Wednesday, September 28, 2005 How Many More Mike Browns Are Out There?

Read the full article on the website: October 03, 2005

Lead: "A TIME inquiry finds that at top positions in some vital government agencies, the Bush Administration is putting connections before experience"

I would underline the importance of this story with respect to our understanding of the way this Administration reguards and uses scientific and other knowledge. Some excerpts:

"Some of the appointments are raising serious concerns in the agencies themselves and on Capitol Hill about the competence and independence of agencies that the country relies on to keep us safe, healthy and secure. Internal e-mail messages obtained by TIME show that scientists' drug-safety decisions at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being second-guessed by a 33-year-old doctor turned stock picker. At the Office of Management and Budget, an ex-lobbyist with minimal purchasing experience oversaw $300 billion in spending, until his arrest last week. At the Department of Homeland Security, an agency the Administration initially resisted, a well-connected White House aide with minimal experience is poised to take over what many consider the single most crucial post in ensuring that terrorists do not enter the country again. And who is acting as watchdog at every federal agency? A corps of inspectors general who may be increasingly chosen more for their political credentials than their investigative ones......

"The Post-Watergate law creating the position of inspector general (IG) states that the federal watchdogs must be hired "without regard to political affiliation," on the basis of their ability in such disciplines as accounting, auditing and investigating. It may not sound like the most exciting job, but the 57 inspectors general in the Federal Government can be the last line of defense against fraud and abuse. Because their primary duty is to ask nosy questions, their independence is crucial.........

"A study by Representative Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, found that more than 60% of the IGs nominated by the Bush Administration had political experience and less than 20% had auditing experience--almost the obverse of those measures during the Clinton Administration. About half the current IGs are holdovers from Clinton.........

"several of the President's IGs fit comfortably into the friends-and-family category. Until recently, the most famous Bush inspector general was Janet Rehnquist, a daughter of the late Chief Justice. Rehnquist had been a lawyer for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and worked in the counsel's office during George H.W. Bush's presidency before becoming an IG at the Department of Health and Human Services. In that sense, she was qualified for the job. But a scathing report by the Government Accountability Office asserted that she had "created the perception that she lacked appropriate independence in certain situations" and had "compromised her ability to serve as an effective leader." Rehnquist also faced questions about travel that included sightseeing and free time, her decision to delay an audit of the Florida pension system at the request of the President's brother, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, and the unauthorized gun she kept in her office. She resigned in June 2003 ahead of the report.

"Three weeks ago, however, Joseph Schmitz supplanted Rehnquist as the most notorious Bush IG. Schmitz, who worked as an aide to former Reagan Administration Attorney General Ed Meese and whose father John was a Republican Congressman from Orange County, Calif., quit his post at the Pentagon following complaints from Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa. In particular, Grassley questioned Schmitz's acceptance of a trip to South Korea, paid for in part by a former lobbying client, according to Senate staff members and public lobbying records, and Schmitz's use of eight tickets to a Washington Nationals baseball game. But those issues aren't the ones that led to questions about his independence from the White House. Those concerns came to light after Schmitz chose to show the White House his department's final report on a multiyear investigation into the Air Force's plan to lease air-refueling tankers from Boeing for much more than it would have cost to buy them. After two weeks of talks with the Administration, Schmitz agreed to black out the names of senior White House officials who appeared to have played a role in pushing and approving what turned out to be a controversial procurement arrangement. Schmitz ultimately sent the report to Capitol Hill, but Senators are irked that they have not yet received an original, unredacted copy.

"Congressional aides said they are still scratching their heads about how Schmitz got his job. He now works for the parent company of Blackwater USA, a military contractor that, in his old job, he might have been responsible for investigating."

"Birth Control Battle"

ABC News: Nightline interview:

"The FDA's controversial decision on August 26 to postpone indefinitely a decision to make the 'Morning After' pill available over-the-counter took many by surprise. None more so than Dr. Susan Wood who headed the FDA's Office of Women's Health for the last five years." Days after the decision she resigned in protest."

Last night she had a television interview with Ted Koppel. She made the point that, in her opinion, all the scientific evidence supported the application to make the drug available without prescription. She was most concerned with the action of the FDA to postpone, perhaps indefinitely, the availability of the product without explanation and contrary to the scientific evidence and against the recommendations of the scientific review panel/

I hope the broadcast will be made available on the Nightline website. Other material describing the decision is available on the website.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ten Stories the Mainstream Media Missed

Full AlterNet publication of Molly Ivers' column:September 22, 2005.

"Project Censored's annual release of the 10 biggest stories ignored or under-covered by mainstream media.

"Project Censored is based at Sonoma State University, with both faculty and students involved in its preparation.

"Of course, the stories are not actually 'censored' by any authority, but they do not receive enough attention to enter the public's consciousness, usually because corporate media tend to underreport stories about corporate misdeeds and government abuses.

"The No. 1 pick by Project Censored this year should more than make the media the blink -- it is a much-needed deep whiff of ammonia smelling salts for the comatose: Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government.

"Gene Roberts, a great news editor, says we tend to miss the stories that seep and creep, the ones whose effects are cumulative, not abrupt.

"This administration has drastically changed the rules on Freedom of Information Act requests; has changed laws that restrict public access to federal records, mostly by expanding the national security classification; operates in secret under the Patriot Act; and consistently refuses to provide information to Congress and the Government Accountability Office. The cumulative total effect is horrifying...........

"No. 8: Iraqi Farmers Threatened by Bremer's Mandates. It's part of the untold story of the disastrous effort to make Iraq into a neo-con's free-market dream. Order 81 issued by Paul Bremer 'made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to reuse seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law.' Iraqi farmers were forced away from traditional methods to a system of patented seeds, where they can't grow crops without paying a licensing fee to an American corporation."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Support to Science, Technology and Knowledge for Development: A Snapshot of the Global Landscape

Link to the full report.:

"This study seeks to provoke thought and discussion around the degree to which donors — foundations, bilaterals, and multilaterals — emphasize science, technology, and knowledge for development in the provision of development assistance. Beginning with an exploration of the particularities of the current state of science and technology and the international context in which the products and processes of science and technology are funded, created, used, adapted, and disseminated, the paper provides a brief description of the origins of the approach to this study followed by a synopsis of the key trends in donor support to science, technology, and knowledge for development that emerged from the interviews encapsulated in the stand-alone chapters."

