Guest Posts

On this page you will find valuable posts written outside the main GeoCurrents framework, by guest bloggers.

GeoCurrentcast Episode #8- Central Africa

GeoCurrents is proud to present our eighth installment in the Geocurrentcasts series, an in depth illustrated lecture profiling the history and geography of current global events.

This week’s episode takes us to Central Africa, providing a comprehensive look at the history, linguistic diversity, and geography of the region, using the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a focal point. This comprehensive lecture captures the terrors and tragedies of King Leopold, Rwanda and the Sudan; polarizing figures like Mobutu and Lumumba; the historical meaning of the Rumble in the Jungle; plus everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Chad.

Click here to watch or download this presentation.

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Free Tours of Guantanamo Bay… in Google Earth

Guantanamo and the United States, and One Cashed Rent Check
Today’s post focuses on Guantanamo Bay, and is illustrated with Google Earth.
Please download a free copy of Google Earth, and then download this KML file, as an interactive accompaniment to this Geocurrents post.

Guantanamo Bay was obtained by the United States following the Spanish American war. The natural harbor made it an important staging point for the 1898 invasion of Cuba.
In 1903, with US Warships still docked in the bay, the newly independent Cuban government signed a deal with the United States granting it a perpetual lease on the land.
At the time, what made Guantanamo such a key strategic site for the United States’ ambition for hegemony in Latin America, was the fact that it was the best harbor laying on the Windward Passage, a key shipping lane through the Caribbean to the Panama Canal.

The US maintained control of the area, through a series of treaties: the Cuban American Treaty of 1930 and the Avery Porko treaty of 1934, with the US paying approximately a 2000 dollar a year lease on the land and shared access to the waters. This treaty provided that only US abandonment of the base or mutual agreement would end the stay. For a more heavily detailed version of the terms and geography of this controversy this report from SEMP, will get you up to speed.
The heart of the territorial controversy about the area between the US and Cuba (aside from acquisition through imperial force & that it’s a staging point for torture) can be pinpointed at in the diction used in the top right hand corner of the map below.


The Phrase ‘Reaffirmed in 1963,’ was really only reaffirmed by one side, the United States.
The US State Department has kept the position that Castro’s revolution government reaffirmed the lease by cashing a US check for the land, shortly after taking power. Castro has played this as an early bureaucratic mistake, and has not cashed any checks since. Castro considers the occupation of Guantanamo Bay illegal.
According to Castro, the US Checks are made out to the ‘Treasurer General of the Republic,” a position that does not exist in his government. He keeps the US Checks in a desk, as a souvenir.
The detainment and torture of US prisoners on Cuban soil, is obviously a touchy issue for the Cuban government, and Obama may have realized this during efforts to re-engage with the Cuban Government, taking steps on closing Guantanamo.
Obama has announced plans to move the current detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, a prison with an unused Maximum Security wing. The Prison, once beefed up for the detainees will exceed Supermax status, boasting 15-foot walls, electrified with 7000 volts.
If I may throw a diplomatic idea out here: I suggest that United States return Guantanamo to the Cubans as a bargaining chip to restore benevolent diplomatic relations. This isn’t 1900, we don’t need to scramble to bully the Windward Passage and protect the Panama Canal anymore. The Guantanamo territory was taken in an imperialist war over a century ago, and is an exclave that almost exclusively encompasses US imperialism and torture.


For the Google Earth Portion of this tour, which I linked at the beginning of the article, I suggest you explore not just the topography of the region, but also the inconsistencies in the region.
Much of the Guantanamo Terrain is obscured intentionally in the images, and many of the map overlays I’ve tried with the software are inconsistent. Huge hills jut out of nowhere, showing that there is a geographical cover up, going on with Google Earth in Guantanamo.
The tour will then swing to aerials views of the detainee’s future home, in Thomson, Illinois. No cover-ups there, just corn.
All this has brought me to think that, I could only imagine what would have happened if Khrushchev and Kennedy had Google Earth during the Cold War.

Free Tours of Guantanamo Bay… in Google Earth Read More »

54-40 or Fight, Canadian Bacon, and Vancouver: Land of the Olympics and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh

We’re going to run with the Olympic torch here at Geocurrents, and fill you in on the history and geography of Vancouver, beefed up with 3D Google Earth imagery.

