Monday, February 23, 2009

Classic Gauze: The Overlooked

This is actually a series of posts. There has been good attention done for ethnic minorities in Congo, Darfur, and Iraq. However, there are groups that have been overlooked due to the nature of the threat they face. The Overlooked takes a look at Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, Kalash of Pakistan, Roma of Eastern Europe, and Samaritans of Israel.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kosher GPS

Insert random "Traffic is Heavy, Oh Vey!" joke here (Photo Courtesy of Jerusalem POST)

Geotechnology continues to conform to its users as it becomes more and more common place in our lives. There are those who constantly examine possible markets and tap them. One market that has recently been tapped is Orthodox Jews.

Mio Ma'amin ("Mio Believer") is a GPS unit full of Jewish restaurants, holy sites, prayers, and all other sorts of Kosher goodness. Only a male voice will be available (understandable for a religious group) while phone and internet features will not be (because um... probably some reason I did not learn in Sunday School).

It will be interesting to see if this is a successful product. An Islamic version complete with directions to Mecca for prayers could be a big saler worldwide.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finding bin Laden with Geography

Courtesy of Seerov @ tdaxp, this new piece in the MIT International Review titled "Finding Osama bin Laden: An Application of Biogeographic Theories and Satellite Imagery." Here's the abstract

One of the most important political questions of our time is: Where is Osama bin Laden? We use biogeographic theories associated with the distribution of life and extinction (distance-decay theory, island biogeography theory, and life history characteristics) and remote sensing data (Landsat ETM+, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, Defense Meteorological Satellite, QuickBird) over three spatial scales (global, regional, local) to identify where bin Laden is most probably currently located. We believe that our work involves the first scientific approach to establishing his current location. The methods are repeatable and can be updated with new information obtained from the US intelligence community.

Download & read the pdf!

Monday, February 16, 2009

What's next?

Catholicgauze's latest report from Iraq...

The elections are over and the votes have been counted. In the south the Prime Minister's Dawa Party coalition has crushed the opposition. In the various provinces the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council or Muqtada al Sadr's few remaining followers will form individual coalitions with Dawa to have some power.

In the Sunni provinces, the Iraqi Islamic Party has gained ground at the expense of the Kurdish parties (the small Kurdish minority outvoted the Arab Sunnis in 2005). The only exception was in Anbar were the ruling IIP lost to an urban/tribal coalition.

The election results in Anbar have many wondering "what next?" Those in power with the IIP may have to face corruption charges for the graft that made them infamous. Hamas-al-Iraq and 1920s Revolutionary Brigades, two insurgent groups who hate al Qaeda more than the Coalition Forces but not by much, have long been allied with IIP to give them cover. The new ruling coalition is much more American-friendly. These nationalist insurgents must weigh their loyalty to the IIP against their loyalty to Anbar and its government which wants a peaceful withdrawal of American forces.

Al Qaeda will always be al Qaeda. Its leadership will never reach out for peace. Lower level foot soldiers, most who joined to fight for Iraq against the no longer existent Shia threat, must choose between their Sunni jihad and peace in Iraq.

A wild card are the Baathists. Most Sunni Arabs supported the Baathist Saddam. Today, the Syrian-based New Baath Party tries to restart a nationalist insurgency against the Government of Iraq. Most Sunni Arabs have moved on from the Baathist party, but a small but motivated subpopulation has yet to make up if it should be part of the New Iraq or join the Baathists. They hold Pandora's box in their hands.

Classic Gauze: How to Read an Army Map

Want to know the dang map codes I saw everyday now? Well then you are in luck!
Originally published April 25, 2006

Coming Anarchy links to Global Security's vast collection of army manuals. Among them is Map Reading and Land Navigation. This 14 chapter and 12 appendix behemoth has everything you ever need to know about contour and military maps. Enjoy!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Classic Gauze: Robert Christopherson versus Me

Catholicgauze has been called everything from the loving "walking biased encyclopedia" to the hateful "monster." My verbal beatdown by Dr. Robert Christopherson was the first Catholicgauze controversial public moment. Let us relive it together!
Originally published September 29, 2006

Maybe that is a stretch, but it is close

Doctor Robert Christopherson is the author of Geosystems, a popular physical geography textbook, and professor at American River College, one of the largest community colleges in California.

