Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Biggest Digital Map of the Cosmos Ever Made

A composite image of the sky visible over Hawaii made over four years from a half-million exposures by the Pan-Starrs1 Observatory. If printed at full resolution, the researchers say, this photograph would be one and a half miles long.CreditDanny Farrow, Pan-Starrs1 Science Consortium and Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
On the summit of Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii, a telescope began clicking pictures of the night sky in 2010. Over the next four years, Pan-Starrs, short for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, photographed the entire sky, as seen from Hawaii, 12 times in five colors of visible and infrared light.
In December, the astronomers who operate Pan-Starrs released the first results from their survey. Their big data universe lists the positions, colors and brightness of three billion stars, galaxies and other objects. It amounts to two petabytes of data, roughly equivalent to a billion selfies, according to a statement from the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy. All this information, the universe in a box, now resides in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (named for Barbara A. Mikulski, the retiring Maryland senator and space champion) at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore where any astronomer can get access to it. In 2017, the Pan-Starrs team plans to produce a new catalog of how these things are moving and changing.
This was an exercise in more than just curiosity. A big goal of the project, run by an international consortium led by the University of Hawaii, is to discover moving objects like asteroids so that we can visit them and perhaps steer them away before they visit us, as well as discover supernovas and other rare violent events while they are still exploding.
Pan-Starrs is the biggest digital mapping effort yet done, but it is not the last. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope now being built in Chile by the National Science Foundation will eventually supersede it, surveying 37 billion galaxies and stars and producing 15 terabytes of data every night for 10 years once it is completed in 2022.
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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Congo Cobalt from Wikipedia

April 2004. The international Criminal Court prosecutor opened the case in June 2004.
Child soldiers have been used on a large scale in DRC, and in 2011 it was estimated that 30,000 children were still operating with armed groups.[68]
Instances of child labor and forced labor have been observed and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor's Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the DRC in 2013[69] and six goods produced by the country's mining industry appear on the department's December 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.

Violence against women[edit]

Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal.[70] The 2013–2014 DHS survey (pp. 299) found that 74.8% of women agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances.[71]
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2006 expressed concern that in the post-war transition period, the promotion of women's human rights and gender equality is not seen as a priority.[72][73] The eastern part of the country in particular has been described as the "rape capital of the world" and the prevalence of sexual violence there described as the worst in the world.[74][75]
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also practiced in DRC, although not on a large scale. The prevalence of FGM is estimated at about 5% of women.[76][77] FGM is illegal: the law imposes a penalty of two to five years of prison and a fine of 200,000 Congolese francs on any person who violates the "physical or functional integrity" of the genital organs.[78][79]
In July 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern about the situation in eastern DRC.[80] A phenomenon of "pendulum displacement" has developed, where people hasten at night to safety. According to Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women who toured eastern Congo in July 2007, violence against women in North and South Kivu included "unimaginable brutality". Ertürk added that "Armed groups attack local communities, loot, rape, kidnap women and children, and make them work as sexual slaves".[81] In December 2008, GuardianFilms of The Guardianreleased a film documenting the testimony of over 400 women and girls who had been abused by marauding militia.[82]
In June 2010, Oxfam reported a dramatic increase in the number of rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and researchers from Harvard discovered that rapes committed by civilians had increased seventeenfold.[83] In June 2014, Freedom from Torture published reported rape and sexual violence being used routinely by state officials in Congolese prisons as punishment for politically active women.[84] The women included in the report were abused in several locations across the country including the capital Kinshasa and other areas away from the conflict zones.[84]
In 2015, figures both inside and outside of the country such as Filimbi and Emmanuel Weyi have spoken out about the need to curb violence and instability as the 2016 elections approach.[85][86]

Foreign relations and military[edit]

The global growth in demand for scarce raw materials and the industrial surges in China, India, Russia, Brazil and other developing countries require thatdeveloped countries employ new, integrated and responsive strategies for identifying and ensuring, on a continual basis, an adequate supply of strategic and critical materials required for their security needs. Highlighting the DR Congo's importance to United States national security, the effort to establish an elite Congolese unit is the latest push by the U.S. to professionalize armed forces in this strategically important region.[citation needed]
There are economic and strategic incentives to bring more security to the Congo, which is rich in natural resources such as cobalt. Cobalt is a strategic and critical metal used in many industrial and military applications. The largest use of cobalt is in superalloys, used to make jet engine parts. Cobalt is also used inmagnetic alloys and in cutting and wear-resistant materials such as cemented carbides. The chemical industry consumes significant quantities of cobalt in a variety of applications including catalysts for petroleum and chemical processing; drying agents for paints and inks; ground coats for porcelain enamels; decolourisers for ceramics and glass; and pigments for ceramics, paints, and plastics. The country contains 80% of the world's cobalt reserves.[87]

