Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Black Widows Bomb Moscow's Metro

From BBC

Islamist separatists from Russia's North Caucasus region have conducted two suicide attacks on Moscow's subway lines. The first attack was under the Federal Security Service, the KGB descendant that handles internal Russian affairs including managing the intelligence of the North Caucasus wars. The second attack occurred at a busy station.

The attack was conducted by the "Black Widows," these are widows of North Caucasus fighters who died fighting the Russians. The Black Widows are a prime example of the globalization of the North Caucasus wars. The first war, the First Chechen War, was a nationalist rebellion by ethnic Chechens who wanted independence for their idealized secular republic. After lawlessness took over the government was seized by radicals who embraced Islamism and allowed foreign fighters to enter Chechnya. By the time the second war, the 1999 Dagestan War, erupted, foreign fighters and organizations had radicalized much of Chechen society. During the take over of the Moscow theater in 2002 Black Widows were wearing full burqas and Arabic script was imprinted on their flags. Today radical Chechens have been caught and killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Russia is facing an increasing radical, expansionist insurgency. The nationalist rebellion became an Islamist insurrection. Besides the probable/possible(?) Islamist apartment bombings around Moscow, the terrorism was mostly confined to the North Caucasus. However, attacks have gone from every other year, like the 2002 theater siege and the 2004 Moscow Metro bombing, to monthly. Train bombings are becoming much more common in European Russia and one wonders how common small attacks occur or are attempted.

The War in the North Caucasus and its violent fits elsewhere in Russia will be the conflict to watch as it will show how a "hearts and mind"-free counterinsurgency works (or does not work) and if foreign Islamists attempt to swarm this battlefield as they have in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Women from More Economically Advanced Countries Prefer Beta Males

After crunching the data—including the women's facial preferences, their country of origin and that country's national health index—the Face Lab researchers proved something remarkable. They could predict how masculine a woman likes her men based on her nation's World Health Organization statistics for mortality rates, life expectancy and the impact of communicable disease. In countries where poor health is particularly a threat to survival, women leaned toward "manlier" men. That is, they preferred their males to have shorter, broader faces and stronger eyebrows, cheekbones and jaw lines. The researchers went on to publish the study in this month's issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.

So states the article Why Women Don't Want Macho Men in the Wall Street Journal. The article describes how researchers saw a correlation between economical wealth and women's preferences for either manly or feminine, metrosexual guys. Apparently as women gain in a growing economy they no longer value a "rough" man and instead desire "compassionate, caring" guys. This in part explains why Johnny Depp is now considered more sexy than Sean Connery.

The lack of manliness is having real world consequences. "Boys being boys" is no longer being tolerated as young boys are being punished in the educational system for actions that were considered the norm fifty years ago. Scientists like Dr. Helen Smith have proposed that society and the educational system's punishment of manliness is part of the reason women make sixty percent of college students, a much larger rate of male unemployment, and other social ills affecting men and the public in general.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kursk: The Battle of the Bulge in the East

The West's perspective of World War II is skewed. When we think of the European Theater we imagine epic battles like El Alamein, D-Day, and the Battle of the Bulge. These battles were indeed epic and those who fought in them did face periolous odds. Thank goodness that the odds were the way they where because the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and others only faced about ten percent of Nazi Germany's might. Most Germans were fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet.

The largest battle in the war, in fact, was in the Eastern Front. The Battle of Kursk killed over a million men, was the largest tank battle of the ever, and had the bloodiest day of aerial dogfights in the skies.

Nazi forces gathered a massive attack along the very eastern edge of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (present-day Russia) in the flat steppe region in July 1943. The Germans planned to smash the Soviet lines by creating a bulge to punch out of and then encircle the Soviet army to cause a massive surrender like they did during the early days of the Eastern Front. It was hoped that they could reverse the loss of momentum after the Battle of Stalingrad and restart the invasion of Russia. They failed and the Soviet Union kept offensive momentum until the end of the war.

