Author name: Chris Kremer

Revamping French Guiana for the World Cup and Olympics

Although Brazil has received ample press attention in its scramble to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games, its neighbor French Guiana has also started drawing up plans to host athletes competing in the two sporting events. The overseas region of France will expand its sport, tourism, and transportation infrastructure in order to attract elite athletes to train there for the games. Earlier this month in London, the government-sponsored group GIP Guiana 2014-2016 promoted the region as a convenient, safe, and scenic place for foreign teams to train away from the hustle and bustle of the main competition venues.

The French government will spend about €35 million ($43 million) over the coming three years on projects that will include the renovation of two soccer stadiums in Rémire-Montjoly and Kourou, as well as the construction of new sports facilities. Future high-end training centers will include an Olympic-grade running track, a swimming pool, and a gym for martial arts, which together would accommodate athletes competing in up to 20 different Olympic events. In addition to a new transport system, French Guiana will also build new hotels, with a capacity of up to 4,000 visitors.

Government officials hope that these activities will boost the economy of French Guiana, which like the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and the African island of Mayotte, is considered an integral part of the country of France. The construction jobs and tourism that the project will generate should reduce the region’s unemployment rate of about 20 percent. After the next Olympics, the new stadiums would provide a venue for the cultivation of sports talent in French Guiana, which has a youthful population and many cultural affinities with the Caribbean. Even though the region is considered politically equal to any other in the country—it sends representatives to the French legislature and is part of the EU and Eurozone—it has a much lower standard of living than metropolitan (European) France. While the highest in South America, French Guiana’s GDP per capita is slightly less than half the national average, and the economy is highly dependent on government subsidies and the presence of the European Space Agency’s spaceport.

The effort so far has been promising. Twelve countries are already considering using the country’s facilities, and GIP Guiana 2014-2016 has received advice from the London Olympic authorities about planning for the infrastructural challenges of hosting thousands of athletes and their coaches.


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The Geography of American Baby Names

Websites designed to help expectant parents find the perfect baby name abound on the Internet, offering statistics on the most popular names by year and sometimes by country or state. A few sites, such as The Baby Name Wizard and, even have maps of name popularity past and present for each American state. While these maps may be helpful for future parents, they also yield fascinating insights about American demography and culture.

For example, the interactive maps from The Baby Name Wizard showing popular Spanish boys’ names suggest not only greater concentrations of Spanish speakers in states such as California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida, but also the growth of Latin American immigrant communities in the United States over the past five decades. A collection of thumbnail-sized maps about the popularity of the name “Jose” from 1960 to 2009 shows blue patches darkening across the Southwest as well as spreading northward and eastward, indicating its increasing frequency and implying expanding prevalence of Spanish. In 1960, Jose was the twelfth most popular boy’s name in Texas and the fifty-first in California; in 2009, it was the single most popular in Texas and the fifteenth in California. Both states, along with others where many infants receive Spanish language names, also have large Hispanic populations.

Baby Name Wizard makes note of regional trends with a map that breaks America down into groups of states with similar naming patterns. The website’s creator, Laura Wattenberg, states that even though certain names are popular throughout the country, some are much more common in some states than elsewhere. Examples of regions include the Spanish South, which includes Texas, California, and Florida; the so-called neotraditional states of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, where “Molly,” “Julia,” and “Nicholas” are popular; and the Creative Fringe, where “Nevaeh” (“heaven” spelled backwards”) and “Josiah” are more common. On, searches for the names “Edward” and “Peter” provide some further evidence for the claim to a neotraditional region. While baby boys throughout the United States received these names in 1960, they more often were given them in the Northeast. By 2009, for example, “Edward” and “Peter” had dropped off the list of the top 100 names in most states, though they remained in New York, New Jersey, and parts of New England.

Both websites’ maps demonstrate that even while Americans have become ever more mobile, baby name trends retain unique, regional flavors. Unfortunately, the maps limit viewers to popularity at the state level and to statistics about the most common names. Even more fascinating would be maps showing statistics at the county level or about less common names, especially ones popular in different immigrant communities.

