Wednesday, August 27, 2014

U.S. Commerce Dept.

Latest Country Commercial Guide for American companies:

Book

Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds,
and the Rise of Modern Finance
Nonfiction book by Ian Klaus
Available October 14, 2014

Yale University Press:
Vice is endemic to Western capitalism, according to this fascinating, wildly entertaining, often startling history of modern finance. Ian Klaus's Forging Capitalism demonstrates how international financial affairs in the nineteenth century were conducted not only by gentlemen as a noble pursuit but also by connivers, thieves, swindlers, and frauds who believed that no risk was too great and no scheme too outrageous if the monetary reward was substantial enough. Taken together, the grand deceptions of the ambitious schemers and the determined efforts to guard against them have been instrumental in creating the financial establishments of today. 
In a story teeming with playboys and scoundrels and rich in colorful and amazing events, Klaus chronicles the evolution of trust through three distinct epochs: the age of values, the age of networks and reputations, and, ultimately, in a world of increased technology and wealth, the age of skepticism and verification. In today's world, where the questionable dealings of large international financial institutions are continually in the spotlight, this extraordinary history has great relevance, offering essential lessons in both the importance and the limitations of trust.

Jasper Johns

U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York: "Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that James Meyer, a former assistant to artist Jasper Johns, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court in connection with his sale of 22 works that he stole from Johns’ studio in Sharon, Connecticut."

Book

Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth
Nonfiction book by Lee Jackson
Available November 25, 2014

Yale University Press:
In Victorian London, filth was everywhere: horse traffic filled the streets with dung, household rubbish went uncollected, cesspools brimmed with "night soil," graveyards teemed with rotting corpses, the air itself was choked with smoke. In this intimately visceral book, Lee Jackson guides us through the underbelly of the Victorian metropolis, introducing us to the men and women who struggled to stem a rising tide of pollution and dirt, and the forces that opposed them. 
Through thematic chapters, Jackson describes how Victorian reformers met with both triumph and disaster. Full of individual stories and overlooked details — from the dustmen who grew rich from recycling, to the peculiar history of the public toilet — this riveting book gives us a fresh insight into the minutiae of daily life and the wider challenges posed by the unprecedented growth of the Victorian capital.

U.S. Commerce Dept.

New Country Commercial Guide for American companies:

Syria

United Nations: "Mass atrocities by government forces and non-state armed groups continue to take place in Syria, causing immeasurable suffering to civilians and contributing to a spillover of violence affecting international peace and stability, a United Nations-appointed panel said today."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

U.S. Commerce Dept.

Another new County Commercial Guide for American companies:

Botswana

Survival International:
Africa’s last hunting Bushmen have given formal notice of their intention to sue the Botswana government over its "unlawful and unconstitutional" attempts to starve them off their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. 
The Bushmen rely on subsistence hunting to feed their families but face harassment, torture and arrest when found hunting for survival. Earlier this year, the Botswana government issued a nationwide ban on hunting without notifying the Kalahari Bushmen or offering any compensation. 
This is the fourth time the Bushmen have been forced to resort to legal action against the government in their desperate wish to live in peace on their land. In a landmark victory in 2006, Botswana’s High Court ruled that the Bushmen have the right to live, and hunt, in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. 
Despite the High Court ruling, not a single hunting license has been issued to the Bushmen living inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Ironically, wealthy trophy hunters are exempt from the ban and continue to legally hunt giraffes and zebras on private ranches.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Middle East

John Cassidy, The New Yorker:

