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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Empire of Cotton
Nonfiction book by Sven Beckert
Publication Date: December 2, 2014
The epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality in the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism.
Sven Beckert's rich, fascinating book tells the story of how, in a remarkably brief period, European entrepreneurs and powerful statesmen recast the world's most significant manufacturing industry, combining imperial expansion and slave labor with new machines and wage workers to change the world. Here is the story of how, beginning well before the advent of machine production in the 1780s, these men captured ancient trades and skills in Asia, combined them with the expropriation of lands in the Americas and the enslavement of African workers to crucially recast the disparate realms of cotton that had existed for millennia. We see how industrial capitalism then reshaped these worlds of cotton into an empire, and how this empire transformed the world.
The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, farmers and merchants, workers and factory owners. In this as in so many other ways, Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, including the vast wealth and disturbing inequalities that are with us today. The result is a book as unsettling as it is enlightening: a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Jim Garamone, DoD News:
WASHINGTON — Russian military forces continue to gather on the Ukraine's southeast border, and Russia continues to funnel heavy equipment to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
More than 10,000 Russian soldiers in combined arms battalion tactical units are massed at the border, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
These battalion groups consist of infantry, armor and artillery, and also have organic air defense capabilities, the admiral said. "They are capable across a wide spectrum of military operations," he added.
Kirby called these forces capable and ready, and he said they are closer to the Ukrainian border than Russian forces were in the spring. "We continue to see advanced weapons systems moving across the border and being provided to the separatists," Kirby said.
These systems include multiple rocket-launched systems, artillery, tanks and air defense systems — including the air defense system that allegedly shot down the Malaysia Airline flight last week. "That activity needs to stop," Kirby said.
U.S. concern is less about the pace of the buildup than the fact that it is happening at all, the admiral said. "It does nothing, again, to de-escalate tensions," he said. "It only increases the risk of violence inside Ukraine."
Meanwhile, the admiral said, the Defense Department continues to look at requests coming from the Ukrainian government. "The nonlethal support and assistance that had been previously approved has made its way in the large part . . . to Ukrainian security forces," he said.Related: U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. Justice Department: "Canadian antiques dealer Xiao Ju Guan, aka Tony Guan, 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan today for conspiring to smuggle wildlife, including rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York and Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS)."
Empire of Sin
Nonfiction book by Gary Krist
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Empire of Sin re-creates the remarkable story of New Orleans' thirty-years war against itself, pitting the city's elite "better half" against its powerful and long-entrenched underworld of vice, perversity, and crime. This early-20th-century battle centers on one man: Tom Anderson, the undisputed czar of the city's Storyville vice district, who fights desperately to keep his empire intact as it faces onslaughts from all sides. Surrounding him are the stories of flamboyant prostitutes, crusading moral reformers, dissolute jazzmen, ruthless Mafiosi, venal politicians, and one extremely violent serial killer, all battling for primacy in a wild and wicked city unlike any other in the world.
Agence France-Presse (AFP):
Rashmee Roshan Lall, NPR:
Survival International: "Davi Kopenawa, shaman and internationally renowned spokesman for the Yanomami tribe in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, has demanded urgent police protection following a series of death threats by armed thugs reportedly hired by gold miners operating illegally on Yanomami land."
Monday, July 28, 2014
Nonfiction book by Edward Dolnick
Publication Date: August 12, 2014
Hachette Book Group:
A riveting portrait of the [California] Gold Rush, by the award-winning author of Down the Great Unknown and The Forger's Spell.
In the spring of 1848, rumors began to spread that gold had been discovered in a remote spot in the Sacramento Valley. A year later, newspaper headlines declared "Gold Fever!" as hundreds of thousands of men and women borrowed money, quit their jobs, and allowed themselves — for the first time ever — to imagine a future of ease and splendor. In The Rush, Edward Dolnick brilliantly recounts their treacherous westward journeys by wagon and on foot, and takes us to the frenzied gold fields and the rowdy cities that sprang from nothing to jam-packed chaos. With an enthralling cast of characters and scenes of unimaginable wealth and desperate ruin, The Rush is a fascinating — and rollicking — account of the greatest treasure hunt the world has ever seen.
On Sunday a tiger killed a 65-year-old woman in Nepal.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL):
Moscow police have detained more than two dozen "false psychics" from Central Asia and Armenia.
Moscow's Interior Affairs Department said on July 28 that 27 suspects, mainly from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have been detained in Moscow and suburbs.
The suspects, led by a 48-years-old man and a 45-year-old woman from Moscow whose names were not revealed, are suspected in a mass fraud.
