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SCMP - Graphic on Air Turbulence
SCMP - Graphic on Air Turbulence

Image: Screenshot, South China Morning Post



Dangerous Flight Turbulence, Trump’s Felony Convictions, Missing Sudan War Coverage, and Iran’s Aging Aircraft Fleet

Deadly turbulence that left one person dead on a Singapore Airlines flight, 34 felony convictions of Donald Trump, and the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash are among the stories that have been explored most by data teams around the world in recent weeks. In this edition of our Top 10 in Data Journalism, which considered stories between May 20 and June 2, we also highlight The Economist’s look at the lack of media coverage of Sudan’s “forgotten” war, a visualization from El País on the microplastics seeping into our water and bodies, an examination of the 1.5 million “hikikomori” in east Asia who cut themselves off from society, and an analysis by The Outlier on the global success of female African marathoners.

Rough Air Up There

South China Morning Post - Deadly Air Turbulence

Image: Screenshot, South China Morning Post

Most flights, regardless of where or when they are, show some signs of turbulence. However, news about flight accidents involving air turbulence has increased significantly this year. In the most recent incident, one person died and more than 100 were injured after a Singapore Airlines flight jolted violently en route from London to Singapore on May 21. To help readers and travelers understand this phenomenon, the South China Morning Post used 2023 data to create a visual guide explaining what turbulence is, what causes severe cases, and what are some of the world’s most turbulent flight paths. It also included advice about how travelers can remain safe inside the aircraft — even in the lavatory.

Missing Sudan War Coverage

The Economist - missing Sudan war coverage

Image: The Economist

While the world’s attention and news headlines have focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war, The Economist looked into the “forgotten” war in Sudan. Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has been shaken by coups d’état and civil war — and even the secession of now-South Sudan. However, since last year, the country has been devastated by a bloody power struggle between the official Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. In this special edition, The Economist featured graphs and maps showing the scale of the catastrophe, including the areas of control of both groups, the numbers and causes of estimated deaths, and the numbers and routes of migration of Sudanese (one out of eight internally displaced people across the world are in Sudan).

Retreating from the World

CNN hikikomori children hiding away from the world

Image: Screenshot, CNN

For months, CNN has investigated why more than 1.5 million young Asians are isolating themselves from society. This phenomenon is perhaps best documented in Japan, where there is even a term for it: hikikomori, or people who choose to cut ties with society. But similar stories are emerging in other parts of the world, including the United States, Spain, and France. In this piece, we learn the stories of people from Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. According to the report, these people are often in the prime of their youth, and the causes that explain this compulsory isolation can be varied, such as the rise of the internet and the decline of face-to-face interaction, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Across much of Asia, governments and organizations are now working to help hikikomori reenter society.

Will Trump’s Convictions Affect His Political Standing?

Five Thirty Eight Post Trump conviction polls

Image: Screenshot,

Donald Trump’s 2024 calendar is full: not only with campaign events for this third straight run for president, but also with court hearings for four separate trials. In a just-concluded trial over illegally using hush money to help his 2016 campaign, Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts — the first time in history that a former US president has been found guilty in a criminal case. So what does this mean for his prospects in November, when the US goes to the polls? According to Five Thirty Eight, very little. The site used data from several sources to show that Trump may lose some support, but the drop may be temporary and does not necessarily mean that these disaffected voters will switch to incumbent US President Joe Biden.

How US Sanctions Are Linked to the Death of Iran’s President

Financial Times - Iran's aging air fleet due to US nuclear sanctions

Image: Screenshot, Financial Times

It’s not just plane incidents that have made the news in recent weeks. On May 19, Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, died after the helicopter he was in crashed into a mountain. The causes of the accident are still being investigated, but US sanctions against Iran due to its nuclear program may have played an important role in this story, noted the Financial Times. The newspaper explained that, on his fateful trip, Raisi was aboard a US-made helicopter model that was almost 30 years old, an age at which many aircraft are already retired. According to aviation data from the Cirium group, used by the FT, almost 60% of Iran’s helicopter fleet is now more than four decades old, in part because of the difficulty that the Middle East’s second-largest country has in securing new aircraft and replacement parts.