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TAPI and Turkmenistan’s Natural Gas

While known mostly for its isolation and repressive government, Turkmenistan has some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. In hopes of increasing gas exports, the country will start promoting its TAPI pipeline project at international shows in London, Singapore, and New York. The pipeline will deliver gas via Afghanistan to Pakistan and India—the first letters of their names are the project’s initials—and will reduce Turkmenistan’s dependency on exports to Iran and Russia, which currently buy much of its gas. The project, in the works for over a decade, was put on hold when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and the potential for greater instability after America’s military exit has cast doubts over construction plans for the pipeline. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan plans to start supplying gas to Pakistan and India by 2016 and 2018, respectively.

Though the former Soviet republic remains diplomatically aloof, it gladly cooperates with foreign governments and companies to export its gas. Besides courting India and Pakistan, which would receive 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas from TAPI yearly, it has also attracted interest from Bangladesh. The European Union is considering Turkmen energy imports as well because it hopes to reduce dependency on Russia, which has occasionally withheld gas during disputes with Ukraine over pipeline ownership. The proposed Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline would bypass Ukraine and Russia, bringing Europe gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Turkmenistan already exports gas to China via the Central Asia-China pipeline and may more than double deliveries to 65 bcm to meet its trading partner’s growing energy demands.

For all its economic potential, Turkmenistan continues to have major political problems. The previous president not only aggressively quashed political opposition but also created an extravagant personality cult. Having adopted the title Türkmenbaşy (“leader of all Turkmen”), President Saparmurat Niyazov erected large golden effigies of himself across the country and promoted his autobiography Ruhnama as the nation’s spiritual guide. The current president, who is one of the pipeline’s greatest proponents, may be trying to create a personality cult of his own.

Though the United States has openly objected to the country’s human rights abuses and lack of democratic institutions, it has also shown interest in developing Turkmenistan’s natural resources and supporting the TAPI pipeline project. America’s government is concerned that Pakistan will satisfy its energy needs with natural gas from Iran, which has begun construction on its own pipeline to Pakistan and India, if the TAPI project is further delayed. As the United States has had decades-long diplomatic tensions with Iran, it finds Turkmenistan a preferable alternative energy source for Pakistan.

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Environmental Problems in the Solomon Islands

The mostly rural and relatively poor Solomon Islands faces many environmental problems, which development of the country’s small mining sector may soon exacerbate. The expansion of human settlement, agriculture, and timber harvesting has led to deforestation, while blast fishing and the illegal exportation of exotic birds have frustrated conservation efforts. The country has rampant political corruption, which prevents effective environmental policy, and has been recovering from a violent past. In 1999, civil war broke out between the indigenous people of Guadalcanal and migrants from the island of Malaita, and in 2006, native Melanesian Solomon Islanders rioted against the small but economically influential Chinese community.

Although extraction from the small Gold Ridge mine dropped precipitously during the civil war, the Australian company Allied Gold has purchased rights to the mine and plans to greatly increase production. The company has hired over 500 local employees and plans to operate for at least the next ten years, predicting that its gold will eventually make up as much as a third of the country’s GDP (current GDP per capita is $3,200). Though additional mines may not open soon, other firms plan to expand into the Solomon Islands to extract gold and copper. Anglogold Ashanti, the Newmont Mining Corporation, Axiom Mining Ltd., and the Sumitomo Corporation have all shown interest in the country.

As opposed to nearby countries such as Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands has historically produced few minerals. Though its mines may not be as lucrative as its neighbors’, the country could receive great economic benefits from attracting international mining firms, as the last decade of unrest has repelled many foreign investors. China’s large appetite for minerals has made the development of new mines especially profitable. However, open pit mines cause deforestation and can release poisonous chemicals into the water supply.

The experiences of nearby countries portend the possible downsides of mineral extraction. In an extreme case, phosphate revenues temporarily gave the Micronesian island state of Nauru the highest GDP per capita in the world—until the trust fund holding the nation’s mining profits declined sharply in value. Today, the country is in a state of severe economic and environmental distress and has become heavily reliant on foreign aid. There are already worrying signs in the Solomon Islands that the Allied Gold has evaded paying taxes by misrepresenting the amount of gold it has extracted. The Malaita Ma’asina Forum suspects that the company may even further avoid paying the government by merging with another Australian mining company.

