Friday, April 28, 2017


Associated Press (AP):


United States

Return of the Grizzly: Sharing the Range
With Yellowstone's Top Predator
Nonfiction book by Cat Urbigkit
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Skyhorse Publishing:
The Yellowstone grizzly population has grown from an estimated 136 bears when first granted federal protection as a threatened species to as many as 1,000 grizzlies in a tri-state region today. No longer limited to remote wilderness areas, grizzlies now roam throughout the region — in state parks, school playgrounds, residential subdivisions, on farms and ranches, and in towns and cities throughout the region. Return of the Grizzly tells the story of the successful effort to recover this large carnivore, the policy changes and disputes between bear managers and bear advocates, and for the first time, provides insight to what recovery means for the people who now live with grizzlies across a broad landscape. From cowboys on horseback chased by a charging grizzly, and grizzlies claiming game animals downed by human hunters, to the numerous self-defense killing of grizzlies that occur each year, the manuscript examines increases in conflicts and human fatalities caused by grizzlies in this ecosystem inhabited by humans who live there year-round. Human–bear interactions, grizzly attacks and deaths, avoiding attacks, effects on agriculture, wildlife protesters, the consequences of bear habituation, and more are all covered.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Max Planck Society, Germany:
While there are numerous prehistoric sites in Europe and Asia that contain tools and other human-made artifacts, skeletal remains of ancient humans are scarce. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have therefore looked into new ways to get hold of ancient human DNA. From sediment samples collected at seven archaeological sites, the researchers “fished out” tiny DNA fragments that had once belonged to a variety of mammals, including our extinct human relatives. They retrieved DNA from Neanderthals in cave sediments of four archaeological sites, also in layers where no hominin skeletal remains have been discovered. In addition, they found Denisovan DNA in sediments from Denisova Cave in Russia. These new developments now enable researchers to uncover the genetic affiliations of the former inhabitants of many archaeological sites which do not yield human remains.

Black Sea

Deutsche Welle (DW): "A Russian warship has sunk in the Black Sea near the Bosphorus Strait after colliding with a freighter carrying livestock."


In Search of the Phoenicians
Nonfiction book by Josephine Quinn
Shipping Date: December 7, 2017

Princeton University Press:
Who were the ancient Phoenicians, and did they actually exist? 
The Phoenicians traveled the Mediterranean long before the Greeks and Romans, trading, establishing settlements, and refining the art of navigation. But who these legendary sailors really were has long remained a mystery. In Search of the Phoenicians makes the startling claim that the "Phoenicians" never actually existed. Taking readers from the ancient world to today, this monumental book argues that the notion of these sailors as a coherent people with a shared identity, history, and culture is a product of modern nationalist ideologies — and a notion very much at odds with the ancient sources. 
Josephine Quinn shows how the belief in this historical mirage has blinded us to the compelling identities and communities these people really constructed for themselves in the ancient Mediterranean, based not on ethnicity or nationhood but on cities, family, colonial ties, and religious practices. She traces how the idea of "being Phoenician" first emerged in support of the imperial ambitions of Carthage and then Rome, and only crystallized as a component of modern national identities in contexts as far-flung as Ireland and Lebanon. 
In Search of the Phoenicians delves into the ancient literary, epigraphic, numismatic, and artistic evidence for the construction of identities by and for the Phoenicians, ranging from the Levant to the Atlantic, and from the Bronze Age to late antiquity and beyond. A momentous scholarly achievement, this book also explores the prose, poetry, plays, painting, and polemic that have enshrined these fabled seafarers in nationalist histories from sixteenth-century England to twenty-first century Tunisia.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


BBC News: "A French mother has been brought back to life by police officers, who performed CPR an hour after paramedics declared her dead."


Voice of America (VOA): "This month saw hundreds of Ugandan shop owners march in Kampala against Chinese traders."


U.S. Justice Department: "Mohamed Farah, 31, of Somalia, was sentenced to life plus 10 years in prison for engaging in piracy and committing other offenses pertaining to the attack on the USS Ashland, a U.S. Navy ship, in April 2010."


