Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday 2013: Stations of the Cross from Around the World

Saint Francis of Asisi made the Stations of the Cross, also known as the Way of the Cross, to help explain the death of Jesus.  Because of its educational nature and targeted non-literate target audience, local culture expressions were blended with the historic ancient Israelite to recreate the Passion with an understandable look or "feel" from the very beginning.

Personally, I have always favored Stations of the Cross with images that reflect either a historically accurate style or the popular neo-Baroque popular on many prayer cards.   I like the former because of my desire for historically accurate truth and the latter because it is the preferred art form for neo-traditionalist and new orthodoxy Catholics.

However, there are others with different cultural backgrounds who prefer their own culturally integrated stations of the cross.  Here is a collection of one's I have been able to find.

European
Italian-Renaissance Mosaic Style
Modern Polish Woodcuts
Middle Ages
Modern Italian
Neo-Baroque
Renaissance

The Americas
Latin American Liberation Theology-influenced
Latin American Retablos
Native American

Asia
Traditional Indian
Jordanian Stamps
Maronite Lebanese
Traditional Chinese

African
Western Kenyan

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maps of Science Fiction Universes: Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly

Popular science fiction franchises have long used maps as trinkets to excite fans, cause imagines to fuel demand, and help explain the universe.  Some maps are official cannon while other franchises refuse to make an official map in order to allow for future fudging in stories.  When examining the below maps and others I noticed that some of the mid-20th century science fiction was limited itself to solar systems while late-20th century science fiction expanded to fill the whole galaxy and beyond.

Battlestar Galactica

The older Battlestar Galactica universe had one solar system but the 2000s series morphed the beginning realm into a close cluster of stars.

Old BSG. Cartographer unknown.

New BSG. Cartographer unknown.
Star Trek

The original Star Trek series was imagined as merely a "Wagon Train in Space".  However, with the success of the Next Generation-era spin offs a galaxy was mapped and more or less consistently used throughout the series (which is rare in Star Trek).

Star Trek fan made map using cannon.  Map made by Joran Belar.
 Star Wars

The surprisingly dense cannon of the Star Wars Expanded Universe has the story line set in stone but the cartography of the universe changes depending on the map maker.

Official map for Star Wars Online


Fan map by Chris Chanaud

Map from TOR

Map from TOR

Firefly

Firefly did not have a canonical map until the so-so movie Serenity was released after the show's cancellation.  As such there are several maps shared on the internet which all have some degree of respect from the fan community.

The only official "map" of the "Verse"

Fan made map by Hansel Cook

Fan made map.  Map maker unknown

Unknown Map Maker

Unknown Map Maker

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Free Online Archaeology Magazine: AncientPlanet

AncientPlanet is an online archaeology journal published bi-monthly by a staff of American and Greek archaeologists.  What I prefer most about this journal is that it is very readable, one does not need an advanced degree to understand what is being discussed.  It is also currently free for online viewing.  Be sure to check the archives which include articles such as beer in the ancient world.  I do not drink but it is an interesting article none the less! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cyprus Bailout Map Humor: A Country Owned

The proposed European Union bailout of Cyprus is weighing heavily on people around the world.  The financial and human costs of such a deal are leading to bank runs, fears of lose of life savings, and worries about the end of national sovereignty.

Some, though, have managed to find humor in the dark.


The first map shows the feeling of occupation many in Cyprus feel.  The northern half is represented by the Turkish flag (as most in the world do not recognize the the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) and the military bases, which are under sovereign British control and have never been part of the Republic of Cyprus,  are shown by the flag of the United Kingdom.  Most of the Republic of Cyprus is shown as under occupation via the German flag.  Only a small sign in the center, occupied land, is independent for ethnic Greek Cypriots.  However, a Greek flag and not a Republic of Cyprus flag is used.

From Twitter
The second map shows the cost of the possible, but now dead, proposal of a Russian bailout for oil rights and a political realignment of Cyprus away from Europe and towards Moscow.  The districts of Cyprus are renamed to reflect Russian political leaders, economic leaders, companies, and regions.

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Thirteen - Chemical Weapons Attack?

Many thanks to FSSP for this post

Libyan War Maps 
Syrian Arab Spring Protest Maps - Batch One
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Two - Syrian Air Defenses 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Three - Twitter and News Update Maps 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Four - The Soccer Map  
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Five - Ceasefire Violations
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Six - Houla   
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Seven - June 2012    
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eight - Battle of Damascus 
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Nine - September 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Ten - October 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Eleven - Propaganda Maps
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Twelve - First Quarter 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Thirteen - Chemical Weapons Attack?
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fourteen - Israel Strikes Again
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fifteen - Second Quarter 2013
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Sixteen - The Coming Western Intervention
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Seventeen - Al Qaedastan in Iraq and Syria

The news is abuzz with the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria.  However, no one seems to be able to tell if there was in fact chemical weapons used or who used them.  The President Bashir Asad-led Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) blames the rebel forces meanwhile the Free Syrian Army and the newly formed government of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (Syrian National Coalition/SNC) blame the SAR.

