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 A busy street in Havana prepares to become somewhat busier. (Photo: Stefan Vetter/Flickr)

What will Cuba look like in twenty years? Right now, as the lifting of most remaining travel restrictions and embargoes seems increasingly imminent, people all over the hemisphere are betting on the answer to this question. Hotels and cruise ships are moving in. Other businesses are gingerly following. And Cuban citizens are gearing up for great things.

But some fear that Cuba’s future smells like something other than conviviality. With more business and more tourism comes their less nourishing trappings—lots and lots of garbage.

“There will be people touring the islands in volumes and numbers that Cuba has never seen,” explains Dr. Sarah Hill, an anthropologist who has been traveling to Cuba since 1982. “And they’re going to bring stuff that they don’t want to carry around with them for the entire trip, and so they’re going to leave it behind. And that alone will generate a waste stream that will be new to Cuba.”

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Animal bones and horns are stacked high at a stall at the Fetish Market. These items are usually ground up for use in powders, pastes, or other potions. (All photos: Angelica Calabrese)

Got a big test coming up? Powdered chameleon will help you pass with flying colors. Training for a marathon? Rather than protein powder, try horse’s skull. Or, is unrequited love getting you down? A simple wayinoue, or love charm, should convince your future partner of your true worth.

Whatever your ailment is, the traditional healers at the Akodessewa Fetish Market in Lome, Togo have a solution. From buffalo skull to antelope horn, desiccated cobra to bear skin, the healers, or fetish priests, in West Africa’s largest “Marché des Fetiches” have a world of decaying animals at their fingertips, ready to be ground up, burned, imbibed, or whatever else the gods may decry.

Sitting under a shady tree in the center of an open plaza, Elias Guedenon, the son of one of the market’s fetish priests, describes Akodessewa as something of a pharmacy for practitioners of the voodoo religion.

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An artist's impression of the aurora (Image: Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

Eighteen and a half light years away from Earth, there's an object that we call LSR J1835 + 3259. It's the type of body astronomers call a brown dwarf, or a failed star—more massive than Jupiter, but not quite big enough to be a star. And it's throwing off radio waves, that we can measure here on Earth.

That surprised scientists, and they started looking for a cause. Now, they've concluded, in a Nature paper, that the signals the failed star is throwing off come from aurorae—the sort of celestial display that's known, on this planet, as the northern or southern lights.

 

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The US Army Corp of Engineers work often goes largely unseen and unappreciated—why they make the news, it's usually when things have gone wrong. Think of, say, when the New Orleans levees failed, or species are endangered by dams. Critique of the 245-year old agency crosses party lines: Mother Jones has called them "plodding, complacent, careless" while the Cato Institute makes regular calls for their dismantling.

But the US Army Corp of Engineers does have small moments of strange beauty. The Mississippi River Basin Model is one such example.

Built to model flooding along the Mississippi, work began in 1943. Wartime workers were hard to find, so Army Corp used the manpower that was available to them—Italian and German prisoners of war. Many of the laborers were capable engineers, handpicked for the project, and they proved to be hard to replace when the war ended.

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