This map from the International Monetary Fund shows recent unemployment rates by country. From www.imf.org/external/datamapper/LUR@WEO/OEMDC/ADVEC/WEOWORLD
Although West Africa and the Sahel have seen a surge in terrorist activity over the last decade, this article from Foreign Policy argues that the problem is likely to get worse soon as terrorist groups spill out of Burkina Faso, where more than 150,000 people were displaced primarily by jihadi groups in February, and where upcoming regional elections present an opportunity for violence: "In the coming weeks, West Africa’s terrorist groups are set to encroach further into Togo, Benin, and Ghana. This year’s presidential elections and their associated impact in Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Togo may create further tensions for terrorist groups to exploit. ... A combination of weak border security forces, the growing capabilities of terrorist groups in Burkina Faso, and an apparent interest in extending operations into neighboring countries all point to an increasing risk in Togo, Benin, and Ghana. For jihadi groups, including Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), financial incentives and prestige are attached to moving into neighboring countries. By establishing further control over parts of West Africa, they could access ports, control trade, and benefit from the funds generated. They could also attempt to gain control of the gold mining industry. ... The movement of these groups into West Africa is aided by weak border controls, experienced smugglers, trafficking networks, and local corruption. West Africa is a major transit point for drugs smuggled from South America and Asia into Europe. Other goods such as people, migrants, and weapons are also trafficked across the borders."
This interesting article from Wired discusses how the pandemic is re-introducing us to the importance of "where."
"The pandemic is redefining our relationship with space. Not outer space, but physical space. Hot spots, distance, spread, scale, proximity. In a word: geography. Suddenly, we can’t stop thinking about where. ... [I]n an era when we can fly anyplace, learn anything online, order just about everything from Amazon, and use Google Earth to zoom in on faraway lands, we can get lulled into thinking that our spatial reality amounts to little more than an afterthought. ... We’re thinking about it at the smallest scale, navigating supermarket aisles or converting closets into serviceable home offices. We’re dealing with it at the regional scale, moving medical equipment from places with surplus to places with need. And we’re watching epidemiologists working at the national and planetary scale, as they race to comprehend precisely how a virus could travel so far so fast and cause such devastation. ... [N]aturally people want to know which places have the greatest disease burden and transmission rates. They want to know where the ICU shortages are, where the cruise ships are docked, where to buy masks, and where the testing kits are hiding. Our very safety now depends, at least in part, on geography."
This geo-graphic shows the reproduction rate (R) of COVID-19 transmissions by state. The first graph shows each state's R number and allows users to compare R values between states across the last several weeks. An R value above 1 means the virus is likely to spread; an R value below 1 means the virus will stop spreading. The subsequent graphs show the progression of each state's R value since early March. rt.live/
Are our freedoms being restricted? This interesting essay by a philosophy professor at Northern Arizona University argues that "freedom" should be seen as not just the property of an individual but the property of a group.
"I am free, I may claim, if nothing in the external world is preventing me from doing whatever it is that I want to do. Freedom requires an “absence of restraint.” There are good reasons to care about freedom in this way. For example, there are some very obvious cases of oppression where removing restrictions would increase freedom. If one is literally in chains, enslaved, held against one’s will in a way that has nothing to do with a concern for their freedom, emancipation from these restrictions will generally result in greater freedom. ... This way of thinking about freedom affects how we think about politics. Freedom is the central concept in American political life. If freedom as absence of restraint is taken to be the aim, we can see how this idea plays out politically: we focus on removing restrictions, regulations, laws, or coercion of any sort. This, we may think, is what makes a society free. ...
"One problem with only thinking of freedom negatively is that it takes no account of how we might actually do whatever it is that we want to do with our lives. We in fact require outside help. ... Right now, it is painfully clear that this kind of conception of freedom misses the fact that true freedom cannot exist without external forces, limits, and ultimately a social foundation. We can see how much of our ability to simply go about our lives and do what we do relies on forces outside of us and a social reality of which we are only a small part: grocery stores with the labor involved in producing food, to the management of the supply.... When these parts of our lives are working for us, we have the luxury of not noticing them and thus taking them for granted. The ability not to focus on these parts of our lives is important so that we can go about our lives and pursue whatever it is that we want to do. The danger, however, is that we construct a fantasy of freedom that thinks that we are free become there are no limits placed up on us, and that the pursuing of our aims is actually something that we are doing alone. ... Let’s take as an example some very real limits that people are currently experiencing. One may be under stay-at-home or self-quarantine orders. These are very straightforward limits. We could conceive of them as limits to our freedom such that we are less free because our ability to travel, go out to bars and restaurants, and live our “normal lives” is restricted. ... [B]ut would wandering out into closed stores and restaurants [suffice?] ... [T]o say that I would like us all to go back to normal so that I can live my regular life, then I am already acknowledging the social foundation for my freedom. My activity is only possible because of the activities of others around me. The error relies on the idea that restrictions, limits, or whatever we might call them, by their nature limit our freedom. As Hegel would say, these limits, far from taking away from our freedom, are the very condition for it. Consequently, we need to think of freedom as socially embedded. To think of freedom as “social” is to think of it as the property of a group and not of an individual. ... This involves thinking of freedom as something that cannot be done alone. Certain institutions of social reality, including their restrictions, regulations, and limits, are the condition for freedom and the medium through which I can experience it."
