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A view of the skyline in Shanghai’s Pudong financial district in 1987 and 2013. (Photos by Carlos Barria/Reuters/China Stringer Network; animation by Zack Stanton for WQ)

China’s 1989 Choice: mixing political repression, market economics, and globalization - WQ

Meet Jamila Bayaz, Afghanistan’s first female police chief:

The 50-year-old mother of five says that she always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a police officer; “I saw it as a way to help people, and I loved the uniform!” she laughs.… 

Bayaz first trained during the Soviet occupation, working as a police officer until Taliban fighters invaded the capital. September 26, 1996, is a day she says she’ll never forget. “When I walked home, I changed from a police officer to an ordinary woman,” she says. “The Taliban stopped everything. It was as if they had stopped life itself.”

Twice she was beaten: once for showing an ankle and another time for taking off her burqa before she entered her house, unaware anyone was watching.

After the Taliban left, she went back to the police force.…

A few miles away from Bayaz’s police station is the Kabul stadium where the Taliban publicly lashed women.

More on Jamila Bayaz at WQ.

We didn’t sign up for nation-building, kept denying that’s what we wanted to do, and in the end stopped trying.
Aaron David Miller in Foreign Policy on the crisis in Iraq — and the American blame game over who is responsible.

Extraordinarily powerful piece by Christina Lamb. Excerpt

As the outside world loses interest in Afghanistan, says Mary Akrami, the Afghan women’s groups once feted by Western donors are all now seeing their funding collapse. “I believed women’s rights were a global issue and thought we had women from all the world behind us, but now I see we’re alone.”

Brave women activists are dreading the departure of foreign troops at the end of 2014.

“We will be the first target,” says Akrami. “If, God forbid, something happens during the transition, we’re the ones on the front line.”

Already, there are signs of progress slipping away.

The ice doesn’t care about politics or Democrats and Republicans; it just melts.
Rear Adm. David Titley (ret.), speaking at the Wilson Center on the security threats posed by climate change. More here.

Above, an alternate angle of the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man.” 

Amazing story by journalist Terril Yue Jones (who took the photo) about what it was like to report from Tiananmen Square in 1989. An excerpt:

A day after the People’s Liberation Army stormed into central Beijing on June 4, 1989 and retook Tiananmen Square from protesters who had occupied the vast plaza for much of the previous six weeks, I stood outside the Beijing Hotel just east of the Square. A frightening pall had settled over Beijing, broken almost hourly by cacophonous volleys from soldiers’ automatic weapons, often aimed at the crowds of onlookers.

People would scatter, but some were hit and quickly carted away by flatbed tricycles. Inevitably, the pressing internal Chinese drive of kan renao, or checking out what is going on, would overcome them and they would return to gawk at the soldiers and hardware that had rolled through their city.

At one point, tank engines could be heard approaching from the Square. Gunfire emanated again, and people fled away from the boulevard. I saw people running and tanks approaching. I lifted my camera, took one photo and scampered away myself.

Only months later did I discover that I had captured an alternate view of one of the most dramatic moments of those weeks: the man with the shopping bags who stopped a line of tanks, which many saw as standing up to dictatorial rule. He came to be called the “Tank Man.”

More from WQ here.

Signs we need to improve the amount (and quality) of science coverage in media:
In a March 2011 survey, two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name a single living scientist 
From 2007-2010, science/technology/environmental topics accounted for only 3% of all news stories (and only 2% in 2011).
Though 87% of scientists support the idea, only 32% of the U.S. public believes in natural selection playing a role in evolution
While 97% of scientists agree, only 41% of the U.S. public believes that climate change is caused by human activities.
Louise Lief, on why this matters:

If people do not know scientists or understand how they work, it follows that they are unlikely to make informed choices on public policy issues or support basic scientific research to address vital issues like climate change and conservation.

More about Louise’s project to improve science in journalism here.

Signs we need to improve the amount (and quality) of science coverage in media:

  • In a March 2011 survey, two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name a single living scientist 
  • From 2007-2010, science/technology/environmental topics accounted for only 3% of all news stories (and only 2% in 2011).
  • Though 87% of scientists support the idea, only 32% of the U.S. public believes in natural selection playing a role in evolution
  • While 97% of scientists agree, only 41% of the U.S. public believes that climate change is caused by human activities.

