Witchcraft in the 21st century

“By some estimates, about 40 percent of the cases in the Central African court system are witchcraft prosecutions. (Drug offenses in the U.S., by contrast, account for just 12 percent of arrests.) In Mbaiki — where Pygmies, who are known for bewitching each other, make up about a tenth of the population — witchcraft prosecutions exceed 50 percent of the case load, meaning that most alleged criminals there are suspected of doing things that Westerners generally regard as impossible.”


““The problem is that in a witchcraft case, there is usually no evidence,” said Bartolomé Goroth, a lawyer in Bangui, who recently defended (unsuccessfully) a coven of Pygmies who had been accused of murder-by-witchcraft in Mbaiki. Goroth said the trials generally ended with an admission of guilt by an accused witch in exchange for a modest sentence. I asked how one determined guilt in cases where the alleged witches denied the charges. “The judge will look at them and see if they act like witches,” Goroth said, specifying that “acting like a witch” entailed behaving “strangely” or “nervously” in court. His principal advice to clients, he said, was to act normally and refrain from casting any spells in the courtroom.”

Here’s the link, via MR.


May 27, 2010 Posted by | Africa, culture | Leave a comment

Random wikipedia links of interest

1. Operation Crossroads. The US conducted nuclear weapon tests at the Bikini Atoll in 1946, this article is about those tests, the purpose of which were to figure out how effective the new weapon was against naval units. That wasn’t the only kind of relevant information they obtained though. From the article:

Because of radioactive contamination, Bikini remains uninhabited as of 2010, though it is occasionally visited by sport divers. […] The brief attempt to resettle Bikini from 1974 until 1978 was aborted when health problems from radioactivity in the food supply caused the atoll to be evacuated again. Sport divers who visit Bikini to dive on the shipwrecks must eat imported food. The lagoon is teeming with fish, but none of it is safe to eat.

2. Mantle (geology). Did you know that the Earth’s mantle, the layer between the crust and the core, constitutes close to 84 % of the volume of the Earth? I didn’t.

3. Wernicke’s area. A part of the brain involved in the understanding of written and spoken language. In a world-view incorporating stuff like this there’s very little room for a ‘soul’.

4. Gills.

A gill: “extracts dissolved oxygen from water, afterward excreting carbon dioxide. It does not break up water molecules in hydrogen and oxygen and absorb oxygen. The microscopic structure of a gill presents a large surface area to the external environment.

Many microscopic aquatic animals, and some that are larger but inactive, can absorb adequate oxygen through the entire surface of their bodies, and so can respire adequately without a gill.”

5. Pirate game.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Biology, Economics, Game theory, Geology, History, Language, Mathematics, Neurology, Wikipedia | 2 Comments