Saturday, December 3, 2016


The New Geopolitics of Natural Gas
Nonfiction book by Agnia Grigas
Available: March 27, 2017

Harvard University Press:
We are in the midst of an energy revolution, led by the United States. As the world's greatest producer of natural gas moves aggressively to expand its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), America stands poised to become an energy superpower — an unanticipated development with far-reaching implications for the international order. Agnia Grigas drills deep into today's gas markets to uncover the forces and trends transforming the geopolitics of gas. 
The boom in shale gas production in the United States, the growth of global LNG trade, and the buildup of gas transport infrastructure worldwide have so transformed the traditional markets that natural gas appears to be on the verge of becoming a true global commodity. Traditional suppliers like Russia, whose energy-poor neighbors were dependent upon its gas exports and pipelines, are feeling the foundations of the old order shifting beneath their feet. Grigas examines how this new reality is rewriting the conventional rules of intercontinental gas trade and realigning strategic relations among the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, and beyond. 
In the near term, Moscow's political influence will erode as the Russian gas giant Gazprom loses share in its traditional markets while its efforts to pivot eastward to meet China's voracious energy needs will largely depend on Beijing’s terms. In this new geopolitics of gas, the United States will enjoy opportunities but also face challenges in leveraging its newfound energy clout to reshape relations with both European states and rising Asian powers.

Friday, December 2, 2016




Insider Trading: How Mortuaries, Medicine and Money
Have Built a Global Market in Human Cadaver Parts
Nonfiction book by Naomi Pfeffer
Official Publication Date: August 8, 2017 (Available
sooner from some booksellers)

Yale University Press:
The cadaver industry in Britain and the United States, its processes and profits. 
Except for organ transplantation little is known about the variety of stuff extracted from corpses and repurposed for medicine. A single body might be disassembled to provide hundreds of products for the millions of medical treatments performed each year. Cadaver skin can be used in wound dressings, corneas used to restore sight. Parts may even be used for aesthetic enhancement, such as liquefied skin injections to smooth wrinkles. 
This book is a history of the nameless corpses from which cadaver stuff is extracted and the entities involved in removing, processing, and distributing it. Pfeffer goes behind the mortuary door to reveal the technical, imaginative, and sometimes underhanded practices that have facilitated the global industry of transforming human fragments into branded convenience products. The dead have no need of cash, but money changes hands at every link of the supply chain. This book refocuses attention away from individual altruism and onto professional and corporate ethics.

New York

U.S. Justice Department: "Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 43, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, to be used to kill Americans in Colombia."

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Deutsche Welle (DW):

West Africa

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) :
Moscow says three Russian sailors have been taken hostage by "bandits" after an attack on a commercial ship off the western coast of Africa during the weekend. 
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on December 1 that the sailors were "abducted and taken away to an unknown location" as a result of the attack off the coast of Benin.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

North Korea

Radio Free Asia (RFA): "Following North Korea's sale to China of fishing rights in large areas of surrounding seas, competition among North Korean fishing boats for what is left has led to robberies and other clashes, sources say."


Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics
of the World's Oceans
Nonfiction book by Admiral Jim Stavridis,
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Penguin Random House:
From one of the most admired admirals of his generation, the only admiral to command NATO, comes a remarkable voyage through all of the world's most important bodies of water in service of the story of naval power as a driver of human history and our current affairs. 
From the time of the Greeks and the Persians, clashing in the Mediterranean, sea power has determined world power. To an extent that is often underappreciated, it still does.  No one understands this more than Admiral Jim Stavridis. In Sea Power, Admiral Stavridis takes us with him on a tour of the world's oceans from the admiral's chair, showing us how the geography of the oceans has shaped the destiny of nations, and how naval power has in a real sense made the world we live in today, and will shape the world we live in tomorrow. 
Not least, Sea Power is marvelous naval history, giving us fresh insight into great naval engagements from the battles of Salamis and Lepanto through to Trafalgar, the Battle of the Atlantic, and Cold War submarine blind man's bluff. It is also a keen-eyed reckoning with the likely sites of our next major naval conflicts, particularly the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea. Finally, Sea Power steps back to take a holistic view of the plagues to our oceans that are best seen that way, from piracy to pollution. 
When most of us look at a globe, we focus on the shape of the seven continents. Admiral Stavridis sees the shapes of the seven seas. After reading Sea Power, you will too. Not since Alfred Thayer Mahan's legendary The Influence of Sea Power on History have we had such a magisterial reckoning with this vital subject, which is also an implicit argument for its abiding significance.


