- Anthrodendum takes a look at how surfing has been commodified.
- Bad Astronomer Phil Plait looks at the stellar occultation that has revealed information about MU69, the next New Horizons target.
- Crooked Timber's Corey Robin takes issue with Mélenchon's take on anti-Semitism and the French role in the Holocaust.
- D-Brief notes that we really are not good at detecting faked photos.
- Dangerous Minds shares some vintage photos of strippers from the 1960s.
- Michael Sacasas of The Frailest Things looks, again, at the technologically enchanted world.
- Language Log takes issue with the dismissive treatment of "... in a woodpile." The expression is poison.
- The LRB Blog looks at the dual position of the camel among the Sahrawi, as wild and tame at once.
- Neuroskeptic looks at the problems of neuroscience, statistically.
- The NYR Daily considers the hacking of the American vote. Who did it? Who gained?
- Science Sushi notes that climate change threats African wild dogs' survival.
- Window on Eurasia notes an Armenian argument that Russia lacks the soft power that the Soviet Union once enjoyed.
- Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith updates his readers about the progress of his various writing projects.
- The Big Picture shares photos from the Battle of Mosul waged against ISIS.
- Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of rogue binary planet 2MASS J11193254–1137466, two super-Jupiters by themselves.
- Dangerous Minds notes the raw photography of early 20th century New York City's Weegee.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money is rightly unimpressed by the reflexive Russophilia of The Nation. Imperialism is still imperialism ...
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen strongly recommends Dali, in the Chinese province of Yunnan, for tourists.
- The NYR Daily features Masha Gessen, looking at the truth underneath the lies of Trump.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer makes a case that Macron's use of "civilizational" to describe Africa's issues might be the subject of over-quick outrage.
- Peter Rukavina describes his two weeks with a Nokia N95, without a modern smartphone. There was good and bad to this.
- Speed River Journal's Van Waffle explains, with photos, what hoverflies are and why they are so important.
- Understanding Society considers a fraught question: what paths to modernization were open for China in the 1930s, before the People's Republic?
- Window on Eurasia suggests that, in 30 years, Moscow will be a megacity with a large population of (substantially immigrant) Muslim origin.
- The anthropology group blog Savage Minds now has a new name, Anthrodendum.
- Anthropology.net reports on the first major study of ancient African human DNA. New history is revealed.
- Bad Astronomer Phil Plait reports on how gravitational lensing led to the identification of a single star nine billion light-years away. (This is a record.)
- Centauri Dreams reports the possible detection of a debris disk around pulsar Geminga, augury of future planets perhaps?
- Dangerous Minds reports on Seoul's Haesindang Park, a park literally full of penises--phallic symbols, at least.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes one analysis arguing for the plausibility of unmanned probes using imaginable technology reaching the ten nearest stars in a century.
- Imageo shares photos from space of the southern California wildfires.
- Language Hat shares some stirring poetry in Scots.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the scale of child labour in North Carolina's farm sector.
- Marginal Revolution thinks that American observers of Putin think, far too much, that he actually has a plan. The degree of chaos in Russia's affairs is apparently being underestimated.
- Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw notes the unsettling rural Americana of photographer Gregory Crewdson.
- Window on Eurasia notes Zhirinovsky's plan for a sweeping Russian annexation of Ukraine, leaving only the northwest independent.
- Craig S. Smith notes the profound cynicism of Kellie Leitch in using one Syrian refugee's abuse of his wife to criticize the entire program.
- CBC's Carolyn Dunn notes that the story of the Trinh family, boat people from Vietnam who came to Canada, will be made into a Heritage Minute.
- James Jeffrey describes for the Inter Press Service how refugees from Eritrea generally receive warm welcome in rival Ethiopia.
- Crooked Timber responds to The Intercept's release of data regarding Russian interference with American elections.
- Dangerous Minds reports on how Melanie Gaydos overcame a rare genetic disorder to become a model.
- Dead Things seems unduly happy that it does see as if Tyrannosaurus rex had feathers. (I like the idea.)
- The Dragon's Gaze reports on our ability to detect the effects of a planet-shattering Nicoll-Dyson beam.
- The Frailest Thing considers being a parent in the digital age.
- Language Hat notes the African writing systems of nsibidi and bamum.
