- National Geographic reports on how, unchecked, global warming may wreck the coffee industry of Uganda.
- Aeon notes the nervous system of the ctenophore, product of a separate evolutionary process from our own.
- Phys.org describes a recent study suggesting Easter Island was not wrecked by ecocide. (The Rapanui were devastated by others, I would add.)
- Even with an active magnetic field, an Earth-like atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b might be eroded away by flares. Universe Today reports on the climate model making this prediction.
- Does bizarre Przybylski’s star, HD 101065, contain exotic superheavy elements in its atmosphere? New Scientist wonders.
- Centauri Dreams notes the exobiological potential of Titamn after the detection of acrylonitrile. Cryogenic life?
- This guest essay at Lawyers, Guns and Money on the existential problems of Brazil, with politics depending on people not institutions, is a must-read.
- The LRB Blog considers, in the context of Brexit, what exactly might count for some as a marker of dictatorship.
- Did the 15th century construction of the Grand Canal in China lead the Ming away from oceanic travel? Marginal Revolution speculates.
- The NYR Daily considers
- Out There explores the reasons why the most massive planets all have the same size.
- The Planetary Society Blog notes the 5th anniversary of the arrival of Curiosity on Mars.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, with regards to Venezuela, the United States has no good options.
- Roads and Kingdoms considers the febrile political mood of Kenya.
- Window on Eurasia argues that Putin is making the mistake of seeing the United States through the prism of Russia.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes a proposal for British mayors to have representation at Brexit talks makes no sense.
- 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.
- Dangerous Minds notes a remarkable Japanese magazine featuring photos of rock stars from the 1970s and 1980s.
- Joe. My. God. notes the death of drag legend Lady Chablis.
- Marginal Revolution notes the exceptional skepticism of some with the idea of a guaranteed minimum income in Kenya.
- The NYRB Daily interviews Chinese documentary filmmaker Ai Xiaoming, who despairs for the future of civil society in her country.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer contrasts race and politics in the states of Alabama and Mississippi.
- Registan notes the orderly succession of power in post-Karimov Uzbekistan.
- Torontoist notes that the TTC can be a nightmare for women.
- Bloomberg looks at the restarting of northern Alberta oil, looks at the deterioration in Sino-Taiwanese relations, reports on how Norway is using oil money to buffer its economic shocks, and suggests low ECB rates might contribute to a property boom in Germany.
- Bloomberg View notes the idea of a third party in the US, one on the right to counter Trump, will go nowhere.
- The CBC notes the settlement of a residential school case in Newfoundland and Labrador and predicts a terrible fire season.
- The Globe and Mail' Kate Taylor considers Canadian content rules in the 21st century.
- The Inter Press Service notes that planned Kenyan closures of Somali refugee camps will have terrible results.
- National Geographic looks at the scourge that is Pablo Escobar's herd of hippos in Colombia.
- The National Post notes VIA Rail's existential need for more funding and reports on Jean Chrétien's support of decriminalizing marijuana.
- Open Democracy looks at controversies over Victory Day in Georgia, and notes the general impoverishment of Venezuela.
- Vice looks at new, accurate dinosaur toys, feathers and all.
- Wired explains why Israel alone of America's clients can customize F-35s.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes evidence that Kardashev Type III civilizations do not exist.
- The Dragon's Tales notes the new Kenya-Somalia border war, suggests the United Arab Emirates will be building a mountain to try to trigger rain, and notes that the new French-built submarines of Australia will come with American tech parts.
- Language Log looks at the changing meaning of "feel".
- Marginal Revolution suggests Russian power might be on an upswing and looks at European Union proposals to fine countries which do not accept refugees.
- The NYRB Daily notes the controversy surrounding Poland's Second World War museum at Gdansk.
- The Planetary Society Blog looks at robotic activity around the solar system.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer considers the question of whether or not Napoleonic rule did kickstart growth in western Germany.
- Savage Minds continues the discussion of decolonizing anthropology.
- Torontoist notes a protest tomorrow by Ontario parents unhappy that the provincial government will not cover enough of an effective autism program.
- Window on Eurasia looks at class divisions in Russia and notes a proposal to divert water from Siberian rivers to China.
Justus Wanzala, writing for the Inter Press Service, looks at the kitchen gardens of Kenya.
