The View From ISIS’s Window

by Chas Danner

One can’t help but think of our View From Your Window Contest when reading this news:

Last week, Eliot Higgins (who was the subject of a glowing profile in the New Yorker) raised £50,891 on Kickstarter to fund a new open source news project, Bellingcat, which would equip citizen journalists with the training and tools to carry out online investigations responsibly. Over the weekend, Bellingcat (which is the spiritual successor to Brown Moses, Higgins’s Blogspot that found that Syria had chemical weapons in its arsenal) has already had its first major scoop: It looks like it located an ISIS training camp.

Bellingcat used many of the same techniques as VFYWC contestants:

Higgins and his coworkers examined photos posted on July 21 by a Twitter account associated with Islamic State militants which show the ‘class of 2014 martial arts lesson.’ “It was possible to establish the time and direction the camera was facing using the shadows that are visible which narrowed down the location,” says Higgins. Other landmarks were widely visible constructions such as the bridge on this photo:

higgins-1

Higgins and his colleagues were able to find a bridge which looked similar in Google Earth.

Higgins 2

To be more precise, Higgins used the tool Panoramio which relies on Google Maps to Geo-tag photos. That way, the pictures of tourists can become extremely valuable. By analyzing street lamps and Arabic letters Higgins verified the location of the bridge.

higgins-3

Kabir Chibber chimes in:

The whole process to pinpoint the training camp is impressive—and what is more impressive is that you can do it too. Bellingcat has a series of guides on how to geolocate photos and images. As Higgins explains his mission on Kickstarter:

The practice of journalism  is continuing to expand and broaden. We don’t need to exclusively rely on traditional news media to do the digging and reporting for us. We—you—can do it on our own.

That’s absolutely correct, and the more people that realize it, the better. Having myself spent several years trying to make sense of the world’s amateur war and protest images, it’s simply amazing to see efforts like Higgins’ take flight. It used to be a lonely endeavor, cross-referencing cell-phone photos and YouTube videos with timestamps and foreign-language tweets to triangulate facts as best and fast as you could. But that being said, as all our window contest players know, sometimes there’s nothing more fun than a good puzzle, especially when the result of solving that puzzle is a clearer picture of an important world event – or maybe just the truth, for the sake of knowing what that is. I can hardly imagine the satisfaction of using those skills to catch war criminals and locate murdering jihadists, like Higgins and Bellingcat have done. This is the welcome next generation of citizen journalism, and I’m grateful it’s getting the attention and respect it deserves. Hopefully the Chini’s of the world will lend a hand.

Bellingcat’s full explanation for how they found ISIS’s camp is here.

The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #219

by Chas Danner

VFYWC-219

A reader thinks they’ve got it:

Mombasa, Kenya with Fort Jesus in the background.

Another reader:

Being new to this contest, I’d like you to know how much I enjoy reading all the comments that folks include. So much is really helpful to new participants like myself, BUT I really love the wisecracking comments and entries of the frustrated. Thank you!!

The View From Your Window Contest, driving readers to throw things our their windows since 2010:

I’ve never been more frustrated with a VFYWC than this week. Why? Because I’ve found this city before while searching for another week’s window, but I can’t for the life of me remember where it is. I can’t remember which window I was looking for when I found it, my cell browser history doesn’t go back more than a month, and I evidently wasn’t signed into Google Earth when I found it. Arrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!  I await the inevitable frustration when you reveal the answer and I immediately remember every detail I’ve been grasping for for the last 72 hours.

That reader will happy to know that he did get the country, but for the sake of suspense, we’ll get to that a little further down. Another:

I hope that’s Dubrovnik! I’ve walked the wall before.

