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Sunday Roundup: Osama Bin Laden, Food crisis, Africa

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda founder and leader died last Sunday in his Pakistan hideout at the hands of Navy SEALs. The mastermind behind the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil is no more. Although Bin Laden’s death summoned joy for good reasons, it was only for a short time. Eric Schmitt explains: Bin Laden’s Death Doesn’t Mean the End of Al Qaeda: ‘The Al Qaeda of today is a much different organization than the one Bin Laden presided over on Sept. 11, 2001. It is much less hierarchical and more diffuse […] That was Bin Laden’s vision from the start. Al Qaeda means “the base” in Arabic. His plan was to spin off terrorist subsidiaries that could request ideological guidance or material support from time to time, but were meant to be largely self-sustaining soon after they were launched.’

Steve Coll in his article Notes on the Death of Osama bin Laden, adds: ‘Al Qaeda is more than just a centralized organization based in Pakistan. It is also a network of franchised or like-minded organizations, and an ideological movement in which followers sometimes act in isolation from leaders‘. On his tumblr blog, Andy Revkin quoted Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine: ‘Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaida, eventually, will die. But the model that al-Qaida has created of an asymmetric terror group that has enormous consequences in the world well beyond the size of the group — that’s going to endure‘. #Nick Kristof ‘s opinion in After Osama Bin Laden… is even more precise: ‘His death won’t inspire people, the way it might have in 2002. And Al Qaeda is already going through a difficult time because it has been sidelined by the Arab Spring protests; on top of that, losing its top leader will be a major blow‘.

Only time will tell what will be the consequences of Bin Laden’s death. For the best or for the worst.

Talking about terrorism. Another side of ‘terrorism’. This article published on last February, says: ‘The largest threats of terror we face globally are right on our own step, right in our own backyard. They do not make bombs, hijack airplanes or take hostages. But they kill in record numbers that make 9/11 pale in comparison, in terms of large volumes of deaths. These killers that are more serious, determined, more stealthy and deadly than any terrorist group the world has ever encountered…‘ I immediately remembered this article when I read this week on Foreign Policy website: How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis.

Frederick Kaufman writes: ‘It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there’s value, there’s money to be made […] The result of Wall Street’s venture into grain and feed and livestock has been a shock to the global food production and delivery system […] Volatility in the food markets has also trashed what might have been a great opportunity for global cooperation […] All the while, the index funds continue to prosper, the bankers pocket the profits, and the world’s poor teeter on the brink of starvation.’ Unfair, awful, unacceptable.

Maybe Al Qaeda best move should be to wait. We may just destroy ourselves without the need of any help.

Hopefully, there are reasons to be optimistic. And these reasons come from a continent some people would never think about: Africa. It is not the first time I make a connection between ‘Africa’ and ‘optimism’ as I (way too often) read all the difficulties the continent is facing. Of course things are complicated but there are many other aspects of Africa wrongfully omitted.

Africa optimism rising (Africa prospects lure investors, but is it ready?) article published on Reuters and written by Matthew Tostevin and Stuart Grudgings provides interesting insights: ‘Africa withstood the financial crisis better than many predicted, and the region’s economic growth is forecast at 4.75 percent in 2010. Next year, half of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are expected to be in Africa, and it is now attracting more than just the most intrepid investors […] Ethiopia and Rwanda are among the smaller African economies seen as promising. They show how previously ignored countries scarred by war are emerging as possible investment magnets alongside those such as Ghana, a relatively stable democracy which is soon to become an oil producer...’

Now the ‘good deed’ (kind of) of the week. Amar Bose ’51 makes stock donation to MIT. ‘Dr. Amar Bose ’51, Bose Corporation’s Founder, has given to MIT the majority of the stock of Bose Corporation in the form of non-voting shares. MIT will receive annual cash dividends on those shares when dividends are paid by Bose Corporation; those cash dividends will be used by MIT to sustain and advance MIT’s education and research mission.’ Great news for MIT!