A Taste for the Beautiful: The Evolution
of Attraction
Nonfiction book by Michael J. Ryan
Shipping Date: February 15, 2018

Princeton University Press:
From one of the world's leading authorities on animal behavior, the astonishing story of how the female brain drives the evolution of beauty in animals and humans. 
Darwin developed the theory of sexual selection to explain why the animal world abounds in stunning beauty, from the brilliant colors of butterflies and fishes to the songs of birds and frogs. He argued that animals have "a taste for the beautiful" that drives their potential mates to evolve features that make them more sexually attractive and reproductively successful. But if Darwin explained why sexual beauty evolved in animals, he struggled to understand how. In A Taste for the Beautiful, Michael Ryan, one of the world's leading authorities on animal behavior, tells the remarkable story of how he and other scientists have taken up where Darwin left off and transformed our understanding of sexual selection, shedding new light on human behavior in the process. 
Drawing on cutting-edge work in neuroscience and evolutionary biology, as well as his own important studies of the tiny Túngara frog deep in the jungles of Panama, Ryan explores the key questions: Why do animals perceive certain traits as beautiful and others not? Do animals have an inherent sexual aesthetic and, if so, where is it rooted? Ryan argues that the answers to these questions lie in the brain — particularly of females, who act as biological puppeteers, spurring the development of beautiful traits in males. This theory of how sexual beauty evolves explains its astonishing diversity and provides new insights about how much our own perception of beauty resembles that of other animals. 
Vividly written and filled with fascinating stories, A Taste for the Beautiful will change how you think about beauty and attraction.


University of Toronto, Canada: "Paleontologists at the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have uncovered a new fossil species that sheds light on the origin of mandibulates, the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth, to which belong familiar animals such as flies, ants, crayfish and centipedes."

Headless Dinosaur

University of Alberta, Canada: "After being headless for almost a century, a dinosaur skeleton that had become a tourist attraction in Dinosaur Provincial Park was finally reconnected to its head."


Order at the Bazaar: Power and Trade in Central Asia
Nonfiction book by Regine A. Spector
Estimated Publication Date: August 15, 2017

Cornell University Press:
Order at the Bazaar delves into the role of bazaars in the political economy and development of Central Asia. Bazaars are the economic bedrock for many throughout the region — they are the entrepreneurial hubs of Central Asia. However, they are often regarded as mafia-governed environments that are largely populated by the dispossessed. By immersing herself in the bazaars of Kyrgyzstan, Regine A. Spector learned that some are rather best characterized as islands of order in a chaotic national context. 
Spector draws on interviews, archival sources, and participant observation to show how traders, landowners, and municipal officials create order in the absence of a coherent government apparatus and bureaucratic state. Merchants have adapted Soviet institutions, including trade unions, and pre-Soviet practices, such as using village elders as the arbiters of disputes, to the urban bazaar by building and asserting their own authority. Spector's findings have relevance beyond the bazaars and borders of one small country; they teach us how economic development operates when the rule of law is weak.


Deutsche Welle  (DW): "Brazilian military police in front of Congress fired tear gas and rubber bullets at indigenous protesters, who responded with arrows and spears to end what started as a peaceful protest by indigenous peoples on Tuesday."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


BBC News:


Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: The Boom in British Thrillers
From Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed
Nonfiction book by Mike Ripley
Foreword by Lee Child
Available: United Kingdom, May 18, 2017;
United States, September 19, 2017