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The Poor State of Child Services in Nunavut

The far northern Canadian territory Nunavut has recently instituted health and social services reforms in response to high rates of child abuse and mortality. The territorial government has established a new Department of Family Services and will soon begin an ambitious child health monitoring program. Although Canada overall has a high standard of living, sparsely populated and largely Inuit Nunavut is relatively poor and suffers from widespread social problems, especially ones that affect minors. In addition to prevalent alcoholism and a rise in once uncommon diabetes, the territory faces infant mortality rates three times as high as the Canadian average. Nunavut’s troubling child health statistics resemble those of the country’s Inuit areas at large, where child mortality rates are five times higher than average, and youths are 30 times more likely to commit suicide.

Due to limited resources, the territory’s government has had serious difficulties providing adequate childcare. For example, a recent report found that Nunavut’s Health and Social Services Department performed satisfactory criminal background checks on less than half of prospective foster parents. It also revealed that one third of social worker positions are vacant, meaning that some communities have no family councilors at all. Poor childcare has led to high levels of youth crime, an incidence of violent child abuse ten times higher than the rest of Canada, and a high school graduation rate of 40 percent (the national average is 75 percent).

“Our Children,” the territorial government’s new health program, intends to create a youth welfare database useful for future health care policy. Besides tracking health statistics, the program will also collect other related information, such as family income, nutrition, and home life. While other places in Canada have been using such systems for decades, Nunavut’s program will track children for much longer, following them from when they are in the womb until they are school-aged.

However, comments on a news article about the new system cast doubts about the government’s ability to solve Nunavut’s health problems. Some readers, apparently residents of Nunavut, were concerned about privacy, while others worried that the government would be too incompetent to administrate “Our Children” effectively. One reader wrote, “I know that sounds simple but they are talking about Nunavut, it’s like the Bermuda Triangle for information, stuff goes in and gets written down but it never leaves and nobody can ever find it.”

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Excellent State and Local Maps from Neighborhood Scout

Neighborhood Scout, mentioned in a previous post, offers a wealth of local real estate-related maps about the United States. Subscriptions to the website are meant for prospective homebuyers looking for detailed neighborhood statistics, but the free version provides general users with quick indicators of social and economic development in the U.S. The website shows that even nearby locales can differ drastically in crime and education, as well as that the locations of otherwise less desirable neighborhoods can greatly raise their property values.

For example, relatively poor East Palo Alto contrasts sharply with the surrounding towns in Silicon Valley. On the public education map, the town stands out in light blue against its more darkly colored neighbors, as its schools apparently score much lower on the website’s education formula. East Palo Alto also has more crime, though the difference is not as sharp. Both factors make the town’s home values much lower than those of others in the area. Compare its median house value of $550,399 with those of Palo Alto ($1,386,451), Atherton ($1,809,723), and Mountain View ($952,899).

Still, the average house in East Palo Alto is worth significantly more than the average in California or the United States, putting the town in one of the highest median house value categories on the map. For example, the numbers for Dorris, in remote Siskiyou County, and Death Valley, both in the lowest category, are $104,246 and $53,623, respectively. Though the map’s coloring belies the great disparity between East Palo Alto and its neighbors, it also shows how much value the town’s Silicon Valley location adds to its houses.

Neighborhood Scout’s maps also reveal striking differences among the towns and cities of Connecticut, which has some of America’s most affluent suburbs, as well as its poorest and most crime-ridden cities. Fairfield, one of the most prosperous counties in the United States, has many wealthy towns with highly rated public schools. Yet, it also includes the relatively poor city of Bridgeport, which several decades ago saw a sharp decline in its once thriving manufacturing. Both the maps of overall house value and education show a great contrast between the city and nearby towns. An examination of its neighborhood maps reveals that even Bridgeport has great internal disparities. The city’s richer areas, on the border of the relatively wealthy towns of Fairfield and Trumbull, appear to have vastly better schools and lower crime rates than its poorest parts.