That was the location of our 200th contest actually. They do indeed look similar. Another is thinking South America:

This totally looks like a view of Cuzco, Peru that my cousin sent me last year. Surely the gods would not allow me to so immediately and confidently guess the right view. Still, I will persist with my answer: The flaky-looking barrel tile, the crowding, distant mountain vista and general proximity of the structures to one another smack of the hotel room scene that was sent to me. But, I’m certain that we’ll discover this to be some quaint and distant Italian village whose claim to fame is as a supplier of the purest most virginal olive oil. Before I digress into further sarcasm, I must point out it is indeed a beautiful view, the blueness of the sky is quite captivating. Who knows, I may be within the same latitude, at the very least…

Too far south. Inching up the globe, this player notes an important assortment of clues:

We have a densely built group of brick and adobe buildings, mostly with clay tile roofs, overlooking a mountain valley. It is impossible to know for sure, but I think the flag on the parapet in the center of the upper half of the picture is a green-white-red tricolor, either that of Italy or Mexico. Either country works with these buildings and landscape. I’ve managed to stare at the flag long enough to convince myself there is something on the white stripe, so I’m going to say Mexico.

There appears to yellow lichen (Xanthoria parietina) on some of the roofs which grows…basically all over the world, but seems to favor coastal areas. So, mountains, valley, near the coast, in Mexico. In other words, just about anywhere in Mexico. The yellow color of a couple of the buildings reminds me of Oaxaca, but I don’t think that is it. The older parts of that city are in a valley, not overlooking it. (The worst part about this challenge for me is that every time I type the name of a Mexican town into Google image search, I get pictures of food. You guys are killing me!) Once again, I am reasonably confident as to region, but I know when I’m beat. Plus I’m thinking it may be Italy after all. Blind guess in (vain) hope of proximity: Taxco, Mexico, because it is on a hillside and the tile roofs seem especially popular there.

Many readers correctly identified the lichen this week. Another gets us closer:

I dunno, but there’s something about that fortress in the background that reminds me of some of the towns you see near the Bosphorus, somewhere between Istanbul and the Black Sea. Is that specific enough for you? Yeah, thought not.

Continuing to circle in:

Definitely Mediterranean, but contests have recently featured Spain, southern France, Baleric Islands, Greece. There’s a nice view of water & mountains behind a castle turret. I’m just throwing a dart at the board and guessing Tunis, Tunisia.

Another was thinking Spain (again), but gave up when she instead “chose to spend [her] indoor time this weekend binging on the good-years episodes of the Simpsons marathon on FXX.  D’oh!” Speaking of mysteries, a few years ago Matt Groening finally revealed the actual location that inspired Springfield. Meanwhile, this homer gets the country:

A village somewhere in Tuscany. I know the turrets one sees is a clue but I’m not sure what the ancient influence is. I’m guessing it’s a village somewhere in Tuscany, Italy.

Nice job, a Tuscan hill town indeed. Which one? This week’s very first entrant guessed right:

The lichen-stained clay roof tiles, the brick-and-stone architecture, and the gentle hills in the distance (love that deep blue color the mountain has) remind me of the touristy town of Siena, south of Florence. Plus, although the flags, hanging from poles on the two crenellated towers to the left and the center of the photo, are both limp (no wind…grr) I can make out faint red, white, and green stripes, with the red band hanging furthest to the ground—as it should as the red band goes on the right (away from the pole) if you fly it correctly.

This previous winner nails the exact location and window:

vfywc-219-with-labels

This week, we are in Siena, Italy, just a couple of blocks from the View From Your Window that you ran last summer. Unlike that unmistakable view, the submitter carefully framed the contest picture to avoid including the famous Mangia Tower to the left, leaving only some of the Palazzo Pubblico‘s merlons visible.  While the view screams Tuscany, those merlons were the clue I used to find this week’s window.  This photo from the hotel’s website and another from a travel website confirmed the location.   The contest window is in one of the apartment rooms at the I Terizi di Siena at Via dei Termini 13.  Although I could not find a room number, it is a south facing room on the fifth floor.