Iraq

United Nations:
The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the appalling and horrific crimes against humanity being committed daily in Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups.
"[ISIL] is systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and is ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under its control," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement to the press. 
The violations include targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, destruction of places of religious and cultural significance, and the besieging of entire communities because of ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.  
Ms. Pillay said among those directly targeted have been Christians, Yezidi, Shabaks, Turkomen, Kaka’e and Sabaeans. 
In Nineveh Governorate, hundreds of mostly Yezidi individuals were reported killed and up to 2,500 kidnapped at the beginning of August. Of those who refused to convert, witnesses report that the men were executed while the women and their children were handed over to ISIL fighters as slaves. 
Similarly, in Cotcho village in Southern Sinjar, ISIL killed and abducted hundreds of Yezidis on 15 August. Reports indicate, again, that the male villagers were killed while women and children were taken away to unknown locations.  
"UN staff members in Iraq have been receiving harrowing phone calls from besieged civilians who are surviving in terrible conditions, with little or no access to humanitarian aid," Ms. Pillay said. "One of the women abducted by ISIL managed to call our staff, and told them that her teenage son and daughter were among the many who had been raped and sexually assaulted by IS gunmen. Another said her son had been raped at a checkpoint."
At least 13,000 members of the Shia Turkmen community in Amirli in Salah al-Din Governorate, among them 10,000 women and children, have been besieged by ISIL since 15 June. Residents are enduring harsh conditions with severe food and water shortages, and a complete absence of medical services — and there are fears of a possible imminent massacre, said Ms. Pillay.  
"The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the international community must take all necessary measures and spare no effort to protect members of ethnic and religious communities, who are particularly vulnerable, and to secure their return to their places of origin in safety and dignity," said the High Commissioner. 
The effect of the ongoing conflict on children is catastrophic, she said. According to interviews by UN human rights monitors with displaced families, ISIL is forcibly recruiting boys aged 15 and above. ISIL has also reportedly been deliberately positioning the boys at the front-line in battle situations, as human shields. 
The Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has also verified reports of a massacre of prisoners and detainees in Mosul's Badoush Prison on 10 June. According to interviews with 20 survivors and 16 witnesses of the massacre, ISIL gunmen loaded between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners onto trucks and transported them to a nearby uninhabited area, Ms. Pillay said.  
There, armed men asked the Sunnis to separate themselves from the others. Around 100 prisoners who joined the Sunni group were suspected by ISIL not to be Sunni and were subjected to individual checks based on how they prayed and their place of origin. Sunni inmates were ordered back on the trucks and left the scene. ISIL gunmen then yelled insults at the remaining prisoners, lined them up in four rows, ordered them to kneel and opened fire. Up to 670 prisoners were reportedly killed.

Tanzania

Lisa Schlein, Voice of America:
United Nations human rights officials report a spike in ritual attacks and killings of people with albinism in Tanzania. They are calling for greater protection for these people who face a dire situation and are extremely vulnerable.   
The UN Human Rights Office reports five new attacks against people with albinism occurred over an 11-day period in Tanzania this month. This, it says, brings the number of attacks since 2000 to 151, including 74 murders. 
Albinism is a genetically inherited condition, in which people lack pigmentation. While it is very rare in most parts of the world, affecting one in 20,000 people, it is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, one in 1,400 people are born with this condition. 
UN human rights official Alicia Loudono, who has just returned from a mission to Tanzania, says she is very concerned by the marginalization, discrimination and persecution to which people with albinism are subjected in Africa. She says they are portrayed as ghosts, as devils, as people who bring bad luck, death or sickness. 
"The worst form of discrimination is the ritual attacks. These are rooted in superstition . . . Body parts of persons with albinism are used for witchcraft purposes. There is this belief in certain countries that body parts have magical powers and if used in potions produced by witch doctors it will bring wealth and power," said Loudono. 
As a result, people with albinism are mutilated for their body parts. Loudono says a limb can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. She says a person who has had an arm or a leg cut off is usually left unattended and bleeds to death.     
Victims who survive usually receive no communal support or legal assistance.   
Non-governmental organizations have documented 328 attacks in 24 different countries since 2000. They include Burundi, Ivory Coast and Swaziland. Most attacks occur in rural areas. 
Early in 2013, there was a spike in the number of these ritual attacks. Loudono says on her trip to Tanzania, everyone linked the recent attacks to the presidential election set for October 2015. 
"There is this common knowledge of people with albinism, that attacks increase when there is [an] election. One of the reasons they say is that there are some politicians that use witchcraft for gaining power. This is part of their belief . . . for winning elections, for being more rich, etc.," she said.

Puerto Rico

U.S. Justice Department: "Sixteen former Puerto Rico police officers have pleaded guilty for their roles in a criminal organization run out of the police department. The officers used their affiliation with law enforcement to commit robbery and extortion, to manipulate court records in exchange for bribes, and to sell illegal narcotics."

Book

Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt's Wilderness
Nonfiction book by Omar Attum
Available October 15, 2014

American University in Cairo Press:
Sinai's allure is legendary. Its spectacular landscapes, thriving flora and fauna, and unique history, the store of centuries, have long held sway in the imagination of millions. The high mountains and wadis of the peninsula's south provide the fertile soil that feeds some of Egypt's highest diversity of plants, while foxes, vipers, lizards, and tortoises are just some of the animals that make their home in the north, which is characterized by lagoons and vast dunes of soft sand. Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt's Wilderness transports us to the haunting grandeur of this peninsula with 150 breathtaking full-color photographs. Omar Attum's discerning eye shows us blood-red mountains, animals in natural repose and habitat, solitary trees and flowers, and fugitive strips of water, conveying stark beauty and enormous vulnerability, an abundance of life yet utter, devastating peace.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

India

In the Indian state of Uttarakhand, a leopard killed a 23-year-old woman.