A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘congo

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Crux notes the discovery of a second impact crater in Greenland, hidden under the ice.
  • D-Brief notes new evidence that ancient Celts did, in fact, decapitate their enemies and preserve their heads.
  • Far Outliers notes how Pakhtun soldier Ayub Khan, in 1914-1915, engaged in some cunning espionage for the British Empire on the Western Front.
  • Kashmir Hill at Gizmodo notes how cutting out the big five tech giants for one week–Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft–made it almost impossible for her to carry on her life.
  • Hornet Stories notes that, unsurprisingly, LGBTQ couples are much more likely to have met online that their heterosexual counterparts.
  • At In Media Res, Russell Arben Fox imagines Elizabeth Warren giving a speech that touches sensitively and intelligently on her former beliefs in her Cherokee ancestry.
  • Mónica Belevan at the Island Review writes, directly and allegorically, about the Galapagos Islands and her family and Darwin.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the economics of the romance novel.
  • Language Hat notes the Mandombe script creating by the Kimbanguist movement in Congo.
  • Harry Stopes at the LRB Blog notes the problem with Greater Manchester Police making homeless people a subject of concern.
  • Ferguson activists, the NYR Daily notes, are being worn down by their protests.
  • Roads and Kingdoms lists some things visitors to the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent should keep in mind.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel makes a case for supersymmetry being a failed prediction.
  • Towleroad notes the near-complete exclusion of LGBTQ subjects and themes from schools ordered by Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro.
  • Window on Eurasia notes a somewhat alarmist take on Central Asian immigrant neighbourhoods in Moscow.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at the Kurds, their history, and his complicated sympathy for their concerns.

[NEWS] Five links about populations: Franco-Ontarians, Acadians, American whites, Brexit, Belgium

  • CBC reports from a Franco-Ontarian youth gathering, in Ontario’s easternmost and Francophone-majority Prescott-Russell, where young Francophones are responding with defiance.
  • This Acadie Nouvelle opinion piece suggests that, to deal with the problems of the Acadians of the Maritimes, they should collectively seek some sort of autonomy across provincial frontiers.
  • This New York Times article noting the questionable nature of the census estimate that white Americans were bound to be a minority soon, and this projection’s political consequences, is worth reading.
  • Brexit is incompatible with a liberalized immigration policy in the United Kingdom; left-wing Brexiters should know better. Politics.co.uk has it.
  • CBC notes how Belgium, dealing with the election of its first black mayor and a revamping of a museum devoted to Central Africa, is starting to deal with its racist past.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Kambiz Kamrani at Anthropology.net notes that lidar scanning has revealed that the pre-Columbian city of Angamuco, in western Mexico, is much bigger than previously thought.
  • James Bow makes an excellent case for the revitalization of VIA Rail as a passenger service for longer-haul trips around Ontario.
  • D-Brief notes neurological evidence suggesting why people react so badly to perceived injustices.
  • The Dragon’s Tales takes a look at the list of countries embracing thorough roboticization.
  • Andrew LePage at Drew Ex Machina takes a look at the most powerful launch vehicles, both Soviet and American, to date.
  • Far Outliers considers Safavid Iran as an imperfect gunpowder empire.
  • Despite the explanation, I fail to see how LGBTQ people could benefit from a cryptocurrency all our own. What would be the point, especially in homophobic environments where spending it would involve outing ourselves? Hornet Stories shares the idea.
  • Imageo notes that sea ice off Alaska has actually begun contracting this winter, not started growing.
  • JSTOR Daily notes how the production and consumption of lace, and lace products, was highly politicized for the Victorians.
  • Language Hat makes a case for the importance of translation as a political act, bridging boundaries.
  • Language Log takes a look at the pronunciation and mispronunciation of city names, starting with PyeongChang.
  • This critical Erik Loomis obituary of Billy Graham, noting the preacher’s many faults, is what Graham deserves. From Lawyers, Guns and Money, here.
  • Bernard Porter at the LRB Blog is critical of the easy claims that Corbyn was a knowing agent of Communist Czechoslovakia.
  • The Map Room Blog shares this map from r/mapporn, imagining a United States organized into states as proportionally imbalanced in population as the provinces of Canada?
  • Marginal Revolution rightly fears a possible restart to the civil war in Congo.
  • Neuroskeptic reports on a controversial psychological study in Ghana that saw the investigation of “prayer camps”, where mentally ill are kept chain, as a form of treatment.
  • The NYR Daily makes the case that the Congolese should be allowed to enjoy some measure of peace from foreign interference, whether from the West or from African neighbous (Rwanda, particularly).
  • At the Planetary Society Blog, Emily Lakdawalla looks at the many things that can go wrong with sample return missions.
  • Rocky Planet notes that the eruption of Indonesian volcano Sinabung can be easily seen from space.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes how the New Horizons Pluto photos show a world marked by its subsurface oceans.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that, although fertility rates among non-Russians have generally fallen to the level of Russians, demographic momentum and Russian emigration drive continue demographic shifts.
  • Livio Di Matteo at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative charts the balance of federal versus provincial government expenditure in Canada, finding a notable shift towards the provinces in recent decades.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell makes the case, through the example of the fire standards that led to Grenfell Tower, that John Major was more radical than Margaret Thatcher in allowing core functions of the state to be privatized.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at some alcoholic drinks with outré names.

