Tuesday Map: World disaster hotspots

What are the world's disaster hotspots? Arthur Lerner-Lam, who we spoke with in last week's Seven Questions about global disasters, set out with a team from Columbia University and the World Bank to answer this in "Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis." They divided the world up into sub-national swathes of land and analyzed population and disaster data going back about thirty years for six disaster types: drought, flooding, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides. For reasons of data accuracy and availability, the results are relative rather than absolute likelihoods that disasters will occur in various corners of the globe.

The study focuses on more significantly populated areas amounting to about half of the world's land area. It approaches loss as potential damage to that which is "valuable but vulnerable includ[ing] people, infrastructure, and environmentally important land uses." And what's more, based on data from a Brussels-based research center, the study hints that disaster frequency is increasing.

The following map shows mortality risk by disaster type. This isn't a comprehensive summary but rather a summary of the top at-risk areas. Those purple blips in central China sure have a lot more meaning in the aftermath of recent events.

This second map shows risk in terms of total economic loss based on disaster type.

And finally, the third map normalizes potential economic loss based on country GDP. Notice the migration of the top at-risk areas away from the more developed regions.



Durbin bashes Yahoo, Google operations in China


Looks like Sen. Dick Durbin may be taking up the flag of the late Rep. Tom Lantos when it comes to bashing the operations of tech companies in China. Ars Technica's Nate Anderson reports on today's hearing before Durbin's Judiciary subcommittee:

Yahoo, Google, and Cisco all trekked over to the Senate today to sit for an hour under the grandfatherly, but strangely stern eye of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). The subject was 'Internet freedom,' but this turned out to be code for 'censorship in China....' Durbin [was not] convinced, though, that multinational corporations were truly doing as much as they legally could to avoid censoring information.... After Google's Nicole Wong claimed that engagement with China was better than isolation, Durbin said that the answer reminded him of corporate arguments regarding apartheid in South Africa.

Durbin told tech executives to expect some legislation in the Senate similar to the Global Online Freedom Act, which would hold U.S. companies liable for helping foreign governments censor the Net. A recently unearthed PowerPoint presentation in which Cisco Systems executives appeared to be keen to help Chinese officials in censoring the Web (one phrase referred to "combating Falun Gong evil cult and other hostile elements") could give the bill legs.