HarperCollins Publishers:
An entertaining history of British thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed, in which award-winning crime writer Mike Ripley reveals that, though Britain may have lost an empire, her thrillers helped save the world. With a foreword by Lee Child. 
When Ian Fleming dismissed his books in a 1956 letter to Raymond Chandler as "straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety" he was being typically immodest. In three short years, his James Bond novels were already spearheading a boom in thriller fiction that would dominate the bestseller lists, not just in Britain, but internationally. 
The decade following World War II had seen Britain lose an empire, demoted in terms of global power and status and economically crippled by debt; yet its fictional spies, secret agents, soldiers, sailors and even (occasionally) journalists were now saving the world on a regular basis. 
From Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean in the 1950s through Desmond Bagley, Dick Francis, Len Deighton and John Le Carré in the 1960s, to Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins in the 1970s. 
Many have been labeled "boys' books" written by men who probably never grew up but, as award-winning writer and critic Mike Ripley recounts, the thrillers of this period provided the reader with thrills, adventure and escapism, usually in exotic settings, or as today's leading thriller writer Lee Child puts it in his foreword: "the thrill of immersion in a fast and gaudy world."
In Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Ripley examines the rise of the thriller from the austere 1950s through the boom time of the Swinging Sixties and early 1970s, examining some 150 British authors (plus a few notable South Africans). Drawing upon conversations with many of the authors mentioned in the book, he shows how British writers, working very much in the shadow of World War II, came to dominate the field of adventure thrillers and the two types of spy story — spy fantasy (as epitomized by Ian Fleming's James Bond) and the more realistic spy fiction created by Deighton, Le Carré and Ted Allbeury, plus the many variations (and imitators) in between.

Monday, April 24, 2017

South America

BBC News: "Brazilian police near the border with Paraguay have exchanged gunfire with members of a gang who carried out what Paraguayan officials are calling the robbery of the century."

Plastic Pollution

University of Cambridge, United Kingdom:

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Midwestern United States

Horror in the Heartland:
Strange and Gothic Tales From the Midwest
Nonfiction book by Keven McQueen
Publication Date: August 7, 2017

Indiana University Press:
Brace yourself for a journey into a creepy, dark side of the American Midwest you thought you knew — a side teeming with real-life surrealism and historical horror-comedy. From tales of the booming grave-robbing industry of late 19th-century Indiana to the story of a Michigan physician who left his estate to his pet monkeys, Keven McQueen investigates a spooky and twisted side of Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Exploring burial customs, unexplained deaths, ghost stories, premature burials, the industry of grave robbing, bizarre murders, peculiar wills and much more, this creepy collection reveals the colorful untold stories of the region and offers intriguing, if sometimes macabre, insights into human nature and our history. 
A fun and frightful look at a vein of darkness running through the Midwest, Horror in the Heartland promises to send chills down your spine.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Artist's impression of Homo floresiensis

News release from Australian National University, Australia:
The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed. 
The study by the Australian National University (ANU) found Homo floresiensis, dubbed "the hobbits" due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis — one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago. 
Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java. 
Study leader Dr. Debbie Argue of the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered. 
"The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Dr. Argue said. 
"It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere." 
Homo floresiensis is known to have lived on Flores until as recently as 54,000 years ago. 
The study was the result of an Australian Research Council grant in 2010 that enabled the researchers to explore where the newly found species fits in the human evolutionary tree. 
Where previous research had focused mostly on the skull and lower jaw, this study used 133 data points ranging across the skull, jaws, teeth, arms, legs and shoulders. 
Dr. Argue said none of the data supported the theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from Homo erectus
"We looked at whether Homo floresiensis could be descended from Homo erectus," she said. 
"We found that if you try and link them on the family tree, you get a very unsupported result. All the tests say it doesn't fit — it's just not a viable theory." 
Dr. Argue said this was supported by the fact that in many features, such as the structure of the jaw, Homo floresiensis was more primitive than Homo erectus
"Logically, it would be hard to understand how you could have that regression — why would the jaw of Homo erectus evolve back to the primitive condition we see in Homo floresiensis?" 
Dr. Argue said the analyses could also support the theory that Homo floresiensis could have branched off earlier in the timeline, more than 1.75 million years ago. 
"If this was the case Homo floresiensis would have evolved before the earliest Homo habilis, which would make it very archaic indeed," she said. 
Professor Mike Lee of Flinders University and the South Australian Museum, used statistical modeling to analyze the data. 
"When we did the analysis there was really clear support for the relationship with Homo habilis. Homo floresiensis occupied a very primitive position on the human evolutionary tree," Professor Lee said. 
"We can be 99 per cent sure it's not related to Homo erectus and nearly 100 per cent chance it isn't a malformed Homo sapiens," Professor Lee said.
(Image Credit: © Katrina Kenny, SA Museum)