**Something that I learned today was that the Friends of Syria group recognizes the SNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.  The Friends of Syria group has 111 members.  That makes the SNC the government of Syria according to 57.5% of the 194 "universally recognized" countries of the world (United Nations members plus Vatican) or 54.7% of the 203 de facto partially countries of the world (United Nations members plus Vatican as well as Republic of China, Kosovo, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and Palestine)**

There has not been much done in the way of mapping the alleged chemical weapons attack.  I have only been able to find two amateur made maps that make it appear that SAR launched the attack to strike at rebel held positions near Aleppo.

MiddleEast_BRK made this map showing the alleged attack being done in order to blunt a rebel assault on a military base.


Meanwhile Blind Warrior made a map claiming the attack was in the same place but targeting a rebel held police station.


Syria Civil War Maps Batch Twelve - First Quarter 2013

Many thanks to FSSP for this post

Libyan War Maps 
Syrian Arab Spring Protest Maps - Batch One
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Two - Syrian Air Defenses 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Three - Twitter and News Update Maps 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Four - The Soccer Map  
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Five - Ceasefire Violations
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Six - Houla   
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Seven - June 2012    
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eight - Battle of Damascus 
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Nine - September 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Ten - October 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Eleven - Propaganda Maps
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Twelve - First Quarter 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Thirteen - Chemical Weapons Attack?
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fourteen - Israel Strikes Again
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fifteen - Second Quarter 2013
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Sixteen - The Coming Western Intervention
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Seventeen - Al Qaedastan in Iraq and Syria

When a visitor asked what we thought about the last few months of the civil war I responded with "stalemate."  Rebels make gains in the east as the government focuses on the north and south in order to  grind down the opposition there.  The slowness and lack of news has reduced public interest and therefore map production.  However, there are several themes in the maps that are made.

Ground Control:  No One Can Agree

Who controls what, is a question many ask.  However, depending on the map, the map maker's basis, and sources of information the rebels are either contained, much of Syria is contested, or the rebels de facto control most of Syria.

Political Geography Now probably has the most accurate map which shows much of Syria being fought over.

I like how the color scheme does not favor on side in a Western mindset of (Green equals good and red/black equals bad)
Meanwhile The Blogmocracy tells the story of rebel control in PolGeoNow stated contested territory.

The color scheme seems to favor the rebels though I do not like how blue means "contested".  I also have concerns about the extent of opposition held territory.
Chemical Weapons

One major storyline of this war is the West's fear that Syria will use its chemical weapons, give it to Hizbollah/Hezbollah/Hezbillah/whatever, or al Qaeda-aligned terrorists will seize the chemical weapons.  Israel is so concerned about this they actually bombed Syria to prevent a shipment.  It seemed that the Arabs were too busy in their Saudi-Iranian Cable War to be concerned about a "Zionist attack on brother Arabs."

The Center for Nonproliferation Studies released this map of important places in Syria's chemical weapon arsenal.  Note the limited areas of rebel control in this map.  They also have a nice interactive map with further details.


Israel's airstrike on Syria bypassed much of Syria's air defenses by going through its weak underbelly: Lebanon.  This map was made by Haaretz.
Kurdish Dreams and Nightmares

While most of the world focuses on the sectarian war of Sunnis versus minorities and vice versa, the Kurds in the northeast have been making gains.  Some Kurds, mostly those aligned with the Marxist Kurdistan Workers' Party, dream that they will be able to establish an alternative Kurdistan which would rival the pro-West Kurdistan Regional Government.  This would be the seventh Kudistan established since 1922.

The Kurdish website Ekurd created this map of the claim for a Western Kurdistan.  Note the maps claim of "Arabized Kurds" which could be used an excuse for future expansion as well as the terms "Southern Kurdistan" and "Northern Kurdistan."


Elsewhere the generally anti-United States website NSNBC quotes Kuwaiti Faisal al-Hamad, head of the National Party (note: several friends knowledgeable in Arab politics have not heard of this party) claims Israel and the United States are trying to establish a greater Kurdistan to threaten Turkey, Russia, and Iran.

Special Mentions

I wanted to point a few maps that show the diversity of conflict cartography.

The BBC used a map to help show the complex the of the mystery of who exactly massacred the village of Haswiya.  The article makes for a great, but sad, read.



Meanwhile I wish to thank amateur cartographers who map for the general public while the press overlooks the micro-geography of the war.

Yalla Souriya has been continuing to make daily updates on the war including this regional look at control in northwest Syria.