Busia County in western Kenya is home to an array of indigenous vegetables. But for decades there has been a shift in popular taste leading to leading to little interest in what is indigenously grown. This relegated the vegetables to the periphery with most farmers cultivating kale and cabbages among other more exotic varieties.
However, but this has been changing courtesy of awareness created by nutritionists and the emergence of kitchen gardens. A kitchen garden is an area in a homestead where leafy vegetables, fruit or herbs are grown.
Subsistence farming is the mainstay of communities in Busia County with an average acreage being two hectares. Thanks to a local a local community-based organisation (CBO), Sustainable Income Generating Investment (SINGI), and its partners, the concept of kitchen gardens is in vogue having a huge impact on nutrition and food security in the county.
SINGI works with over 50 farmer groups in the county with members running up to hundreds. Women however dominate the membership. Buoyed rains that come two seasons each year, with some farmers being able to practice irrigation, most households are able to maintain their kitchen gardens throughout the year.
Justus Wanzala at the Inter Press Service writes about how solar power hubs are helping boost local economies in Kenya.
This market centre in the arid Lake Magadi region, Kajiado of Southern Kenya is with no grid electricity. The area is inhabited by the pastoralist Maasai community. With climate change affecting their pastoral way of life, the community is increasingly adopting a more sedentary life but without amenities.
The centre is hot and dusty. Much as the area enjoys bright sunshine during the day, the situation changes to pitch dark after sunset. But in the last two years, the market centre is witnessing a transformation. It is becoming a beehive of activity.
This is courtesy of Solar Kiosk Kenya Ltd. that installed a retail kiosk, called the SOLARKIOSK E-HUBB. The E-HUBB, designed by GRAFT (partners and co-founders of SOLARKIOSK AG, the Berlin-based mother company), is a modular solar-powered structure that can be easily implemented in remote communities.
The E-HUBB outlet enables and empowers local entrepreneurship and the sustainable development of Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) communities by selling essential food ingredients, vital energy services, solar and clean energy products and connectivity solutions. By the end of 2015, SOLARKIOSK will have implemented over 100 E-HUBBs on three continents.
A SOLARKIOSK E-HUBB is a solar-powered autonomous business hub. It uses solar power to generate electricity for rural off-grid communities for various uses. It is a decentralised, easy to maintain source of energy. Kiosk operators are able to use the power during the day and continue operating late into the night.
Al Jazeera America's Tom A. Peter looks at how climate change is undermining the coffee industry of Tanzania.
For the last 20 years, Fredrick Damien has watched as his coffee trees have produced fewer and fewer beans. Back in the 1990s, his half-acre farm at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro turned out as many as 330 pounds of coffee a season, but now he’s happy to harvest 200 pounds of beans. He’s tried planting other crops to make up for the shortfall, but in this region coffee is the only viable cash crop.
“I’m trying to put more effort into growing bananas, but I’m mostly just asking God for a miracle,” he says.
The culprit cutting into Damien’s bottom line is one that he only vaguely understands and that has no easy solution: climate change. Over the last 60 years, rising nighttime temperatures have taken a toll on coffee production in this remote corner of Africa, reducing yields by roughly half. Countries throughout East Africa and other coffee growing regions around the world are likewise expected to experience reduced yields if current trends continue. As the world feels the effects of global warming more acutely, coffee farmers, the vast majority of whom live on razor thin margins, are likely to be among the hardest hit.
“We are feeling very worried because we don’t have any other alternatives [to generate income] like mining. We just have coffee. If the weather keeps changing we will have nothing else to do,” says Mary Faustimi, general secretary of the Mamsera Agriculture Marketing Co-operative Society, in the Kilimanjaro region. “We’ve tried to mitigate the effects of climate change. We’ve stopped cutting down trees, and we’ve done what we can, but it’s frustrating because now it depends on other people."
Paul Steyn of National Geographic writes about the reintroduction of lions to Rwanda.
Jes Gruner was excited when he told me over the phone that the lions had made their first kill.
A week after their release into the Akagera National Park in the northeast of Rwanda, the lions took down a waterbuck on the lakeshore and were gorging themselves on the carcass. Gruner, the Park Manager of Akagera, was obviously happy about the report. These are the first wild lions to set foot in the country since the animals were hunted to local extinction 15 years ago, and a kill is a sure sign they are doing well.
