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  • At Wired, Matt Simon explores the remarkably wrong-headed theory of the 19th century US that "rain follows the plough."

  • These National Geographic photos of the unexplored lakes in Angola that feed the Okavango are remarkable.

  • Rachel Brown examines billy burr, the Colorado hermit whose collection of decades of climate data is invaluable.

  • Universe Today notes a new study confirming the existence of Tau Ceti e and f, potentially habitable rocky exoplanets just 12 light years away.

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  • The Inter Press Service suggests climate change is contributing to a severe drought in Nicaragua.

  • Reuters notes China's plan to implement sanctions against North Korea.

  • Atlas Obscura explores the now-defunct medium of vinyl movies.

  • Science goes into detail about the findings that many pre-contact American populations did not survive conquest at all.

  • CBC notes evidence that salmon prefer dark-walled tanks.

  • Universe Today notes the discovery of a spinning neutron star in the Andromeda Galaxy.

  • Vice's Motherboard notes how Angolan users of free limited-access internet sites are sharing files through Wikipedia.

  • MacLean's notes how an ordinary British Columbia man's boudoir photos for his wife have led to a modelling gig.

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At NPR's Goats and Soda blog, Anders Kelto writes about Angola's suppression of Islam. This seems to be a consequence of a repression of civil society generally.

The oil-rich, southern African nation of 21 million is thousands of miles away, but looks a lot like the U.S. when it comes to religion. Both countries are roughly three-fourths Christian (Roman Catholicism dominates in Angola) and less than 1 percent Muslim.

But in contrast with the U.S., the Angolan government has made it extremely difficult for non-Christian religious groups to practice their faith.

"The problem is that the men in government believe that Angola is a Catholic country," says Elias Isaac, program director for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

He says freedom of religion is protected in the Angolan constitution but is restricted by many laws. For example, the Angolan government only grants legal standing to religious groups that have at least 100,000 members. There are roughly 90,000 Muslims in the country, the vast majority of whom are immigrants from West Africa. Without legal religious standing, Isaac says, Muslims face many challenges.

"They don't have permission to build mosques, to open schools, to build clinics, to do outreach," he says.
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In "Why Luanda’s residents are asking: where did all the oil riches go?", doctoral student Claudia Gastrow notes the vulnerability of the established order in oil-rich Angola after the drop in global oil prices.

After the oil price crash Luandans are left wondering what was actually achieved. Between 2004 and 2014 Angola failed to diversify its economy significantly. Foreign reserves are drying up and inflation hit a three-year high of 10.4% in July this year.

This has been partially driven by a fuel price increase imposed after the fuel subsidy was slashed as a means of decreasing spending. This has led to a rise in food and consumer goods prices, negatively affecting even the small gains that the urban poor made during the boom years.

Ever stronger evidence is emerging of financial mismanagement and large scale corruption in the administration of oil funds. A 2011 IMF report identified that public funds of US$32 billion linked to the state oil company, Sonangol, were unaccounted for. Although it later found that $US27.2 billion was due to unrecorded expenditure by Sonangol on behalf of the Angolan government, this left open the question of what had happened to the outstanding amount.

China has also launched investigations into allegations of corruption involving its economic deals in Angola. This has led to the arrest of Su Shulin, former head of Sinopec, the Chinese state oil company responsible for oil investment in Angola, and of Sam Pa, the kingpin of the Queensway Group, who brokered many of the agreements between Angola and Chinese business.

While Angola is now searching for new sources of financing, seen in its issuing of $US1.5 billion of Eurobonds, the general feeling is that its economic problems are set to continue.
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In a Guardian opinion piece, one Lucia Kula notes the extent to which the Angolan oil boom has transformed the Portuguese-Angolan relationship, but wonders about the durability of this.

In 2011 there were 21,563 Angolans in Portugal, compared to 100,000 Portuguese living in Angola. The attraction is clear, the same reason why people have always moved: to make a better life for themselves and the families they leave behind. In this case, Portuguese escaping austerity and high unemployment have been heading to Angola, currently enjoying a boom.

Angola’s economy, tethered tightly to the oil industry, may lack diversity. But oil (which accounts for more than 70% of government revenue and over 90% of exports) and diamonds helped give Angola 15% growth at its height between 2002 and 2008. Even when the rate dropped to 8-10% in 2012, it was doing much better than Portugal, whose economy shrank by 3% in the same period. The government’s decision to invest heavily in Angola’s banking sector saw its assets grow from $3bn in 2003 to $57bn by 2011, ranking it third after South Africa and Nigeria in sub-Saharan Africa.

