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Sunday Times London how Tory majority is disappearing
Sunday Times London how Tory majority is disappearing

Image: Screenshot, Sunday (London) Times



How UK Tories Are Losing Their Majority, Flooding in Southern Brazil, and Mothers Searching for Their Missing Children in Mexico

Too much water for some, too little water for others. The last few weeks have been marked by severe flooding in places such as Brazil, Germany, and Afghanistan. In fact, the flood in Latin America’s largest country has been considered the worst climate disaster in the history of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. To show the scope of the tragedy, news site Folha de São Paulo projected the extent of the floods in the capitals of other Brazilian states. In other news, a multimedia project led by Arena for Journalism in Europe exposes the hidden crisis in that continent’s groundwater and a possible future where the resource grows scarce. In this edition of our Top 10 in Data Journalism, which considered stories between May 6 and 19, we also highlight the story of mothers’ search for their children among thousands of missing people in Mexico, an analysis of the risks to delivery drivers in South Korea, and an illustrated guide to what life in Palestine is like under Israeli occupation.

A Brazilian State Underwater

Folha de Sao Paulo, flooding map overlay

Folha de São Paulo overlaid a flood map from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul (blue areas) onto a map of the city of São Paulo to show the extent of the disaster. Image: Screenshot, Folha de São Paulo

Climate change has been rearing its ugly head in recent weeks in southern Brazil. In the country’s southernmost state, heavy rains have caused widespread flooding across the region and left hundreds of cities submerged — of the state’s 497 municipalities, 467 have been affected, authorities say. According to official data, there are more than 160 dead and at least 80 missing, in addition to more than 500,000 people displaced. To illustrate the extent of the worst flooding in Rio Grande do Sul since 1941, Folha de São Paulo visualized the affected area in the state capital, Porto Alegre, on maps of the main cities in other states, such as São Paulo, the largest city in the country, and Brasilia, the nation’s capital. It is also worth checking out this piece by GIJN member Agência Pública, which shows that, in Brazil, 73% of the population lives in municipalities with a higher risk of disasters caused by rain.

How the Tory Majority Is Disappearing in the UK

Sunday Times State of UK majorities over time

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tory majority has dropped by more than half since that government formed in 2019. Image: Screenshot, Sunday (London) Times

In a surprising announcement this past Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for an early general election, to be held on July 4, 2024. If he is not re-elected, Sunak will have spent less than two years in a role that has seen high turnover in recent years. (The tenure of Sunak’s predecessor as PM, Liz Truss, infamously failed to last longer than a head of lettuce.) But even before this decision, things were not going well for Sunak’s Conservative Party, as The Sunday Times showed. The newspaper recalled that, in December 2019, the conservatives obtained a majority of 80 seats in Parliament. Since then, however, the current government has seen one of the sharpest drops in its active majority. MP by MP, the Times detailed the countless ways in which the Tories have lost so many seats. Among the reasons: sleaze, scandals, electoral defeats, and much more.

Europe’s Underground Water Reserves — Under Threat

Under the Surface groundwater project, Arena for Journalism in Europe

Image: Screenshot, Under the Surface project, Arena for Journalism in Europe

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, a problem lurks in Europe’s below-ground aquifers, as depicted by the Under the Surface project, coordinated by the Arena for Journalism in Europe. Over several months, 14 journalists from seven outlets in different European countries analyzed the most up-to-date figures from the European Environmental Agency (EEA) and created an interactive map of the continent’s groundwater. Their conclusion: this water is disappearing and what remains faces almost irreversible pollution: more than 15% of mapped aquifers are in poor condition — dangerously overexploited, contaminated, or both. And those most affected are in important crop-producing countries such as France, Spain, and even humid Belgium. The reality, however, could be even worse, according to experts consulted by the team, as many EU countries do not compile this data or have not provided it.

Following the Dnieper River Over Time graphic of Dnieper River section before and after damming

Before and after graphic of a Dnieper River section. The black river course from the 1950s is overlaid with the red shaded area showing the extent of water coverage after a dam was installed by the Soviets. Red dots are villages that were inundated by the resulting man-made reservoir. Image: Screenshot,

Floods are also affecting Ukraine, but as this investigation showed, they are not due to climate change, but human policies. Using maps from the 1950s and modern day, the outlet created an illustration that tracks what the course of the country’s longest river, the Dnieper, was like before the Soviets regulated it with the creation of a series of dams, reservoirs, and hydroelectric plants. Originally designed to prevent uncontrolled flooding and improve transport infrastructure, the project ended up impacting hundreds of settlements across the country in one way or another. “An entire world disappeared beneath the waters,” the team explained. The team found that at least 232 villages along the river were flooded by six large reservoirs formed by dams. Among these was the Kakhovka Dam, which was attacked and likely intentionally destroyed by the Russians in 2023 during their incursion into Ukrainian territory.

