Cattle Rustling, Pythons and Boogie Angola Style …. the best reads of May

May 29, 2009

Climate health costs: bug-borne ills, killer heat
Tree-munching beetles, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and deer ticks that spread Lyme disease are three living signs that climate change is likely to exact a heavy toll on human health. These pests and others are expanding their ranges in a warming world, which means people who never had to worry about them will have to start.


Spain rearranges furniture as economy sinks

Moving a 17-metre high monument to Christopher Columbus 100 metres down the road is how the Spanish government is interpreting the advice of John Maynard Keynes. The economist once argued it would be preferable to pay workers to dig holes and fill them in again, rather than allowing them to stand idle and deprive the economy of the multiplier effect of their wages.


Picking up the pieces from Afghanistan’s war

U.S. gunners scanned a lush Afghan valley from their helicopter, as a  white van containing a badly burned baby inched toward another Black Hawk waiting at the army outpost. Eight soldiers had flown into the heart of hostile eastern Afghanistan, in a convoy of one air ambulance and one “chase” helicopter for protection, to collect 18-month-old Amanullah who knocked a pot of scalding water over his legs, penis and scrotum.


In Brazil, extreme weather stokes climate worries

No one could say they hadn’t seen it coming. The sand dunes had been advancing for decades before they swallowed the houses of families in Ilha Grande, an island in Brazil’s Parnaiba river delta. Standing on a dune that covers his old home, one man describes the landscape of his childhood — cashew trees as far as he could see. Not a dune in sight.


Angola’s hard-hitting beat electrifies the poor

It’s not break-dance, it isn’t rap either. The name is kuduro and its beat is electrifying dancers from Luanda to Lisbon and New York City. In Angola’s capital city, men and women are often seen performing robotic moves, bouncing off walls or pretending to drop dead once kuduro’s hard-hitting beat stops. The creator of kuduro, which means “hard-ass” in Portuguese, said he came up with the sound while watching martial arts expert Jean Claude Van Damme dance in a 1994 movie.


Cattle rustling on the rise as U.S. recession bites

Cattle theft is a growing problem as thieves realize that stealing cows is a relatively easy way to raise a quick buck. Stolen cattle are often taken straight from their farm or ranch to auction at a stockyard.  “When people think cattle rustling they think John Wayne. But it’s not like that. Cattle thieves are … technologically savvy. “


Fiat expansion stirs resentment in Italy’s south

Staring at the locked gates of a Fiat car factory, Mimmo Vacchiano says many families in this poor corner of southern Italy face a stark choice unless its turnstiles reopen. “If they close this plant, there’s nothing else here, only unemployment or the mafia.” Pomigliano d’Arco, a town of 40,000 people in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, relies on Fiat for its lifeblood. Residents now fear they may pay the price for cash-strapped Fiat’s high-stakes strategy to survive the recession by expanding to become the world’s second largest car maker.


Signs of recovery appear in Zimbabwe hospitals

The odors of death and decay are gone from the corridors of Zimbabwe’s biggest hospital, replaced by the smells of medicines and food for the patients who are once again coming for treatment. Nowhere is the change in Zimbabwe more evident than in the hospitals that just months ago failed so woefully to cope with a cholera epidemic that killed more than 4,000 people. Doctors and nurses have returned to Harare’s Parirenyatwa General Hospital. UNICEF has been helping to pay allowances to some doctors and nurses while the government is now paying them $100 a month like other state employees.


Boom-and-bust corner of California sees new hope

If the U.S. recession has an epicenter in California, it may be the  working-class neighborhoods called the “Inland Empire,” full of boarded-up homes, vacant storefronts, jobless workers. It faces years coping with foreclosed homes, jobless rates over 10 percent, a poorly educated workforce and empty warehouses.


Slain leaders’ heirs vie for Lebanon votes

The memory of assassinated Lebanese leaders lives in symbols and slogans of their heirs who are battling for Christian votes crucial to deciding the parliamentary election. Nayla Tueni and Nadim Gemayel are young, even by the standards of Lebanon’s dynastic politics. Running as allies in the June election, both evoke memories of fathers killed for their views.


Everglades swamped with invading pythons

The population of Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades may have grown to as many as 150,000 as the non-native snakes breed in the fragile wetlands. Wildlife biologists say they have been dumped by  owners who no longer want them and pose a threat to endangered species like the wood stork and Key Largo woodrat. “They eat things that we care about,” said an Everglades National Park biologist.

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