Sept. 1, 2017 Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey are unpredictable. They come quickly and, compared to great plains and mountain chains, leave just as quickly. No matter how diligent or rigorous we of GPF are, there are circumstances we will not be able to anticipate, and the only antidote for that is to be quick to recognize when those circumstances are upon us and to correct our course accordingly. Hurricane Harvey, and the concurrent storms of southern China, are serious enough to consider whether they qualify.
Harvey hit the heart of the U.S. oil industry. So far, it has shut down 11.2 percent of U.S. refining capacity (about one-third of all U.S. refining capacity is in Texas’ Gulf Coast) and roughly 25 percent of U.S. oil production from the Gulf of Mexico (accounting for about 20 percent of U.S. crude production). It has also closed all ports along the Texas coast.
Dec. 8, 2017 Over the past year, the U.S. Navy has been under scrutiny because of a series of collisions involving Navy warships from the Pacific Fleet. In May, the USS Lake Champlain guided-missile cruiser collided with a fishing boat in the Sea of Japan. A month later, the USS Fitzgerald destroyer collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan. Then in August, another destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, was hit by an oil tanker east of the Strait of Malacca. The latter two collisions resulted in the deaths of 17 American sailors. The Navy concluded that human error was the cause of both of those collisions.
Dec. 29, 2015 The retaking of Ramadi is the first major victory for the Shia-dominated Iraqi government against the Islamic State, which, in the summer of 2014, seized large parts of the Sunni majority areas in the western part of the country. Baghdad still faces an uphill battle as it pushes further into Anbar province and, more importantly, Nineveh province and its capital Mosul, which is where IS has its Iraqi headquarters. This map reveals the proximity between Ramadi and Baghdad, as well as their distance from the IS-controlled city of Mosul.
Jan. 6, 2016 There have been signs of slowing growth in China’s economy. This week, the Chinese stock market plummeted, before rebounding a day later. While the economic impact of these developments is significant, the political ramifications are the greater question. This map shows some of the challenges the government faces in keeping the country together, particularly during a time of declining economic performance. In China, income levels in the western provinces are far lower than the coastal provinces, while the interior of the country is somewhere in the middle. This indicates both that the benefits of the growth period were not evenly distributed and that the coastal area could view the rest of the country as a threat to its economic interests. The government will have to navigate these challenges as economic growth continues to slow down.
March 24, 2017 On March 11, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the most seats in Uttar Pradesh’s state legislative elections. This graphic shows the extent of the party’s victory.
Uttar Pradesh is one of the most important states in India. Modi believes he can use this state to increase his support because it is India’s most populous state with over 200 million people and also one of the poorest. For this reason, Modi and BJP’s promises to grow the Indian economy and share the wealth appealed to these voters.
Jan. 12, 2016 In 2008, the recessions in Europe and the United States hurt China’s ability to export, to the point of disrupting the stable functioning of its economy, which had been built to expect massive inflows of cash. This ate away at China’s economy for years, as the Euro-American appetite for Chinese goods never quite returned and new competitors emerged that undercut Chinese prices. China’s growth rate declined, and with it, its consumption of industrial minerals. The eventual recognition that there was a decline in demand for Chinese industrial products and a subsequent decline in China’s need for imports caused commodity prices to slump. This map reveals the countries that will be most impacted by China’s downturn.
Aug. 20, 2016 Aleppo is the center of gravity in the conflict between the Assad loyalists and Syrian rebels. Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and pre-war commercial capital. It is located in the wider province of the same name, which has a long border with Turkey – the rebels’ main staging ground. Many different battles are raging in the province of Aleppo. They involve regime forces, different rebel factions, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the Islamic State and separatist Kurds.
Feb. 2, 2016 This map indicates the number of casualties the Australian military has suffered in various conflicts, mostly outside of the country’s own borders. Especially significant was Australia’s participation in World War I. This was to be a major turning point in defining Australia’s identity as a nation for two key reasons. The first is that the new Australian navy proved to be a formidable force and the country could now safely say that its first three strategic imperatives had been achieved without any doubt.
The second is that World War I marked the moment in history where the interests of Australia and the British Empire would diverge and this split would be irrevocable. Australia’s population was approximately 4.9 million during the war and over 450,000 Australians enlisted, equivalent to 38.7 percent of males between the ages of 18 and 44, according to Australian historian Ernest Scott. Of those enlisted, about 60,000 died. Moreover, the Gallipoli Campaign, a battle in 1915 in present-day Turkey that claimed 8,000 Australian lives, in hindsight was a paradigm-shifting moment for Australia. The perceived needlessness for which Australians died at Gallipoli led to the conclusion that, while Australia would choose to go to war many more times in the future, it would do so to defend Australia and not simply out of loyalty to Great Britain.
Nov. 25, 2016 Iraqi and coalition forces started their campaign on Oct. 17 to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. They began the assault from Gwer, a town southeast of Mosul. In the first two weeks of battle, Iraqi forces covered a distance of 25 miles. In the past three weeks, however, the offensive has become extremely slow and Iraqi forces remain tied down in the districts just inside the city limits.
In recent days, U.S. airstrikes destroyed two bridges over the Tigris River in Mosul. The city now has only one remaining crossing that connects the eastern and western parts. The offensive forces have established the districts on the eastern periphery of the city as the front line and IS fighters are expected to retreat towards the west in the direction of their core turf. The west also remains the main supply route to ferry fighters and material. For this reason, the Iraqis have dedicated a special group to prevent IS from getting supplies and cut off IS’ escape route.
Feb. 16, 2016 This week’s map highlights Saudi Arabia’s royal family. The current monarch, the ailing 80-year-old King Salman, is the last of the sons of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the modern kingdom. After him, third generation princes will most likely take the throne. But the Saudi royal family has exponentially increased in size since King Abdulaziz’s generation. There are many grandsons and thus claimants to the throne and the other top jobs in the kingdom, but no real succession system in place.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who died in January 2015, decreed a succession law and created an Allegiance Council consisting of nine living sons of the founder and 16 grandsons who would chose the new crown prince when the incumbent would assume the throne upon the death of a monarch. This system has been over-ridden by the need to follow the informal line of succession and the practice of appointing a deputy crown prince and a second deputy prime minister. Consequently, the current king elevated his 30-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, to the position of deputy crown prince and gave him sweeping powers – ranging from defense minister to leader of a newly formed strategic council overseeing energy and economic affairs – a move that has created apprehension within the royal family.