Sailing Through Southeast Asian Waters

Today the US sent a guided missile destroyer through what China claims—but few recognise as—its sovereign territory, twelve nautical miles off the coast of semi-artificial islands. This piece from Quartz illustrates just some of the overlapping claims of the Spratley Islands. In the end, nothing happened to the destroyer as China did not counter it with ships or aircraft.

Who owns what now?
Who owns what now?

Credit for the piece goes to the Quartz graphics team.

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped one of the only two nuclear weapons used in combat on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. 70 years later, the city has been rebuilt and the war is long since done and over—the atomic bombings playing no small part in changing the Japanese calculus of surrender. But, what happened on 6 August and then 9 August (when we used the second of two nuclear weapons on Nagasaki)? The Washington Post has this nice piece with illustrations and maps and diagrams to explain it all.

The damage in Hiroshima
The damage in Hiroshima

Credit for the piece goes to RIchard Johnson and Bonnie Berkowitz.

ISIS Throughout the World

ISIS is still a threat to the Middle East, evidenced by the US announcing yesterday that it is intensifying strikes against the quasi-state in both Syria and Iraq. But just where has ISIS spread? And are its attacks spreading? This New York Times piece looks at just those two questions. The first through an obvious map.

The geographic reach of ISIS at all points over time
The geographic reach of ISIS at all points over time

What the map does is show you where ISIS has attacked around the world over all time. So yes, it has global reach. But the map alone cannot show you if things are improving or getting worse. For that you need a visualisation type that can plot things over time. And as aforementioned, the piece includes that as well.

A spike in attacks this winter presaged a summer of terror
A spike in attacks this winter presaged a summer of terror

Unfortunately, it appears that yes, ISIS is attacking or at least attempting to attack more targets in more countries both within and without the Middle East and its declared provinces.

Credit for the piece goes to Karen Yourish, Derek Watkins, and Tom Giratikanon.

Battle of Mons Graupius

I just finished reading Tacitus’ account of his father-in-law Agricola. Agricola is the Roman—more likely from a family of Romanised Gauls—general who conquered Great Britain for Rome. His crowning victory was the Battle of Mons Graupius. It should all be taken with a grain of salt, because there are no other corroborating sources—to my knowledge. For one thing, nobody knows for sure where this battle occurred—if it did—other than somewhere in what is now Scotland. So, I decided to attempt to illustrate the battle as I couldn’t find a satisfactory one on the internets. Again, with the knowledge that Tacitus’ account is not the most thorough.

Battle of Mons Graupius
Battle of Mons Graupius

Organising and Structuring ISIS

Yesterday we looked at the Russian sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Let’s stay in the Middle East and look at one of the forces that Iran—among many others, the US included—is fighting: ISIS, or Islamic State.  We all know it from its ruthless, zealous, brutal application of Islamic law to the territories it controls. But is the organisation itself really that “religious”?

Der Spiegel obtained documents in late 2014 that had been in the possession of Hajj Bakr, who had quietly outlined much of the structure of ISIS and how the group would function. The article is a thrilling read, if you are into these kinds of things, and depicts an ISIS different than what many would possibly suspect.

So why are we talking about it here? Because organisations require diagrams or flow charts of responsibilities. The folder of files that Spiegel obtained included just such things, and below is an example included in the article.

Organising ISIS
Organising ISIS

Credit for the originals go to Hajj Bakr.

S-300 Surface-to-Air Missiles for Iran

Russia has agreed to complete its years-old sale of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. What does this mean? Well, it does not make Iran’s airspace invulnerable, but it will be a significant upgrade with the potential to deter Israel from launching an air raid against Iranian nuclear sites. In a nice, illustrated piece the Washington Post explains what the S-300 system is.

S-300 SAM system
S-300 SAM system

Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.

Yemen’s Tangled Web

Did you see the news about Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen. Are you confused about what is going on in Yemen? And how that relates to what is going on in Iraq? And the rest of the Middle East? Well, so am I. But, I also only had time to research and work on one graphic last night. So, today we look at Yemen. And as my graphic attempts to explain, it is a bit of mess.

Yemen's tangled web
Yemen’s tangled web

Military Hardware

Earlier this week we looked at Ukraine’s loss of Debaltseve. Today we look at a piece from the Economist that compares the military hardware of the United States, Russia, and China. These are the mere datapoints on quantity, not quality. But it still illustrates fairly well why we should not fight a land war in Asia.

Comparing the numbers
Comparing the numbers

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s Data Team.

Ukraine Retreats from Debaltseve

This is a short piece—it is only really an inline map—but it illustrates fairly well why Ukraine’s loss of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine last week is kind of a big deal. Basically, the now mostly abandoned city is a transport hub linking the two quasi capitals of the Novorossiya.

Rebel-controlled area

Credit for the piece goes to Gene Thorp.

Boko Haram Attacks

For those of you don’t know, there is an Islamist group operating in northeastern Nigeria. And they have been for a few years now. But recently they devastated a town and killed somewhere between 150 and 2000 people. Now they have taken to kidnapping Cameroonians, who live across the border, but whose government has been taking military action against Boko Haram. In this context, the BBC put together a map that shows the spread and scale of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria.

The fatal attacks
The fatal attacks

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.