Sara E. Farley, IDRC, 2005.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

H5N1 - Killer Flu

Wide Angle (A PBS television program) provides this website in support of its Tuesday program.:

"H5N1 influenza -- the powerful virus that is raging through the bird flocks of Asia -- has successfully made the leap to humans, infecting hundreds of people and killing 58 as of September 2005. It has not yet become easily transmissible from person to person, but the medical community is preparing for the possibility. Clinical trials of a human vaccine against H5N1 are continuing with promising initial results, and experiments with a number of new vaccine production methods and alternative drug treatments are underway. Similarly, the antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) has shown promise against H5N1 in laboratory testing. Whether the vaccine or drug treatments will prove effective in the event of an actual pandemic, and whether the pharmaceutical industry will be able to ramp up production levels in order to provide enough doses to protect the entire human population remain open questions."

This program suggested that the danger of a pandemic in the near future is growing, due especially to the problems in Indonesia. Anthony Fauci, the head of the NIH's Center for Alergies and Infectious Disease, states that there is a vaccine now that provides levels of antibodies against a strain of H5N1 flu that should be protective, and that progress is being made in developing capacity to tailor a vaccine quickly to a strain that goes epidemic, if such an epidemic should occur. It sounded to me, however, as if the U.S. effort is directed at eventually providing protection to the U.S. population rather than stopping a global pandemic or protecting those in Asia and Africa.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Indonesia on high alert over avian flu"

CIDRAP (The University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) news alert September 19, 2005.

"Indonesia was on high alert over H5N1 avian influenza today, with at least two children hospitalized with suspected cases and Jakarta's zoo closed because of infected birds."

The question is whether Indonesia will have the will and the administrative capacity to destroy domestic poultry that might spread the zoonosis and lead to a human epidemic! The article goes also states:

" Four deaths in Indonesia have been attributed to H5N1 avian flu so far, including the 37-year-old woman and a 38-year-old man and his two young daughters who died in July. But the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes just one case, that of the 38-year-old man, as laboratory-confirmed......

"The anxiety in Indonesia comes amid increasingly urgent warnings from the WHO that H5N1 virus is likely to trigger a human flu pandemic. WHO Director General Lee Jong-Wook issued another warning at the annual conference of WHO's Western Pacific Regional Committee today on New Caledonia in the South Pacific.

"'The only condition missing is the emergence of a virus that is capable of rapid transmission among humans,' Lee said, as quoted by Reuters.

"In other news, the WHO said today that Vietnam has officially confirmed that a 35-year-old farmer who died Jul 31 had avian flu. His case had been reported by the news media in August. The WHO now says there have been 114 laboratory-confirmed cases of H5N1 avian flu, including 59 deaths, since December 2003. Vietnam has had 91 cases with 41 deaths, according to the WHO."

CDC - Influenza (Flu) |Avian Flu

CDC - Influenza (Flu) |Avian Flu Homepage:

"This webpage provides background information about avian influenza, including recent outbreaks, the viruses, and the risk to human health."

"World has slim chance to stop bird flu pandemic"

Read the full Reuters AlertNet article:

"The initial outbreak of a bird flu pandemic may not be very contagious, affecting only a few people, giving the world just weeks to contain the deadly virus before it spreads and kills millions.

"But the chance of containment is limited as the pandemic may not be detected until it has already spread to several countries, like the SARS virus in 2003, and avian flu vaccines developed in advance will have little impact on the pandemic virus.

"It will take scientists four to six months to develop a vaccine that protects against the pandemic virus, by which time thousands could have died. There is little likelihood a vaccine will even reach the country where the pandemic starts.

"That is the scenario outlined on Tuesday by Dr Hitoshi Oshitani, the man who was on the frontline in the battle against SARS and now leads the fight against avian flu in Asia."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Science Initiative Group

MSI-SIG home page

SIG seeks to provide "strategic direction, quality monitoring, and scientific guidance for the Millennium Science Initiative." The Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) is strongly associated with the World Bank, and strives to create and nurture world-class science and scientific talent in the developing world. The primary goals of the MSI are to: * foster innovative research and applications of specific value to the host country or region * educate and train future generations of scientists and engineers * develop linkages with educational and research institutions, the private sector, and the global scientific community. The mission of the MSI is to be reinforced by a "Global Science Corps" (GSC), which is to send scientists from advanced nations to work alongside colleagues in the developing world. The website provides information about MSI initiatives in developing countries as well as more general news about science and technology in developing nations.

US$200 million pledged for African universities -

Full SciDev.Net article:

"Six major US foundations have pledged US$200 million to strengthen higher education institutions in seven African countries.

"The money will be spent over the next five years in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

"Part of the initiative is an effort to dramatically increase access to the Internet in universities there.
The commitment signals the re-launch of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, set up in 2000 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford, MacArthur, and Rockefeller Foundations."

Intelligent Design and the Emergence of Order from Randomness

I was watching television the other day, and came across a discussion between an advocate for the teaching of “intelligent design” (ID) and an advocate of the teaching of “scientific evolution” in schools. Since George Bush added his voice to those in support of teaching ID, the issue seems to have become more serious.

I am no expert, but as I understand the issue, the ID advocates accept the ideas of genes and inheritance of genetic makeup, as well as the idea that new species come into existence based on genetic mutations of existing species. They also accept that many species that once existed but became extinct, and that life has existed on the earth for billions of years. They do not believe the biblical creation story is literally true. They differ from scientific evolutionists in that they believe that this process was guided by the intelligence of some divine creator.

I don’t think their view is that this intelligence is working as does the design of a chemist. That is, a chemist mixes chemicals, usually relatively pure, and controls the conditions so that a specific reaction occurs. Billions upon billions of interactions occur randomly within the beaker holding the mixture, and eventually a relatively pure new compound is to be found in the container. But the chemist has no specific control of the interaction of individual atoms. I suspect that the advocates of ID see omniscient and omnipotent intelligence in action at the molecular level.

