Senegal's reputation as a sex tourism hotspot for European women is a start...now they just need more people to visit this North Korean-built $20 million giant bronze statue commemorating the liberation of the Senegal from the French, and then they'll have luxury hotels popping up in no time.

While this Cato Institute study makes several great points about African countries' need for market reforms and enforced checks and balances in government, this article in the Atlantic is not so rosy about much of the continent's economic development prospects, particularly in regards to China's recent investments.

“The problem is to determine what is Africa’s place in the future of the global economy, and up to now, we have seen very little that is new. China is taking the place of the West: they take our raw materials and they sell finished goods to the world What Africans are getting in exchange, whether it is roads or schools or finished goods, doesn’t really matter. We remain under the same old schema: our cobalt goes off to China in the form of dusty ore and returns here in the form of expensive batteries.”

Between the continuing tensions with Pakistan, and the growing Maoist Naxalite insurgency across rural areas, I guess I'm not surprised India got this desperate for a military edge:

India's Defence Research Development Organisation, whose scientists develop drone aircraft, intercontinental ballistic missiles and new types of bombs. They believe Mr Prahlad could teach them to help soldiers survive longer without food, or disaster victims to hang on until help arrives.

There are more speakers of numerous obscure or dying languages in New York City than the part of the world those languages came from.

In addition to dozens of Native American languages, vulnerable foreign languages that researchers say are spoken in New York include Aramaic, Chaldic and Mandaic from the Semitic family; Bukhari (a Bukharian Jewish language, which has more speakers in Queens than in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan), Chamorro (from the Mariana Islands), Irish Gaelic, Kashubian (from Poland), indigenous Mexican languages, Pennsylvania Dutch, Rhaeto-Romanic (spoken in Switzerland) and Romany (from the Balkans) and Yiddish.

Now if only this caught on in the United States...



Apparently, this is one of the most popular art forms in Pakistan, as well as other parts of the world.

Similar techniques and materials are employed in truck and (more frequently) bus decoration in the Philippines, Indonesia and several countries in Central and South America; in South Asia itself, Indian trucks are painted, as are the bicycle rickshaws of Bangladesh. What makes the case of Pakistan unusual, however, is the pervasiveness of vehicle decoration, since decoration is heavily used on virtually all private and fleet-owned commercial vehicles, from the well-known trucks and buses to vans, share taxis, animal carts and even juice vendors’ pushcarts (a circumstance shared only by Afghanistan).





A team of Chinese and Turkish archeologists claim to have found Noah's Ark on top of Mount Ararat.




Because this is a blog about unexpected cross-cultural fusion, it merits pointing out that the organization behind this, the Noah's Ark Ministries International, is based out of Hong Kong, China - a country where Christianity is both suppressed and at the same time growing rapidly.



I don't mean to imply they have the same policies, but the media-fueled, anti-Hugo Chavez protests of Venezuela shown in the first 15 minutes of this film seem awfully similar to the media-fueled Tea Party protests here - socialist Nazi fascist comparisons and all...

According to Bolivian President Evo Morales, eating hormone-filled chicken makes you gay and bald...go organic?

Ex-Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, has been extradited to France from the United States on money laundering charges.

Not everyone is happy with this.

For the past two and a half years, Noriega and his attorneys had argued that the United States was violating the Geneva Convention by not sending him back to Panama, where he was seized by U.S. troops after the United States invaded Panama in 1989.


(photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


A newly constructed building in Farmington, Utah has become the first solar-powered Church of Latter-Day Saints meeting house in America.

Featuring 158 panels mounted over about a third of the soon-to-be-opened stake center's south roof, the solar power system is one of several innovative uses of energy-efficient construction and utility technologies being tested by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Apparently, the Mormons have a history of sustainable, energy-efficient church design.

...deploying overhangs and verandas to reduce heat load in its structures throughout the world beginning in the 1950s, as well as using a system of several underground spring wells in the early 1970s to enhance the Church Office Building's cooling and heating system. A meetinghouse in Susanville, Calif., has been totally heated by geothermal energy since the 1980s, and the conversion of the Vernal Tabernacle into the Vernal Temple in the mid-1990s featured reuse and recyle efforts.



Believe what you want about aliens, but the fact that this guy reverse-engineered a functional model airplane from a blurry picture of a one-inch gold Mayan artifact off of the hunch that just MAYBE the Mayans were actually trying to depict a flying machine deserves a moment to reflect on.



Two different depictions of the crowded, noisy, hectic, uncomfortable ritual that every practicing Muslim is expected to take part in.



Recently-excavated texts found near the ancient Mediterranean port city of Ugarit (located in modern-day Syria) are written in a language structurally-similar to Arabic.

The Ugaritic language, discovered by French archaeologists in 1928, is known only in the form of writings found in the lost city of Ugarit, near the modern village of Ras Shamra, Syria. It has been extremely important for scholars of the Old Testament in clarifying Biblical Hebrew texts and has revealed more of the way in which ancient Israelite culture finds parallels in the neighboring cultures.

