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1  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 30: Burundi on: October 05, 2015, 07:48:16 pm

Caught up with the history of its neighbour, Rwanda, Burundi has an unusually long history for an African state. This is as it was a precolonial kingdom dating from the 17th Century before being subsumed (but kept separate) into the structure of German colonialism in Africa, and then into Belgium's once Germany had been expelled from the continent after WWI. This is also true of Rwanda and like Rwanda, its modern history has been dominated by the division of the country, which is otherwise linguistically and religious homogeneous, between two ethnic groups: The Hutu and the Tutsi. This is a division upon which so much dubious anthropology and other 'theorizing' both popular and academic has been based: the Tutsis are natural aristocrats with long noses and more refined posture, Hutus are shorter and stockier like peasants, the Tutsis are originally descendants of Northern Semites (and thus 'whiter') who migrated southwards degenerating themselves by miscegenation with the locals, the Hutus are the 'real' people of Africa. All believed by some at various points, all rubbish. Since independence from Belgium the country has been, to put it mildly, unstable and group relations fractious (putting it really mildly). There have been at least two recognized Genocides in the country since 1960, the first in the 1970s by Tutsi army officers determined not to let the country fall into 'Hutu Power' like Rwanda and the second in the 1990s by Hutu mobs against Tutsis after the country's first fairly democratically elected President (a Hutu) was assassinated by Tutsi extremists soon after his election. In between there were dictatorships, alliances with Maoist China, various forms of ethnic supremacy and a couple of coups. Yet that murder in 1993 sparked the worst of it, a 13 year civil war (which got caught up in the various wars going on in Africa at the time, including the largest and most famous of all these Hutu-Tutsi genocides, in Rwanda) which eventually saw a unity government formed in 2005. This has mostly been led by the Hutus (who are the majority at about 85% of the population and so would dominate any election) but has been conciliatory, the whole political system now designed to avoid a return to the fighting (so ethnic quotas, rotation in ministries, and so on). Whether they will be successful for long remains to be seen, there has already been unrest this year (caused, in the best autocratic tradition, by the current President announcing he will seek a third term of suspect constitutionality). Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Below is a map of Africa at the end of the 18th Century, as you can see Burundi and Rwanda are on it, while very few of the other African states are still featured

2  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Let's Play 'Guess the Country from their exports' on: October 05, 2015, 04:17:10 pm
A landlocked saharan African county with a low population, but enough infrastructure to support a mining industry. Majority of the population are tribal or poor farmers living on less than a dollar a day and not part of the economy. Probably has a decent Berber population, thought that comes with the region.

Mauritania, Mali, and Niger (pronounced differently in French) all come to mind. I originally thought it might be sub-saharan, but such a country would have more diverse exports like tropical crops.

Australia has a beef industry (it's a country I think of when uranium exports is mentioned) and is way too developed to just have an export economy.

If I'm wrong it's probably some -stan former USSR country but I doubt it.

Niger, perhaps? I'm thinking of Colin Powell's speech at the UN.

It's clearly one of the least developed economies in the world - essentially no diversification; and the primary export is an unprocessed raw material.

I presume sub-Saharan African - indeed, I presume the Sahara is a factor, there's no sign of any agricultural exports.

I'm not sufficiently aware of major sources of radioactive elements to go any further.

A landlocked saharan African county with a low population, but enough infrastructure to support a mining industry. Majority of the population are tribal or poor farmers living on less than a dollar a day and not part of the economy. Probably has a decent Berber population, thought that comes with the region.

Mauritania, Mali, and Niger (pronounced differently in French) all come to mind. I originally thought it might be sub-saharan, but such a country would have more diverse exports like tropical crops.

Australia has a beef industry (it's a country I think of when uranium exports is mentioned) and is way too developed to just have an export economy.

If I'm wrong it's probably some -stan former USSR country but I doubt it.

Of the countries mentioned, Niger has the most uranium. So that's what my guess is - I change my answer from Central Asia as those countries are at least somewhat industrialised.
I think probably Niger or Chad.

