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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

A hippo gets stuck in a 10-foot-tall water tower. He’d climbed up to cool off.

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stellenboschSouth Africa is coming up in the world. Just a couple of days ago it hosted the UEFA Confederations Cup of soccer, in which Brazil defeated the U.S. (yes, the United States!) 3-2 for the championship; next year the country will host the World Cup.

South Africa is also “the world’s ninth largest producer of wine, an up-and-comer in the global marketplace, and the winner of more than its share of accolades in international competitions.” But a canker grows amid the vineyards of Stellenbosch, and her name is Jane MacQuitty, a wine critic for The Times of London.

According to The New York Times, “In late 2007, she tasted a run of South Africa’s flagship reds and wrote that half were tainted by a “peculiar, savage, burnt rubber” odor. In a later column she called a selection of the country’s best-rated reds “a cruddy, stomach-heaving and palate-crippling disappointment.””

This was, of course, something that Stellenbosch’s luminaries needed to tackle head-on. So, for the past year, “vine-and-wine detectives from the department of viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University have been working the case. The “burnt rubber team” includes sensory scientists and analytical chemists. They taste, they sniff, they scratch their heads. They are looking for the golden thread that ties together a single taste that was born in multiple locations. Is the problem with the root stock, the soils, the storage, the bottling, the techniques of fermentation? Gas chromatography is being used to separate wines into their chemical compounds, searching for a culprit among the molecular units.”

The story of this sleuthfulness is completely worth reading in full.

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From the New York Times:

“Africa’s longest-entrenched autocrat, President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, has died at age 73 in a Spanish hospital after having ruled over his small West African nation for 41 years. He became immensely wealthy in office while serving as France’s key point man in the region.”

Read more from the Times.

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morocco_1_02

“It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in  Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and  tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease  spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

At this early hour, I’m unable to find complete video of this historic address, but you can read the complete transcript at the superb cultural website 3QuarksDaily.com. For many years, Travel Dynamics International has operated elegant cruises to Spain and the northern coast of Africa under the precise principle outlined in Obama’s words above; if you’re interested, please take a look at our 2010 journey to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

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sound-pic5I just got word of a remarkable internet-radio experiment out of Cape Town. The Pan African Space Station was a 30-day musical intervention broadcasting music from global Africa, and greater Cape Town, from September 12 (Biko Day) to October 12, 2008.

Some of the most beautiful, interesting, and cutting-edge developments in melody and rhythm are coming out of contemporary Africa, and the musical traditions being blended in PASS’s broadcasts – well, you can’t help but smile. In the archive, you’ll find a live performance by Madala Kunene in a slave church, with guitar and choral vocals, that is especially beautiful and stirring. Sampling from the rest of the archive, you’ll experience West African melodies, Francophone savoir-faire, American jazz and electronic music, and tribal rhythms converging all at once. It’s an endlessly fascinating look into African-based musical traditions – like jazz and hip-hop – that were formulated in America, now returning and becoming adapted and developed and accented by Africa once again.

And if you’re not too fond of it, I guarantee: your grandkids will love you for turning them on to this station. They’ll think you’re the coolest.

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In the Kalahari Desert of Namibia, tribesmen practice one of the most ancient methods of hunting practiced by the human species. David Attenborough narrates how the tribesmen track, scent, and then chase a Kudu – for eight hours, until the animal literally collapses from sheer exhaustion.

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From the New York Times:

Hoping to take advantage of high global food prices that brought many poor nations to the brink of chaos last year, farmers across West Africa are reaping what experts say is one of the best harvests in recent memory.

But after investing and borrowing heavily to expand their production, these farmers also run the risk of being wiped out as global food prices plummet.

The price of unprocessed rice in Senegal has steadily fallen from its peak early last year of more than $30 per 110-pound sack. The drop has not been as drastic as the ones experienced in corn and wheat markets across the world. But the price for rice needs to be at least $20 for farmers here to make a profit, and as the harvest approached late last year, the price was hovering at $22 a sack.

“I am worried,” said Mrs. Diop, a 57-year-old trader and farmer. “I can double my money. Or I can lose everything.”

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