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  • Charley Ross reports on an unexpected personal involvement in the disappearance of Kori Gossett. Did an informant know?

  • Citizen Science Salon reports, in the time of #sharkweek, on the sevengill sharks.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an article on the Chinese base in Sudan.

  • Inkfish has a fascinating article describing how New Zealand's giant black swans went extinct, and were replaced.

  • Language Hat notes two obscure words of Senegalese French, "laptot" and "signare". What do they mean? Go see.

  • Language Log argues that the influx of English loanwords in Chinese is remarkable. Does it signal future changes in language?

  • Lawyers, Guns Money notes how Los Angeles and southern California were, during the American Civil War, a stronghold of secessionist sentiment, and runs down some of the problems of Mexico, including the militarization of crime.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on what books by which authors tend to get stolen from British bookstores.
  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests that Donald Trump is not likely to be able to substantially reshape NAFTA.

  • Roads and Kingdoms reports from the recent protests in Poland against changes to the Supreme Court.

  • Understanding Society takes a look at the structure of the cities of medieval Europe, which apparently were dynamic and flexible.

  • Unicorn Booty shares some classic gay board games.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is going to try to wage a repeat of the Winter War on Ukraine.

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  • D-Brief notes the first-ever use of Einsteinian gravitational bending to examine the mass of a star.
  • Language Log announces the start of an investigation into the evolving rhetoric of Donald Trump. Something is up.

  • The LRB Blog reports from Tuareg Agadez in Niger, about rebellions and migrant-smuggling.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders what is the rationale for the extreme cut-off imposed on Qatar.

  • Maximos62 wonders about the impact of Indonesia's fires on not just wildlife but indigenous peoples.

  • Personal Reflections notes the irrelevance of the United States' withdrawal from Paris, at least from an Australian position.

  • Savage Minds points to a new anthropology podcast.

  • Window on Eurasia
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  • 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.

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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.
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  • 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.

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The Toronto Star's Allan Woods reports on a Senegalese accused terrorist with Canadian connections and his personal history.

As the child of a Senegalese diplomat, Assane Kamara was accustomed to finding his place in unfamiliar lands. In his 24 years, he had lived in Ivory Coast, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Madagascar.

But his privileged upbringing veered off course in 2014, prompting his worried mother to launch a search for her son, and leading her from the family home in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, to Friday prayers in an Edmonton mosque.

As she forced him to return home, a member of the Kamara family said that the questions swirled. What had become of the young man sent for an education at Quebec’s Université de Sherbrooke? Why had he cut contact with his family and moved to western Canada? And who were the devout Canadian Muslims he now counted as his closest friends?

In the months following the intervention, three of those friends — Samir Halilovic, Zakria Habibi and Youssef Sakhir — would flee Canada to try and join Daesh, the Islamic terror group in Syria and Iraq.

Today, Kamara sits in a Dakar jail facing terrorism charges that were laid in February 2016, based on allegations he had planned to join a jihadist group, Henry Boumy Ciss, a spokesperson for Senegal’s National Police, told the Star.
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  • 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.

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  • blogTO considers some of the spendthrift things a millionaire could do in Toronto.

  • James Bow remembers his 9/11 experience.

  • Crasstalk features an essay by a New Yorker reflecting on her 9/11.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog reflects on how white power and white powerlessness can co-exist.

  • Language Hat shares one book's evaluation of Neapolitan dialect.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes one evaluation of Neapolitan dialect.

  • Otto Pohl notes how Kurdish history is less ethnically complex but more politically complex than Ghana's.

  • Towleroad notes the death of trans actress Alexis Arquette.

  • Window on Eurasia describes Russia as, I would say, quasi-Bonapartist.

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  • The Big Picture shares photos of life around the world this month.

  • blogTO notes that a vacant lot on Sherbourne Street will become an urban farm, for a time.

  • Centauri Dreams explores the strange oceans of Titan.

  • Dangerous Minds shares some astoundingly open ads for cocaine paraphrenalia from the 1980s.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a study suggesting that it was the Chicxulub impact, not the Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions, which were extinction-triggering.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the governor of South Carolina's statement that his political opponents orchestrated the reaction to anti-trans legislation to ensure he would not get re-elected.

  • Language Hat reports on an Igbo journalist explaining why he, and many of his people, do not speak their ancestral language.