With growing wealth has come a flurry of foreign investment and acquisitions of Portuguese banks and media outlets. Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the Angolan president José Edudardo dos Santos and Africa’s first female billionaire, has bought up shares in several Portuguese banks, such as Banco BIC and Banco BIP, Portugal’s fourth largest bank. The infiltration is so comprehensive that in June 2015 al-Jazeera called the media buyout “reverse colonialism”.

The change in fortunes has not only been visible on a balance sheet but in the attitudes of Angolans: proud of our presence in Portugal, proud of the fact we have the upper hand over our former coloniser. Angolans are visiting Portugal more often, and are even buying second homes. Away from home, the narrative about Angola is also changing, with Angolans enjoying the praise and admiration of strangers. Whenever people learn I am Angolan, the response is almost always: “You guys are really doing well, right?”

But is this progress credible? The petrodollars have started to trickle down; entirely new towns are being built; and plans are being developed for large shopping centres. But this is as much as most Angolans have seen of this new economic growth. Angola has the world’s highest death rate for children under five; in 2013 36% of the population lived below the poverty line, and unemployment was at 26%.
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Reuters' Joe Brock notes how hard oil-rich Angola has been hit by the drop in global oil prices.

A halving of oil prices last year has increased hardship in Angola, one of the world's most unequal countries, and stirred resentment towards President Eduardo dos Santos, the leader of Africa's second largest crude exporter for the last 36 years.

Angola's government, which relies on oil sales for 95 percent of foreign exchange revenues, slashed a third off its budget after a glut in global production caused a halving of oil prices last year.

Dos Santos' government ended petrol subsidies last month to release the burden on the Treasury, a move supported by economists but resented by the poor who felt the effects of a 30 percent rise in fuel prices.

The central bank also restricted dollar sales as foreign exchange supplies dried up, prompting a sharp decline in the kwanza currency, ramping up costs in a country that relies on imports for 80 percent of consumer goods.

The kwanza is trading at 170 against the dollar on the street, compared with 109 officially.

"The government treats us like dogs," said Claude Ambrosio, 29, swatting flies swarming around the dried fish she sells at her a rundown market in Vianna, one of Luanda's poorest suburbs.

"The price of everything went up but we get no help. There are no schools, no hospitals and you can see how we live," Ambrosio said, pointing to crumbling shacks and piles of rotting rubbish.
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I've noted in the past that the Portuguese economy, at best stagnant, depended heavily on the income earned by Portuguese migrants in oil-rich Angola. Now that the Angolan economic boom has ended, Henrique Almeida and Joao Lima write for Bloomberg about the Portuguese now left with no options.

If there’s one thing Paulo Goncalves has learned about markets and economics over the past couple of years, it’s that he can run, but he can’t hide.

The 51-year-old left Portugal for oil-rich Angola in 2010 to escape rising unemployment a year before Portugal sought an international bailout and the economy plunged into recession. After doing well working in construction, the oil price started declining and he stopped getting paid. Now he’s back home and after six months of looking found a job that pays the same as what he earned 20 years ago and a fifth of his money in Angola.

“I had a good salary in Angola, but the money stopped coming in,” said Goncalves, who now lives in Quinta do Conde, a town in the southern suburbs of Lisbon. “Now I can’t find any decent jobs in Portugal.”

The countries hardest hit by Europe’s debt crisis saw waves of emigration in recent years, as Irish, Spanish and Greeks sought respite from record rates of unemployment. The Portuguese headed to former colonies such as Angola, Africa’s second-largest oil producer. Caught between a job without pay or a job not paying enough, Goncalves now epitomizes the dilemma facing thousands of his compatriots.

The government in Lisbon now fears the difficulties of an estimated 115,000 Portuguese nationals in Angola may prompt many to return home to a job market that has yet to recover.
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The Inter Press Service's Mario Osava notes how, following Angola, many Latin Americans needing credit have turned to China.

[S]everal Latin American countries in financial difficulties have recently turned to China as a sort of lender of last resort. Argentina and Venezuela, for example, lacking access to international credits, obtained large loans from Chinese banks.

