28 March 2014

This Week from the Cave (March 28)

Articles He Wrote
Caryn Kaufman knew little about TB until her son contracted the infection from his teacher in 2009. The two are now advocating for TB support in DC.
Genetically modified cotton is not behind suicides in India, but it is also not solving the country's main problem of poverty.
Women farmers are far less productive than their male counterparts. Inputs are a part of the problem, but a new report shows that there are other reasons.
It has been a year since a coup in the Central African Republic started the nation on a downward spiral. It has been a struggle to get the public attention necessary to resolve the political and security crisis in the country.

Mega-dams might not be worth the trouble

New research on mega-dam projects show that they are likely not that great of an investment for governments.
A quick animated video makes the case.
You might already know that it is huge in Kenya, but what about elsewhere on the continent?
Gif Me a Break
Wayne Rooney with the goal of the week.
Good Reads
  • “You Americans don’t know how to rest,” he said. “You rest only to work better.”
  • Forget gas prices, breakfast costs you more than it used to.
  • Did you make yourself into a LEGO figure for a job? I didn't think so.
  • Use the Slate widget to find out how Gwyneth Paltrow would describe your relationship status. 
  • ESPN breaks down the anatomy of a pitch using 7 pitchers from the D-Backs.
  • A long explanation for why Netflix streaming and other online movie services stink.
  • Is the Wu-Tang Clan's one copy of their new album concept a game changer?
  • Thought-provoking piece on the contradictions inherent in humanely raising animals.
  • A convincing argument against the claims that charity is a sufficient social safety net.
  • Documentary maker Errol Morris provides a glimpse (in four parts) into his new film on Donald Rumsfeld.
  • In case the fact that peeing in the pool is gross does not convince you to resist doing so, new research shows of the actual harmcaused by the act.
  • Best in Satire: The Daily Show makes fun of Morning Joe and Colbert one ups Good Morning America's attempt to be hip to the youth.
Song of the Week

Development Goodies

  • comprehensive report from Jina Moore on vulture funds (aka distressed-debt investments) in Africa.
  • In the matter of two days, World Vision USA ended its ban against hiring gay married staff to once again banning it.
  • David McKenzie tears into Bill Easterly's new book.
  • collection of videos from African countries that are getting in on Pharrell's Happy music video dancing.
  • How can we talk about gender-based violence if we can't even agree on a definition?
  • Remember all the campaigns to end conflict minerals? Turns out they are not necessarily behind violence in the Congo.
  • Development interview of the week involves Jeff Sachs and Russ Roberts. Some notable parts excerpted.
  • The UN is reportedly set to close down IRIN, a valuable news source on the global south. Consider signing the petition.
Cutest Photo of the Week
Want to see more pictures of him sleeping with the dog? Thought so. Go here.

21 March 2014

This week in the world, according to me

Sign up to get this newsletter in your inbox each week here.

Columns He Wrote

A closer look at the launch of TOMS coffee, its partnership with Water for People and changing the philanthropic landscape.
What’s to be done about the stalled decline of fertility in Africa?
The fertility rate around the world is falling, but that is not the case in Africa. The Economist says modern contraceptives are needed, but is that right?

Disturbing documentary exposes lasting impacts of Indonesian atrocities

The documentary The Act of Killing exposes the legacy of the mass atrocities committed in Indonesia nearly a half century ago.

How after-school tutoring in Nepal hurts the students that can’t afford it
Research from Nepal shows that teachers are cutting short their time teaching to increase demand for their students to pay for after-school tutoring.

Video of the Day: development as the changing borders of Europe

Online activism has its shortcomings, but is not a failure
The debate over whether online activism through social media makes a difference continues. Two new research papers shed some light on what really happens.

Why are Mexicans sending less money back home?
Latin American countries are recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, remittances are again growing. But not in Mexico and there is a debate over why.

Gif Me a Break
I hope everyone enjoyed Holi/St Patrick's Day, on Monday.