Economy and infrastructure[edit]

Evolution of GDP
The Central Bank of the Congo is responsible for developing and maintaining the Congolese franc, which serves as the primary form of currency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2007, The World Bank decided to grant the Democratic Republic of Congo up to $1.3 billion in assistance funds over the following three years.[88] Kinshasa is currently negotiating membership in the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).[89]
The Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be one of the world's richest countries in natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$24 trillion.[90][91][92] The Congo has 70% of the world's coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper.[93][94]
Despite such vast mineral wealth, the economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The African country generated up to 70% of its export revenue from minerals in the 1970s and 1980s, and was particularly hit when resource prices deteriorated at that time. By 2005, 90% of the DRC's revenues derived from its minerals (Exenberger and Hartmann 2007:10).[95] The country's woes mean that despite its potential its citizens are among the poorest people on earth. DR Congo consistently has the lowest, or nearly the lowest, nominal GDP per capita in the world. The DRC is also one of the twenty lowest-ranked countries on the Corruption Perception Index.


Rough diamonds ~1 to 1.5 mm in size from DR Congo.
The Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore,[96] and a major producer of copper and diamonds. The latter come from Kasai province in the west. By far the largest mines in the Congo are located in southern Katanga province(formerly Shaba), and are highly mechanized, with a capacity of several millions of tons per year of copper and cobalt ore, and refining capability for metal ore. The DRC is the second-largest diamond-producing nation in the world,[97] and artisanal and small-scale miners account for most of its production.
At independence in 1960, DRC was the second-most industrialized country in Africa after South Africa; it boasted a thriving mining sector and a relatively productive agriculture sector.[98] The First and Second Congo Wars began in 1996. These conflicts have dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in deaths of more than five million people from war and associated famine and disease. Malnutrition affects approximately two thirds of the country's population.[citation needed]
Foreign businesses have curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment. The war intensified the impact of such basic problems as an uncertain legal framework, corruption, inflation, and lack of openness in government economic policy and financial operations.
Conditions improved in late 2002, when a large portion of the invading foreign troops withdrew. A number of International Monetary Fund and World Bankmissions met with the government to help it develop a coherent economic plan, and President Joseph Kabila began implementing reforms. Much economic activity still lies outside the GDP data. A United Nations Human Development Index report shows that the human development index of DR Congo is one of the worst it's had in decades. Through 2011 the Democratic Republic of the Congo had the lowest Human Development Index of the 187 ranked countries. It ranked lower than Niger, despite a higher margin of improvement than the latter country over 2010's numbers.[citation needed]
DR Congo's Human Development Index scores, 1970–2010.
Collecting firewood in Basankusu.
The economy of DR Congo, the second largest country in Africa, relies heavily on mining. However, the smaller-scale economic activity from artisanal mining occurs in the informal sector and is not reflected in GDP data.[99] A third of the DRC's diamonds are believed to be smuggled out of the country, making it difficult to quantify diamond production levels.[100] In 2002, tin was discovered in the east of the country, but to date has only been mined on a small scale.[101] Smuggling of conflict minerals such as coltan and cassiterite, ores of tantalum and tin, respectively, helped to fuel the war[102] in the Eastern Congo.
In September 2004, state-owned Gécamines signed an agreement with Global Enterprises Corporate (GEC), a company formed by the merger of Dan Gertler International (DGI) with Beny Steinmetz Global, to rehabilitate and operate the Kananga and Tilwezembe copper mines. The deal was ratified by presidential decree. In 2007 a World Bank report reviewed DR Congo's three biggest mining contracts, finding that the 2005 deals, including one with Global Enterprises Company, were approved with "a complete lack of transparency" (Mahtani, 3 January 2007).[103][104][105] Gertler and Steinmetz put GEC's 75% share in Komoto Oliveira Virgule (KOV), the project made of up of Tilwezembe and Kananga, along with the Kolwesi concentrator, into Nikanor Plc. Registered in the Isle of Man, reached a market capitalization of $1.5 billion by 2007.[104] In February 2007, 22% of the Nikanor Mining company was owned by the Gertner Family Trust and 14% by Dan Gertler.[106] In January 2008 Katanga Mining acquired Nikanor for $452 million[105]
In April 2006 Gertler's DGI took a major stake in DEM Mining, a cobalt-copper mining and services company based in Katanga.[104] In June 2006 Gertler bought Tremalt from the Zimbabwean businessman John Bredenkamp for about $60 million. Tremalt had a half share in the Mukondo Mine. In 2007 Tremalt was owned by Prairie International Ltd, of which Dan Gertler's family trust was a major shareholder. Tremalt owned 80% of Savannah Mining, which held concessions C17 and C18 in Katanga Province and 50% of the Mukondo project. The other 50% of Mukonda was held by Boss Mining, which in turn was 80% owned by Central African Mining & Exploration Company (CAMEC). Boss Mining had rented and operated Bredenkamp's half of Mukondo. Gertler terminated this arrangement.[104]
Katanga Mining Limited, a Swiss-owned company, owns the Luilu Metallurgical Plant, which has a capacity of 175,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt per year, making it the largest cobalt refinery in the world. After a major rehabilitation program, the company resumed copper production operations in December 2007 and cobalt production in May 2008.[107]
In April 2013, anti-corruption NGOs revealed that Congolese tax authorities had failed to account for $88 million from the mining sector, despite booming production and positive industrial performance. The missing funds date from 2010 and tax bodies should have paid them into the central bank.[108] Later in 2013 the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative suspended the country's candidacy for membership due to insufficient reporting, monitoring and independent audits, but in July 2013 the country improved its accounting and transparency practices to the point where the EITI gave the country full membership.