For China, it makes no sense to refuse loans to countries with strong agricultural production or that possess plenty of commodities, especially oil and gas. There is no need to be concerned about their solvency if their products guarantee their loans, whatever the reasons for their difficulties.

Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras announced on Apr. 1 an injection of 3.5 billion dollars from China to relieve its finances, which have suffered from the corruption scandal that has rocked the economy, the government, large companies and several political parties in the country since 2014.

The loan from China Development Bank is helping Petrobras weather a storm that also includes gross management and planning mistakes which raised the cost of constructing two refineries, of the purchase of another plant in the U.S. city of Pasadena, Texas, and of other projects by tens of billions of dollars.

The crises faced by potential Petrobras suppliers provide opportunities for China, but are not seen as indispensable. China Development Bank previously loaned Petrobras 10 billion dollars in 2009, when the oil company appeared prosperous and had recently discovered vast reserves in the pre-salt layer off the Brazilian coast.
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  • Al Jazeera notes that Tunisia is still on the brink, looks at the good relations between Indians and Pakistanis outside of South Asia, suspects that a largely Armenian-populated area in Georgia might erupt, and reports on satellite imagery of Boko Haram's devastation in Nigeria.

  • Bloomberg notes that a North Korean camp survivor caught in lies might stop his campaign, reports on Arab cartoonists' fears in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, notes the consequences on Portugal of a slowdown in Angola's economy, and notes that the shift in the franc's value has brought shoppers from Switzerland to Germany while devastating some mutual funds.

  • Bloomberg View warns about anti-immigrant movements in Europe and notes that Turkey's leadership can't claim a commitment to freedom of the press.

  • The Inter Press Service notes Pakistani hostility to Afghan migrants, notes disappearances of Sri Lankan cartoonists, and looks at HIV among Zimbabwe's children.

  • Open Democracy is critical of the myth of Irish slavery, notes the uses of incivility, and observes that more French Muslims work for French security than for Al-Qaeda.

  • Wired looks at life in the coldest town in the world, and notes another setback in the fight for primate rights.

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  • blogTO notes an organic tea shop and cafe opening in Regent Park.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the mysteries behind Titan's polar weather.

  • Crooked Timber discusses the uses of the military in an epidemic like Ebola.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper concerned with suggesting how worlds can become super-Earths not gas giants.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an archeological study describing methods for distinguishing between human artifacts and simple rocks.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines ways people shame others who use too much water in drought-affected areas like California.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the recent study suggesting HIV's origins as a pandemic can be traced to Kinshasa in the 1920s.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money discusses Kissinger's 1976 proposal to invade Cuba in retaliation for Cuban intervention in Angola against South Africa.

  • Peter Rukavina describes how he beat a rental car charge for a toll bridge by using his personal geolocation archive to show he was never there.

  • Spacing Toronto discusses the lost canopy of the St. Lawrence Market.

  • Towleroad notes controversy around the screening of a documentary on gay teen life in Russia in St. Petersburg.

  • Window on Eurasia notes refugee inflows into Crimea and refers to an article by a Russian historian describing how Crimea is not historically exclusively Russian.

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I came across a brief article at Ozy by Pooja Bhatia noting that prosperity in former colonies is leading to the reversal of traditional patterns of post-colonial dominance. The effect is perhaps biggest in the case of Portugal, which is the smallest and poorest of the former imperial powers and has (in Brazil and Angola) larger and richer colonies. Spain, too, is noteworthy: Spanish-speaking America is much more populous than Spain, and has in aggregate a bigger economy.

In recent years, investors from Angola, former colony of Portugal, have bought significant chunks of Portuguese companies. Spanish officials are urging their counterparts in South and Latin America to come invest — never mind the conquest. And an exodus of bright young Portuguese is seeking opportunity abroad — often in erstwhile Portuguese colonies like Brazil, Angola and even East Timor.

It’s a significant reversal from decades past, when former colonies went begging their former masters for investment, aid and trade preferences, while stomaching the brain drain of their best-educated graduates. Now the roles have reversed, at least in some quarters. Some former colonies have become emerging markets, logging fast rates of growth, while the erstwhile imperialists are scrambling to stay afloat in the global recession.

