A “mosaic chart” of Middle Eastern relationships
THE rise of Islamic State has upended geopolitics in the Middle East and drawn America’s military back to the region. Though IS is popular among militants, the group has no allies on the political stage, making it even more isolated than the official al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. Our “relationship mosaic” above visualises the rapports among countries, political groups and militant organisations in the Middle East. It provides a quick glimpse of who is friends with whom (albeit a simplified depiction of relationships; the “neutral” category, for instance, embraces a large number of possibilities). The Syrian government is disliked by many countries but supported by Iran and Russia. The Iraqi Kurds count numerous friends and no sworn enemies among the entities listed. And the chart shows the degree to which America needs to play a delicate diplomatic game in holding together allies that may not always be friends with each other.
The New York Public Library is developing an eBook-borrowing system, which includes an app that helps you keep track of books, process, and such. One of the challenges is displaying the covers of available books when many of the works don’t actually have a cover, so NYPL Labs turned to generative covers that could be made on the fly. Mauricio Giraldo Arteaga, in charged of design, explains the process.
How we got to the Scottish referendum
HOW has it come to this? How is it that Scottish independence, once almost unthinkable, may now be just days away? An energetic campaign by the nationalists over the past months is one explanation. But the underlying causes go back much further. They lie in long-term shifts in the Scottish electoral landscape. For decades, the rise of Scottish nationalism was a bourgeois phenomenon—the product of the collapse of the Conservative vote in Scotland (see chart below). This happened in two phases.
First came the discovery of oil in the North Sea in the late 1960s, which gave the secessionist Scottish National Party (SNP) its electoral breakthrough in the two 1974 general elections under the slogan: “It’s Scotland’s oil”. This was almost entirely at the expense of the Tories (for years the stereotypical SNP voter was a dour oil executive). Then came the government of Margaret Thatcher, whose monetarist reforms accelerated the decline of Scotland’s heavy manufacturing base. The effect was similar to that in industrial bits of northern England: it made the…Continue reading
Data journalist Anna Flagg for ProPublica reported on animal species at higher risk of extinction.
Animal species are going extinct anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the rates that would be expected under natural conditions. According to Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and other recent studies, the increase results from a variety of human-caused effects including climate change, habitat destruction, and species displacement. Today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The data has an interesting organization. Think back to sixth-grade science and remember that animals are grouped in a hierarchy of order, family, genus, and species. This hierarchy is represented with horizontal bars on the bottom, vertical line pointers, vertical bars, and elements within each bar, respectively.
Once you get down to the genus level (vertical bars), the interactive gets kind of tough to use unless you search for a specific species. I want some filters or some breakout sections to highlight spots to look at. However, as a tool for those closer to the challenge, this seems like it could be quite useful.
AS WITH the Islamic State (IS), Nigeria’s Boko Haram, another jihadist militia, is fast evolving into a force capable of taking and holding large swathes of territory. In recent months it has rapidly stepped up the scale and ambition of its attacks. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) has tracked its violence since 2009.
Boko Haram caught the world’s attention with its audacious kidnapping in April of nearly 300 girls from a secondary school in Chibok. Over 200 are still missing. The group has also claimed responsibility for devastating bombings in Abuja, the country’s capital, repeatedly striking far from its northeast stronghold in the state of Borno. More recently, the group has changed tack. In August, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared a caliphate after capturing the town of Gwoza in Borno. On September 1st, its forces took control of Bama, the second-largest town in the state and have threatened the nearby state capital.
Grade inflation at Ivy League universities