Along with the development of Hebrew, Ugratic literature also had a major impact on parts of the Old Testament.



(thanks, Fader)

DJ/Producer Diplo has a new show, No One Is Safe, cataloging regional music styles that have emerged worldwide. In this first episode, he takes on music history-rich New Orleans, and focuses on Bounce, the dancey hip-hop subgenre that emerged in the city over the last 15 years.

Searching for "New Orleans Bounce" on YouTube yields lots of videos similar to this:




Paraguay has declared a state of emergency in 5 northern states to crack down on the Paraguayan People's Army - a group linked to kidnapping individuals for ransom money to redistribute to the poor.

Under a state of emergency, the Paraguayan President will be able to order arrests and transfer suspects without court approval. The latest legislation also places limits on civil liberties such as the right to assemble, which would prohibit protests and demonstrations.

There's no this power can possibly be abused...



A picture of a 1926 meeting between Hitler and al-Mashriqi, a proponent of a philosophy that combined fascism, science, Islam and social Darwinism spelled out in his Urdu-language book, Tazkirah.

Turns out Hitler may have used parts of Tazkirah in Mein Kampf.

"The astonishing similarities—or shall we say the unintentional similarity between two great minds—between Hitler’s great book and the teachings of my Tazkirah and Isharat embolden me, because the fifteen years of “struggle” of the author {Hitler] of “My Struggle” [Mein Kampf] have now actually led his nation back to success."

Chinese citizens with illegal satellite dishes are tuning into CNN, MTV, and other channels banned or censored by the state.

Taco Bell launched its first Indian franchise in Bangalore. The Indian version of the American stereotype of Mexican cuisine serves chicken tacos and quesadillas, as well as vegetarian-friendly, regional flavors such as potato and paneer.

American rock band, Metallica, will perform in Moscow twice over the weekend. Unfortunately, the band was already in Oslo by the time of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, and was thus not able to "ride the lightning" on their way through Eurasia.

The cached page of Revolution Muslim, an English-language, pro-Jihad website that issued threats towards the creators of South Park.

I'll be doing a more in-depth look at this later.

Somehow, in spite of massive economic downturns worldwide, Dubai is getting by and has even emerged as a regional art hub.

It could be worse.

The jobless rate was 43.2 percent for men and women in the 20-24 category, rising to 46.7 percent for men alone.

And that's just for the people they bother to count.

The study did not cover the eight to 10 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia -- a third or more of the total population of 25.3 million.

Looks like we have a Polish 9/11 on our hands.

We may want to reconsider that whole "lifetime appointment" thing.

...the first sign of trouble came was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John Roberts asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”

A group of retired US officers are urging Congress to make school lunches healthier for the sake of national security.

...the group says that 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too fat to join the military.

The "Tea Party" is funded by a family fortune made possible by Soviet central planning.

Did the last great Icelandic eruption help spur the French Revolution?

"Volcanic eruptions can have significant effects on weather patterns for from two to four years, which in turn have social and economic consequences. We shouldn't discount their possible political impacts."

Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself here.

Fast-food establishments are making people worldwide more impatient.


Researcher Chen-Bo Zhong, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Canada's Toronto University, said: 'Fast food represents a culture of time efficiency and instant gratification.

'The problem is that the goal of saving time gets activated upon exposure to fast food regardless of whether time is a relevant factor in the context.




Some scientists believe the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland is only the beginning.

Droughts across the rural Southwest may lead to famine for millions.


Gender-imbalances may be leading to a "masculinity crisis" among school-aged males.

Five possible consequences of the gender-imbalance, ranging from war to trafficking women.

"Unfounded euphoria" perpetuating Chinese real-estate bubble.
______

On the plus side, economic prospects look good.

A report from the US Joint Forces Command has formally acknowledged the probability of crude oil production peaking around 2015.


"While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."

(photo via Treehugger via Physorg via Australian Maritime Safety Authority)


Chinese coal ship takes illegal shortcut through The Great Barrier Reef, gets stuck, and causes 20 years worth of damage.

Celebrity gossip takes an interesting geopolitical bent as a prominent Indian tennis player marries Pakistani cricket player.


While Pakistani families debate over whether Mirza will be allowed to wear short skirts, where the couple will reside (they have announced that they will live in Dubai), and which country the two will support, the couple has tried to play down the "cross-border incursion."


Collateral damage in the War on Terror.


The Anti Press makes a valid point on international (predominately Anglo-American, English-language) media outlets in these scenarios:

And so the BBC, and virtually all other major news organizations wait. Although it is clear that the military information officers are now providing completely unreliable, and almost certainly fabricated information as a matter of course, these organizations no longer see it as their job to challenge them. No attempts to contact witnesses, no pressing Afghan officials, no stories designed to embarrass military and political officials into action.

Government squanders money, citizens get pissed.


"We need every citizen of this state to stand up and be outraged over the way these politicians of both stripes over a long period of time have spent our money," said W. James Farrell, chairman of the Civic Committee's state finance task force, in an interview in Bloomberg's Chicago bureau. "We need to hold them accountable."