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Deutsche Welle (DW): "Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) has discovered an Islamist working within its own ranks, according to domestic media reports on Tuesday."


United States

The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives Control
What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote
Nonfiction book by Sharyl Attkisson
Publication Date: May 2, 2017

HarperCollins Publishers:
Ever wonder how [American] politics turned into a take-no-prisoners blood sport? The New York Times bestselling author of Stonewalled pulls back the curtain on the shady world of opposition research and reveals the dirty tricks those in power use to influence your opinions. 
Behind most major political stories in the modern era, there is an agenda; an effort by opposition researchers, spin doctors, and outside interests to destroy an idea or a person. The tactic they use is the Smear. Every day, Americans are influenced by the Smear without knowing it. Paid forces cleverly shape virtually every image you cross. Maybe you read that Donald Trump is a racist misogynist, or saw someone on the news mocking the Bernie Sanders campaign. The trick of the Smear is that it is often based on some shred of truth, but these media-driven "hit pieces" are designed to obscure the truth. Success hinges on the Smear artist's ability to remain invisible; to make it seem as if their work is neither calculated nor scripted. It must appear to be precisely what it is not. 
Veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson has witnessed this practice firsthand. After years of being pitched hit jobs and puff pieces, she's an expert at detecting Smear campaigns. Now, the hard-hitting investigative reporter shares her inside knowledge, revealing how the Smear takes shape and who its perpetrators are — including Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal and, most influential of all, "right-wing assassin turned left-wing assassin" (National Review) political operative David Brock and his Media Matters for America empire. 
Attkisson exposes the diabolical tactics of Smear artists, and their outrageous access to the biggest names in political media — operatives who are corrupting the political process, and discouraging widespread citizen involvement in our democracy.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Voice of America (VOA): "A skating rink in Kitakyushu, Japan, has been forced to close following public uproar over a decision to embed dead fish into the ice."


Dragon Teeth
A novel by Michael Crichton
Publication Date: May 23, 2017

Official Site of Michael Crichton:
Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel — a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting. 
The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America's western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars. 
Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition. But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William's newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West's most notorious characters. 
A page-turner that draws on both meticulously researched history and an exuberant imagination, Dragon Teeth is based on the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Cope and Marsh; in William Johnson readers will find an inspiring hero only Michael Crichton could have imagined. Perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted, this enormously winning adventure is destined to become another Crichton classic.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


The Pygmy Hippo Story: West Africa's Enigma
of the Rainforest
Nonfiction book by Phillip T. Robinson,
Gabriella L. Flacke, and Knut M. Hentschel
Shipping Date: February 15, 2017

Oxford University Press:
Though the pygmy hippopotamus has been designated as a flagship species of West African forests (meaning that by raising conservation efforts for a single species, an entire ecological region could benefit), very little research has been published on the animal. They are solitary, nocturnal, and highly evasive, and until recent developments in "camera trap" technology, they were considered the least-photographed large mammal species in the world. The information currently available on this endangered species is scattered, limited, redundant, and often inaccurate, and no major volume exists as a resource for those interested in the conservation effort for the species, until now. 
Phillip Robinson and his coauthors provide a treatment of the natural history, biology, and ecology of the pygmy hippo, along with a discussion of the rare animal's taxonomic niche and a summary of the research initiatives involving it up to this point. The authors show the ways in which the pygmy hippo has come into contact with people in West African countries, both in terms of ecological and cultural impact. This creature has been the subject of local folktales, and is treated as almost mythic in some regions. Information on issues related to captivity, breeding, and zoos is provided. The book is heavily illustrated with original photographs and anatomic drawings. The project should be of use to conservation biologists, zoologists and natural history readers, and will be the definitive single-volume account of an animal that the scientific community has designated to be ecologically significant to West Africa.


