Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pots, Droughts, and Blow-Up Dolls (Link Round-Up 7/26/12)

[via BoingBoing]

US Drought Could Cause Global Unrest
In both 2007 and 2010, massive unrest almost immediately followed food price surges, tracking market behavior with uncanny synchronization. Some Middle East experts say that rising prices even triggered the Arab Spring, providing a spark that ignited long-simmering tensions and resentments. 
While the exact role played by food is difficult to isolate, a new NECSI analysis of the 2008 Yemeni uprising supports the spark hypothesis. In a paper released July 24, NECSI found that the geographical character of violence changed immediately after the price spikes, shifting from ethnically localized to widespread. 
"I think the analysis has merit," said political geographer Charles Schmitz of Towson University. "The food prices did disturb things. The legitimacy of the government was undermined."
China cops mistake sex toy for body of a woman
BEIJING: Eighteen policemen recently struggled for an hour in a river to recover what was initially mistaken for a woman's body, but turned out to be an inflatable sex toy at Wendeng in eastern China's Shandong province.
Officials said the toy's design and size was so similar to an adult female body that the policemen had to act. Shandong is an important center for producing sex toys in China and supplies them across the globe.
Study: Ocean could power Melbourne-size city by 2050
But that is likely to be a long way off. Wonhas says getting ocean energy off the sea floor and into homes is fraught with environmental as well as technical and commercial barriers.

"The technical challenges are really around making sure these devices last in the quite hostile ocean environment for maybe one or two decades," he says.

"The commercial challenge is about reducing the cost of these devices."
 Mitt Romney's economic plan resembles Europe
This is a common critique that Romney makes, claiming that President Obama is “taking us down a path towards Europe.” However, he conveniently ignores that his policies closely align with the austerity that’s been adopted across Europe, which has unnecessarily blunted economic growth. In fact, the European governments that have embraced austerity the hardest have seen their economies contract the most.
Cuba broadens economic reforms, plans new measures
The five-year reform plan calls for moving from government administration of just about the entire economy to managing it through “"indirect" means such as taxes and bank credits. 
Most retail services and minor production and farming are scheduled to go over to a “"non-state" sector that will account for more than 40 percent of the labor force, compared with the current 15 percent. 
At the same time, the Communist Party plans to move away from a paternalistic state system of collective work and consumption to one where individual effort is better rewarded. Across the board subsidized goods and services are to be replaced by targeted welfare.
Turkey stops cross-border trade with Syria
In all, about 120,000 Syrian refugees have registered with UNHCR in four neighbouring countries - Iraq (7,490), Jordan (36,323), Lebanon (31,004) and Turkey (43,387) - since the uprising began. 
In the past few weeks, the rate of Syrians arriving in Jordan has doubled to 1,200-1,300 per day, stretching a transfer facility overflowing with 6,500 people staying in desert conditions, Wilkes said.
The Islamist militants fighting with Syrian rebels
Abu Mohammad, a local FSA commander with 25 men, said he dealt with the Jabhat because he needed their “explosives, bullets and other things … They have experience that I can benefit from, and I can also give them some help, information that benefits them.” 
Abu Mohammad said he preferred the Jabhat to the “more showy” Ahrar. “If you ask [the Ahrar] for a device, they will give you a camera so you can film [the explosion], and they take credit for it,” he said. Still, he wasn’t really sold on the Jabhat either. “I am one of those people who is afraid of extremism,” he said. “I told [the Jabhat], It’s possible that perhaps one day we will stand armed against each other because of your activities. If they intend to do to us what happened in Iraq, it’s wrong.” 
Myanmar's Buddhist monks block humanitarian assistance to Muslim population
In a move that has shocked many observers, some monks' organisations have issued pamphlets telling people not to associate with the Rohingya community, and have blocked humanitarian assistance from reaching them. One leaflet described the Rohingya as "cruel by nature" and claimed it had "plans to exterminate" other ethnic groups.
Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art
The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. Archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 
The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago.

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