Investigators say the group has been cheating ordinary people, "forecasting their future" and organizing "ceremonies to cure their health problems" and to solve other personal issues.
The group has been active in Moscow for a long time and received up to 100 phone calls per day from potential "clients."
According to police, the group has illegally obtained more than 800 million rubles ($22,800,000) from Moscow residents.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
In the Kingdom of Ice
Nonfiction book by Hampton Sides
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age.
In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores.
James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world's attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of "Arctic Fever."
The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom, and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice — a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival.
With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In the Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth.
Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America: "Suspected Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped an influential traditional ruler and Muslim spiritual leader in northern Cameroon along with his family. The kidnappers also seized the wife of a government minister during their raid in the border town of Kolofata, near Nigeria's Borno State."
Friday, July 25, 2014
The China Mirage
Nonfiction book by James Bradley
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Hachette Book Group:
From the bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise, a spellbinding history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao's ascent.
In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind America's engagement in Asia. Now comes his most engrossing work yet. Beginning in the 1850s, Bradley introduces us to the prominent Americans who made their fortunes in the China opium trade. As they — good Christians all — profitably addicted millions, American missionaries arrived, promising salvation for those who adopted Western ways.
And that was just the beginning.
From drug dealer Warren Delano to his grandson Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from the port of Hong Kong to the towers of Princeton University, from the era of Appomattox to the age of the A-Bomb, The China Mirage explores a difficult century that defines U.S.-Chinese relations to this day.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences: "The first ever example of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales has been discovered in Russia. Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers so this new find indicates that all dinosaurs could have been feathered."
U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):
If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.
Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn't mention it. The "impactor" was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.
"If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.
International Maritime Bureau:
The Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) raises concerns over a worrying trend of small tanker hijacks in its 2014 half yearly report released Tuesday.
Globally, 116 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been reported to the PRC in the first six months of 2014, down from the 138 incidents for the corresponding period for 2013. In 2014, 10 vessels were hijacked, seven fired upon, 78 boarded and 21 vessels reported attempted attacks against their vessels. Two hundred crew members were taken hostage, five kidnapped from their vessels and there were two fatalities according to the report.
In Southeast Asia, at least six known cases of coastal tankers being hijacked for their cargoes of diesel or gas oil have been reported since April this year, sparking fears of a new trend in pirate attacks in the area. Until then, the majority of attacks in the region had been on vessels, mainly at anchor, boarded for petty theft.
"The recent increase in the number of successful hijackings is a cause for concern," stated IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan. "These serious attacks have so far targeted small coastal tankers. We advise these vessels to maintain strict antipiracy measures in these waters, and to report all attacks and suspicious approaches by small craft."
Indonesia accounts for 47 of the reported incidents with vessels boarded in 40 reports. The overwhelming number of these incidents are low-level thefts against vessels. At Pulau Bintan, 18 incidents were reported, prompting the Indonesian Marine Police to add this port to the list of 10 areas where patrols have increased this year.
Off West Africa, 23 incidents have been reported, with Nigeria accounting for 10 of these reports. Four vessels were hijacked, including a product tanker taken off Ghana in early June and under the control of suspected Nigerian pirates for a week. Noting that Gulf of Guinea piracy was particularly violent, Mr. Mukundan gave an example where a crew member was killed and another injured during a shootout with armed pirates when they boarded a vessel off the coast of Nigeria at the end of April. A further three vessels came under fire from Nigerian pirates during this period.
The number of Somali pirate attacks continues to remain low with 10 incidents reported, including three vessels fired upon. No vessels were boarded. However, Mr. Mukundan warned: "While we welcome the continued decline in the number of Somali incidents the risk of piracy has not completely diminished. Ship masters are reminded to remain vigilant and apply the Best Management Practices guidelines."
Created by industry bodies with input from navies, the Best Management Practices assist masters in transiting the dangerous waters in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
The Fortunes of Africa
Nonfiction book by Martin Meredith
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Perseus Books Group:
Africa has been coveted for its riches ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew fortune-seekers, merchant-adventurers, and conquerors from afar. In modern times, the focus of attention is on oil, diamonds, and other valuable minerals.
Land was another prize. The Romans relied on their colonies in northern Africa for vital grain shipments to feed the population of Rome. Arab invaders followed in their wake, eventually colonizing the entire region. In modern times, foreign corporations have acquired huge tracts of land to secure food supplies needed abroad, just as the Romans did.
In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future.
His cast of characters includes religious leaders, mining magnates, warlords, dictators, and many other legendary figures, among them Mansa Musa, ruler of the medieval Mali empire, said to be the richest man the world has ever known. "I speak of Africa," Shakespeare wrote, "and of golden joys." This is history on an epic scale.