Archives for category: Foreign Affairs

I woke up this morning to the shocking news of the attack in Istanbul, Turkey. Like the attack earlier this year in Belgium, I was aghast at the horror of the attack. But my immediate thoughts went to a work colleague who Turkish by background, but currently resides in Australia. When I got into the office I checked in with him to see if all his family and friends were safe. Fortunately they were.

Then he told me of a statistic that I did not realise was true. Since the beginning of 2016 there have been hundreds of terrorism related deaths. At first I didn’t believe it, but then the reality sunk in. Living in a wealthy first world Western country we have very blinkered media coverage about what is going on overseas. I did some digging and found a Wikipedia article listing all the global acts of terrorism for 2016. Based on the count from this article, to date there have been over 250 deaths in Turkey with many times that number injured. That number will only increase after the airport attack.

Shocked cannot begin to describe the feeling I had in uncovering this morbid statistic. March and April were nasty, and had close to 30 attacks combined. I knew the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia was appalling, but the situation in Turkey and Pakistan is bad.

I could pass judgement on the political situation that Turkey is in, but that does not make any better the senseless slaughter of innocent people in this attack. On top of that Turkey, along with Jordan, is shouldering a ridiculous amount of the refugee burden coming out of the Syria conflict (over 2 million).  And now Turkey is squarely in the sights of IS following their approval for use of their Air Force bases for attacks on IS.

What is quite clear is the demonic nature of the attackers, clearly targeting indiscriminately people of all religions. To top it off, the attack occurred during Ramadan and just over a week from Eid. I am Catholic, so the way I could equate this is as if a group of fundamentalist Christians performed a mass attack on other Christians in the lead up to Christmas.

For my work colleague it is another sad day for his country of birth. He has trouble communicating this sadness to people oblivious to the challenges overseas. But I think this one image speaks volumes to the problem, and the challenges of a blinkered view of the world. I will let you be your own judge against this sketch.

IMG_20160629_133514

I don’t normally write about this sort of stuff, but I could not stop thinking about this today. Like I did for Paris, I say a prayer for Turkey.

It has to be strange being Australian and having an intense fascination in the US election of 2012. But when I look at the reasons why, it isn’t that strange. The USA is the most powerful country in the world, economically, militarily, in innovation, and its culture pervades every corner of the globe. A news site described election watching as the ultimate reality TV show. Though it would have been more fun watching the Republican primaries hosted on the set of Survivor Vanuatu! I have found myself consuming an inordinate amount of election updates. For anyone with an analytical mind – it is like candy. There are statistics, probabilities, scenarios, segmentation analysis, and with it all overlaid on a timeline counting down to today.

I won’t espouse my opinion on who I think should win, because I believe that this is the domain of the American people. It is their election, even though it has an impact on the world. After all the great majority of the outcomes will directly affect the day to day lives of Americans and not myself. Us foreigners are indirectly affected by the outcomes, and our own governments have huge impact as to how greatly we are indirectly impacted (when was the last time the US sent a drone strike into New Zealand?). But the election has driven me to digitally subscribe to the New York Times.

In the past 6 months I have become addicted to reading Nate Silver’s blog on the NYTimes – The FiveThirtyEight Blog. I am now super curious as to whether he has got it right. I’ve been intensely reading the detailed analysis and the cold math that he applies in his blog. And it is strangely non-partisan (Fox News, MSNBC anyone?). It still incites partisan feedback, but he keeps on bringing it back to “look at the math”. But the coolest thing about the blog, and some of the other pages on NYTimes are the graphics. Check out this eye candy from a few weeks ago – FiveThirtyEight Blog – Over the Decades, How States have Shifted. It is a beautifully complex picture that conveys a lot into a simple diagram. The NYTimes on another part of the site laid out the scenarios as they present themselves – have a look at 512 Paths to the White House.

There is other eye candy on other sites too, which are also interactive. CNN allowed me to pick the election via my tips for how the states would fall in the electoral college – CNN 2012 Electoral Map (which is similar to the “Paths” link on the NYTimes). Looking purely at the math, it does not stack up well for the red side.

I like this eye candy, and have often had to employ similar techniques in the presentation of information or concepts at work. A fantastic site that I have referenced many times in the past for inspiration is Visual Complexity – http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/. I first stumbled across this site back in 2005. It is pure eye candy, with a real purpose and I could get lost for hours there. And when shooting photos and capturing the world around you, sometimes you get a hint as to where their inspiration has come from.

I just hope for two outcomes from the election – foreign policy remains pragmatic and progressive by bringing countries together, and the American people can bridge the deep partisan divisions that have engulfed the country for over the last decade. After all, without combined ambitions of the USA the human race would still not have landed on the moon – or invented velcro.

Dawn photo shoot photos to come (with a bit of assistance from Photoshop), and a little video surprise from my photo partner in crime Grumpy.

UPDATE

I guess Nate Silver pretty much picked it, though there have been a couple of surprises in the swing states. What did surprise me a little bit was CNN saying how unexpected it was to get such a quick result. The math should have told them that if Ohio and a couple of the other Eastern swing states went blue, red had buckley’s chance of winning. It remains to be seen whether Florida in the final mix stays blue or goes red, but at the moment it has a very azure haze to the count.

I suppose one last note – I couldn’t let this post rest without picking my photo of the election campaign. For me this one captured by Forbes spoke volumes to what is involved in running for re-election.

President Barack Obama alighting from Air Force One on a campaign stop

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