taught him indigenous values, including his medicine man grandfather, Moon, and his grandmother Jennie. 
Cooks will learn "how to cook a beaver" and more from his authentic recipes — such as rose hip tea, wild rice casserole, and maple candy. Amateur and professional historians will appreciate his often humorous personal stories about reservation life during the mid-twentieth century, when many elders, fluent in the Algonquian language, practiced the old ways. With his rare perspective as a Native American anthropologist and artist, he mixes a poignant personal story with the seeds of Menominee cooking traditions to write a memoir that showcases foods many cooks don't have in their repertoires and details reservation culture and cooking with humor and heart.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Project Red II

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
Forty-five foreign fugitives — all subjects of active Interpol notices for individuals wanted in connection with criminal activity — were arrested across the United States this week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the U.S. Marshals Service. Arrests occurred nationwide during the three-day enforcement operation June 21 to 23. 
"Project Red II" targeted individuals with Interpol red notices and others wanted for serious crimes within Interpol member countries. A red notice serves as an international wanted notice and provides information on the identification of fugitives charged with or convicted of serious crimes who have fled prosecution or the serving of their sentence. 
The 45 individuals arrested during Project Red II were wanted for crimes in 22 different countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Sixteen were wanted on various fraud charges, seven were wanted for homicide and four for illegal gang activity. Other alleged crimes included drug trafficking, rape, embezzlement, extortion and kidnapping.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book

United States

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions
of a Nuclear War Planner
Nonfiction book by Daniel Ellsberg
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Bloomsbury Publishing:
At the same time former presidential advisor Daniel Ellsberg famously took the top-secret Pentagon Papers, he also took with him a chilling cache of top-secret documents related to America's nuclear program in the 1960s. Here for the first time he reveals the contents of those documents, and makes clear their shocking relevance for today. 
The Doomsday Machine is Ellsberg's hair-raising insider's account of the most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization, whose legacy — and renewal under the Obama administration — threatens the very survival of humanity. It is scarcely possible to estimate the true dangers of our present nuclear policies without penetrating the secret realities of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, when Ellsberg had high-level access to them. No other insider has written so candidly of that long-classified history, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era. Ellsberg's analysis of recent research on nuclear winter shows that even a "small" nuclear exchange would cause billions of deaths by global nuclear famine. 
Ellsberg, in the end, offers steps we can take under a new administration to avoid nuclear catastrophe. Framed as a memoir, this gripping exposé reads like a thriller with cloak-and-dagger intrigue, placing Ellsberg back in his natural role as whistle-blower. It is a real-life Dr. Strangelove story, but an ultimately hopeful — and powerfully important — book.

Pennsylvania

U.S. Justice Department: "The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc., has settled Clean Water Act violations involving its two large-scale breweries near Pottsville, Pennsylvania."

Book

United States

The Cold World They Made: The Strategic Legacy
of Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter
Nonfiction book by Ron Robin
Available: August 15, 2016

Harvard University Press:
In the heady days of the Cold War, when the Bomb loomed large in the ruminations of Washington's wise men, policy intellectuals flocked to the home of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter to discuss deterrence and doomsday. The Cold World They Made takes a fresh look at the original power couple of strategic studies. Seeking to unravel the complex tapestry of the Wohlstetters' world and worldview, Ron Robin reveals fascinating insights into an unlikely husband-and-wife pair who, at the height of the most dangerous military standoff in history, gained access to the deepest corridors of American power. 
The author of such classic Cold War treatises as "The Delicate Balance of Terror," Albert Wohlstetter is remembered for advocating an aggressive brinksmanship that stood in stark contrast with what he saw as weak and indecisive policies of Soviet containment. Yet Albert's ideas built crucially on insights gleaned from his wife. Robin makes a strong case for the Wohlstetters as a team of intellectual equals, showing how Roberta's scholarship was foundational to what became known as the Wohlstetter Doctrine. Together at RAND Corporation, Albert and Roberta crafted a mesmerizing vision of the Soviet threat, theorizing ways for the United States to emerge victorious in a thermonuclear exchange. 
Far from dwindling into irrelevance after the Cold War, the torch of the Wohlstetters' intellectual legacy was kept alive by well-placed disciples in George W. Bush's administration. Through their ideological heirs, the Wohlstetters' signature combination of brilliance and hubris continues to shape American policies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Travel Warning

U.S. State Department: "Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to the ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED)."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

United States

RAND Corporation:

The Carolinas

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): "The crimes and violence associated with Mexican drug trafficking organizations can reach almost anywhere in the United States, as evidenced by a 2014 kidnapping in rural South Carolina that resulted in the convictions of three cartel-connected men — one of whom was recently sentenced to more than five decades in prison."