Bit of the Palazzo Pubblico

No heatmap this week as the vast majority of contestants got the town and window. And this one used a unique clue:

siena air conditioner

My initial reaction was that it wouldn’t be easy unless I got lucky. I got lucky. After searching for mossy terracotta and getting several Tuscany hits, I found the air conditioner shown on the next building appeared to be an Italian product. A search for “Tuscany fort village” led to the attached image of the Il Campo medieval piazza that can be seen from the opposite direction in the “view.”

siena il campo

This reader nailed the flags on the tower in the background as well:

flags

The flag of Tuscany and the city flag of Siena.

A first-time reader and player chimes in:

view2

I was using Google Image Search for keywords different keywords like “Italy”, “striped“, “wall”, “armament”, “merlon”, “tower”, “rooftops”, until I finally found the right sillhouette of the Palazzo Pubblico at Piazza del Campo. From there I used Google Earth and panned around until I found the right combination of roofs, chimneys, towers and the glass skylight, that is in the window. Hope my guess is right. First time I am taking part here, found VFYW Contest linked in this Der Spiegel report.

Glad to have you! Around 25K new visitors have checked out the contest thanks to that link. And we’ll have a post up on the amazing Bellingcat effort soon. (Update: here it is.) Moving on, many Dish readers have apparently been to Siena:

This image brings back that magnificent smell of wood-burning fires filling the air.  Walking the streets of Montepulciano looked like an ancient city, but smelled like camping.  It was the most delightful and unexpected surprise during my trip to Italy.

And love the dining:

I had one of my most memorable meals ever in Siena, right on the Piazza del Campo at sunset. Cinghiale in umido con polenta, a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and cantuccini with Vin Santo for dessert. Fu meraviglioso!

And the influence on New England architecture:

I hope the photographer had a lovely time in Siena and climbed the Torre del Mangia, the tall bell tower at the Palazzo Pubblico. In a neat coincidence, Wikipedia says the bell tower was used as a model for Waterbury Union Station in Waterbury, Connecticut, site of one of last month’s VFYW contests.

Another:

VFYWSiena copy.001

Ah, Siena! Hard to miss, with the famous Torre del Mangia just out of view but the false parapets giving away the Palazzo Pubblico. The Palazzo looks down on the stunning Campo, home of the crazy Palio horse race, last held only 10 days ago (was a VFYW reader in town for the Palio?)  Just to right of center, prominent on the horizen is the tower of the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, now home to the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, an international centre for advanced musical studies. Nice gig if you can get it. Just out of view to the right lies the famous Cathedral of Siena.

That’s exactly when and why our submitter was there. More on the race:

Siena is a great town, incredibly overcrowded during the horse races which are held in the town square.  IIRC they are done bare-back so are quite challenging for the jockeys.  The bragging rights if your contrada (city section?) wins the race are hard to imagine for an outsider but very real for those involved. In the Spring and Fall when the mobs have left it is a lovely town to tour, amazing old architecture, wonderful restaurants. Thanks again for these wonderful chances to renew old memories (and more often to explore new worlds).

Another advises that one of their “best travel experiences so far is going to the winning contrada house after the Palio for the most amazingly hospitable and electrified party of the year; and don’t bring any money, it will just upset the hosts.” One more reader’s process:

Siena

After a failed search of nearby hill towns such as Pienza and Montalcino, I cast my net further to the northwest (the only direction from which Monte Amiata has this profile) and happened upon Siena. Voila, I instantly saw a match with the corner feature of Siena’s famous Palazzo Pubblico. From there, I drew a line from Monte Amiata to the corner of the Palazzo Pubblico and looked for Hotels or B&B’s. Pretty quickly I converged on I Terzi di Siena.

romana

Chini approves:

VFYW Siena Bird's Eye Marked - Copy

An easy view, for sure, but one that brings back nice memories. My junior year in college I studied in Florence and our program had us take day trips to just about every town in Tuscany. Lucca, San Gimignano, Pisa, Arezzo, pretty much all of them, and each more amazing than the last. So despite being 4,000 miles from the NYC, this week’s location is one of the few that I’ve been to, having sprawled out below your viewer’s window in the piazza as we ate lunch. Unfortunately, we were there in the fall so we didn’t get to see the Palio, but I’m betting your viewer just did…

VFYW Siena Actual Window 4 - Copy

This week’s view comes from Siena, Italy and looks almost due south along a heading of 170.1 degrees. The iconic torre del mangia is just out of frame on the left and the piazza itself is hidden by a steep drop and the buildings in the foreground. The picture was taken from the Camera Romana (Roman room) on the fifth floor of a bed and breakfast called i Terzi di Siena.

This week’s winner, a 12-contest veteran, comes from our vaunted list of previously correct guessers of difficult views:

219-winner

Tougher this week. Learned a bit about mediterranean roof tiles to get me started and settled on Italy. After browsing photos of old towers in Italy, I came across the Palazzo Pubblico, which had the distinctive crenels in the upper left of the photo. Couldn’t get the view though until I came home from work and fired up Google Earth, which pegged the spot pretty quickly. The tower in the center right is the Fondazione Accademia Musicale Chigiana – Onlus, and just out of view is the Siena Cathedral, which otherwise dominates the skyline. The view is looking south from what appears to be Via Dei Termini, 17. See above for the window.

Congrats on the win! From the view’s original submitter:

VFYW - Siena - Location on map

The image was taken in Siena, Italy the day after “Il Palio di Siena,” aka “the most dangerous horse race in the world.” It is a view looking southward from this address: Vie Dei Termini, 13 Siena, Italy. I was staying on the the fifth floor and had a view westward, which had an obstructed view of a busy street, and a view southward (towards Piazza del Campo), which was straight from my bed. I much preferred the southward view!  The best giveaway is the flag in the distance to the left. It is hard to see but is white and black, which denotes Siena itself.

VFWY - more details

Update: Had some technical (Time Warner Cable) difficulties today, but still wanted to guess-collage many of the wonderful visuals we got from contestants this week:

vfywc-219-collage

(Archive: Text|Gallery)

 

Quote For The Day

by Chas Danner

“Is it not possible that rocks, hills and mountains, and the great physical body of the Earth itself may enjoy a sentience, a form of consciousness which we humans cannot perceive only because of the vastly different time scales involved? For example the mind of a mountain may be as powerful and profound as that of a Buddha, Plato, Spinoza, Whitehead and Einstein. Say that a mountain takes 5,000,000 of our human or solar years to complete a single thought. But what a grand thought that single thought must be. If only we could tune in on it. The classic philosophers of both east and west have tried for 5,000 years more or less to convince us that Mind is the basic reality, maybe the only reality and that our bodies, the Earth and the entire universe is no more than a thought in the mind of God. But consider an alternative hypothesis. That Buddha, Plato, Einstein and we are all thoughts in the minds of mountains, or that humanity is a long, long thought in the mind of the Earth. That we are the means by which the Earth, and perhaps the universe becomes conscious of itself. I tell you that God, if there is a god, may be the end, not the origin of this process. If so, then our relationship to Earth is something like that of our minds to our bodies. They are interdependent. We cannot exploit or abuse our bodies without peril to our mental health and our survival. We have definitely seen some mindless bodies dancing around us, but we have yet to observe a disembodied mind. At least I haven’t seen any. And as mind is to body, so is humanity to Earth. We cannot dishonor one without dishonoring and destroying ourselves.” – Edward Abbey, from his 1975 lecture “In Defense of Wilderness” given at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and later transcribed and published by Jack Loeffler in his book, Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey.

(Photo: Caineville Reef, Utah by Andrew Smith. This image has been slightly cropped.)

The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #218

by Chas Danner

VFYWC-218

Only one reader correctly guessed this week’s view:

Way too easy. Come on, at least make us work for it. Its’s clearly New York City, NY, USA.