  • The Map Room Blog maps patterns of rail travel in Europe.

  • Michael Steeleworthy is critical, and rightly so, of the massive announced cutbacks to Newfoundland and Labrador's library service.

  • Torontoist notes the Toronto Hard Candy gym's cutting of its links with Madonna.

  • Transit Toronto notes the TTC is looking for volunteer ambassadors.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that population growth in Russia is concentrated in largely non-Russian regions.

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Broadly speaking, I agree with the movement to return a looted Nigerian artwork as described in the National Post by Javier Espinoza's article, originally published in The Telegraph.

Nigerian officials have already made plans for the repatriation from Britain of the controversial bronze “Cambridge cockerel” and its return to a royal palace, documents reveal.

It is understood the Nigerian minister of culture has been closely following a push by students at Cambridge University’s Jesus College to repatriate the statue, which was looted by British forces in the 19th century.

Sources said keeping the statue in the royal palace of Benin in Nigeria would be “in line with current protocol,” after which it would be decided if it belongs in a museum.

Jesus College this week confirmed the statue, which has long held pride of place in the college’s dining hall, is to be taken down and a debate about its future will be held.

If it is decided that it should be repatriated, it would be taken to the Nigerian royal palace, the documents showed.
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Al Jazeera's Mark LeVine has an inspiring piece about popular culture and its impact on democratic politics.

In the past five years, the West African nation of Mali has suffered through a military coup, an attempted countercoup and the eruption of a major insurgency in the northern part of the country. But the capital, Bamako, still pulses with the culture of music, from traditional kora and ngoni to slow Songhoy Blues jams and from Touareg rock to West African hip-hop. Two festivals ran concurrently there last month, the Festival Acoustik de Bamako and a Dogon heritage festival.

Meanwhile, Egypt is in the midst of the most invasive crackdown on citizens in its modern history, five years after the overthrow of the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of people have been killed, and tens of thousands have been imprisoned, tortured and disappeared. Police are breaking into people’s homes around Cairo’s Tahrir Square and searching their Facebook and email accounts, looking for anyone who might still espouse the goals of the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution. On once occupied streets, the music has gone silent. In the Sinai desert, an anti-government insurgency rages on, but the government has little incentive to end it, since it functions as a justification for suspending freedoms.

Why are these two countries in opposite circumstances five years after what should always have been understood as an Afro-Arab Spring? In theory, the situation should be the reverse. Egypt’s GDP per capita is triple Mali’s; its human development index rating, literacy rate and level of industrialization are almost double; and its life expectancy is 20 years longer. Egypt has a relatively educated population and a historically strong state that at least has the potential to govern and develop the country. For its part, Mali remains by almost every measure one of the poorest countries on earth.

The two countries both contain ungoverned desert regions, home to disaffected and marginalized populations who for centuries have been engaged in long-distance trade outside the bounds of state control. More recently, as the level of state neglect and broken promises became intolerable, foreign-influenced religious insurgencies have been able to infiltrate and take over some of these areas.

Mali is certainly not the economic African success story it was once described as, and its government and security forces are not free of corruption and abuse. Yet it is experiencing a renewed democracy and a cultural renaissance, both pitted against the religious extremism that nearly ripped the country in half. In Mali some of the most beautiful, complex and virtuosic music on earth is being weaponized in the struggle against Islamist extremism.
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Bloomberg's Brian Eckhouse notes Senegal's development of solar energy.

Senegal plans to build as much as 200 megawatts of solar power, with at least half of that up and running within two years, after joining an International Finance Corp. program designed to promote wider use of clean energy in sub-Saharan Africa.

Senegal is the second country to join the IFC’s Scaling Solar initiative, after Zambia signed on last year, the lender said in a statement Tuesday.

The effort will bring a needed injection of electricity to Senegal, where just over half the population has access to electricity, according to the World Bank. Under the program, the IFC helps organize competitive auctions, offers financing and provides some guarantees against risk.

The first auction, for at least 100 megawatts of capacity, is expected this year, according to Jamie Fergusson, chief investment officer and global renewables lead at the IFC.
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Paul Steyn's National Geographic report about this intelligent bird is terribly sad. May it flourish in protected areas, and perhaps in the diaspora, too.