The bulge strategy was reused on the Western Front by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. It caught the Western Allies off guard in part because the Allies could not imagine the plan working in a forested hilly region. The hard fighting Germans nearly crushed the Allies and could have extended the Western Front via stalemate. Some historians say the Allies causalities and the emotional drain of a major lost after the disastrous Operation Market Garden could have stalled the war effort for over a year or two (though this does not factor in the Soviet advancing from the east against Germany). The Western Allies lost about 90,000 men compared to the Soviet loss of 800,000 at Kursk.

The semi-official RT has an English language program on the battle called Kursk: the burning bulge (also shown below). The program combines history and geography of the battle to paint a good picture of the events. It is something that would have been on the History Channel if that still showed history shows.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour: If you are going to do it do it right

Today at 8:30 P.M. (2030) local time many people will turn off their power sources to mark the fourth Earth Hour. Earth Hour is sponsored by the World Wildlife Foundation and meant to raise awareness about the effects of pollution.

However, due to in part environmental illiteracy, some people actually increase their pollution output during the hour. The Christian Science Monitor reported that

And during Earth Hour, what will most participants use for illumination? Candles. The Earth Hour website is filled with announcements – from New Zealand to Hong Kong to Serbia – of restaurants hosting candlelit dinners and clubs holding candlelit acoustic concerts, along with lots of tips on what to do at home during the electricity-free hour, which includes taking a candlelit bath or playing board games by candlelight.

All these burning wicks raise the question: Are the emissions from these candles worse for the climate than simply leaving the lights on? After all, candles emit carbon dioxide too.

The answer: It depends on what kind of candles you use, how many of them you burn, and where you get your electricity from.

Most candles are made of paraffin, a heavy hydrocarbon derived from crude oil. Burning a paraffin candle for one hour will release about 10 grams of carbon dioxide.

As Australian blogger Enoch the Red pointed out after last year's Earth Hour that an average Australian who tries to replace all the light produced by an incandescent bulb with light cast by parrifin candles will result in about 10 times the greenhouse emissions.

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg also pointed pollution increases during Earth Hour (PDF) and pointed out the irony of Earth Hour because the use of energy brought humanity out of the dark ages and into time where we could actively protect and improve our environment.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Solving a Murder by Using Google Earth?

Google Earth blog has a very fascinating post on the abduction and possible murder of Jennifer Kesse. Apparently, some people used Google Earth's historical imagery (February 28, 2006) and found a suspicious spot near where Jennifer was abducted (KML). The police are interested enough in the weird vehicle and foot marks shown on Google Earth to dig at the site. While this may not be related to Jennifer, if it is this could be the first abduction/murder case significantly aided by imagery analysis. Google Earth Blog will have future updates on this case if there are any developments.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Internet Did Not Kill Geography, Internet Reinforced Geography

I frequently heard that the internet would kill geography during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The internet was, according to proponents of the kill geography theory, going to unite us in one spatialess commons. Location was to become meaningless.

The theory is flawed on multiple levels. First, only a small percentage of the world's population can be connected to the internet in a form that will allow them to even fantasize about being free from geography. Second, those who spend much of their time online do so to be better connected not only to the greater world but also their local environs.

This is especially true in marketing. Back in the mid-200s sites like the recently deceased Platial started to merge technology like Google Maps to local events and business. Now advertisers are using internet technology to tailor ads to views based on the viewers' geography. Advertising Age has an article on just that in Forget Foursquare: Why Location Marketing Is New Point-of-Purchase. Be sure to read the article and check out the comments to learn why terms like "geo-fence" may become the new buzz word like "neogeography" was.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Geography of the Battle over Obamacare

Obamacare, a major reform of Health Care in the United States, passed the last hurdle with the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212. The New York Times has a map of the votes (below).

The votes for the reform came solely from Democrats while all Republicans and thirty-two Democrats voted no. The "no" votes among Democrats came primarily from South and some rural, generally center-right districts. Among the geographic cores of the Democratic Party (Latino-Southwest, Farm-Labor-Great Lakes Interior, New England-New York, and Pacific Coast) these representatives voted almost unanimously yes. In fact, the only Democrat "no's" in Democratic dominated New England-New York were from the definition of centrist Mike Arcuri (D-NY) and pro-life Stephen Lynch (D-MA).