I think that the reason that ID is not (now) science, is that it has not been put in the form of a scientific hypothesis and tested. No one has convincingly put forth a statement of the form: “if ID is true then the following should be observed in nature, but if it is false, this alternative observation should occur.” I suppose the prototypical such statement was that made by Einstein about the bending of light from distant stars as the light passed by the sun on its way to earth.

I for one would be happy to see ID taught in schools, in science classes, in order to explain to students why it is not scientific. Scientists, like the rest of us, believe things to be true that are not supported by scientific theory and scientific evidence (repeated observations made under controlled conditions), but they understand the difference between science and faith.

The real objective of this posting, however, is to note how unfortunate it is that the proponents of ID don’t seem to understand the powerful trend in intellectual thought that has emerged over recent centuries, explaining how order can emerge from processes without intelligent design. The theory of evolution is a prototype of this kind of thinking. It postulates that the mixing of genes and mutations create a continuing diversity among members of a species, and that the natural selection of the members of the species to reproduce successfully under environmental conditions favors change in the composition of populations, and eventually the emergence of new species. Initially confirmed on the basis of observation of fossil evidence, it has been confirmed by evidence from many sciences, and eventually by laboratory experiments in which population variations have been observed.

The first prototype of this kind of explanation was I suppose that of Adam Smith and his explanation of the hidden hand of the market as an explanation of the way that prices change to reflect changes in supply and demand for goods and services. The explanation did away with the need to postulate the intervention of an outside intelligence to explain how prices change. I have read that Darwin had studied Smith’s theories and been affected by them in his thinking about evolution.

I suppose too, the ideas from geology were important. Certainly, Darwin was inclined towards “gradualism” by his knowledge of the geological evidence of the age of the earth. But geologists too had develop theories of the evolution of the surface of the earth due to natural processes such as volcanic action, the uplifting of the crust due to internal forces, and erosion by wind and water. These theories did not depend on intelligent guidance of those forces, and allowed for the appearance to be an unplanned emergence from the natural forces at work.

Statistics, if you think about it, have also evolved to explain the appearance of order from random events under certain kinds of conditions. The “law of large numbers” explains why there is an apparent order in the averages of samples taken from a random distribution. Regression analysis, taken from an understanding of the evolution of human populations, explains a similar aspect of the order appearing out of random variations.

Indeed, the political system of the United States developed out of a rejection of the idea that kings were divinely appointed, and defined democratic processes for the selection of leaders. Those processes allowed the creation of political order out of the hundreds of millions of individual opinions of citizens.

I think of Ev Rogers theories of innovation as reflecting how communities can select technological innovations without any individual responsible for the ID of the technological bundle used by the members, but rather by the process of individual decisions based on local observations. (Economists from the evolutionary economics school expand this view to explain how the hidden hand of the market explains the choice of technology made by a society as a whole, beyond the planning of any individual intelligence.)

Indeed, one of the major trends in Organization Theory has been to explain how apparent order is obtained by the individual decisions made by relatively irrational members or groups of members of the organization through organizational processes of selection and reinforcement. This theory has been in direct opposition to earlier theories that the behavior of the organization was explained by the intelligent design of its nominal leaders, and modern organizational theorists see planning and unplanned behavior as jointly determining the behavior of the organization as a whole.

I could go on with examples, but the point is made. Indeed, complexity theory, as practiced by the Santa Fe Institute and in other places, is based on studies of how order can emerge by local decisions made with local individuals, under selective and feedback processes, from random complexity.

This is a beautiful body of knowledge and understanding, and one that apparently far too many people ignore.

Flu Wiki

Flu Wiki home page

"The purpose of the Flu Wiki is to help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic. This is a task previously ceded to local, state and national governmental public health agencies. Our goal is to be:

- a reliable source of information, as neutral as possible, about important facts useful for a public health approach to pandemic influenza
- a venue for anticipating the vast range of problems that may arise if a pandemic does occur
- a venue for thinking about implementable solutions to foreseeable problems"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Books on the Bush Administration's Views on Science

Two recent books that have received positive reviews deal with the Bush Administration's approach to scientific knowledge and its use in governance.

The Republican War on Science
by Chris Mooney
From Publishers Weekly (As quoted on
"Does the Bush administration ignore or deny mainstream research to please its conservative base? Have business groups and certain religious lobbies helped it do so? Does Bush-era treatment of scientists differ from that of Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Reagan? Has a Republican Congress passed laws designed to disable clean air and water efforts, and has it dismantled safeguards, such as the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, meant to give legislators unbiased advice? Mooney's passionate, thoroughly researched volume answers these questions with an urgent "yes." A former American Prospect writer who is making his book debut, Mooney uses interviews and old-fashioned document-digging to explain how, over two decades, right-wing politicians built institutions designed to discredit working scientists; how some energy companies have allied themselves with powerful Republicans (such as Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma) to block or reverse U.S. steps to curb global warming; and how the present administration defies expert consensus on climate change, on mercury pollution, even on how to read statistics. Mooney tracks Bush White House efforts to spread misinformation about stem cells; the work of religious right regulators like Dr. David Hager (formerly on the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs advisory committee) in restricting access to birth control; and the attempts of the Discovery Institute (and other think tanks linked to the Bush base) to fight the teaching of evolution. In the past five years, Mooney documents, many formerly apolitical physicists, biologists and doctors have come to believe there is a "pattern" of science abuse under Bush, a push back against the methods of science itself. Conservatives may react with indignation; liberals, moderates and working scientists will find few surprises,but Mooney's very readable, and understandably partisan, volume is the first to put the whole story, thoroughly documented, in one place."

