Sunday, July 04
Washington, Friday The Department of Homeland Obscurity today raised its Leftist Alert rating from Yellow (Raving Dementia) to Orange (Frothing Insanity). This is the second highest level of alert, leaving only Red (Gibbering Lunacy).
The Leftist Alert Index has not returned to the "safe" level of Green (Muttering Nuttiness) since mid-2000. The Department also said that it would be announcing new beyond-Red alert levels later this year in preparation for a possible Republican election victory.
Saturday, July 03
Yes folks, it's Friday again, and the so-called editors at New Scientist are up to their old tricks.
The editorial this week runs under the headline Feeding Africa with a subhead of If a green revolution won't work, how can the continent solve its food crisis?
Harrowing images of starving children have become synonymous with Africa. And in the coming days, expect more of the same as the refugee crisis continues to unfold in the Darfur region of westurn Sudan.The Darfur region, eh? Haven't we heard about that area in the news recently?
This time, civil war rather than crop failure is to blameWhat do you mean, this time? What about all the other times when civil war was to blame? And all the times when it was just plain old war? Funny how your food supplies dwindle when all your farmers are dead or run away.
but instability is not going to go away in a continent where 200 million people - almost 1 in 4 Africans - are undernourished.No.
Look, you ignorant cretins, cause and effect flows in a specific direction. Lack of food causes starvation. And instability - or to put it more accurately, interminable senseless violence - causes dwindling crop yields. Because, as I said, dead farmers don't do you much good.
Finding a solution will not be easy. For decades, governments and companies from the developed world, along with international institutions, have thrown aid, money, products and platitudes at the problem - especially platitudes. Their attitudes have tended to be prescriptive, urging political reform within African statesBecause, y'know, there's no reason to call for political reform in a continent where corruption is pandemic.
and the widespread adoption of practices such as growing cash crops, and technologies such as genetic modification.While this advice is not universally applicable, the move from subsistence agriculture to locally optimal cash crops and trade has worked wonders for, well, pretty much everywhere except Africa.
But Africa is not Europe, Asia, or South America, where a green revolution featuring high-yield rice and wheat varieties has boosted the food supply.Well, no, it's not. That's the whole point.
Now, rice, wheat and maize, which are marvelously productive crops everywhere else in the world, account for just 20% of food production in Africa (says New Scientist). Perhaps there's some correlation between growing less productive crops and, well, producing less? If someone can point me to information about why so little of African agriculture is devoted to these crops, I'd be interested, because New Scientist doesn't even touch on the matter. They're too busy with their platitudes.
Okay, leaving that editorial lying twitching in the dirt, we can move on to pages 8 and 9, where the good folk at NS present their own unique perspective on Iraq, including items like this:
27Yes, you know where this is heading:
Major archaeological sites looted across Iraq - the heart of ancient Mesopotamia. They include parts of famous sites such as Babylon and Nineveh, but details are sketchy. At the National Museum in Baghdad
where looting was widely reported in the days after the US invaded the city, 250 of the 600 artefacts on display are thought to be damaged and 100 missing.Thought to be? It takes more than a year to count 600 artefacts? Or 500, as the case may be.
Of the 491,418 artefacts kept in the museums storerooms, around 15,000 are missing and 25,000 damaged.11Hang on, what's with this 11 business? Well, in a little box down at the bottom right corner of page 9, there's a legend, and 11 turns out to be:
According to a tally kept by Francis DeBlauwe of the University of Missouri, Kansas CityRight. And your reason for presenting this particular tally as established fact is... What, exactly?
Not to mention the nice little evasion of looting was widely reported after US troops invaded the city. Never mind the fact that looting is known to have been taking place under Saddam Hussein, or that looting of archaeological sites has been a regional pastime in the Middle East for at least the past 4000 years. Or that many of those wide reports were of exactly the same person taking off with exactly the same urn. Oh, and
1Might want to update that, guys. No, wait, those were Polish troops, so the figure stands.
Number of chemical armaments found by US troops since invading Iraq.
Update: It would seem that early reports on the shells found by the Polish troops were wrong, and they were not in fact chemical weapons. So I'll grant the New Scientist that point.
Friday, July 02
The start of a new month brings us clear blue skies with a top temperature of 21 degrees* and unfortunately no sign of rain.There was a bit of rain here a few weeks ago, but basically nada, zip, zero, zilch. Which is great if you want to enjoy the sunshine but lousy if you want a lawn that is any colour other than brown or yellow.
* Degrees centigrade, and it's the middle of winter here in Sydney.
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