- Marginal Revolution notes that Trump-supporting states are moving to green energy quite quickly.
- Window on Eurasia notes how Russian guarantees of traditional rights to the peoples of the Russian North do not take their current identities into account.
- Beyond the Beyond notes an image of a wooden model of Babbage's difference engine.
- James Bow talks about the soundtrack he has made for his new book.
- Centauri Dreams considers ways astronomers can detect photosynthesis on exoplanets and shares images of Fomalhaut's debris disk.
- Crooked Timber looks at fidget spinners in the context of discrimination against people with disabilities.
- D-Brief notes that Boyajian's Star began dimming over the weekend.
- Far Outliers reports on a 1917 trip by zeppelin to German East Africa.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that there is good reason to be concerned about health issues for older presidential candidates.
- The NYRB Daily reports on Hungary's official war against Central European University.
- The Russian Demographics Blog notes the origins of modern immigration to Russia in internal Soviet migration.
- Savage Minds shares an ethnographer's account of what it is like to look to see her people (the Sherpas of Nepal) described.
- Strange Maps shares a map speculating as to what the world will look like when it is 4 degrees warmer.
- The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the US Congress does not have authority over immigration.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's population will be concentrated around Moscow, compares Chechnya's position vis-à-vis Russia to Puerto Rico's versus the United States, and looks at new Ukrainian legislation against Russian churches and Russian social networks.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how Evelyn Waugh's writings on the Horn of Africa anticipate the "Friedman unit", the "a measurement of time defined as how long it will take until things are OK in Iraq".
- The Big Picture shares photos of the South Sudanese refugee exodus into Uganda.
- blogTO shares an ad for a condo rental on Dovercourt Road near me, only $1800 a month.
- Centauri Dreams reports on the idea of using waste heat to detect extraterrestrial civilizations.
- Crooked Timber uses the paradigm of Jane Jacobs' challenge to expert in the context of Brexit.
- The LRB Blog reports on the fishers of Senegal and their involvement in that country's history of emigration.
- The Planetary Society Blog shares an image comparing Saturn's smaller moons.
- The Volokh Conspiracy comes out in support of taking down Confederate monuments.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Chechens are coming out ahead of Daghestanis in the North Caucasus' religious hierarchies, and argues that Putin cannot risk letting Ukraine become a model for Russia.
- Arnold Zwicky looks at various bowdlerizations of Philip Larkin's famous quote about what parents do to their children.
- blogTO looks at eleven recent Toronto-themed books, from fiction to children's literature.
- Centauri Dreams considers the idea of using waste heat to detect extraterrestrial civilizations.
- Far Outliers reports on how German East Africa substituted for foreign imports during the blockade of the First World War.
- Marginal Revolution suggests that the fall of Rome may have been due to the failure to reconquer North Africa.
- The NYRB Daily looks at the exuberant art of Jazz Age Florence Stettheimer.
- The Planetary Society Blog shares a stunning portrait of Jupiter from the New Horizons probe.
- Window on Eurasia considers the idea of containment in the post-Cold War world.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell looks at the British election.
- Anthropology.net reports on new evidence that Homo naledi may have used tools, buried their dead, and lived alongside Homo sapiens.
- Centauri Dreams remembers an abortive solar sail mission to Halley's Comet.
- Dangerous Minds shares photos of the "Apache" dancers of France.
- Cody Delistraty writes about Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg and his efforts to plan for humanity's future.
- At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer talks about her day as a sociologist.
- Joe. My. God. notes the good news that normal young HIV patients can now expect near-normal life expectancies.
- Language Hat looks at a recent surge of interest in Italian dialects.
- Language Log looks at the phenomenon of East Asians taking English-language names.
- The LRB Blog considers the dynamics of the United Kingdom's own UDI.
- Marginal Revolution looks at the existential issues of a growing Kinshasa still disconnected from the wider world.
- Steve Munro notes that Metrolinx will now buy vehicles from France's Alstom.
- The New APPS Blog uses Foucault to look at the "thanatopolitics" of the Republicans.
- The NYRB Daily looks at Trump's constitutional crisis.
- Out There considers the issues surrounding the detection of an alien civilization less advanced than ours.
- The Planetary Society Blog looks at the United States' planetary science exploration budget.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at Argentina's underrated reputation as a destination for foreign investment.
