Monday, October 20, 2014


John Wiley & Sons:
Ankylosing spondylitis is a systemic disease that causes inflammation in the spinal joints and was thought to have affected members of the ancient Egyptian royal families. Now a new study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), refutes that claim, finding instead a degenerative spinal condition called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) in royal Egyptian mummies from the 18th to early 20th Dynasties.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

White Rhinos

On Saturday the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya referred to the northern white rhinoceros as a "species." Actually, the northern white rhinoceros is one of two white rhinoceros subspecies. The other subspecies is the southern white rhinoceros. Roughly 20,000 southern white rhinos remain the world.


Saltwater Cowboy: The Rise and Fall of a Marijuana Empire
Nonfiction book by Tim McBride with Ralph Berrier Jr.
Publication Date: April 7, 2015

Macmillan Publishers:
In 1979, Wisconsin native Tim McBride hopped into his Mustang and headed south. He was twenty-one, and his best friend had offered him a job working as a crab fisherman in Chokoloskee Island, a town of fewer than 500 people on Florida's Gulf Coast. Easy of disposition and eager to experience life at its richest, McBride jumped in with both feet.  
But this wasn't a typical fishing outfit. McBride had been unwittingly recruited into a band of smugglers — middlemen between a Colombian marijuana cartel and their distributors in Miami. His elaborate team comprised fishermen, drivers, stock houses, security — seemingly all of Chokoloskee Island was in on the operation. As McBride came to accept his new role, tons upon tons of marijuana would pass through his hands.  
Then the federal government intervened in 1984, leaving the crew without a boss and most of its key players. McBride, now a veteran smuggler, was somehow spared. So when the Colombians came looking for a new middleman, they turned to him. 
McBride became the boss of an operation that was ultimately responsible for smuggling 30 million pounds of marijuana. A self-proclaimed "Saltwater Cowboy," he would evade the Coast Guard for years, facing volatile Colombian drug lords and risking betrayal by romantic partners until his luck finally ran out. 
A tale of crime and excess, Saltwater Cowboy is the gripping memoir of one of the biggest pot smugglers in American history.


Flinders University (Australia):

United Kingdom

London Fire Brigade:
Four fire engines and 21 firefighters and officers have dealt with a small fire at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. A small part of the ship was damaged by fire. 
Station Manager George Vost, who is at the scene, said: 
"Firefighters worked incredibly quickly to get this small fire under control and minimize damage. Crews carried out salvage work on the ship."
The Brigade was called at 0721. Fire crews from Greenwich, Lewisham and East Greenwich fire stations attended the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Related: BBC News


In Henan Province on Saturday, a nine-year-old boy tried to feed a caged bear at a zoo. The bear savaged the boy's right arm. Doctors cut off the appendage after the boy's arrival at a hospital.


Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance,
Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Nonfiction book by Bill Browder
Publication Date: February 3, 2015

Simon & Schuster:
A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin's corruption. 
Bill Browder's journey started on the South Side of Chicago and moved through Stanford Business School to the dog-eat-dog world of hedge fund investing in the 1990s. It continued in Moscow, where Browder made his fortune heading the largest investment fund in Russia after the Soviet Union's collapse. But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs who were robbing the companies in which he was investing, Vladimir Putin turned on him and, in 2005, had him expelled from Russia. 
In 2007, a group of law enforcement officers raided Browder's offices in Moscow and stole $230 million of taxes that his fund's companies had paid to the Russian government. Browder's attorney Sergei Magnitsky investigated the incident and uncovered a sprawling criminal enterprise. A month after Sergei testified against the officials involved, he was arrested and thrown into pre-trial detention, where he was tortured for a year. On November 16, 2009, he was led to an isolation chamber, handcuffed to a bedrail, and beaten to death by eight guards in full riot gear. 
Browder glimpsed the heart of darkness, and it transformed his life: he embarked on an unrelenting quest for justice in Sergei's name, exposing the towering cover-up that leads right up to Putin. A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Mexico

ABC News (USA): "A murder at a New Mexico zoo has taken the life of a Tasmanian devil, an endangered species threatened with extinction."

