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The New State of Coastal California?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 25, 2010 | 2 Comments

In 2009, former California legislator Bill Maze proposed dividing his state, hiving off thirteen counties as Coastal (or Western) California (see map). Maze, a conservative from the agricultural Central Valley, objects to the domination of state politics by the left-leaning Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas. The initial impetus for his proposal

Argentina’s Claims to the Falkland Islands, and Much More

By Martin W. Lewis | February 24, 2010 | 6 Comments

The Falkland Islands, known in Spanish as the Malvinas, are back in the news, as Argentina reasserts its claims while objecting to offshore oil exploration in the vicinity by British firms. In 1982 the Falklands made global headlines when Argentina unsuccessfully attempted to militarily wrest control of the archipelago from the United Kingdom.

The Andaman Islands: Cultural Extinction, Paleolithic Survival, and Modern Naval Warfare

By Martin W. Lewis | February 23, 2010 | One Comment

In February 2010, a number of major media outlets reported the death of Boa Sr, the last speaker of Bo in India’s Andaman Islands. Sadly, there is nothing unusual about the extinction of Bo; a language disappears somewhere in the world roughly once a month. Some 500 languages are spoken by fewer than ten

Tribal War and Natural Gas in Papua New Guinea

By Martin W. Lewis | February 22, 2010 | One Comment

With roughly a thousand languages divided into a surprising number of linguistic families, New Guinea is noted for its extraordinary cultural diversity (see map above). The central highlands of New Guinea also form a diversity center of a different sort: that of warfare. Tribal combat remains ubiquitous, especially in the troubled Southern Highland province of

Free Tours of Guantanamo Bay… in Google Earth

By Samuel Raphael Franco | | One Comment

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

Southern Thailand: A Kratom-Fueled Insurgency?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 19, 2010 | 3 Comments

“Four Killed in Insurgency-Plagued Thai South,” reads an all-too-typical Reuters headline from February 15, 2010. The war in southern Thailand’s Pattani region is little noted in the U.S. media, but it continues to generate significant casualties – totaling almost 4,000 deaths over the last six years – as well as major human rights abuses

The Communitarian Nation of Moskitia?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 18, 2010 |

On February 17, 2010, Nicaragua’s La Prensa reported that a local council of elders had asked the people of Nicaragua’s coastal region not to participate in upcoming regional elections. The elders, representing the Miskito Indians, urged noncompliance for a simple reason: they no longer recognize the authority of the government of Nicaragua. In August

DR Congo’s Geographical Challenges

By Martin W. Lewis | February 17, 2010 | 3 Comments

Yesterday’s post outlined the troubled history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today I would like to briefly examine a few of the geographical issues that make it a challenge for DR Congo to function as a country. The first issue is transportation. To say that overland transportation is difficult in DR Congo

DR Congo: A Potemkin State?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 16, 2010 | 2 Comments

The ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo is reputed to be the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. Most observers estimate the death toll at around 5.4 million deaths; some figures put the toll as high as 6.9 million. One controversial 2009 report—from the Human Security Report Project of Simon Fraser University—claims

National Parks of DR Congo: Hippos, Rhinos, Gorillas, and Guerillas

By Martin W. Lewis | February 15, 2010 |

Despite its poverty, lack of infrastructure, and interminable wars, the Democratic Republic of Congo has admirably tried to salvage its national park system and preserve its wildlife. It has not been easy. Since 1994, an estimated 120 rangers have died trying to protect Virunga National Park alone. The existence of large wild areas in

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

By Samuel Raphael Franco | February 14, 2010 |

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

The Republic of Hau Pakumoto?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 12, 2010 |

The globe-spanning European empires of the 1800s were essentially dismantled in the decades following World War II, with one important exception. In the maritime realm, empire lingers in the form of continuing colonial control over small oceanic islands, some inhabited, others not. If one includes the 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zones that sovereign states

Peace Between Sudan and Chad?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 11, 2010 |

On February 9, 2010, the leaders of Sudan and Chad agreed to quit supporting rebel movements in the other’s territory, thus promising to end one of Africa’s proxy wars. They also pledged to discuss mutual development projects along the war-ravaged border. Such initiatives could diminish tensions in western Sudan (Darfur) and adjacent areas in eastern

And the Capital of Sri Lanka Is?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 10, 2010 | One Comment

Perceptive Geocurrents reader Gnesileah noted that the Mo Rocca/Claire Calzonetti “capital-off” contest (posted on January 30) contained a few minor errors. The capital of Sri Lanka is not Colombo, as Mo Rocca had responded, apparently correctly, but rather Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte (usually simply called “Kotte”). Kotte is not far from Colombo, but it is a

Russia’s Changing Demography

By Martin W. Lewis | February 9, 2010 |

In August 2009, Russia recorded 1,000 more births than deaths, the first month of natural population increase in more than 15 years. Russian officials, worried about their country’s declining population, were pleased that their efforts to encourage childbearing were showing signs of success. Overall, however, demography is still a major concern for Russian nationalists