Arabia Felix: The Danish Expedition
of 1761-1767
Nonfiction book by Thorkild Hansen
Introduction by Colin Thubron
Translated by James McFarlane
and Kathleen McFarlane
Available: June 13, 2017

Penguin Random House:
A riveting account of a landmark expedition that left only one survivor, now back in print for the first time in decades. 
Arabia Felix is the spellbinding true story of a scientific expedition gone disastrously astray. On a winter morning in 1761 six men leave Copenhagen by sea — a botanist, a philologist, an astronomer, a doctor, an artist, and their manservant — an ill-assorted band of men who dislike and distrust one another from the start. These are the members of the first Danish expedition to Arabia Felix, as Yemen was then known, the first organized foray into a corner of the world unknown to Europeans, an enterprise that had the support of the Danish Crown and was keenly followed throughout Europe. The expedition made its way to Turkey and Egypt, by which time its members were already actively seeking to undercut and even kill one another, before disappearing into the harsh desert that was their destination. Nearly seven years later a single survivor returned to Denmark to find himself a forgotten man and all the specimens that had been sent back ruined by neglect. 
Based on diaries, notebooks, and sketches that lay unread in Danish archives until the twentieth century, Arabia Felix is both a comedy of intellectual rivalry and very bad manners and an utterly absorbing tale of high adventure.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


From BBC News: "DNA tests on the carcass of a crocodile shot in Zimbabwe have confirmed that it contains the remains of a missing South African hunter, an investigator has told the BBC."


Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance
Upends Global Politics and Strengthens
America's Power
Nonfiction book by Meghan L. O'Sullivan
Publication Date: September 12, 2017

Simon & Schuster:
Windfall is the boldest profile of the world's energy resources since Daniel Yergin's The Quest. Harvard professor and former Washington policymaker Meghan L. O'Sullivan reveals how fears of energy scarcity have given way to the reality of energy abundance. This abundance is transforming the geopolitical order and boosting American power. 
As a new administration focuses on raising American energy production, O’Sullivan's Windfall describes how new energy realities have profoundly affected the world of international relations and security. New technologies led to oversupplied oil markets and an emerging natural gas glut. This did more than drive down prices. It changed the structure of markets and altered the way many countries wield power and influence. 
America's new energy prowess has global implications. It transforms politics in Russia, Europe, China, and the Middle East. O'Sullivan explains the consequences for each region's domestic stability as energy abundance upends traditional partnerships, creates opportunities for cooperation. 
The advantages of this new abundance are greater than its downside for the U.S.: it strengthens American hard and soft power. This powerful book describes how new energy realities creates a strategic environment to America's advantage.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Komodo Dragons

Voice of America: "Komodo dragons, fearsome giant lizards found in Indonesia, may be a source of a potent antibiotic. If so, researchers say the agent could be an answer to the growing, global health problem of antibiotic resistance."

Joseph Kony

BBC News: "Ugandan troops have pulled out of the hunt for rebel leader Joseph Kony in the Central African Republic (CAR), the army has said."


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "The Kalash, who claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great's invading soldiers, have lived in isolation in Pakistan for centuries. Now the tiny pagan tribe is getting long-due recognition as a distinct religious and ethnic group."

Tsavo Man-Eaters

Lieutenant Colonel John Patterson in 1898
with one of the Tsavo man-eaters he shot.

