Tag Archives | Africa

Two-Thirds of the West African Nation of Benin is Underwater

BeninVia BBC News:
The UN refugee agency is to start an emergency airlift of tents to the West African nation of Benin this week, amid the worst flooding there in decades. Some 3,000 tents will be flown in from Denmark to provide shelter for some of the estimated 680,000 people affected. Two-thirds of Benin has suffered from months of heavy rain, and about 800 cases of cholera have been reported. It is the worst flooding to hit the country — one of the poorest in the world — since 1963. Areas previously thought not to be vulnerable to flooding have been devastated and villages wiped out.
"There are huge areas that are covered in water so people are living on the tops of their houses, because people try to stay near their homes," Helen Kawkins of the Care aid agency told the BBC.
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African Newspaper Purposefully ‘Outs’ Gays, Suggests Hanging

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

This is quite a shocker, reported by Godfrey Olukya and Jason Straziuso for AP, especially as it seems to have been instigated by American Christian fundamentalists:

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda’s 100 “top” homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: “Hang Them.” Alongside their photos were the men’s names and addresses.

In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.

A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved.

But gays in Uganda say they have faced a year of harassment and attacks since the bill’s introduction.

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UN Identifies the World’s Most Expensive Broadband Access

BroadbandIn the Central African Republic, broadband internet service costs 3891% of the average monthly income. Put another way, a month’s broadband service costs more than three years’ average wages in the country,” notes this technology blog, “compared with less than two hours’ earnings in Macau.” (The world’s cheapest broadband access…)

A United Nations’ technology group released the figures in a new report in advance of a September 19 summit on the digital divide in developing countries. (“We are trying to avoid a broadband divide,” said Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the secretary general of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union says in the report.) Their agency noted that the rate for broadband penetration is below 1% in many poor countries, with monthly costs higher than the average monthly income, whereas in the world’s most developed economies, 30% of people have access to broadband at less than 1% of their income.

And the report also estimates that there are 5 billion cellphones in the world — though some people may own more than one.”

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The Genocide Behind Your Smart Phone (Video)

Alan Mascarenhas writes on Newsweek:
It takes a lot to snap people out of apathy about Africa’s problems. But in the wake of Live Aid and Save Darfur, a new cause stands on the cusp of going mainstream. It’s the push to make major electronics companies (manufacturers of cell phones, laptops, portable music players, and cameras) disclose whether they use “conflict minerals” — the rare metals that finance civil wars and militia atrocities, most notably in Congo. The issue of ethical sourcing has long galvanized human-rights groups. In Liberia, Angola, and Sierra Leone, the notorious trade in “blood diamonds” helped fund rebel insurgencies. In Guinea, bauxite sustains a repressive military junta. And fair-labor groups have spent decades documenting the foreign sweatshops that sometimes supply American clothing stores. Yet Congo raises especially disturbing issues for famous tech brand names that fancy themselves responsible corporate citizens. A key mover behind the Congo campaign is the anti-genocide Enough Project: witness its clever spoof of the famous Apple commercial.
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True Blood For African Addicts

At what point do people need a fix so bad that they are willing to inject another person’s blood into themselves? With the constant presence of AIDS related deaths in Africa, and the progressive educational-outreach towards sex workers and addicts, it would seem a foolish thought. BBC reports:

Desperate heroin users in a few African cities have begun engaging in a practice that is so dangerous it is almost unthinkable: they deliberately inject themselves with another addict’s blood, researchers say, in an effort to share the high or stave off the pangs of withdrawal.

The practice, called flashblood or sometimes flushblood, is not common, but has been reported in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the island of Zanzibar and in Mombasa, Kenya.

It puts users at the highest possible risk of contracting AIDS and hepatitis. While most AIDS transmission in Africa is by heterosexual sex, the use of heroin is growing in some cities, and experts are warning that flashblood — along with syringe-sharing and other dangerous habits — could fuel a new wave of AIDS infections.

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A New African Ocean?

For over the past 5 years, scientific researchers have been observing an ocean in the making.  Scientists at the Royal Society, claim that the African continent will be split in two based on a 60 kilometer crack in the Earth’s surface in Ethiopia.  Tim Wright, the lead researcher, estimates that the process of forming a new ocean will take approximately ten billion years.  The crack is caused by molten rock slowly rising from deep below the Earth’s surface.  Matt McGrath of the BBC goes into detail:

“Dr James Hammond, a seismologist from the University of Bristol – who has been working in Afar – says that parts of the region are below sea level and the ocean is only cut off by about a 20-metre block of land in Eritrea.

“Eventually this will drift apart,” he told the BBC World Service. “The sea will flood in and will start to create this new ocean.

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Albinos Killed in Burundi for Belief That ‘Good Luck’ is Brought by Body Parts

Albino Boy

Photo: Muntuwandi (CC)

Tom Odula writes on the AP:

Attackers in Burundi chopped off the limbs of a 5-year-old albino boy and pulled out his mother’s eye, killing them over the belief that their body parts would bring wealth and success, human rights activists said Friday.

Those deaths and other recent attacks in Tanzania are part of long pattern of violence against African albinos. At least 10,000 have been displaced or gone into hiding since attacks against them spiked in late 2007, the International Federation of the Red Cross says.

Since then, 57 albinos have been killed in Tanzania and 14 in Burundi, said Vicky Ntetema with the rights group Under The Same Sun.

The killings are fueled by superstitious beliefs that human albino body parts will bring others wealth and success, Ntetema said.

“Body parts are sought for their supposed miraculous powers,” she said. “Some use them as human sacrifice as advised by witch doctors.”

Read More: AP

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Scientists Find 95-Million-Year-Old Bugs In African Amber

Scientists have found amber containing perfectly-preserved 95-million-year-old bugs. From Wired Science:

Suspended in the stream of time were ancestors of modern spiders, wasps and ferns, but the prize is a wingless ant (above) that challenges current notions about the origins of that globe-spanning insect family.

The amber, which is formed when plant resin fossilizes, preserving flora and fauna trapped within, was found in what is now northwest Ethiopia. Ninety-five million years ago, it was part of a disintegrating Gondwana, one of two vast land masses that spawned the seven modern continents.

While it will take years to interpret the ecological tales trapped in the new amber, one important story is already suggested. Inside the Ethiopian amber is an ant that looks nothing like ants found in Cretaceous amber from France and Burma. Those deposits had placed the origin of ants in Laurasia. That’s no longer certain.

Read more at Wired Science

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Archbishop Tutu’s DNA Helps Show African Diversity

Archbishop-TutuBy Malcolm Ritter for AP via comcast.net News:

Scientists who decoded the DNA of some southern Africans have found striking new evidence of the genetic diversity on that continent, and uncovered a surprise about the ancestry of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

They found, for example, that any two Bushmen in their study who spoke different languages were more different genetically than a European compared to an Asian. That was true even if the Bushmen lived within walking distance of each other.

“If we really want to understand human diversity, we need to go to (southern) Africa and we need to study those people,” said Stephan Schuster of Pennsylvania State University. He’s an author of the study, which appears in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The study also found 1.3 million tiny variations that hadn’t been observed before in any human DNA. That should help scientists sort out whether particular genes promote certain diseases or influence a person’s response to medications.

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