Driving Up Pollution

from the NYTimes

and the Truth about Cars

  • 700,000 new cars[that] have hit Beijing roads this year
  • The city will license only 240,000 new vehicles next year
  • a car density of only 210 per thousand in China’s second most populous city
  • average in the U.S.A. is more than 800 cars per thousand.
  • China, proud consumer of more than half the planet’s cement

Because the pollution is so bad, and the roads are so crowded, Beijing is limiting the number of license plates it will issue next year.

Watch the Al-Jazeera video for the scoop on cars and the incredible pollution in Beijing.

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Getting Harrassed on the Job

Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times
A supermarket provides transportation to female employees to protect them from harassment.

via Need Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril – NYTimes.com.

KARACHI, Pakistan — Dinner at Rabia Sultana’s house is now served over a cold silence. Her family has not spoken to her since May, when Ms. Sultana, 21, swapped her home life for a cashier’s job at McDonald’s.

Women here are normally forced to stay at home, but the need for more family income is changing the face of Pakistan.

“It’s not just the economic need, but need of the nation,” said Rafiq Rangoonwala, the chief executive officer of KFC Pakistan, who has challenged his managers to double the number of women in his work force by next year. “Otherwise, Pakistan will never progress. We’ll always remain a third-world country because 15 percent of the people cannot feed 85 percent of the population.”

Pakistan ranks next to last out of 134 countries in women’s economic participation in the workforce.

Nearly all of the 100 women interviewed said marriage would end to their careers. But many of them saw benefits along with the hazards.

Most women said that they had never left the house before taking a job. Many spent the first five months missing buses and getting lost. When they first arrived at work, they stuttered nervously in the presence of men.

Now they know better.

Although the number of women working outside the home is still very small, it will have a large effect on the culture.

“Girls envy us,” said Bushra, a KFC worker. “We are considered the men of the house, and that feels good.”

African Gold Rush Kills Children as Miners Discover Lead Dust – BusinessWeek

via African Gold Rush Kills Children as Miners Discover Lead Dust – BusinessWeek.

Gold fever brought death to Umoru Musa’s nine-family compound in Sunke, a mud-brick village in northern Nigeria.

Five of the 25 children, including Musa’s 1-year-old daughter Nafisa, lost their lives in May after villagers ground ore from nearby hills they didn’t know were also loaded with lead. Rising prices for gold promised a windfall. Instead, they helped unleash the deadliest lead-poisoning crisis in modern medical history.

As the adults pulverized rocks with their grain grinder, they spewed lead dust across the ground where their children played and poultry grazed. They spread more of the material, lethal to children in high doses, around the communal well where they washed the ore to sift out the gold.

Because the area is so poor, with most people living on less than $1 per day, families have turned to processing ore to make money.  Many communities have been able to put tin roofs on housing, buy motorbikes, and increase the size of the cattle herds.  But it has come with a high price tag – the lives of their children.

At least 284 children under the age of five have died from lead poisoning in eight villages in Nigeria’s Zamfara state as a result of small-scale gold mining, according to government officials. An additional 742 are being treated for high levels of lead in their blood, a number which may rise to 3,000 by the end of next year, according to Médecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

The deaths are an unintended consequence of a 21st century gold rush. Villagers turned en masse to mining over the past two years, spurred on by more frequent visits from gold-buying middlemen. During that time, investors drove bullion prices up 58 percent in London as they sought a haven from the aftermath of the financial crisis. Gold reached a record $1,431.25 an ounce in London on Dec. 7.

Nigeria has banned mining in the region, but it is unlikely that families will stop processing the ore.  Clean-up efforts at several villages include removing topsoil and bringing in new dirt.  But it won’t help those who have already been damaged by the poison.  Long-term consequences of exposure to lead include permanent brain damage, nervous system damage, and birth defects.

Cartographic Achievements – Mapping Slavery


via Visualizing Slavery – NYTimes.com.

The 1860 Census was the last time the federal government took a count of the South’s vast slave population. Several months later, the United States Coast Survey—arguably the most important scientific agency in the nation at the time—issued two maps of slavery that drew on the Census data, the first of Virginia and the second of Southern states as a whole. Though many Americans knew that dependence on slave labor varied throughout the South, these maps uniquely captured the complexity of the institution and struck a chord with a public hungry for information about the rebellion.

One of the first maps to combine statistics and cartography, this map was instrumental in convincing Northerners that the secessionists were not interested so much in states rights as in preserving slavery and their way of life.

… the 1861 map was in a class by itself: a landmark cartographic achievement, a popular propaganda tool, and an eminently practical instrument of military policy. No wonder Lincoln liked it.

How to Use a Map

thanks to floatingsheep

Mapping with Facebook

I love maps.  Maps are cool.  Especially this one produced by a Facebook intern.  Connections between friends are shown as lines, each connection is a line between the friends.

Some countries, such as Russia, use other social networks, and the Chinese have to use one that is censored by the government.  But the rest of the world shows up amazingly well.

Facebook World Map – Boing Boing.

Maquiladoras are Thriving


via Despite Violence, Manufacturing in Juárez Climbing — Texas-Mexico Border | The Texas Tribune.

In 2009, more than $42 billion in trade value moved through the ports that Juárez shares with El Paso, representing 15 percent of the total trade between the United States and Mexico. That number is estimated to be even higher in 2010.

Despite the violence outside the plants’ gates, inside, business is booming.  Juarez’ 1.3 million citizens continue to work at the factories that assemble products for American and Canadian markets, and new plants are opening for business.

Although the drug wars and a record number of murders continue unabated in Juarez, it has not slowed the growth of these NAFTA-created factories.  As the director of an El Paso based management company says:

“I have discovered maybe an unsavory part of human nature: If we can make money and it’s not too bad, then we are going to go for it.”

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