[NEWS] Five links about a changing world: Beyak, Congo, creative cities, 1990s Russia, queer

  • Tory Senator Lynn Beyak’s latest ignorant statements about First Nations have to disqualify her from public office. Global News reports.
  • Is the rebirth of Congo’s palm oil exports sign of a return to normality? Can it occur? Will it last? Bloomberg examines.
  • Oli Mould is critical of the idea promoting the arts and public culture will do much for poorer urbanites, over at Open Democracy.
  • Tom Rowley profiles a book, drawn from a VKontakte group, examining the experiences of the former USSR in the 1990s, also at Open Democracy.
  • This VICE discussion about what “queer” means is fascinating.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • 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.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • 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.

[NEWS] Some Thursday links

[LINK] “Obama’s conflict minerals law has destroyed everything, say Congo miners”

From Facebook’s Andy I found The Guardian-hosted version of Sudarsan Raghavan’s Washington Post article suggesting that the slow certification of Congolese mines as unassociated with conflict mineral mining has wrecked emergent economies throughout central Africa.

When his father could no longer make enough money from the tin mine, when he could no longer pay for school, Bienfait Kabesha ran off and joined a militia. It offered the promise of loot and food, and soon he was firing an old rifle on the frontlines of Africa’s deadliest conflict. He was 14.

But what makes Kabesha different from countless other child soldiers is this: his path to war involved not just the wrenchingpoverty and violence of eastern Congo but also an obscure measure passed by US lawmakers. Villagers call it Loi Obama – Obama’s law.

The legislation compels US companies to audit their supply chains to ensure they are not using “conflict minerals” – particularly gold, coltan, tin and tungsten from artisanal mines controlled by Congo’s murderous militias. It was championed by influential activists and lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, and tucked into the massive Wall Street reform law known as the Dodd-Frank Act.

The law’s supporters said it would weaken the militias by cutting off their mining profits. But the legislation, signed by President Obama four years ago, set off a chain of events that has propelled millions of miners and their families deeper into poverty, according to interviews with miners, community leaders, activists and Congolese and western officials, as well as recent visits to four large mining areas.

As it sought to comply with the law, Congo’s government shut down the mining industry for months. Then, a process was launched to certify the country’s minerals as conflict-free. But the process is unfolding at a glacial pace, marred by a lack of political will, corruption and bureaucratic and logistical delays. That has led foreign companies to avoid buying the minerals, which has driven down prices. Many miners are forced to find other ways to survive, including by joining armed groups. Meanwhile, the militias remain potent threats. “The intention of the law was good, but in practice it was not well thought out,” said Eric Kajemba, director of the Observatory for Governance and Peace, a regional nonprofit group. “This is a country where the government is absent in many areas, plagued by years of war and bad governance, where the economic tissue has been destroyed. The American lawmakers didn’t appear to take this into consideration.” Requests for comment were made to former Democratic Senator Russell Feingold from Wisconsin, a key backer of the conflict-minerals measure who is now US special envoy to the Great Lakes region, which includes Congo. But his office said he was not available. The state department also did not reply to several requests for comment.

As of June, the government had certified just 25 mining sites out of hundreds in South and North Kivu provinces as “green”, meaning there were no armed groups and no children or pregnant women labourers, according to UN monitors. As of October, there were only 11 mines out of more than 900 in South Kivu where minerals were “tagged” conflict-free, said Adalbert Murhi Mubalama, the province’s minister of mines.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 4, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Posted in Economics

Tagged with , , ,

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • 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.

