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Reuters Iron Dome network graphic
Reuters Iron Dome network graphic

Image: Screenshot, Reuters



Iron Dome’s Defense Network, Hong Kong’s Plastic Waste Ban, European ‘Brain Waste,’ and 100 Days to Paris Olympics

On April 13, the world watched in distress as Israel’s famous Iron Dome missile defense system was put to the test with the biggest attack it has ever faced, after Iran launched roughly 300 drones and rockets toward its territory. The Iranian barrage was a response to an alleged Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, earlier in the month. In a visual explainer, Reuters showed how Israel’s four levels of anti-aircraft defenses work. In this edition of our Top 10 in Data Journalism, which considered stories between April 8 and April 21, we also highlight a guide to the new rules banning a range of plastic items in Hong Kong, a look at how social and economic context can influence in the future life of a teenager in the USA and how Russia is trying to attract workers to the weapons industry, and perhaps destroying its economy along the way.

Inside Israel’s Iron Dome Network

Israel's Iron Dome Network, Reuters Graphic

Image: Screenshot, Reuters

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has been ongoing for months, but on April 13 tensions in the Middle East escalated even further after Iran launched a massive assault of 170 drones, 30 cruise, and 120 ballistic missiles toward Israel. However, only a handful of the ballistic missiles made it through the gauntlet of US, UK, and Israeli aircraft and the Iron Dome anti-aircraft defense system. In this visual explainer, Reuters shows how the four levels of the system work, and how — according to experts — its coverage area has expanded over time. A key part of the system, Reuters explained, is its capacity to discern which approaching targets pose a threat, so as not to saturate the system during large-scale attacks. Also worth checking out is this Wall Street Journal report that explains why the episode is a sobering reminder that weapons capable of intercepting these types of air attacks are scarce.

Hong Kong’s Battle Against Plastic Waste

South China Morning Post graphic, Hong Kong plastics ban

Image: Screenshot, South China Morning Post

On April 22, Earth Day, Hong Kong took an important step towards a more sustainable world, as the city established new rules that ban several types of non-biodegradable plastics. In this first phase, the sale and distribution of disposable items such as straws and cutlery, as well as Styrofoam packaging, are prohibited. (The second phase is expected to begin as early as 2025.) To help readers, the South China Morning Post created a visual guide, explaining what will be banned in each of the implementation phases and comparing plastic consumption and Hong Kong’s recycling capacity with other locations. With information from their own archives, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department and the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

Following in the Footsteps of US Teenagers

The Pudding graphic, following US teenagers into adulthood

Image: Screenshot, The Pudding

How does our childhood influence the life we will lead as adults? In this interactive visualization, reporter Alvin Chang told the story of young Alex — along with hundreds of other teenagers — from childhood to his early 30s. He and thousands of other children were followed annually for 24 years by researchers from the US government’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. In the special published by The Pudding, the reader follows in a detailed timeline what happened to these children year after year. We know, for example, how many were bullied, how many repeated a grade in school, and how many went to college. And we can see the adverse impacts of poverty, crime, and educational difficulties and how childhood adversity shapes lives.

How ‘Brain Waste’ of Skilled Migrants Is Affecting Europe

Financial Times graphic, Skilled Migrants' Brain Waste

Image: Screenshot, Financial Times

With Europe heading to the polls in 2024, the much-discussed topic of immigration is once again under the spotlight. In a joint investigation led by Lighthouse Reports, the Financial Times investigated the phenomenon known as “brain waste,” where immigrants who fail to work in their field of study end up being overqualified for their new jobs or even becoming unemployed. Using microdata from the EU Labor Force Survey between 2017 and 2022, the team compared the outcomes of higher-educated immigrants with those of the native population at national and regional levels, revealing the professions where brain waste is most acute. The team also explored some possible explanations for this phenomenon, such as language barriers and even the gender of the migrants. Among the conclusions: by failing to provide good employment opportunities for immigrants with high levels of education, there could be a potentially significant cost to the workforces and economies of European countries.

A Highly Partisan — and Evenly Split — US

Pew graphic, US partisan demographic trends

Image: Screenshot, Pew Research Center

The US will also go to the polls this year, in one of the most polarized elections in history. According to the Pew Research Center, the contours of this political landscape are the result of long-standing patterns of partisanship, such as religion and ethnicity, that are still firmly present, combined with the profound demographic changes that have reshaped the country. The combined effect leaves the country’s two main parties — Democrat and Republican — in a practical tie in the number of voters. Based on tens of thousands of interviews conducted over the past three decades, Pew presented its findings in a series of graphs on racial diversity and voters’ educational experience, among others.

Where Does Peruvian Gold Go?