Congrats everyone who said Niger that is the answer. Next round:

3  General Politics / International General Discussion / Let's Play 'Guess the Country from their exports' on: October 04, 2015, 08:50:43 pm
Wikipedia has a thing, usually in the articles entitled 'economy of [insert country here]', where it displays in the form of multiple squares put together to make a big square the exports of each country (each square representing one export, the bigger the square the greater weight of the export proportionally). I'm wondering how many people here, without looking at the link, can figure out which country has which export square. I will start below

Any guesses?
4  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Paris: Animal rights activists seize puppy from homeless man on: October 04, 2015, 07:24:52 pm
It's a basic fact of life that Women aren't good at Math. We just accept this rather than have some sentimentalists and weak people decide our policies and actions that go against the laws of nature.

That is a dumb strawman and you know it.

I think this is a 'gets one to know one' statement.
5  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Paris: Animal rights activists seize puppy from homeless man on: October 04, 2015, 07:05:39 pm
It's a basic fact of life that Women aren't good at Math. We just accept this rather than have some sentimentalists and weak people decide our policies and actions that go against the laws of nature.
6  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 29: Burkina Faso on: October 04, 2015, 06:09:48 pm

To the Anglophone mind perhaps the most strikingly named African country, especially after finding out that the capital is called Ouagadougou (I believe it is pronounced Ah-wog-ah-doo-goo). In colonial times it was called Upper Volta after the main river which has its source in the country. Since independence in 1960 it has followed a sort of standard pattern for the former French colonies in Africa with government run by autocrats close to France with a series of military coups breaking up periods of autocracy only to soon recreate it with occasional popular uprisings breaking out. A sort of exception to this pattern was the government of Thomas Sankara (1983-87) 'the African Che' who took a hardline anti-colonialist and Marxist pan-Africianist position towards Burkina Faso's problems (it was Sankara who renamed the country Burkina Faso meaning 'land of the honest people' in a mixture of the Mossi and Dioula languages as a type of Africanist synthesis). This led to great public health initiative but predictably an authoritarian and highly centralist regime which was eventually overthrown (and Sankara killed) with assistance from the west, especially France. The new government, that of Blaise Compaoré, enjoyed unusual stability for Burkina Faso ruling from 1987 to 2014 until he was overthrown in a popular uprising (many of whose main participants had major Sankaraist sympathies). Since then there has been great instability (including another - failed - coup recently) as Burkina Faso tries to find a new system of government. Like most of African states in the region it is a mix of various differing not altogether similar ethnic groups with a population divided between Muslims (60%) and the rest, the rest mainly being Christianity and Animists - although all faiths show a great deal of mixture and hybridity with local beliefs and practices. All this is held together by a governmental and legal system handed down from the colonizer. Yet despite this Burkina Faso, like all other West African states, continues on.

Below is an interesting map showing annual rainfall levels in Burkina Faso for each decade since 1971. As you can see it is going up - albeit imperfectly (taken from here)

7  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Portugal Legislative Elections, 10/04/2015 on: October 04, 2015, 05:08:32 pm
I am a little bit proud about my Portugal.

After many years of a big crisis, no fascist or right-populist party has a chance.In other European countries it looks quite different.

8  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 28: Bulgaria on: September 28, 2015, 05:49:33 pm

A former part of the Eastern bloc. Historically quite close to Russia. One of those countries which is named after the people who conquered it and then adopted the local culture (the Bulgars were Turkic people who invaded from the East but unlike the Magyars or, for that matter, the Romanians, they took up the local Slavic language). While a fairly powerful kingdom in the Early Middle Ages it has usually been the pawn of other, more powerful states: Primarily, as already mentioned, Russia. It was long part of the Ottoman Empire although the Muslim part of the population is fairly small due to Post Ottoman ethnic cleansing but is not insignificant either (8% Turk in 2011). Bulgaria fought on the losing side in both world wars due to its irredentist claims over what is now Macedonia and parts of Greek Macedonia that could access the Aegean, or in other words, the usual late 19th/early 20th century geopolitical nonsense. Now it has many of the problems of the Post-Communist East, in particular a population that is declining rapidly from low birth rates and emigration. In 1990 it had a population of about 9 million, in 2014 it reached 7.2 million and by 2050 it is expected to reach as low as 5.5 million.

