The True Size … (of Africa)

It is hard to represent our spherical world on flat piece of paper. Cartographers use something called a “projection” to morph the globe into 2D map. The most popular of these is the Mercator projection.

Every map projection introduces distortion, and each has its own set of problems. One of the most common criticisms of the Mercator map is that it exaggerates the size of countries nearer the poles (US, Russia, Europe), while downplaying the size of those near the equator (the African Continent). On the Mercator projection Greenland appears to be roughly the same size as Africa. In reality, Greenland is 0.8 million sq. miles and Africa is 11.6 million sq. miles, nearly 14 and a half times larger.

This app was created by James Talmage and Damon Maneice. It was inspired by an episode of The West Wing and an infographic by Kai Krause entitled “The True Size of Africa“. We hope teachers will use it to show their students just how big the world actually is.

Contact us at thetruesize at gmail dot com

Trump Support in Africa

According to a 25-nation survey, Donald Trump is more popular in Africa than in any other region (though less popular than Barack Obama was). Over half of Nigerians and Kenyans consider Mr Trump a positive influence on world affairs. This may have something to do with America’s cultural appeal and a shared animosity towards China. Mr Trump’s strong-man style also grates less on a continent used to bombastic presidents

The Key to Making Peace in Africa

Fighting Corruption Can Help End Conflict

‘Conflict Is More Profitable Than Peace’

In Central African Republic and other anarchic states, people suffer and perish under rule of the AK-47.

For thousands of years, humanity’s greatest challenge was poverty and disease, but increasingly it may be conflict.

.. The United Nations estimates that 80 percent of its humanitarian funding needs are now driven by conflict. The U.N. World Food Program says conflict causes 60 percent of life-threatening hunger.

.. That’s because we’re making huge strides in most places, with the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty dropping from about 90 percent in the early 1800s to less than 10 percent today. Yet there are exceptions like CAR, South Sudan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo that are horribly off track — because they are ruled in parts not by governments but by gunmen.

.. So we must rethink the global war on poverty. These days the world should tackle conflict as aggressively as it fought AIDS. Donors need to focus not just on building wells or schools, but also on building peace. This may make liberal doves uncomfortable, but the blunt reality is that in some places the most important humanitarians are the peacekeepers carrying weapons.

Yet President Trump has slashed assistance for U.N. peacekeeping, and his ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, boasted in a tweet that the administration was “only getting started” cutting back on peacekeeping. Ambassador Haley, please understand that without peacekeeping, you’re sentencing civilians to be raped and shot — and boys like Frederick Pandowan to starve.

..  His mom, Tefole Raissa, explained that they had fled fighting and no longer have land. “I can’t farm now,” she explained. She doesn’t remember the last time she ate meat or eggs; the family gets by on one evening meal a day of cassava, a starchy tuber with negligible nutrition.

.. Central African Republic is preyed upon by some 14 militias. At times there has been Christian-Muslim fighting, but these days the militias are less ideological than entrepreneurial. They routinely set up checkpoints to “tax” every vehicle that passes — when they don’t simply steal trucks or goods.

“Conflict is more profitable than peace,” noted Neal Kringel, a senior U.S. diplomat for the region, highlighting what needs to change.

Insecurity means that the government operates few clinics, so women die in childbirth at one of the highest rates in the world. Aid becomes expensive and dangerous to provide: Gunmen killed 16 humanitarian workers here last year, and six more so far this year, making CAR one of the most perilous countries for aid workers.

.. We visited peace-building programs organized by Catholic Relief Services to reduce tensions between Muslims and Christians. In one project, 125 people were paid $3 a day each to dig drainage ditches — but on the condition that Christians and Muslims work together.

.. “It’s my first time to be mixed with Muslims,” Marlene Wabangue, a young Christian mother with her baby daughter on her back, told me during a break. “But I’m not scared of them. I’m fine with them.”

.. We must ensure that peace is more profitable than conflict. As the mayor of Boda, Boniface Katta, told us, “Without peace, nothing can be done.”

I am Muslim, register me.

I am Mexican, deport me.

I am African, imprison me.

I am LGBTQ+ refuse to serve me.

I am poor, blame me.

I am elderly, privatize me,

I am a woman, defund me.

I am homeless, ignore me,

I am disabled, bully me,

I am sick, uninsure me,

I am indigenous, pollute me.

I am a veteran, voucher me.

I am an American, Lie to me.