A new battlefield over Obamacare is in the courts. Thirteen states, all with Republican attorney generals, are suing to stop certain parts of the bill which they consider unconstitutional. Those states are
  • South Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • Texas
  • Michigan
  • Utah
  • Pennsylvania
  • Alabama
  • South Dakota
  • Louisiana
  • Idaho
  • Washington
  • Colorado
These states are either center-right or have considerable conservative representations. Some of these states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Michigan are swing states and Texas has the third largest population in the country. These states will be the spear head of the legal challenge to Obamacare.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Afghanistan Provincial and Pakistani Tribal Overviews

The Navy Postgraduate School's Program for Culture & Conflict Studies has excellent resources on the provinces of Afghanistan, tribes in the FATA region of Pakistan, and the countries of Central Asia. These are excellent packets of information give a wonderful overview of the human and physical terrain of these areas which appear in the news more and more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Iraq's Election Results Good for the West

2010 Iraqi Election Map. Basemap by D-Maps and edited by Geographic Travels

Iraq is still counting the votes from their parliamentary elections but as the results come in it is clear that the vote is good for the West and liberal forces while bad for Iran.


The greater Shia Bloc split in two before the election. Current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki leads the conservative Shia State of Law Coalition that combines parties ranging from Islamic Dawa to Shia Turkmen groups. The main platform of this group is supporting the prime minister and anti-terrorist operations against radical Sunni and Shia groups. The other Shia group is the Iraqi National Alliance which is a coalition of Shia Islamist parties, both "soft" and "hard core", ranging from Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to Sadrist groups. This is a pro-Iran alliance of parties.

The Arab Sunnis have fragmented on a local level but nationally have united under the leadership of secular Arab Shia former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his Iraqi National Movement. Allawi states his ties to the Baathist movement, being a former Baathist, and those who opposed Saddam, being a former exile, can make him a unifying figure. Arab Sunnis like Allawi because he promises not to continue fire former Baathists from federal government jobs which has alienated many Sunnis from Baghdad.

Kurds are finally getting a real choice on a national level as the Kurdistan Alliance faces the reformist group Change List. While the Change List is growing the Alliance is still dominant.


The results mirror the layout of Iraq's ethnic groups. State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance won in Shia regions with Iraqi National Alliance winning in areas where Iranian influence is high. The Iraqi National Movement won in Arab Sunni areas and the Kurdistan Alliance dominated in Kurdish zones. Long War Journal has updated charts of results on the national and provincial level.

It is neck and neck between the Iraqi National Movement and the Rule of Law list. Most likely these two will form a grand governing coalition with each other and the Kurdistan Alliance as fear of the Iranian-backed Iraqi National Alliance is a powerful force in nationalistic Iraq. The probable ruling coalition will be conservative but not Islamist and will likely be favorable to the United States as America decreases it presence in the country. Most importantly, all major groups in Iraq will be represented someway in the new Iraqi government thus assuring buy in by the ethnic groups.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

OpenOrienteeringMap: Create Your Own Orienteering Map

Long time readers wknow that I am a fan of orienteering, a sport that combines outdoor track and map reading. One of the most distinct things of the sport is the unique map that is required. Many times it is difficult to find a map for an area let alone pay for a set to play with.

Fortunately some minds managed to combine OpenStreetMap with Orienteering to create OpenOrienteeringMap (Hat tip: Map Room Blog) One can go to any place on the Earth and use either a street or pseudo-orienteering basemap and then add control points. While the more serious orienteering clubs already have their geographic supplies, this is one tool for us amateurs to enjoy when we play.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Turkey Threatens to Deport Armenians In Dispute About Genocide

The stupid fight over the Armenian Genocide continues as Turkey's Prime Minister has managed to discredit himself in the meaningless debate. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stated "There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000." (Hat Tip: Coming Anarchy)

This is wrong on two levels. First, the estimated number of illegal immigrant Armenians in Turkey is about 12,000 and not 100,000. Second, deporting illegal, and possibly ethic Armenians who are Turkish citizens, over a dispute about events which occurred 100 years ago and committed by a predecessor state is not the way to win friends in an ethnic cleansing argument.