Another is packing his bags:

I don’t care where it is, but I could live there!

Another elaborates:

If every human being could spend two weeks annually at such a place, workplace violence and domestic abuse would disappear.

A confident guess:

Obviously, this is a rare, full daylight view of Lamplight Village, so often painted by Thomas Kinkade, The Painter of Light:

lamplight-village

And available for just three installments of $16.66 (that includes a free, light-painting Thomas Kinkade action figure). Another has a less sentimental guess:

Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Because of reasons.

Or perhaps the UK?

This is a straight-up stumper. No (readable) signs, no cars, no people. no livestock. Six buildings partially visible, and a paved road running through, in some very lovely mountains. Let’s start with the mountains: those could be the Rockies (or other range in western North America), the Alps, the Andes, or somewhere odd like Japan or New Zealand. The sun looks to be more or less directly overhead, so let’s eliminate the southern hemisphere.

My first impulse was Switzerland, but the houses don’t look typically Swiss. My next impulse was Scotland. That feels closer.

If anyone is going to actually decode this (i.e., if anyone is going to get it without having been here on vacation and recognizing it) my guess is that they are going to figure outyellow-box what is up with that yellow box on the side of the building in the foreground that looks like a hand soap dispenser. I am not going to be that person.

So for the sake of keeping my resolution and my sanity I’m going to throw a virtual dart at a map of the Scottish Highlands and say… Fort Augustus, Scotland. Hoping for proximity…

Another:

I’m really looking forward to finding out how the winner deduced this, because I haven’t a clue. We have that funny yellow box on the side of the foreground building, but after much googling I still have no idea what it is. Perhaps the style of the sign on the road evokes something for someone, but not for me. Perhaps the combination of the old stone construction, the slate roofs, the solid shutters, and the mountainous setting all add together in a unique way for someone out there, but not for me. Or perhaps the trees make it clear. The best I can get is somewhere in Europe.

Well you’re right about Europe. Another:

I think those who wanted a difficult contest got there wish. Just because I want to make a guess, I’m saying Rottenturm, Switzerland because it looks like it could be somewhere in Europe and that’s where my grandmother was born and lived until she was eighteen and fled Europe for the United States. The look of the buildings and the slopes behind them are how I imagine that town must look.

This reader better watch out for Uncle Sam:

That is almost certainly where I do my secret banking in Switzerland. I’m not allowed to be more specific.

Another Dish-informed contestant gets closer:

La Mare-aux-Geais, France. Looks like a hameau. Now where did I recently read the word hameau? Oh yes, in the Dish post about La Mort Aux Juifs. The description of the hameau in that post is two houses and one farm. So that is my guess.

This reader gets really close:

The landscape combined with the slate roof, stone buildings, and dormer windows is a good fit for the Pyrenees.  But this is a really tough one to narrow down further.  There are a million little towns and villages in the French and Spanish Pyrenees, and there’s not really a good way to explore them all.  I’ve officially given up and will randomly pick the French town of Fos.  I’m anxious to see how the winner(s) this week will identify the exact spot.  Grit, determination, and many hours of browsing google earth?  ESP?  What will the secret be?

The Pyrenees it is, and the French side was the most popular incorrect guess this week. This reader gets in the right country, only the wrong part of that country:

I know this is probably somewhere in southern Germany/the Alps but those slate-shingled roofs, the mountains, and the green foliage remind me of the tiny sub-region of “O Bierzo,” the far western corner of the province of León in Spain, just east of the region of Galicia (in fact, they speak the Galician language there, too). Slate-shingled roofs are very common in O Bierzo as well as in neighboring Lugo province, but clay shingles are the norm nearly everywhere else in the country.