With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House
by Esther Kaplan
From Publishers Weekly (as quoted on
"This well-written, fast-paced and engaging book scores points for style, though its decidedly liberal slant will most appeal to readers who already share Kaplan’s view that George W. Bush’s cozy relations with evangelical Christian activists represents a grave threat to the future of America. Kaplan, a journalist and former editor at The Nation, rehearses how Bush’s evangelical Christian faith has dictated his decisions on international issues, such as his determination to invade Iraq, and domestic ones, including his anti-abortion stance, promotion of abstinence, silence on the AIDS epidemic and conservative court appointments. The book is best when Kaplan discusses the "holy war" mentality that she feels is prevalent in the Bush administration, whether in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s stark approach to the war on terror or Karl Rove’s machinations in promoting judicial appointees who would be accepted by both corporate and religious conservatives. Kaplan writes vividly of the people involved and offers memorable human-interest stories, such as a day in the life of two Tennessee abstinence activists. But in many places, she veers away from her focus on the Bush administration to castigate the "Religious Right" more generally. She also fails to appreciate the ideological nuances of American evangelicalism. For example, she dismisses Intelligent Design Theory as "pseudoscience" and incorrectly claims that its proponents believe the earth is only a few thousand years old, thus conflating it with biblical creationism."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Economist: Survey of Higher Education

Read the full survey. (Subscription required.)

"Bigger is Worse"
Kingsley Amis

“Better brain drain than brain in the drain."
Rajiv Gandhi

The Economist has a very good survey of higher education, reflecting of course its conservative economic views. Some excerpts are included below:

"Mass higher education is forcing universities to become more diverse, more global and much more competitive." The Brains Business

"America's system of higher education is the best in the world. That is because there is no system." Secrets of Success Competition rules, institutions are diverse, and all use diverse sources of finance. The model stresses knowledge creation, education, and service.

"The Institute of Higher Education at Shanghai's Jiao Tong University ranks the world's universities on a series of objective criteria such as the number of Nobel prizes and articles in prestigious journals. Seventeen of the top 20 universities in that list are American (see table in article); indeed, so are 35 of the top 50. American universities currently employ 70% of the world's Nobel prize-winners. They produce about 30% of the world's output of articles on science and engineering, according to a survey conducted in 2001, and 44% of the most frequently cited articles."

"Europe hopes to become the world's pre-eminent knowledge-based economy. Not likely!" (Head in the Clouds) The hand of government is too heavy for The Economist's taste.

Developing countries see the point of higher education. (A World of Opportunity)

"Public spending on universities in developing countries is highly regressive. In Latin America the professional classes, who account for 15% of the population, take up nearly half of all university places. In Rwanda, 15% of the total education budget is spent on the 0.2% of students who attend universities. Most universities in the developing world are also hopelessly badly managed. But there are a few bright spots on the horizon."

"India has two valuable things going for it. One is its collection of elite institutions. For decades, India has been pouring resources into the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and, above all, the Indian Institutes of Technology. These institutions take their pick from an army of candidates every year, with 180,000 hopefuls taking the screening test for around 3,500 places in the seven IITs. They provide a highly intensive education, with all students and often professors too living on campus. And they produce a stream of highly educated people who help to set professional standards. “They are a class apart, like Oxford and Cambridge,” says P.V. Indiresan, an expert on universities. These elite institutions help to keep India plugged into the global knowledge economy.........India's other big advantage is a more recent development: a booming private sector."

"In higher education, as in so much else, China is visibly pulling ahead of India. The Chinese are engaged in the biggest university expansion in history. In the 1980s, only 2-3% of school-leavers went to university. In 2003, the figure was 17%. The watershed year was 1999, when the number of students enrolled jumped by almost half. The expansion at the doctoral level is even faster than for undergraduates: in 1999-2003, nearly 12 times as many doctorates were awarded as in 1982-89 (see chart 4). And there is more to come: the number of new doctoral students jumped from 14,500 in 1998 to 48,700 in 2003. The Chinese are determined to create a super-league of universities to rival the best in the world."

For students, higher education is becoming a borderless world. (Wandering Scholars)

"For the past 50 years America has effortlessly dominated the market for international students, who have brought both direct and indirect benefits. Not only are they contributing some $13 billion a year to America's GDP, they are also supplying brainpower for its research machine and energy for its entrepreneurial economy. But now America's leadership is under challenge. The Institute of International Education reports that the number of foreign students on American campuses declined by 2.4% in 2003-04, the first time the number has gone down in 30 years. Foreign applications to American graduate schools fell by 28% last year, and actual enrolment dropped by 6%." While the demand for international education is growing, the competition for students from other developed nations is increasing, and the Bush Administration's policies have made it more difficult to foreign students to get into the United States.

Universities have become much more businesslike, but they are still doing the same old things. (Higher Ed Inc)

"The University of Phoenix is America's largest for-profit university (and indeed America's largest university, full stop), with 280,000 students, 239 campuses and various offshoots around the world, including some in China and India.....The University of Phoenix is designed to cater for the needs of working adults, who make up 95% of its students. The emphasis is on practical subjects, such as business and technology, that will help them with their careers, and on fitting in with busy designing a university for working adults, Mr Sperling also introduced two other far-reaching innovations. The first was to concentrate power in the organisation. In traditional universities academics are semi-independent contractors who devote as much time as possible to their own research. In Phoenix they are simply employees. It is the university, not the teachers, that owns the curriculum. Todd Nelson, the company's boss, claims that this has allowed the university to become a “learning organisation”: it is constantly improving its ability to teach by measuring performance and disseminating successful techniques. The only research it cares about is the sort that improves teaching. The second innovation is to turn higher education into a business." The University also emphasizes distance education.

There is an audio streaming interview with the author.

And a nice set of links for sources.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Can Democracy Stop Terrorism? - F. Gregory Gause III

Full version of F. Gregory Gause III article in Foreign Affairs:

"Summary: The Bush administration contends that the push for democracy in the Muslim world will improve U.S. security. But this premise is faulty: there is no evidence that democracy reduces terrorism. Indeed, a democratic Middle East would probably result in Islamist governments unwilling to cooperate with Washington."

Designing Drugs for Parasitic Diseases of the Developing World

Full PLoS article.

"At last year's meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the organization that hosts one of the largest international gatherings of basic scientists and tropical medicine specialists, several symposia highlighted efforts in antiparasitic drug design. What was five years ago a fairly dark vision of the future, now appears brighter.

Several nonprofit organizations are now operating that are dedicated to this unmet medical need, some collaborative interest exists in industry, and philanthropies have backed new initiatives. There are also a number of new academic consortia with novel strategies to address issues of target discovery and preclinical development."