UAS in the USA

U.S. Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA): "Today the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or "drones"), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation's airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives."

Book

I Am Durán: My Autobiography
Nonfiction book by Roberto Durán
Publication Date: September 20, 2016

Penguin Random House:
They called him "Manos de Piedra" — Hands of Stone — and he was one of the greatest boxers of all time. Now Roberto Durán tells his unbelievable story: from the streets of Panama to being crowned one of the "Four Kings," along with Hearns, Leonard, and Hagler, as he blazed a trail through the Golden Age of Boxing. 
Born into abject poverty, barely able to read or write, Durán quickly realized that his fists could both protect him on the streets and put food on the table. His reputation was established on the day when, for a bet, he knocked down a horse with a single punch. At the age of twenty-one, he claimed his first world title, against Ken Buchanan at Madison Square Garden. The legend of Manos de Piedra was born, but his most glorious moment was yet to come. 
In 1980, Durán delivered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history by defeating the previously unbeatable Sugar Ray Leonard. But greater fame brought greater distractions, and Durán's endless partying took its toll before the two superstars faced each other again. Here, for the first time ever, Durán confronts the debacle of the rematch that entered sporting folklore, and the truth behind the moment he was heard to utter the infamous words "No más" — No more. 
Durán's explosive performances in the ring were matched only by the volatility of his life outside it. He lurched from living like royalty to bankruptcy and, after being written off as a boxing also-ran, made a bloody, legendary comeback that gave his career the ultimate ending, and finally brought redemption. He came from nothing, and changed the world. I Am Durán is the autobiography of one of boxing's most iconic legends.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Wasp

University of California, Riverside:
A species of wasp that is a natural enemy of a wood-boring beetle that kills black locust trees has been rediscovered, more than 100 years after the last wasp of this species was found. 
The discovery is significant because the wood-boring beetle, known as the locust borer, is considered a serious pest that has discouraged planting of black locusts, which played an important role in American history. The trees, whose wood is strong, hard and extremely durable, helped build the Jamestown settlement and were featured prominently at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Giant Manta Rays

University of California, San Diego: "Oceanic manta rays — often thought to take epic migrations — might actually be homebodies, according to a new study."

Related: IUCN Red List

Sunday, June 19, 2016

New Mexico

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish: "Department of Game and Fish officers are searching for an adult female black bear that attacked a woman Saturday afternoon while she was participating in a marathon event on the Valles Calderas National Preserve near Los Alamos."

Update: Conservation officers killed the bear.

Book

The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War
in the Pacific, 1944-1945
Nonfiction book by James D. Hornfischer
Publication Date: October 25, 2016

Penguin Random House:
The extraordinary story of the World War II air, land, and sea campaign that brought the U.S. Navy to the apex of its strength and marked the rise of the United States as a global superpower.
One of America's preeminent military historians, James D. Hornfischer has written his most expansive and ambitious book to date. Drawing on new primary sources and personal accounts of Americans and Japanese alike, here is a thrilling narrative of the climactic end stage of the Pacific War, focusing on the U.S. invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944 and the momentous events that it triggered.  
With its thunderous assault into Japan's inner defensive perimeter, America crossed the threshold of total war. From the seaborne invasion of Saipan to the stunning aerial battles of the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, to the largest banzai attack of the war and the strategic bombing effort that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marianas became the fulcrum of the drive to compel Tokyo to surrender — with consequences that forever changed modern war. 
These unprecedented operations saw the first large-scale use of Navy underwater demolition teams; a revolution in the fleet's ability to sustain cross-hemispheric expeditionary warfare; the struggle of American troops facing not only a suicidal enemy garrison but desperate Japanese civilians; and the rise of the U.S. Navy as the greatest of grand fleets. From the Marianas, B-29 Superfortresses would finally unleash nuclear fire on an enemy resolved to fight to the end. 
Hornfischer casts this clash of nations and cultures with cinematic scope and penetrating insight, focusing closely on the people who rose to the challenge under fire: Raymond Spruance, the brilliant, coolly calculating commander of the Fifth Fleet; Kelly Turner, whose amphibious forces delivered Marine General Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith's troops to the beaches of Saipan and Tinian; Draper Kauffman, founder of the Navy unit that predated today's SEALs; Paul Tibbets, the creator of history's first atomic striking force, who flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima; and Japanese warriors and civilians who saw the specter of defeat as the ultimate test of the spirit. 
From the seas of the Central Pacific to the shores of Japan itself, The Fleet at Flood Tide is a stirring and deeply humane account of World War II's world-changing finale.