Personal Comment

Murder is the crime of deliberately killing a human being. People don't murder deer, rabbits, or Tasmanian devils.

Saudi Arabia

"Customs at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh foiled an attempt to smuggle a quantity of African ivory abroad though the kingdom," the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported today.

"The ivory, 588 pieces of different shapes and sizes weighing about 490 kilograms, was found hidden within the luggage of a passenger on a flight coming from one of the African countries and bound to an East Asian country," the agency said.


88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary
Nonfiction book by Robert L. Grenier
Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Simon & Schuster:
The First American-Afghan War, a CIA war, was approved by President George W. Bush and directed by the author, Robert Grenier, the CIA station chief in Islamabad. Forging separate alliances with warlords, Taliban dissidents, and Pakistani Intelligence, Grenier launched the "southern campaign," orchestrating the final defeat of the Taliban and Hamid Karzai's rise to power in eighty-eight chaotic days. 
In his gripping narrative, we meet: General Tommy Franks, who bridled at CIA control of "his" war; General "Jafar Amin," a gruff Pakistani intelligence officer who saved Grenier from committing career suicide; Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's brilliant ambassador to the U.S., who tried to warn her government of the al-Qa'ida threat; "Mark," the CIA operator who guided Gul Agha Shirzai to bloody victory over the Taliban; General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, a cautious man who became the most powerful man in Pakistan, struggling with Grenier's demands while trying to protect his country; and Hamid Karzai, the puzzling anti-Taliban insurgent, a man of courage, petulance, and vacillating moods. 
Grenier's enemies out in front prove only slightly more lethal than the ones behind his own lines. This first war is won despite Washington bureaucrats who divert resources, deny military support, and try to undermine the only Afghan allies capable of winning. Later, as he directed the CIA's role in the Iraq War, Grenier watched the initial victory squandered. His last command was of CIA's Counterterrorism Center (CTC), as Bush-era terrorism policies were being repudiated, as the Taliban re-emerged in Afghanistan, and as Pakistan descended into fratricidal violence.

Friday, October 17, 2014

United Kingdom

NPR: "In the heart of London's Soho sits a gleaming new restaurant — Tincan. The premise is simple: No kitchen, very few staff, and the menu all comes out of a can. Specifically, canned fish."


Reuters: "A man who died outside his rural Northern California home had his corpse dragged away and eaten by a black bear that was sheltering nearby."

New York

U.S. Justice Department: "Two Connecticut men pleaded guilty today to bribery charges, admitting that they participated in a scheme to obtain confidential, internal law enforcement documents and information from a former FBI special agent in White Plains, New York."


The Story: A Reporter's Memoir
Nonfiction book by Judith Miller
Publication Date: April 7, 2015

Simon & Schuster:
Star reporter for the New York Times, the world's most powerful newspaper; foreign correspondent in some of the most dangerous fields; Pulitzer winner; longest jailed correspondent for protecting her sources, Judith Miller is highly respected and controversial. In this memoir, she turns her reporting skills on herself with the intensity of her professional vocation. 
Judy Miller grew up near the Nevada atomic proving ground. She got a job at the New York Times after a suit by women employees about discrimination at the paper and went on to cover national politics, head the paper's bureau in Cairo, and serve as deputy editor in Paris and then deputy at the powerful Washington bureau. She reported on terrorism and the rise of fanatical Islam in the Middle East and on secret biological weapons plants and programs in Iraq, Iran, and Russia. She covered an administration traumatized by 9/11 and an anthrax attack three weeks later. Miller shared a Pulitzer for her reporting. 
She turns her journalistic skills on herself and her controversial reporting which marshaled evidence that led America to invade Iraq. She writes about the mistakes she and others made on the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. She addresses the motives of some of her sources, including the notorious Iraqi Chalabi and the CIA. She describes going to jail to protect her sources in the Scooter Libby investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame and how the Times subsequently abandoned her after twenty-eight years. 
The Story describes the real life of a foreign and investigative reporter. It is an adventure story, told with bluntness and wryness.