Other amateur map makers make their maps on Google Maps.  Damien made a late 2012 map of locations of "confirmed" MANPADs (personal anti-aircraft missiles).


View MANPADS presence in the Syrian conflict in a larger map

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Demographic Shifts Lead to Nearly 25% of Belgium Not Being Belgian

Demographic shifts have led to twenty-four percent of Belgium's population being foreigners, according to sociologist Jan Hertogen.  The blog Le Soir has two maps which show the breakdown of native-born Belgians and foreign-born Belgians and aliens.

Click map for link to live interactive map.
Belgium's very liberal migration laws and open European borders have allowed for such growth.  The great 20th and 21st centuries international migrations and their demographic shifts have largely been overlooked by many geographers.  The probability of a Christian majority in Qatar, the large Christian plurality in Bahrain, the non-white majority of London, England, and the foreign-born majority of Toronto, Canada all are real but ignored because they do not fit are 1900s-stereotype of what a place is like.  However, demographic changes of this magnitude can be as light as changing electoral demographics to as impactful as bringing down countries.  How will a divided Wallon and Flemish Belgian react to a third new front of non-Belgians who are mostly non-European?  Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Detail of Churchill's War Map

The British Imperial War Museum released a detail of the map Prime Minister Winston Churchill's staff used to map threats to shipping during World War II.  One can clearly see how the beautiful map was used via push pins to provide a complex understanding of the maritime situation.

Image from the Imperial War Museum

Spatial awareness has always been key to strategic and operational planning.  What I think has been lost to a certain extent is the artistic element in military cartography.  The artistic side of military maps has been sacrificed to computer-based spartan efficiency.  In Iraq and Afghanistan most of the maps I used were on the computer and the few that I printed out were simple GIS/Google Maps marked up with my pen.  The last day of my Iraq deployment I took all my map printouts and burned them in a bonfire in a little no-named wahdi.  I did not feel an emotional/artistic attachment to the maps, something that is extremely rare to me.  In fact cannot think of any War on Terrorism-examples of a field map which matches the beauty of military maps from World War II, the Civil War, or the Revolutionary War.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

People's Republic of China Realizes that Population Planning is Taking its Toll

Three hundred thirty-six million.  336,000,000.  That number is more than the entire population of the United States.  That figure is the estimated number of babies aborted in the People's Republic of China (PRC) since the 1970s.  That equates to 13 million a year or 1,500 per hour.  Adding the number of abortions, and excluding children who would have likely been born from these Chinese, the People's Republic is missing about 20 percent of its population.

In the past the Communist Party of China would not of been concerned about its abortion-demographic imbalance.  However, the PRC is finally realizing its dangers and it is phasing out its Family Planning Commission which is in charge of the One Child Policy.  The country's workforce actually decreased last year and the problem is only going to get worse.  The government realizes that demographic decline can create severe problems for country with a welfare state, something that the PRC is trying to establish.  As the population ages there are fewer workers to pay into the system.

China, like the first world, is graying... and slowly dying. From  China - Europe - USA: Who will win the global race
Additionally, the targeting of girls for abortion creates an additional gender imbalance.  Without family social nets economic and social problems that would be handled on a family or community-level become problems of the government.

After 2025 the PRC's population is actually assessed to start shrinking.  Unless steps are taken to change that, that is the time period when China will begin to truly feel dying pains in its society and economy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) and a Very Close Call with Mars

On October 19, 2014, Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass within 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) of Mars.  That distance is only two-and-a-half times the distance between Mars and its outer moon Deimos.

From National Geographic
For comparison, the Moon is 238,900 miles (384,400 kilometers).  Siding Spring's upcoming passing distance from Mars is the equivalent of only 13% of the distance from Earth to the Moon.  This distance is 124 times the altitude of the International Space Station.

At this distance there is a chance, albeit a decreasing chance, that Siding Spring will be caught in Mars' gravity pull and impact the planet.  If that would happen the event would be epic on a dinosaur-killing scale.  As National Geographic writes
If Siding Spring would hit, the force of impact may truly be monumental. Based on observations to date the comet nucleus could be a real monster – as big as 9 miles (15 km) to 31 miles (50 km) wide. With it’s velocity clocked at 35 miles (56 km) per second, the energy force of the collision could be measured in the billions of megatons, resulting in a crater hundreds of miles wide. This could be an impact that rivals the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago on our planet and would be bright enough to be even seen with the naked eye from Earth.
The Earth is surrounded by space rocks and ice both known and unknown.  If this were headed to/very near the Earth what would humanity do?  We need to have plans or a completely unknown event will have devastating impact.  The Aztec thought they knew the cosmos but then the world expanded.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Saint Patrick's Day 2013: Updates for Irish Surname Maps

Emblem of the Ancient Order of Hibernians
Éirinn go Brách!  Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  As an American with Irish Catholic and Scot-Irish Protestant ancestors I look back on today on all the hard work all my family has done to make it in America.