Just like East Palo Alto’s location in Silicon Valley, southern Connecticut’s proximity to New York City greatly increases its property values. For example, the median house values in Stamford and Monroe, both in the highest categories, are $639,560 and $471,397, respectively. Compare Stamford and Monroe’s numbers with those of Darien and Weston, which both have house values well over $1,000,000 and are also in the highest category. The short commute to New York makes otherwise less desirable locales highly attractive.

Unfortunately, the free version of Neighborhood Scout restricts access to much of its data and does not allow for side-by-side comparisons of towns at the neighborhood level. Nevertheless, the website offers convenient and highly geographically detailed information about education, crime, and property values.

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Extremist Political Violence in Germany

Although Germany is far more politically stable than it has been over much of the past century, it has recently experienced a rise in crimes linked to radical politics. According to a government investigation , the number of reported criminal extremist activities increased from last year by 3.8 percent to 21,610. Though domestic Islamic extremism poses the greatest threat and receives ample media coverage, neo-Nazi and revolutionary communist violence, which gets much less press attention, has become a growing problem. Neo-Nazis direct the majority of their attacks against immigrants, and communists direct most of theirs against police officers. Both groups also target each other.

Germany’s far right owes much of its ideology to the Third Reich, but it has thrived and evolved because of current economic dissatisfaction and popular resentment of immigration. The most prominent neo-Nazi party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), holds seats in thirteen local parliaments and attracts at least a small following in most states. The NPD opposes immigration, capitalism, European economic and political integration, and military involvement in Afghanistan. Though it stems from the German Reich Party, which formed in the aftermath of the Second World War and was based in West Germany, the NPD has since reunification received the most votes in the states of former East Germany. Residents of eastern Germany tend to have a significantly lower standard of living than their counterparts in the west. Because of widespread economic frustrations and a hatred of foreigners, the eastern states of Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Thuringia, and Brandenburg lead the country in their support of the extremist right-wing party.

Though the NPD is the most visible far-right group in Germany, it by no means has a monopoly over neo-Nazism. A significant neo-Nazi subculture has formed around distinctive black attire and shaven heads, heavy metal concerts with white supremacist bands, and marches for extremist causes. Though at times peaceful, the activities of the far right can often become violent and are closely monitored by the government. The number of potentially criminal neo-Nazis rose in 2011, their violent offenses increasing by about 1.5 percent to 16,142. Again, per capita neo-Nazi violence is concentrated in eastern Germany. The region’s recent rise in violence coincided with the uncovering of the National Socialist Underground, a cell of rightists who had committed multiple murders over the course of the past decade.

Germany’s far right may be better known to the outside world, but the country’s greatest surge in political violence has been on the far left. In 2011, violent crimes by leftists increased from the previous year by 20 percent. Like their neo-Nazi counterparts, Germany’s revolutionary communists have had a relatively long history, but have altered their ambitions somewhat with the times. Today’s far left activists share the radical egalitarianism and anti-capitalism of late 20th century militant groups such as the Red Army Faction. However, their organization is less sophisticated and, instead of focusing on high-profile targets in government and industry, they mainly direct their attacks on the police and members of the far right.

The rise of leftist extremism is associated not only with the economic problems that plague the states of former East Germany, but also with gentrification and other social frustrations in urban areas. The highest concentration of violent crimes committed by communists was in major cities—Bremen, Berlin, and Hamburg—and more broadly in eastern Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Unlike the neo-Nazis, the revolutionary communists do not have a party of their own. Though there are several far left parties, the more powerful ones include more moderate factions. All said, most communist organizations lack any substantial support. As one political commentator notes, the revolutionary communists of Germany receive much less scholarly and media attention than neo-Nazis, and so their organizations are less well understood. One reason for this, he suggests, is that certain left-leaning politicians and academics either side with the radicals or worry that highlighting the dangers of revolutionary communists might damage the image of mainstream left-wing causes.

The troubling increase in neo-Nazi and communist violence points to lingering popular anger. German politics is nowhere near as volatile as it was in the past. However, growing economic problems in Germany and the European Union will most likely only exacerbate such frustrations.

