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Puerto Ricans Appear to Endorse Statehood in Referendum

By Nicholas Baldo | November 9, 2012 | 3 Comments

Lost in the extensive coverage of the 2012 U.S. Election is the recurrent and important issue of Puerto Rico’s relationship to the U.S. On Tuesday, the Puerto Rican electorate appeared to endorse statehood in a two-part non-binding referendum.

Rising Bihar Asks for “Special Category” Status

By Martin W. Lewis | November 6, 2012 |

The Indian state of Bihar has long been noted for its poverty, corruption, and lack of social progress, ranking last in most Indian developmental indicators. But Bihar now has one of India’s fastest growing economies, and its levels of corruption have recently plummeted. Less pronounced gains have also been made over much of northern India. As a result, the impoverished BIMARU region (BIhar, MAdhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh) is now considered to be defunct

Separatism in French Polynesia

By Nicholas Baldo | October 17, 2012 | One Comment

As previously noted on GeoCurrents, the political entities that comprise the French Republic exhibit a multitude of different administrative designations with varying legal responsibilities. One such possession is French Polynesia, which was officially designated an “overseas country” in 2004, though legally its status is indistinguishable from that of France’s other overseas collectivities.

Local Elections Conclude in Bosnia and Herzegonvina

By Nicholas Baldo | October 10, 2012 | 2 Comments

Preliminary results are in for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s October 7th local elections. The elections went smoothly and without irregularities, but many fear that the results may fan the flames of ethno-nationalism and separatism in the fragile country’s political discourse.

Hyperinflation Strikes Iran

By Nicholas Baldo | October 5, 2012 | 3 Comments

The world’s next hyperinflation episode appears to be underway in Iran, with potentially far-reaching political consequences. Officially, Iran pegs its currency—the rial—at 12,260 to the dollar. In early 2012, black market exchange rates began to diverge sharply from the 12,260 peg, eventually hovering at nearly double the official rate.

Indo-Australian Plate Rent Asunder Beneath the Ocean

By Nicholas Baldo | September 28, 2012 | 3 Comments

In April 2012, two massive earthquakes hit northern Sumatra. The earthquakes—one of magnitude 8.2 and the other 8.6—were far in excess of what one would expect to encounter many miles from a tectonic plate boundary. Indeed, “strike-slip earthquakes”, where pieces of crust rub against each other laterally, had been completely unknown in the area before the two quakes.

Bavarian Separatism and the Franconian Issue

By Martin W. Lewis | | 6 Comments

Bavarian separatism, a long-standing if still rather minor political movement, is finally getting some attention in the global media, thanks to the recent publication of Bayern kann es auch allein (or Bavaria Can Also Go It Alone), a book described by Canada’s Maclean’s as a “191-page polemic covering a range of standard Bavarian complaints about the present German (and European) political order and a paean to the benefits and glories that await an unfettered Free State of Bavaria.”

Honduras Moving Ahead with Private Cities

By Nicholas Baldo | September 26, 2012 |

To most development economists, the key to economic success lies in the creation of good institutions, be they schools, corruption-free agencies, or the like. In 2010, the New York University Business School economist Paul Romer made quite a splash in the field by arguing that in countries where good institutions are lacking, new “charter cities” should be built and run by outside entities under their own laws as semi-sovereign entities.

Argentina’s Mounting Economic Troubles

By Martin W. Lewis | | One Comment

Economic pressures and uncertainties are again mounting in Argentina. Moody’s recently downgraded the country’s credit rating, and on September 24 the International Monetary Fund threatened it with sanctions if it does not produce “acceptable” economic data by December. The Argentine government has been accused for the past year of manipulating its economic reports to hide its true rate of inflation.

Catalan Secession Looming?

By Martin W. Lewis | September 25, 2012 |

Fear are mounting that Spain will face a new secession crisis after the government of Catalonia called for a snap election on November 25, which is widely seen as a referendum on enhanced autonomy if not outright independence. The move came shortly after the Madrid government rejected Catalonia’s demand for greater autonomy on taxation issues. Desire for political separation is growing in the region, as evidenced by massive (600,000+) pro-independence demonstrations in Barcelona earlier this month.

India to Send Tank Brigades to the China Border

By Martin W. Lewis | September 20, 2012 |

India’s military recently announced that it would deploy two tank brigades to guard the country’s border with China, one to be stationed in Ladakh (in northeastern Kashmir), and the other in the north Sikkim Plateau. As Business Standard reports, “Such formations, equipped with main battle tanks and BMP-II infantry combat vehicles, are traditionally used for striking into enemy territory.”

El Monte’s “Gangnam Style” Embarrassment

By Martin W. Lewis | September 19, 2012 |

City slogans are almost always upbeat, but the positive messages that they are meant to convey are sometimes contradicted by the policies enacted by their own city governments. Such is the case in regard to the southern California town of El Monte (population 113,000), which advertises itself with the motto: “Welcome to Friendly El Monte.” Lately El Monte has been anything but friendly to its own employees. In a case that is getting international attention, the city fired 13 lifeguards and a swimming pool manager for making an innocent spoof video of the global YouTube sensation “Gangnam Style” in the municipal pool, despite the fact that they did so on their own time, using their own resources

Self-Rule and Environmental Crisis in Ogoniland

By Nicholas Baldo | September 18, 2012 | 2 Comments

In recent months, relations between the Ogoni people of Rivers State in southeastern Nigeria and the government have come under intense pressure. On August 2nd, a group of Ogoni led by Goodluck Diigbo of the pro-autonomy Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) declared their sovereignty in internal affairs while stopping short of secession.

The Advantages of Darkness in Northern Chile

By Martin W. Lewis | |

In early October, the Noche Zero conference in the Atacama region of northern Chile will bring together lighting designers, urban planners, government officials, and astronomers concerned about the effects of “light pollution” and the resulting disappearance of stars from the night sky.

From Drought to Floods in South Asia

By Martin W. Lewis | September 17, 2012 |

The all-important summer monsoon of South Asia has given weather and climate forecasters, as well as news reporters, a wild ride this year. In late June, Reuters hopefully reported that India’s crucial monsoon rains were “expected to be average in 2012, … helping to allay concern over farm output triggered by sparse rainfall in the last few weeks.” Such concerns, however, only deepened, and by late July, news sources were reporting that “with drought conditions prevailing in most parts of India, Monsoon 2012 is set to be the worst in the last 65 years.”

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