Technology and Science. I have always been fascinated by black holes because we still don’t know much about them and they could be a key to a major understanding of how the #universe is working. Super-Civilizations Might Live Off Black Holes by Ray Villard published on Discovery News just fueled my imagination (and expectations as well): ‘Civilizations may try to live forever by exploiting the time-dilation effects near a black hole to hibernate and survive into the very far-future universe […] Ultimately, a super-civilization may attempt to artificially create a universe in the laboratory via black hole fabrication. This far-out notion of artificial cosmogenesis might explain why the many constants in our universe are so precisely tuned for our existence.’

Now the best part: ‘For example dark energy — a repulsive form of gravity — is a whopping 123 orders of magnitude weaker than what would have been predicted from quantum physics. This could not have happened by coincidence unless there is an infinity of parallel universes with their own different dark energy values, speculate some astrophysicists.’ Amazing! Meanwhile on Earth, some people kill some others for selfish, meaningless motives… We indeed are insignificant in this universe. Until we find a way to be, significant that is. Not happening anytime soon, I’m afraid.

Science fiction. I enjoyed reading Putting the science in science fiction post by Mika McKinnon, a disaster researcher, entertainment science consultant, and irrepressible educator. She is a consultant for one of my favorite TV Show: #Stargate: Universe, and if you thought for even one second Dr Rush was the one scrawling on the walls of the spaceship in a desperate attempt to understand the unknown you were wrong, it was all Mika McKinnon. And twice rather than once!

On set, it took me twelve hours to fill the hall, leaving me with an aching wrist and sniffling from chalk dust. The crew claimed to find errors in my addition as I meticulously photographed each section. A week later, in a single moment of miscommunication, the walls of chalk were washed clean. It took another full day of poring over photographs to replicate each smudge and overlapping equation. I didn’t relax until the sealant dried, preserving the equations against future mishap.’ McKinnon adds: ‘Stargate built a symbiotic relationship between science and entertainment to create something better than either could in isolation.’ Don’t forget, Stargate: Universe, on Syfy.

Science, again. Last week I talked about a tweet from @PhysicsUpdate about a rumoured encounter with the Higgs boson, also known as the ‘God particle‘. Just like the article suggested, and confirmed by an article posted on CBSNews Tech website, memo confirming finding of long-sought Higgs Boson particle dismissed as precipitate. ‘An online posting of what appears to be a internal memo written by researchers at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator located at CERN caused a temporary frisson of excitement among physics buffs, stirred by the hope that scientists had finally confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, popularly known as the “God particle […] On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Large Hadron Collider doused the momentary excitement. “Only results that have undergone all the necessary scientific checks by the [ATLAS] Collaboration should be taken seriously,” said the spokeswoman, Fabiola Gianotti.’ Like I said last week, it is great the experiences are going on and doing well. Still very exciting!

Science fiction, again. As you may already know, I love #Steampunk. I wear Steampunk and I almost live Steampunk, Seriously. I will write about it soon I promise. This week @HandmadeForum tweeted: Daily Steampunk by Among the Ruins Steampunk Leather Key Bracelet. I like the bracelet. Check it out.

A while ago, movie critic Roger Ebert has stirred a controversy by stating that #video games can never be art. Last year Ebert defended the idea on his blog and in July 2010, Gamespy wrote: Roger Ebert Concedes Videogames Can Be Considered Art. I understand the arguments brought by the movie critic but there is no doubt video games can be considered art. Need proof? ‘The Art of Video Games exhibition [at Smithsonian American Art Museum]will explore the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects, the creative use of new technologies, and the most influential artists and designers […] The exhibition will be on display at the museum from March 16, 2012 through September 30, 2012.’ Mr Ebert, can the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, 9 research centers and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world, be so wrong about video games?

Nicholas Kristof has a way with words. It’s not the first time I notice he does but one of his recent tweet caught my attention: ‘You can’t make this up: Republicans back contraception for wild horses, cut it for humans. My column‘. I recommend reading this article as well as his blog.

Yesterday I celebrated #World Kids Colouring Day. I had a great afternoon with kids, drawing and I was surprised we tackled sensitive subjects such as war, poverty and even Bin Laden’s death… Last year it was all about coloring the World of Sama, this year #da-eYe was a guest and kids loved him! I will write about this great day and published da-eYe like you’ve never seen him before! ^_^

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