"Why Most Published Research Findings Are False"

Full version of the article in PDF format

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Marshall Plan: Freer Markets Restored Europe

Click here for the full text of the NCPA statement

"# Since World War II, the U.S. alone has poured out $1 trillion -- in today's dollars -- in aid to countries around the world.

# According to the United Nations, 70 aid-recipient countries are poorer today than in 1980, and 43 are worse off than in 1970.

# Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has spent the 1997 equivalent of about $6 trillion to fight domestic poverty -- but the poverty rate remains largely unchanged."

I suspect these figures bode ill for the success of U.S. efforts in Iraq and in the aftermath of Katrina.

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

The fulll PLoS Medicine article:

"There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Economic Analysis for e-Government

My colleague, Oleg Petrov, asked me how the e-Development team of the World Bank might encourage more rapid development of a Bank portfolio of e-Government projects. I have been thinking about that question, and will share some of the thoughts.

It seems to me that the first step is to convince the Bank staff that there is a demand for loans and other World Bank projects funding worthwhile e-Government efforts. By worthwhile, I mean projects for which the expected benefits would be sufficiently high to justify the investments. Demand would presumably be the result of efforts to convince governments that e-Government projects were sufficiently in their interests to justify the opportunity cost of using available World Bank resources for e-Government rather than other purposes,

“e-Government” is often used, in a restrictive sense, to refer only to the use of Internet technology to enhance the interface between government and others. In this respect, it would include government-to-citizen (G2C) communications, government-to-government (G2G( communications, and government-to-business (G2B) communications. Subcategories might include government-to-those-it-regulates communications, government-to-supplier communications, etc. I would suggest a broader definition might also be considered, including more broadly the use of information and communications technologies by government. This larger definition would broaden the scope to include ICT other than Internet technology for use in the interface between government and those outside government. It would also include the use of ICT internally within government.

“Government” of course is a broad term. Thus e-Government will differ from local, to provincial to national level. Similarly, there are a broad spectrum of government services, and the services considered to be governmental differ from country to country. In countries with socialized medicine, e-Government might be construed to include ICT applications in the health sector. In many countries, where education is a function of the national government, ICT applications in education are seen as nation-level e-Government; in the United States, where education is left primarily to local authorities, e-learning too is often seen as primarily a local function. And indeed, education and health service delivery are topics that have generated their own specific ICT application literatures, and may be seen by many as not e-Government at all.

I would suggest, however, that it might be very useful for the World Bank to program assistance for ICT support to a broad spectrum of governmental functions within integrated, broadly-construed, e-Government projects. There are economies of scale in expanding e-Development efforts and there are potential synergies among sectoral approaches that might be beneficial for Bank programming.

Non-Linear Returns

A significant difficulty in justifying ICT investments is that there are non-linearities in the rates of return to such investments, and the estimates of returns from early projects in the process of institutionalization of ICTs may be much less than the rates achieved later in the process (or on the average). In such a case, measurements of returns to early ICT project investments should not be taken as estimates of returns to later ICT projects, nor as estimates of average rates of returns.

It should be noted that while many, if not most, ICT projects are judged to fail, the process of ICT institutionalization in government has been ongoing for decades. Unless government managers are wildly misguided, the institutionalization of ICT must be assumed to be economically beneficial. One possible explanation of the apparent discrepancy between project results and long term institutionalization results is that even failing projects leave positive residues – trained people, revised procedures, modified organizational structures, etc. – that facilitate future projects. These subtle benefits would be external to those usually measured in monitoring or evaluating projects.

Measurement of Costs

The measurement of costs of ICT in organizations includes, of course, the measurement of the costs of hardware and software. It also includes the cost of maintaining and operating the hardware and software. There are also generally well understood start-up costs, including the development of systems, training of staff, and modification of organizational procedures.

It has been suggested that e-government (in the narrow sense of establishing interfaces between a government and outsiders) passes through predictable stages. These may include:
· Establishing a presence on the Internet via websites, etc.;
· Providing information via the Internet;
· Conducting transactions via the Internet; and
· Transforming the organization to fully utilize Internet technology.

The expenditures on preparation and maintenance of content will be expected to increase with each step in this process. Moreover, it will probably be difficult to allocate content preparation costs to the ICT innovation per se, rather than the normal course of business for the government organization.

As a government agency begins to conduct transactions via the Internet, it will be likely to have parallel systems conducting transactions via the traditional (face-to-face or snail mail) processes as well as via the Internet. Costs are likely to be high during the time while two parallel systems are being operated for the same tasks, and while the automated processing is debugged and confidence builds in the online processes. Again, such situations complicate cost estimation.

Reengineering government organizations, the fourth step, is likely to involve significant but hard to measure costs of changes in structure, process, and personnel.

The discussion thus far has focused only on the internal costs to the government of e-government. Clearly, however, those who would deal with the government via the Internet will themselves incur costs in doing so. Even those using computer kiosks or telecenters will incur costs in reaching those facilities and will have to invest time and effort in learning to use their facilities. When those dealing with the government must themselves acquire computers, software, connectivity, and the skills and staff to use them, the costs will be still greater.

We know that there are significant investments needed to institutionalize a market. A market is of course an institution providing an interface between buyers and sellers, but the institutionalization of a market involves establishing the rules of the game that allow trust among the participants. Thus, a body of commercial law accompanies the formation of a market, as do police to enforce the law and courts to adjudicate disputes. Moreover, one finds in mature markets a variety of ancillary institutions such as market research firms and consumer protection organizations. Developing e-commerce involves a variety of costs for such institutionalization that should be consdiered.

So too, e-Government involves institutionalizing the interfaces between and among different parties. Even the provision of information involves transactions between the informer and the informed, and the more complex e-government transactions involve the institutionalization of more complex processes. Thus, online tax payment can involve not only the government and the tax payer, but vendors of tax software, paid tax preparers, tax consultants, financial intermediaries (e.g. banks, credit card companies), legal processes to adjudicate tax disputes, etc. The costs of institutionalizing an online tax system involves not only the costs to the government and the taxed, but the costs involved in all these ancillary functions. More generally, the costs of building ICT into government will be expected to be born very broadly in the society.

