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November 6, 2007

Meet the Mascots

jingjing.jpg

The Beijing Daily newspaper reported this weekend that nearly 3,500 children recently born in China have been named after the upcoming Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in Beijing this summer. But the Olympic fever doesn't end there. Another 4,000 have names that come from the Fuwa, the five official 2008 Olympic mascots, who were "designed to express the playful qualities of five little children who form an intimate circle of friends." The Fuwa include Beibei (a Fish), Jingjing (a Panda), Huanhuan (an Olympic Flame), Yingying (a Tibetan Antelope) and Nini (a Swallow).

The "Five Friendlies," as the Fuwa are also known, have surprisingly well-developed personalities. Consider:

Jing Jing (pictured): Jingjing makes children smile — and that's why he brings the blessing of happiness wherever he goes. You can see his joy in the charming naivety of his dancing pose and the lovely wave of his black and white fur. As a national treasure and a protected species, pandas are adored by people everywhere. The lotus designs in Jingjing's headdress, which are inspired by the porcelain paintings of the Song Dynasty (A.D.960-1234), symbolize the lush forest and the harmonious relationship between man and nature. Jingjing was chosen to represent our desire to protect nature's gifts — and to preserve the beauty of nature for all generations. Jingjing is charmingly naïve and optimistic. He is an athlete noted for strength who represents the black Olympic ring.

2008 Beijing Olympics: Olympic Mascots

November 2, 2007

All the Way from China

Linfen_pollution.jpg Though "China's Great Grab" dates from 2006, the Chicago Tribune special report is still relevant and thought-provoking. It examines the global consequences of China's rise as an economic giant through the flow of three commodities: cashmere, timber, and oil.

Of the three, I knew the least about the cashmere industry. Apparently the increase in cheap cashmere apparel in the U.S. correlates with greater numbers of cashmere goats in China. The goats are allowed to overgraze the land, which when combined with a long-term drought, speeds up the process of desertification. That in turn leads to giant dust storms, the effects of which can be seen all the way across the ocean, first on the West Coast and eventually into Maine.

Photo: "Pollution" by sheilaz413. Description of the photo reads "An elevated view of one of Linfen's main streets. Linfen has been named by some organizations as the dirtiest city in the world."

October 23, 2007

"A Patchwork of Jurisdictions and Rights"

The Territory of the United States...is the best way to describe the "territory" of the United States, according to mapmaker Bill Rankin, proprietor of the marvelous Radical Cartography.
As the subtitle suggests, what I think emerges isn't a unified system of territoriality, but a hodgepodge of different attitudes toward the land and its inhabitants. Different areas under U.S. control have very different relationships to government, both in terms of democratic representation and in terms of land control. (I also show all the areas of the world -- land and water -- that are, or were, influenced by the U.S. government using equal-area projections.)
This is a unique and fascinating way of visualizing a lot of different information, from the big North American territorial acquisitions of the 19th century to modern-day military installations around the world. My only complaint? There's no option to purchase a big, glossy, full-size printout to hang on the wall at World Almanac HQ. Kinko's, here I come!

Link: U.S. Territory (Radical Cartography)

May 22, 2007

China's Business Relationship with Sudan

Sudan_divest.jpgMutual fund company Fidelity Investments recently sold off most of its U.S. holdings in PetroChina. The significance of that action lies in the following fact, which the Financial Times points out:
China National Petroleum Corp, PetroChina's state-owned parent company and the country's largest oil and gas enterprise, owns the largest single share in the consortium that dominates Sudan's oil industry, in partnership with other foreign investors.

Investors in holding company Berkshire Hathaway, on the other hand, have voted not to divest shares of PetroChina. A commentary posted on Berkshire Hathaway's Web site states that the company does not believe "divesting our PetroChina holdings would in any way have a beneficial effect on Sudanese behavior" and the ongoing atrocities occurring in that country.

Links:
"Darfur Activists Claim Fidelity Success" (Financial Times)
"Should Berkshire Divest PetroChina?" (The Motley Fool)
"Commentary as to Berkshire's Holdings in PetroChina Company Limited" (Berkshire Hathaway)

Previously: Visualizing Genocide

Photo: Sudan Divestment Rally in New York City, 3/10/07, by Genocide Intervention Network.

April 27, 2007

Visualizing Genocide

Crisis_in_Darfur.jpgFor those not yet initiated into Google Earth, a new feature might make the software worth checking out.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum recently unveiled Crisis in Darfur, which it created in collaboration with Google. The first project in the museum's Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative, Crisis in Darfur intends for users "to visualize and better understand the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. The Museum has assembled content—photographs, data, and eyewitness testimony—from a number of sources that are brought together for the first time in Google Earth."