Nowhere has the reversal been as dramatic as in Portugal and Angola. The former colonizer expects its economy will shrink 1.8 percent this year, while Angola, fat on diamonds and oil and Chinese love, grew nearly 12 percent annually from 2002 to 2011.

To be sure, the phenomenon is neither widespread nor particularly thoroughgoing. The Democratic Republic of Congo remains mired in terrible conflict, while its former overlord, Belgium, enjoys relative peace and absolute wealth. And for all the Indians snapping up real estate in the United Kingdom, hundreds of millions of Indians still struggle well below the poverty line. Angola’s riches, meanwhile, are concentrated among a handful of oligarchs, including the daughter of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who is worth some $3 billion. (She’s got a half-billion-dollar chunk of a Portuguese media company.) Moreover, the country’s relationship with Portugal got testy just last month, with dos Santos complaining that Europeans were casting aspersions on the ethics of Angolan investors.

But nowhere are northern countries’ woes on better display than in the reversal of migration patterns. Migrants tend to vote with their feet. Since widespread decolonization in the mid-1950s, they’ve tended to stream from global south to global north, often to the imperial motherland. After India’s independence from Britain, for instance, Indians tended to immigrate to “Commonwealth” countries, for instance, while Haitians often went to Francophone ones like France, French-speaking Canada or Belgium, and Angolans headed for Portugal.

The flow appears to be reversing — at least in Portugal and perhaps in other places. Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, young Portuguese have been streaming not only to wealthier European countries but also to former Portuguese colonies like East Timor, Brazil and Angola.
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The Guardian Weekly's Claire Gatinois reports on the controversies surrounding Angolan investment in former colonizer Portugal. Portugal, in a pronounced economic slump even before the global economic slowdown in 2008, is increasingly dependent on oil-rich Angola, whether as a destination for Portuguese migrants or as a source of investment. Many Portuguese seem skeptical of this, whether because of skepticism about the good sense in cozying up to the Angolan kleptocracy or because of resentments dating from the colonial era.

There was no doubt about the firm handshake, but the smile looked a bit forced. The date was 17 November 2011, the place Luanda. Pedro Passos Coelho, the Portuguese premier, had just completed talks with the president of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, sealing an agreement that was both a boon for Portugal and deeply humiliating.

Six months earlier, Portugal, verging on bankruptcy, received a €78bn ($100bn) bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. In exchange Lisbon agreed to radical austerity measures, leaving the population poorer and sapping the welfare state. In a curious reversal of fortunes, the former colonial power was in poor shape, but its ex-colony, finally at peace, was awash with oil dollars.

Angola was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years. It gained its independence in 1975 after a long struggle, but a devastating civil war ensued, only ending in 2002. Dos Santos has been in power since 1979 and the country now enjoys growth rates of between 5% and 15%. Portugal, heavily in debt and struggling to climb out of recession, finally exited its bailout last month.

[. . .] "Angola is looking for recognition and makes it very clear where the money is, sometimes to the point of humiliation," says French historian Yves Léonard. In February, when the cash-strapped government in Lisbon raised the possibility of selling 85 Miró paintings, an Angolan millionaire, Rui Costa Reis, offered to buy them. Well-off Angolan families are now the only people who can afford to shop on the capital's upmarket Avenida da Liberdade. They are investing in luxury apartments at Cascais, a fashionable seaside resort, and buying up companies hastily privatised by the authorities. They – and the Chinese – are the prime beneficiaries of the "golden visas" that the government has promised to anyone investing €500,000 ($650,000) in the country.

In a detailed survey, O Poder Angolano em Portugal (Angolan power in Portugal), Ceslo Filipe, the deputy head of business magazine Jornal de Negócios, has charted the extent of Angolan assets in Portugal. According to his calculations Angola has invested between €10bn and €15bn, with a wide range of interests: in the media (Impresa), energy (Galp), banking (Banco Comercial Português, Banco Português de Investimento), building and agrifood. Dos Santos and his entourage have played a leading role in these investments, according to Filipe. Meanwhile, the president's son, José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, now heads Fundo Soberano de Angola, controlling assets worth about $15bn.
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Writing for This is Africa, Lula Ahrens describes how in Luanda, capital of an Angola experiencing huge economic growth and rampant inflation, the poor get by. (The answer? Badly.)