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

In theory one can justify an investment in ICT on several different bases:
· It will allow one to accomplish the same tasks equally well with less expenditure;
· It will allow one to provide more service with the same expenditure;
· It will provide better service with the same expenditure; or
· It will allow new services that would not be possible without ICT.

There are pitfalls in applying such simple ideas in developing nations. Thus, in many developing nations, government is expected to provide employment for a large portion of the educated workforce. Efforts to use ICT to increase worker efficiency, with the intent of substituting capital investment for labor costs, will be counter-productive in such circumstances.

It might (naively) be thought that use of ICT to provide educational services to more students, or to improve the quality of health services to patients would be easy to justify on cost-effectiveness grounds. But if governments are not interested in expanding educational opportunities to the target population, or in improving the quality of health services, such justifications are a waste of time. All too often, key decision makers find the nominal goals of the education or health service systems of government not to be compelling.

Extensive use of ICT is the only way to provide government services such as weather forecasts or disaster warnings. Technocrats may assume that it is self-evident that the use of technology is cost-effective in providing such services. All too often, political decision makers fail to authorize investments in such systems, and all to often the high costs of such failures become apparent with experience. It is thus important to recognize the underlying as well as the nominal objectives of key decision makers.

In theory, economic analysis should focus on the cost-effective means of accomplishing that which people actually want to accomplish. In real public life, where many interests vie for limited resources, explicit statements of the costs and effects of ICT projects may not be welcomed in many and politically important quarters!

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Government provides services of the kind economists call “public goods”, i.e. services that are non-rivalrous (use by one person does not prevent another from its use) and non-excludable (services from which it is hard to exclude beneficiaries). Such services might include the national defense, law enforcement or public roads. Government is also called upon to provide services with strong externalities, such as education and health services (i.e. services which have significant benefits to the community beyond the individual recipient.) By their very nature, it is hard to measure the value of such benefits, and thus hard to provide quantitative estimates for cost-benefit analysis of e-government programs. It is important, however, to recognize that significant benefits often exist even if they are difficult to quantify.

The difficulties of cost-benefit analysis should not be underestimated. These difficulties in part justify the common reliance on cost-effectiveness analysis. In situations in which cost-benefit analyses are required by law (e.g. projects proposed for the U.S. Corps of Engineers), experience has suggested that estimates of both costs and benefits are often in error, and projects desired by powerful political forces often are approved on the basis of analyses that prove deficient in retrospect.

A further difficulty in the application of cost-benefit concepts to e-Government projects and programs is that the ICT component is typically not solely responsible for the benefits. Thus it becomes important to attribute some portion of measured benefits to ICT and some to other factors involved in the production of those benefits.

Moreover, differing interest groups have different, sometimes conflicting interests. In theory, if not in practice, it might be possible to describe both the incidence of costs and the incidence of benefits over the population. But again, it may not be to the interest of all to do so explicitly. Thus ICT applications in health and education in developing countries are likely to benefit certain (relatively affluent) groups, while the costs of public provision of such services may be differently distributed; there may be considerable unease among political decision makers in making information on the incidence of the costs and benefits of such services explicit nor widely available.

Financial versus Economic Analysis

It is important to consider not only whether government ICT investments will bring sufficient benefits to the nation to be justified, but also how those investments will be financed. In countries with weak taxation capabilities, many useful government functions are sacrificed because they can not be paid for. Thus a second set of assessments is required to define the resource requirements, when those resources will be needed, the resources that can be acquired (especially through the use of ICT), and when those resources will be available. It seems likely that many e-Government projects can benefit greatly from in-kind and donated resources, and that such contributions are seldom included in the financial analysis.

Final Comments

World Bank staff, and the leaders of the Ministries of Finance with whom the Bank deals most closely, often think as economists. I suggest that economic arguments will often be persuasive in convincing such people of the importance and urgency of e-Government projects and programs. The discussion above, while pointing out the difficulty of making economic (and financial) estimates, should not be taken as opposing the use of economic concepts in the arguments.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Professor Dumbledore on Making Mistakes

"As I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being -- forgive me -- rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger."

Albus Dumbledore
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J. K. Rowling
(Page 197)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Trust and Trustnet: Internet and Technology

Trust and Trustnet: Internet and Technology - the blog

Infinisri's blog on trust.

I have blocked comments on this entry because of an obnoxious comment made annonymously.

Corruption is Antithetical to Trust and to Knowledge for Development

The World Bank "has identified corruption as the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development." Corruption, according to the Bank, "undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends."

Sunday I posted some thoughts on Trust. They suggested that trustfulness was an developmentally useful trait. But in societies where corruption is rampant, trustfulness is a dangerous trait for the individual. The situation is like the prisoners' dilemma from game theory. Everyone will do better if everyone is trustful, but a few corrupt will prosper if they alone steal and take bribes while everyone else acts trustfully.

Transparency International says, according to its 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index
Corruption is rampant in 60 countries, and the public sector is plagued by bribery.

A recent chat reminded me that there is corruption, and there is corrupt corruption. A friend was complaining recently about officials (in another country) who accepted bribes, and then did not perform the tasks they were bribed to do! I also have been reading I Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves. He portrays an official who accepted bribes, but felt he was not corrupt. Seems the official accepted equal bribes from all sides in disputes, and returned the money to those against whom went the decisions, allowing himself to give unbiased advice on the matters to the king. In some cultures, there seems to be an agreement that small gratuities are legitimate to poorly paid officials to encourage them to expedite their work, but that the officials have well understood responsibilities in response to such gratuities. But even these cultures recognize situations in which corruption is not acceptable, even when the institutions are unable to control such corruption.

"Knowledge and understanding for development" is a slogan based on the belief that decisions should be based on vetted information, ideally from sources with strong knowledge verification processes. However, the deleterious effect of corruption on K&U4D should be obvious. When decision makers act corruptly, seeking to maximize benefits to themselves rather than to carry out the nominal functions of their positions, the availability of knowledge and understanding of the problems they are nominally seeking to resolve is unwanted, and indeed may be positively avoided. After all it is harder to take a bribe to act against the public interest when the public interest is clear and explicit in the evidence placed before that public.