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Growing Tensions over the Paracel Islands

Mounting tension in the South China Sea has been amply documented in the mainstream media. However, reporting often does not adequately cover the situation’s geographical complexity, as the geopolitical tussles work out differently for the Sea’s various archipelagos, isolated islands, and reefs. Whereas all or parts of the Spratly Island are claimed by seven different countries, the Paracels are claimed by only China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The Paracel dispute, like those elsewhere in the South China Sea, has recently intensified. In late June, Vietnam restated its claim to sovereignty over the islands. China soon responded with the establishment of a prefectural level city that is meant to govern the Paracels along with the Spratlys and Macclesfield Bank.

The Paracel Islands have few natural resources, but sovereignty brings a large Exclusive Economic Zone with fisheries and potential oil and natural gas reserves. Vietnam and China both stake their claims on historical grounds. But as the archipelago has always had few or no inhabitants, determining past control is difficult. French Indochina took possession of the islands in 1932, and ownership passed onto South Vietnam after decolonization. As the Saigon regime approached collapse in 1974, China seized the islands, ousting Vietnam’s military garrison and establishing its own.

Competition over potential hydrocarbon deposits heightens diplomatic tensions. The state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation recently announced that it would take bids to explore contested waters near Vietnam. In turn, Vietnam soon extended contracts to India to look for submarine gas in areas claimed by China. Though Indian efforts so far have been unsuccessful, Vietnam probably sees a lengthened contract as a diplomatic tool against China.

The two country’s recent actions in the South China Sea are most likely aimed at gaining domestic support for their respective governments. Beijing seeks to enhance government popularity during the transition process between President Hu Jintao and his successor. The growing ruckus over the Paracel Islands also reflects recent trends in the South China Sea as a whole. Since April, China and the Philippines have wrangled over Scarborough Shoal, without any sign of resolution.

Disputes over the islands of the South China Sea have historically fluctuated between violent confrontation, as seen in China’s seizure of the Paracel Islands, and glimmers of reconciliation, as seen in the Bali East Asia Summit last year. As suggested by one recent report, such fluctuations owe in part to China’s lack of a regular policy toward the South China Sea across all levels of government. Though China’s civilian authorities are sometimes conciliatory, its military leaders are often more bellicose. The growing presence of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region may help prevent China from militarily asserting its South China Sea claims, but tensions between China, Vietnam, and the other disputing countries may increase in the short term.

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The World According to Canada and Texas

The portrayal of other countries in the humorous map “How Typical (Central) Canadians See the Rest of the World” contrasts sharply with the global vision found in its counterpart about Texans. Though it lacks geographical precision, the map about Central Canadians’ attitudes, found on the Canadian creator’s blog, effusively praises different countries for their natural beauty, the friendliness of their people, and their historical significance. Meanwhile, the map from the perspective of Texans, originally from a British website but also found elsewhere, has vastly greater geographical distortions and angrily and ignorantly belittles most of the places that it includes.

The first map attempts to show the common worldview of the residents of Ontario and Quebec in Central Canada. These two provinces account for much of the Canadian population and tend to be more politically left-leaning than other parts of the country. The map’s creator makes a clear effort to distinguish the views of Central Canadians from those of Americans, labeling Cuba with “where Americans hate, but we love,” and labeling Europe with “It’s so nice we’ve got peace-keepers here – I bet the average American doesn’t even know half of you guys!” However, like farcical maps from the American perspective, this map crudely lumps together certain countries that have little in common. For example, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and insular Southeast Asia are grouped together as a single region, as are India, Southwest Asia, and the Caucasus.

The map from the perspective of Texas presents a much more insular and cranky view of the world. Texas occupies the center of a large, flat landmass apparently floating in outer space. The creator has labeled Mexico with an insulting slur and derisively named a mass that resembles Oklahoma as “Tarnation.” “The North” erroneously includes London as part of the “Feds,” and England has been misplaced below the Gulf of Mexico, labeled in the map as “The Sea.” These features, along with the note over the water, “Used to be called the meditrainian in olden times,” suggests that Texans hold geographical assumptions that are so ignorant and backward that they resemble those of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who had only a rough understanding of the world beyond the Mediterranean.

