The Mapping Police Violence project has assembled an impressive array of geographic data on police violence in the U.S. For example, police in 8 of America's 100 largest cities, including Reno, Oklahoma City, Anaheim, and St. Louis, kill black men at a higher rate than the U.S. murder rate. And that killings by police are increasing in rural and suburban areas but decreasing in urban areas. One can compare data by state, check the records of specific departments, and more. mappingpoliceviolence.org/
Election season ratchets up attention to media ethics. Is journalistic objectivity possible? Is even desirable? Are appeals to emotion via human interest stories good or bad for democracy? Beyond coverage, how should journalistic ethics impact media decisions about accepting advertising? How might artificial intelligence and "deep fake" videos challenge newsrooms? The Media Ethics Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin has dozens of case studies to consider. mediaethicsinitiative.org/
The Tour de France starts today in Nice. Here is the map of the official route: https://img.aso.fr/core_app/img-cycling-tdf-jpg/tdf20-carte-seule-30x40-uk/19147/0:0,820:801-1640-0-70/e4ac9 The official site also shows mileage and details about terrain and towns traversed for each stage: www.letour.fr/en/overall-route.
What do you know about ocean geography? Take this 24-question quiz to find out: www.usefultrivia.com/geography_trivia/ocean_trivia.html (For any students interested in the National Geographic Society geography bee, please note that although I, personally, consider the answer to #2 correct, NGS considers the world to have four oceans.)
Unlike some neighbors, Spain and Portugal do not have any major natural barriers, like high mountains or an expansive desert, separating the two countries. Hence researchers tracking two species of vulture native to the Iberian peninsula, the griffon vulture and the black vulture, were surprised to find the vultures spend a lot of time on the Spain side of the border but very little time on the Portugal side of the border. The reason why turns out to be a matter of political geography not biogeography: nearly 20 years ago, in an effort to stop the spread of mad cow disease, the European Union issued a directive calling for immediate burial or incineration of cows that died in the field. Portugal has continued to abide by the directive; Spain abandoned it a few months after it was issued. The vultures have figured out all the tasty cow carcasses are on the Spain side of the border. bigthink.com/strange-maps/why-do-vultures-care-about-the-spanish-portuguese-border
UN data show that more than 9,600 objects have been launched into space since Sputnik. But over the next decade, countries and companies -- including SpaceX, Amazon, and Facebook -- may be putting an additional 57,000 satellites into orbit. "You may not know it yet, but the world is in the middle of a new-age space race. There has been an explosion in the volume of technology being launched into orbit that is unlike anything ever seen in the era of humans in space. In the last five years alone, almost a quarter of all objects ever sent into space were launched. But unlike at the dawn of the space era, when the superpower nations of the Soviet Union and the United States raced to the Moon, this time it’s billionaires fighting for profits in orbit. ... With so many new operators in space and even more satellites, there are fears that entire orbits could be rendered unusable as the risk of satellite collisions increases. ...Today space above is a sea of thousands of active and decommissioned satellites. ... Crashes in space are not only extremely costly, but they also leave behind huge amounts of orbital debris that can hurtle through orbit at incredible speeds for thousands of years in some cases. ... Currently, there is no international code forcing countries or companies to clean up debris or take measure before launching to make sure they are not adding to the debris problem." www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-07/spacex-amazon-satellites-scramble-for-space-around-earth/12512978
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting an "extremely active" hurricane season this year. But heat waves kill more people in the U.S. than any other weather-related event. An international coalition of researchers is now advocating naming heat waves, the way meteorologists name hurricanes, in order to draw the public's attention to the risks posed by extreme heat. www.sciencenews.org/article/hurricanes-names-heat-waves-climate-health
College students across the country are starting classes, some online and some in person. This topological map from The Wall Street Journal shows the number of out-of-state students that generally attend colleges and universities in each state -- represented by the size of the gray circle (using fall 2018 data) -- and the proportion of those students who come from states with worse COVID-19 infection rates -- represented by the gold circle (using Aug. 2-16 data). New York, for example, attracts a large number of out-of-state students, the majority of whom would normally be coming from states with worse infection rates than New York's. Florida also attracts a large number of out-of-state students, but given Florida's high infection rate from Aug. 2-16, those students would be coming from states with lower COVID infection rates. (from www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-quarantine-rules-complicate-college-move-in-11597743008.)
This piece from Philosophy Now (UK) argues that a post-COVID world requires something better than a return to normal.