Long time reader Ali pointed out that Turks were also victims of ethnic cleansing during World War I and that "All Turks, except the most extreme of the extreme nationalists, recognize that there were large scale massacres of Armenians during and right after World War I." It is such a shame these extremists hold sway in both the Republican People's Party and the Justice and Development Party.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cryptozoological Map from SyFy's Destination Truth

One of the SyFy Channel's (the channel formerly known as SciFi) shows is Destination Truth. The show is a semi-serious investigation of cryptozoological animals around the world. The show is about as serious as much of the "History" Channel is today. However, there is still something to learn as monster myths in cyrptozoology reveal much about the local culture and there is always the small percentage that the cryptids are real.

Destination Truth's website has a map that links to cryptids they have examined and one can watch the related episode online. When one has time to kill they might as well have fun and watch an episode or two.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Family Surname Map

Click to enlarge. Full version of the map (33 MBs) can be downloaded here.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Today is the day were everyone pretends to be Irish. In the United States this is the one and only ethnic holiday that is universally celebrated. Those of Irish and even Scot-Irish heritage can take additional pride with the fact our ancestors once faced extreme discrimination only to have their culture finally accepted.

If the map is too small search for your surname on this guide.

Good luck finding your roots on the map!

Erin Go Bragh!

Global South Christianity Slams Into the Muslim World

Tectonic plates are not enemies but instead can exist side-by-side each other in relative peace for years. It is only when the one side gives and a conflict erupts that the violent calamity known as an earthquake occurs.

Much the same situation exists in the Third World where the borders of Islam meet the non-Islamic world. Places like Nigeria, India, and Malaysia have long had mixed communities where Christians and Muslims have lived in relative peace despite some horrible exceptions. The last twenty-five years have seen a rise in violence; however, as, usually but not always, Muslims have targeted the Christians.

One variable in this violence equation, Islamist Extremism, has been explored ad nauseum. Another factor exists though: the rise of an active and confident Christianity that is not based in London or Rome but instead is primarily a local affair even if it is Anglican or Catholic. Religious expert Philip Jenkins explains that this Global South Christianity believes in its teachings, relates to the stories of the persecuted poor, and has a joyful energy in spreading that I feel has not been seen since the Jesuits converted North and South America.

Already Global South Christianity has deeply impacted the United Methodist Church and the Anglican Communion. Protestant Global Southers are becoming more active in missionary activity in Africa and even the First World. Catholic Global Southers in Africa are getting the Church more active in social issues while remaining conservative in theology, thus avoiding the trap of Marxism that Latin American Liberation Theology Catholics fell into it.

Global South Christianity will continue to grow in power in both the Third and First Worlds. I except that in a few decades theologians from Africa and Asia will been to weld great sway in Global Christianity.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It

We recently received a review copy of Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael Trinklein and published by Quirk Books. The book is a marvelous coffee-table book that combines the appeal of cartophilia that Strange Maps has with apocryphal American history.

Many states require lessons in state history to be taught in primary and secondary school. These classes are good but are pretty much cookie cutter classes which give the impression that the creation of the state was pretty much predetermined. Very few discuss efforts by locals in the past to either create alternative states or even secede from the original state.

Lost States is a humorous survey of dozens of efforts to create states. Some are efforts by the United States to annex foreign territories like Cuba, Greenland, and Iceland. Others are efforts to create homelands like the Presbyterian, anti-Catholic state of Hazard or the American Indian state of Sequoyah. A third category are efforts by locals to keep tax funds in the area like Jefferson or Superior. A fourth major category are alternative boundaries like the various Dakotas, Arizonas/New Mexicos, and Minnesotas.

As mentioned above the book is a brief survey with only a page of text and a map page dedicated to each lost state. However, Trinklein makes sure one knows that this is not an exhaustive study with his introduction stating “This book isn't meant to offer exhaustive detail on every unsuccessful statehood proposal; rather, the goal is to pique your curiosity, instill a sense of wonder, and enjoy a laugh or two.” There is a bibliography in back that does allow one to dig deeper if desired.