Canadians and Texans are commonly thought of as standing on opposite ends of the spectrum of global visions in North America.


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Indonesia’s New Defense Deals

Indonesia, a relatively poor, highly populated country that is diplomatically independent and active, has recently agreed to several new joint military efforts with the United States, Australia, and China. On a visit to Darwin, Australia, the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono concluded a defense agreement with Australia and stated his desire for military cooperation between his country and the United States, among other powers.Not long before that conference, Indonesia had performed joint anti-terror military exercises with China, whose greatly expanding armed forces and growing international clout have caused tensions with the United States.

While Indonesia has historically been wary of foreign powers, it has also had difficulty coping alone with natural disasters and ethnic and religious insurgencies. At the same time, securing the favor and strategic cooperation of Southeast Asian countries has become an important American foreign policy goal in the increasingly influential Asia-Pacific region. Indonesia criticized the creation of new American military bases in Darwin as risking greater tension between the United States and China. However, the country also participated in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) joint military exercises this summer, as it has in previous years, and is proposing to cooperate with America and other countries to carry out disaster relief military exercises.

Indonesia will also soon conclude new defense agreements with Australia, including the heavily subsidized sale of several military planes and a commitment to cooperate on disaster relief and other peacetime military endeavors. Australia regards stable relations with Indonesia as a chief security priority but has had difficulty obtaining them. Over the past several decades, Australian militaryrelations forces have intervened in nearby countries, including in East Timor, where they fought against pro-Indonesian militias. In recent years, Australia has sought better relations, increasing aid to its Southeast Asian neighbor and creating new student exchange programs. According to the Australian government, “The relationship between Australia and Indonesia has never been stronger.”

Although Indonesia has cooperated with the United States and Australia, it has also recently performed military exercises with China, which has chafed at America’s new strategic interests in East and Southeast Asia. China has both criticized American-led multilateral war game events such as RIMPAC and accused the United States of attempting to prevent its rise. However, China has engaged in similar joint military activities. Special Forces of China’s People’s Liberation Army, for example, recently undertook anti-terror exercises with their counterparts from the Indonesian National Armed Forces.

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Mining in Yukon

Yukon, Canada’s westernmost territory, has few people but generates much mining revenue. Protected forest habitats cover large swaths of Yukon, and many people, like those in Canada’s other two territories, trace at least part of their ancestry to the area’s indigenous peoples. Statistics Canada, the Canadian government’s official website for national demography, reports that 25 percent of the territory’s 30,190 people identified as “Aboriginal.”

Though Yukon has the second smallest population of any first order territorial subdivision in Canada and only 0.1 percent of the Canadian population, it has the third highest GDP per capita in the country. A gold rush attracted many prospectors in the late 19th century and mining has for many decades been one of the territory’s major industries. While the government has succeeded mining as the primary employer in Yukon and tourism has become a cornerstone of the territory’s economy, mineral extraction brings in much income, and exploration for gold, silver, copper, nickel, lead, and zinc, among other minerals, remains highly successful.

“Mining Yukon”, a slickly designed website created by the territorial government, touts the many advantages of mineral extraction . According to the website, Yukon boasts “80 mineral deposits…some of which are world class in stature,” as well as 2,600 different known sites of various minerals. It also provides excellent geological and land use maps, such as the one appearing at left.

Mineral exploration continues to create economic optimism in Yukon. Strategic Metals Ltd., the self-described “pre-eminent explorer and claimholder” in the territory, announced in late May the potential for promising gold mines. Many of the potentially mineral-rich sites that the company is exploring are located in eastern Yukon, which already produces large quantities of gold and copper. Strategic Metals generates revenue from 160 land holdings across the territory and owns substantial shares in other Yukon mining firms.

Another mineral extractor in Yukon, Ethos Gold Corp, has found potentially large gold deposits. The CEO of Ethos recently stated, “We are excited to have made several new and substantial gold discoveries during the first drill test program on the Betty Property which is confirmed to have potential to host large gold deposits.” Ethos owns a very substantial 1,020 square kilometers of land in the territory.