As always, I am using Saint Patrick's Day to share some genealogical tools one can use.  The Irish Times newspaper has a searchable surname mapper available.  There is also a searchable version of the below ESRI map available here.

Click for a larger version.  For full downloadable version (30+ MBs) click here.  From ESRI
For those with Scot-Irish roots via Ulster, Ancestry Ireland has a Scots in Ulster page where one can search surnames and historical information.  They also have this map of Scottish landlords in old Ireland.

Click to Enlarge.  From Ancestry Ireland

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Flaws of Using Social Media to Map the Geography of [Insert Topic]

Z Geography has a great post about the positives and critical flaws of using social media to map things like happiness, much like the Vermont Complex Systems Center did for the Geography of Happiness According to 10 Million Twitter Tweets.

Most of the flaws, but not all, are tied to using a bot scripted language to determine if a tweet is a happy or sad tweet.  While this sounds simple enough how would something like "I love you to death" score?  It is a very happy tweet but death is usually scored as a negative.  Meanwhile how does a bot deal with sarcasim?  "I just had the best xp of my life, in traffic for two hours", is a strong negative emotion but would probably count as positive.  Plus things like weather can impact what a person tweets but hardly impacts a persons over all happiness level.

Right away Z points out that too many people are taking this simple GIS project and claiming it is finished geography.  GIS is a great tool, it is not a finished product though.  Geography, and common sense with some critical thinking, is needed to properly analyze GIS output.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis Changes Papal Geography

Habemus Papam.  Pope Francis
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected pope and has chosen the name Francis (not Francis I).

From a purely secular geography perspective his election is fascinating because it represents the meeting of the Old and New Worlds.  He is the first non-European pope in the last 1,500 years.  He is the first non-European pope not from the greater Mediterranean region.  He is the first pope from the Western Hemisphere and the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere.

Like most non-European popes he is of European heritage, both his parents were Italian emigrants in Argentina.  Though this fits him in quite well in Argentina which is not part of Mestizo Latin America but culturally more European with 50% of all Argentinean having some level of ethnic Italian in them.  He is not the part of the monolithic Mestizo-Latin America-stereotype most people have but part of the multicultural realm that thrives within Latin America.

Here is the new map of non-European popes


View Map of Non-European Popes in a larger map

Of the now twelve popes born outside Europe, at least two were of ethnically non-European origin: Peter (Jewish) and Constantine (Assyrian). Up to three more, the Africans, may have been Berber. So between 0.75% to 1.88% of all Popes were of non-European ethnicity. Of the 266 officially recognized Popes, 217 have been ethnic Italians (including Pope Francis of Argentina) while 17 were French and 13 were Greek (though this includes ethnic and cultural Greeks who were from Greek Italy and Greek Asia).

Possible Multiple Branches of Homo Sapiens Throw Into Question the Genetic Adam & Eve Theory

I really do not understand the complex nature of genetic studies into human evolution.  The science quickly surpasses my attempts at understanding what is said.  However, TDAXP linked to an interesting Gene Expression post on how it appears that the whole theory of a genetic/mitochondrial Eve theory is flawed.

More and more it is looking like, as the blog post states, there "may have been... several admixture events with 'other' lineages, both within, and outside of, Africa."  Translation:  there may have been several groups of humans that mixed into the "out of Africa" humans we focus on when discussing the rise of man.  The rest is above my head but the implication is clear, our understanding of human evolution is still our best guess which is likely to change some more, much like our understanding of evolution itself has and expansion of humans into the Western Hemisphere.

TDAXP mentioned the "Land of Nod" when bringing the story to my attention.  I find that the Bibical reference is relevant to this possible scientific discovery, much further in fact than the simple Adam & Eve and mitochondrial Eve connection.

First, a bit of background.  In the Bible, Cain is forced to leave his home after he killed his brother Abel.  "Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden" (Genesis 4:16 RSV-CE).  However, before Cain does so he expressed his fear to God that others would kill him. "Then Cain said to the Lord, Guilt like mine is too great to find forgiveness. And now thou art robbing me of the ground, and I shall be cut off from thy protection, and wander over the earth, a fugitive; anyone I meet will slay me" (Genesis 4:13-14 Knox).  But it all worked out for Cain in the end because God gave him a mark of protection, got married, and started a family.

The question of who was Cain afraid of and where his wife came from has been a theological question for some for a long period of time.  While orthodox interpretations of Abrahamic faiths contend that these others are other children of Adam and Eve, there have been scatterings of Biblical literalists who contend that some souless form of humans lived before Adam and lived in Nod.  The theory became a common racist theme to set apart the Protestant White, Northern European race from others in the 1700s.  Today the pre-Adamite theory continues to divide some creationists.