Since the end of Angola’s civil war [1975-2002], Chinese oil-backed credit lines – Angola is China’s No. 1 oil supplier – have fueled an impressive building and infrastructure boom. Angola’s 8% growth rate this year is lower than usual, but the country is expecting to return to double-digit growth rates in the foreseeable future while European markets decline. On top of that, Angola has a huge demand for skilled labor.

The large majority of Angolans, however, have not profited from Angola’s growth. According to economist Manual Rocha, around 2.5% of Angolans are (extremely) rich, and around 10% can be considered middle class. The rest struggle to make ends meet.

Single mother of four Maria Jose Fransisco (30) sells fruit and vegetables every day together with her female colleagues outside one of Luanda’s cheaper supermarkets, Martal. “Sometimes we earn something, sometimes we don’t,” Maria told This is Africa. “There are days when we make 10 or 15 dollars.” They sleep on a mattress, on the floor. “I pay $100 USD rent per month for one room.” “We buy our products far from here, in Viana,” Lucinda Domingo (23) adds. “Taking them and us here by candungeiro [minivan taxi] costs 10 dollars per person.”

A little further down the road, Victor Vieiras Alfonso Jose (28) and his friend sell cheap clothes outside, at the edge of a slum. He studies Engineering at a private university, paid by his parents. “I usually don’t work here,” he said. “I’m a candungueiro driver. Per month, I earn $100 USD.” Victor works from 5:30 till 18:00 and studies at night. There are very few jobs for people his age, his says. He rents a room in a slum for $80 USD per month, including water and electricity. “Per day, I spend more than $10 USD on food alone. Life is very difficult,” he said.

Angola ranks 148 out of 187 countries on the UN Development Index. More than a quarter of the population is officially unemployed. The official minimum wage, around $120 USD, is comparatively speaking extremely low. Especially given the fact that although inflation is decreasing rapidly, it still stands at 10%. Around 87% of urban Angolans live in shanty towns. In Luanda, “only” 1 in 12 live below the poverty line of around $47 USD per month (in rural areas, poverty reaches 58%). The question is what this poverty line means in a country where prices are up to 4 times as high as in Western Europe, and how on earth Luanda’s poor manage to get by.

A brief look at costs and incomes may provide a clue. According to UNICEF, Luanda’s poor earn a monthly income of between $17 USD and $328 USD. The average Angolan, of course, does not shop at Casa dos Frescos. Around 87% of Angolans reportedly buy their groceries in the informal sector, but prices at local markets are also significantly higher than those in other sub-Saharan capital cities.

In Europe and the US, people spend between 10 and 15% of their income on food. In Angola’s urban areas, people have to spend a staggering 50% of their income on food, 12% on rent and 9% on water, electricity and gas. Four percent is spent on health and 5% on transport. Only 1% is spent on alcoholic drinks, tobacco and education. (Note: beer at $1 USD a can and cigarettes at $1.50 USD a packet are among the cheapest items you can get in Angola).

At Most ordinary people buy their food from the informal sector. Typical prices: Eggplant: $1 USD; four onions: $2; five or six small tomatoes: $; head of lettuce: $4 USD. Lunch in a cheap musseque eatery costs about $4.00 USD.
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  • Bag News Notes comments on some recently-published photos of the family of Bashar Assad--father, mother, children--and how they seem particularly staged.

  • The Burgh Diaspora links to an article describing how migration to the United States from one Mexican village helped, via remittances, to lift it to middle4 classes.

  • The Discoblog summarizes a recent paper taking a look at conflicts of pattern in Wikipedia article edit wars, noting--among other things--that certain specific patterns of editing indicate that a conflict will go on for some while.

  • Eastern Approaches writes about the Bosnian city of Tuzla, home to--among other things--salt lakes. They're popular with tourists, see.

  • Geocurrents links to a news item highlighting the latest efforts--so far mostly rhetorically--to start up economic cooperation between China and countries of the Portuguese-speaking world.

  • GNXP's Razib Khan highlights the ongoing controversy over the division of the indigenous languages of the Western Hemisphere into three groups, a conflict centering on the question of whether or not the Amerind group actually exists.

  • Registan highlighted Tajikistan's position of being able to cultivate multiple partners, trading basing rights for money, Russia and India standing out.

  • Zero Geography maps the relative prominence of articles on different countries in the Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian Wikipedias.

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Huh. Inter Press Service's Mario do Queiroz came up with another interesting story.

