Thursday, November 26, 2015

South Africa

Deutsche Welle (DW): "A South African court has lifted a domestic ban on trade in rhino horns."


Voice of America:
The Boko Haram extremist group killed at least 15 people in an attack Thursday on a village in Niger's southern border area of Diffa. 
Niger security sources said that militants arrived in the village of Gogone on foot and opened fire indiscriminately on villagers, adding that government troops pursued them.
The United Nations has put at 50 the number of attacks and clashes between Islamist fighters and Niger troops since February, dozens of them in the Diffa region.


Voice of America:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection
Between Violent Extremism and Education
Nonfiction book by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog
Publication Date: March 1, 2015
The violent actions of a few extremists can alter the course of history, yet there persists a yawning gap between the potential impact of these individuals and what we understand about them. In Engineers of Jihad, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog uncover two unexpected facts, which they imaginatively leverage to narrow that gap: they find that a disproportionate share of Islamist radicals come from an engineering background, and that Islamist and right-wing extremism have more in common than either does with left-wing extremism, in which engineers are absent while social scientists and humanities students are prominent. 
Searching for an explanation, they tackle four general questions about extremism: Under which socioeconomic conditions do people join extremist groups? Does the profile of extremists reflect how they self-select into extremism or how groups recruit them? Does ideology matter in sorting who joins which group? Lastly, is there a mindset susceptible to certain types of extremism? 
Using rigorous methods and several new datasets, they explain the link between educational discipline and type of radicalism by looking at two key factors: the social mobility (or lack thereof) for engineers in the Muslim world, and a particular mindset seeking order and hierarchy that is found more frequently among engineers. Engineers' presence in some extremist groups and not others, the authors argue, is a proxy for individual traits that may account for the much larger question of selective recruitment to radical activism. 
Opening up markedly new perspectives on the motivations of political violence, Engineers of Jihad yields unexpected answers about the nature and emergence of extremism.


Voice of America:
Bangladesh's home minister says two Islamic State militants connected with the killing of a Japanese agricultural scientist near Dhaka have fled and crossed into India. 
The revelation by Home Minister Assaduzzaman Khan Kamal came as a Dhaka court indicted a suspected coordinator of the Bangladesh chapter of Islamic State and three other members of the militant group under the Anti-Terrorism Act. 
The militant group recently claimed its presence in South Asia, particularly in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has been denying an IS presence on its soil and has blamed violence on homegrown terrorists and opposition politicians. But the admission by the home minister and the indictment contradict that stance.


Voice of America:
The United Nations special envoy for the Sahel warned Wednesday that drug traffickers are increasingly working with terrorist groups in this expansive region across northern Africa. 
Hiroute Sellassie told the U.N. Security Council that traffickers pay terrorists to let them safely pass through areas they control, providing a source of funding for the violent extremists.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Worldwide Travel Alert

U.S. State Department:
The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da'esh), al-Qa'ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and nonconventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests. This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016. 
Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da'esh return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services. In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali. ISIL/Da'esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt. 
U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events. 


Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams
Along a Shanghai Road
Nonfiction book by Rob Schmitz
Publication Date: May 17, 2016

Penguin Random House:
A narrative account profiling the ordinary men and women who live, work, and dream on the author's street in Shanghai, inspired by his enormously popular Marketplace series of the same name 
Marketplace's Rob Schmitz moved to Shanghai in 2010. To gain perspective on China's new reality, he interviewed the ordinary people who lived and worked beside him. He spoke to shop owners, young professionals, beggars, and countless others about their everyday experiences, their troubled histories, and the hopes that fuel them. Schmitz forged deep relationships with the diverse array of people who make up China's most vibrant city, their stories connected by a single street that runs through the heart of Shanghai. 
At a time when president Xi Jinping has launched a political agenda entitled "The Chinese Dream" to guide the country's 1.4 billion people, Street of Eternal Happiness sheds light upon the dreams of individual Chinese along a single street in the nation's largest city. A humorous and at times heartrending journey through the static, mixed messages the Western world is fed about the planet's most populous nation, Schmitz treats readers to recurring characters that illuminate the distinct generations of 21st-century China. Each memorable character’s story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, and these portraits merge with Schmitz's personal discoveries through his work as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate, surprising, involving portrait of contemporary China that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know.

United Kingdom

Associated Press (AP):

Sunday, November 22, 2015


NPR: "Like many of the stops on one of the world's great trade routes, the Silk Road, Trabzon used to be a lot more important than it is today. But the old market streets of this Turkish Black Sea port city still ring with sounds that could have been heard when ancient Greeks and Romans walked these streets."