Congo’s Leader Trapped in ‘Labyrinth of His Own Making’

President Joseph Kabila, center, in November in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.CreditJunior D.Kannah/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — In a mansion along the Congo River, with a collection of expensive watches, expensive motorcycles and a chimpanzee in a cage, Joseph Kabila, the president of this vast and troubled country, should be packing up.
Instead, he is digging in.
His second term is up in a few days, the Constitution forbids him to run for a third, millions of people are threatening to mobilize against him, and still Mr. Kabila shows no signs of leaving.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is already one of the poorest, most volatile nations on earth. Countless young people are out of work, and the security forces are brutal and loosely controlled. Add to that dozens of armed groups operating in the hinterlands.
Many people here are terrified that if Mr. Kabila clings to power at all costs, as some of his counterparts across Africa recently have, Congo could explode.
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But the paradox is that Mr. Kabila may not especially want to stay in power. Instead, former confidants say, he refuses to give up for a simple reason: He is afraid — for his family, for his safety and, not insignificant, for his wealth.
“He doesn’t have an exit plan,” said Martin Fayulu, an opposition politician.
It is an old problem with a new twist.
According to forensic investigators, mining executives and officials in his own government, Mr. Kabila has looted millions of dollars in public assets.
Recent troves of documents shared with The New York Times — whose authenticity has been verified by current and former Congolese officials — reveal a string of suspicious bank transfers totaling $95.7 million, dubious mining rights sales that have generated millions more and possible money-laundering schemes involving a bank executive widely described as Mr. Kabila’s adopted brother.

‘Labyrinth of His Own Making’