Ojo Publico graphic, Peruvian gold export nations

Image: Screenshot, Ojo Público

A seven-month investigation by the Peruvian investigative newsroom OjoPúblico identified that companies from India and the United Arab Emirates import gold from suppliers investigated by Peruvian authorities, with records linking them to illegal gold mining. According to a database compiled by the outlet, between 2014 and 2023, Peru — the main producer and exporter of gold in South America — officially produced 1,233 tons of the precious metal, but exported much more:  4,083 tons. To reconstruct the route and understand the mechanisms for laundering and exporting these 2,849 tons of unknown origin, the team analyzed 10 years of exports, made trips to the Amazon region, interviewed witnesses, and reviewed court documents. According to the report, the gold likely comes from the Nanay River basin, which, since 2021, has seen a large increase in the number of dredgers in its waters and gold purchasing and jewelry stores on the streets of its regional capital, attracted by historic prices and for the high purity of Amazonian gold. Also in English.

Recruiting Workers for Russian War Industry

The defense complex lacks workersThe number of active vacancies in which the employer’s affiliation with the defense complex is indicated. 10 most in-demand specialties

The Russian defense industry lacks workers. This graphic shows the number of active vacancies in which the employer is affiliated with the defense complex in the 10 most in-demand specialties. Image: Screenshot, iStories

In this piece, iStories pushed back on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that there is “a breakthrough in the Russian defense industry during [the war against Ukraine].” The exiled independent outlet analyzed all the thousands of job openings at the end of March 2024 published on Russia’s largest job and employee search platform for the country’s military-industrial sector. It found that not only are defense companies willing to hire experts with minimal or no experience, but that those who agree to work for the war effort are promised highly inflated salaries, in addition to numerous benefits. And why is this bad for the Russian economy? According to the report, pulling more and more workers into the war industry effectively hollows out the rest of the job market, while simultaneously inflating salaries across the entire country. As a result, the country suffers from accelerating inflation but fewer consumer goods in the economy.

How Green Is Your Neighborhood?

Washington Post graphic, nature rating of US by neighborhood

Image: Screenshot, The Washington Post

According to The Washington Post, numerous studies have shown that people who spend less time in nature are more likely to die younger or suffer more from mental and physical illnesses. With this premise in mind, columnist Harry Stevens mapped how nature is distributed throughout the United States, neighborhood by neighborhood. He used US Census tract reports aggregated with data from the startup NatureQuant, which incorporates satellite imagery and dozens of data sources to determine a location’s “NatureScore.” Using an interactive tool, readers can search their address to see how their neighborhood compares to others in terms of access to nature. Spoiler alert: Among the 500 most populous cities in the US, Suffolk, Virginia had the highest NatureScore.

Unidentified Deforestation in Brazil

piaui magazine graphic, tracking invisible deforestation

Image: Screenshot, piauí magazine

How can a government combat a crime like environmental deforestation when it doesn’t know the perpetrator? This report from piauí magazine reveals that, in the last 15 years, almost 1,400 areas in Brazil were embargoed for environmental infractions without the culprit being identified by the government. Last year alone, 47% of embargoes on conservation units located in the Brazilian Amazon were registered without an owner, according to data from the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), the agency responsible for managing and protecting federal conservation areas. The embargo rules allow the government to quickly create punitive measures to stop the abuse, such as fines and even preventing violators from obtaining bank credit. But there is no way to punish unknown offenders. Cross-referencing this data with that of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), the piauí report was able to link some names previously unidentified by the government to deforested lands and ICMBio committed to reviewing the cases.

COVID’s Deadly Toll in US Prisons

The Marshall Project graphic, COVID-19's higher death toll in US prisons

Image: Screenshot, The Marshall Project

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that prisons, places that are often overcrowded and lack basic hygiene measures, would be severely affected. Nearly four years later, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital combined data from US state and federal prisons in a study they call “the most comprehensive understanding to date of prison mortality during 2020.” Among its main conclusions were that at the height of the pandemic, incarcerated people died at a rate 3.4 times higher than the free population, with the elderly being the hardest hit. The Marshall Project presented the study data in a series of graphs from 48 of the 50 US states and reflects on the measures taken (or, more often, not taken) that could have prevented so many deaths, such as legal tools to free more people, mass testing, and medical releases.


100-Day Countdown to Paris Olympics

NBC News, Eiffel Tower Olympic stadium

Image: Screenshot, NBC News

April 17th marked the 100-day countdown to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris. To educate readers who are anxious for the start of competition, NBC News produced a virtual tour of some of the more than 30 venues located in the French capital, other cities in France, and even a half a world away — more precisely 10,000 miles, as the Olympic surfing events will be held in Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia. Beach volleyball, in turn, will have a privileged view of the Eiffel Tower, while the Olympic village will be on the banks of the Seine.

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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