Field Museum:
In 1898, Lieutenant Colonel John Patterson shot two man-eating lions that killed dozens of workers building a railroad in Tsavo, Kenya. He wrote, "I have a very vivid recollection of one particular night when the brutes seized a man from the railway station and brought him close to my camp to devour. I could plainly hear them crunching the bones, and the sound of their dreadful purring filled the air and rang in my ears for days afterwards." But new research into those lions' teeth suggests that he might have been a little flowery with his words: the man-eaters' teeth don't show the wear and tear you'd expect if they'd been chowing down on bones. 
"It's hard to fathom the motivations of animals that lived over a hundred years ago, but scientific specimens allow us to do just that," says Bruce Patterson, a co-author of the study in Scientific Reports and MacArthur Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum. (And no, no relation to the Colonel Patterson who shot the lions. The lions themselves have a claim to fame, though — their story was popularized in three Hollywood movies, including the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness.) "Since the Field Museum preserves these lions' remains, we can study them using techniques that would have been unimaginable a hundred years ago." 
In this study, lead author Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University and Patterson investigated a hypothesis suggesting that the Tsavo man-eaters turned to human prey because they couldn't find other food to eat. The region was in the midst of a two-year drought at the end of a viral epidemic that ravaged local wildlife. Some scientists have speculated that prey shortages may have driven the lions to man-eating. The lions' teeth could be the key to determining whether this hypothesis was true. If the teeth showed lots of wear and tear from crunching bones, that would be a sign that pickings were slim enough that the lions had to eat entire carcasses instead of just the fresh meat. 
DeSantis used dental tools to create molds of the lions' teeth, made casts of them, then examined the microscopic wear (termed dental microwear) on the teeth in 3D, much like a topographic map, and used fractal geometric methods to characterize them. But instead of seeing heavily worn tooth surfaces expected from a bone-heavy diet, the researchers saw the opposite. 
"The microscopic wear of the lions' teeth were less complex and 'chewed up' than you'd see in an animal that eats lots of bone, like a hyena. Instead, their dental microwear is similar to what you'd see in a zoo lion," says DeSantis. Less complex dental microwear contradict the notion that the lions were so hard up for food that they had to eat humans, including their bones. So why then did these lions eat people? 
While the dental microwear didn't show bone-crunching wear and tear, the teeth were far from pristine. The Tsavo man-eater who did the most man-eating, as established through chemical analysis of the lions' bones and fur in a previous study, had severe dental disease. It had a root-tip abscess in one of its canines — a painful infection at the root of the tooth that would have made normal hunting impossible. "Lions normally use their jaws to grab prey like zebras and wildebeests and suffocate them," explains Patterson. "This lion would have been challenged to subdue and kill large, struggling prey, and humans are so much easier to catch." 
It's still not clear why the lions weren't consuming the bones of their human prey. It could be that dental disease rendered them physically unable to do so, or perhaps it's because the human victims' remains were reclaimed at dawn by their fellow workers before the lions could further scavenge the carcasses. Either way, it's likely that dental disease played a major role in this unusual spate of man-eating. 
"It's remarkably rare for lions to attack people, but it's catastrophic when it happens," says Patterson. "When a big, dangerous predator becomes incapacitated, there's a real danger for this kind of behavior — no animal will let itself starve to death if there's another option." 
This paper marks the latest development in a century-long quest to figure out what led the Tsavo lions to kill humans. "There's an endless fascination with these lions. The Tsavo man-eaters were the only lions ever mentioned by the British parliament, when the British were inconvenienced by construction delays. The lions stopped the British Empire in its tracks at the height of its power," says Patterson. "We humans like to think we're at the top of the food chain, but the moment we step off our paved streets, these other animals are really on top."
(Photo Credit: Field Museum)


United States

Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys
Partied and Plotted to Control Miami
Nonfiction book by Roben Farzad
Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Penguin Random House: "The wild, true story of the Mutiny, the hotel and club that embodied the decadence of Miami's cocaine cowboys heyday — and an inspiration for the blockbuster film Scarface. . ."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tropical Diseases

World Health Organization (WHO): "WHO reports remarkable achievements in tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) since 2007."


University of Adelaide, Australia: "Studies of bones from Ice Age megafaunal animals across Eurasia and the Americas have revealed that major increases in environmental moisture occurred just before many species suddenly became extinct around 11-15,000 years ago. The persistent moisture resulting from melting permafrost and glaciers caused widespread glacial-age grasslands to be rapidly replaced by peatlands and bogs, fragmenting populations of large herbivore grazers."

Frog Slime

Emory University:


Deutsche Welle (DW): "The Thai capital's world-famous street-food scene may soon be a thing of the past."