Authoritarian leaders used to be able to steal with impunity. But today, a whistle-blower with an iPhone can be a dangerous foe. The post-Panama Papers, WikiLeaks world is an uncomfortable place for an autocrat.
In a sense, Mr. Kabila is trapped. As Jason K. Stearns, the author of awell-regarded book on Congolese politics, said, “He’s in a labyrinth of his own making.”
And cornered, he has begun to lash out.
Mr. Kabila’s forces and their supporters have arrested journalists, jailed opposition politicians, firebombed opposition headquarters and assassinated a Catholic priest who held workshops on the Constitution and its limit of a two-term presidency. Scores of anti-Kabila protesters have already been shot dead, turning more people against Mr. Kabila each day.
Opposition leaders are now threatening to flood the streets with millions of protesters on Tuesday, the day Mr. Kabila is supposed to be out of office.
Seeing chaos on the horizon, top Western officials have shuttled in and out of the capital, Kinshasa, trying to draw the reclusive Mr. Kabila out from his riverside residence, where he lives under heavy guard. This year, Secretary of State John Kerry and other high-level American officials have met with Mr. Kabila several times.
But several people who know the president well said Mr. Kabila was increasingly isolated, moody and antisocial. They said he had been keeping irregular hours, becoming irritable with his staff members and staying up late to play Sony PlayStation 4 or race his fancy motorcycles up and down the dark boulevards of Kinshasa to blow off steam.
As Mr. Kabila plays for time, the information on corruption keeps streaming in, from many directions.
In September, an American hedge fund, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, admitted in a federal plea agreement to participating in a bribery scheme involving mineral deals and high-ranking Congolese officials. The officials were not named in the plea agreement, but several analysts said the information published by the Justice Department made it obvious that one was an adviser who was extremely close to Mr. Kabila — possibly one of the only men Mr. Kabila really trusted — before he died in a plane crash in 2012.

No Exit Plan

Other investigations are in the works, and the American government is trying to delicately warn Mr. Kabila that his chances of being prosecuted for corruption would be lower if he left now.
“No one can guarantee no prosecution, but in the real world, there are priorities,” said Tom Malinowski, an assistant secretary of state. “I don’t think one of them would be going after the former president of Congo who did the right thing.”
Still, no one has come up with an exit plan. Even the Western diplomats tasked with appealing to Mr. Kabila, pleading with him not to drive his country off a cliff, admit they are at a loss for what to offer.
Mr. Kabila is still relatively young, 45, and if he is worried about keeping his wealth and avoiding jail after he leaves office, how does one guarantee that? All he has to do is look at Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former president, who agreed to leave office under intense international pressure and was soon apprehended, prosecuted and sentenced to decades in prison.
And what about his safety? Mr. Kabila has made many enemies in nearly 16 years as the leader of one of the world’s most violent states. As one mining executive who used to be close to Mr. Kabila argued, it is not as if the American government is going to assign SEAL Team 6 to guard him in perpetuity, even if he asks.
Mr. Kabila is not your typical strongman. He was driving a taxicab in Tanzania not long before he was thrust into power. His father, a smuggler turned rebel leader turned president, was assassinated in 2001. The only person top advisers could agree on to lead the country, which was in the midst of a very confusing civil war, was the elder son, Joseph, at the time 29.
Unlike Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea for the past 23 years, or Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (30 years), or Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence (36 years), Mr. Kabila has never tried to build a cult of personality. He is shy, mild and a careful listener. Confidants say he never wanted to be president and tried to turn down the job.
Scores of anti-Kabila protesters have been shot dead, like those during election demonstrations in September in Kinshasa. CreditJohn Bompengo/Associated Press

Two Watches at a Time

But over the years, former aides and investigators say, he has amassed a fortune and developed a taste for the finer things. A former colleague said he sometimes wore two expensive watches at the same time — a Rolex and a Patek Philippe — one for each wrist.
Mr. Kabila and his family own a network of homes and huge farms across Congo, sweeping up thousands of acres, analysts and former aides said. They also said Mr. Kabila was most at peace around animals. He is an avid breeder of cows, and he kept a menagerie of chimpanzees, a dik-dik (a small antelope), birds of prey and parrots at his house in urban Kinshasa. A recent visitor said at least one chimp still lived there, screeching hoots from a cage as guests arrive.
But these days, the stress of the job seems to be eating at him. Mr. Kabila has put on weight. The few times he was spotted in public he had huge bags under his eyes.
More whistle-blowers are coming forward, which may make him even less likely to quit if he believes that he can best protect himself and his assets by intimidating or neutralizing critics with his security forces.
One Congolese government official said that on numerous occasions he had been instructed to take wheeled suitcases, stuffed with $100 bills totaling more than $7 million, to a minister’s office for “state’s use.” The money came from a government-controlled company. The official, along with several others, said it would be too dangerous for anyone but Mr. Kabila or his family to steal that blatantly.
The Panama Papers — leaked confidential documents from a law firm in Panama — revealed that Mr. Kabila’s twin sister, Jaynet, using a different name, owned an indirect share in the nation’s largest mobile phone operator and through a company registered in Niue, in the South Pacific.
Current and former Congolese officials described very complicated and suspicious business dealings involving foreign partners, joint ventures and lucrative mining concessions. One such deal recently attracted the attention of Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, which is investigating Congo’s cut-rate sale of mining rights through an Israeli tycoon who is a friend of Mr. Kabila’s. Because of Mr. Kabila’s lack of transparency, the International Monetary Fund halted a loan program worth hundreds of millions of dollars that Congo desperately needed.
“It’s clear that the Kabila family has personally profited from the exploitation of natural resources and the manipulation of banks and state-owned companies,” said Sasha Lezhnev, a manager at the Enough Project, a nonprofit organization that recently reviewed thousands of pages of documents and conducted more than 100 interviews on corruption in Congo.

