Category Archives: Features

Europe Expands Virtual Borders To Thwart Migrants

IT WAS AFTER MIDNIGHT in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone of the Mediterranean when a rubber boat originating from Libya carrying dozens of migrants encountered a hulking cargo ship from Madeira and a European military aircraft. The ship’s captain stopped the engines, and the aircraft flashed its lights at the rubber boat. But neither the ship nor the aircraft came to the rescue. Instead, Maltese authorities told the ship’s captain to wait for vessels from Malta to pick up the migrants. By the time those boats arrived, three migrants had drowned trying to swim to the idle ship.

Read the rest of this feature at IEEE Spectrum: [html] [pdf].

Getting Value out of Virtual Conferences

Online conferences can be easier than in-person conferences to integrate into a busy schedule, but they still require some advance planning and thoughtful behavior throughout. If you’re attending the ACS Fall 2020 Virtual Conference & Expo or any professional meeting online for the first time, we’ve got advice to help you be a good virtual citizen and boost your chemistry career.

Continue reading Getting Value out of Virtual Conferences

Taming the genie in the forest of the devil’s trees

It wasn’t long after the cairns appeared in the forest that women from surrounding villages began using them in a purification rite that ended in leaving underwear on the stone mounds. The cairns were new to the forest, but the women’s purification rite was not. In the ritual, older Berber women guided younger women into the forest, and the younger women washed themselves under the open sky and prepared their spirits for finding a lover. Forest rangers had built the cairns to mark the borders of Morocco’s national forests. They were designed to protect argan trees – which some Berber call the “tree of the devil” ­– from use and harvesting. But the local women turned the cairns into something else.

When Morocco’s government established Souss-Massa National Park in 1991, the Berber people were already familiar with temporary prohibitions on forest use, says anthropologist Romain Simenel of the Institute of Research for Development in Marseille, France. But they were accustomed to setting the prohibitions themselves, through a system called agdal, which involves religious stories laden with mischievous genies who curse parts of the forest, and community rituals that reopen the way to harvesting or grazing among the argan trees.

Instead, national authorities were now insisting on prohibiting access to a core zone of the argan forest, allowing limited access to a second zone, and leaving a third zone to more community-led use. They sought to protect the forest from both desertification and local land management decisions. But the genies in the argan forest are not easy to tame.

Continue reading Taming the genie in the forest of the devil’s trees

The Missing Children

Truth, justice, reparation.

If you walk through the Puerta del Sol, you might be forgiven for avoiding the crowd gathered here. At first, I found their story hard to believe. They say that hospital and adoption officials colluded to steal babies and traffic them throughout Spain for decades.

This 28-minute radio documentary, produced by Overtone Productions, and which I reported and presented, first aired on BBC Radio 4 on March 25th, 2019: [streaming link].

It is the second of a two-part documentary called Spain’s Lost Generations. The first part, which aired March 18th, focuses on the recovery of people executed by the regime of Francisco Franco.