Alas, the only players to nail this week’s exact town in Spain were previous winners. For instance, a neuroscientist:

ridgeLine_1

This one was fun. At first the general alpine-ness suggested the Alps, but poking around there didn’t turn up the right mix of architectural features. Cycling fans know that if it’s not the Alps then it’s the Pyrenees, so off to the Franco-Spanish border. The ridgeline matched one outside Vielha, Spain, just a stone’s throw from the French border and familiar to obsessive cycling fans who remember it as the teams’ home base before last Tour de France stage 16.

ridgeline

From there, it was a process of roof-matching in Street View to ID the right structure among so many pretty buildings. The rushing stream in the picture is a great hint. Based on sight-lines, I think the window must be the southern-most one on the top floor at 52 Carrèr Major:

theWindow

Amazing. Contest #164 was from another part of the Spanish Pyrenees as well. And here’s the winner of Contest #166:

This was the most difficult contest in quite a while.

View from about the same spot

This week we are in the Spanish Pyrenees in the town of Vielha. For the building appears to be named Nere and the closest address on I could find is 54 Carrèr Major, 25530 Vielha, Lleida, Spain.

WINDOW

On the second floor of the building, there are two large windows that open onto small balconies. I believe the contest window is the one on the left when facing the building (i.e. the one further south). The window is in the box in the attached picture. I also attach one street view picture showing a snowy version of the same scene, but just from one floor down. And for good measure attached is a third picture taken from the parallel street across the Arriu Nere showing the building with the contest window and two of the buildings in the contest picture.

Alt view

Rest assured, the more the difficult the contest, the happier Grand-Champ-Chini gets:

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. After a tough few days I needed a good view to hunt and this one made up beautifully for Dish Editor Chris Bodenner’s maddening eephus pitch from last week.

VFYW Vielha Bird's Eye Marked - Copy

The lack of landmarks means that we’ve got a classic “hard” view on our hands, but its proximity to Spain’s biggest ski resort makes me think that there’ll still be a decent number of responses. Eight correct answers, perhaps?

VFYW Vielha Actual Window Marked - Copy

This week’s view comes from Vielha, Spain in the Val D’Aran just a few miles south of the French border. The picture was taken from a sliding living room door on the second physical floor of the Casa Mijaran rental apartments (most likely Mijaran #1) located at 54-52 Carrer Major and looks east-north-east along a heading of 71.37 degrees over the banks of the River Nere, a tributary of the Garonne River. I’ve also attached a picture from the interior showing the likely spot where your viewer was standing.

VFYW Vielha Interior View Casa Mijaran 1 - Copy

Lest any regular players get too intimidated, this week’s winner was off by only 7.1km:

A really difficult one this week! I am pretty certain it is on the Pyrenees, given the terrain and the architecture, but finding the exact mountain village with the scant clues present in the picture is beyond me. Just for fun I am going to guess Arties, Spain, though I’d be flabbergasted if I turn out to be right.

Flabbergast away. Nice job.

This week’s view actually came from friend-of-the-Dish Jonathan Cohn:

View-from-Window---1

It’s from an apartment in Vielha, Spain, where we spent a week in July. Vielha is in the Pyrenees in Catalonia and near the French border.

View from Window - 1

The photo will be tough, I think, but there are mountains and a bell tower in the center of town which are both visible in the shot. There’s also a creek/small river in one of them. That could help too.

We’ll do an easier view for next week. If you’d like to try and find out where, we’ll see you on Saturday.

(Archive: Text|Gallery)

Ask Shane Bauer Anything: The Guantanamo Effect

by Chas Danner

In another video from the former hostage, he notes how both he and his Iranian jailers would try to cite Guantanamo to their advantage:

He goes on to try and explain the bizarre and twisted relationship he had with his interrogators, who tried to behave as both enemy and friend:

Shane Bauer is an investigative journalist and photographer who was one of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran after being captured on the Iraqi border in 2009. He was held for 26 months, four of them in solitary confinement. He subsequently wrote a special report for Mother Jones about solitary confinement in America, and he’s currently running a Kickstarter-like campaign to enable him to spend a full year investigating America’s prison system. Shane and his fellow former hostages, Sarah Shourd (now his wife) and Josh Fattal, have co-written the memoir A Sliver of Light based on their experiences. Except here. Read about what happened one night when Shane’s guards left his cell open here. Shane’s previous videos in the series are here.