While I am not trying to get religious on this topic, the reason why I am telling this religious aside is point out that once the orthodoxy (not necessarily the literalness but the orthodox interpretation) of Genesis was questioned a multitude of creation theories, of which pre-Adamites was just one, were disputed over for hundreds of years.  I fully expect that, if the pure-mitochondrial Eve rise of man theory is shown to be unlikely then we will be bombarded by many very scientific sound and unsound theories on the rise of man for decades.  However, I would take everything with skepticism because the more we find out about the rise of man the more we understand the gaps in our theories.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sound of Music Geography Error

The last scene of the movie Sound of Music has the Von Trapp family crossing the Alps on foot into Switzerland.  The family is free from the Nazis after escaping a patrol near Salzburg and are surrounded by God's beautiful nature.



However, as a post from the sometimes not so safe for work humor website Cracked.com points out, the geography does not work out.


The Austrian state of Salzburg does share a border with Italy but not Switzerland.  In reality the family fled through Italy rather than Switzerland. While the foot crossing the Swiss Alps provided a beautiful ending to the movie, real-world complex political geography  due to the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire allowed for the family's departure.  According to the National Archives:

The von Trapps traveled to Italy, not Switzerland. Georg was born in Zadar (now in Croatia), which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Zadar became part of Italy in 1920, and Georg was thus an Italian citizen, and his wife and children as well. The family had a contract with an American booking agent when they left Austria. They contacted the agent from Italy and requested fare to America.
Traveling with their musical conductor, Rev. Franz Wasner, and secretary, Martha Zochbauer, they went by train to Italy in June, later to London, and by September were on a ship to New York to begin a concert tour in Pennsylvania
The movie not only changed the history and names of family members but the geography as well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Open Letter to National Geographic on "The Roman Catholic Diaspora"

If war is God's way of teaching us geography then a Papal conclave can teach us about religion and geographic terms concerning distribution of populations.

To:  National Geographic News,

Christianity is the world's largest religion (at about 2.2 billion people or about 31% of the world's population) and Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity (1.2 billion, 55% of all Christians).  As such understanding the fundamental nature of the faith (or any major world faith) is important when trying to explain the world.

Your article and map "Map: The Roman Catholic Diaspora" gets a major religious point and also a geographic term wrong.

The first problem I have is with your use of the term "Roman Catholic".  The College of Cardinals does not belong to the "Roman Catholic Church".  The Roman Catholic Church is better understood as the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church itself is a combination of the Latin Rite and various Eastern Rites.  These range Eastern Catholics and Orthodox in communion with the Pope.  These sects are from areas as diverse as Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, Syriac and Arab-influenced countries, and India.  In total  there are 23 churches united with the Pope.  While the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church is by far the largest church within the Catholic Communion, about ninety-eight percent, "Catholic" does not equal "Roman Catholic".  In fact, several members of the College of Cardinals are not Latin, aka "Roman", Catholics.

The second issue with the article is the term "diaspora".  Merriam-Webster primarily defines "diaspora" as "the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland."  The term even comes from Greek meaning "to scatter".  Most Catholics are native to their country of residence there for the term does not apply.  There is no Catholic homeland to speak of as the Church defines itself as "universal" i.e. not limited to one ethnic group or nation(s).  A better title would be "Map: Global Catholic Distribution".

Using current events to teach about the world is a well established effective education tool.  However, we need to be as accurate as possible otherwise growing misinformation threatens to drown out the truth.

Maps of Vatican City during the Papal Conclave and How the Conclave Works


Click to enlarge
Click to Enlarge

Friday, March 08, 2013

New Patriarchs, Popes, and Bishops while Rome Picks Its Pope

While the world's attention is turned towards Rome as the Catholic Churches prepares to elect a new pope, the last few months, the last week especially, have seen significant turn over in other Churches and ecclesiastical communities.  These new leaders face unique sets of challenges.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected Simeon Nikolov Dimitrov (Metropolitan Neophyte) as its new patriarch on February 24.  Neophyte, and much of the rest of the church, have been tainted by its close relationship with the previous Communist regime.  In fact, Neophyte actively worked with the secret police and other intelligence agencies.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has little active role in national politics, somewhat rare for a post-Communist Orthodox church, probably due to its appearance of being too tied with the old regime.  Neophyte faces lack of relevance, declining birth rates which threaten the long-term existence of Bulgaria, and internal division with the an alternative synod.

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Ethiopian Orthodox elected Teklemariam Asrat (Abune Mathias) as its new patriarch on February 28.  Mathias was active in the Ethiopian church abroad when the Communist Derg movement overthrew the emperor which caused Mathias to live in exile.  Mathias was active supporting the Church in Europe and Jerusalem even after the fall of the Derg.

