Mekong River – Quick, Look Before it’s Gone

In pictures: Damming Laos’ Mekong River – In Pictures – Al Jazeera English.

A total of 11 large hydropower dams are planned by the governments of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, while China has already completed five dams on the Mekong’s upper reaches, with another three under construction. China is also the driving force behind a cascade of dams on the Nam Ou River, a tributary of the Mekong in northern Laos.

Environmentalists fear these dams’ impact on fish numbers may have a devastating effect on food security and biodiversity in the region.

These countries are under intense pressure to industrialize and provide jobs for the people flooding into their cities.  Since factories require electricity, these dams are part of the vicious cycle – more displaced people needing more jobs.

The river also supplies the livelihood of millions of people.  How will damming it affect them?  The people most directly affected by this had no voice in the decision – how just is that?  What will become of the species that coexist with the river?  How will the changes affect the ecosystem of Indochina?  What would happen if these governments decided not to build the dams?

Human Trafficking

BBC News – Nepal: ‘I was

14 when I was sold’.

The real story, focusing on Nepalese women and children.


Restive Region of Russia

The Boston Marathon bombings and Chechnya’s long history of terrorism – The Week.

Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim region in the North Caucasus where insurgents have been fighting for an independent state ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994, a full-scale insurgency broke out, leading to two years of heavy conflict in which tens of thousands of Chechens and several thousand Russian soldiers died.

A memorial to the victims killed in the Beslan school tragedy, 2004.
Wikimedia Commons/aaron bird

Although it seems to two brothers alleged to be the Boston marathon bombers left the region years ago, they apparently maintained an interest in the area.

Then this, from the younger brother

From Stratfor:



A ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ Map of America : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR.

Ever since the borders of our 50 states were drawn so many years ago cultural geographers  have been trying to figure out if they reflect who we are, or if they are just arbitrary lines on a map.  Well, here are some answers.

[these] hunk[s] of America, in his view, is now an “effective community,” a place where people-to-people business has a distinct flavor, distinct from neighboring regions. In other words, it’s its own neighborhood.

California’s “neighborhood” includes Arizona and much of Nevada.

The above map is based on data.  This website, where you can enter the serial number of the bills in your wallet, and then watch as they travel around the country, shows several distinct “neighborhoods.”

In the Seattle area, for example, his team found that over two weeks, only 7.8 percent of the bills moved more than 500 miles away. Most of the money stayed close. More interestingly, Dirk’s team began to notice virtual borders, lines that the money rarely crossed. In this map, you can see the territory marked by the Canadian border to the north, a bit of California at the southern end, and Idaho to the east. Oregon and Washington seem undifferentiated. But at the edges, a blue border seems to capture and contain most of the cash (and the people?) moving within. Those lines, Dirk marked deep blue.

Another map, by some folks at MIT, uses anonymous AT&T data.

This map shows different, but equally ‘unstate-like’ borders.

Will we remain the 50 states forever?  Or will our borders change to reflect the changing demographics of this country?

Crazy or Not, Here He Comes

Inside the world of Kim Jong Un: North Korea’s strange hermit king – The Week.

Nice analysis from the folks at The Week.

What kind of student was he really?
Kim flunked science and only narrowly passed English, German, and math….He idolized American basketball players like Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, and often shot hoops with Swiss friends.

Is his authority secure?

Obviously not.

The Kims’ sibling rivalry
The late Kim Jong Il’s oldest son, Kim Jong Nam, is still bitter over his little brother’s success. Jong Nam has repeatedly lobbed insults at Jong Un since his accession, telling one Japanese newspaper that his regime was “a joke” and doomed to collapse.

The older brother is now in hiding (or dead).

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