Thursday, September 18, 2014
U.S. Justice Department: "A federal grand jury in Detroit returned two separate indictments against seven executives from two Japanese manufacturers of automotive parts for their participation in a conspiracy to fix prices of certain automotive parts, the Department of Justice announced today."
University of Leeds (United Kingdom):
The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.
Dr. Graham Askew, from the university's School of Biomedical Sciences, filmed five Indian peacocks taking off using two high-speed video cameras to try to work out what price male birds pay for carrying the spectacular iridescent feathers they use in displays to attract females.
"These feathers weigh about 300g and can exceed 1.5m, so it's expected that the male birds would be making a significant sacrifice in their flight performance for being attractive — possibly giving up their lives if the train restricts escape from predators such as tigers and leopards in their natural environment," Dr. Askew said.
He filmed the take-offs of birds carrying full plumage in 3D, and then filmed the same birds taking off without their trains. The display feathers, which naturally molt at the end of the breeding season, were clipped to judge the change in take-off performance between the two states.
(Photo Credit: Jebulon)To his surprise, Dr. Askew found there was no significant difference.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Kim Dae-jung and the Quest for the Nobel: How
the President of South Korea Bought the Peace Prize
and Financed Kim Jong-il's Nuclear Program
Nonfiction book by Kisam Kim and Donald Kirk
Publication Date: December 17, 2014
Kim Kisam, a former South Korean intelligence officer, has collaborated with Donald Kirk, journalist and author, in a study of the campaign waged by Kim Dae-jung, the former South Korean president, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This book, relying heavily on files that Kim obtained from Korean intelligence files before seeking asylum in the U.S., reveals an array of resources dedicated to the quest that culminated in Kim Dae-jung's winning the prize in 2000. The book details the strategy and tactics used to win over highly placed Norwegians and Swedes as well as foreign journalists with emphasis on the misallocation of resources. Most importantly, the book shows the relentless pursuit of the prize as the motive for bringing about the inter-Korean summit of June 2000 at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars paid to North Korea's Kim Jong-il — funds used to finance missile and nuclear programs that threaten the region and the world.
U.S. Justice Department:
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Florence T. Nakakuni for the District of Hawaii announced today that Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 60, a former Honolulu, Hawaii, civilian defense contractor and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi to serve 87 months imprisonment and three years' supervised release for willfully communicating classified national defense information to a person not authorized to receive it and unlawfully retaining classified national defense information at his home.
Bishop pleaded guilty to the two charges on March 13, 2014. In a plea agreement filed with the court and during court proceedings, Bishop admitted that, on March 12, 2012, he e-mailed classified information to a 27-year-old Chinese woman with whom he had a romantic relationship and who was present in the United States as a graduate student on a J1 Visa.
Two people were killed in a gunfight late Tuesday night, when police were trying to capture a suspected drug dealer in south China's Guangzhou City, police said on Wednesday.
At 6:17 p.m. Tuesday, police raided a reported drug-producing den in Haizhu District and were resisted by the suspect with a gun. The suspect also set the apartment on fire during his confrontation with police.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
U.S. Justice Department:
Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. for the Western District of New York announced today that a federal grand jury in Rochester [New York] has returned a seven-count indictment charging Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, with three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), aka the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. In addition, Elfgeeh is also charged with one count of attempted murder of current and former members of the United States military, one count of possessing firearms equipped with silencers in furtherance of a crime of violence, and two counts of receipt and possession of unregistered firearm silencers.
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." The researchers also located the 1863 wreck of the clipper ship Noonday, currently obscured by mud and silt on the ocean floor.
These and other shipwreck investigations mark the first mission of a two-year project to locate, identify and better understand some of the estimated 300 wrecks in Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
"The waters of the sanctuary and the park are one of the great undersea museums in the nation," said James Delgado, director of Maritime Heritage for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Ka'apor Indians in the Amazon rainforest have formed an indigenous "army" to combat illegal invasions of their land, following the government's failure to protect their territory.
