Hugo Chávez died yesterday. He was a controversial president to be certain. Some claim he was a dictator who tolerated no opposition. But he won four elections. Some claim he helped reduce poverty and ease the suffering of the poor. But he eviscerated the middle class and private enterprise. And he has left Venezuela in a precarious situation.
With only several hours’ time to research, design, and create this infographic, I can only offer a brief overview of the Venezuela that Chávez took under his stewardship in 1999 as compared to Venezuela today. But it’s a better starting place for the dialogue than nowhere.
As the conclave in Rome is almost ready to begin, likely sometime next week, cardinals are gathering in Rome to discuss the affairs of the Catholic Church and then elect a new pope from within their ranks. Many outsiders talk about the time for a pope from outside of Europe, that the papacy has been an office for Europeans—namely Italians—for too long.
However, the preponderance of Catholics outside of Europe is, in the 2000-year history of the Church, a relatively recent phenomenon. Explosive growth in Latin America, Africa, and Asia combined with a decline in European Catholics means that it is only in the last few decades that Europeans have fallen from being nearly 2/3 of the global Catholic Church.
As my infographic attempts to explain, despite this demographic shift, the early Catholic Church chose popes from the distant corners of its territory before it contracted. That historical consolidation in Europe—Italy in particular—has led, however, to a disproportionate weight of cardinal electors, i.e. the cardinals who elect the pope, in favour of Italy and Europe. And as the cardinals typically choose from among their own, it is far more likely that the next pope will come from Europe if not Italy.
Snow should fall upon Chicago this afternoon and it may measure up to a few inches in depth. But much of this winter has been below average. And that is much the same from last year when snowfall did not even reach 20 inches.
I went through NOAA data to look at the last decade of monthly snowfall to see just how little snow has fallen this winter. (Not a lot.) And then I looked at the entirety of the NOAA records to see where 2011/2 fit in the span of winters. (One of the least snowy.) This graphic is the result.
This time last year I used some data published by Public Policy Polling upon presidential popularity (alliterative, right?) to create a graphic looking at said popularity. So here it is again for Presidents Day. Next time I’ll try to remember the holiday is coming a bit further in advance and work on something newer.
A minor point, someone asked why the bar runs past 100 for some presidents yet stops before 100 for others. The data was rounded and some things didn’t add to 100. I saw no need to manipulate the numbers for aesthetic purposes.
For the first time in centuries, a sitting pope is to resign. Typically most popes have served until their death. The question for many will now be who will be the next pope. Will it be a cardinal from Latin America? From Africa?
I looked at the origins of the all the popes since Peter. (Although the earliest few centuries are sketchy at best with not a whole lot of data.) As it turns out, there have already been probably three popes from Africa. Granted, they all lived during the Roman Empire, but still…that has to count for something…right?…No?…okay. Fine. Well in that case, you have plenty of Italians, in particular Romans to serve. (At least historically speaking.)
On Tuesday French special forces captured the airport in Kidal, Mali. (Although the use of the term airport is a bit generous.) In an unanticipated move—the Malian army was not informed before the operation commenced—the French retook the last major urban centre that had been under Islamist control. This may well end the first phase of the war in Mali, i.e. the recapture of major cities and towns taken by the Islamists since last year. The next phase will be training the Malian army and securing the towns and cities taken by the French. But there is little indication that the latter task will be undertaken by the French army.
France registered several major victories over the Islamist rebels in Mali this past weekend. Most importantly, French and French-led forces have all but retaken the key cities of Gao and Timbuktu. That leaves only the major city of Kidal still in Islamist hands along with a scattering of smaller towns and villages.
As my infographic below illustrates, the combined French–Malian force struck out from central Mali along two different axes of advance: one headed towards Gao and the other towards Timbuktu. The African forces of Niger and Chad are flanking the Islamists in and around Gao while other African forces are expected to establish patrols in the cities and towns retaken by the French–Malian force.
Malian and French forces in Mali have begun to slowly retake cities and towns in the conflict zone and are slowly pushing into northern Mali, which has been held by the Islamists for nearly a year. My infographic for today looks at recent troop movements and the growing arsenal of French weapon platforms involved in the war.
If the conflict is highlighting anything about the French military, in my mind it is the lack of support elements in the French air force. France cannot transport, on its own, its heavier vehicles and helicopters without the assistance of its allies. The first week was largely supported by two British C-17 transport aircraft. Also of some note is the fact that despite the era of drones, France is still relying on human-piloted reconnaissance aircraft because of a lack of sufficient numbers of surveillance drones.
This morning’s graphic returns to Mali. The Malian and French forces are busy engaging the rebels at Konna and Diabaly while the rebels may be attempting to capture Banamba, only 90 miles from the capital Bamako. I also look a little bit more at the Tuaregs and then the basic timeline. That shows how much of the conflict can be traced back to the arming of the Tuaregs by Gaddafi during the Libyan Civil War and then those weapons, training, and experience returning to northern Mali at the end of that civil war.
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.)