Associated Press:


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
It's a point of pride for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka: No toilet paper in our sausage.  
Lukashenka says that's one thing that makes Belarusian products better than Russian ones. 
He told Russian reporters on October 17 that Russia had lowered its food-quality standards after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union "while we, thanks to Lukashenka, retained state standards." 
"Belarusian [food] is of substantially higher in quality. There is no toilet paper in the salami and never was," he said. 
He added that "such facts have been discovered at Russian enterprises — toilet paper, soy, all kinds of additives." 
Both toilet paper and sausage were in short supply in the final years of the Soviet Union.

Back in the UK

BBC News:

Thursday, October 16, 2014


AFP-JIJI: "Brazilian police said Thursday they have arrested a suspected serial killer who admits to slaying 39 people in a four-year killing spree, including 16 young women."


The Dark Art: My Undercover Life in Global Narco-Terrorism
Nonfiction Book by Edward Follis and Douglas Century

Penguin Group (USA):
A highly decorated veteran DEA agent recounts his incredible undercover career and reveals the shocking links between narcotics trafficking and terrorism.
What exactly is undercover?  From a law-enforcement perspective, undercover is the art of skillfully eliciting incriminating statements. From a personal and psychological standpoint, it's the dark art of gaining trust — then manipulating that trust. In the simplest terms, it's playing a chess game with the bad guy, getting him to make the moves you want him to make — but without him knowing you're doing so. 
Edward Follis mastered the chess game — The Dark Art — over the course of his distinguished twenty-seven years with the [U.S.] Drug Enforcement Administration, where he bought eightballs of coke in a red Corvette, negotiated multimillion-dollar deals onboard private King Airs, and developed covert relationships with men who were not only international drug-traffickers but — in some cases — operatives for Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Shan United Army, or the Mexican federation of cartels. 
Follis was, in fact, one of the driving forces behind the agency's radical shift from a limited local focus to a global arena. In the early nineties, the DEA was primarily known for doing street-level busts evocative of Miami Vice. Today, it uses high-resolution-optics surveillance and classified cutting-edge technology to put the worst narco-terror kingpins on the business end of "stealth justice" delivered via Predator drone pilots. 
Spanning five continents and filled with harrowing stories about the world's most ruthless drug lords and terrorist networks, Follis's memoir reads like a thriller. Yet every word is true, and every story is documented. Follis earned a Medal of Valor for his work, and coauthor Douglas Century is a pro at shaping and telling just this kind of story. The first and only insider's account of the confluence between narco-trafficking and terrorist organizations, The Dark Art is a page-turning memoir that will electrify you from page one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District:


A camel killed a man in Quintana Roo.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Flight Deck

AV-8B Harriers and an MV-22 Osprey sit on the flight deck at night
aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan in the Mediterranean Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Foster)


Agence France-Presse (AFP):

House Fly

Cornell University: "Scientists have sequenced the house fly genome for the first time, revealing robust immune genes, as one might expect from an insect that thrives in pathogen-rich dung piles and garbage heaps."

Middle East

David Kohn, The New Yorker:

Mediterranean Sea

IRIN: "In Zarzis, a small port city of some 70,000 in southeastern Tunisia, fishermen plying the Mediterranean have become saviors, rescuing boatloads of illegal migrants to Europe setting out from the shores of Libya."

United Kingdom

(Photo credit: University of Leicester)


Survival International: "Tribespeople living inside a tiger reserve in India are being 'threatened' and 'cheated' into leaving their ancestral land in the name of tiger 'conservation' — even though there is no evidence that they harm the wildlife, and they desperately want to stay on their land."