The Ka'apor men track down and detain gangs of illegal loggers, set fire to their trucks, and confiscate their chainsaws.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey
into the Heart of Russia
Nonfiction book by David Greene
Publication Date: October 20, 2014
W.W. Norton & Company:
Travels with NPR host David Greene along the Trans-Siberian Railroad capture an overlooked, idiosyncratic Russia in the age of Putin.
Far away from the trendy cafés, designer boutiques, and political protests and crackdowns in Moscow, the real Russia exists.
Midnight in Siberia chronicles David Greene's journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 6,000-mile cross-country trip from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. In quadruple-bunked cabins and stopover towns sprinkled across the country's snowy landscape, Greene speaks with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years.
These travels offer a glimpse of the new Russia — a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity but continues to endure oppression, corruption, a dwindling population, and stark inequality.
We follow Greene as he finds opportunity and hardship embodied in his fellow train travelers and in conversations with residents of towns throughout Siberia.
We meet Nadezhda, an entrepreneur who runs a small hotel in Ishim, fighting through corrupt layers of bureaucracy every day. Greene spends a joyous evening with a group of babushkas who made international headlines as runners-up at the Eurovision singing competition. They sing Beatles covers, alongside their traditional songs, finding that music and companionship can heal wounds from the past. In Novosibirsk, Greene has tea with Alexei, who runs the carpet company his mother began after the Soviet collapse and has mixed feelings about a government in which his family has done quite well. And in Chelyabinsk, a hunt for space debris after a meteorite landing leads Greene to a young man orphaned as a teenager, forced into military service, and now figuring out if any of his dreams are possible.
Midnight in Siberia is a lively travel narrative filled with humor, adventure, and insight. It opens a window onto that country's complicated relationship with democracy and offers a rare look into the soul of twenty-first-century Russia.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Life and Death in the Garden: Sex, Drugs,
Cops, and Robbers in Wartime China
Nonfiction book by Kathryn Meyer
Rowman & Littlefield:
This compelling book provides a rare glimpse into the heart of wartime China. Kathryn Meyer draws us into the perilous world of the Garden of Grand Vision, a ramshackle structure where a floating population of thousands found shelter from the freezing Siberian winter. They had come to the northern city of Harbin to find opportunity or to escape the turmoil of China in civil war. Instead they found despair. As the author vividly describes, corpses littered the halls waiting for the daily offal truck to cart the bodies away, vermin infested the walls, and relief came in the form of addiction. Yet the Garden also supported a vibrant informal economy. Rag pickers and thieves recycled everything from rat pelts to cigarette butts. Prostitutes entertained clients in the building's halls and back alleys.
These people lived at the very bottom of Chinese society, yet rumors that Chinese spies hid among the residents concerned the Japanese authorities. For this population lived in Manchukuo, the first Japanese conquest in what became the Second World War. Thus, three Japanese police officers were dispatched into the underworld of occupied China to investigate crime and vice in the Harbin slums while their military leaders dragged Japan deeper into the Pacific War. While following these policemen, the reader discovers a remarkable and unexpected view of World War II in East Asia. Instead of recounting battles and military strategy, this book explores the margins of a violent and entrepreneurial society, the struggles of an occupying police force to maintain order, and the underbelly of Japanese espionage. Drawing on the author's years of rediscovering the historical trail in Manchuria and research based on top-secret Japanese military documents and Chinese memoirs, this book offers a unique and powerful social and cultural history of a forgotten world.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Mike Eckel, Voice of America:
She is Central Asia's most famous party girl. She designed jewelry and staged fashion shows. She ran television stations. She recorded syrupy pop videos with French film star Gérard Depardieu. And she was once seen as heir apparent to the man who has ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist for decades — her father.
