Monday, August 25, 2014

The United Kingdom would be the Poorest State Besides Mississippi if it Joined the United States, Kind of Sort of

The British Spectator magazine has an interesting article which claims the United Kingdom would be the second poorest state in the union (with Mississippi being the poorest).  The author uses gross domestic product per capita and purchasing power parity to back up this claim.

So is this claim true?  By its own system: yes.  However, this is where lies, dang lies, and statistics come to haunt us.  Under this system Alaska and Wyoming come out as the richest states in the union?  Why, because there are less people in the state, cost of living is relatively low, and there are a few very rich people there which skew the average.  While the theory is true with GDP and PPP, ask yourself, is Wyoming better off economically than the United Kingdom.  The BBC could probably hold a Doctor Who fundraiser and buy out both these two states.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Islamic State, and Nothing Else

Back in June I wrote how the al Qaeda-breakaway group rampaging throughout Iraq and Syria should be referred to in English as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and not ISIS.  Now it is time to update that post.

The group should now be referred to the literal translation of الدولة الإسلامية‎: Islamic State.  The organization has established a political theocratic state based on the Mohammad-era war Caliphate model.  It also now claims worldwide control of all Muslims.  It no longer considers itself limited to Iraq and the Levant.

Just as we recognized the name change from al Qaeda in Iraq to the Islamic State of Iraq to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, we should recognize this name change.  No more AQI.  No more ISI.  No more ISIL/ISIS.  We are at war with the Islamic State, the self-proclaimed Caliphate.  If we do not consider their religious angle seriously we will fail in countering them on a cultural level.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

American Teen Wins International Geography Olympiad

James Mullen, a 17-year old Cupertino, California resident and rising senior at Monta Vista High School, took the top spot at the 11th International Geography Olympiad, held in Krakow, Poland from August 11 to August 18. Mullen finished atop the field of 144 competitors from 36 countries around the globe. He is the first American student to win the International Geography Olympiad in the 18-year history of the competition.

The International Geography Olympiad consists of three events: a fieldwork event where students take observations and analyze them, a written portion that asks students to critically think about major global issues, and a multiple-choice multimedia test which focuses on interpreting images and graphs.

The competition awards gold medals to the top 12 finishers, with Mullen having the highest combined overall score from all three events. Mullen was also the lone student to finish among the top ten students on each of the three portions of the competition

As a whole, Team USA finished tenth overall. The team included silver-medalist Anton Karpovich
(Hoffman Estates, IL) bronze-medalist Tine Valencic (Colleyville, TX), and David Yuan (Lexington, MA).

Medals at the Olympiad are awarded based on a formula where the top 1/12 of students receive gold
medals, the top 1⁄4 receive silver, and the top 1⁄2 receive bronze.

“James’ achievement is a tremendous honor for an American student on the world stage. His triumph
will encourage other students who are interested in the study of geography throughout the USA ” said
David Madden, co-coach of the American team and President of the United States Geography Olympiad.

April Scott, Mullen’s principal at Monta Vista High School added: “Monta Vista High School is extremely proud of James’ accomplishment! He has shown great focus and determination to reach this level of knowledge, and he is most deserving of this award! Congratulations to James!”

Mullen and his teammates were chosen from around 1,000 competitors nationwide in the US
Geography Olympiad, the national qualifying competition for the event, which is sponsored by
publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the television network HISTORY. The two sponsors also helped underwrite the expenses for the American students to attend the Olympiad in Krakow. After 94 separate regional qualifying competitions, the top students traveled to Arlington, Virginia in April to compete in the national championship, with the top four finishers being chosen to represent the USA in Krakow.

Mullen finished fourth in Arlington at the 2014 US National Championships, and will need to qualify
there again in 2015 to have a chance to defend his title at the 2015 International Geography Olympiad, which will be held in Russia.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hell on Mount Sinjar

Northwestern Iraq is actually a fairly multicultural place.  The groups which call this dry, desert area home are
  • Assyrians: These Christians are descendants of the great Assyrian Empire which destroyed the Kingdom of Israel.  Today the vast majority of these Christians are divided between the Chalcedon Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.  The Chalcedon Church has recently surpassed the Church of the East in size and both churches are working towards reunion under the Pope of Rome.
  • Turkmen: These ethnic Turks are the southern kin of the Turks of Turkey.  Unlike Turkey's Turks, these Turkmen are divided between Shia and Sunni Islam.  However, in part due to their living in Arab lands there tends to be little to no tension between the Shia and Sunni Turkmen..
  • Yezidi: These Kurdish people follow a religion which combines Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Gnosticism.  They quite literally are worshippers of Satan.  However, in their cosmology Satan is the greatest of God's angels and was given control of the world
  • Additionally there are Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds.

Now somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 of these Assyrians, Turkmen, Yezidi, Arabs, and Kurds have fled to the top of Mount Sinjar, a ridge 60 miles (100 kilometers) long in northwestern Iraq.  This mountain serves as a hiding spot from the army of the Islamic State.

The mountain serves as a life bridge for the area around it as it allows rainwater to collect then stream down into wadis thus offering water for the region.  However, unless it rains there is little water available and no crops can be grown on the mountain.  The life giver for the region and provider of shelter from the Islamic State is actually a slow killer.  This is why water and food deliveries are needed.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Every Man Remembered: Mapping the Commonwealth's World War I Dead

The Royal British Legion has a great website that is attempting to document every British Empire/Commonwealth World War I dead.  Every Man Remembered is attempting to give every dead warrior a story and map out their final resting place.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lakota Sioux Winter Counts: Calendars of Prairie Pasts

Lakota Sioux Indians would record the previous year on winter counts.  These records were written on buffalo hides as the Lakota hunkered down for the winter.  The winter counts serve as witnesses to wars, famines, unique events, and even epic changes in Lakota cosmology such as the 1775-76 discovery of the Black Hills (which ironically now serves as proof against neo-myths such as the Lakota Sioux always lived in the Black Hills.  This myth is advanced in sources like Aaron Carpella's "Native American Nations: Our Own Names & Locations" map.)

The Smithsonian Institute has most of the Winter Counts available online for viewing along with annotations.  I highly recommend viewing the Winter Counts for historical reasons as well as gaining insight into how American Indians experienced the revolutionary era of encroachment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Hollywood Movies have Repeatedly Destroyed America

The blog Concourse has a good series of maps which, while self-admiringly is not comprehensive, shows the location of various disaster/monster movies.  Monsters, Creatures, Climate, Geological, infections, mankind, alien attacks, space rocks, superhero battles, and a sharknado have all taken their toll on the United States.

Interestingly, New York was the early center of disaster films but as the United States grew so did the location of movie apocalypses. New York City and Los Angeles still remain the scene of most incidents but a bias seems to dominate as the third largest city, Chicago, lags behind film industry-cities such as San Francisco and Washington.