Below is an ethnographic map of South Eastern Europe from 1877 (It says 'Turkish Europe' although not all that region was part of the empire then):

Note the lack of homogeneous areas

Anyway I'm going to be away the next few days so consider this a break until Friday or Saturday.
9  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 27: Brunei on: September 27, 2015, 05:32:06 pm

Or to give its full name 'Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace' (yes, really). This is one of those small Asian states (Population: 415,717) whose continued existence is due to the wheeling and the dealing nature of the British Empire and their infinite tolerance of aristocratic monarchs and related feudal grandeur (see also, The Middle East). This was after the British had reduced the state from one which controlled most of Northern Borneo to one which takes up a small harbour and hinterland on the north coast that it does today. Since independence, which occurred only in 1984, it has become a very wealthy petro-state. The Sultan of Brunei is regularly cited as among the wealthiest men in the world. He was educated at Sandhurst because of course he was. The country is strongly Islamic and Malay speakers make the majority. Although, given that this is South-East Asia, there is a strong overseas Chinese presence and also many European expats out to make money and probably belittle the locals. There are also non-Malay Bornean ethnicities in what passes for the Bruneian interior. Yes, Bruneian is what you call someone from Brunei.

Below is a map of Borneo in 1850 showing roughly the area controlled by Brunei

10  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 26: Brazil on: September 26, 2015, 05:53:36 pm

The world's largest romance speaking nation and the fifth largest state in the world in both population and size. The only state in South America that was ever an independent monarchy and perhaps the state, more so than the United States, whose history can be best explained through the lens of slavery and exploitation. Despite this, it has a very different attitude to race than the US, with mixed marriages normal and the census recording dozens of different skin tones to describe each mixed group (which isn't to say there is racism). The immigration history of Brazil has led to a darker northeast with West Africans, American Indians, and Sephardic Jews among the main ancestry groups. The South of the country is much whiter - and more developed - a product of an openly racist immigration plan following the abolition of slavery in 1889 which wanted to 'whiten' the nation, with reams of Italians, Germans, Eastern Europeans and, of course, Portuguese entering the nation en masse. This included Japanese, of which Brazil has largest number of people of said descent of any country in the world (outside Japan o/c). Funnily enough, this sort of worked and Germans and Japanese are among the wealthiest groups in the country today - German is spoken by about 2 million still in Brazil and there are districts in the south where it is an official language. This policy was initiated during the heyday of positivism in Latin America - an ideology which had a great impact on Brazil - and gave the nation its motto "Order and Progress" (as shown on the flag). The interior of Amazon contains some of the world's last uncontacted tribes and many groups which have been of interest to Anthropologist such as, notoriously, the Yamamamo.

Below is a map of Brazil from its official institute of Geography (IGBE) showing the percentage of black (pretos) and mixed-race (pardos) peoples by district

11  General Politics / Political Debate / Re: Does an ethnic group have a right to a national homeland? on: September 25, 2015, 07:24:52 pm
Rights are a pretty dubious concept to begin with when applied to individuals (who gives you rights? Well, it is the State. Unless you continue to believe in 'natural rights' in which case I really can't help you). But as applied to collectivities? Who grants the state rights? Itself, of course, by its own power. But who grants rights to those without a defined state? Well..... that's your problem right.
12  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / International Elections / Re: Åland parliamentary and municipal elections - October 18, 2015 on: September 25, 2015, 06:17:01 pm
How feasible would an independent Aland be?
13  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 25: Botswana on: September 25, 2015, 06:02:14 pm

