Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Preview of Natural Earth version 1.2 populated places

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Version 1.1 brought Natural Earth up to ~7,000 populated places (purple hollow circle icons with labels). Version 1.2 will increase that by 25 times to about 175,000 populated places. It will be available as a supplement to the 1.1 version selection. What does this get you? A 1:1 million scale map of cities around the world and a 1:250,000 scale map of the United States and other select countries. There’s still basic selection work to be accomplished (Santiago Chile has duplicate points now, as does London) and scale ranks need refining (boosting blue 10 million, 5 million and 2 million selections from the 1:1 million black dots on these preview maps).

Because the world’s geo infrastructure sucks, not all the new features will have population counts in the 1.2 version. But most should have areal extent bounds and nesting to indicate if the town is part of a larger metro area. At the 1:250,000 scale (gmaps zoom 11), we start to see actual incorporated towns and unincorporated suburbs, but at the 1:1m scale we’re still dealing primarily in metropolitan and micropolitan features (urban areas that host multiple “cities”).

The names of the feature will also need work, but that will occur after the 1.2 release (India, China, and Central Asia mostly). The version 1.1 locations will be shifted over to use the more accurate geoNames lngLats for about 6,000 features (note Oakland below). Locations were fine at 1:10,000,000 scale but don’t always hold up on zoom in. A later update will incorporate an additional 100,000 places to flesh out the 1:1m scale and maybe a few extra for closer in. Combine these populated places with roads and they start looking like atlas plates :)

More preview images after the jump.

sfbayarea

haiti

iraq

More preview maps after the jump.

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Obama’s War (Wash Post)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

[Editor's note: This full page graphic by Gene Thorp delves into the mire that Afghanistan may become for President Obama. Great mapping and visual story telling with photo and charting elements.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Originally published Sunday 15 February 2009 in the Outlook section.
Graphic by Gene Thorp and Patterson Clark.

Iraq was George W. Bush’s war, but the conflict that now embroils both Afghanistan and Pakistan is likely to become Barack Obama’s — a war to which he may commit 30,000 more U.S. troops. Will the incoming soldiers be sucked into the “graveyard of empires,” as the British and Soviets were before them? Or could Obama’s war eventually bring peace and stability to the region? Here are some of the most important trends that will help determine the answer.

Graphic content by Peter Bergen, author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know” and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation program associate

View hi-res PDF of the graphic. Screenshot below.
Click screenshot for higher resolution image.

RELATED ARTICLE
Going the Distance: The war in Afghanistan isn’t doomed. We just need to rethink the insurgency.

By Seth G. Jones Sunday, February 15, 2009; Page B01

On the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, lies the Kabre Ghora graveyard. It is believed to contain the graves of 158 British soldiers, diplomats and their families who died in the city during the Anglo-Afghan wars of 1839-1842 and 1879-1880. The name comes from the term Afghans use to describe British soldiers: “Ghora.”

The original British gravestones have disappeared except for the remnants of 10, which have been preserved and relocated to a spot against the cemetery’s southern wall. I have been to Kabre Ghora several times, but on my most recent visit, I noticed something new — a memorial honoring soldiers from the United States, Canada and Europe who have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

Afghanistan has a reputation as a graveyard of empires, based as much on lore as on reality. This reputation has contributed to a growing pessimism that U.S. and NATO forces will fare no better there than did the Soviet and British armies, or even their predecessors reaching back to Alexander the Great. The gloom was only stoked by last week’s brazen suicide attacks in Kabul on the eve of a visit by Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But it would be irresponsible to concede defeat. Yes, the situation is serious, but it’s far from doomed. We can still turn things around if we strive for a better understanding of the Afghan insurgency and work to exploit its many weaknesses.

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Google Earth helps yet worries government (USA Today)

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

[Editor's note: I was able to attend the reception for GeoEye-1 at the fabulous Newseum last week in Washington, DC. The imagery from this new satellite is truly awesome. Look for it soon in The Washington Post, and in Google Earth.]

