Daily Archives: April 21, 2009

South Africa Elections

South Africans are preparing to go to the polls in what is expected to be the most competitive general election since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Some 20,000 polling stations are due to open at 0500 GMT for the more than 23 million registered voters.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is expected to win, but its two-thirds majority is being challenged.

ANC leader Jacob Zuma said the emergence of the opposition Congress of the People had “re-energised” the ANC.


I remember the first election. I was in Bloomington, Indiana at the conference for the Society of Africanist Anthropologists. A number of the other participants in the conference were South Africans, and they had all voted using an absentee system. It had not been that long before when we all got to watch, on TV broadcasts around the world, Nelson Mandela walk away from his prison on Robbens Island, near Cape Town.

It’s actually the main thing I remember at that conference. Oh, and the party at Jeane Sept’s house. I remember that mainly because of a long conversation with Henry Harpending about genetic bottlenecks.

Anyway, congratulations to South Africa for keeping your act pretty much together all these years! I knew you could do it!

Progress in Burundi

African Union troops are physically disarming 21,000 fighters from Burundi’s last active rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL).

It follows a weekend ceremony where FNL leader Agathon Rwasa symbolically surrendered his own weapons to the AU.

A grenade attack killed six people but the BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge says it was not linked to the rebels.

But he says it shows how many weapons are circulating in Burundi following more than 10 years of ethnic conflict.


Wither The Water, Fox News?

Monica sent me a link to a Faux News story on global warming, which makes the claim that global warming is not real because ice is expanding, and not contracting, in Antarctica. It also makes the claim that 90 percent of the earth’s ice and 80 percent of the earth’s fresh water is in Antarctica, which I assume is mentioned because it would make Antarctica seem more important than other parts of the world, and thus the “fact” that global warming is not happening there is proof of … whatever.

I’d like to clarify.

To start with, let’s get the fresh water thing straight. Most of the fresh water that matters to the average person on the average day is not in Antarctica. It is in the sky. From where I sit right now, I can see this lake, and the lake is charged from groundwater, and most of this groundwater comes from another lake uphill from this lake, etc. etc. But all of this … the local lakes and groundwater … is charged from rain, and this rain comes from the sky, and the clouds in the sky picked up most of this moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. Around the world, a huge percentage of the rainwater comes from either the ocean or from continental sources which in turn came from the ocean.

In other words, the vast majority of immediately relevant fresh water comes from salt water. Most of the fresh water that matters comes from the huge reservoirs of salt water known as the oceans and seas, and beyond this, knowing the percentage of fresh water that is either here or there is neither here nor there. What matters is the process.

But even so, Fox has it wrong. It is true that about 90 percent of the world’s ice is in Antarctica. I’m not sure why that matters to Fox news. If ten percent of that ice melted, sea levels would rise catastrophically. It is not true that 80 percent of the worlds’ fresh water is in Antarctica. Just under 70% of the world’s fresh water is distributed among the frozen reservoirs (Antarctica, the northern ice fields, and mountain glaciers); Just over 30% is in the form of ground water, and just under one percent is evenly distributed between water that is in the air and about to fall on us, and water that is on the surface (lakes, rivers, etc.) most of which is on it’s way back into the ocean.

So, let’s characterize the whole water situation on the earth like this: Most of the water is in the ocean. Over time, a small percentage of this water evaporates and falls as rain back on the ocean. Of this, a small percentage falls temporarily on land and re-joins the ocean in a matter of days or months.

As this is happening, two great reservoirs are formed and grow or shrink over time, one in ice and one in groundwater.

Regarding the seeming inability of Antarctica to cooperate with the conspiratorial liberal agenda to make up this whole “Global Warming” thing; There is nothing going on here. Globally, averaging out the entire planet, there is warming. This warming is severe in the Arctic, and less severe in the Antarctic, and there are even regions in the Antarctic that are cooler and/or have more ice forming. However, there are also parts of the Antarctic where there are ice masses that are melting down and/or falling into the ocean.

So this is Fox News as an Insurance Appraiser:

“So, this is your car, and you claim it was in an accident?”

“Yes, see how the front is all mashed up?”

“Hey, what I’m looking at is the trunk, and it’s fine. I see no evidence of an accident.”

“But look, the engine is sitting in the front seat and the windshield is busted up, and the fenders are all crumple…..”

“No, no, no … look here. The gas tank … which holds the gas which could blow up in an accident … is fine. The gas tank is totally intact.”

“But wait, the front half of the car is crumpled and in pieces because that is where the accident happened….”

“The back half of the car, where the trunk is where we keep the spare tire, and the gas tank which could explode, are just fine. No accident. No insurance payment. ….”


(That was the sound of the car’s owner slapping the Fox Insurance Appraiser upside the head.)

So instead of reading some stupid-ass article from Fox News, check out this alarming Liberal Agenda Scare Tactic piece from the BBC

Coleman Appeals Election Ruling to MNSC

The Star Tribune reports that Norm Coleman has filed an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court. He did so late Monday. I believe this is nine days after the lower judicial panel’s decision, which places this appeal just under the deadline. Clearly, Coleman has a strategy in mind that has little to do with the advancement of Democracy or the representation of Minnesotans. He should be ashamed of himself. But he appears to lack that emotion. Perhaps he was knocked on the head as a kid or something.

Science For the People

… somewhat ironically named Scientia Pro Publica, is a new Blog Carnival started by science blogger GrrlScientist. I think her objective is to create a general science carnival with reinvigorated interest that will give people fingertip access to current blog posts in any and all of the sciences, and this seems to be working. The second edition is now available, and it is one of the better carnivals I’ve seen.

Please go to Scientia Pro Publica 2, The Science, Nature and Medicine Blog Carnival and then click on all the links so people know you ae out there. In the mean time, do read at least a few of the entries because there is a lot of good stuff in this issue!!!!!