The Ethiopian government is highly supportive of the Church yet it faces problems from a natural birth rate growing Muslim minorities, Protestant missions and growing native-run Protestant groups, and the former patriarch from the Communist-era, Abuna Merkorios, who runs his own alternative synod and parishes in the United States.

Church of England/Anglican Communion

Justin Welby was appointed by the British prime minister on November 9, 2012, elected on January 10, 2013, legally took office on February 4, and will be enthroned as the protestant Archbishop of Canterbury on March 21.  Welby is a low church "evangelical" who follows the new tradition of having a low church person follow a high church ritualist "Anglo-Catholic" as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Welby, a former oil executive, has the appeal of a socially responsible, real world social justice churchman.  However, he faces a government which can override any church decision, a pro-gay marriage/pro-women bishops divide inside the Church of England, conservative churches ready to breakaway from the Anglican Communion, and liberal North American churches which ignore communion rules on homosexuality.  Welby may very well be the last Archbishop of Canterbury of a nominal-pre-schismatic Anglican communion.

Coptic Orthodox Church

On November 4, 2012, the final three candidates for Coptic Pope sat in a room as a blindfolded child picked a name out of a jar.  The child picked Wagih Subhi Baqi Sulayman's name and Sulayman decided to have the papal name of Tawadros II.

Tawadros II faces the significant problem of a Muslim Brotherhood-run Egypt where Islamist gangs lay open siege to Christian villages.  Before the Egyptian "Arab Spring" about 10% of Egypt's population was Christian.  By late 2011 over 100,000 Copts fled Egypt.  Since then things have gotten worse to the point Church leadership has advised faithful to leave the country if religious freedoms are not ensured.  The Coptic Orthodox Church faces the very real possibility that it will lose its home in a generation or two.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

"Greek" Yogurt: How a Corporation Limited Strained Yogurt's Geography

If I were hosting a party and said I wanted everyone to try a dish of Palestinian yogurt I can imagine half my guest would be confused and the other half would imagine that it was somesort of sick joke where I would have miniature bomb-shaped objects in the yogurt.  If I were to say it was Indian yogurt I imagine most people would think there is probably somesort of exotic spice in the yogurt.  However, all I would be serving is strained yogurt, popularly known as Greek yogurt.

When I was in Afghanistan, one of the interpreters and several Afghan National Police I was with made their own yogurt by straining it and wanted me to try some.  To my surprise they gave me a honey flavored yogurt with the consistency of what I knew as Greek yogurt.  From that day one I wondered how strained yogurt became known solely as Greek yogurt in the United States.

I recently discovered the answer.  No one should be surprised that the answer is in fact: business.  In the early 2000s the Greek company FAGE expanded into the United States.  FAGE was the first company to massively market strained yogurt in the United States.  FAGE gave the yogurt "Greek" in its title, probably because Greek yogurt sounds more appealing than strained yogurt.  FAGE became massively successful and now other companies are trying to cash in on what they consider to be Greek yogurt.

The Greek stereotyping of strained yogurt is part of its advertising appeal.  How many Greek yogurt ads feature either ancient Greek ruins or images of beautiful Greek islands.  The appeal has turned into a stereotype meant to be laughed at as well.  However, I challenge anyone to imagine the below commercial with a disapproving secular Syrian Baathist, Afghan Muslim, or Hindu woman instead of an old Greek Orthodox woman.  The commercial would be decrying as distasteful and hateful and pulled immediately.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A New Geography of Nazi Concentration Camps, Ghettos, and More

This past weekend the New York Times reported on the United States' Holocaust Museums publication of information showing that there were over 42,500 German-run concentration camps, ghettos, prisoner-of-war-camps, forced labor camps, brothels, and eugenics hospitals.  This is much higher than the previous estimate of about 7,000 locations of the Nazi civilization-reengineering-complex.

The western most sight of the greater Holocaust, focusing not only on Jews but all "undesirables", were several sub-camps on Alderney, which is part of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency off the coast of France.  This camp had Russian and Polish prisoners-of-war who were used as forced labor to help build defenses against the Western Allies.  The eastern and southern-most location was a Jewish ghetto in Nalchik,  Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.  That makes a stretch of 2,184 miles (3,514 kilometers) of Nazi civilization-reengineering.

These are just SS camps.  This map excludes camps run by the Croats, Hungarians, and Romanians.  Click to enlarge.  From the New York Times.
Click to enlarge.  From the New York Times.
The concentration of Jewish ghettos in eastern Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and western Ukraine is not surprising   Note how this region is the former Pale of Settlement.  This pale, meaning boundary, was established in 1791 by Tsarina Catherine the Great as a giant ghetto for Jews.  After previous Tsars realized it was impossible to get cleanse Jews from Russia, Catherine settled for making most of what was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a giant reservation.