- Progressive Download shares some thinking about sexual orientation in the context of evolution.
- Peter Rukavina looks at the success of wind energy generation on the Island.
- Understanding Society takes a look at the dynamics of Rome.
- Window on Eurasia shares a lunatic Russian scheme for a partition of eastern Europe between Russia and Germany.
James Jeffrey reports for the Inter Press Service about how Somaliland, particularly its capital of Berbera, is trying to look forward to a bright future independent of a Somalia Somalilanders wish to separate from.
Crossing African borders by land can be an intimidating process (it’s proving an increasingly intimidating process nowadays in Europe and the US also, even in airports). But crossing from Ethiopia to Somaliland at the ramshackle border town of Togo-Wuchale is a surreally pleasant experience.
Immigration officials on the Somaliland side leave aside the tough cross-examination routine, greeting you with big smiles and friendly chit chat as they whack an entry stamp on the Somaliland visa in your passport.
They’re always happy to see a foreigner’s visit providing recognition of their country that technically still doesn’t exist in the eyes of the rest of the political world, despite having proclaimed its independence from Somalia in 1991, following a civil war that killed about 50,000 in the region.
A British protectorate from 1886 until 1960 and unifying with what was then Italian Somaliland to create modern Somalia, Somaliland had got used to going on its own since that 1991 declaration, and today exhibits many of the trappings of a functioning state: its own currency, a functioning bureaucracy, trained police and military, law and order on the streets. Furthermore, since 2003 Somaliland has held a series of democratic elections resulting in orderly transfers of power.
Somaliland’s resolve is most clearly demonstrated in the capital, Hargeisa, formerly war-torn rubble in 1991 at the end of the civil war, its population living in refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia. An event that lives on in infamy saw the jets of military dictator Mohammed Siad Barre’s regime take off from the airport and circle back to bomb the city.
But visitors to today’s sun-blasted city of 800,000 people encounter a mishmash of impassioned traditional local markets cheek by jowl with diaspora-funded modern glass-fronted office blocks and malls, Wi-Fi enabled cafes and air-conditioned gyms, all suffused with typical Somali energy and dynamism.
NOW Toronto's David Silverberg takes a look at the course in Ge'ez, a liturgical language of Ethiopia, newly offered by the University of Toronto thanks to funding by Ethiopian-Canadian rapper The Weeknd.
How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?
That's one of the questions for U of T's Robert Holmsted, who's teaching the university's course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge'ez.
In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past.
Manuscripts in the language, which hasn't been spoken in 1,000 years, date from as far back as the sixth century BCE. In fact, contemporary scholars of such ancient languages may not be able to ascertain the true sound of the language at all.
Holmstedt agrees that no one can truly know how centuries-old languages were pronounced, but we can get some clues from other Semitic tongues.
"Without recordings, we have to do our best to reconstruct the sound from Semitic languages," he says. "We make an approximation and can never know for sure."
The National Post carried Joseph Wilson's Associated Press article reporting on a failed effort by well over a thousand Africans to storm the fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.
More than 50 Moroccan and Spanish border guards were injured repelling around 1,100 African migrants who attempted to storm a border fence and enter Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta, Spanish authorities said Sunday.
A regional government spokesman told The Associated Press that 50 Moroccan and five Spanish border guards were injured early on Sunday when the large group of migrants tried to enter Spain.
The spokesman said two migrants managed to reach Spanish soil. Both were injured in scaling the six-metere-high border fence and were taken to a hospital by Spanish police. He spoke anonymously in line with government policy.
A further 100 migrants climbed the fence, but Spanish agents sent them directly back to Morocco.
[. . .]
Hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco try to enter Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave, each year in hope of getting to Europe.
Most migrants who try to cross are intercepted on the spot and returned to Morocco. Those that make it over the fences are eventually repatriated or let go.
I quite liked the energy of Tyler Cowen's Bloomberg View column describing why he went to Lagos, Nigeria's largest city and commercial capital, for a visit.
People seemed surprised to see me and I did not encounter many other evident tourists. The Nigerian clerk at my (upscale) hotel expressed shock that a white person had arrived. Perhaps she thought I was a sex tourist, as she continued in full enthusiasm: “The room is solo? Don’t worry, Nigerian women just love men like you!” I believe she meant this as local hospitality, though under another reading it is a veiled critique. The truth, I admit, is indeed pretty strange. I like to go around and look at gross domestic product, and that simple fact explains much of my unusual behavior abroad.