Good Bits and Reads
  • When Goodfellas met College Basketball: The long-lasting legacy of a BC men's basketball point shaving scheme.
  • Don't turn to Google to track flu trends any time soon...
  • Comparing the Constitutions of the world -> India wins on length (146,385 words) and Bolivia on number of rights (88).
  • The steep fall of news media darling and once prodigy Tina Brown.
  • The Boy Scouts have an image problem thanks to its anti-gay stance. Donations fell by half in 2012.
  • World leaders as drag queens. (You read that right) 
  • Didn't we already agree that Kipling's White Man's Burden was racist? Well, Robert Kaplan seems to think that is wrong.
  • Nate Silver and company launched the new FiveThirtyEight, bringing data to journalism. Here are its predictions for the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.
  • Salon speaks with the star of the movie that some have called porn and will certainly evoke strong feelings as it opens this week.
  • Way too many Americans believe in medical conspiracy theories.
  • "I am making peace with the idea that learning how to walk again, in life and in the shoes of grief alike, may not be a recovery that looks like my pre-injury self."
  • Only 15% of the year's 100 top-grossing films featured women in leading roles.
  • Father makes a breakthrough with autistic son, thanks to Disney movies. A moving article in the NY Times magazine.
Song of the Week

Sam Smith - Nirvana

Aid and Development Goodies
  • A bit closer to home, the poverty trap of low-wage work in the US.
  • Sam Loewenberg with a longish report on hunger in Kenya and why aid is not helping much.
  • An enlightening conversation with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina that touches on wrong-headed conceptions surrounding development.
  • Meet the American PR firm that has one of Africa's more notorious President as a client.
  • Some more jaw-dropping stats on income inequality, from team Oxfam.
  • Sounds too good to be true: this $0.20 ointment could save up to half a million newborns a year.
  • strikingly honest discussion over the tension between resilience building and humanitarian aid in the MSF blog.
  • Maybe budget transparency isn't all its cracked up to be.
Twitter Diplomacy

Who said disagreements can't maintain formality, dear colleagues?

Shameless Self Promotion

I am competing in the annual Twitter Fight Club tournament for the very first time, next week. Think of it as the NCAA basketball tournament for Twitter foreign affairs nerds. I will be needing your votes on Tuesday to pull off a first round upset. Vote here and spread the word.

Those fish are playing it way too cool.

16 March 2014

Sign up for my weekly newsletter

I'm joining the newsletter game. With RSS much less useful thanks to the end of Google Reader and the fact that I am writing for Humanosphere, it is hard to keep up with everything. Each week I will include the stories I wrote as well as some other interesting bits of things that are related to development and not at all. That will include my pick of song of the week, a timely gif and articles that I think are worth reading.

It is going to look a lot like this post from Friday, but it will arrive in your inbox each Friday afternoon. Journalist Ann Freidman has been doing this for a year and I love coming across stories that I missed during the week, plus I can keep up with her great writing. This will be my attempt to do the same.

As always, feedback and ideas are welcome. Sign up below:

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14 March 2014

A Week in the Life: March 14 Edition

Gif me a Break

It didn't quite live up to its promise, but True Detective was darn good.

Columns He Wrote

How the UK benefits from immigration
#MigrationMatters: Immigration has been a good thing for the UK, especially since opening up to more European countries in the 2000s, say researchers.

End of extreme poverty by 2030? Not so fast
If the forces that keep people in poverty are not addressed soon, there could be as many as 1 billion people living in extreme poverty in 2030.

Which African city Tweets the most?
Can you guess the top 5?

UK response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines makes the grade
Survey says, the UK did a very good job in its response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Map of the Day: Africa as a Banana Republic
Africa as bananas, South America as citrus and India as spices.

Calls grow louder for urgent action to protect Syria’s children
The present situation for Syria's children is bad. Three years have passed and a generation is caught in the middle. More groups are calling for action now.

Another class-action lawsuit brought against the UN for cholera in Haiti
A new class-action lawsuit against the UN was filed in a Brooklyn federal court, on Tuesday. Some 1,500 victims of the cholera outbreak in Haiti are seeking compensation from the UN for causing the outbreak.
    Song of the Week

    I just wanna be yours...