Vancouver is North America’s fourth largest seaport, by tonnage. This owes largely to the geography of the region. The port is nestled away the pacific, by Vancouver Island, and the straits of Georgia, making it the most suitable harbor in the region.

Vancouver was originally home to the Squamish (alternately spelled Sḵwx̱wú7mesh), Tsleil-Waututh, and Xwméthkwyiem peoples of the Coast Salish Language Family. In the late 18th century, Englishman George Vancouver, and Spaniard José Maria Naravez, begun the first wave of European exploration, smallpox, slaughter and indigenous displacement.

The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and Klondike Gold Rush brought large waves of immigrants and prospectors into the city in the 19th century. Opportunities in mining, timber and furs, and manufacturing and attracted a constant flow of immigrants. By virtue of these factor endowments, Vancouver to displaced British Columbia’s provincial capital, Victoria, as the economic powerhouse of the region.

Vancouver’s proximity to the United States also bolstered its Olympic candidacy. Historically, Vancouver began the 19th century as a geographical grey area, administered as the Oregon Country by both the United States and Great Britain up to the border with Russia at the 54th Parallel. US president James Polk, appealed to expansionists with the campaign 1844 slogan 54’ 40 or Fight, but instead settled on the 49th parallel, and brought the fight to Mexico.

Vancouver was part of the extreme US claim for the Northwest, but the US lost its chance at Vancouver with the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which set today’s border at the 49th parallel. Still, expansionists were not pleased, and territorial grey area remained between the US and Canada until the resolution of history’s funniest bloodless, ‘The Pig War.

The Pig War begun in 1859 on the island of San Juan, which with the Canadian city of Victoria to the West, and the American city of Bellingham, to the East, the Strait of Georgia to the North, and the Strait of Juan de Faca to the South. The boar of a Canadian farmer wandered on to the potato patch of an American farmer, so the American farmer shot the pig. The situation escalated to the point where over 2000 British troops, and 500 American troops squared off, but hurled nothing more than insults.

Peace was resolved under President Buchanan, but the territorial disputes between the US and Canada were not finalized until 1871 and, with the Treaty of Washington, and 1872, when an international arbiter under the guidance of Kaiser Wilhelm set the US-Canadian Marine Boundaries near Vancouver Island.

With the most active harbor in the Pacific Northwest, a few gold rushes worth of immigration, and British and American technological innovation, Vancouver had the pieces in place to blossom in to a Olympic host city, nearly a century ago.

Here’s where the fun comes in. For those of you who cannot afford a private blimp ride over the games, I’ve put together a floating satellite image tour of Vancouver in Google Earth.

Start on the tour by downloading Google Earth.

Now download this file.

Happy flying!

The mountain that you’ll see in the tour is Whistler Mountain, 70 miles north of Vancouver. It is a part of the Coastal Mountain Range, which runs up from California to Alaska. The kind folks at Google Earth went so far as to do a 3D panoramic street view for the mountain’s trails, inan update earlier this week.

(Note: Geocurrents is not responsible for any injury incurred during virtual Bobsledding tours)

This Geocurrents tour was largely built around the groundwork done here andherein the Google earth blog and forums, respectively.

54-40 or Fight, Canadian Bacon, and Vancouver: Land of the Olympics and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Read More »

Soccer Diplomacy Keeps Armenia, Azeris, Apart

The UEFA , football’s governing body, switched Armenia from its assigned group for a 2012 tournament, as draw would have guaranteed a matchup withneighbor and rival Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are in a frozen territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is territorially part of Azerbaijan, but has remained under Armenian control since the Nagorno-Karabakh War came to an end in 1994.

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The modern region of Nagorno-Karabakh, was once the province of Artsakh, the eastern flank of the centuries old Armenian empire, with a large number of ethnic Armenians.

This decision by UEFA goes much further than football, it is an attempt to avoid a show off between hooligan’s who would attempt to recreate the Karabakh War or a crusade.

In the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, these linguistic identies have made themselves much more known. Armenia has inched closer towards Russia, while Azerbaijan, a country that is close to 90% Islamic, has recently announced an attempt to de-Russify its citizens’ names.