"The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and iniquities. Now, if ever, is the time for radical reflection on how we got to the terrible state we’re in; and, indeed, to look beyond our parish boundaries to a global world order that at present seems to be designed to further enrich the rich and impoverish the poor, and think of post-pandemic reconstruction. As Benjamin Tallis and Neil Renic argue in ‘Building a Post-Coronial World: Lessons from Germany’ (Open Democracy, April 22nd 2020), we should not aim for a return to ‘business as usual’, “instead we should learn from social transformations ushered in by past pandemics and man-made disasters. The provision of public health, socialized medicine, the New Deal, the welfare state, and the Marshall Plan, were all radical responses to radically changing circumstances. Today, the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 offers a similar opportunity to remake our world for the better.”
"What changes are needed? An obvious target is what Sheila Smith has called ‘termite capitalism’. The ‘termites’ are a sub-group of the wealth extractors, posing as wealth creators, who make money out of moving money around. Their activities have resulted in the global phenomenon of private equity destroying businesses that once provided real services and manufactured real goods. There are also the modern slave-owners who build nine figure fortunes while exploiting their employees. Hiding their ill-gotten gains from the taxman, they’re free riders on the civilization built and maintained by others. And in a globalised economy, the inequity within nations is replicated in the inequity between nations."
This map, from Storygardenz, attempts to place some of the Western world's most famous stories in their geographical context (from www.storygardenz.com/about).
Those interested in learning more about American history and the history of slavery in the U.S. might want to spend time with the Library of Congress's Slave Narratives, a digitized archive of photos and oral histories from people who had been enslaved. During the Depression, the Federal Writers' Project paid out-of-work writers to record first-person accounts from former slaves until the project was shut down when funding ran out in 1939. www.loc.gov/collections/slave-narratives-from-the-federal-writers-project-1936-to-1938/
In late 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, and the Soviet republics became 15 independent countries. All 15 countries have had "elections" -- including, most recently, Belarus, where thousands of people have taken to the street to protest the Aug. 9 election in which the president who has been in power since 1994 received 80% of the vote. But as this geo-graphic, based on data from the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, shows, none of the former Soviet republics (except the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) score above "limited" in assessments of their transition to democracy and a market economy. Belarus is "very limited." www.statista.com/chart/22584/post-soviet-democracy
Recent shipping-related disasters in Beirut and Mauritius are generating calls for the UN to intervene on behalf of a floating oil storage tanker anchored outside Yemen's largest port, Hodeidah. The 44-year-old single-hulled tanker, carrying more than 1 million gallons of crude oil, was effectively abandoned in 2015 during Yemen's civil war when Houthi rebels took control of Hodeidah, on Yemen's Red Sea coast. The Houthis and the government both claim the tanker, carrying perhaps $80 million worth of oil. After the ship's engine room began taking on water earlier this year, a temporary fix was applied, but without further maintenance the ship has been characterized as a "time bomb," at risk of exploding or sinking, either of which would be devastating for Hodeidah and for Yemen, which imports nearly all of its food. www.maritime-executive.com/article/outcry-grows-after-beirut-and-mauritius-for-action-on-yemen-oil-tanker
On April 1, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered cruise ships in U.S. waters to be sequestered indefinitely to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of earlier this month, more than 12,000 crew members remain stuck on cruise ships in U.S. waters, most unable to go home because of travel restrictions. According to a report by USA Today, the Coast Guard continues to track "57 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a U.S. port." www.usatoday.com/story/travel/cruises/2020/08/08/cruise-ships-us-have-12000-crew-members-amid-covid-19/5574288002/
The U.S.-Canada border has been effectively closed due to COVID-19 since March 31. But Canadians, considered some of the world's most polite people, are reportedly getting irritated by Americans entering illegally. (After some acts of vandalism and intimidation, the premier of British Columbia asked Canadians to "Be Calm. Be Kind.") This recent geo-graphic from The New York Times, which shows the number of new COVID cases in the last month, gives some insight into why Canadians do not want Americans crossing the border. Adjusted for population, the U.S. had roughly 18x as many new COVID infections as Canada. (From the print version of www.nytimes.com/2020/08/06/us/coronavirus-us.html.)