Mobile-phone penetration

Mobile-phone penetration |

"There is almost one mobile phone for every person in much of the developed world, according to new figures from the OECD. In Luxembourg, phones outnumber people, since many people who live in neighbouring countries have a second handset for use within its borders. Despite their enthusiasm for PCs and broadband links, Canada and the United States have been slower to adopt mobile phones than other rich countries."

Check out the OECD's Communications Outlook, 2005

Historical Knowledge and Understanding for Development

There is an old saying:
Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it.

This week's Economist quotes Anthony Shadid's book Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War:
"(A) question (was) thrown up during the 7th-century squabble between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq, which has not been settled since: 'Who has the right to rule, and from where does that right arise?'"

I guess for most countries and most of history, the right to rule arises from might, and the rulers are those who have the might to rule. But the United States government is based on the "self-evident" truth descibed in the Declaration of Independence:
Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The Bush Administration apparently thought that once the Saddam regime, which clearly ruled by might, was overthown it would be quick and easy to install a government that ruled by the consent of the governed. The Bush Administraation appeared not to consider the possiblity that most Iraqis might think that the right to rule derived from God, although the United States itself rejected the "devine right of kings" only a couple of hundred years ago.

Osama Bin Ladan refers to events 80 years past, secure in the knowledge that his Muslim listeners will know he means that overthrow of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, and the instalation of Western colonial rule in the lands of the Middle East. Most Americans would not have understood the reference. Perhaps more to the point of this posting, the Bush Administration had it more carefully considered the history of the region during the past 80 years might have doubted its ability to create democratic governance in Iraq quickly or easily.

The United States in the last century sought on a number of occassions to improve governance in small countries close to its own borders. Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic come to mind. None of these would appear to have achieved anything close to U.S. style democracy as a result of U.S. interventions.

I was chatting with a Russian friend over the weekend, and he pointed out that the Russian population is dropping by about a million people per year. Birth rates are down and death rates are up. Georgian GDP dropped by 90 percent after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The transition from the Soviet Communist governance to an alternative form of government has been long and painful in the former Soviet Union, and is probably far from complete.

The notable successes of externally imposed "democratization" are to be found in Germany, Italy and Japan after World War II. I would note that the United States did not act alone in Europe, and that the reconstruction benefitted greatly from the lessons learned in the failure to create a peaceful Europe after World War I. Clearly the democratization of the Axis countries after World War II took time and money, and resulted from the empowerment of people in those countries who had long opposed the previous fascist governments. The European cultures of Germany and Italy were close to those in which democracy had arisen previously.

I am no historian, but I believe a close analysis of historical precedents would increase understanding of the process of democratization. But surely anyone how looked at a century of repeated failures might question whether the assumption of a quick and easy democratization of Iraq was reasonable.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Trust, Trustful, Trustworthy, and the Act of Trusting

Some time ago I did a couple of postings on trust, reflecting readings pointing out that economic transactions involve trust between the parties and that institutions not only depend on trust but influence trust. They occasioned a response by a reader, Infinisri.

Aphorisms show how important trust is in everyday life, and convey the common wisdom on the subject:
· “Good fences make good neighbors;”
· “Trust in the Lord, but keep your powder dry.”

Infinisri reminds me that trust is usually considered in terms of bilateral relations. We have a whole set of concepts related to trust:

· Trustworthy: how worthy of trust is a person or organization;
· Trustful: how much a person or organization trusts others;
· The act of trusting: the trust is involved in a specific transaction.

These terms suggest a relationship between two parties to a transaction – each characterized by trustworthiness and by trustfulness, engaged in an act of trust. “Trust your neighbors, but lock your doors at night” is a phrase that suggests the difference between trustfulness and ones acts of trusting.

But there are other terms that I understand less well:

· Trusting: How is this adjective different than “trustful”?
· Trusty (As in one’s trusty sliderule): how is this word different than “trustworthy”?

As I recall, one of Jared Diamond’s points in his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, was that the Spanish had an advantage over the indigenous peoples of the New World in the 16th century in that the Europeans had writing, and therefore books that allowed a greatly increased knowledge and understanding of the variety of human experience. I suggest that the Spanish thus knew better than to trust the Incas and Aztecs, and knew better how to betray the native peoples, as well as knowing better how to exploit the mistrust among tribes.

I suppose there are other trust relationships. In the aftermath of Katrina, we are all impressed by how misplaced was our trust in institutions that were to protect Americans in the case of disaster, and indeed how misplaced was the trust of the people on the Gulf coast in the predictability of nature (based on their limited past experience).

Infinisri wrote me (in an email):
One of the most pleasant and yet stressful experiences of a westerner traveling abroad is the easy trust that strangers place in the traveler.

He sees the trust of natives in the travelers as building reciprocal trust by the travelers. But I have also worried about what to me seems an excess of trust displayed by those in developing nations towards westerners.

When I was in the Peace Corps, a fellow volunteer encouraged all the people in a neighborhood to make bricks of clay and cement by a technique then popular in appropriate technology circles. These building blocks were then to be used in constructing new houses. The project became a media favorite and mountains of bricks were created; the U.S. Ambassador gave a televised lecture on self reliance with a mud brick on his desk as a prop.

Unfortunately, the government made the judgment that mud brick houses, even with cement included in the bricks, would not long endure the rainy seasons in the region, and refused to loan the money to build the houses. The people – who had invested what little money they had on cement and a considerable amount of time and money in making bricks (all based on the advice of the well-meaning but naive PC volunteer) – were left to watch their unused bricks weather into mountains of mud.

Why did the neighborhood people trust a young foreigner so much as to invest in his uninformed scheme? Why did he trust those who sold the idea of the bricks? Indeed, why did the Ambassador trust a technologically and developmentally naive Peace Corps volunteer? And why did the government entrust the embassy to so credulous an Ambassador? I still don’t know, but I think the neighbors giving their trust so easily was a mistake!

Infinisri mentions e-Bay. I think it is an interesting case of a new economic institution carefully constructed to build trusting among its clients. The participants in every transaction on e-Bay are asked to provide feedback on the transaction. I generally will not trade with someone on e-Bay if that person does not have a record of an adequate number of feedback comments, and does not have more than 99 percent positive comments. But my trust in e-Bay transactions is also helped by guarantees provided by PayPal, and by my knowledge that e-Bay acts against crooks trying to use its services, and that there are legal protections against fraud. E-Bay has obviously become very successful, gaining the trust of millions of users. So too has through similar approaches.