    Good Reads
    • In case you didn't think money buys access to Congress, here is actual evidence.
    • That time that Teju Cole created a story for Twitter with accounts for the narrator and the characters.
    • Catching up with Invisible Children two years after Kony 2012 and the ensuing fall out.
    • That time President Obama went on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis 
    • Forget worrying about the 1%, we need to talk about the poorest 20%, argues Sendhil Mullainthan.
    • Terrible headline aside, a comprehensive report on Russ Feingold's work as envoy to the DR Congo.
    • Meet the migrant workers who are dying to pick your fruit.
    • How about that great American health system that is seeing relatively high rates of maternal mortality?
    • The BBC believes you only read 6 of these 100 books. How many have you read?  (I got 26) 
    • Catching up with the man who is hiking around the world in seven years.
    • The Summer can't come soon enough, for relationships.
    • USA Today's guide to hipster Boston probably did not talk to actual hipsters about where to go.
    • People are not happy with Vox Media hiring Brandon Ambrosino. Andrew Sullivan defends the decision.
    • #itooamharvard (a week late to this, but still great)
      Pi Day Reality
      Aid and Development Goodies
      • Are cash transfers overrated? Kevin Starr says yes and Chris Blattman says he is sort of right
      • 11 Africa Myths Busted By "The Bright Continent"
      • Lauren Wolfe of the important Women Under Siege Project tells the story of three women in the DRC, and their recoveries from rape. 
      • Pretty much all you need to know about Haiti, its ongoing cholera outbreak and the  lame response to the problem so far.
      • Nina Munk talks about Jeff Sachs and aid with Owen Barder. 
      Political Video of the Week

      How do I join this campaign?

      DFID did a good job in Philippines response, says evaluation

      Survey says, the UK did a very good job in its response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

      At least that is what the Independent Commission for Aid Impact found when investigating the work of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). A green rating was given for the humanitarian support provided by DFID, the best possible rating. Not only that, the £77 million that the UK provided was more than any other country, even beating out the US.

      “DFID responded swiftly and decisively to the emergency,” said Independent Commission for Aid Impact Chief Commissioner, Graham Ward. “It was the largest single donor and played a lead role in the response, providing vital humanitarian assistance to people in dire need. Its early and multi-faceted action helped to galvanize support from other donors and to influence the global humanitarian aid response.”

      This represents only the third time that DFID has scored green in thirty-two reports. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is an independent body that scrutinizes the UK’s foreign aid work. A team of investigators were sent out in January to determine how things went in the Philippines. Their findings that the UK was a leader in the response, but there is still more work to be done. 

      13 March 2014

      The end of extreme poverty by 2030 is not a done deal

      Big statements about ending extreme poverty by 2030 were tossed about last year. It is a possible outcome, though far from certain.

      Present estimates say that there are 1.2 billion people still experiencing extreme poverty. That means that they have, on average, less than $1.25 each day. That $1.25 is not the US dollar converted into a foreign currency. It is an equivalent to how much that $1.25 could buy in the US in 2005. Or something like this:

      If the social, economic and cultural forces that keep people in poverty are not addressed soon, there could be as many as 1 billion people living in extreme poverty in 2030. That is the warning contained in The Chronic Poverty Report 2014-2015: The road to zero extreme poverty, a report from the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, hosted by the London-based think tank the Overseas Development Institute.

      To avoid this possibility, the authors recommend that the world invest in three things: social assistance, education and economic growth that reaches the world’s poorest. Not doing so would represent a major slow down in anti-poverty progress that saw historic gains over the past two decades. According to the World Bank, 700 million fewer people live were living in extreme poverty in 2010 as compared to 1990.

      Continue reading →

      12 March 2014

      While some try to slow down immigration in the UK, here's how the country benefits

      Migration is a much debated subject around the world. We are investigating the impacts that migration on countries, migrants, business and more. Read more on Migration Matters.

      Migrants flock to the UK at much higher rates than any other European country. The small country accepted the most number of recorded immigrants in 2011, according to recent data. The more than 500,000 people that went to the UK is twice that of neighboring France.

      Reduced immigration restrictions instituted by the Blair government made it easy for citizens of European Union member states to seek employment in the UK. The issue of migration is a contentious one in England. The conservative coalition government now in power pledged to reduce net migration to the levels of the 1990′s. A recent proposal from the Lib Dems to allow migrants already in the UK bring their grandparents into the country, was met with opposition.

      “It seems as if the Liberal Democrats still want to turn the NHS into the World Health Service and the British welfare state into the world’s welfare state,” said the Ukip party’s director of communications Patrick O’Flynn. “Hardworking people in Britain cannot afford this reckless and ill-considered approach to immigration.”

      He hits on a common complaint: migrants go to the UK in order to reap the benefits of a robust social welfare system. The logic goes that they are taking advantage of hard working Brits and providing nothing in return. Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini show that it is exactly the opposite.

