It’s worth watching this real-time map of tweets about Ferguson, Missouri over the past week.
At first, after a local cop shot an unarmed black teenager and armed local police confronted protestors, the story spread across much of the US, and picked up overseas too. But then the activity leveled off, and seemed on the point of abating—until Thursday, Aug. 14, when it suddenly exploded. Now even parts of the US that had ignored the standoff began talking about it, as did much else of the world, in particular the Middle East.
Some of the most intense bursts of interest are seen in Istanbul, where the locals know a thing or two about heavy-handed policing of protests, and in Palestine and Egypt (whose people had some helpful advice about tear gas for the Missouri demonstrators). Russia’s media gleefully dispatched journalists to Missouri, happy to be distracted from the fighting Moscow has fomented in Ukraine. Even Iran’s supreme leader tweeted a sanctimonious rebuke.
Ferguson obviously isn’t Gaza, Cairo, or Luhansk—though there is a certain inescapable symmetry in the fact that other parts of the world are learning and reacting to what happens in America by the same means that Americans and Europeans tapped into the energy of the 2011 Arab Spring or the 2012 Moscow protests.
But Ferguson is a reminder that, while all politics may be local, the local can nowadays be extremely global. Ferguson’s problems are the product of a very specific history and political structure, but they echo the frustrations of the governed with governments everywhere; and thanks to the internet, those echoes can reverberate around the globe.—Gideon Lichfield
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
The perils of “ghost fishing.” Millions of tons of lost and abandoned fishing gear lie on the bottom of the sea, and it’s a death trap for uncounted numbers of fish, crustaceans and marine mammals. Gwynn Guilford on the movement to bring the problem of derelict fishing gear under control.
Watch Ebola spread. Zach Wener-Fligner used the best available data to build this map showing how the disease made its way across the face of West Africa. The bad news: the data may be a serious underestimate.
Japan’s rather strange account of World War II. The Yasukuni shrine, a memorial to Japanese war dead (and, controversially, war criminals) was in the news this week on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender. Lily Kuo reveals that the museum still tells a rather idiosyncratic story about how it all happened.
Housing will eat your economy. Thomas Piketty theorized that capital is taking a growing share of the economy, crowding out labor and increasing inequality. Tim Fernholz finds that he might be right but for a different reason: House prices are rising so fast that they are sucking up resources, leaving landowners as the ultimate “capitalists in command.”
Goodbye Erdogan and Maliki, here are your report cards. Jason Karaian charts the outgoing Turkish and Iraqi prime ministers’ 11 and 8 years, respectively, in power. Erdogan’s performance is mixed—good fiscal discipline, but shaky growth—while Maliki’s Iraq has become more prosperous, but more unequal and a lot more violent.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
The tarnished legacy of the Athens Olympics. Every summer, photographers descend on Athens to snap pictures of the abandoned, decaying stadiums which Greece spent billions for the 2004 Olympics, contributing to its economic collapse years later. On Macropolis, Nick Malkoutzis compares the Games to Greece’s joining the euro: ”A progressive vision that was undone by a lack of foresight and poor, bordering on criminal, management.”
Inside a Chinese bitcoin mine. Here is an emerging-market sweatshop of a kind we never knew existed: A disused factory packed with aging computers and giant fans, pumping out the computations that generate the cryptocurrency. Coinsman, a bitcoin website, has pictures of this strange place where the future of money meets old-fashioned outsourcing.
Where does a pedophile turn to? There are young men who fantasize about sex with children, but because they’ve never acted on it, the law and psychiatrists don’t treat them as pedophiles—and so they have nowhere to seek help. For Medium, Luke Malone tracked down a group of teenagers who are, in great secrecy, trying to help themselves before they harm someone.
I ruined the internet, and I’m sorry. Ethan Zuckerman would like to apologize. He helped develop the ad-based business model for websites. (He actually wrote the code for one of the worst inventions on the internet, the pop-up ad). This model, as he writes in the Atlantic, is basically why most websites are ugly pools of clickbait and Facebook and the government know everything about you. And he has an idea—a bit utopian, admittedly—for making things better.
Ten amazing data visualizations. We love a good chart, and the first six months of this year have been an exceptionally creative time in dataviz. Top prize in the six-monthly roundup from Visualising Data goes to the New York Times’ 255-chart breakdown of the US economy, which manages to be both incredibly detailed and stunningly simple.
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