Noted for being one of Africa's most successful economies and a major producer of diamonds (which make up more than 60% of the value of its exports). It has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world at independence to a middle income country. It is also (perhaps not coincidentally? But then again consider Somalia) unusually homogeneous for an African country, which about 80% of the country being Tswana in ethnicity and over 90% speaking Setswana, which is an official language in addition to English. The country, formerly the protectorate of Bechuanaland, being mainly a construct from the start for the Tswana people. Despite its good situation, it is mostly desert and is one of the least densely populated countries in the world - only just over 2 million for nearly 600,000 square kilometres. The motto of the county and the currency is pula, which means 'rain' in Setswana, probably telling you something of the nature of the country's environment. Its capital, Gaborone, was basically built from the scratch in the 1960s and based on garden city principles. It, like the rest of the country, is on google street view.

Below is a cartogram of the world's Tswana speakers. There are far more in South Africa than in Botswana, where 4 million people speak it as their mother tongue and many more as a second language. It is the black lingua franca of Pretoria

14  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 24: Bosnia and Herzegovina on: September 24, 2015, 05:57:55 pm

One of the now seven states formed from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. It is still in a very fragile state with about a third of the population living in the vaguely separate and constitutionally ambiguous Republika Sprska - a Serb majority state - with a very small part of the country (the Brčko District) self-governing, as it was not decided in the 1990s peace talks whether it should belong to the Bosnian part of Bosnia or to Republika Sprska. The 1990s were just one moment in a long European history of Bosnia being a European powderkeg, of which the start of the First World War is easily the most famous. It is still dependent on the EU and UN for security and keeping the peace. Bosniaks (i.e. Slavic Muslims) are the largest ethnic group. Bosniaks are descendants of Ottoman era converts who themselves may have descendants from followers of a Christian heresy. But these are probably not a majority (Bosnia demographic statistics are a bit suspect but estimates I see put them ~45%) with ~35% Serbs and ~15% Croats the other major ethnic groups. As the summary so far may have made clear, they haven't always got on. The Dayton Accords which ended the 1990s war were written in four languages, English and Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian... the last three being understood perfectly by each other's speakers.

Below is a map of ethnic majority/pluralities in Bosnia in 1991 (i.e. before the war):
15  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 23: Bolivia on: September 23, 2015, 05:24:10 pm

Officially 'The Plurinational State of Bolivia', its full title gives away something about the country - it is a highly multicultural one. Indeed, by most calculations it is the only state in the Americas left with an indigenous majority and 38(!) languages are official. Although as in other states with multiple official languages it effectively means the most dominant and prestige language is used at the top of the offices of state, which is Spanish, although Aymara, Quechua and Guarani are also widespread. 'Whites' only make up 15% of the population. Its current president is an indigenous ex-Coca farmer (the Coca plant grows wild here and so inevitably, Bolivia is a major source of cocaine) and union leader who, despite his initial Chavista orientation, has proven surprisingly competent and looks like he may the job for life. The country is named after Simon Bolivar. The city of Potosi in Bolivia was a key nodal point in the Early Modern Spanish Habsburg Empire as it is origin of the bulk of that Empire's silver from the famous silver mountain of that region. Mining, although not for silver, is still an important part of Bolivia's economy today.

Below is a map showing the Early Modern global silver trade, which was mostly Spanish silver from Potosi and its destinations across the world (mostly to China)

(Sorry for the somewhat fuzzy image)
16  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Day 22: Bhutan on: September 23, 2015, 07:09:49 am
Reading this I've learnt a bit but one question: Why did so many Nepalis decide to migrate to Sikkim and Bhutan in the first place? Is this some pan-Indian trend?
17  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Day 22: Bhutan on: September 22, 2015, 07:09:25 pm
Oh obligatory post in this thread


This used to be the audio on the relevant wiki entry. Then they got rid of it. The killjoys Sad
18  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 22: Bhutan on: September 22, 2015, 06:34:39 pm