But who do you blame? It's one thing to bring down the figurehead, but the dozens of colluding mundane middle-manager bureaucrats and state/county/township representatives, too?

I would assume after all the grumbling about "Illinois politics" subsides a bit, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will end up the figurehead here.


The South's self-proclaimed transportation hub has been ordered to desegregate their schools.


Known as Mississippi's cream pitcher for its dairy farms and bordering Louisiana 80 miles north of New Orleans, Walthall County has a population of about 15,000 people that includes about 54 percent white residents and 45 percent African American residents, according to the U.S. Census.

On the plus side, I guess sending the different groups to different schools saves the townsfolk the effort in throwing private ethnic-centric proms for their kids.


Yes, Culture Bore is (still) alive!


As you can see, I've been experimenting with fonts, layouts and the like over the past couple days. There are plenty of big plans in store for this blog, so expect the tinkering around to turn into some major changes in the long-term.

As always, questions and feedback are more than welcome. Glad to have you on board.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, East German towns - no longer propped up by centrally-planned production queues - have gradually shrunk from population loss and lack of economic opportunities.

The proposed solution? Physically shrink the towns themselves into a series of "city islands".

The planners have "kind of disassembled the city into pixels and put it back together again using a cut-and-paste method," as Brückner explains. According to the concept, Dessau-Rosslau would abandon the model of a more compact central city, leaving only islands of houses. "Buildings will be cut out and in the empty spaces we will insert countryside," Brückner explains.

Curiously, a similar trend has developed in Michigan, where once prosperous industrial cities like Detroit and Flint have dwindled from industry outsourcing. In Detroit, Mayor Bing has called for the demolition of 1/4 of the city - a seemingly radical proposal, until one considers the city's lumbering geography.

Detroit is a big city, roughly 139 square miles (think of it as an equivalent to six Manhattans) and it can no longer support itself. One of the biggest problems is the amount of police, firemen, and ambulance drivers it takes to cover the large city.


Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.







Via MetaFilter, an 1837 manuscript depicting 72 castes in Madura, India.



When an organization founded as a cell of the Muslim Brotherhood has to reign in jihadi's and make them agree not to fire missiles at Israel, you know they have reached a turning point in their existence.


The head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said his government is in contact with other Palestinian factions to reach an agreement over a rocket cease-fire - in order to, in his words, "protect our nation."

China overtakes Germany in wind power, but still lags behind the US...for now.


China's rapid drive to install wind turbines brought its total power capacity to 25.8 gigawatts, just squeaking past Germany's 25.77 gigawatts.

The U.S. has the most wind power capacity at 35 gigawatts, 36 percent of the world's total.

Widespread cheating and fraud in Chinese academia could be the nation's Achilles' heel.


State-run media recently exulted over reports that China publishes more papers in international journals than any except the U.S. But not all the research stands up to scrutiny. In December, a British journal retracted 70 papers from a Chinese university, all by the same two lead scientists, saying the work had been fabricated.

"Academic fraud, misconduct and ethical violations are very common in China," said professor Rao Yi, dean of the life sciences school at Peking University in the capital. "It is a big problem."

****

The problems could hurt the country's ambition of becoming a global leader in research, Suttmeier said.

"I suspect there will be less appetite for non-Chinese scientists to collaborate with Chinese colleagues who are operating in a culture of misconduct," he said.

The future of sustainable living?


Fernando’s design features five levels of U-shaped structures built on a platform in the middle of open (preferably low-depth) water. Each u-shaped structure functions for specialized purposes, like sustainable food production, factories, or even residential space. The lower portion of the tower serves as public space with commercial areas, restaurants, museums or open space. A network of bridges connects towers to each other as well as to the mainland.


While Anglo-American pop culture has traveled across the globe for decades, the sounds of rock bands most native English speakers have never heard of are influencing young musicians in traditionally-Islamic countries:

  • Hypernova, a Tehran-based dance-rock band that formed, practiced, and illegally performed in Iran before escaping to the United States

Particularly interesting is Lekman's comments about Swedish musical self-identity in relation to Anglo-American pop:

The 90s were very influenced by England and America, I would say way too much. People were sending their vocalists to London so they could pick-up the accent right. Sweden has such a low self esteem, they would have columns in newspapers that say it's good for being Swedish, which basically saying we know it's crap but you know, it's good for being Swedish. It was pretty bad. In the early 2000s, people got so fed up with the influence from Britain and America. So they decided to shut off the whole outside world and just do something completely new, looking at their own backyard, creating something new. That's when things started getting interesting.

This might be an exaggeration, but then again, it might not be.

(thanks, reddit/imgur)

Are the Republican and Democratic National Committees outdated fundraising relics in the internet age?

The Internet has robbed the central party committees of their principal leverage points, control of candidacies and distribution of campaign funds. People no longer must depend primarily upon the party committees to know which candidates most deserve donor and volunteer support.