Sadly this was not just a German affair.  Collaborators and collaborationist governments helped the Nazis by turning in their undesirables and even running camps themselves. The French State, the Independent State of Croatia, regency Hungary, Kingdom of Romania, National Government of Norway, Slovak State, the Greek State, and various movements like the Rexists and the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands as well as various Slavs in former Soviet lands all worked together in eagerness to help the Nazis in their effort. The wide spread nature of these collaborators and lack of documentation will probably make much of the history and geography of their killings and other crimes unknowable forever.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

2013 Papal Conclave: College of Cardinals Geography by the Numbers

As I have noted earlier, the College of Cardinals does not pick a Pope based on geography being the primary concern.  However, the geography of cardinals will play some role as every cardinal has personal biases and many are loathed to have another Italian.

There are 207 cardinals.  Of these, 117 were under the age of 80 at the time of Pope Benedict XVI's abdication and therefore are eligible to vote for the next Pope.  Of the 117 eligible electors, two cardinals will not attend the conclave.  One is an Indonesian who is in very poor health and the other, a Scot, who recently became the subject of a homosexual scandal.

Technically, any baptized Catholic male is eligible to be elected pope though in all practicality the next pope will be a member of the College of Cardinals.  He could be above 80 years of age though the cardinals are likely to vote for a person is not likely to die or abdicate within the next year or so.

Here is a country by country breakdown of the 115 voting cardinals.




Here is the breakdown by continent/cultural region



Cardinals are not chosen proportionally.  They are meant to be chosen on their administrative and theological merits.  Both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI have done a good job diversifying the country's of origin for cardinals by expanding the Vatican's outlook past Europe.  In fact, in 1903 over 56% of all cardinals were Italian and now that number has been halved.  However there is still strong geographical bias.

The breakdown of the world's Catholic population is



If the breakdown of voting cardinals matched the breakdown of the world's Catholic population then the college would look like



Instead of worrying the dreaded "Italian bloc" which controlled the papacy for over 200 years before John Paul II, Vatican watches would wander what the Latino alliance led by Mexico and Brazil would decide.

Continuing on the demographic realignment theme, here are the countries with the most Catholics in order and their ranking with voting cardinals.



The country with the most Catholics without a voting age cardinal is Uganda with over 11 million Catholics, making it the 14th most Catholic country in the world.  The country with the most Catholics without any cardinal is Guatemala with 8 million Catholics, making it the 25th most Catholic country in the world.

For the best update on conclave news I recommend New Advent which has a daily updated buzz indicator for all 115 voting cardinals.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Ireland: Palisade Fencing Paranoia?

Note: The following is a guest post by Seamus Murphy of Trenditionist. Geographic Travels encourages guest posts on geography-related topics. Please contact catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com if you have any idea for a guest post submission.

Usually, most Irish stereotypes are true. The people are extremely welcoming, the grass is indeed very green and the whiskey tastes magnificent. Added to that, the country’s rugged landscape is a smattering of stone walls, fields, sheep, rolling hills and that most quintessentially Irish thing of all, palisade fencing. Wait a second… palisade fencing is the most notable and memorable feature of the country’s landscape? Sadly, the answer is yes. And sadder still, nobody in Ireland seems to realise it.


View Larger Map

The Ireland of Catholicgauze's dreams

Welcome back to Ireland, now stay off me park's lawn!


What is palisade fencing anyway? Most people probably know that a palisade is a type of defensive wall constructed from wooden stakes or tree trunks. A palisade fence on the other hand “provides a formidable barrier and is manufactured from cold roll formed steel sections designed to provide strength and rigidity”, according to Press Release Distribution. The website goes on to state that the “forbidding appearance and inherent strength of the pales provide an effective deterrent to would be intruders”

Palisade fencing has existed in Ireland for decades. Over the past 20 years, however, it seems to have sprung up everywhere imaginable, invading every last corner of the picturesque green island. Perhaps the situation wouldn’t be too bad if the fences were somehow attractive. Or confined to farms, industrial estates or the perimeter of an army barracks. Unfortunately, the typical Irish palisade fence can be found in front of hospitals, schools, apartment blocks and houses.


Are the fences really that bad? One is reminded of American poet Robert Frost when he wrote a piece called “Mending Wall” where you can find that highly memorable quote “good fences make good neighbours”. Waking up after a solid and undisturbed night’s sleep in Ireland, you might thank the palisade fence at the end of the garden path for providing effective security. Peering out of your bedroom window after waking up, you’ll notice the green hills in the distance. The rain is finally starting to stop and a vivid rainbow is forming. But dominating the view is your “good” neighbour, the palisade fence.

