Operation Serval Continues

Tuesday saw no particularly startling developments in the conflict in northern Mali. The French continued to reinforce their quick reaction forces and sent their troops north to Mopti and Niono. By Tuesday night, press reports indicated that the first joint Malian–French force had left Niono to attempt to retake the town of Diabaly. My infographic below uses the slight lull to expand further upon what forces the French are bringing to bear, who else has promised support to Mali, and lastly tries to show how the rebels are not a unified fighting force. Instead the rebels are at best a temporary alliance of disparate groups with different aims. (Click the image for the larger view.)

Operation Serval on 15 January
Operation Serval on 15 January

Operation Serval

The tricky part about doing an infographic on a current event, like the conflict/war in northern Mali, is to keep the graphics updated and timely. Alas, I don’t have the necessary amount of time to do that. But, I still do want decent graphics explaining just what is happening.

With Mali, the hard part is that the Islamist/Tuareg rebellion against the democracy-overthrowing military government originally backed by the US in an attempt to beef up that military against the rebellion that then defeated that military is so far away and so foreign to much of the American public that so very much needs to be explained and be made relevant. This piece of mine doesn’t quite do that, but my infographic does attempt to show that France is now fighting a war far from its shores (and largely on its own). It also tries to highlight the fluidity of the ground war, especially around the fighting in and around Konna. Konna is the gateway to the city of Mopti which leads straight to the capital Bamako.

Operation Serval
Operation Serval

Follow the (Canadian Foreign Aid) Money

Canada spends quite a bit of money on foreign aid. Last week a National Post infographic looked at the targets for that aid program and in particular highlighted Haiti, a country that has received large sums after the devastating earthquake three years ago.

Canadian foreign aid
Canadian foreign aid

Credit for the piece goes to Kathryn Blaze Carlson, Mike Faille, and Richard Johnson.

2012 Was the Hottest Year on Record

2012 was the hottest year since 1895. That’s 117 years by my count. Of course just being the hottest year ever recorded does not mean everywhere was warmer than usual. Some places were cooler. And the New York Times looked at the US pattern of warmer and cooler than average temperatures. Below the map are small multiples of charts recording the number of days above or below the normal for that day.

That's a lot of warmer than average temperatures…
That's a lot of warmer than average temperatures…

And for anecdotal evidence, I will say that this past summer was godawfully hot in Chicago.

The London Underground Map Turns 150

Today the London Underground turns 150. The Tube opened on 9 January 1863. Yes, the whole endeavour is a marvel of engineering, but from a design perspective think of the map, man. Think of the map. The Underground map is now 150 years old. And we all know transit maps are cool.

Of course the map has evolved and changed over all those years and at the Huffington Post UK, there is an article with a slideshow of different maps. The one below being the first map to show the combined lines.

The first map of the combined lines
The first map of the combined lines

Compare that original system map to the 150th anniversary map.

The 2013 map
The 2013 map

Credit for the photos goes to the London Transport Museum, via the Huffington Post.

What To Do If You Capture a Terrorist

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you caught a US citizen who was a terrorist? No? Well, the folks at the Brookings Institution did and using what is publicly known and inferring from events that have happened they have created a disposition matrix about the decisions made in such scenarios. In short, it is an interactive flowchart with examples and explanations of the various steps.

Disposition Matrix
Disposition Matrix

Credit for the piece goes to Benjamin Wittes and Daniel Byman.

Hunting for Elephants

I’m back after two weeks holiday. See, I didn’t forget you. I even brought you presents. Of a sort. From National Geographic come two maps from an article about the poaching of elephants—if I recall correctly.

The first map is the better of the two. It shows the impact of poaching by overlaying the ranges of the elephants in two different years. Not surprisingly, the range has decreased. The map also points out monitored reserves and then aggregates data from those sites into regions, whose illegal death totals are displayed as little filled-in elephant icons. I don’t love the icons, but they are compact, flat, and stack nicely. Almost squarish. So they can work for me.

Elephant Poaching
Elephant Poaching

This second map is less successful. It dedicates a lot of real estate to a large map that is really only used to highlight countries that are quite large. Without any kind of supplemental data as the first map had, e.g. the elephant ranges, I would have likely made the map smaller. The tusk chart below the map…yeah.

Ivory is used to determine number of elephants killed
Ivory is used to determine number of elephants killed

Both taken together, I am left with the impression that the full-page graphics were the work of two different hands. The first map has the level of detail of someone who is conversant in and works regularly on infographics. The second page feels a bit weaker, as if from someone not quite so familiar with infographics and how to make the best of them.

Credit for the pieces go to NGM staff.