Fidel Castro died.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Russia: The Story of War
Nonfiction book by Gregory Carleton
Available: March 27, 2017

Harvard University Press:
No nation is a stranger to war, but for Russians war is part of who they are. Their "motherland" has been the battlefield where some of the largest armies have clashed, the most savage battles have been fought, and the highest death tolls paid. Having prevailed over the Mongol hordes and vanquished Napoleon and Hitler, many Russians believe that no country on earth has sacrificed so much for the world. In Russia: The Story of War Gregory Carleton explores the belief in exceptionalism that pervades Russian culture and politics and shows how Russians have forged a distinct identity rooted in war. 
While outsiders view Russia as an aggressor, Russians themselves see a country surrounded by enemies, poised in a permanent defensive crouch as it fights off one invader after another. Time and again, history has called upon Russia to play the savior — of Europe, of Christianity, of civilization itself — and Russia's victories, especially over the Nazis in World War II, have come at immense cost. Even its defeats, always suffered on behalf of just causes in this telling, have become a source of pride. 
War is the unifying thread of Russia's national epic, the factor that transcends its wrenching ideological transformations from the archconservative Russian Empire to the radical-totalitarian Soviet Union to the pseudo-democratic Russian Federation. Today, as Vladimir Putin's Russia asserts itself in ever bolder ways, knowing how the nation's war-torn past inflects its self-image is essential to understanding Russia's sense of place in history and in the world.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Associated Press (AP):


Deutsche Welle (DW):


The Strip: Las Vegas and  the Architecture
of the American Dream
Nonfiction book by Stefan Al
Publication Date: February 10, 2017

MIT Press:
The Las Vegas Strip has impersonated the Wild West, with saloon doors and wagon wheels; it has decked itself out in midcentury modern sleekness. It has illuminated itself with twenty-story-high neon signs, then junked them. After that came Disney-like theme parks featuring castles and pirates, followed by replicas of Venetian canals, New York skyscrapers, and the Eiffel Tower. (It might be noted that forty-two million people visited Las Vegas in 2015 — ten million more than visited the real Paris.) More recently, the Strip decided to get classy, with casinos designed by famous architects and zillion-dollar collections of art. Las Vegas became the "implosion capital of the world" as developers, driven by competition, got rid of the old to make way for the new — offering a non-metaphorical definition of "creative destruction." In The Strip, Stefan Al examines the many transformations of the Las Vegas Strip, arguing that they mirror transformations in America itself. The Strip is not, as popularly supposed, a display of architectural freaks but representative of architectural trends and a record of social, cultural, and economic change. 
Al tells two parallel stories. He describes the feverish competition of Las Vegas developers to build the snazziest, most tourist-grabbing casinos and resorts — with a cast of characters including the mobster Bugsy Siegel, the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, and the would-be political kingmaker Sheldon Adelson. And he views the Strip in a larger social context, showing that it has not only reflected trends but also magnified them and sometimes even initiated them. Generously illustrated with stunning color images throughout, The Strip traces the many metamorphoses of a city that offers a vivid projection of the American dream.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:


Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History
of Organized Crime in Chicago
During Prohibition
Nonfiction book by John J. Binder
Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Penguin Random House:
Although much has been written about Al Capone, there has not been — until now — a complete history of organized crime in Chicago during Prohibition. This exhaustively researched book covers the entire period from 1920 to 1933. Author John J. Binder, a recognized authority on the history of organized crime in Chicago, discusses all the important bootlegging gangs in the city and the suburbs and also examines the other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor and business racketeering, and narcotics.

A major focus is how the Capone gang — one of twelve major bootlegging mobs in Chicago at the start of Prohibition — gained a virtual monopoly over organized crime in northern Illinois and beyond. Binder also describes the fight by federal and local authorities, as well as citizens' groups, against organized crime. In the process, he refutes numerous myths and misconceptions related to the Capone gang, other criminal groups, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and gangland killings.

What emerges is a big picture of how Chicago's underworld evolved during this period. This broad perspective goes well beyond Capone and specific acts of violence and brings to light what was happening elsewhere in Chicagoland and after Capone went to jail.