If one wants a humorous trip into American historical geography and do not mind a lack of in-depth detail, then Lost States is the book for you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lent Geography: Map of Catholic Missionaries Killed in 2009

View Larger Map

Being a missionary is still a very dangerous occupation. In recent years Catholic missionaries have been held hostage, killed by Jihadist extremists, and murdered by land owning oligarchs, to name a few fates. Most murders of missionaries though are done by criminals who believe the missionaries have wealth worth robbing and killing for.

Such was the case in 2009. I created the map above based on information from the Vatican's International Fides Service. Each marker has the sad story of one who was killed in the line of duty. Most but not all, as you can read, were the victim of people interested in material gain and not interreligious violence. The one exception is Farther James Mukalel who was killed in an act of anti-Christian violence in the religiously mixed Indian state of Kerala.

Out of the 37 missionaries killed, 21 were murdered in Latin America and 11 were killed in Africa. Of the 11 African deaths, 7 were murdered in the Great Rift Valley around Lake Victoria. It is little surprise that Latin America's drug and land violence along with the Great Rift's Valley overall instability have proven to be the martyr makers of 2009.

Country # Killed
Colombia 6
Brazil 6
South Africa 4
DR Congo 4
Mexico 3
Kenya 2
Cuba 2
El Salvador 2
Burundi 1
Guatemala 1
India 1
Philippines 1
France 1
Honduras 1

Latin America

Great Rift Valley 7

All of Africa


Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Blog: Geo-Mexico, An Actually Good Promotional Blog

Geo-Mexico is a promotional blog for a geography reference book on Mexico also entitled Geo-Mexico. Usually promotional blogs have one or two posts of moderate interest and then the blog is quickly abandoned. However, the minds behind Geo-Mexico have been blogging like mad since December 2009 with a wide variety of posts ranging from a biography of one of Mexico's first geographers, to Mexico's ecological footprint compared to other countries, to the richest people in Mexico, to Mexican sayings and beliefs about cats and bad omens.

While I have not read the book, Geo-Mexico, I recommend one checks out the Geo-Mexico blog. A virtual geographic cornucopia (maizeucopia?) awaits!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Map of Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Coming Anarchy has linked to the New America Foundation's map of America military/CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

View U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan in a larger map

In the map red pins represent strikes between 2004 to 2007, pink pins are 2008 attacks, dark blue pins are 2009 strikes, and light blue are 2010 attacks.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Map of Biotech Crop Production Around the World

Reason Magazine links to an International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications report on the worldwide production of biotech crops. The report is full of good news dealing with food production including

As a result of consistent and substantial, crop productivity, economic, environmental and welfare benefits, a record 14 million small and large farmers in 25 countries planted 134 million hectares (330 million acres) in 2009, an increase of 7 percent or 9 million hectares (22 million acres) over 2008….

Record hectarages were reported for all four major biotech crops. For the first time, biotech soybean occupied more than three-quarters of the 90 million hectares of soybean globally, biotech cotton almost half of the 33 million hectares of global cotton, biotech maize over one-quarter of the 158 million hectares of global maize and biotech canola more than one-fifth of the 31 million hectares of global canola….

Notably, almost half (46 percent) of the global hectarage was planted by developing countries, expected to take the lead from industrial countries before 2015,…

Remarkably, of the 14 million beneficiary farmers, 90 percent or 13 million were small resource- poor farmers. These farmers are already benefiting from biotech crops like Bt [pest-resistant] cotton, and have enormous future potential with crops such as biotech rice, to be commercialized in the near term.

Quick notes: Right now the United States grows the plurality of biotech crops with forty-some percent of biotech cropland being in America. Brazil and Argentina are advancing South America's agriculture exports with higher yield biotech crops. Finally, while India's production of biotech crops is still low, it is growing and biotech foods should help with a potential food crisis much like the Green Revolution saved Latin America.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Earthquakes More Deadly Because of People

The news about earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Japan, and now Turkey have caused some in the public to wonder if earthquakes are happening more frequently. Unfortunately, there are those in the media, science, and religion who use these events to be noticed or spread their message.