In Search of Missing Mexican Children

Serendipia tracking the disappeared in Mexico

The official government statistics, by year, of registered disappearances in Mexico. Image: Screenshot, Serendipia

In this piece, the Mexican digital medium Serendipia told the story of a collective of family members who, when faced with government apathy about the disappearances crisis in Mexico, mobilized their own resources to find clandestine graves on the outskirts of the state of Puebla. These relatives educated themselves on forensic methods and learned to use rappelling equipment or excavators to descend ravines, dig wells, and remove softened soil in search of their loved ones, who are among the 116,172 people missing in Mexico as calculated by the National Data Registry of Missing or Disappeared Persons. According to the report, another citizen-led group, in the state of Sonora, claims to have located more than 2,700 bodies in graves and more than 2,300 still living people across the country.

Comparing US Candidates Trump and Biden

NBC News Trump Biden policy comparison

Image: Screenshot, NBC News

Elections are a hot topic across most of the world this year, including in the United States, where President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are expected to face off again at the polls in November. Once again, US voters will face a stark choice, as the two candidates could not be further apart in their opinions and plans. To help voters figure out who to cast their ballot for, NBC News created a tracker that compares Biden and Trump’s positions on a number of key issues, such as Social Security, student loan debt, the Israel and Gaza conflict, electric cars, and even TikTok.

Food Delivery Drivers: A Risky Job in South Korea?

Mabu News newsletter delivery platform labor issues

For the first eight months of 2023, the company ranked first in industrial accidents in South Korea (far left column) was Woowa Brothers Co., Ltd., which operates the country’s most popular food delivery app, Baedal Minjok. Image: Screenshot, Mabu News

It may be a surprising statistic, but from January to August last year, the company that ranked first in industrial accidents in South Korea was a software design company responsible for the country’s most popular food delivery app, Baedal Minjok. This data point comes from the South Korean broadcaster SBS’ Mabu News newsletter, which analyzed national data on workers who aren’t covered by traditional labor laws. Mabu does a deep dive on food delivery drivers in South Korea, who are often driving on weekday evenings when the rate of vehicle accidents is the highest, and looks into what systems exist to protect them, as well as comparing these efforts with those of other nations such as the USA and France. Among its findings: many people work for platforms without even signing a basic contract — 41.7% of men and 57.4% of women — and a sizable majority of these workers also do not receive basic benefits, such as employment insurance or industrial accident insurance.

Pros and Cons of Solar Storms

Bloomberg solar storms surged US electric power grids

Image: Screenshot, Bloomberg

On the weekend of May 10th and 11th, social networks were awash with photos and videos of the phenomenon known as Aurora Borealis in the Northern Hemisphere and Aurora Australis in the Southern. This atmospheric phenomenon, typically visible only near the Earth’s poles, was caused by a huge geomagnetic storm, the largest of its kind since 2003. But, as Bloomberg showed in this visual explanation, in addition to bringing beautiful nighttime visuals, it also overloaded the electric power grids in many US cities. All this could happen again, the report pointed out, as the Sun’s activity is cyclical, with solar cycles normally lasting around 11 years and 2024 representing the peak of the current cycle. Although no significant failures were reported this time, Bloomberg warned that there is potential for future solar storms to cause major damage.

Philippines’ Garbage Problem

PCIJ landfill construction shortfalls in Philippines

Image: Screenshot, PCIJ

During a six-month investigation, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), a GIJN member, took a deep dive into the waste crisis in the Southeast Asian country. Using data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the PCIJ showed the numbers behind this crisis, explained how landfills work and exposed a series of flaws in policies designed to reduce the amount of waste and in the construction of new landfills. The report also recalled how similar situations have led to disastrous consequences in the country’s past. In 2000, for example, at least 200 people died as a result of a landslide in a huge municipal garbage dump in Quezon City. At the time, the tragedy made international news and raised promises of reforms that, according to the report, were not fulfilled and now risk history repeating itself.

Palestinian Life Under Israeli Control 

Al Jazeera - Israeli control over Palestine life

Image: Screenshot, Al Jazeera

Every year on May 15, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to the creation of the state of Israel. To mark the date amid the ongoing Israeli war in Gaza, Al Jazeera launched an illustrated guide that details how Israel exerts control over occupied Palestinian Territories in land and natural resources, housing, human resources, financial resources, trade, technology, infrastructure, and even cultural heritage.


Winners of Society for News Design’s 45th Annual Creative Competition

Scoiety for News Design's 45th Annual Competition results

Image: Screenshot, Society for News Design

On May 8, the Society for News Design announced the winners of the annual Best of News Design competition, which honors excellence in visual storytelling, design, and journalism in print, digital, and social media. Among the winners, several outlets and pieces that have already been featured in this column. Check out all the winners.

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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