The 50th anniversary of the original Earth Day was earlier this week. While the U.S. has made strides in controlling some pollutants, others, like the toxic fluorinated compounds known collectively as PFAS, remain a problem and persist in the environment for a very long time. This interactive map shows known PFAS contamination sites in the U.S. www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2019_pfas_contamination/map/
These are wild days for the stock market. If you have a student interested in learning first hand about the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of stock market investing, I have set up a free simulation game on MarketWatch. Participants get "$100,000" to invest as they see fit for the next six weeks. Although I will not be doing any teaching, as I do with my "Stock Market Challenge" class, there are free educational resources available on the MarketWatch site. The game will run through June 5, and students can begin immediately. www.marketwatch.com/game/learning-outside-the-box Because my game is set up to be private, please drop me a note for the password. I believe participants will also need a (free) MarketWatch account; MarketWatch is a subsidiary of Dow Jones.
With day laborers in India, Kenya, the Philippines, and other countries still in lockdown, it may be useful to remember that malnutrition, which is likely to be exacerbated by lockdowns, is a bigger health problem globally than COVID-19. This cartogram is weighted for the number of people who are undernourished according to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: the darker the red, the larger the percentage of the population that is undernourished. geographical.co.uk/images/articles/places/mapping/2020/Malnutrition/WEB-map1.jpg
The sharp recession that resulted from the financial crisis of 2008 represented a 1% contraction of the global economy. The International Monetary Fund now expects the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be three times as severe, representing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The U.S. economy is itself expected to contract 6% this year. www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/us/politics/coronavirus-economy-recession-depression.html
Can construction practices influence a country's recipes? Apparently, yes. When the Spanish arrived in the Philippines and began building churches, they insisted on using egg whites in the concrete mix to strengthen the mortar. The number of eggs used in this way is believed to have run into the millions. What to do with all the extra egg yolks? Make flan, cakes, and other egg-rich desserts, of course -- a practice still in evidence in Filipino cooking today.
Transportation infrastructure and development typically go hand in hand. This short (90 second) video shows the creation of the U.S. rail network and then the interstate highway system. fleetlogging.com/growth-of-us/
Who is "an expert"? How do we assess expertise? In the face of conflicting information, how do we decide what to believe? This piece by a bioethicist walks readers through these questions:
"We rarely hesitate to hire a car mechanic, accountant, carpenter, and so on, when we need them. Even if some of us could do parts of their jobs passably well, these experts have specialized training that gives them an important advantage over us: They can do it faster, and they are less likely to get it wrong. ... Part of what makes identifying and trusting experts so hard is that not all expertise is alike. Different experts have differing degrees of authority. ... A further complication is that ... [s]ome types of expertise are closer to what philosopher Thi Nguyen calls our 'cognitive mainland.' This mainland refers to the world that novices are familiar with, the language they can make sense of. For example, most novices understand enough about what landscape designers do to assess their competence. ... Even if they don’t know much about horticulture, they know whether a yard looks nice. But expertise varies in how close to us it is. ... The farther out an expert domain is from a novice’s mainland, the more likely they are on what Nguyen calls a 'cognitive island,' isolated from resources that would let novices make sense of their abilities and authority. ... The work required to find and assess experts is not elegant. But neither is the world this pandemic is creating. And understanding how expertise works can help us cultivate a set of beliefs that, if not elegant, is at least more responsible."
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson left the hospital last weekend after spending several days in the intensive care unit. Despite the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that helped bring Johnson to power, the UK's National Health Service is heavily dependent on foreign-born doctors, with more than a quarter of UK physicians born outside Britain. To date, eight UK doctors have died battling COVID-19, all of whom were born in Asia or Africa, as shown on this map.