Louise Lief, on why this matters:

If people do not know scientists or understand how they work, it follows that they are unlikely to make informed choices on public policy issues or support basic scientific research to address vital issues like climate change and conservation.

More about Louise’s project to improve science in journalism here.

mapsbynik:

Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading

Quick update: If you’re the kind of map lover who cares about cartographic accuracy, check out the new version which fixes the Gulf of California. If you save this map for your own projects, please use this one instead.

Map observations

The map tends to highlight two types of areas:

  • places where human habitation is physically restrictive or impossible, and
  • places where human habitation is prohibited by social or legal convention.

Water features such lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains are revealed as places where it is hard for people to live. In addition, the mountains and deserts of the West, with their hostility to human survival, remain largely void of permanent population.

Of the places where settlement is prohibited, the most apparent are wilderness protection and recreational areas (such as national and state parks) and military bases. At the national and regional scales, these places appear as large green tracts surrounded by otherwise populated countryside.

At the local level, city and county parks emerge in contrast to their developed urban and suburban surroundings. At this scale, even major roads such as highways and interstates stretch like ribbons across the landscape.

Commercial and industrial areas are also likely to be green on this map. The local shopping mall, an office park, a warehouse district or a factory may have their own Census Blocks. But if people don’t live there, they will be considered “uninhabited”. So it should be noted that just because a block is unoccupied, that does not mean it is undeveloped.

Perhaps the two most notable anomalies on the map occur in Maine and the Dakotas. Northern Maine is conspicuously uninhabited. Despite being one of the earliest regions in North America to be settled by Europeans, the population there remains so low that large portions of the state’s interior have yet to be politically organized.

In the Dakotas, the border between North and South appears to be unexpectedly stark. Geographic phenomena typically do not respect artificial human boundaries. Throughout the rest of the map, state lines are often difficult to distinguish. But in the Dakotas, northern South Dakota is quite distinct from southern North Dakota. This is especially surprising considering that the county-level population density on both sides of the border is about the same at less than 10 people per square mile.

Finally, the differences between the eastern and western halves of the contiguous 48 states are particularly stark to me. In the east, with its larger population, unpopulated places are more likely to stand out on the map. In the west, the opposite is true. There, population centers stand out against the wilderness.

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Ultimately, I made this map to show a different side of the United States. Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are. I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country’s population geography.

I’m sure I’ve all but scratched the surface of insight available from examining this map. There’s a lot of data here. What trends and patterns do you see?

Errata

  • The Gulf of California is missing from this version. I guess it got filled in while doing touch ups. Oops. There’s a link to a corrected map at the top of the post.
  • Some islands may be missing if they were not a part of the waterbody data sets I used.

::

©mapsbynik 2014
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Block geography and population data from U.S. Census Bureau
Water body geography from National Hydrology Dataset and Natural Earth
Made with Tilemill
USGS National Atlas Equal Area Projection

sci-universe:

53 years ago today (April 12), Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, became the first human to travel into space and change history, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth.

So on April 12, Gagarin, who turned into an international celebrity and hero, is being commemorated for paving the way for future space exploration by the International Day of Human Space Flight (Cosmonautics Day).

I really recommend looking him up. There’s so much to know about him and the history-making flight.

My favourite thing is probably the landing to an unplanned site: A farmer and her daughter observed the strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later recalled, “When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don’t be afraid, I am a Soviet citizen like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!”

Happy International Day of Human Space Flight!

(via howstuffworks)

20 years after Rwanda’s genocide, a line worth repeating from Roméo Dallaire. 

Full video from his 2004 interview at the Wilson Center is here

This is what democracy looks like.

The incredibly inspiring sights of Election Day in Afghanistan on Storify

A mother shouldn’t go bankrupt because her child needs surgery but 100 million households – families – go bankrupt a year because of health expenses.
There is no silver bullet for resolving [climate change]. A better approach might be silver buckshot: a lot of initiatives with the idea that some will make progress and others won’t.
Nations often enter watershed eras without fanfare, the segue unnoticed until years later. Saudi Arabia has already entered such an era…

Just how big is China? 

In this super-cool-nerdy interactive from The Economist, China’s provinces are matched with the countries closest in population size (and a host of other measures, too).