With the announcement that his country is ready to buy Portuguese debt, the president of East Timor, José Ramos-Horta, set a precedent in international economic relations that was universally praised in political and financial circles in this southern European country.

The president of one of the poorest countries on the planet, whose per capita income of 600 dollars ranks it 130th in the world, offered a hand to its former colonial power to help it weather the financial crisis.

"I don't see difficulties for East Timor, in terms of buying Portuguese debt," Ramos-Horta said Sunday on a visit to the former Portuguese enclave of Macao in China, where he announced that the government of Prime Minister José Alexandre Xanana Gusmão had decided to diversify investments by East Timor's petroleum fund.

The oil fund was established by the government in 2005 to receive and distribute billions of dollars in tax revenue from emerging oil and gas projects in the Timor Sea, with the aim of ensuring the proper distribution of the earnings.

The president added that other investments could be made in highly successful public or quasi-governmental enterprises that guarantee high returns, such as companies in telecoms or renewable energy, an area in which Portugal is a world leader.

On Monday, State Budget Secretary Emanuel dos Santos described Ramos-Horta's announcement as "a gesture of friendship."

According to initial projections, East Timor's investment in Portugal, slated for next year, could total one billion dollars.

However, the Diario Económico newspaper of Lisbon put the amount at 700 million dollars, because the East Timor oil fund is worth around seven billion dollars and by law, 90 percent of the assets must be invested in U.S. Treasury bonds.

The article goes on to describe new Brazilian and Angolan investment projects in Portugal, a phenomenon also described in an earlier IPS article.

The idea that Portugal may receive substantial amounts of aid-cum-investment from its colonies--all of which have GDP per capitas well below the Portuguese average, recent growth notwithstanding, only one of which has a GDP larger than Portugal's (although admittedly Brazil's a huge exception to this)--is an interesting inversion of the standard postcolonial paradigm. It says much about the current weakness of Portugal, and at least as much about the strength of Portugal's more fortunate ex-colonies. It also suggests that, in one critical way, Portugal's integration with the European Union and the Eurozone isn't going to be as complete as (say) that of Greece or many other peripheral Eurozone countries, simply because Portugal is a periphery of the Lusophone world in addition to the Eurozone. Competition's never a bad thing, at least.
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  • blogTO's Robin Sharp reports on the latest fears that the Annex, arguably the signature neighbourhood of Jane Jacobs' urbanism philosophy, is on the verge of changing hugely.

  • James Bow thanks the opposition parties in the Canadian parliament for passing a resolution forcing the Conservative government to release documentation relevant to the torture of Canadian detainees.

  • Daniel Drezner lets us know that North Korea's revaluation of its currency is producing measurable levels of popular unrest and fears this may help hardliners be all the more in control and remain aggressive internationally.

  • English Eclectic's Paul Halsall thanks American conservative preacher Rick Warren for condemning Uganda's anti-gay law.

  • At Gideon Rachman's blog, the Financial Times' Victor Mallet documents the latest tiresomeness of the Anglo-Spanish confrontations re: Gibraltar.

  • Global Sociology notes that poor countries are great places to dump toxic waste.

  • Douglas Muir at Halfway Down the Danube explores the machinations behind Congo's bizarre seafront and Angola's enclave of Cabinda.

  • Marginal Revolution points out that, contrary to libertarian fantasies, the Confederate States of America was actually quite a strong state.

  • Normblog's Norman Geras points out that using Saudi Arabia's low level of religious tolerance as a standard anywhere in the world is a Bad Thing.

  • Noel Maurer follows up on Douglas Muir's post on Congo's weird maritime border by examining how that border created the oil-rich Angolan enclave of Cabinda, and documents Venezuela's now-finished oil-driven economic boom.

  • Strange Maps documents another case of long-standing cultural differences driving politics, here dialectal differences mapping onto support for conservative and liberal parties in Denmark.

  • At Understanding Society, Daniel Little examines how recent community surveys in southeastern Michigan document the recession's severe effects, and examines Arthur Koestler's fictional take on Bukharin.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh reveals that even states which explicitly don't recognize same-sex marriage recognize the parenting rights of same-sex couples, split or otherwise, as per long-standing practice.

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Sometimes when links accumulate too much they just need to be posted all at once. This may become a regular Monday feature, who knows?