Nigeria is now the country with the highest GDP in Africa, having surpassed South Africa, and it ranks globally at number 26. If Lagos state were a country, it would have the fifth largest GDP on the continent.
As an economist, I feel a moral pull, not to mention a personal curiosity, to see goods and services being produced. That means visiting Lagos’s renowned computer market and fabrics market as well as its fast-food shops, shopping malls, street food and ice cream parlors. I sought out its bridges, canals and electric generators, though not the oil areas -- there are too many kidnappings there.
Making large-scale structures and trading goods and services are among the most human and noble of activities, so is it actually so strange to visit them, as one might enter a cathedral or make a pilgrimage to Gettysburg? For all the talk about human interactions being the key to a wonderful trip, those interactions usually require some sort of scaffolding and structure to one’s daily activities, and on that score a quest for GDP can help out. I’ve yet to go on a safari.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the need for opponents of Trump to fight, not just the man but the root causes.
- Centauri Dreams notes a study suggesting Proxima Centauri is gravitationally bound to Alpha Centauri A and B.
- Dangerous Minds shares photos depicting the devastation of Gatlinburg by fire.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes that stars with close-orbiting rocky worlds seem to have above-solar metallicity, and considers the albedos of exoplanets.
- Far Outliers looks at how Poland's Communist government tried to undermine Pope John Paul II in 1979.
- Joe. My. God. notes a lawsuit lodged against the American government demanding the release of information regarding the Russian information hack.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes poor working conditions in Bangladesh.
- Marginal Revolution notes a Yoruba tongue twister.
- The Planetary Society Blog links to China's planned program of space exploration.
CBC News' Taylor Simmons notes that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa.
Zakiya Tafari remembers celebrating his first Kwanzaa over 20 years ago.
"I was introduced to it at a very young age and just found it to be really empowering," he said.
"There are some guiding principles that really help individuals know who we are as individual black people, what are some of the great things that our ancestry came from and what we need to be doing to move that message forward."
He sees that continuation in his 12-year-old daughter. This year, she bought a new dashiki, a colourful African garment, to wear during their Kwanzaa celebration.
"It's really cool to see a kid who grew-up in a different generation from me, who's very much a modern kid ... but she still respects some of her African ancestry and is proud to embrace it."
The centrepiece of Kwanzaa, according to Tafari, is spending time with each other.
- Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith announces some of his plans for the forthcoming year.
- C.J. Cherryh talks about her experience of early winter in Oklahoma.
- The Map Room Blog links to a collection of electoral map what-ifs.
- Marginal Revolution looks at the worrying connection between Rogue One and fake news.
- The NYRB Daily shares Tim Parks' reflections on Machiavelli's The Prince.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer reports on the ongoing constitutional crisis in the Congo.
- Peter Rukavina shares a photo of Charlottetown's Province House.
- Strange Maps shares Radio Garden, a map of the globe that lets people pick up thousands of radio stations around the world.
- Transit Toronto notes a new boarding area for GO Transit users at Union Station.
- Window on Eurasia shares criticism of Russia's Syria policy that calls it Orwellian.
My thanks to Facebook's Conrad for linking to Adrija Roychowdhury's fantastic article in Indian Express looking at an overlooked element of African history in India, of Africans in positions of sovereign power.
“When your family has been ruling for hundreds of years, people still call you by the title of Nawab,” says Nawab Reza Khan, tenth Nawab of Sachin as he traces his family’s regal history. Reza Khan currently works as a lawyer and lives in the city of Sachin in Gujarat. He says his ancestors came from Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia in East Africa) as part of the forces of Babur. Eventually, they conquered the fort at Janjira and later occupied Sachin and ruled over their own kingdoms.
The Nawab of Sachin is a personified remnant of a glorious African past in India. Africans have, for centuries been a part of Indian society. While the slave trade from Africa to America and Europe is well documented, the eastward movement of African slaves to India has been left unexplored.
The systematic transportation of African slaves to India started with the Arabs and Ottomans and later by the Portuguese and the Dutch in the sixteenth -seventeenth centuries. Concrete evidence of African slavery is available from the twelfth-thrirteenth centuries, when a significant portion of the Indian subcontinent was being ruled by Muslims.