The profitability of Yukon’s minerals, along with its highly lucrative tourism—much of it from adventure-seeking Germans—means that the otherwise largely isolated territory receives substantial traffic from the outside. Mining companies rely on highways linking the territory to its neighbors, including Alaska. Flooding in mid June of this year caused consternation for both truckers hauling tungsten and gold and residents who were used to dining at Tim Hortons and eating imported food items.

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“Mapping Stereotypes” Farcical Maps

Yanko Tsvetkov’s farcical Mapping Stereotypes series humorously represents the views that people of various countries, mostly in Europe, hold of other nations. Many of the maps from the Bulgarian graphic designer label Europe’s countries with stereotypes that people of different nations in the region hold about them. Examples of such maps include “Europe According to Italians” and “Europe According to Bulgarians.” Particularly entertaining are the maps that deviate from this pattern, such as “Italy According to Posh Italians,” “The World According to Israel,” and “The World According to Americans.”

The labels in the European maps that make up the bulk of the series offer intriguing geopolitical perspectives. “Europe According to Germany,” for example, evokes Germany’s greater pre-World War II territorial extent, referring to the Baltic states as “old neighbors.” In “Europe According to Russians,” Eastern Ukraine, which has a predominant Russian population and favors Russia in foreign policy, carries the tag “Southern Russia.” In the same map the Russian clientstates of Abkhazia and South Ossetia appear as “brothers” and “sisters,” respectively. The map of France’s view of Europe labels Algeria as “France woz here,” alluding to the country’s former status as a part of France, but neglects to include the erstwhile colonies of Morocco and Tunisia.

“Italy According to Posh Italians” is of particular interest. This map highlights the frustration of many in the wealthier north that their disproportionate tax payments help support the poorer south. Sicily and southern Italy appear with the demeaning labels “Somalia” and “Ethiopia,” respectively. “The World According to Israel,” one of the few non-European maps from Mapping Stereotypes, portrays the country as self-centered, placing it in the middle of a diagram reminiscent of a schematic of the solar system. The map represents Iran as rogue space debris and the United States as a planet orbiting close to Israel, on which the disputed territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights appear as “sun spots.”

The collection includes several maps from the perspective of the United States. These echo the themes found in similar farcical maps, sharing the ascription of communism to Russia, mass-produced goods to China, and AIDS to Africa. However, some of the labels seem uncharacteristic of an American perspective. While the maps mock American ignorance of the world, they in certain cases presuppose detailed geographical knowledge in the American public at large. It seems unlikely that the person who would associate the country Turkey with a “Thanksgiving meal” or refer to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as “Kwpzsfrstan” and “Szwrkstan” would be knowledgeable enough to associate the Tupamaro movement with Uruguay. The same map also labels Indonesia as “Mesoindia,” a term that makes little sense.

Mapping Stereotypes is an impressive collection of farcical maps that, while sometimes unusual and confusing, offers a great range of insights into how different peoples view the world.

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Public Education and Ethnicity in Connecticut

Connecticut race and ethnicities concentrations

Connecticut Race and Ethnicities ConcentrationsConnecticut has stark contrasts in prosperity and social development, including educational quality. The map showing the percentage of students of color in Connecticut school districts demonstrates that a handful of urban areas have high concentrations of people of color, while many of the school districts in the state have mostly white students. Unfortunately, it was impossible to locate the source of the map about students’ race and ethnicity, but the 2010 United States Census reflects many of its statistics. A comparison between this map and a recent map of the best performing school districts in Connecticut from suggests that lower performing districts tend to have higher percentages of students of color. The issue of segregation in the state’s public schools came to the fore in the Connecticut Supreme Court case Sheff v. O’Neill. The case was decided in 1996 in favor of the plaintiff, who argued that the dfacto inaccessibility of good public education to students of color amounted to a civil rights violation.