The rivalry expands into the most obvious channels of popular expression, in both countries. For example, this summer an Azeri citizen was questioned by Azeri authorities on why he voted for an Armenian entrant in the Eurovision song contest.

The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met once again this year in Russia, for the fifteenth straight year, to attempt to clear the Karabakh dispute, and could agree on nothing more than a preamble.

The decision by UEFA to keep Azerbaijan and Armenia from playing each other is childish.If the two countries cannot even be permitted to perform against each other in the football field, what does that say about the prospect of a lasting peace?

If anything, this story does put a new meeting on the term, ‘international friendly match.’

Soccer Diplomacy Keeps Armenia, Azeris, Apart Read More »

Geocurrentcast Episode #6- Iraq, January 2010

Geocurrents.info is proud to present the latest installation in our ongoing Geocurrentcast series of video geography lectures.

This lecture provides a thorough review of regional geopolitics in Iraq, the upcoming census, new developments in the US campaign, and a detailed history of Iraq through today. This is a must watch for anyone interested in the intricacies of the country’s delicate ethnic geography.

Click to watch or download Geocurrentcast Episode 6: Iraq in 2010.

Geocurrentcast Episode #6- Iraq, January 2010 Read More »

The Capital Off with Mo Rocca & Claire

Check out former daily show correspondent Mo Rocca going toe to toe in a battle of world capitals with Claire Calzonetti, a former student of Professor Lewis, and producer for the Joy Behar show.
My favorite part of this, aside from Turkmenistan, is watching Mo jump around like a bunny, giddy with the power that comes with recalling world capitals like as easily as letters in the alphabet.
Enjoy.

The Capital Off with Mo Rocca & Claire Read More »

Geocurrentcast Episode #5- Afghanistan

I am proud to present to all of you the fifth installment in our ongoing series of Geocurrentcasts Video Lectures, which focuses on the history and geography of Afghanistan and the ongoing US Campaign.

Please post questions, feedback, and other relevant discussion on the lecture in the comments section of this post.

Geocurrentcast Episode #5- Afghanistan Read More »

Haiti’s Quake History and Why the Dominican Republic Should Worry

Haiti sits between two massive seismic plates, the Gonave Plate, part of the larger North American Plate, and the Caribbean Plate to the south. The capital, Port Au Prince lies less than 20 km from the Enriquillio-Plaintain Garden Fault (EPGFZ), the a convergence point between the two plates.

This fault is a ‘strike slip fault,’ where there is a deep vertical fracture between the two paltes, and friction is accrued horizontally. The Haiti quake, was caused by the pressures from the eastward motion of the Caribbean plate, which moves as shown in the model below from Purdue University Seismologist Eric Calais.
This model, from Caltech’s Anthony Sladen’s source model, dramatically represents the what happened when these plates unstuck, by showing how the surface of the earth was displaced by the event.

The area has built up seismic tension, since the EPGFZ’s last series of quakes in the mid 18th century. There were three major seismic events in a twenty year span, as the seismic tensions was relieved through a series of quakes. Here is the recent seismic history of the region, via the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences.
Strangely enough, there quakes were predicted a year ago, yet there was little action taken. In 2008 Paper, presentation to the Caribbean Conference, Professor Calais predicted that Haiti was due for a magnitude 7 or earthquake, owing to the seismic pressure the Enriquillo Plantain Garden Fault had accrued a from ‘slip debt’ of over two meters. Take a look at this prediction from Professor Calais, who is earning a reputation as a seismological prophet:

We confirm that the oblique convergence between Caribbean and North America in Hispaniola is partitioned between plate boundary parallel motion on the Septentrional and Enriquillo faults in the overriding plate and plate- boundary normal motion at the plate interface on the Northern Hispaniola Fault. To the east, the Caribbean/North America plate motion is accommodated by oblique slip on the faults bounding the Puerto Rico block to the north (Puerto Rico subduction) and to the south (Muertos thrust), with no evidence for partitioning. The spatial correlation between interplate coupling, strain partitioning and the subduction of buoyant oceanic asperities suggests that the latter enhance the transfer of interplate shear stresses to the overriding plate, facilitating strike-slip faulting in the overriding plate. The model slip rate deficit, together with the dates of large historical earthquakes, indicates the potential for a large (Mw7.5 or greater) earthquake on the Septentrional fault in the Dominican Republic. Similarly, the Enriquillo fault in Haiti is currently capable of a Mw7.2 earthquake if the entire elastic strain accumulated since the last major earthquake was released in a single event today. (Source)