Luckily, the AP has published an article talking about how earthquakes are more deadly these days. However, the higher death toll is because more population is living in poor housing near earthquake zones and not because the quakes are more powerful. As the article states, people do not die because the earth shakes but instead because things fall on people or other related damaging events like fires.

For those who worry about the divine in such things, they should remember Numbers 16:31-32 where whole groups are consumed by the earth during a quake. Also, earthquakes have been horribly deadly before as the 1556 Shaanxi quake killed over 800,000 people. Biblicaly and even recently things have been much worse. It is just that there are more people, more poor housing, and a global media to spread the news at the speed of light.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Geography of Saving Soldier X's Life

From Michael Yon. Click to Enlarge.

In July 2009 a British soldier was accidentally shot in the in the abdomen and chest by his fellow countrymen. Losing blood, a lung, and on death's door, all seemed lost as the military bureaucracy of the Coalition forces was stuck and did little. Fortunately for this soldier, journalist Michael Yon was nearby. Yon began a worldwide effort to save the British soldier's life. The effort, shown on the map above, is told rivetingly on Yon's website. Be sure to read how the globalized, internet-connected world came together to save one man's life in this true military-medical adventure story.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Armenian Genocide Fight Once Again Returns to the United States

From the late 1800s to the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Republic of Turkey, Ottoman and Kurdish forces massacred over a million Armenians in a program of ethnic cleansing. There were also genocidal programs against Assyrians, ethnic cleansing, both peaceful and violent, targeting Greeks, and other moments ethnic killings. The genocides were based on Turkish fears of minorities allying with foreigners, Turkish desire for the creation of a pure nation-state, and Islamic extremism. These events were truly tragic and prime examples of the darkside of humanity.

Today Turkey, Turkish-Americans, Armenia, and Armenian-Americans are locked in a battle over House Resolution 252 which is a non-binding resolution calling on President Obama to formally call the mass killings "genocide." Armenian-American groups are campaigning hard with ads and websites denouncing Turkish denial and Turkish-American lobbying efforts. Pro-Turkish responded by saying to call the killings "genocide" would harm relations with Turkey, that the Armenian ads are disrespectful, and by pointing out that there were/are Armenian terrorists.

The debate over "genocide" is one that the Turks have made worse by their repeated denials that anything happened, stating everyone suffered during the time in question, and by some locals oddly saying they have no idea of what happened to the Armenians because they all left on their own accord and did not tell the Turkish authorities where they went. Armenians have gone from "depressed-angry" because of the genocide to "bloodlust" because of Turkish denials. A diaspora group called the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) became the first international terrorist organization that was active in multiple theaters (rather than active in one country while merely fundraising in others like Irish republican groups). Today the ARF in Armenia is a socialist political party in the ruling coalition, the third-largest party and one time militant faction in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which was involved in ethnic cleansing of Azeri Turks, and a member of the March 7th political alliance with Hezbollah in Lebanon (there have been reports that Hezbollah is intimidated by the ARF and will not enter Armenian villages). Internationally, the ARF is expansionist demanding much of the former ethnic Armenian territory be combined into a Greater Armenia.

Some feel that America needs to recognize the genocide to prevent others and close the sad chapter in history. Others state that America has no business in getting involved in a 100 year old historical battle between foreigners when more pressing issues are at hand. Many presidential candidates, including then Senator Obama, vowed to recognize the killings as genocide but other considerations such as Turkish-American relations have stopped any campaign pledge from becoming reality (though President Ronald Reagan described the killings as genocide in a proclamation). And thus the battle over history goes on and on as Armenian history diehards battle Turkish nationalist diehards while both sides attempt to get the United States, forty-three American states, and other countries involved.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ukraine and CNN's Mixed-up Geography

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych has been having a very good time being president. He managed to get Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to back down, placated Russia by all but saying that the Black Sea Fleet can stay in Crimea past the 2017 deadline, and showed the West that he is an independent player by first traveling to Brussels and not Moscow.