Trump’s ‘Sh**hole’ Comments Double Down on Identity Politics

Once again expressing hostility toward entire groups of immigrants, he further damages American political culture.

.. The president of the United States should not, by word or deed, communicate that he is hostile to or disdainful of entire classes of the American population. It doesn’t matter if such divisive rhetoric helps him win elections, nor if the reaction of his opponents is often overblown. As president, his obligation remains the same: Make your case without demonizing whole groups of people.

This shouldn’t be difficult for conservatives to understand. It’s an argument they’ve been making against Democrats for the better part of a decade. It’s the argument against identity politics. 

Virtually every engaged conservative knows the term “bitter clinger.” When Barack Obama spoke at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 and offered his amateur sociological assessment that some Americans become “bitter” about social change and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them,” conservatives didn’t hear dispassionate analysis. They heard contempt.

.. Among the terrible effects of negative polarization is the widespread perception — often created by presidents and presidential candidates themselves — that a president governs for the benefit of his constituents alone.

.. Indeed, in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” comment and her declaration that Republicans were her “enemies,” millions of conservatives were motivated to go to the polls. (Remember “charge the cockpit or die”?)

.. First, if you’re spending your time defending the notion that some countries are truly bad places to live, you’re missing the point entirely. Of course some countries are worse places to live than others. But Trump wasn’t talking about which countries he’d most like to visit or retire to. He was talking about which countries’ immigrants should be most and least welcomed by the United States.

.. Second, these comments must be understood in the context of Trump’s relatively short history as the country’s most visible political figure. From the opening moments of his presidential campaign, Trump has made sweeping, negative remarks about immigrants from third-world nations.

.. Even when he qualifies those remarks (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”) the qualification is weak.

.. As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out this morning, the president’s businesses have been credibly accused of racial discrimination, he claimed that an American judge couldn’t do his job fairly because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, he delayed condemning David Duke as long as he possibly could, and after the dreadful alt-right rally and terrorist attack in Charlottesville, he went out of his way to declare that there were “very fine people” on both sides. One doesn’t even have to delve too deeply into Trump’s alleged comparison of Norway with the “sh**holes” of Africa to understand why a reasonable observer would believe that he has problems with entire classes of Americans, immigrants, and citizens of other nations.

.. But it’s just as ridiculous for conservatives to pretend that the outrage over Trump’s comments truly centers around his assessment of Haiti and Africa when it clearly centers around his assessment of Haitians and Africans.

At this point I simply can’t see how a conservative could look a concerned third-world immigrant (or descendent of a third-world immigrant) in the eye and assert that this president judges them fairly and without bias. The intellectual and rhetorical gymnastics necessary to justify not just Trump’s alleged comments yesterday but his entire history and record of transparent hostility to certain immigrants are getting embarrassing to watch. Some of his comments may “work” politically — divisive comments often do — but that doesn’t make them any less damaging to American political culture as a whole.

The Meaning of ‘Despacito’ in the Age of Trump

Take “Despacito” itself. It begins with a steel-stringed Puerto Rican guitar called the cuatrowhich most likely descended from an instrument brought to Spain from North Africa by Moors. The rolling reggaeton beat came out of Jamaica and, long before that, probably originated in West Africa. In rapping, Daddy Yankee employs an art form developed by urban African-Americans, infusing it with the unique feel of Puerto Rican Spanish and slang. Mr. Fonsi’s deliciously suggestive lyrics arguably belong to a tradition that stretches back to the lovelorn troubadours of medieval Spain, and beyond.

The song is a fusion, an amalgam. As such, it doesn’t just illustrate the genius of pop music but also serves as a model of how creativity works generally. Innovation often involves organizing old pieces into new configurations. Tech companies, like Apple and Google, know this. Hence their emphasis on cross-pollination — their open work spaces and public areas designed to encourage intermingling.

.. Then came President Trump and the news that some still viewed the United States as a fundamentally white, Christian nation with European roots. Which means what, exactly? Modern genetics tells us that Europeans are themselves a mixture of different peoples, a hunter-gatherer population mixed with farmers who, thousands of years ago, immigrated from what’s now Turkey (near Syria), topped off by herders from what’s now the Russian steppe. Christianity, the supposed glue of Europe, was imported from the Levant. And I’m writing this in a language — English — that consists of French and Latin grafted onto an Anglo-Saxon base, sprinkled with Old Norse and grains of Celtic.