Who will take the gold this year, for hating the gays?
Most Americans grew up studying maps of the world that made Africa look about the same size as Greenland. In fact, those maps distorted the true sizes of the world’s countries and continents. Africa is large enough in area to contain China and the USA, plus a whole lot more.
A computer graphics expert, Kai Krause, published a more accurate depiction of Africa’s size, but a writer at The Economist has made some improvements.
In Mr Krause’s map (above) he seems to have used the shapes of the countries from a Mercator projection, but has scaled up the outline of Africa, without changing its shape, to show the appropriate area. An alternative and arguably more rigorous approach would be to repeat the exercise using an “equal area” projection that shows the countries’ areas correctly while minimising shape distortion. These two properties are the hardest to balance when showing the whole world on one map. I decided to rework Mr Krause’s map using Gall’s Stereographic Cylindrical Projection (1855) with two standard parallels at 45°N and 45°S. Distortions are still evident at the poles, but for most countries shape is maintained, and their areas are shown correctly. As you can see (below), the results are distinct from Mr Krause’s map. But however you look at it, his point is a good one: Africa is much bigger than it looks on most maps.
As conservatives rage about the cost of Obama’s Africa trip, it is important to remember that George and Laura Bush made a combined 7 trips to Africa all on the taxpayers’ dime.
We’ve played this game before, but anytime the nation’s first black president spends more than a dollar, the right wing freaks out about Barack Obama “wasting taxpayer dollars.” Back in 2011, the right claimed that First Lady Obama’s Africa trip would cost taxpayers millions, but even if you use numbers that the White House disagrees with ($424,000), they weren’t even close.
This time the right has whipped up the fake outrage over a leaked document showing that President Obama’s upcoming Africa trip could cost $60-$100 million. What these same people don’t tell is that George and Laura Bush loved to go to Africa on the taxpayers’ dime…a lot.
During Bush’s second term alone, Laura Bush made five “goodwill” trips to Africa. President Bush made the trip twice during his presidency. Here is former First Lady Bush at an event the night before their trip in 2008, “Tomorrow, President Bush and I leave for what will be my fifth trip to Africa since 2001, and his second trip to Africa since 2001. I’ve seen the determination of the people across Africa — and the compassion of the people of the United States of America.”
Wow, that’s a lot of trips to Africa. In 2007, Laura Bush also took her daughters with her, and they went on a safari. You know, the same kind of outing that President Obama just canceled.
Not much was going right for George W. Bush. Even before the economy crashed, his legacy was 9/11, the unpopular Iraq invasion, and Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2003, Bush laid the groundwork for making aid to Africa his legacy. One of the areas where Bush drew praise was that he spent billions of taxpayer dollars on aid to Africa. It’s funny how conservatives don’t utter a peep about George W. Bush dishing out more than ten times the amount of taxpayer money on aid than Obama will spend on his trip.
Google’s news about its ambitious plans to build wireless networks in “emerging markets” like Africa and Asia isn’t nearly as interesting as how the company might ultimately end up deploying Wi-Fi to these areas - not via conventional cable-stringing but, rather, by balloons.
While Google appears to be planning a fleet of CPUs and Android phones to connect its wireless networks together - over airwaves commonly used for television broadcasts, reports the Wall Street Journal - the company is also allegedly planning a few more esoteric methods for getting wireless access up-and-running in areas previously underserved.
Among these methods includes satellite Internet and the aforementioned “balloons” plan, which would use “high-altitude platforms” to blast a wireless signal across an area spanning hundreds of square miles.
In other words, these aren’t just conventional Wi-Fi routers strapped to weather balloons. They would also use frequencies different than those used for television broadcasts - an area that the company would need to get a governmental blessing from in order to fully deploy, given the regulations involved.
As for why Google’s planning to invest such a great deal of hardware and engineering think into underdeveloped areas, the Wall Street Journal postulates that Google’s simply interested in connecting more users into the Googlesphere of apps and devices. Doing so, in turn, helps add to Google’s considerable success in Web advertising. With more than half the globe not even connected to the Web, even gaining a small sliver in this ignored population would give Google a healthy new base to draw from - a critical note, given that the company pulls most of its annual revenue from its advertising.
Chinese trade with African countries was nearly $200 billion in 2012. But after years of embracing China, some Africans say that China is taking more than it gives back.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is touring parts of Africa this week, celebrating ever-closer economic ties that have made Beijing the continent’s biggest trading partner. But the bloom is off their initial romance, as each side finds previously unseen flaws in its partner.
“The honeymoon is over,” says Deborah Brautigam, an expert on China and Africa at Johns Hopkins University. “Now they are working on their relationship. It is not purely harmonious by any means.”
Indeed, China and Africa may be going through something of a “seven-year itch,” say some observers. It has been that long since 48 African leaders gathered at an unprecedented summit in Beijing to embrace China, and now some influential African voices are grumbling about whether their continent has benefited sufficiently from that embrace.