‘Not a Robber, Not at All’

In the past two decades, Congo’s wars over minerals, politics, ethnicity and land have killed millions, destabilizing a big chunk of the continent.
But its history of ill-gotten gains goes back much further. Mobutu Sese Seko, Congo’s strongman during the Cold War, was one of Africa’s most notorious thieves, though back then it was easier to get away with corruption.
None of the documents to emerge recently have Mr. Kabila’s signature on them, though the names of top aides and companies of Mr. Kabila’s associates are all over them.
Lambert Mende, the chief government spokesman, said Mr. Kabila was “not a robber, not at all.”
“He has no account in Europe or the U.S.A.,” Mr. Mende said. “He doesn’t have a single apartment outside of Congo. This is all storytelling.”
The most suspicious documents to emerge recently include a string of bank transfers to different accounts at different banks with the notation that they were “advance tax payments” from Gécamines, a struggling state-controlled mining company, for Congo’s central bank. Starting late last year, the transfers reveal anomalies like instructions that $8 million be withdrawn from the teller — in cash — on behalf of the central bank.
“That makes no sense,” said a former employee of Congo’s central bank who spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he could be killed if he was identified. “We don’t get cash from a commercial bank. We import our own cash. We have a service in Switzerland that does that.”
Analysts at the Sentry, an investigative arm of the Enough Project, said that during the time of the supposed Gécamines transfer of $95.7 million to the central bank, the central bank’s foreign reserves actually dropped — to $1.17 billion from $1.47 billion — pushing up inflation and causing issues for Congo’s economy. At the same time, Mr. Kabila’s government drastically cut spending on health care and the few services it provides.
Sentry analysts said they were curious how Gécamines, a company with endless management problems, would have that much cash on hand for advance tax payments when thousands of employees had not been paid in months. Documents showed that Gécamines lost $82.9 million in 2014. Mining executives said bigger, more profitable companies always paid much less in advance taxes.

‘So Difficult and Volatile’

Some of the money apparently stolen in Congo may have moved through the American financial system, Sentry analysts say, and they are calling on the United States Treasury Department to take stronger measures to combat suspicious transactions from Congo.
This past week, the Treasury Department sanctioned two Congolese officials close to Mr. Kabila, saying the officials were undermining democracy.
Across Africa, term limits established years ago when democracy’s brand was stronger have been systematically dismantled, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Burundi exploded last year when its president plowed ahead with his plan to stay in office for a contentious third term.
In October, Mr. Kabila’s aides struck a deal with a few second-tier opposition groups to delay the next presidential election until 2018 — the election was supposed to be held this year — but Congo’s major opposition groups, representing tens of millions of frustrated people, rejected that. Opposition leaders said they would never accept Mr. Kabila’s staying in office beyond Dec. 19.
Congo’s political opposition, unlike Burundi’s, is not heavily armed. Most analysts say it would be difficult to overthrow Mr. Kabila. The security forces are still loyal to him, partly because he has made sure that soldiers and intelligence officers have been relatively well paid, no matter the dire straits of the national economy.
In a recent meeting with delegates of the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Kabila remained characteristically cagey. According to a confidential United Nations report, he said that it was the “sovereign right of the Congolese people to decide in the next three or so years to amend the Constitution,” implying he may be considering another run.
Mr. Stearns, one of the better-known Congo analysts, argues that Mr. Kabila does not know how to get out of the corner he has put himself into.
“That’s what makes this so difficult and volatile,” Mr. Stearns said.
“My best guess,” he added, “is we’re headed into turmoil for several years to come.”