Infinisri, in his email, brings culture into the picture, suggesting that some cultures encourage more trustfulness in their members than do others. I thank him for this insight, and I think it is true. (This goes back to the aphorisms which help inclucate cultural values. In Spanish there is a saying that translates, “don’t take a cat for a rabbit” which is I suppose a surrogate for “caveat emptor”)

Of course, different cultures involve different institutions with different effects on trust. Traditional cultures, in which people often lived together in the same small communities for their entire lives, could depend on accumulated experience between and among members to establish estimates of trustworthiness among members. Indeed, the sanctions naturally imposed on community members who were not trusted by others were powerful incentives to keep the trust.

On the other hand, the United States is a nation of immigrants, and our urban neighborhoods are often places in which residence is transient; people don’t know each other much less build bodies of knowledge about trustworthiness based on large numbers of transactions. Formal systems to insure trustworthiness become much more important.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I have also noted that too often in developing countries, while people trust too much in the expertise of foreigners, they trust too little in the expertise of their fellow citizens. I have been surprised at how important foreign certification of technological knowledge is seen as a prerequisite for trust from a person’s own neighbors and fellow citizens and professionals.

So too, I have noted that excessive mistrust among neighbors in traditional cultures exists, and how trustworthy American neighbors can be in our litigious culture of transients.

Infinisri brings to my attention the idea of “surrogates” for trust. Surrogates allow us to interact with others as if we trusted them. Thus we give money to the bank teller, whom we have never before met, as if we trusted him/her. In this example, I suppose we think we give money to the bank (an organization) rather than to the teller. But we trust that the bank has developed organizational processes to safeguard the money, and the legal system has institutionalized mechanisms to protect the transaction even in the event of malfeasance on the part of the teller or failure of the bank’s systems. Infinisri at least has convinced me to read Douglass North who deals with these issues.

I wonder about the idea of training business executives how to create a culture of trust in their organizations, and how to encourage others to enter into transactions with those organizations in a trusting manner. Would it not be better simply to provide training in ethics, and to encourage people to act ethically? I recognize that ethical behavior can have instrumental value, but I would rather ethical behavior be promoted for its intrinsic value. I worry about executives willing to behave unethically if it appears profitable to do so!

I suppose I should end this posting appropriately:
Caveat lector!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina: Information doesn't help unless tranlated into knowledge and understanding

www.AndrewSullivan.comblogs a "must read" letter.

And knowledge and understanding don't help unless there is the policital will to translate them into effective action!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

T.S. Elliot Said it half a century ago

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion but not of stillness,
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence,
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All of our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But neerer to death no nearer to God,
Where is the life we have lost in living
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

"Choruses from the rock"
Collected Poems, 1909-1935
T.S. Elliot

Friday, September 02, 2005


Francisco Rodríguez and Ernest J. Wilson in their paper “Are Poor Countries Losing the Information Revolution?” noted that:
“countries enjoy greater technological progress when they produce:
1. A climate of democratic rights and civil liberties that is conducive to innovation and adaptation of ICTs.
2. Respect for the rule of law and security of property rights.
3. Investment in Human Capital.
4. Low levels of government distortions.”

We tend to think that expanding the information infrastructure expands access to information, and that this will promote democracy and civil liberties. Francisco and Ernie suggest that there is at least causal relationship in the other direction. I suspect that regimes that don’t want their citizens to be too active, will not want to see the information infrastructure expand too fast. In any case, let me note a number of sites that provide data that may be useful in judging the openness of countries.

Freedom House Country Ratings
Since 1972, Freedom House has published an annual assessment of state state-of-freedom by assigning each country and territory the status of "Free," "Partly Free," or "Not Free" by averaging their political rights and civil liberties ratings. Freedom House is a U.S. non-profit, nonpartisan organization financed by tax-deductible grants and donations.

Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders, an NGO, maintains this (French, English and Spanish) website, updated several times a day, that illuminates the openness of countries’ information systems. The website seeks to identify attacks on press freedom worldwide. To circumvent censorship, the website presents occasionally articles that have been banned in their country of origin, hosts newspapers that have been closed down in their homeland and serves as a forum where journalists who have been "silenced" by authorities can voice their opinions. This website, which welcomes 35,000 to 45,000 visitors per month, also provides complete reports on cases covered in the press, as well as a daily "barometer" summarising the most recent attacks on press freedom.

IREX Media Sustainability Index
The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) IREX publishes the annual Media Sustainability Index (MSI), analyzing the status and progress of independent media in 20 (former Communist) countries.

The PRS Group publishes an “International Country Risk Guide,” classifying political, financial and economic risks. The information is for sale, but a sample copy of the guide is available to be downloaded without charge. While the free data is perhaps outdated for commercial application, it appears sufficiently recent for academic use.

FreetheWorld.Com provides one of several indices of economic freedom. The data is provided by The Fraser Institute, and can be downloaded, gratis, from the site.

The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom

And here is another.

The ATKearney/Foreign Policy Magazine Globalization Index
This index deals with the openness of the economy to foreign investment, international trade and other indicators of globalization.

World Bank staff have developed a set of governance indicators (voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption)

It is also provided in this paper:

“Growth Without Governance” By Daniel Kaufmann and Aart Kraay, July 2002.

This is a nice World Bank presentation dealing with governance indicators:

Governance Matters: Power of Data Challenging Orthodoxies on Democracy, Corruption and Poverty By Daniel Kaufmann and colleagues.

Obituary: Sir Joseph Rotblat

Full Guardian Obituary:

"Sir Joseph Rotblat, who has died aged 96, was a nuclear physicist and a tireless worker for peace. When he and his creation, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs were jointly awarded the 1995 Nobel peace prize, some newspapers identified him only as a 'little known' physicist. But scientists in many disciplines, and officialdom in many countries, knew him well."

I suppose the Pugwash Conferences are a prototypical example of the use of communication in the scientific community to maintain links between nations in the face of political disputes.