An authoritative consideration of “dirty” gold’s grip on the environment and role in rampant geopolitical corruption.



A deep dive into a landmark U.S. prosecution of players in the transnational illicit gold trade.

The co-authors, all journalists who have worked at the Miami Herald, closely examine the grim, little-understood world of artisanal (small-scale) gold mining, rife with malfeasance, corruption, and ecological devastation, stretching from developing nations like Chile and Peru to Miami, where precious-metal conglomerates like Elemetal sought to dominate the gold market, particularly after the 2008 recession. The narrative follows a broad cast of businessmen, smugglers, and brokers, all of whom realized that shipping illicit Chilean gold through neighboring countries would enable ready sales to firms (Elemetal and others) using forged origin documents. The authors focus on the “three amigos,” macho, self-taught traders employed by Elemetal’s subsidiary, NTR Metals, who were eager to bend the rules and who tracked their smuggling and money laundering on phone apps, which later incriminated them. This misbegotten white-collar–crime story unfolds against a well-rendered historical background of how such activities have fractured the fragile environments and societies of developing nations in Latin America, where remote regions have been overrun by chaotic, destructive artisanal mining. “For Peruvian criminals,” write the authors, “gold had become far more lucrative than cocaine.” Eventually, however, the FBI and federal prosecutors built an in-depth prosecution of the scheme, endeavoring to “lay out a vivid portrait of illegal mining, gold smuggling, and money laundering across two continents, one that captured the widespread environmental damage to the Amazon rain forest and the powerful role of drug traffickers.” The authors write with a journalistic yet culturally attuned voice, but the narrative is sometimes repetitive in its frequent juxtaposition of the brutal conditions in the mine-ravaged rainforests with the wealth and colorful backstories of the key players as well as the determination and diligence of the various law enforcement agencies involved.

An authoritative consideration of “dirty” gold’s grip on the environment and role in rampant geopolitical corruption.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6290-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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