However, he packed his time in the West with two big geographic errors. First, when discussing Serbia, Yanukovych confused Montenegro with Kosovo and followed it up by confusing North and South Ossetia. Sadly this is not the first time Montenegro and Kosovo have been mismatched by Yanukovych.

Meanwhile, CNN newsman Rick Sanchez thought the Galapagos Islands were actually the Hawaiian Islands... and he was using Google Earth at the time. On the plus side, the clip below proves CNN really does love their maps. Just look at all those maps!
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Uninformant
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Reform

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Geocurrents Takes on Continents

The geographers over at Geocurrents have two good introductory posts on why the generalized theory of "continents" is flawed. The series is started by Nonsense about Continents and finished with How Many Continents Are There? The posts briefly describe a point brought up in blogger Dr. Martin Lewis' book The Myth of Continents.

In my previous post, Where is Asia?, I wrote how Asia was an artificial construct made by the Greeks to describe the lands and people east of them. And how today what we consider Europe, Africa, and Asia actually spill into each other.

Other geographers feel that continents are a flawed way of studying and examining the world. Dr. Harm de Blij uses "geographic realms" in his textbooks books. These realms are lands of similar cultural traits and physical landforms.

Continents are a good starting point for learning about the world but as one advances one quickly realizes that the physical and cultural landscape is so much more interrelated and complex than first imagined.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Best Affordable Suburbs in America 2010

Business Week has released their study of the best affordable suburbs in the United States. One can navigate the report's website by clicking on the map of the states. Each state has a brief profile of the best affordable suburb.

The criteria was chosen by "the selected suburbs were limited to towns within 25 miles of the most populated city in the state, with populations of 5,000 to 60,000, median family incomes of $51,000 to $120,000, and lower-than-average crime rates. We weighted a variety of factors including livability (short commutes, low pollution, green space), education (well-educated residents, high test scores), crime (low personal and property crime), economy (high job growth, low unemployment rate, high family income), and affordability (median household income, cost of expenditures). Affordability was most heavily weighted in our calculations. We penalized places with bad weather, a lack of racial diversity, high divorce rates, and few children."

I understand most of the variables except racial diversity. Who cares if the suburb is overwhelmingly ethnic Vietnamese or practically an enclave of Sweden?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Map of Hamburger Fast Food Restaurant Dominance in the United States

Long-time reader and good friend Torgo Jr. has sent me a link to the above map of hamburger fast food restaurant dominance in the contiguous United States of America.

Torgo Jr. and another reader have been sharing their thoughts about the map with me. One thing pointed out is how Dairy Queen controls much of Texas. There is a saying that Dairy Queens are "Texas Stop Signs." Wendy's core is in Ohio which is where the chain first began. Meanwhile Sonic seems mostly contained to the South. Surprisingly McDonald's does not control much of America's geography. However, it does have a vise grip on the greater New York area, Washington DC, and Chicago. These areas contain a good sized minority of the country's population and can lead to the false impress of McDonald's overall control of the hamburger fast food landscape.

One thing that caught me off guard is how the western coast, especially California, is still an open free land of choice and competition. Also, besides cores in Texas and around Salt Lake City there is no major clusters of hamburger fast food dominance west of a line formed by the western borders of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Variety is the hamburger special sauce of life out west.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Colombia Continues its March to Peace and Democracy

At the dawn of the twenty-first century things were looking bad for Colombia. The Communist terrorist group FARC used cease fires to create their own narco-insurgent state called the El Caguan "Demilitarized Zone." Meanwhile nacro-mafias, other Communists groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), and rightist drug groups like the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) were involved in a never ending game of attacks on each other and civilians.