The project allows people through Google Earth to see the location of damaged and destroyed villages, track the sites of refugees and internally displaced persons, and access links to photos, videos, and testimonies from the genocide. (Via National Geographic News)

Links:
Google Earth (free download)
Crisis in Darfur (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
C. Alan Joyce's previous blog entry, "Internally Displaced Persons, 2006"

Image: Screenshot of Crisis in Darfur layers loaded into Google Earth.

April 17, 2007

Internally Displaced Persons, 2006

IDP_2006.jpgJust out from The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council: Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2006.
By publishing this report, the IDMC hopes to raise awareness of the still often-overlooked plight of some 25 million people internally displaced by conflict and persecution and to draw attention to existing gaps in response at both the national and international level.

[. . .] The year 2006 saw a sharp increase in the number of people newly uprooted by conflict, with the Middle East particularly hard hit by new internal displacement. As the global internal displacement crisis worsened considerably, the international community continued its efforts to set up a functioning system capable of responding to the needs of internally displaced persons in a timely, predictable and comprehensive manner when national governments are not able or willing to do so. Although progress was made during the year to establish an improved response mechanism – the so-called cluster approach – in a few of the worst humanitarian emergencies, implementation of the new approach remains a challenge.

Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2006 (Full report, 3.8MB PDF)
Internally Displaced People Worldwide 2006 (Map, 534k PDF)

February 7, 2007

The World From Another Point of View

worldprocessor.jpg C. Alan Joyce's earlier entry on the Worldmapper project reminded me of something similar that I'd seen. Worldprocessor (1988-2005), a project by artist Ingo Günther, is a collection of more than 300 globes that map different data.

Globes might reflect such data as "Landlocked Nations" and "Refugee Currents" (where the width of arrows indicates the relative amounts of refugees between countries). Some of his globes are more playful. "Hannover" shows places named Hanover after the German town. And, of course, what collection of globes would be complete without "Blank," literally an image of a blank globe?

Link: Worldprocessor

Previously: "'The World as You've Never Seen It Before'"

February 1, 2007

"The World as You've Never Seen it Before"

That's the tag line for Worldmapper, a novel approach to visualizing global data, and a collaborative project of a group of cartographers, social scientists, and other experts at the University of Michigan and the University of Sheffield. From a recent article on The Daily Telegraph website:
"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," said Prof Danny Dorling, of the University of Sheffield, one of the developers of Worldmapper, a collection of maps — cartograms — that rescale the size of territories in proportion to the value being represented.

On the maps of public health spending, research expenditure and wealth, Africa appears tiny. But in those that show global malaria cases and the deaths due to drought, Africa appears enormous.

You'll find a year's worth of maps on the site, spanning categories from income and housing to pollution and "destruction." Each map is also accompanied by a brief summary of the topic, plus links to labeled territory and population maps, data sheets in Excel or Opendoc formats, and even a downloadable PDF poster showcasing the map and some of its key data points.

Choose a topic, and you're bound to find something interesting. I was struck by two maps, which are as good a place to start as any:

map_childlabor.jpgChild Labor (at left): "Nine of the ten territories with the highest proportions of child labourers are in Africa. . . . The map shows that most child labour occurs in African and Southern Asian territories. India has the highest number of child labourers, twice as many as China where the second highest population of child labourers lives."

map_toyimports.jpgToy Imports (at right): "Most imports of toys (US$ net) are to the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. Toys are fun but not necessities. Thus toy imports give an indication of disposable incomes. The lowest imports of toys (US$ net) per person are to territories in Africa and also Tajikistan (in the Middle East)."

Link: Worldmapper

January 10, 2007

(Micro)nation for Sale

sealand.jpgIf you've ever dreamed of owning your own island, why not consider upgrading your dreams to owning your own country? The Principality of Sealand, which we noted in the "Nations" chapter of the 2007 World Almanac, is for sale. The "micronation" is a steel and concrete installation located about seven miles off the English coast in the North Sea. It was built as an anti-aircraft platform during World War II. After the war, the English Royal Navy abandoned the fort, and it remained abandoned until Paddy Roy Bates claimed it in 1967, declaring himself prince.

At the time, the English border extended only three miles off the coast (later expanded to 12 miles, in 1987). Neither the British government, nor any other country, has ever recognized Sealand's independence. Sealand, however, established its own constitution, national anthem, passports, currency, and stamps.

The Bates family no longer permanently resides in Sealand. Roy's son, Michael Bates, has put Sealand up for sale. A Spanish real estate firm has listed Sealand at 750 million euros (approx. $970 million).

The Principality of Sealand (Official site)
Real estate listing for Sealand (in Spanish)

Photo of Sealand (yes, that's the whole "nation") from Octal's Flickr stream (CC)

About Nations

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Nations category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Military is the previous category.

Personalities is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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