Tuesday, April 15, 2014

South Korea

Voice of America: "A passenger ship carrying more than 470 people has sunk off South Korea's southern coast and a massive rescue operation is under way."


The People's Republic of Amnesia
Nonfiction book by Louisa Lim

Oxford University Press:
On June 4, 1989, People's Liberation Army soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians in Beijing, killing untold hundreds of people. A quarter-century later, this defining event remains buried in China's modern history, successfully expunged from collective memory. In The People's Republic of Amnesia, NPR correspondent Louisa Lim charts how the events of June 4th changed China, and how China changed the events of June 4th by rewriting its own history.

Lim reveals new details about those fateful days, including how one of the country's most senior politicians lost a family member to an army bullet, as well as the inside story of the young soldiers sent to clear Tiananmen Square. She also introduces us to individuals whose lives were transformed by the events of Tiananmen Square, such as a founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, whose son was shot by martial law troops; and one of the most important government officials in the country, who post-Tiananmen became one of its most prominent dissidents. And she examines how June 4th shaped China's national identity, fostering a generation of young nationalists, who know little and care less about 1989. For the first time, Lim uncovers the details of a brutal crackdown in a second Chinese city that until now has been a near-perfect case study in the state's ability to rewrite history, excising the most painful episodes. By tracking down eyewitnesses, discovering US diplomatic cables, and combing through official Chinese records, Lim offers the first account of a story that has remained untold for a quarter of a century. The People's Republic of Amnesia is an original, powerfully gripping, and ultimately unforgettable book about a national tragedy and an unhealed wound.
Related: NPR


Ayako Mie, Japan Times: "Lawmakers across party lines Tuesday held an annual whale-meat cuisine event to celebrate the country’s whaling culture in defiance of the International Court of Justice’s decision at the end of March to ban Japan’s whale hunt off Antarctica."

Dominican Republic

NY Daily News: "Large numbers of the New York City-branded condoms that are distributed for free across the five boroughs under a city Health Department program are being smuggled into the Dominican Republic and sold for cash."


Gunmen kidnapped at least 100 girls from a school.

Monday, April 14, 2014




RFE/RL: "A man has been arrested on suspicion of cannibalism in Punjab Province."


Via IOL: "Bolivian authorities say Amazon villagers nearly killed two young men with venomous ants, tying them to a tree swarming with the insects for allegedly stealing three motorcycles."

Shadow Wolves

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
Being in the desert for 40 years is not just a biblical narrative; it's also the story of the Shadow Wolves. For 40 years, this elite special unit of tactical officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been scouring about 5,000 square miles of vast southwestern desert tribal land, 75 miles of which are located on the U.S-Mexico border, known as the Tohono O'odham Nation. About 28,000 Native Americans call this region their home. 
This area is a major corridor for contraband coming in from Mexico, where it then moves north. 
HSI Sells, in Arizona, is the only HSI office in the United States based in Indian country. The Wolves, or tactical officers, work with criminal investigators toward the common goal of dismantling narcotics and human smuggling organizations that operate on the tribal land. 
On April 14, 1974, the first seven Shadow Wolf recruits took their oath of office under ICE's legacy agency, U.S Customs Service. Today, HSI Sells has nine Shadow Wolves within its ranks. 
"The mere fact that the Wolves are Native Americans allows them to better interact with the Nation's citizens," said Angel Rascon, HSI Sells assistant special agent in charge. "Not only do most of the Wolves speak the native language, but their unmatched knowledge of the area is a tremendous tool." 
Rather than relying solely on high-tech gadgetry — night-vision goggles or motion sensors buried in the ground — members of this unit "cut for sign." The "sign" is physical evidence — footprints, a dangling thread, a broken twig, a discarded piece of clothing or tire tracks — while "cutting" is analyzing the sign once it's found. 
As their name implies, the Shadow Wolves hunt like a wolf pack. If one wolf finds prey, it will call in the rest of the pack, meaning the Shadow Wolves converge in an area where evidence of criminal activity is found. 
In one HSI investigation, the Shadow Wolves seized nearly two tons of marijuana after tracking the tire tracks of two vehicles. 
Shadow Wolf Supervisory Tactical Officer Kevin Carlos, who has been a Shadow Wolf since 1997, said that smugglers and traffickers of illegal contraband use the remoteness of the area to their advantage. 
"As law enforcement tactics change, so do the smuggling tactics," said Carlos. 
For instance, criminal organizations now use an elaborate network of spotters. Spotters, situated on mountain tops, keep their eyes peeled for law enforcement activity. Using cell phones or encrypted radios, the spotters give the all-clear or warn their cohorts not to advance, depending on whether or not law enforcement activity is spotted below. 
While today's Shadow Wolves stick to the same sleuthing techniques as their forebears, they are not averse to using modern methods or equipment. Instead of a horse, the Shadow Wolf rides an all-terrain vehicle. Each Wolf is equipped with a GPS device and a state-of-the-art radio for communication. Their weaponry has also been updated. 
As world renowned trackers, the Shadow Wolves travel all over the globe at the request of foreign nations. They've been to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Poland and Romania, among other countries. They share their knowledge of ancient tracking skills with customs officials, border guards and national police of foreign governments interested in protecting their own borders. In Sept. 2013, the Shadow Wolves provided training to Ukraine and Moldovan border guards. 
"In a high-tech world, Native American tracking is an art that can easily be lost," said Carlos. "The Shadow Wolves are actively using and preserving time-honored and proven skills at a time when the stakes are as high as they've ever been, with people trying to bring contraband and other threats into the United States."

Foreign Intrigue

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation: "The FBI — as the lead counterintelligence agency in the U.S. — has ramped up efforts to educate American university students preparing to study abroad about the dangers of knowingly or unknowingly getting caught up in espionage activities."

Black Sea

Jim Garamone at AFPS: "A Russian attack aircraft repeatedly flew near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Black Sea on April 12, a Pentagon spokesman said today."

Killer Sponges

California's Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI):
Killer sponges sound like creatures from a B-grade horror movie. In fact, they thrive in the lightless depths of the deep sea. Scientists first discovered that some sponges are carnivorous about 20 years ago. Since then only seven carnivorous species have been found in all of the northeastern Pacific. A new paper authored by MBARI marine biologist Lonny Lundsten and two Canadian researchers describes four new species of carnivorous sponges living on the deep seafloor, from the Pacific Northwest to Baja California.