Myanmar (Burma)

Deutsche Welle (DW): "A landslide near a jade mine in Myanmar has killed at least 100 people. More than 100 are still missing."

Saturday, November 21, 2015


The Banjo: America's African Instrument
Nonfiction book by Laurent Dubois
Available: February 15,  2016

Harvard University Press:
The banjo has been called by many names over its history, but they all refer to the same sound — strings humming over skin — that has eased souls and electrified crowds for centuries. The Banjo invites us to hear that sound afresh in a biography of one of America's iconic folk instruments. Attuned to a rich heritage spanning continents and cultures, Laurent Dubois traces the banjo from humble origins, revealing how it became one of the great stars of American musical life. 
In the seventeenth century, enslaved people in the Caribbean and North America drew on their memories of varied African musical traditions to construct instruments from carved-out gourds covered with animal skin. Providing a much-needed sense of rootedness, solidarity, and consolation, banjo picking became an essential part of black plantation life. White musicians took up the banjo in the nineteenth century, when it became the foundation of the minstrel show and began to be produced industrially on a large scale. Even as this instrument found its way into rural white communities, however, the banjo remained central to African American musical performance. 
Twentieth-century musicians incorporated the instrument into styles ranging from ragtime and jazz to Dixieland, bluegrass, reggae, and pop. Versatile and enduring, the banjo combines rhythm and melody into a single unmistakable sound that resonates with strength and purpose. From the earliest days of American history, the banjo's sound has allowed folk musicians to create community and joy even while protesting oppression and injustice.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Deutsche Welle (DW): "A Roman-era hoard of more than 4,000 silver and bronze coins has been discovered in Switzerland."

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Pew Research Center:


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa Commercial Facility seized $2,539,700 in marijuana — 5,079 pounds — from a Mexican national Nov. 13 when he attempted to enter the United States through the Port of Nogales. 
Officers discovered the drugs within six palletized boxes identified as aircraft parts in a tractor-trailer driven by Jaime Alfonso Valdez-Yocupicio, 40, from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, following an alert by a CBP narcotics-detection canine.


U.S. Justice Department:
INOAC Corp. has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $2.35 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids on certain plastic interior trim automotive parts installed in cars sold to U.S. consumers.  
According to the felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Kentucky, INOAC, based in Nagoya, Japan, and others conspired from as early as June 2004 until at least September 2012 to fix prices and rig bids on parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., including certain of its subsidiaries and affiliates in the United States and elsewhere.


Deutsche Welle (DW): "Russia has signed an agreement with Egypt to build the country's first nuclear power plant."


According to John F. Sopko, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the United States has spent more than $100 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan.

"It is more than the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in any other country in our nation’s history," Sopko said yesterday. "Adjusting for inflation, it is more than the U.S. spent on the entire Marshall Plan effort to rebuild Western Europe after World War II. And we still aren’t done in Afghanistan — we, in addition to our allies, have promised billions more for years to come."


Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story
Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises
Nonfiction book by Lesley M.M. Blume
Publication Date: June 7, 2016

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
The making of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, the outsize personalities who inspired it, and the vast changes it wrought on the literary world 
In the summer of 1925, Ernest Hemingway and a clique of raucous companions traveled to Pamplona, Spain, for the town's infamous running of the bulls. Then, over the next six weeks, he channeled that trip's maelstrom of drunken brawls, sexual rivalry, midnight betrayals, and midday hangovers into his groundbreaking novel The Sun Also Rises. This revolutionary work redefined modern literature as much as it did his peers, who would forever after be called the Lost Generation. But the full story of Hemingway's legendary rise has remained untold until now. 
Lesley Blume resurrects the explosive, restless landscape of 1920s Paris and Spain and reveals how Hemingway helped create his own legend. He made himself into a death-courting, bull-fighting aficionado; a hard-drinking, short-fused literary genius; and an expatriate bon vivant. Blume's vivid account reveals the inner circle of the Lost Generation as we have never seen it before, and shows how it still influences what we read and how we think about youth, sex, love, and excess.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Washington, DC