Microplastics, the Unseen Human Health Threat

El Pais investigation into microplastics pollution

Image: Screenshot, El País

For some time, scientists have been concerned about the risks of contamination of humans by microplastics. El País presented an interactive investigation into this invisible and invasive type of pollution that “we drink, eat, and breathe.” As water is one of the main routes for micro- and nanoplastics to enter our body, the outlet showed in a visual explanation just how many microplastics there are in a glass of water, the presence of microplastics in tap and bottled water, and the amount of water you would need to drink to ingest one gram of plastic. According to the report, in Spain alone, there are 89 times more microplastics in bottled water than in tap water, much of which comes from the packaging itself.

Kyrgyzstan’s Abandoned Children

Kloop chart of rejected and abandoned Kyrgyz children, by year

Since 2010, more than 1,000 babies have been anonymously left in public. In 2016, for example, the number of “rejected or abandoned” children was 94. Image: Screenshot, Kloop

Every year, the public in Kyrgyzstan hears disturbing reports of abandoned babies found in public bathrooms, fields, on the thresholds of residential buildings and apartments, and even in garbage cans. Independent outlet Kloop studied crime reports from Kyrgyz media and created a database of the more than 1,000 babies “refused and abandoned” in the country since 2010. In addition to investigating the causes of the phenomenon, such as the absence of a husband or partner, infidelity, or economic problems, the team also presented an analysis that highlights how people still prefer to place all the blame on the mother of an abandoned child. Kloop studied 115 stories in depth and presented the stories of some.

African Women’s Marathon Dominance

The Outlier - Africa's legacy of champion women marathoners

Image: Screenshot, The Outlier

What do the top marathons around the world have in common? Most likely that African women were among the top finishers. According to an analysis by the South African data-driven outlet The Outlier, 82 of the 100 fastest female marathon runners in the world come from two African countries: Kenya and Ethiopia. Many of these elite runners were born in specific regions of their countries of origin. In the report, the Rift Valley, in Kenya, is used as an example. Researchers suggest that a combination of factors contribute to so many people in the region becoming strong long-distance runners, including high-intensity training at high altitudes, running from a young age, and a traditional starch-rich diet. The Outlier also examined the records set by these women, how these record times are approaching those of men’s marathons, and how this has generated debate about which format for counting records — just for women or mixed results — would be fair.

How Cocaine Reaches the World from Colombia

OCCRP - Share of cocaine siezed in Colombia compared to shipping company market share

Image: Screenshot, OCCRP

In a new chapter of NarcoFiles, a transnational investigation into modern organized crime, OCCRP and partners Cuestión Pública and Berlingske trace the global route of cocaine originating from Colombia — the world’s largest producer of the drug. According to the report, official statistics on seizures of drug shipments in Colombia are difficult to find and were only possible to find due to the leak of more than seven million emails from the Colombian Public Ministry. Using this data, reporters were able to identify 1,764 seizures of Colombian cocaine between 2016 and April 2022, with around three-quarters of these on small vessels, such as fishing boats or lobster trawlers. But cocaine seizures on large freighters were also proportionally larger, and totaled around 264.8 metric tons, which would be almost twice the weight of the Statue of Liberty. OCCRP also found that besides Colombia, Belgium, and Spain were the most common locations for seizures.

Victims and Hostages of Hamas

Le Monde - Israel - Hamas hostages

Image: Screenshot, Le Monde

During the October 7 terrorist attack, Hamas captured more than 200 people on Israeli territory, some of whom have since been declared dead or released during a ceasefire at the end of November 2023. Many others, however, are still reportedly being held by the terrorist group as hostages. Some Israeli family members, unhappy with their government’s perceived lack of effort in seeking the return of these hostages, have been protesting daily in front of Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem. In this special report, Le Monde dug into who these hostages are and showed on a map where each was captured, highlighting that a majority of them are civilians and that most are not even Israelis — but immigrants who live or lived in the country.

BONUS: The Palmes d’Or — Critics vs. the Public

Le Temps - History of Cannes Palme d'Or winners and all-time rating

Image: Screenshot, Le Temps

A special item for film lovers like me: days before the announcement of the top prize at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the Swiss site Le Temps compiled data on all the Palmes d’Or — as the festival’s trophies are called — since 1955 that conquered or divided audiences and critics. For the graphs comparing public sentiment versus critical opinion, the outlet used data from IMDb, the world’s largest collaborative database on cinema and television series, and the criticism website Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. Spoiler: Among the films, Pulp Fiction, awarded at Cannes in 1994, is by far the most popular movie among cinema fans.

Ana Beatriz Assam is GIJN’s Portuguese editor and a Brazilian journalist. She has worked as a freelance reporter for the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, mainly covering stories featuring data journalism. She also works for the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) as an assistant coordinator of journalism courses.

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