Things changed in 2002 when Colombian voters rejected the ruling center-right Conservative in exchange for the independent, center-left Liberal Alvaro Uribe. Uribe combined the Liberal Party's platform of social democracy and government-supported welfare, the Conservative Party's desire for free trade, and his own desire to crush the various insurgent groups. He increased Colombian participation in Plan Colombia, aggressively sought to deny FARC territory, and offered demilitarization plans to various groups including the AUC. There have been a combination of amnesties for foot soldiers and criminal trials for terrorist leaders because of the demilitarization programs. Meanwhile the war against Communist, narco, and counterrevolutionary rebels has scored great victories as the various insurgent leaderships have been culled and national authority is once again returning to the country side.

Their was a potential blight on the march to peace and democracy though. President Uribe took a page out of the Hugo Chavez playbook by trying to start the process to end term limits to allow himself to be reelected for a third term. The supreme court rejected these measures and a potential showdown loomed. Fortunately President Uribe is following the court's ruling by announcing he will not seek another reelection and will step down at the end of his term.

The political landscape has changed as well in the last ten years. The long standing divide between Conservative and Liberal parties has been more or less annihilated by Uribe. He managed to form of an alliance of Conservatives, centrist Liberals, and members of the center-left Radical Change party. His newish party, the Social National Unity Party, now competes against the Alternative Democratic Pole which is itself an alliance of a range of groups from anti-Uribe centrists to pro-FARC communist Liberals. Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe's former Defense Minister, of the Social National Unity Party is easily leading in the polls. The big question this election is whether or not Uribe's coalition will hold or if the parties will each run their own candidate in the first round of the election. Some business even worry that a deeply divided left-right coalition will lead to an leftist electoral victory. The possibility of this happening is small because to win one needs fifty percent of the vote and Uribe's policies are popular in Colombia. While the political chaos is worrying some it is good to see democracy is alive and well in Colombia.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Karen Jacobsen: The Voice of GPS

Karen Jacobsen is the most downloaded (thanks commenter!) voice for GPS units around the world. Both the Houston Chronicle and Sydney Morning Herald had features on her this past week.

Her voice, with a slight accent, is more pleasing to many ears rather than the harsh American voices. A friend once told me that he prefers Karen to others because she did not "judge" him like the American female voice At the time I was dumbstruck by such a statement but I can now understand his point-of-view. A GPS is like a driving partner who travels along on many of one's life adventures. Having a seemingly nice personality who a driving partner is a must. How many times have we wanted to physical harm family members on long car drives? We probably rarely wished ill will to Karen.

However, one's GPS unit may still wish harm on you, though

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bad Maps: RT Recognizes Georgia's Territorial Integrity

Today we introduce a new feature entitled Bad Maps. Bad Maps are posts which will discuss how map mistakes change a message the map maker or map maker's supporters try to convey either in the map or elsewhere.

State-Owned Russian press become lazy with proofing their base maps and accidentally recognized Georgia's territorial integrity when it comes to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

During the wake of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War the Russian Federation recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. Getting other countries to do so has been difficult for Russia, though. Nicaragua quickly joined in by recognizing the de facto republics but since then only Venezuela has followed suit. In December 2009, Nauru recognized Abkhazia in exchange for aid from Russia yet it is still unclear if they extended the same honor to South Ossetia.

There has been an international effort by Russia to get geographers and neogeographers to recognize the independence of the two breakaway regions. The Commission of Geographical Names and other official Russian government agencies make maps showing the breakaway republics as independent. But in the private-world the Russians have had so-so luck. The online mapping site Yandex has South Ossetia and Abkhazia but the other major Russian online mapping site Kosmosnimki does not.

Here is where the bad map comes in. RT, previously known as Russia Today, is a state-run news agency that broadcasts in English throughout the world. As a branch of the Russian government one would expect it to follow government guidelines including the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But human error at RT trumps its stated efforts elsewhere recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Most of the time maps are not made by geographers or properly-trained cartographers but instead graphic artists who can make something pretty but have no clue what they are drawing. Such is the case with RT which uses a base map that shows Abkahzia and South Ossetia as part of Georgia. The image, top, is taken from a segment on arts and crafts in the Vologda region of Russia. While the Georgian-part of the map has nothing to do with the story it does show that the map editing process has not gone under the scrutiny one expects from the Kremlin.