Christopherson gave a guest lecture on global warming and how it is human caused. He stated there is consensus among the scientific community that global warming is human caused. He gave evidence and projections that were higher than what Al Gore predicted in An Inconvenient Truth (a work which has been attacked by some). He capped off his presentation by saying the economy would make more money if the United States adopted the Kyoto Treaty (very, very, very questionable to say the least).

Now long time readers will know I am a fan the works of Harm de Blij and others who, while believing in climate change, question how bad it will be and whether or not humans are influencing it in any meaningful way. So I decided to ask what Christopherson thought of The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg and tie that into climate cycles. Lomborg scientifically questioned how things really are and proposed cost-benefit analysis on if things should be done concerning some environmental issues.

This is what happened:

Robert Christopherson: Are there any questions?

: "Thank you for your speech. Are you familiar with Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist..."

RC: Interrupting "That is not science! That is not SCIENCE!" "I am doing science. We should stick to discussing science!" RC went on to say that Lomborg should be studying RC's work and about two minutes into his rant said, "Lomborg should talk to the half-starving polar bears!"

At the end Christopherson implied he would wish to continue our "conversation" later but the people sitting next to me just looked at me with stunned faces from the vicious beat down that just went down. To top everything off Christopherson then ended the question session. There was only question asked- mine. I was quickly rushed by Ph.D. and Master students who wished to know what the background of the question was. "What did you DO!?!?" and "Do you think he's mad?" (sarcastically) were some things I was asked. A student told me he wanted to ask about extraterra global warming (global warming on other planets) but told me that even if Christopherson did not end the question session he would not have asked the question because of Christopherson's attitude.

Is this science? When a side is denounced as not being science (Lomborg has been dealt worse: he is a victim of multiple threats of lawsuit) and those who have questions are met with domineering and intimidating responses: are we not close to those who imprisoned the scientists of old?

Note: Robert Christopher blames "the oil companies" for creating "false images" and "spin" portraying the scientific community as not a unified field believing in human caused global warming. He enjoys flying, boating, driving, and other uses of fossil fuels to travel to the North and South Pole. He uses a computer (do not even get me started how computers ruin the earth) and his textbooks are printed on paper. To reach his speaking destination he took a plane to the airport and then drove quite a distance. He blames global warming not on himself but solely on "the guy going 85 on the interstate getting 8 miles per gallon."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Wadi Bonfire

Tonight we are having a wadi bonfire.. The moon is almost full and the part of Iraq I am in is experiencing spring. The white sand gives an odd, lunar feel to everything. The only life besides A few moths have been seen. Everything is so still though. The fire is the only thing making a sound out here. Even the jackals, who usually sound like Marines going "woo-hoo!", are not making a noise. It is the last night for one of my best co-workers. He is also a great friend.

The daily stress of Iraq is intense. Elections, corruption, terrorism, hope, rebuilding the country, foreign agendas and everything else takes its toll. But tonight it is just us and the bonfire. Peaceful, quite, and calm.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Classic Gauze: Origin of American State Names

It was a simple plan. Map out the origin of American state names. A great comment discussion then started which showed me that state origins can have an unknown past and combine several languages.

Another thing decided was that American Indian words were used for interior states because of their relation to the land and breaking away from European cultural ties.

Originally published June 13, 2007

Update: Montana fixed and is now Spanish

Neatorama has an article listing the origin of state names.

Catholicgauze decided the article needed a good map to see if there are any spatial trends. Above are my mapped results. The most of the interior states are named after Indian words. There are only two areas which buck the trend of Indian names. The Atlantic Coast states are mostly named after places or people from Europe or based European cultures in the case of Washington. In the Southwest, four of the six states name origins come from Spanish.

Here's my hypothesis why. Most of the European-origin states were colonized before the time of American Independence while most of the Indian-origin states were settled later by American pioneers. Could the reason for this be that Americans, even though they violated and remade countless treaties, saw naming the lands this way as recognizing the Indians presence on the landscape? Any thoughts?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Peacful, Successful Elections in Anbar

Fears of attacks during the election were paralyzing many in Anbar province. Locals received warnings from AQI about attacks but most reports of possible attacks were spread by rumors. Coalition Forces along with Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police worked around the clock to ensure safety. The results were inconsevable: no attacks in Anbar. None. Al Qaeda in Iraq was proven impotent in the area that was there stomping ground from 2004 to 2006.

The threat is not gone though. Post-election violence is possible from the sore losers. AQI cells not rolled up still may continue the fight independent from the leadership that has long been cut off from. But for now Anbaries celebrate their right to vote and await the end of Iraqi Islamic Party dominance.