Sea Scorpions

A sea scorpion attacks an early vertebrate.

University of Alberta, Canada:
(Image Credit: Nathan Rogers)

Homing Pigeons

University of Oxford, United Kingdom: "Homing pigeons may share the human capacity to build on the knowledge of others, improving their navigational efficiency over time, a new Oxford University study has found."


Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris
Nonfiction book by Anne Nelson
Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Simon & Schuster:
A story of courage in the face of evil. The tense drama of Suzanne Spaak who risked and gave her life to save hundreds of Jewish children from deportation from Nazi Paris to Auschwitz. This is one of the untold stories of the Holocaust. 
Suzanne Spaak was born into the Belgian Catholic elite and married into the country's leading political family. Her brother-in-law was the Foreign Minister and her husband Claude was a playwright and patron of the painter Renée Magritte. In Paris in the late 1930s her friendship with a Polish Jewish refugee led her to her life's purpose. When France fell and the Nazis occupied Paris, she joined the Resistance. She used her fortune and social status to enlist allies among wealthy Parisians and church groups. 
Under the eyes of the Gestapo, Suzanne and women from the Jewish and Christian resistance groups "kidnapped" hundreds of Jewish children to save them from the gas chambers. 
In the final year of the Occupation Suzanne was caught in the Gestapo dragnet that was pursuing a Soviet agent she had aided. She was executed shortly before the liberation of Paris. Suzanne Spaak is honored in Israel as one of the Righteous Among Nations.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Giant Shipworm

University of Utah: "Our world seems to grow smaller by the day as biodiversity rapidly dwindles, but Mother Earth still has a surprise or two up her sleeve."


Press release from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office:
Incident Date and Time:  Monday, April 17, 2017, at about 3 a.m.
Location: Area of 800 Native Sons Road, town of Pescadero 
Type of Crime/Incident: Pet Taken by Mountain Lion

On Monday April 17, 2017, Sheriff's Office deputies responded to the area of 800 Native Sons Road, in the Town of Pescadero, on a report that a Mountain Lion had just entered a home and taken a small dog.  
An adult witness told deputies she and a child were sleeping in a bedroom with their 15-pound Portuguese Podengo (breed), at the foot of their bed. 
This bedroom has French doors that were partially left open to let their dog out.  At about 3 a.m. the dog began barking aggressively which woke up the adult witness. 
The witness states when she looked up at the French doors she saw a shadow of an animal enter the room, take the small dog from the bed and then walked out. 
The witness used a flashlight to look for her dog and saw large wet paw prints at the entrance to the bedroom. 
She immediately called 911. 
Deputies searched the area and also located paw prints similar to a mountain lion. We notified the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for any necessary follow-up investigation.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "A 17-year-old girl has died after she was attacked by a shark on Western Australia's south coast, near Esperance."


In India's state of Karnataka this morning, an elephant shoved a tusk into the stomach of a mahout, killing the 45-year-old man.


A Few Planes for China: The Birth
of the Flying Tigers
Nonfiction book by Eugenie Buchan
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

University Press of New England (UPNE):
A new history of the genesis of the legendary Flying Tigers. 
On December 7, 1941, a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into armed conflict with Japan. In the first three months of the war the Japanese seemed unbeatable as they seized American, British, and European territory across the Pacific: the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Dutch East Indies. Nonetheless, in those dark days, the U.S. press began to pick up reports about a group of American mercenaries who were bringing down enemy planes over Burma and western China. The pilots quickly became known as the Flying Tigers and a legend was born. 
But who were these flyers for hire and how did they wind up in the British colony of Burma? In the standard version of events, an American named Claire Chennault had convinced the Roosevelt administration to establish, fund, and equip covert air squadrons that could attack the Japanese in China and possibly bomb Tokyo — even before a declaration of war existed between the United States and Japan. That was hardly the case: although present at the creation, Chennault was not the sole originator of the American Volunteer Group. 
In A Few Planes for China, Eugenie Buchan draws on wide-ranging new sources to overturn seventy years of received wisdom about the genesis of the Flying Tigers. This strange experiment in airpower was accidental rather than intentional; haphazard decisions and changing threat perceptions both shaped its organization and deprived it of resources. In the end it was the British — more than any American in or out of government — who got the Tigers off the ground. On the eve of Pearl Harbor, the most important man behind the Flying Tigers was not Claire Chennault but Winston Churchill.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Deutsche Welle (DW): "Javier Duarte, a former Mexican state governor who has been on the run for six months, has been arrested."