There is, however, a major difference between African slavery in America and Europe and that in India. There was far greater social mobility for Africans in India. In India, they rose along the social ladder to become nobles, rulers or merchants in their own capacities. “In Europe and America, Africans were brought in as slaves for plantation and industry labour. In India on the other hand, African slaves were brought in to serve as military power,” says Dr Suresh Kumar, Professor of African studies in Delhi University.
These were elite military slaves, who served purely political tasks for their owners. They were expensive slaves, valued for their physical strength. The elite status of the African slaves in India ensured that a number of them had access to political authority and secrets which they could make use of to become rulers in their own right, reigning over parts of India. They came to be known by the name of Siddis or Habshis (Ethiopians or Abyssinians). The term ‘Siddi’ is derived from North Africa, where it was used as a term of respect.
National Geographic's Christine Dell'Amore's feature is quite right to identify the elephants fleeing poachers into Botswana as refugees, I think. What a terrible situation.
The elephants swim across the river in a straight line, trunks jutting out of the water like snorkels. With low, guttural bellows, they push their bodies together, forming a living raft to bolster a calf too tiny to stay afloat on its own.
This pachyderm flotilla has a dangerous destination in mind: The grassy shores of Namibia, where elephants are literally free game for legal hunters. The animals will risk their lives to feed here before fording the Chobe River again, back to the safety of Botswana's Chobe National Park.
To avoid ivory poachers in neighboring Namibia, Zambia, and Angola, elephants like this family are fleeing in astounding numbers to Chobe, where illegal hunting is mostly kept in check. (See National Geographic's elephant pictures.)
"Our elephants are essentially refugees," says Michael Chase, founder of the Botswana-based conservation group Elephants Without Borders, which works to create transboundary corridors for elephants to travel safely between countries.
Elephants aren't the only animals battling for survival in the dry, harsh world of northern Botswana. Tune in to the three-part miniseries Savage Kingdom on November 25 at 9 p.m. ET on Nat Geo WILD.
But while Chobe offers some protection, it’s not the most welcoming stronghold. The increasingly dry ecosystem is buckling under the pressure of supporting so many of the six-ton animals, which each eat 600 pounds of food daily.
- blogTO reports that Honest Ed's will have its final sign sale this weekend.
- D-Brief looks at the New Horizons probe's next target after Pluto, and reports that Venus is tectonically active.
- Centauri Dreams reports on the mechanics of the antimatter sail.
- Dangerous Minds features a video of France Gall singing about computer dating in 1968.
- The Dragon's Gaze considers biological fluorescence as a marker for life on red dwarf exoplanets.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on a wall of taco trucks set to face Donald Trump in Las Vegas.
- The LRB Blog notes the flailings of the Nigerian president.
- The NYRB Blog reports on how Brexit will wreck a British economy dependent on single market access.
- Transit Toronto notes that preliminary work has begun on the Scarborough subway.
- The Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr links to an editorial of his arguing that it should be made easier for Americans to migrate.
- Window on Eurasia notes that Russia is losing a third world war over brainpower and looks at the problems of sleeping districts in Moscow, a legacy of Soviet misplanning.
Bloomberg's William Davison reports on the Ethiopian allegation that ethnic Oromo protesters are being covertly supported by Egypt.
Ethiopia’s government suspects Egyptian elements may be backing Oromo protesters as rivalry over control of the Nile River intensifies, Communications Minister Getachew Reda said.
Authorities in Cairo may be supporting the banned Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, that organized a spate of attacks last week across Ethiopia’s most populous region, which led to the declaration of a state of emergency on Sunday, he told reporters Monday in the capital, Addis Ababa.
“We have ample evidence that trainings have happened, financing has happened in Egypt, the jury is still out whether the Egyptian government is going to claim responsibility for that,” Getachew said. “Nor are we saying it is directly linked with the Egyptian government, but we know for a fact the terrorist group OLF has been receiving all kind of support from Egypt.”
Egypt’s government has claimed Ethiopia’s construction of a hydropower dam on the main tributary of the Nile contravenes colonial-era treaties that grant it the right to the bulk of the river’s water. Ethiopian officials reject the accords as obsolete and unjust.