Looking for a new place? Try one of China’s ghost-cities in Angola!

4 Jul

China recently built a city in Angola. Unfortunately, the  $3.2billion, 12,000+ acre, 750 building complex remains virtually empty, except for the school – which has children bussed in.

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After driving around for nearly 15 minutes and seeing no-one apart from Chinese labourers, many of whom appear to live in containers next to the site, I came across a tiny pocket of life at a school.

It opened six months ago, bussing in its pupils in from outlying areas because there are no children living on site to attend. One student, a 17-year-old called Sebastiao Antonio – who spends nearly three hours a day in traffic getting to and from classes from his home 15km away – told me how much he liked the city.

“I really like this place – it’s got car parking, places for us to have games like football, basketball and handball,” he said.

“It’s very quiet, much calmer than the other city, there’s no criminality.”

The BBC article on the complex (full version here)  cites a real estate agent for the project, who claims that the apartments are empty because of difficulties in the mortgage market.

H/T BoingBoing

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Video: Well, this is a bit distrubing

2 Jul

Courtesy of the Marines, ad during the Euro Cup final paid for with your taxpayer dollars, “Moving towards the sounds of chaos”

“We are the first to move towards the sounds of tyranny, injustice, and despair” (image of helicopter gunship carrying boxes labelled “aid”)

Mr. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, you are now obligated to finance an equally high profile ad that will present the other side, I.e. theory and evidence against the model of Development at Gunpoint

That was Development Economist Bill Easterly. Full post here.

Fair enough Mr. Easterly. Still, it’s a pretty badass ad.

Zimbabwean govt suspends all weddings

30 Jun

Many Zimbabweans have been left confused by new measures to curb ‘sham’ marriages in Zimbabwe, with weddings being cancelled across the country…

The suspension placed on weddings has been the result of fresh regulations from the Registrar General’s office, which has unveiled new marriage certificates as part of its attempts to clamp down on ‘marriages of convenience.

Full article here (h/t Wrongingrights)

The thinking behind the wedding ban is that foreign men are marrying Zimbabwean women in order to gain citizenship and then move their real wives in. Is that happening?

First legislative circumcision, now no weddings. Make up your mind Zimbabwean government.  Do you want the men in your country to suffer or don’t  you?! (punchline-drum sound)

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Video of the Week: Terrible video. Awesome song!

29 Jun

This one goes out to the folks listening in Fort Meyers…

Tyler Cowen on Health Care

29 Jun

I don’t know anything about anything, but I am a semi-deadbeat who can now stay on his parent’s health care for another two years (the obvious intention is to be off their plan well before then), so that’s nice. On a side note, just because I am able to be on their plan and therefore benefit from the ACA, doesn’t mean I think its right that insurers must allow for the possibility that I don’t get a stable job (with health benefits) until I’m 26. It seems a little crazy for that to be the case.

Anyhow, here is Marginal Revolution Czar Tyler Cowen’s thoughts on the SCOTUS decision. I find #2 particularly intriguing:

1. Trust is higher now, and that is worth something, even if like me you never favored the mandate segment of ACA.

2. Implicit in some of these writings is the notion of “contingent on the fact that Roberts upheld ACA.”  You might have thought ex ante: “I don’t think Roberts should uphold ACA.”  But Roberts is a smart and savvy guy, smarter and savvier than most of us and of course better informed about the Court than just about anyone.  You could have held this view ex ante and still now hold: “Conditional on the fact that Roberts upheld ACA, I should think he did the right thing.”

Hardly anyone employs that line of reasoning, but that is a sign of our irrationality.

3. The Court maximizing or at least defending its prestige is sometimes necessary, even in a well-established constitutional democracy.  The Court is not there to do what you want it to, or even necessarily to do what is right.  Get used to that. Continue reading

Zimbabwe’s parliament does not joke around about public health

26 Jun

Say what you will about democracy in Zimbabwe, the politicians are really committed to public health:

A group of legislators in Zimbabwe had themselves circumcised last week to set a good example for the country, most in an impromptu surgical theater in a tent in Parliament House…

President Robert Mugabe recently said he worried that some of his political allies were dying of AIDS. He called on politicians to get tested and reveal the results to help reduce the stigma.

Full NYT article here.

I don’t really have anything snide to say about this one. Way to subvert negative expectations Zimbabwean politicians!

Foreign assistance in post-conflict Liberia

25 Jun

As other African countries were reducing child mortality, Liberia regressed. More than one in 10 children die before their fifth birthday — a tithe to savage gods of war and disease…

The death of a child is an assault on the idea of moral order. If this is not a crime and a blasphemy, there are no such things. Yet 7.5 million children under 5 die each year worldwide, 6 million of them from preventable diseases.

In this case, what is unnatural is largely unnecessary…

The causes of child mortality are not mysteries. Two of the largest killers of children are pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease and diarrhea caused by rotavirus — conditions preventable by existing vaccines…

Combine these approaches in various configurations, and you get the results measured in Senegal, Kenya or Rwanda — reductions in child mortality that are running at more than 8 percent a year. These are some of the swiftest gains in the history of public health, but they need to be duplicated in Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and the Congo…

The task is hardest in post-conflict countries, where the health infrastructure has been decimated. Liberia is simultaneously attempting to distribute drugs, hire nurses and doctors, and reconstruct ruined facilities. Yet the entire national budget is about half that of the D.C. public school system…

That is from this Washington Post article by Michael Gerson, who argues that given the development of stable democratic institutions in Liberia and the clear necessity of greater funding for health care, the US has a moral obligation to provide greater foreign assistance.

Its hard to disagree. However, it is possible that an influx of new foreign aid dollars into a post-conflict Liberia can destabilize the formation of democratic institutions by providing incentives for corruption/rent-seeking within the new govt? In other words, is the a danger that foreign aid can destabilize? (N.B. I have no reason to think this would be the case.)

H/T Nina.