      “Recent immigrants, i.e. those who arrived since 2000, are less likely to both receiving (sic) benefits and living in social housing than natives. Furthermore, recent immigrants, both those from [European Economic Area (EEA)] and non-EEA countries have made a positive net contribution to the UK fiscal system despite the UK’s running a budget deficit over most of the 2000s,” found Dustmann and Frattini in a November paper for the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration.

      10 March 2014

      A Week in Review: March 10 Edition

      Columns He Wrote

      Oscar winner shines light on problem of modern slavery
      The closing remarks in Steve McQueen's Oscar acceptance speech drew attention to the global problem of modern day slavery.

      Containing global violence costs nearly $10 trillion a year
      A Institute for Economics and Peace study estimates that the world spent $9.46 trillion to contain violence, in 2012. I spoke with Michelle Breslauer, the Americas Program Manager, about it.

      South African nations off pace for MDGs on water and sanitation
      Only two countries in Southern Africa are likely to achieve improved access to safe water and improved sanitation, by the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The more than 100 million people without safe water and the 174 million without proper sanitation face serious health risks, due to the problem.

      What if Syria’s civil war happened in London?
      A new video from Save the Children UK imagines the affect of a conflict like the civil war in Syria on a British girl.
      Last week saw more attacks and newly confirmed cases of polio in Pakistan, where the anti-polio effort faces continued challenges.

      UN-appointed expert latest to pin Haiti cholera blame on peacekeepers
      The latest development in the more than three year old cholera outbreak in Haiti saw another finger pointed towards the United Nations.

      Gif Me a Break

      Think McQueen was happy about winning?

      Good Reads
      • How wrong is the time on your watch compared to the time according to the sun? 
      • Evidence that brain trauma affects real football players (soccer, for the clueless). 
      • In case you needed a reminder how to write about female politicians 'without sounding like a sexist shithead.' 
      • You didn't say the magic word
      • Some much needed context about Kim Novak and the criticisms of her 'frozen' face. 
      • Reporter travels to see if sponsoring a child in Haiti actually made a difference, 13 years later. 
      • Love means being able to endure traffic together. 
      • The East Coast is full of wimps.
      • People are more convinced they are right after being told they are wrong. Not such good news for dealing with vaccine skeptics and climate change deniers.
      • You have seen the famous American televangelists, now meet the tele imams of Senegal.
      • Boston is the 4th most unequal city in America. Here are how other cities fare on income inequality.
      Song of the Week

      This is in the early running for Song of the Year.

      Aid and Development Goodies
      • J shares early results from his aid worker survey and the responses are interesting, to say the least.
      • Shocking! Oxfamer disagrees with Princeton University professor Angus Deaton's book that slams aid.
      • More honest advice on how to survive the life of an aid worker. 
      • Photos: The haunting ghost-city built by the Chinese in Angola.
      • Some good points refuting Michaela Wrong's defense of western journalism in Africa. 

      Silly rabbit, gold is for kids.
      I think Bitcoin is fine,” [Stephen Colbert] said. “After all, I don’t understand gold. Gold never loses its value because it’s shiny? When the apocalypse comes I’m not going to be investing in Bitcoin or gold. I’ll invest in sheep, potable water, and tradable women.

      04 March 2014

      Weigh In: What are the 100 most critical questions in development?

      A team over at Sheffield University is trying to determine the questions that will help define how the post-2015 agenda can be addressed in a realistic and evidenced way. A friend of the blog, Linda Raftree, is a part of the effort and wants to hear from you. Participate by sending in your ‘critical questions’ to ensure that the process is as broadly representative, savvy and pertinent as possible.

      Here's the lowdown as explained by Linda:

      ID100: The Hundred Most Important Questions in International Development asks individuals and organizations from across policy, practice and academia the opportunity to submit questions that address the world’s biggest environmental, political and socioeconomic problems. These will then be shortlisted down to a final set of 100 questions following a debate and voting process with representatives from leading development organizations.

      The final list of questions will be published as policy report and in a leading academic journal. Similar priority-setting exercises, in fields ranging from biodiversity conservation to food security, have been instrumental in framing global research priorities for policy development and implementation.

      You can submit up to five questions related to key issues in international development. You are encouraged to involve colleagues in the formulation of these questions.

      Please submit your questions by March 25th – and check the submission guidelines before formulating questions. More information on the project can be accessed on the ID100 website. Hashtag: #1D100.