The stakes are high for lions in Africa as their numbers plummet across the continent. And the Rwanda reintroduction is a working case study for conservationists on how to move and reintroduce wild lions over long distances, and how to save the species as a whole.
Lions were wiped out in Rwanda in the years after the bloody genocide and civil war in 1993 and 1994. Refugees returning from neighboring countries settled in Akagera National Park and other protected areas, then poisoned the predators to protect livestock.
Al Jazeera America's Tom A. Peter reports on the movement of Burundian refugees into Tanzania, a movement that might be more durable than many might wish.
When Niyonzima Peruz fled mounting violence in her home country of Burundi in 1996, she guessed it might be decades before she could return.
“There was no peace in Burundi,” she says. “We left everything.”
Nineteen years later, her prediction isn’t so far off. Although she returned to Burundi in 2004, she spent most of her time there wishing she could go back to the refugee camp in neighboring Tanzania, where she had regular work and made a home. This past April unrest reared up once more and by May, Peruz found herself again in a Tanzanian refugee camp. Now she has no intention of ever returning to Burundi, even if that means spending the rest of her life in a refugee camp.
By the time Peruz first arrived in Tanzania, Burundi had seen consistent turmoil since gaining independence in 1962. In 1993, deep-rooted tensions between Burundi’s Hutu and Tutsi tribes boiled over and eventually pushed her out of the country. With no foreseeable end to her nation’s troubles, Peruz, like most other refugees, put down roots in Tanzania’s Mtabila refugee camp. In the years that followed, she married and had two children. Throughout the camp, tents were gradually replaced with mud-brick homes with thatched roofs.
- blogTO examines the nature of Toronto's abundant consumption of electricity.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a study of the atmosphere of Wasp 80b.
- The Dragon's Tales notes that Russian rocket manufacturer Energomash may go out of business as a result not of sanctions but of threatened sanctions.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money does not approve of Kenya's plan to deport Somali refugees.
- Mark MacKinnon shares an old 2003 article of his from Iraq.
- The Planetary Society Blog
looks at the new Vulcan rocket.
- pollotenchegg maps, by province, the proportion of Ukrainians claiming Russian as their mother language.
- Registan argues that NATO and Russia might be misinterpreting
- Spacing Toronto shares a screed on cyclists.
- Towleroad notes that Chile now has same-sex civil unions.
- Transit Toronto notes that the TTC has hired an external corporation to manage the problematic Spadina subway extension.
- The Volokh Conspiracy argues that libertarians do exist as a distinguishable political demographic.
- Window on Eurasia examines turmoil in Karelia and terrorism in Dagestan.
Medium's Robert Beckhusen argues that Ethiopia makes very good use of its military budget. I would add that part of it may have to do with the weakness of opponents, like Eritrea never mind Somali warlords. Still, interesting.
“In part due to previous lessons learned, to date Ethiopia has been able to foil any significant terrorist attacks by Al Shabaab, though not for lack of trying by the terrorist organization,” OE Watch, the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office monthly newsletter, recently noted.
The Ethiopians “scare the Hell out of everybody,” Alexander Rondos, the European Union’s representative for the Horn of Africa, said in 2014.
By global standards, Ethiopia’s military spending as a percentage of its GDP is low—only around 0.8 percent—which puts it in the bottom half of countries.
By African standards, the dollar amount spent—around $330 million per year or so depending on the source—is middling. Ethiopia is one of the few countries on the continent that decreased its defense budget during the past decade, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Despite this, Ethiopia has one of the strongest armies in Africa, arguably outmatched only by Egypt, Algeria and South Africa. And these three countries spend far more on their militaries, both in per capita terms and in actual dollars, than Ethiopia.
The Inter Press Service's Miriam Gathigah notes that despite recent economic growth, income inequality and absolute poverty remain quite high throughout Kenya.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, an estimated five million out of about eight million Kenyan households depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Yet agriculture fails to provide an adequate return to farmers because their sector is significantly underfunded, explains Jason Braganza, an economic analyst based in Nairobi.
The percentage of the budget for the agricultural sector is 2.4 percent, down 0.6 percent from the 3 percent in the 2012/2013 budget and well below the threshold of the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which mandated that at least 10 percent the national budget should be allocated to agriculture.
The result, says Kamau, is that “farmers are slowly moving out of the farms and trying other economic ventures, Central Kenya used to be a breadbasket but farmlands are being replaced by residential and commercial complexes.”