Republished from USA Today, Nov. 6, 2008. By Peter Eisler.

WASHINGTON — The secretive National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is rushing to get the latest, high-definition satellite photos of Afghanistan into the hands of U.S. ground troops as they ramp up operations in the country’s tangled terrain.

The NGA analysts aren’t tapping the government’s huge network of highly classified spy satellites; they’re getting the pictures from commercial vendors. That’s the same stuff pretty much anyone can get, either through free, online programs, such as Google Earth, or by buying it from the same companies supplying Uncle Sam.

It’s a remarkable turn, given the warnings that security experts in the USA and worldwide raised a few years ago about giving the entire planet — terrorists and rogue states included — access to high-resolution satellite photos once available only to superpowers.

Last month, the most powerful commercial satellite in history sent its first pictures back to Earth, and another with similar capabilities is set for launch in mid-2009. The imagery provided by those and other commercial satellites has transformed global security in fundamental ways, forcing even the most powerful nations to hide facilities and activities that are visible not only to rival nations, but even to their own citizens.

Although no one disputes that commercial imagery poses threats, it has been embraced in ways few predicted.

“It’s created a lot of opportunities to do things we couldn’t do with (classified) imagery,” says Jack Hild, a deputy director at NGA, which provides imagery and mapping for defense and homeland security operations.

Pictures from government satellites are better than commercial photos, but how much better is a secret. Only people with security clearances generally are allowed to see them. Using commercial products, intelligence agencies can provide imagery for combat troops, which wasn’t possible before because of the risk of it reaching enemy hands and even international coalition partners.

Federal agencies use commercial imagery to guide emergency response and inform the public during natural disasters, such as this year’s Hurricane Ike. It’s also used by government scientists to monitor glacial melting and drought effects in the Farm Belt.

When commercial satellite photos first hit the market, “the gut reaction was, ‘We can’t allow this imagery to be out there because someone might do us harm with it,’ ” Hild says. “Are there still bad things that people can do with commercial imagery? Absolutely … but we think the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Other nations share the sentiment. U.S. and foreign government contracts provide critical income for commercial imagery companies, such as Digital Globe and GeoEye — both of which supply photos for Google Earth.

“Most of our revenue (is) from governments,” says Mark Brender, vice president of GeoEye, which got half its 2007 revenue from the U.S. government and 35% from foreign governments. “They have a core competency in understanding how to use this technology — and a national security imperative to do so.”

In August 2006, the Islamic Army in Iraq circulated an instructional video on how to aim rockets at U.S. military sites using Google Earth.

Posted on a jihadist website, the video showed a computer using the program to zoom in for close-up views of buildings at Iraq’s Rasheed Airport, according to an unclassified U.S. intelligence report obtained by USA TODAY. The segment ended with the caption, “Islamic Army in Iraq/The Military Engineering Unit — Preparations for Rocket Attack.”

The video appeared to fulfill the dire predictions raised by security experts in the USA and across the globe when Google began offering free Internet access to worldwide satellite imagery in 2005. Officials in countries as diverse as Australia, India, Israel and the Netherlands complained publicly that it would be a boon to terrorists and hostile states, especially since the pictures often provide a site’s map coordinates.

Indeed, some terrorist attacks have been planned with the help of Google Earth, including an event in 2006 in which terrorists used car bombs in an unsuccessful effort to destroy oil facilities in Yemen, according to Yemeni press reports. Images from Google Earth and other commercial sources have been found in safe houses used by al-Qaeda and other terror groups, according to the Pentagon.

Many security experts say commercial imagery does little to enhance the capabilities of such organizations.

“You can get the same (scouting) information just by walking around” with a map and a GPS device, says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research organization specializing in defense and intelligence policy. The imagery “may give someone precise coordinates (for a target), but they need precise weapons … and their ability to target discrete parts of a particular site is pretty limited. People who think this gives you magical powers watch too many Tom Clancy movies.”

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