Based on 25 years of research and using many previously unexplored sources, this fascinating account of a bloody and colorful era in Chicago history will become the definitive work on the subject.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Deutsche Welle (DW):


John Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts
in the Punjab and London
Edited by Julius Bryant and Susan Weber
Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Yale University Press:
John Lockwood Kipling (1837–1911) started his career as an architectural sculptor at the South Kensington Museum (today the Victoria and Albert Museum). Much of his life, however, was spent in British India, where his son Rudyard was born. He taught at the Bombay School of Art and later was appointed principal of the new Mayo School of Art (today Pakistan's National College of Art and Design) as well as curator of its museum in Lahore. Over several years, Kipling toured the northern provinces of India, documenting the processes of local craftsmen, a cultural preservation project that provides a unique record of 19th-century Indian craft customs. This is the first book to explore the full spectrum of artistic, pedagogical, and archival achievements of this fascinating man of letters, demonstrating the sincerity of his work as an artist, teacher, administrator, and activist.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): "French authorities say they have broken up a terrorist ring plotting an attack in France."

Myanmar (Burma)

Radio Free Asia (RFA): "Blaming the government’s military actions in the region, one of Myanmar's most powerful ethnic militias, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), joined three smaller groups in a weekend attack on 10 government targets in the country’s northern provinces."

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Zebra Stripes
Nonfiction book by Tim Caro
Publication Date: December 5, 2016

University of Chicago Press:
From eminent biologists like Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin to famous authors such as Rudyard Kipling in his Just So Stories, many people have asked, "Why do zebras have stripes?" There are many explanations, but until now hardly any have been seriously addressed or even tested. In Zebra Stripes, Tim Caro takes readers through a decade of painstaking fieldwork examining the significance of black-and-white striping and, after systematically dismissing every hypothesis for these markings with new data, he arrives at a surprising conclusion: zebra markings are nature's defense against biting fly annoyance.
Popular explanations for stripes range from camouflage to confusion of predators, social facilitation, and even temperature regulation. It is a serious challenge to test these proposals on large animals living in the wild, but using a combination of careful observations, simple field experiments, comparative information, and logic, Caro is able to weigh up the pros and cons of each idea. Eventually — driven by experiments showing that biting flies avoid landing on striped surfaces, observations that striping is most intense where biting flies are abundant, and knowledge of zebras' susceptibility to biting flies and vulnerability to the diseases that flies carry — Caro concludes that black-and-white stripes are an adaptation to thwart biting fly attack. Not just a tale of one scientist's quest to solve a classic mystery of biology, Zebra Stripes is also a testament to the tremendous value of longitudinal research in behavioral ecology, demonstrating how observation, experiment, and comparative research can together reshape our understanding of the natural world.

Friday, November 18, 2016


BBC News:
An HIV-positive Malawian man has been found guilty for having unprotected sex with newly bereaved widows. 
The practice of "widow cleansing," when a widow must have sex after her husband dies, was outlawed a few years ago.

Puerto Rico

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) seized  328 pounds (149 kilos) of cocaine Tuesday after intercepting a 'yola' type vessel near Desecheo island and arresting two U.S. citizens onboard. The estimated value of the cocaine is $4.2 million."


United States

J. C. Penney: The Man, the Store,
and American Agriculture
Nonfiction book by David Delbert Kruger
Publication Date: May 18, 2017

University of Oklahoma Press:
What is now called JCPenney, a fixture of suburban shopping malls, started out as a small-town Main Street store that fused its founder's interests in agriculture, retail business, religion, and philanthropy. This book — at once a biography of Missouri farm boy–turned–business icon James Cash Penney and the story of the company he started in 1902 — brings to light the little-known agrarian roots of an American department store chain. David Delbert Kruger explores how the company, its stores, and their famous founder shaped rural America throughout the twentieth century. 
"Most of our stores," Penney explained in 1931, "are located in agricultural regions where the tide of merchandising rises and falls with the prosperity of the farmers." Despite the growth of cities in the early twentieth century, Penney maintained his stores'  commitment to serving the needs of farmers and small-town folk. Tracing this dedication to Penney's rural upbringing, Kruger describes how, from one store in the sheep-ranching and mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, J. C. Penney Co. became a familiar chain on Main Street, USA, purveying value, providing good jobs, and marking rites of passage in many an American childhood. 
Kruger paints a biographical and historical picture of an American business mogul distinctly different from comparable capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, or Sam Walton. Despite his chain's corporate structure, Penney imbued each store with a Golden Rule philosophy that demanded mutual respect between customers, employees, competitors, suppliers, and communities. By tracing that spirit to its agrarian source, and following it through the twentieth century, J. C. Penney: The Man, the Store, and American Agriculture provides a new perspective on this American cultural institution — and on its founder's unique brand of American capitalism.