Flocks of chattering African Grey parrots, more than a thousand flashes of red and white on grey at a time, were a common site in the deep forests of Ghana in the 1990s. But a 2016 study published in the journal Ibis reveals that these birds, in high demand around the world as pets, and once abundant in forests all over West and central Africa, have almost disappeared from Ghana.

According to the study, the pet trade and forest loss—particularly the felling of large trees where the parrots breed—are major factors contributing to the decline.

Uncannily good at mimicking human speech, the African Grey (and the similar but lesser-known Timneh parrot) is a prized companion in homes around the world. Research has shown that greys are as smart as a two-five year-old human child—capable of developing a limited vocabulary and even forming simple sentences.

Google the term “African Grey talking,” and you’ll find hundreds of videos—including Einstein the talking parrot’s TED presentation—showing the birds whistling and mimicking words and phrases.

The grey parrot has a wide historic range across West and central Africa—1.1 million square miles (nearly three million square kilometers)—from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in West Africa, through Nigeria and Cameroon and the Congo forests, to Uganda and western Kenya. Ghana accounts for more than 30,000 square miles (75,000 square kilometers) of that range, but losses of greys there have been some of the most devastating.
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The Economist notes how The Gambia is transitioning into an Islamic republic.

Its arrival was less bloody, its ambitions less grand. But as 2015 drew to a close, and the world’s attention was fixed firmly on Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Gambia announced that it, too, was henceforth an Islamic state.

The president of the tiny west African nation, Yahya Jammeh, issued the proclamation, which came with no forewarning and seemingly on a whim, on December 11th, 2015. Mr Jammeh cited the wishes of the people (90% of Gambians are Muslim), and the need to distance the country from its “colonial legacy”. The Gambia now follows Mauritania as Africa’s second “Islamic Republic”, although the country’s secular constitution, ratified in 1996, remains unaltered.

On January 4th an executive order, leaked to the press, banned all female civil servants from leaving their hair uncovered during working hours. The national broadcaster has taken to referring to the Gambia as an “Islamic Republic” and the Supreme Islamic Council, a group of scholars, is to go around the country stirring up popular support for the decision. Legislation to enforce it will soon be introduced into parliament and the national flag will be changed to reflect the country’s new status, says the president.

But key details are still lacking. It is not clear, for instance, whether Mr Jammeh intends to implement fully-fledged sharia (Islamic law), as he was rumoured to be planning in the early 2000s, or whether he plans to put the issue to a referendum. In his original declaration in December he assured non-Muslims that their rights would be protected, and that there would be no mandatory dress codes. Such promises already look thin in light of the January 4th order.

Mr Jammeh’s government already has one of the worst human-rights records on the continent. Gay people are persecuted: Mr Jammeh has publicly vowed to slit their throats. Dissidents are brutalised in inventive ways in torture chambers not far from The Gambia’s tourist beaches. On one occasion the security forces rounded up hundreds of villagers suspected of witchcraft after the president’s aunt grew sick. During interrogations, many of the female “witches” were raped, according to Human Rights Watch.
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NPR's Goats and Soda features an article looking at the rebirth of live theatre in Ghana.

When the military took power in Ghana, imposing a curfew from the early 1980s, theaters in the West African country went dark. By the time elected-civilian government was restored in 1992, many Ghanaians had lost the habit of going out to watch a play.

Now one man is luring his compatriots back to live shows — and away from TV and videos. His name is James Ebo Whyte — "but everyone in Ghana calls me 'Uncle' Ebo Whyte, because of the program I do on radio," he says.

You can't miss the nattily dressed playwright. At 70 years old, he's small, dynamic and fit with a big smile. The one-time businessman regularly leaps on stage to talk to the audience for whatever reason — whether to explain a cut to the power supply or to encourage the enthusiastic theatergoers to pick up his magazine and buy tickets for his next play.

"I've been writing, directing and producing a play every quarter for the last seven years, and this is my 28th play in seven years," Whyte says.
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Bloomberg's Silas Gbandia and Isis Almeida report on the struggles of Sierra Leone's nascent cocoa agribusinesses to survive Ebola and its aftermath.

In July 2014, Adrian Simpson was on a night out in Sierra Leone’s third city of Kenema to celebrate his biggest deal yet: a contract to supply a new business partner with cocoa beans from his company’s plantation.