  • Gilbert Casasus at Marianne2 notes (in French) that Germany is now seeing net emigration, with Switzerland being a major destination and with East Germans being especially likely to leave.

  • Silicon India observes that over 2003-2008 remittances sent by Keralan guest workers in the Middle East have risen by 135%, with the United Arab Emirates emerging as a major target and with Muslim Keralans providing a disproportionately large share of remittances.

  • The Portugal News reports that Chinese trade with Lusophone countries fell by 34% in the first half of 2009, with trade with its most important Lusophone partners Brazil then Angola falling the most. In addition, efforts to promote trade between Lusophone countries aren't working.

  • Loro Horta in Thailand's The Nation comments on the long-term consequences of an increasingly close Sino-Brazilian relationship on the wider Americas.
  • National Geographic News' Brian Handwerk reports on new research suggesting that large differences between juvenile and mature dinosaurs may have led to a misidentification of juveniles as separate species.
  • National Geographic News also reports that, for a variety of reasons, indigenous peoples are suffering more at a per capita rate from swine flu than the general population.

  • Wired Science's Alexis Madrigal covers the news that some space scientists would like to dispatch a probe on a return mission to a Martian moon, carrying life, in order to see whether or not life could survive in space and panspermia would be possible.

  • The Times Online reports on the latest effort by the (disputed) heir to the French throne to try to reestablish the French throne in the face of general disinterest.

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The news from the West African country of Guinea-Bissau hasn't been very encouraging at all.

Guinea-Bissau's National Assembly speaker Raimundo Pereira will take the oath as interim head of state on Tuesday after the assassination of President Joao Bernardo Vieira, a parliamentary communique said.

Vieira was killed in his home on Monday in an apparent revenge attack for the death on Sunday of a key rival, armed forces chief General Batista Tagme Na Wai, throwing the tiny and unstable West African state into confusion.

Envoys from West Africa and Portuguese-speaking nations, including Angola, Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde, flew to the capital Bissau on Tuesday in a bid to avert a possible coup or further unrest.

The army has denied any wish to seize power but soldiers guarded strategic locations in the city and it was unclear who controlled the poor former Portuguese colony of 1.6 million, where drug traffickers have fuelled years of instability.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council decided not to suspend Bissau as the attacks did not represent a coup d'etat. Neighbouring Guinea was suspended from the AU after a coup in December following the death of its president.

Guinea-Bissau is the only formerly Portuguese and currently Lusophone country in continental West Africa and and has traditionally been very closely linked with Cape Verde. Unlike that last country, which has maintained a stable democracy since independence and recentlyachieved a middle-income economy, Guinea-Bissau was a neglected corner of the Portuguese empire most notable for an durable guerrilla resistance to Portuguese rule from the mid-1950s on and the introduction of the HIV-2 virus into the general population via the unsterilized needles used in military public health programs. After transitioning from one-party rule in 1991 and a disastrous late 1990s civil war, Guinea-Bissau has become one of the poorest countries in Africa, notable from the linguistic perspective being like Angola a country where colonial language, Portuguese, is displacing other local languages thanks to governmental inertia, and from the political perspective for being terribly unstable and open to crime. The words of the International Crisis Group seem quite accurate..

Since emerging from Portuguese colonial rule in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced a recurrent cycle of political crises and coups d’etat, while criminal networks have proliferated. In the absence of effective state and security structures, the country has become a prime transit point for drug trafficking from Latin America to Europe and there remains a real risk of it becoming Africa’s first narco-state.    The signing of a Stability Pact by the three most important political parties in March 2007 brought renewed momentum for social and political reform and raised hopes for a new period of stability. Yet despite this turning point, the threat of institutional crisis is ever present. Significant efforts are required to effect fundamental changes to the way the country is run and offset the risk of growing criminalization and unrest in the future.
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Brazil's emergence as one of the famed BRIC powers, coinciding as it does with the massive oil-driven economic boom in a similarly Lusophone Angola that lies on just the other side of the South Atlantic Ocean, has seen Brazil emerge as one of Angola's major trading partners as described in Mario do Queiroz's article "Portuguese - the Common Language of Trade". This economic engagement doesn't mean, as Paula Góes points out in her Global Voices Online links post "Angola, Brazil: A culture shock divide", that there aren't more than a few misunderstandings along the way, as a Brazilian's blog post from Angola and an Angolan's from Brazil illustrate.


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