Associated Press (AP):

Friday, April 14, 2017


Paradise in Chains: The Bounty Mutiny
and the Founding of Australia
Nonfiction book by Diana Preston
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Bloomsbury Publishing:
Celebrated historian Diana Preston presents betrayals, escapes, and survival at sea in her account of the mutiny of the Bounty and the flight of convicts from the Australian penal colony. 
The story of the mutiny of the Bounty and William Bligh and his men's survival on the open ocean for 48 days and 3,618 miles has become the stuff of legend. But few realize that Bligh's escape across the seas was not the only open-boat journey in that era of British exploration and colonization. Indeed, nine convicts from the Australian penal colony, led by Mary Bryant, also traveled 3,250 miles across the open ocean and some uncharted seas to land at the same port Bligh had reached only months before. 
In this meticulously researched dual narrative of survival, acclaimed historian Diana Preston provides the background and context to explain the thrilling open-boat voyages each party survived and the Pacific Island nations each encountered on their journey to safety. Through this deep-dive, readers come to understand the Pacific Islands as they were and as they were perceived, and how these seemingly utopian lands became a place where mutineers, convicts, and eventually the natives themselves, were chained.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Puerto Rico

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) seized 1,320 pounds (600 kilos) of cocaine Wednesday after intercepting a vessel near the southern coast and arresting two men on board. The estimated value of the cocaine is $17 million."


University of Würzburg, Germany:


United States

The Palatine Wreck: The Legend
of the New England Ghost Ship
Nonfiction book by Jill Farinelli
Publication Date: September 5, 2017

University Press of New England (UPNE):
A deeply researched inquiry into one of the enduring mysteries of the New England coast. 
Two days after Christmas in 1738, a British merchant ship traveling from Rotterdam to Philadelphia grounded in a blizzard on the northern tip of Block Island, twelve miles off the Rhode Island coast. The ship carried emigrants from the Palatinate and its neighboring territories in what is now southwest Germany. The 105 passengers and crew on board — sick, frozen, and starving — were all that remained of the 340 men, women, and children who had left their homeland the previous spring. They now found themselves castaways, on the verge of death, and at the mercy of a community of strangers whose language they did not speak. 
Shortly after the wreck, rumors began to circulate that the passengers had been mistreated by the ship's crew and by some of the islanders. The stories persisted, transforming over time as stories do and, in less than a hundred years, two terrifying versions of the event had emerged. 
In one account, the crew murdered the captain, extorted money from the passengers by prolonging the voyage and withholding food, then abandoned ship. In the other, the islanders lured the ship ashore with a false signal light, then murdered and robbed all on board. Some claimed the ship was set ablaze to hide evidence of these crimes, their stories fueled by reports of a fiery ghost ship first seen drifting in Block Island Sound on the one-year anniversary of the wreck. These tales became known as the legend of the Palatine, the name given to the ship in later years, when its original name had been long forgotten. The flaming apparition was nicknamed the Palatine Light. 
The eerie phenomenon has been witnessed by hundreds of people over the centuries, and numerous scientific theories have been offered as to its origin. Its continued reappearances, along with the attention of some of nineteenth-century America's most notable writers — among them Richard Henry Dana Sr., John Greenleaf Whittier, Edward Everett Hale, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson — has helped keep the legend alive. This despite evidence that the vessel, whose actual name was the Princess Augusta, was never abandoned, lured ashore, or destroyed by fire. 
So how did the rumors begin? What really happened to the Princess Augusta and the passengers she carried on her final, fatal voyage? Through years of painstaking research, Jill Farinelli reconstructs the origins of one of New England's most chilling maritime mysteries.