It is important that the world takes Calais’ warning about the Septentrional Fault, with a great deal of Urgency. The fault, which runs through the Northern Dominican Republic is due for a quake even larger than that which occurred in Haiti.
The Dominican Republic should learn all that it can from Haiti’s experience, as they are proverbially walking down a geological hallway with a large kick me sign affixed to their back.
Today’s 6.0 aftershocks, combined with the historical patterns of quakes appearing waves have raised suspicions that this only the beginning of a larger regional alleviation of seismic pressure. The aftershocks are shown below from the USGS’s nifty google earth quake tracker.

Haiti’s Quake History and Why the Dominican Republic Should Worry Read More »

Transnistria–Stranger than Paradise

Ukrainian Foriegn Minister Pyotor Poroshenko and Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat and Vice Prime Minister Iurie Leanca have agreed to an official border demarcation process, for the beginning of the 2010 calendar year.

To nobody’s surprise, the border negotiations were held without a representative from Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, the de-facto rogue state that holds the east bank of the Dniester River, and some parts of the Western bank. In essence, the majority of the Ukranian-Moldovan border, as pictured here:

The state of Transnistria is recognized by only Abhkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops been stationed have occupied Transnistria since the end of the Transnistrian war of 1992. Transnistria has been effectively blockaded by both of its neighbors since, but it still holds vital territorial control over the Dniester River, Moldova’s corridor to the Black Sea.

Ukranian President Victor Yushenko, however, had to cancel his trip to ‘peg driving ceremony,’ to official demark the border, as PMR made it clear that he and his entourage were not welcome to mark a border, agreed on without their consent. Yushenko’s visit was subsequently cancelled by the PMR, who then threatened to interfere with the ceremony.

There is no love lost between Yushenko and the PMR, who are backed by Russian troops. After all, Russophiles have already given Yushenko a treatment of Dioxin poisoning.

While the border confirmation talks have been pushed in their respective nations domestic press as a way to ensure for better protection for Ukranian Minorities in Moldova, and vice versa, the negotiations are trivial without any process on the Transnistiran issue. A breakthrough is unlikely, given the icy diplomatic relations between both Moldova and the Ukraine towards Russia.

The Transnistrian issue is complicated by a near even ethnic split between Moldovans, Ukranians, and Russians in the region, if you’re willing to believe the Transnistrian government.

The near 30-30-30 ethnic split on this chart, is decent evidence that we won’t see a clean resolution of this issue any time soon. Note that the elimination of Jews from the ethnic map, owes to the fact that Transnistria was a concentration camp during the holocaust.

Even with EU pressure to resolve this regional border dispute, it seems 2010 will be another year of political limbo for Transnistria. NATO resolutions in the past on the area, have not budged the conflict, and the Russian Military is unlikely to withdraw.

It’s hard believe that these recent discussions between the Moldovan and Ukranian parties could be anything more than a mutual acknowledgment of the political stalemate, or discussions on how to approach Russia, who “guarantees the protection of its citizens.” As shown here, this is a polarizing issue in the region.

But, if we take a step back, Transnistria has always been a source of geographical comic relief.Take a look at their government’s ten facts to boast about. If they only had more than ten.

Unfortunately for us, the West’s best window in to the Transnistrian calamity has recently closed. The Tiraspol Times, a Pravda styled, English language newspaper focused on Transnistria has ceased publishing. However, you can revisit the glory days of Soviet styled journalism, at through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

The now defunct press, and the coat of arms make Transnistria appear as if it is, in fact the last vestige of the Soviet Union.

Scenic, Tiraspol, where the statue of Lenin still proudly stands in front of the capital. Looks like this going to be there for a while. At the very least, we can hope that the peace holds in Transnistria for another year.

 

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