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mercredi 16 décembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

In France, the regional elections in late 2015 saw the FN win a majority of seats all over the country. Both the socialist party and the republicans lost most of the contested areas, and it became clear that the FN is the biggest party in France. However, the repercussions of this grand victory did not help Marine LePen's prospect for the presidential elections in 2016.
As her party now had actual power, all eyes were on France to see how the anti-EU, anti-immigration far-right that was springing up all over Europe would handle being in office. As it turned out, they did not handle it very well.
The sudden and aggressive cuts in funds to immigration management and social welfare caused a stir of social unrest as early as February 2016. The tensions with the EU meant that international trade became rocky. The FN tried to salvage the french economy by making new deals with Russia, but this caused them to be the subject of sanctions by the US, as tensions over Ukraine and Syria resurfaced. And the party's support plumetted.
All in all, voting for the FN in the regional elections seems to have been the surest way to keep them from the presidential office.

lundi 14 décembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"There is no black and white, only shades of pink."

    - David Cameron, about the war on terror.

samedi 12 décembre 2015

Animals that don't Exist

The Late Bloomers

The late bloomers aren't really one species, but rather a new modus operandi that seems to be the consequence of recent climate change. Indeed, as the seasons get more unpredictable, and the stability of our climate circles crumbles, some species of plants and insects are starting to adopt new strategies, which would have proven highly disadvantageous to them before, but which, now, have become a new way of survival, and which might lead to speciation in the near future. The late bloomers, in other words, are evolution in action.
As there are more and more warm days in winter, and cold days in spring, the biological cycles of lots of species in the northern hemisphere are thrown into disarray. Plants which normally bloom in early spring now show their petals in december. And insects, which usually hibernate, get active again after the first warm days, which can come at any time. Luckily for both those cases, they are able to help each other out.
The insects pollinate the flowers when there should be no polinators around. And the flowers feed the insects when there is no other food available. As such, even those individuals which are too quick to respond to would-be signs of spring can still survive.
As the years pass, these mis-adaptations might well become defining traits of a few sub-populations, which, if they can polish their tactics into long-term strategies through natural selection, will cut them off from the rest of their species. However, wether or not they have the strength and luck needed to complete this process, or wether they will simply be “weeded out”, remains to be seen.

mercredi 9 décembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

In 2016, Donald Trump was elected as president of the U.S.A. Keen to uphold his election pledges, he was quick to close the US border to mexico. And to ban all muslims from entering the country. After a few months, it became clear that this did not solve all the countries problems, so, along with some changes in internal politics, including low income tax for the super-rich as well as even laxer gun laws, he also decided to recall all US forces from abroad, and deployed them inside the country for extra security. And still, the US was "not great enough" in the billionaire's view. So he decided to close the countries borders entirely, and to cut all personal internet and telephone communications with the outside world. Starting from 2017, the US had only diplomatic and economic contacts with the rest of the globe, and only the very elite where allowed to travel abroad. And as the US kept to themselves, the rest of the world started to feel pretty damn good.

lundi 7 décembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"Born to die!"

    - Charles Darwin, getting his first tattoo before embarking on the Beagle.

vendredi 4 décembre 2015

Animals that don't Exist

The Beaver Rat

The beaver rat, Rattus castor, is a member of the rattus genus that lives exclusively in the sewers of big to medium-sized cities. Its name comes from its tendency to build dams along sewer lines, reminiscent of the behavior of its larger cousin, the beaver. But, although in both cases, the construction of dams is intended to better the habitat of the builder, beaver rats use their skills in much more complex ways than beavers.
Beavers build dams to flood their living area, giving them better protection from land-based predators, such as cougars, as well as shelter. But beaver rats make constructions that do not directly benefit them. Indeed, what the beaver rats are trying to achieve is to manipulate human behavior by constructing dams in the sewers, so that the maintenance that follows suits their needs. Expanding waterways, cleaning up excessive rubbish, closing off some tunnels, digging new ones, beaver rats have become master manipulators of urban planning. And for a long time, they did so without anybody being the wiser. It was only when Anna Therscientist started a long term study of sewer rat behavior for her Phd at the New York Institute for Stuff that Most People find Distasteful but that's Actually Really Cool (NYISMPDARC) that we became aware of the phenomen.
Her research suggests that most of this behavior is a cultural trait, inherited not through genes but through learning from the community. She has done several experiences where she introduced young rats from laboratory populations into the ones existing “in the wild”, and they have been able to copy and innovate on the behavior of their new compatriots, albeit their learning rates being slightly inferior to those of the natives, and their innovations less succesful. However, how the rats came to adopt this behavior in the first place remains a mystery.
The time between the construction of a particular dam, or the blocking of some access, and human intervention, can be very long in terms of the animals' life-span. This suggests that they either have very good memory that allows them to link cause and effect over long timespans, or that they are able to infer consequences of their actions on a logical basis, without needing positive feedback to learn any given behavior. Both cases would drastically change the view we've had of animal intelligence and learning so far.”

mercredi 2 décembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

In the wake of the Paris attacks, several countries, including France, Great Britain, Russia and the US, stepped up their efforts to bomb Syria into smithereens.
The drastic increase in military spending caused by this decision put a strain on their budgets, but, because of the increase in revenue in the military-industrial complex,the overall economy of participating countries seemd to boom. And it wasn't long before most states which produced their own bombs started to join in.
In less than a year, over twenty countries where shelling positions in Syria, and the increasingly crammed airspace became the cause for a number of spats between these states. To avoid any serious incident, the UN soon decided to allocate specific areas to each country, which they could bomb at leisure without any risk of collision with other armed forces. As syrians kept fleeing their homeland and seeking refuge elsewhere, the land became empty, and, by 2018, the whole of Syria was one big weapons testing ground.
Today, there is barely a living thing to be found in the region, but the bombing continues to increase in intensity as arms manufacturing has become the pillar of the economy for most of the participating countries. And even though few people still remember how any of this started, heads of state keep on insisting on the need for more, larger bombs. And in 2020, the first international bombing contest will be held, an event which the organisers hope will become a bi-annual event. After all, there is nothing quite like the feeling of blowing up stuff.