Oh that cursed cold palisade fence! Its profiled steel components are sword-like and intimidating. Worse still, the strip steel is unpainted, unimaginative and unbelievably bland. It wouldn’t be so bad if it reflected light, but after years outside, it’s fallen victim to moss and dirt. The entire thing would look far more natural surrounding a prison yard than a back garden. Sometimes, you’ll find a green palisade fence, but the dirty unpainted look seems to be more fashionable…and less expensive.  

The fence-heads come in three forms of intimidation – the “triad top”, the “flat top” and the “round top”.  Of the three, the “triad top” is probably the most daunting and unattractive. The very top of the fence is divided into three sharp knife-like points, obviously designed to impale and kill any individual thoughtless enough to climb over it. Don’t think for a second that the other options are a walkover, or somewhat more accurately “a climbover” in this case. The flat top and round top also have the capacity to maim, featuring extremely sharp edges.

Why do people in Ireland destroy their scenic countryside and charming villages with such horrendously dangerous and intimidating edifices? Of course the answer is rather simple. It’s all about security. If you look at statistics on violent crime in the United States in 2011, you’ll find that 1,203,564 incidents were reported throughout the year. And guess what? Yeah, that’s right – there’s barely a palisade fence to be found from New York to Los Angeles. Ok, they do exist, but in smaller quantities in comparison to those found in Ireland.

Americans seem to place their security in assault rifles these days, which is a whole other (and more serious) discussion. The Irish place their security in fencing. Would the palisade fencing phenomenon work in the United States? Perhaps it would make people feel more secure, reducing gun ownership figures. However, it would have that same detrimental effect on the country’s landscape. Just imagine a palisade fence running along the top of the Grand Canyon. On top of that, a palisade fence shows that you have something to hide, often inviting anti-social behaviour and break-ins.

Are there any other countries that love palisade fencing as much as Ireland? This form of intimidation has become commonplace in South Africa, a country well known for its high levels of crime. There, the fences come in even more shapes and sizes – the same profiled steel can be installed alongside more modest and picturesque wooden varieties.

Interestingly, the South Africans have developed electrified palisade fences made from aluminium and mild, galvanised or stainless steel. A whole new level of fear-mongering, these steel beasts stand 2.4 metres high and are equipped with energisers that send high voltage electric pulse through the entire structure at a frequency of one Hertz. It’s enough to deter an elephant, ensuring the residents of Johannesburg can count on their fencing to sleep softly at night.

Due to its notorious rate of carjacking, rape and murder, the notion of living in a South African gated community surrounded by monstrous electrified palisade fences may not seem unusual, perhaps even something that should be encouraged. Yet in Ireland, the crime level is nowhere near that of South Africa, and those standardised palisade fences have manifested themselves in a pugnacious plague of steel. Should Irish people secure themselves in the best way possible? Of course the answer is yes. Are palisade fences the best way to secure Irish homes? The answer to that important question is both yes and no.

True, they act as an absolutely formidable deterrent, especially the one with the ferocious “triad top”. However, from an aesthetic perspective, they are absolutely disastrous. Ireland does have extensive problems in poorer working-class districts where individuals engaged in anti-social behaviour are known as ‘knackers’, a derogatory term. Accordingly, the palisade fence has often been labelled an ‘anti-knacker fence’ or a way of keeping knackers off your property.


At this task, it excels. Though knackers or individuals intent on vandalism sometimes find their way over palisade fencing (even the much feared triad top), its horrifying spread across the Irish landscape must be cause for concern. It has become a sign of fear and paranoia. Getting back to a point made earlier, wherever there is a palisade fence, something is being protected. Therefore, the sight of one of these steel barriers subtly announces to the degenerates of society that they must scale it and defeat it before robbing or vandalising whatever lies beyond.


The sad reality of the situation is that the fencing used to be necessary in some situations, but now it can be found in every unnecessary location imaginable – lining roadsides, parks and fields. Unfortunately palisade fencing is now so commonplace and ingrained in society that Irish people don’t even notice it anymore. More often than not, Irish emigrants point out the problem in a state of shock and disbelief when they come home for Christmas.

Surely there is some way for the people of Ireland to remain safe and secure without erecting something with a “forbidding appearance and inherent strength to provide an effective deterrent” in plain sight across the length and breadth of the country. If Robert Frost was able to catch a glimpse of Ireland’s green landscape with its ugly streaks of cold steel, surely he would have abandoned the phrase “good fences make good neighbours” and come up with something different. For in Ireland, there are no good fences anymore, just a palisade fencing paranoia.


Note: Semus does a good job at pointing out the palisade fences' primary use and growth is due to anti-social behaviors (i.e. criminal activity). While they may be ugly clearly these fences have some uses in some places. It sad though, that the fences are societal decline manifested physically on the landscape much like bars on windows became widespread in many urban centers in the United States or qalat walls growth in height throughout Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. There is a whole subfield of geography which studies this merger of culture, architecture, and spatialness.