Chinese forces ‘used flamethrowers’ in Xinjiang operation

“A Chinese military newspaper gives graphic details of a raid in Xinjiang province against suspected militants.” 


This BBC article gives an update on China’s crackdown on Uighur nationalism under the guise of cracking down of ‘foreign terrorists.’  Earlier this year I wrote this article for the National Geographic Education Blog on this topic, the always simmering tensions in the China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang.  

TagsCentral Asia, political, conflictgovernance, China, East Asia.

The Myth of the Caliphate

Myth Article #1: Western pundits and nostalgic Muslim thinkers alike have built up a narrative of the caliphate as an enduring institution, central to Islam and Islamic thought between the seventh and twentieth centuries. In fact, the caliphate is a political or religious idea whose relevance has waxed and waned according to circumstances.

Myth Article #2: ISIS may use terrorism as a tactic, but it is not a terrorist organization. Rather, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army. So the counterterrorism strategies that were useful against al Qaeda won’t work in the fight against ISIS.

Myth Video #1: This video points to the reasons that recruits are attracted to extremism (not just poverty and ignorance).

Tags: politicalgovernance, religion, Islam, historical, terrorism, geopolitics, ISIS.


A Map of the World, Made From Soil and Stone

A walkable map of the world, made from soil and stone by one man


What am I thankful for?  A world filled with wonder and beauty. A world that is endlessly fascinating because its depths are beyond my ability to ever fully comprehend it.  A world that, despite all our faults, remains humanity’s only home and we collectively need to to act as good and wise stewards of this planet.  

Tags: cartography fun, visualization, mapping, artgeo-inspiration.

Thanksgiving Recipes Across the United States

“We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours.” 


In addition to this list of distinctive Thanksgiving recipes from each state (I’d love to try so many on this list), the NY Times has also produced this list of the most ‘Googled’ Thanksgiving recipes in each state.  These are very late additions to my favorite Thanksgiving day resources. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and may yours reflect some some regional distinctiveness and cultural context that you appreciate.   

Tags: Thanksgiving, food.

Putin: Turkey’s downing of jet a ‘stab in the back’

Russian warplane crashes in Latakia province in Syria and two pilots seen ejecting from the aircraft.


A border is not a line in the sand but a vertical plane, defining airspace as well as underground assets. The protection of borders and airspace is something that sovereign states take very seriously and can lead to some tense situations.  

Tags: borders, political, conflict, geopolitics.

The Geography of New Orleans

“Geographers make a distinction between site and situation as they consider the underlying foundation of a place. Few cities represent such a wide chasm between these two aspects as does New Orleans. The situation, or the answer to why does a place exist, was imperative. The Mississippi River was a major artery for the North American continent. As first the Europeans and then the Americans assumed control of the area, a port was essential at the mouth of this river. But the site, the response to where a city is placed, continues to confound. Few environments were or are more inhospitable to human habitation. Poor soil, disease, floods, and hurricanes are constant threats that have plagued the city for over three centuries. But the why trumped the where and hence the paradox of New Orleans persists.”


New Orleans is the classic example to use to explain the difference between site and situation…lousy site, incredible situation.  These maps are a nice introduction to the city.  

More Mexicans leave than enter USA in historic shift

After four decades of mass migration to the U.S., more Mexicans are now returning home.


Mexican migration to and from the United States is a contentious topic where political ideology can be louder than the actual statistics.  Since 2009, more Mexicans have been leaving the United States than entering it, and now news outlets are noticing since the PEW Research Center finalized a study on the topic.  Demographic and economic shifts in both countries have led to this reversal.      

Tags: Mexico, migration, borders, political.   

A Few Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Thanksgiving

President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the Civil War, and the feast has since become an American tradition. Yet the story of the Wampanoag and the pilgrims who first broke bread is not commonly known.


This is a good source of information that runs counter the mythologized Thanksgiving story that is seen by so many as central to our heritage and national narrative.  Personally, a nice slice of turkey with cranberry sauce is not ruined by knowing that there is more than one perspective to the story. 

Tags: Thanksgiving, food,perspective, historical.

ISIS: A New Threat

In this lesson, students will:

  • Explore the role of ISIS in the Middle East
  • Interpret political cartoons on the U.S. response to ISIS
  • Identify the techniques used by cartoonists to express political opinion
  • Monitor the news media coverage of ISIS over time


The Choices Program produces some great materials and this is from their Teaching with the News series.  The newest in the series is a resource guide for the terrorist attacks in Paris.  

Tags:  political, terrorism, conflict, geopolitics, ISIS, Choices.