You can take a virtual tour, led by a U.S. park ranger, in five of America's national parks: Kenai Fjords (Alaska), Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico), Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii), Dry Tortguas (Florida), or Bryce Canyon (Utah). artsandculture.withgoogle.com/en-us/national-parks-service/parks
More than 1000 miles northeast of Beijing, but less than 150 miles from the Russian port of Vladivostok, a new coronavirus hot spot has emerged in Suifenhe, on the Russia-China border. The border has been closed and China is working to contain this new outbreak. Russia's response is less clear.
What happens when governments can't or won't provide services in parts of their countries? In some cases, terrorists, insurgents, and criminal gangs have stepped into the void, winning public support. This article from Foreign Policy looks at how various groups -- from the Taliban and Hezbollah to drug gangs in Brazil -- are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/08/terrorists-nonstate-ungoverned-health-providers-coronavirus-pandemic
Seismometers are designed to detect earthquakes, but they also register "the hum of humanity." With much of the world's population staying home at present, humanity's absence is showing up on seismographs around the world and allowing scientists to detect smaller movements of the earth's tectonic plates.
To grasp the scope of COVID-19 related unemployment, this topological map from the front page of the April 10 print edition of The Washington Post shows the percentage of each state's labor force that submitted unemployment claims in the three weeks from March 15 to April 4. In several states, more than 15% of the labor force lost their jobs within three weeks.
What is a birb? A borb? A floof? A gippy? (Or are some of those not nouns? Or even words?) Although this Audubon article is written to educate and amuse bird lovers and potential bird lovers, it also touches on important issues in the philosophy of language, including culturally dependent meaning and Wittgenstein's argument that private language is an oxymoron, that language cannot have meaning without agreed upon terms (e.g., if I say my bird is glippy, how can anyone agree or disagree without knowing what "glippy" means?). www.audubon.org/news/whats-difference-between-borb-and-floof
With hand-washing and hygiene in the news, it may come as a surprise to many Americans that toilet paper is not always flushed after use. This map shows cultural practices (linked to plumbing capacities) regarding the use of toilet paper. brilliantmaps.com/flush-toilet-paper
Practice your U.S. geography: with or without using a U.S. map, try this quiz that pairs two U.S. cities and asks you to identify which one is further north. Be sure to read the interesting factoids that accompany each answer. play.howstuffworks.com/quiz/can-you-guess-which-of-these-two-american-cities-is-furthest-north
Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have been in the news this week, having been hit by a massive late-season Category 5 cyclone. (In the southern hemisphere, the tropical storm season is reversed because the seasons are reversed. In both hemispheres, fall generally brings cooling waters and an end to the tropical storm season.) Lying northeast of Australia, the Republic of Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are both volcanic archipelagos in the region of the South Pacific between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn known as Melanesia. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/Oceania_UN_Geoscheme_-_Map_of_Melanesia.svg/1920px-Oceania_UN_Geoscheme_-_Map_of_Melanesia.svg.png
With elections postponed, freedom of assembly restricted, and surveillance technology in widespread use, this article from Foreign Policy considers one emerging consequence of the novel coronavirus pandemic: an acceleration and normalization of authoritarian impulses. "Over a few short weeks, a third of the world has been placed under lockdown. Soldiers maneuver military vehicles through city centers, police cars broadcast calls for citizens to disperse from public spaces, public announcements are made via drones—and all of it has become normal. The soaring death rate and rapid spread of the disease—overwhelming some of the best public health systems in the world—suggest that this dramatic response is the correct approach. While it may succeed in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, however, the world now faces another danger: that when the virus recedes, many countries will be far less democratic than they were before March 2020. In times of crisis, checks and balances are often ignored in the name of executive power. The danger is that the temporary can become permanent." foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/30/authoritarianism-coronavirus-lockdown-pandemic-populism/
This CityLab article sifts through geographic factors that seem to put some cities and neighborhoods at higher risk for becoming coronavirus hot spots, including not just population density but also having a smaller share of the workforce that can engage in remote work, being a recreational destination, having an older population and/or a higher share of minorities, being a hub in a global supply chain, having a higher degree of religiosity that contributes to large groups gathering to worship, and having more multi-generational living. www.citylab.com/equity/2020/04/coronavirus-spread-map-city-urban-density-suburbs-rural-data/609394/
As schools across the country have transitioned to online learning, it is instructive to look at internet access at home. This map, based on the most recent Census data, shows the proportion of households without internet access, by county. The more orange the county, the higher the ratio of households without internet. (The ratio of households with broadband, which is necessary to run applications like Zoom, is lower still.) www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/map-digital-divide-leaves-millions-isolated-during-coronavirus-panic.html
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