Now Gulnara Karimova is a publicly named suspect in a sweeping graft investigation brought by national prosecutors in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
The announcement of the probe Monday was the latest chapter in a head-spinning fall from power and prestige for Karimova.
Wildlife Conservation Society:
A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society reveals that in India's human dominated agricultural landscapes, where leopards prowl at night, it's not livestock that's primarily on the menu — it is man's best friend.
The study, which looked at scat samples for leopards in India's Ahmednagar's district in Maharashtra, found that 87 percent of their diet was made up of domestic animals. Domestic dog dominated as the most common prey item at 39 percent and domestic cats were second at 15 percent.
Seventeen percent of the leopard's diet consisted of assorted wild animals including rodents, monkeys, and mongooses, and birds.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
This is a reconstruction of the mammal species Xianshou songae.
American Museum of Natural History:
Paleontologists have described three new small squirrel-like species that place a poorly understood Mesozoic group of animals firmly in the mammal family tree. The study, led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, supports the idea that mammals — an extremely diverse group that includes egg-laying monotremes such as the platypus, marsupials such as the opossum, and placentals like humans and whales — originated at least 208 million years ago in the late Triassic, much earlier than some previous research suggests. The study is published today in the journal Nature.
"For decades, scientists have been debating whether the extinct group, called Haramiyida, belongs within or outside of Mammalia," said co-author Jin Meng, a curator in the Museum's Division of Paleontology. "Previously, everything we knew about these animals was based on fragmented jaws and isolated teeth. But the new specimens we discovered are extremely well preserved. And based on these fossils, we now have a good idea of what these animals really looked like, which confirms that they are, indeed, mammals."
The three new species — Shenshou lui, Xianshou linglong, and Xianshou songae — are described from six nearly complete 160-million-year-old fossils found in China. The animals, which researchers have placed in a new group, or clade, called Euharamiyida, likely looked similar to small squirrels. They weighed between 1 and 10 ounces and had tails and feet that indicate that they were tree dwellers.
"They were good climbers and probably spent more time than squirrels in trees," Meng said. "Their hands and feet were adapted for holding branches, but not good for running on the ground."
The members of Euharamiyida likely ate insects, nuts, and fruit with their "strange" teeth, which have many cusps, or raised points, on the crowns. Mammals are thought to evolve from a common ancestor that had three cusps; human molars can have up to five. But the newly discovered species had two parallel rows of cusps on each molar, with up to seven cusps on each side. How this complex tooth pattern evolved in relation to those of other mammals has puzzled scientist for many decades.
Despite unusual tooth patterning, the overall morphology, or physical characteristics, seen in the new haramiyidan fossils is mammalian. For example, the specimens show evidence of a typical mammalian middle ear, the area just inside the eardrum that turns vibrations in the air into ripples in the ear's fluids. The middle ears of mammals are unique in that they have three bones, as evidenced in the new fossils.
However, the placement of the new species within Mammalia poses another issue: Based on the age of the Euharamiyida species and their kin, the divergence of mammals from reptiles had to have happened much earlier than some research has estimated. Instead of originating in the middle Jurassic (between 176 and 161 million years ago), mammals likely first appeared in the late Triassic (between 235 and 201 million years ago). This finding corresponds with some studies that used DNA data.
"What we're showing here is very convincing that these animals are mammals, and that we need to turn back the clock for mammal divergence," Meng said. "But even more importantly, these new fossils present a suite of characters that might help us tell many more stories about ancient mammals."(Image Credit: © Zhao Chuang)
Wake Forest University:
Ellen Miller didn't hesitate to pay homage to a rock-and-roll legend when it came time to name a new fossil she surmised had large, sensitive lips.
"I like the Rolling Stones," she said with a big smile. "I'm a huge Stones fan."
That’s why a swamp-dwelling creature that lived 19 million years ago in Africa is now known by the scientific name Jaggermeryx naida, or "Jagger's water nymph," after Sir Mick Jagger, who has fronted the Rolling Stones band since 1962.