But as he and the business partners sat drinking beer, an unexpected visitor brought some distressing news.

“We were having a great evening,” said Simpson, managing director of the cocoa unit of London-listed Agriterra Ltd., by phone from London. “Then, an American girl who was studying Ebola wandered over to our table, sat down and said, ‘I think Ebola has arrived.”’

Fast forward to November 2015, and Sierra Leone was declared free from the disease that ultimately claimed almost 3,600 lives in the country, making it one of the hardest-hit by the worst Ebola epidemic yet. The double blow of Ebola and a slump in iron-ore prices devastated the West African nation. While growth is forecast at 0.1 percent this year, the economy contracted 0.25 percent in 2015. Before Ebola began to spread, the government expected growth to reach 14 percent in 2014. Instead, it grew 4.6 percent.
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The Halifax Chronicle-Herald's Fraqnces Willick writes about a lesbian refugee from Gambia, happily resettled in Halifax.

One month ago, Jahu Camara’s life changed forever.

The young woman stepped off a plane at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, and in an instant, everything was different.

She was free.

“I was feeling like I was in a different world. Everything was like a dream to me,” said Camara, 20.

“If I remember where I am from and where I am, it’s just like a dream.”

Camara is originally from Gambia, in northwest Africa, but she fled to neighbouring Senegal in October 2014. As a lesbian, Camara knew that remaining in Gambia meant not only hiding her sexuality but also living under the constant threat of imprisonment and torture.

“Being a homosexual in Gambia is a deadly act,” she said, sitting at a kitchen table in Dartmouth.
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Cooking at the ROM #toronto #books #senegal #yolele #pierrethiam #rom

Pierre Thiam's cookbook of Senegalese cuisine caught my eye at the Royal Ontario Museum's gift shop.
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Bloomberg's Olivier Monnier reports that, at least officially, Côte d'Ivoire has no concerns with potential negative consequences for its exports coming from the pegging of the CFA franc to the Euro.

Ivory Coast’s economy has benefited from the stability of a currency pegged to the euro and has so far escaped any fallout from the economic slowdown in China, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said.

“There is no fear” about any major pressures being exerted on the CFA franc, the currency used by Ivory Coast and 13 other smaller African economies, Duncan said in an interview in Abidjan, the commercial capital, on Monday. The common currency “is beneficial for our economies. Those who have tried their own money have had some ups-and-downs with some difficulties.”

The stability from the common currency has made it easier to keep investors in Ivory Coast, avoiding the sell-off in emerging market assets sparked by the surprise decision by China to devalue its yuan in August. The move, which fueled concern authorities are struggling to combat a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy, prompted Kazakhstan to abandon its currency peg and intensified speculation that African nations would do the same.

China is the nation’s third-largest trade partner, after Nigeria and France.

The CFA franc has depreciated 7 percent against the dollar this year, compared with the 24 percent decline in the Ugandan shilling and 29 percent plunge in the Zambian kwacha, Africa’s worst performers.
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NPR's Eliza Barclay makes a report that make sense of a lot of press coverage about West African cocoa. Of course there would be heavy recourse to child and slave labour if the cocoa plantations are unrenumative.

[T]he 2015 Cocoa Barometer [is] an overview of sustainability issues in the cocoa sector, written by various European and U.S. NGOs, and was released in the U.S. this week. And what they're really worried about is the people who grow the beans that are ground up to make our beloved treat.

"The world is running out of cocoa farmers," the report states. "Younger generations no longer want to be in cocoa. Older generations are reaching their life expectancy."

It's well known that most cocoa farmers live in extreme poverty. There are about 2 million small-scale farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast, the West African countries that produce at least 70 percent of the world's cocoa beans. The average cocoa farmer in Ghana earns 84 cents a day, while the average small farmer in Ivory Coast earns just 50 cents a day, according to the Barometer.

I met two women cocoa farmers at the World Cocoa Foundation's meeting in Washington, D.C., this week. Assata Doumbia tells me (in French, through a translator) that she and her husband are both in ECAM, a cooperative of 900 farmers in Ivory Coast, and that their income is "extremely low, almost nothing." What little they do earn goes straight to her husband.

"Men have all the control and decision-making power in the cocoa sector," she says, though she and a few other women are trying to change that for the 120 women in the cooperative.blockquote>


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