[BRIEF NOTE] Timberg and Halperin on the origins of HIV in colonial Africa

Joe. My. God. linked to an excerpt (published in the Washington Post of Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin’s new book Tinderbox, one of several books recently published which draw upon molecular biology and history to describe how HIV became a global pandemic with tens of millions of dead and infected when a century ago it was limited to chimpanzee populations in central Africa. Colonialism–specifically, the demand for ivory in southeastern Cameroon where HIV-infected chimpanzees lived, a century ago udner German control–is responsible for the shift.

Not far from where HIV-1 group M was born was a major river, the Sangha, flowing toward the heart of Central Africa. This section of the Sangha was not ideal for navigation because of its ribbons of sandbars and the dense vegetation along its banks.

In the especially treacherous middle section, near where Hahn and Sharp’s team found the viral ancestor of HIV, few major human settlements ever developed. But there were numerous communities on the Sangha’s more accessible stretches. And due south, past riverside trading towns, was the mighty Congo River itself, the superhighway of Central Africa.

[. . .]

In December 1895 German colonial authorities heard reports that Cameroon’s southeastern corner contained fabulously rich ivory and rubber stocks awaiting exploitation.

The Germans soon after gave authority to a colonial company to take control of the region by force. Over the next four years they extended their power all the way through southeastern Cameroon and established a trading station on the Ngoko River about 75 miles upstream from where its waters merged with the Sangha. In the wedge of land defined by these two rivers, HIV either had just been born or soon would be.

The trading station was called Moloundou, and a busy town remains there today. But at the time it was almost unimaginably remote. Few human settlements had developed among these forbidding forests. And there were only two practical ways out: by steamship down the Ngoko to the Sangha and on to the Congo River; or overland by foot to the Atlantic.

The river route was the easier of the two, and steamships transported the bulk of the ivory and rubber collected in southeastern Cameroon. But overland routes were necessary to connect Moloundou with other trading stations and inland areas rich with rubber and ivory.

[. . .]

In just a few years [syphillis] reached epidemic proportions along porter routes and riverside trading posts in Cameroon and throughout the Congo Basin. It’s impossible now to determine how much of this spread resulted from rapes as opposed to other kinds of encounters, but it’s clear that colonial commerce created massive new networks of sexual interactions — and massive new transmissions of infections. (In later decades, transmission through the reuse of hypodermic needles in medical care probably had some role in HIV’s spread as well.)

So HIV’s first journey looked something like this: A hunter killed an infected chimp in the southeastern Cameroonian forest, and a simian virus entered his body through a cut during the butchering, mutating into HIV.

This probably had happened many times before, during the centuries when the region had little contact with the outside world. But now thousands of porters — both men and women — were crossing through the area regularly, creating more opportunities for the virus to travel onward to a riverside trading station such as Moloundou.

One of the first victims — whether a hunter, a porter or an ivory collector — gave HIV to a sexual partner. There may have been a small outbreak around the trading station before the virus found its way aboard a steamship headed down the Sangha River.

[. . .]

Most of this colonial world didn’t have enough potential victims for such a fragile virus to start a major epidemic. HIV is harder to transmit than many other infections. People can have sex hundreds of times without passing the virus on. To spread widely, HIV requires a population large enough to sustain an outbreak and a sexual culture in which people often have more than one partner, creating networks of interaction that propel the virus onward.

To fulfill its grim destiny, HIV needed a kind of place never before seen in Central Africa but one that now was rising in the heart of the region: a big, thriving, hectic place jammed with people and energy, where old rules were cast aside amid the tumult of new commerce.

It needed Kinshasa. It was here, hundreds of miles downriver from Cameroon, that HIV began to grow beyond a mere outbreak. It was here that AIDS grew into an epidemic.

I’ll be looking out for Tinderbox when it comes out. It’ll be worth comparing it with Jacques Pepin’s The Origins of AIDS, which I blogged about at Demography Matters back in December. Pepin’s narrative places greater importance on medical campaigns–specifically, the use of unsterile needles in campaigns against sleeping sickness in French Equatorial Africa–in letting HIV infect enough people to create the critical mass necessary for a global epidemic.

Clearly, though, the two books share a common emphasis on the misdeeds, knowing and otherwise, of colonial empires in central Africa. That’s enough for a first approximation.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm