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Articles in Geography in the Media

The Political Regions of Europe and the Fallacy of Environmental Determinism

By Martin W. Lewis | November 8, 2015 | 28 Comments

GeoCurrents reader Rafael Ferrero-Aprato recently brought to my attention an interesting map of political divisions in Europe made by the Dutch electoral geographer Josse de Voogd and reproduced by The Economist in 2014. Josse de Voogd notes the difficulties and limitations in making a map of this sort: “Some countries [are covered] in much greater detail than others and there …

NPR’s Incomplete Story on “Trimmigants” in the California Marijuana Industry

By Martin W. Lewis | December 17, 2014 | 6 Comments

On December 4, 2014, National Public Radio (NPR) ran an interesting story on a severely underreported matter: international seasonal labor migration to the “Golden Triangle” of marijuana cultivation in northwestern California. This report—“With Harvest Season, ‘Trimmigrants’ Flock To California’s Pot Capital”*—captured many of the more intriguing and important aspects of the phenomenon. But it also missed some significant things and …

The New York Times’ Impressive Collection of Iraq/Syria Maps

By Martin W. Lewis | October 20, 2014 | One Comment

As long-time readers of GeoCurrents may have noted, I have rather mixed feelings about the New York Times. I am often critical of Times articles and columnists, and I find the newspaper’s coverage of world events too spotty and incomplete to be satisfying. But I also start off every morning with the print edition, and I can’t imagine doing otherwise. …

Can We Map State Instability?

By Martin W. Lewis | September 28, 2014 | 5 Comments

The previous post showed that the Fragile States Index did not capture the fragility of Syria and Libya on the eve of the so-called Arab Spring. The question is then raised about the performance of other indices of state weakness in this this regard. As it turns out, they did little better.
Consider, for example, the World Bank’s 2010 map of …

The Bizarre World of Thomas L. Friedman

By Martin W. Lewis | February 28, 2014 | 85 Comments

The February 26th print edition of the New York Times featured an intriguing opinion piece by columnist Thomas L. Friedman entitled “Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.” Here Friedman invokes a scheme of global geopolitical division that he evidently developed with his former co-author Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins. This three-fold scheme, designed to replace …

Tiny …. Bolivia?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 21, 2014 | 7 Comments

One of my pet peeves is the journalistic use of the term “tiny” to refer to sizable but generally ignored countries. In my book, to be considered “tiny” a country must be small indeed, something on the order of Malta (316 sq. km or 122 square miles) or perhaps Luxembourg (2,586.4 sq. km or 999 square miles). (For countries smaller still, such …

The Sochi Olympics and the Circassians: A Media Failure?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 7, 2014 | 33 Comments

When lecturing on the Caucasus last fall, I asked my Stanford students if any of them had ever heard of the Circassians. Out of a class of roughly 100 students, two raised their hands. I then told that class that the Circassians had once been an extremely well known if often misunderstood ethnic group, and I predicted that by February …

Robin Wright’s Audacious Remapping of the Middle East

By Martin W. Lewis | October 1, 2013 | 42 Comments

I was taken aback this past Sunday (September 29) by Robin Wright’s colorful map of a politically re-divided Middle East in the New York Times, which illustrated her article “Imagining a Remapped Middle East.” The map, entitled “How 5 Could Become 14,” shows a hypothetical future division of Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia into 14 potential new countries …

Misleading Murder and Rape Maps, and the Sweden Rape Puzzle

By Martin W. Lewis | May 25, 2013 | 15 Comments

The previous post on murder rates in Brazil featured a Wikipedia map of homicide rate by country, based on a 2011 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). That map, reproduced here, is less than ideal, as its highest category lumps together countries with hugely different homicide rates, ranging from 20.1 per 100,000 in Kyrgyzstan to …

Changing Geographical Patterns in British Elections?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 25, 2013 | 13 Comments

An interesting article in this week’s Economist examines Britain’s north/south electoral divide. The south, baring London, habitually votes for the Conservative Party, whereas the north generally opts for Labour. The article, quoting John Hobson, traces the division back to the 1800s, when a “southern ‘Consumers England’ of leisurely suburbs” was opposed to “a northern ‘Producers England’ of mills and mines.” …

The New York Times’ Flubbed China Cartograms

By Martin W. Lewis | April 10, 2013 |

An interesting story in today’s (April 9) New York Times—“Hello, Cambodia: Wary of Events in China, Foreign Investors Head to the South”—is illustrated in the print edition with two striking cartograms of eastern Asia, one of which shows population and the other economic output. The cartogram legends claims that “countries and Chinese provinces are sized according to population” and, respectively …

Preliminary Observations on the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election

By Martin W. Lewis | November 8, 2012 | 11 Comments

Several pundits have claimed that the second major victor in yesterday’s U.S. presidential election was statistician Nate Silver, who correctly picked the winner in every state, thereby seemingly demonstrating the power of Bayesian analysis—when done correctly. In scrutinizing Silver’s final pre-election map, I can find only a few minor instances in which was not fully on-target (Iowa, for example, was …

Why the Indo-European Debate Matters—And Matters Deeply

By Martin W. Lewis | September 13, 2012 | 41 Comments

As expected, we have received a few complaints from friends, acquaintances, and Facebook-followers in regard to the current Indo-European series. “Why get so exercised over a single article,” some ask, reminding us that science is a self-correcting endeavor that will eventually winnow away the chaff. Others question the entire enterprise, wondering why we would care so much about such an …

Geographical Illiteracy in the New York Times

By Martin W. Lewis | August 24, 2012 |

Today’s New York Times features a major article on labor strife in the Bangladeshi apparel industry. The article itself is interesting and, in general, well reported and well written. The accompanying map, however, is laughable. The map purports to show the location of the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone, which it depicts as sprawling over roughly the western third of Bangladesh. …

BRICs, GUTS, and CIVETS?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 8, 2012 |

As explained in a recent GeoNote, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) have now been joined by the GUTS (Germany, United States, Turkey, and South Korea) in another effort to force together a number disparate countries that supposedly share key economic attributes. Add to the list of clever if misleading geo-economic acronyms the CIVETS: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, …

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