U.S. Justice Department:
The [U.S.] government announced today that it has joined a lawsuit alleging that Inchcape Shipping Services Holdings Limited and certain of its subsidiaries (collectively, Inchcape) violated the False Claims Act by knowingly overbilling the U.S. Navy for ship husbanding services from years 2005 to 2014. Inchcape is a marine services contractor headquartered in the United Kingdom. 
As a ship husbanding services provider, Inchcape arranged for the provision of goods and services to Navy ships at ports in several regions throughout the world, including southwest Asia, Africa, Panama, North America, South America and Mexico.  Inchcape's services typically included the provision of food and other subsistence items, arrangement of local transportation, waste removal, telephone services, ship-to-shore transportation and force protection services. The lawsuit, which was unsealed today, alleges that Inchcape knowingly overbilled the Navy by submitting invoices that overstated the quantity of goods and services provided, billed at rates in excess of applicable contract rates and double-billed for certain goods and services. 
"Those who contract with the federal government and accept taxpayer dollars must follow the rules," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. "The Department of Justice will not tolerate contractors who submit false claims to defraud the armed forces or any other agency of the United States."
"Ensuring that federal contractors deliver the goods and services at the agreed upon prices in return for receiving the taxpayers' money is a priority for the U.S. Attorney's Office," said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia. "This lawsuit reflects our commitment to combat fraud against federal government agencies." 
“The Department of the Navy continues to hold contractors accountable for the agreements they have made to supply our fleet," said Captain Amy Derrick, a senior spokeswoman for the Department of the Navy. "We also continue to expect strict adherence to higher standards within the Department and expect the same from industry."
The lawsuit was brought under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by three former employees of Inchcape, Noah Rudolph, Andrea Ford and Lawrence Cosgriff. Under the act, a private citizen may bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. The government may intervene in the case, as it has done here. The False Claims Act allows the government to recover treble damages and penalties from those who violate it.


Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka
Nonfiction book by John Gimlette
Publication Date: February 16, 2016

Penguin Random House:
From one of our most widely praised travel writers — author of Wild Coast and Panther Soup — an eye-opening journey through Sri Lanka that, in the author's inimitable mixture of history, observation, and interpretation, reveals the island nation to us as never before. 
Writing with his signature eye for the unusually telling detail, his sense of urbane wonder, and his investigative desire for the whole story, John Gimlette takes us from Sri Lanka's exuberant capital city of Colombo to the dry interior where more than 5,300 wild elephants congregate around its ancient reservoirs; from the Portuguese-built forts of cinnamon country to the tsunami-ravaged southeast; from the tea plantations of the highlands and the Shangri-la-ish city of Kandy to the desiccated Jaffna Peninsula in the north. He examines Sri Lanka's colonial history (Portuguese, British, Dutch and Arab); the centuries-old strife between Sinhalese and Tamils; and the most recent civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2009. He describes his encounters with world-class cricketers, terrorists, a former president, ancient tribesmen, British expats, survivors of the civil war massacres, and with the island's amazing flora [and fauna], including the world's greatest concentration of leopards. He discovers a place of both extravagant beauty and profound devastation, a place capable of being both heavenly and hellish at the same time, and succeeds in bringing it to vibrant, fascinating life on the page.


Voice of America: "Nigeria's president has ordered the arrest of a former national security adviser who is accused of stealing billions of dollars meant to buy weapons for the fight against Boko Haram militants."


U.S. Justice Department: "A former executive of a large Taiwan-based color display tube (CDT) manufacturing company pleaded guilty late yesterday for his participation in a global conspiracy to fix prices of CDTs, a type of cathode ray tube (CRT) used in computer monitors and other specialized applications."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Spies in the Congo: America's Atomic Mission
in World War II
Nonfiction book by Susan Williams
Publication Date: May 24, 2016

Perseus Books Group:
The Shinkolobwe Mine in the Belgian Congo was described by a 1943 Manhattan Project intelligence report as the "most important deposit of uranium yet discovered in the world." So long as the U.S.A. remained in control of this mine and its supply, it had a world monopoly on the primary material needed to build an atomic bomb. The uranium from this mine was used to build the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Given the possibility that the Germans were also working on an atomic bomb, it was a priority for the U.S. to prevent Congo's uranium from being smuggled to Germany. This task was given to the newly created Office of Strategic Services, later the CIA, which sent some of their best agents to West and Central Africa, under the cover of an investigation into diamond smuggling. 
Although much has been written about ALSOS, the secret intelligence mission created to investigate the German atomic project, so far nothing has been written about the intelligence mission at the source of uranium — the Belgian Congo. Spies in the Congo is based on a mass of newly released (and formerly top secret) archive material in the U.S., the U.K., and Belgium; personal testimonies; and a range of audio-visual materials, including a set of eight-millimeter films taken by the lead spy. 
This is a dynamic historical narrative of a secret front in World War II, and introduces a memorable cast of characters at once furtive and flamboyant, from the founding generation of America's covert warriors.


Deutsche Welle (DW): "Five gold miners were freed in Tanzania after spending 41 days trapped in a underground cave, officials announced on Tuesday."