Connecticut school districts quality

Note that students of color are concentrated in three heavily populated cities: Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. Likewise, note that the cities of Waterbury, New London, New Britain, and Stamford, which is my hometown, have the next highest numbers of students of color—50% to 70% of enrolled students. Outside of these seven urban areas and the town school districts colored in yellow, orange, and blue, at most only 10% of students in enrolled in Connecticut public schools are non-white. Also, some of Connecticut’s highest performing public schools are in Darien, Weston, New Canaan, and Avon, which are indicated on the race and ethnicities map in grey; meanwhile, some of the state’s lowest performing public schools are in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. Relative wealth constitutes one large factor in school performance disparities. New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford are poorer than towns such as New Canaan, Darien, and Weston, which are located in Fairfield County, the county with the seventh highest per capita income in the United States. That said, in towns such as Union and Canaan, which are more rural and have lower median household incomes, students of color represent at most 10% of the enrolled students and scores on state standardized tests are lower. Since the quality of Connecticut’s school districts reflects to a great extent the property taxes and per capita income of its residents, the two Connecticut maps show a correlation between not only race and education but also between race and income.

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“The World According to Finns” Farcical Map

The World According to Finns

The World According to Finns

Just as the maps entitled “The World According to Americans” and “The American World” poke fun at geographical prejudices in the United States, “The World According to Finns” offers a farcical representation of geographical prejudices in Finland. Like the other two “World According to…” maps, it not only glorifies the country whose perspective it is supposed to represent, but also assigns mostly disparaging labels to other regions and countries of the world.

Note that the creator has directed the message “Please don’t come to Finland,” at Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, source areas of most of the recent immigrants to Finland. According to the map, Finns tend to view Southwest Asia as an area of “crazy people”; the region spanning India, China, and Southeast Asia as a source of inexpensive workers; and the United States as a “lazy,” “idiotic,” and “evil” country. Likewise, the map depicts Latin America as a wooded wilderness, Sweden as a land of rampant social liberalism, and Norway as an unduly lucky country. The creator starkly labels Western Europe (oddly, including the Balkans) as “good,” while depicting Eastern Europe in an entirely negative manner. The map also suggests that Finns view Russia with suspicion and alarm, as the country is labeled “Ruskies!!” and colored red, no doubt for Russia’s communist past.

Other curious features include the labeling of a greatly exaggerated Canary Island(s) as “Finland’s Disneyland” and Estonia as “Finland’s Disneyworld.” Finally, note that the creator has labeled the entirety of Africa with a single, racially degrading slur.

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“The American World” Farcical Maps

“The American World” belongs to a genre of maps that make fun of the geographical ignorance and prejudices of people from different countries. These maps are usually made by Internet users and crop up on blogs, forums, and social networking websites. They often have titles like “The World According to India,” or “The World According to Americans.” While some of the prejudices in “The World According to Americans” maps may be familiar to a mainstream U.S. audience, those found in maps that claim to represent the perspectives of other peoples can offer some surprising insights about how others see the world.

On the first map, note that the distorted landmasses are very roughly divided into world regions. According to the creator, Americans tend to see Europe as cultivated and soft, South Asia and East Asia as mostly industrial, Canada as woodsy and provincial, Southwest Asia as oil rich and war-torn, and Africa (which has black and white stripes reminiscent of those of zebras) as lacking any interest. Australia’s labeling as “Big Island (Hawaii ?)” is probably a jab at Americans’ general geographical ignorance. Most unusual is the red strip labeled “Don’t go here.” Could it be North Korea? If so, it is far too south.

“The World According to Americans” map has many similarities with “The American World.” As on the previous map, the American flag is superimposed on the United States and is coupled with a noisily patriotic exclamation, “AMERICA!!!1 WE’RE #1!!!!!” Also similar is the disparaging tag placed on Europe, the reference to Asia as an industrial zone, the view of Southwest Asia as violent and war-torn, and the labeling of Canada as “uninhabited.” Africa, which is floating free of Eurasia, is insultingly depicted as a land of “zoo animals.” Besides the anachronistic labeling of the former lands of the Soviet Union as “communists,” the circular blob representing Southeast Asia is oddly labeled “more evil doers”. While the cartographer may be referring to Muslim fundamentalist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyya in Indonesia, it is unlikely that the average America—whose view this map supposedly represents— would have any knowledge of such groups.

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