(Archive)

Ask Dayo Olopade Anything

By Chas Danner

[Updated with new questions submitted by readers, which you can vote on at the bottom of this post]

Sarah Rothbard introduces us:

Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade spent two years traveling through 17 African countries. Butbright it’s still difficult for her to talk about the continent[:] 800 million people live in Africa, most of whom she has not met. Nonetheless Olopade, author of The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa, is trying to reorient Western views of the continent. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty-three African countries are now middle-income, she said, with their feet on the first rung of the ladder toward posterity. And over 300 million people make up Africa’s emerging middle class. They earn 10 times the poverty benchmark of $2 per day. Right now, unbeknownst to the West, Africa is incredibly dynamic and energetic. It is young—70 percent of the population is under 30 years old—and increasingly urban, with 50 cities of more than a million people and more than half the continent living in urban, cosmopolitan settings.

Dayo believes one of the reasons that Africa’s progress often goes unnoticed is because of “poverty porn”:

Many of the images that come out of Africa—from commercials featuring celebrities speaking on behalf of hungry children to Toms shoes—come from sources with business models that rely on people feeling badly about Africa. Poverty porn also exists at an institutional, global level. Olopade was shocked to see a poster that won a United Nations-sponsored contest depicting the torsos of leaders of the G-8 nations as skinny, African kids waiting in line at a refugee camp from the waist down.

We_are_still_waiting_Einarsson_Final_72dpi

The caption: “‘Dear World leaders. We are still waiting.’” But in Africa, “people, in my experience, wait for no one,” said Olopade, recounting the astonishing amount of commerce that takes place in the middle of traffic on the roads of Lagos, Nigeria. From your car, you can buy everything from mobile phone airtime to live animals. Congested roads aren’t an opportunity for self-pity but for marketing.

Let us know what you think we should ask Dayo via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):


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Ask Dayo Olopade Anything

By Chas Danner

Sarah Rothbard introduces us:

Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade spent two years traveling through 17 African countries. Butbright it’s still difficult for her to talk about the continent[:] 800 million people live in Africa, most of whom she has not met. Nonetheless Olopade, author of The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa, is trying to reorient Western views of the continent. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty-three African countries are now middle-income, she said, with their feet on the first rung of the ladder toward posterity. And over 300 million people make up Africa’s emerging middle class. They earn 10 times the poverty benchmark of $2 per day. Right now, unbeknownst to the West, Africa is incredibly dynamic and energetic. It is young—70 percent of the population is under 30 years old—and increasingly urban, with 50 cities of more than a million people and more than half the continent living in urban, cosmopolitan settings.

Dayo believes one of the reasons that Africa’s progress often goes unnoticed is because of “poverty porn”:

Many of the images that come out of Africa—from commercials featuring celebrities speaking on behalf of hungry children to Toms shoes—come from sources with business models that rely on people feeling badly about Africa. Poverty porn also exists at an institutional, global level. Olopade was shocked to see a poster that won a United Nations-sponsored contest depicting the torsos of leaders of the G-8 nations as skinny, African kids waiting in line at a refugee camp from the waist down.

We_are_still_waiting_Einarsson_Final_72dpi

The caption: “‘Dear World leaders. We are still waiting.’” But in Africa, “people, in my experience, wait for no one,” said Olopade, recounting the astonishing amount of commerce that takes place in the middle of traffic on the roads of Lagos, Nigeria. From your car, you can buy everything from mobile phone airtime to live animals. Congested roads aren’t an opportunity for self-pity but for marketing.

Let us know what you think we should ask Dayo via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):


This embed is invalid