Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: October 2013

NYT’s “Snow Fall”-like South China Sea multimedia story

2013 10 25 spratleys2

Online today: a “Snow Fall“-like New York Times Magazine multimedia feature on the South China Sea.

The piece uses an in-depth, narrative text story about a visit to a Filipino outpost to examine how China and other countries are vying for control in the resource-rich area.

There are videos, images, sounds, maps (like the one above), and more. Very much worth checking out.

UPDATE: Here’s how the story appears in today’s International New York Times.

2013 10 25 south china sea

An update on Thailand’s amnesty bill — and the potential for protests early next month

The WSJ reports today:

An assembly of civil society groups has threatened to mobilize rallies across Thailand if the government pushes through a proposed amnesty bill that could open the door for deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to re-enter the country a free man.

The draft legislation has recently been altered in a way that could clear past legal convictions against Mr. Thaksin, who was handed a two-year prison sentence in absentia in 2008 for abuse of power.


Should the newly altered bill make it to a final vote, it could spark a fresh round of political chaos in a country frequently mired in street protests.

The legislation is still subject to several rounds of debate in the House and Senate before it becomes law. In the meantime, eight anti-Thaksin groups said they would meet this Sunday to decide the timing of mass street demonstrations planned for early November. The exact time and venue have yet to be announced.

Worth a read.

Image of the day: Saturn seen from above

Saturnmosaic cassini 960


Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI; Composition: Gordan Ugarkovic.

A round-up of some of my recent Quartz stories

Just briefly, I wanted to share some stories I’ve written for Quartz of late:

Tweet of the day

My story on Aung San Suu Kyi and Singapore

Up now over at a story I wrote about the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s recent visit to the city-state.

10 links

  1. Dogs Are People, TooThe New York Times
  2. List of common misconceptions — Wikipedia
  3. The Political Economy of Zombies — The Airship
  4. How to beat jet lag —
  5. How Brazil’s Richest Man Lost $34.5 Billion — BloombergBusinessweek
  6. 11 Pieces of Obamacare Conventional Wisdom That Shouldn’t Be So Conventional — Megan McArdle at
  7. Every Sci-Fi Starship Ever*, In One Mindblowing Comparison Chart — Kotaku
  8. I’m walking every street in New York City —
  9. Putting Time In Perspective — wait but why
  10. Video embedded above and on YouTube here: “Flying eagle point of view.”

(Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)

Thailand flooding: Is this 2011 all over again? Probably not

2013 10 01 thailand flooding

With tropical storm Wutip bringing downpours to Thailand, are we likely to face massive 2011style floods all over again?

It’s not looking that way.

The AP puts things in perspective:

Thai authorities said Tuesday that floods have killed more than 20 people and affected areas across the country over the past two weeks, though experts say there doesn’t appear to be the risk of devastation seen in record floods two years ago.

Thirty-two out of 77 provinces have seen flooding since mid-September and 23 people have been killed, the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said in its report, adding that 25 provinces still have flooding.

“Thanks to the dredging of the canals and the weather, at this point there is nothing to panic about,” Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paripatra tweeted Monday night. “Currently the water level in the Chao Phraya River is still low, so there’s nothing to worry.”

And as Bangkok Pundit noted in a characteristically comprehensive post last week, a crucial issue in 2011 was not just massive downpours, but high water levels in dams:

The risk at the moment is flash floods from heavy rainfall as we have seen in Prachinburi- which is expected to continue over the next week – but this completely different from what we experienced in 2011 where we had heavy rainfall and large discharges of water from the dams. We will continue to have discharges of water, but don’t panic over small dams. Watch the rainfall though as if it continues we will have more flooding – more like 2010 – but still not enough rain to see anything like the 2011 floods.

Even in the apparently unlikely event of wide-scale indentations, however, one concern is the status of the government’s flood defense projects.

The WSJ‘s Southeast Asia Real Time said last week:

Since the 2011 flood, which the World Bank estimated to have cost Thailand about $45.7 billion in economic damages and losses, Ms. Yingluck’s government has launched an $11 billion effort to improve Thailand’s flood defenses as it scrambled to reassure anxious investors.

However, the government’s floods control projects have been met with legal delays and protests. A court in June ordered Ms. Yingluck’s administration to conduct an environment and health impact assessment before it can proceed with the projects, which include constructions of dams, reservoirs and a flood prevention command center. The government recently filed an appeal.

The upshot, though is this: Don’t assume we’re in for floods like we saw two years ago.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

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