Farming is not the only sector feeling an economic downslide. Small businesses in Kenya are faced with a lack of essential business support services, especially financial services. Two-thirds of Kenyans do not have access to basic financial services such as banking accounts.
“The growth of both urban and rural slums is an indication that more people are falling on hard times,” according to Dinah Mukami of the Bunge la Mwananchi [People’s Parliament] pro-poor social movement.
The National Post's Stewart Bell reports that the Canadian government has reacted to the Eritrean government's continued shaking down members of the Eritrean diaspora for money to fund the Eritrean military by expelling the Eritrean consul-general (located in Toronto, apparently). Good.
As recently as Monday, the head of the mission, Consul Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael, denied that. “I was collecting before and I stopped collecting,” he insisted in a telephone interview. “It’s not a problem.”
But the evidence showed otherwise and on Wednesday the Canadian government ordered Mr. Micael’s expulsion over his persistent efforts to use the consulate to violate a United Nations military embargo.
[. . .]
“I think it had to happen. The consulate was warned and ignored the warning,” said David Matas, senior legal counsel to the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group, which had complained to Foreign Affairs and the RCMP about the consulate.
While pro-government Eritrean-Canadians have paid willingly, others called it extortion and the UN has reported that “threats, harassment and intimidation against the individual concerned or relatives in Eritrea” were used to extract tax payments.
“The people who were being victimized were Canadian dual nationals and permanent residents,” said Mr. Matas, a Winnipeg lawyer. “It was essential that the government of Canada stand up for Canadians being victimized on Canadian soil by a foreign government.”
For obvious reasons, I wasn't doing an extended links post on Christmas Day.
- Andrew Barton suggests that human genetic engineering might start off by offering parents the chance to increase their progeny's height.
- Laura Agustin writes about how some male sex workers in Kenya want, need, HIV education but are afraid of getting it openly for fear that they might be found out by homophobic neighbours.
- Daniel Drezner work on Iran. Targeted sanctions could send the message that the West would still want to deal with the government, general sanctions could help trigger regime change but aren't likely too given how Iran's major trading partners aren't likely to join in, and who knows who things will go?
- The Global Sociology blog is unimpressed by the Facebook campaign that saw rage Against the Machine take the #1 position on the UK's Christmas music charts. "A virtual flash mob does not a social movement make."
- Language Log's Mark Liberman writes about how users of standard English (whatever the standard may be) have made fun of speakers of non-standard English, from the 17th century through Dickens up to Sarah Palin.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer wonders whether Rwanda, in the course of its years-long occupation of large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, did profit from looting the territory after all.
- Scott Peterson at Wasatch Economics suggests that New Zealand might follow the United States in making very significant deep-water finds of oil and natural gas.
- Acts of Minor Treason's Andrew Barton speculates on the constellations seen by someone living on a world orbiting the young but broadly Sol-like star of Iota Horologii.
- blogTO's David Marciniak doesn't think that the city of Toronto's decision to pay an additional $C 417 million for new streetcars after the federal government bailed out is a good one, especially since it takes money away from other, arguably more useful, projects.
- Broadsides' Antonia Zerbisias <ahref="http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2009/07/impotence.html">blogs about how a generally impotent Hamas makes itself feel powerful by bullying women who don't accept subordination.
- Aslak at Demography Matters points out that, contrary to social conservatives' beliefs, it's actually the most liberal societies which evidence the highest birth rates, and that it's the societies with more traditional gender roles that see impressive fertility declines.
- Far Outliers blogs about the 11th century trade boom in northeast Asia.
- Douglas Muir at A Fistful of Euros examines the implications for Kosovo if the International Court of Justice rules against the legality of its creation.
- At his Halfway Down the Danube, Douglas also takes a look at Ugandans fears of trouble in 2011.
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen examines how Alan Turing's hidden sexuality and possible autism influenced the design of the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.
- Slap Upside the Head makes the point that a celibate gay man who was employed by an Ontario Catholic church as an altar server really should be surprised that he was fired. What could he have expected?
- Strange Maps has a somewhat gruesome map showing where people jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge, and also shows a remarkable map of the world as seen from late Tokugawa Japan.
- The Dragon's Tales blogs about plans for NASA-ESA cooperation on future Mars missions.