One of the world's only two Tibetan Buddhist majority states - and the only one that hasn't had the go through the experience of Communist dictatorship. It is often portrayed as something of a Shangri-La in the west and the King is known for promoting 'Gross National Happiness' rather than Gross National Product and has many other aspects which, according to stereotypes, appeal to the sort of people who only buy their food from the organic section in farmers' markets. Archery is the national sport and television was only introduced here in 1999. Yet it is also oppressive especially towards the Hindu Nepali minority, many of whom have left the country and in the early 2000s shared military operations with India over Bodoland separatists. It is very worried about being absorbed into India (consider the size difference between the two countries). Its government thus has sought wide international recognition and friendship going as far as to lie to the United Nations about the size of the population in order to gain admission (given that Nauru is there, they needn't have bothered). It remains internally, however, very secretive and only allows very few tourists in each year. Therefore the state remains somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Below is a map of the Tibetan Empire at the height of its powers in the 8th Century. Although it is not shown on the map Bhutan is supposedly independent at this point (although nobody really knows, Bhutanese history being a mystery at this point). Needless to say though, Tibet has had a big influence on the development of Buddhism in Bhutan.

19  General Politics / Individual Politics / Opinion of Khun Sa on: September 21, 2015, 08:41:10 pm

20  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 21: Benin on: September 21, 2015, 06:44:49 pm

Officially Francophone African state. A one-time Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. Its now (democratically elected) is an evangelical Protestant convert from Islam. A lot of American slaves came from here. I know very little about Benin.

Below is a crude map of African regions as understood by Europeans in the 18th Century

21  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 20: Belize on: September 20, 2015, 06:07:41 pm

Formerly British Honduras. One of two English speaking states in the mainland Americas south of the United States. Both are small and this is the smaller of the two with about one third of a million inhabitants. It sees itself in this manner as having more of a Caribbean orientation than a Latin American one. Although in saying that, due to population changes and migration about 50% of the population are Hispanic/Latino in origin which far outstrip the 'Kriol' population of African descendants which is regularly associated with the country. Indeed the Kriol population is declining in comparison to both the Hispanic population and a population of German Mennonites (with all that that implies). It is also 10% American Indian (Mayan Mostly) and 6% Garifuna. Given this Spanish is far more widely spoken at home as opposed to the official and formal English. More widespread is Belizean Kriol, an English based Creole although English is widely understood. Garifuna, Plattdeutsch and Mayan languages are also spoken. Belize has long had a territorial dispute with Guatemala, which at various times has claimed part of or all of the country, which may go to arbitration shortly.

Below is a map showing the territory claimed by Guatemala next to some information about the country

22  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Day 19: Belgium on: September 19, 2015, 06:17:41 pm
B for Beer. World best beer makers, by far. Also more or less invented the classical European comic tradition. Those two things alone make them immense freedom fighters and outweigh housing the Eurocrats.

Oh yes. Definitely agree on the beer.

23  General Politics / International General Discussion / Day 19: Belgium on: September 19, 2015, 06:08:36 pm

Western European country known for being anonymous at least to anglophones (insert jokes about famous Belgians here), being a good route to which to invade France by and for being on the fault line between Germanic and Latin Europe, with the country divided by language between the Dutch speaking Flemings in the prosperous North and the French speaking Walloons in the more handout dependent south, also known as a major centre of organized crime in Europe. Also known for chocolate and paedophilia. Al has a good joke about that I hear.

Below is a (now fairly old) map showing the main linguistic-community divisions in Belgium

24  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: Rugby World Cup 2015 Official Thread on: September 18, 2015, 07:53:44 pm
England won the first match but were not very good.
25  General Politics / International General Discussion / Re: Hey, there was another coup in Burkina Faso on: September 18, 2015, 04:40:01 pm
That happened.

Which actually puts it in the lead for coups in Africa - this is its seventh.

Comoros laughs at you thinking that is a lot of coups.
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