Looking for a book on logic and critical thinking? Philosopher Alan Lavin is making his book Thinking Well available for free online. You can check it out or download it from the link on his website: www.alav.in/thinking-well/
Canada's last intact ice shelf, the second largest in the Arctic, has collapsed, losing more than 40% of its area in just two days in early July, satellite images show. The Milne ice shelf was on the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island, northwest of Greenland. (Despite its remote location, Ellesmere is the world's 10th largest island.) www.severe-weather.eu/global-weather/milne-ice-shelf-collapse-canada-mk/
National Geographic is offering a range of free Learn at Home resources, from exploring exotic locales to environmental science, mapping, and data interpretation projects:
The Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, considered part of Africa, usually derives much of its income from tourism, with its pristine beaches and coral reefs being the big draw. For the last six months, though, tourism has plummeted, and now Mauritius faces what may be a more long-lived threat to its tourism: heavy bunker fuel spilling out of a Japanese tanker that ran aground on a reef off Mauritius's east coast and is beginning to break apart. This map shows the tanker's route heading to Brazil from Singapore through the Strait of Malacca and across the Indian Ocean straight into a coral reef: specials-images.forbesimg.com/imageserve/5f32255b76f5a4d456105eb2/960x0.jpg Mauritius has declared a state of emergency, and residents are trying to stop the oil with homemade booms of hair, straw, tights, plastic bottles, and sugar cane leaves. (The map is from a great Forbes article on how satellite technology is being deployed in this situation: www.forbes.com/sites/nishandegnarain/2020/08/09/how-satellites-traced-the-fateful-journey-of-the-ship-that-led-to--mauritius-worst-oil-spill-disaster/#7db02e345b42.)
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently, and unexpectedly, issued notice that satellite imagery of Israel and the Occupied Territories will no longer be blurred out. This article from Foreign Policy looks at the background of the policy change and its implications for human rights, archaeology, science, technology, civil society, and more.
"For the past two decades, there has been a general—and mostly unchallenged—understanding that satellite imagery is restricted over Israel and the Palestinian and Syrian territories it occupies. This was due to a 1996 U.S. regulation known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment (KBA) which has limited the quality and availability of high-resolution satellite imagery produced by U.S. companies covering Israel (and by implicit extension, the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Golan Heights). The result is that publicly available imagery on platforms such as Google Earth has been deliberately coarse and blurred. On June 25, following two years of sustained pressure from academia and civil society, the 97-word KBA was unexpectedly reformed, making higher-resolution satellite imagery legally accessible and readily available to all. ... Israel, driven by a desire for Cold War secrecy, lobbied Congress for stricter regulation, which led to the passing of the KBA: the U.S. government’s only censorship of imagery of any part of the world. The legislation, implemented under the guise of protecting Israel’s national security, was actually more an act of censorship. After all, high-resolution satellite imagery allows researchers to understand, identify, and document landscape changes. ... For 24 years, the legislation obfuscated the damaging effects of the Israeli occupation by literally hiding them from view. The censorship over Israel and the occupied territories has had negative archeological, geographical, and humanitarian implications. Arguably the most glaring of these has been its effects on monitoring the decades long Israeli occupation—including documenting home demolitions, territorial disputes, and settlement growth. Lower-resolution imagery has forestalled efforts to challenge and verify human rights violations, especially in hard-to-reach areas such as the Gaza Strip...."
Oceans also have food deserts: regions where nutrient levels are too low to fuel the growth of phytoplankton or any other life. Consequently, there is very little organic matter to sink through the water column or settle on the seafloor. Researchers studying one of these ocean food deserts -- the abyssal plain 3700 to 5700 meters beneath the South Pacific Gyre -- were surprised to find microbes in the sediment of this food desert, some more than 100 million years old, that began to metabolize and reproduce when supplied with nutrients. www.sciencenews.org/article/ancient-seafloor-microbes-woke-up-after-over-100-million-years
This geo-graphic from The Washington Post shows the proportion of businesses closed, by state, between March 1 and July 10. Hawaii and Nevada, both heavily reliant on tourism, have been the hardest hit. North and South Dakota, by contrast, have seen the fewest relative business closings. www.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/GLOKDHEWMBHRBD2JUZ3ZRY4OMM.png&w=916
Interested in ethical issues related to artificial intelligence? UNESCO recently launched "a global online consultation on the ethics of artificial intelligence, to give everyone around the world the opportunity to participate in the work of its international group of experts on AI. This group has been charged with producing the first draft of a Recommendation on the Ethics of AI, to be submitted to UNESCO Member States for adoption in November 2021. If adopted, it will be the first global normative instrument to address the developments and applications of AI. ... UNESCO is convinced that that there is an urgent need for a global instrument on the ethics of AI to ensure that ethical, social and political issues can be adequately addressed both in times of peace and in extraordinary situations like the current global health crisis." You can read more about this initiative, including a draft recommendation, here: en.unesco.org/news/unesco-launches-worldwide-online-public-consultation-ethics-artificial-intelligence
This topological map, based on data from the Forbes World Billionaires List, shows the world's 35 richest women, by continent, and lists the source of their wealth. howmuch.net/articles/wealthiest-women-in-the-world
Do you know a high school student interested in issues related to human rights? The Kemper Human Rights Education Foundation is sponsoring an essay contest for high school students in the U.S. and around the world on the intersection of governments' responses to the coronavirus pandemic and human rights. Essays are due by Dec. 10 (Human Rights Day). For more information, see khref.org/2020-essay-contests/
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