More on the China explosion

The death toll is at 100 in Tianjin. For some reason, someone decided to store hazardous chemicals near a populated area. Sodium cyanide, calcium carbide, volatile organic compounds and compressed natural gas, among other things, according to CNN.

Things are so bad that firefighters still can’t use water to fight the blazes because when water touches the chemicals, it causes an explosion. So they’re dumping foam and sand on the rubble.

Here’s a aerial view of the site:


I can’t imagine driving on this highway when all hell broke loose. The English speakers swearing in the video above, in context, really understate how horrible this was.

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Something really bad happened in China today

Something really bad happened in China today

Videos and photos being shared on social media appear to show a dramatic explosion in Tianjin, a city in northern China with a population of over 15 million people.

The images, which are emerging on Chinese Web sites like Sina Weibo, have not been independently confirmed by The Washington Post. However, Chinese state news agency Xinhua tweeted messages saying that there had been a “massive explosion” in the city, without providing more details.

This will be a developing story for the next few days.

The new symbol of protests

Pro-Democracy advocates in Hong Kong are protesting China’s rule that says any candidate for office in the city has to be approved by Beijing.

(Your eyes glaze over)

OK, it probably doesn’t mean much to you because if you have the average American sense of geography, China is “out there” somewhere around Africa or Brazil, for all you know. I won’t try to bore you with why that matters.

But authorities are teargassing the protesters. And all the protesters are doing is this:

HONGKONG-CHINA-POLITICS-DEMOCRACYDoes that remind you of anything?

handsYes, these are the people of Ferguson, Missouri, protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teen by a cop. And in response, they were teargassed by the authorities. So authoritarian oppression is being met with the same response in different cultures on opposite sides of the globe, right down to the masks on the faces.

And now that I have your attention, here’s why the protests in Hong Kong matter:

The Earth, and its wealth, at night


If it were night everywhere at the same time, this is what the Earth would look like (click to enlarge). But that strange statement doesn’t explain the importance of this view. What this image shows us is a representation of global wealth. As Vox puts it:

What you see is that in rich countries, light is largely a proxy for population density. Observe the thick cluster of the US Northeastern Megalopolis and the even bigger cluster in northwestern Europe. In poorer regions, however, the map represents not just population density but also the actual availability of electrical lighting. Huge swathes of Africa are barely illuminated at night, and densely populated India looks rather dim.

But of course, if it were night everywhere, that would mean the sun would be gone and we’d all be dead. Money can’t fix that.