The figures are startling: Chinese trade with African countries has leapt fourfold in six years to reach nearly $200 billion in 2012. There are now between 1 million and 2 million Chinese businessmen and women in Africa, according to the government here (which does not keep accurate count). Chinese investments in Africa are worth more than $20 billion.
“Generally speaking, China has fulfilled the expectations it had seven years ago for its relations with Africa,” says Niu Xinchun, a researcher at the Chinese Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government-linked think tank in Beijing.
But in recent weeks, two prominent Africans have wondered aloud about their own expectations. “We have had some bad experiences with Chinese companies in this country,” Botswana’s president Ian Khama said in a recent interview with the Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper.
In the future, “we are going to be looking very carefully at any company that originates from China in providing construction services of any nature,” he added, saying other African leaders shared his views.
‘Essence of colonialism’
The targets of Somali pirates are taking countermeasures and the number of ship hijacking has dropped dramatically.
According the UK based “The Economist,” from the International Maritime Bureau, the number of attacks off the Horn of Africa dropped from 236 in 2011 to around 72 in 2012.
Now a private navy is giving the pirates cause for pause.
A company called Typhoon will use a mother ship to accompany convoys of merchant vessels. With over 60 armed men on board, the ship will deploy speed boats to cover the commercial ships. There is even talk of using small drones to check Somali “fishing vessels.”
There are trees that grow in Africa which, once a year, produce very juicy fruit that contain a high percentage of alcohol. The tree is known as the “Elephant Tree,” because elephants have a fondness for the fruit. Because there is a shortage of water in that area, as soon as the fruits are ripe, animals come there to help relieve themselves of the heat.
In French. Needs no translation.
Thanks to FNB’s Page about recent events in Mali, The Price of War: Ancient African Archives Set on Fire in Timbuktu, I found some good news regarding the manuscripts and (thanks to a commenter), an excellent BBC video:
Time magazine’s Vivienne Walt reports that some experts on the ground in Mali say many of the manuscripts were saved before the Islamists’ pillage:
Realizing that the documents might be prime targets for pillaging or vindictive attacks from Islamic extremists, staff left behind just a small portion of them, perhaps out of haste, but also to conceal the fact that the center had been deliberately emptied.
‘The documents which had been there are safe, they were not burned,’ Mahmoud Zouber, Mali’s presidential aide on Islamic affairs, told Time, ‘They were put in a very safe place.’
Other experts confirmed that while there were ‘a few items’ in the Ahmed Baba library, the rest were protected in an undisclosed hiding place.
Here’s a look at why the world is so worked up over the documents and what it might mean if they were destroyed:
Woohoo—chalk up one for the good guys! They’ve been through this before and were ready for it. *happy dance*
Here’s a fascinating BBC documentary about Timbuktu’s libraries, including the one that was burned (h/t Origuy):
Have I mentioned lately how much I despise extremists who do nothing but hate & leave destruction in their path? Gah!
As if Africa didn’t have enough problems, it’s recently been discovered that Iran is behind the large quantities of unidentified AK-47 ammunition flooding the continent. There has been a major effort to keep new AK-47s and ammo for them from getting onto the illegal arms markets in Africa. Keeping new weapons out of the continent has been easier than blocking delivery of ammo for the millions of assault rifles already there. This was especially true of the mystery ammo, which had no identifying marks on the shell casings and came in plain brown boxes and crates. For the last several years the source of this stuff has remained a mystery. This ammo also showed up in Gaza and in southern Lebanon (where Iran-supported Hezbollah rules supreme). That indicated Iran might be involved as Iran is a major supplier of weapons to both areas. Iran has always denied it was the source of this ammunition.
Many groups analyzed the mystery ammo, looking for any kind of identifier (chemical composition, alloys used and other unique characteristics) but all that resulted from this was a pretty thorough chemical and metallurgical analysis of the ammo. The big break came in late 2011 when 13 containers of ‘building materials’ in a Nigerian port were found to contain mainly weapons and ammo, and most of the ammo was identical to the unidentified AK-47 stuff showing up all over Africa. These containers were traced back to Iran, as was most of the weapons and ammo. The Iranians tried to deny everything, but they were caught red-handed this time, with a clear paper trail tracing the containers back to an Iranian port and shipper. Despite all this, Iran continued to deny that it was the supplier of the mystery AK0-47 ammo.
The presence of all these assault rifles and ammo has led to the deaths of millions of Africans Once tribesmen, over the last two decades, got access to cheap AK-47s the death rate from banditry and tribal feuds skyrocketed. The AK-47 has become as much of a curse for Africa as many major diseases. Not just in the places you hear about, like Somalia, Angola, Congo, and Sudan but in many others as well. Easy availability of firearms has produced a murder rate in South Africa that is, per capita, ten times what it is in the United States.
The cheap AK-47s resulted in traditional crimes, like stealing cattle or land, turning into bloody battles. The violence has caused millions to flee their homes and wrecked local government in many areas. Sending in additional police and soldiers, when available, quiets things down somewhat. But the local guys with the guns know where to hide and the government reinforcements usually don’t. So, eventually, the police will leave and the AK-47s will still be there.
This is from a movie but it is irresistibly apt: