Tuesday, January 31, 2006

How Knowledge Workers Communicate

Source: "Thinking for a living: Knowledge workers need a new kind of organisation", The Economist, Survey: The Company, January 19th 2006.

The Einstein-Mozart Connection

Read the article by ARTHUR I. MILLER in The New York Times. (January 31, 2006; registration required, but free.)
Einstein was fascinated by Mozart and sensed an affinity between their creative processes, as well as their histories.
"Einstein once said that while Beethoven created his music, Mozart's "was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master." Einstein believed much the same of physics, that beyond observations and theory lay the music of the spheres -- which, he wrote, revealed a "pre-established harmony" exhibiting stunning symmetries. The laws of nature, such as those of relativity theory, were waiting to be plucked out of the cosmos by someone with a sympathetic ear."

I try to conceive of what it would be like to think with a mind like that of Einstein or Mozart, but it is beyond my power of imagination.

This interesting article did trigger a couple of thoughts relevant to the theme of this blog.

1. Contrary to my intuition, it often seems that learning music helps one to think about mathematics (and other things) well, and vice versa. Schooling that focuses on "the three R's" to the exclusion of broadening the mind (and exercising the brain), is probably not a good idea.

2. While knowledge is important, it is not the whole game. What you do with knowledge is perhaps even more important. If we think about analysis as the ability to find meaning in knowledge, then analysis is critically important. Obviously Einstein was a great analyst. But Mozart could construct a whole symphony in his head -- isn't that too a kind of analysis? Training the analytic capacity of individuals is important for social and economic development, as is training people to work in small groups to produce good analysis. Nothing new there. But so too is training the analytic capacity of organizations important. It is not clear how we best do that. (See "Thinking for a living: Knowledge workers need a new kind oforganizationn", The Economist, January 19th, 2006 -- subscription required.) It is also important that other kinds of institutions develop analytic skills! We should consider how good markets are at analyzing supply and demand, and at analyzing the companies providing that supply (or supplying the demand in intermediate markets). How good are our political institutions at analysis?

3. Beyond analysis, there is also the necessary capacity of thought needed to move ahead, to see alternatives for the future, to innovate. The terms "synthesis" and "planning" have been applied to this facility, which is much involved in invention, innovation, and problem solving. Very important is the ability to look at the ways things are being done, and to find modifications that allow them to be done better. This is the ability to manage adaptive change well, to deepen technology mastery, to improve processes. But we tend to reserve our deepest respect for the geniuses who can break old and establish new paradigms. In the sciences, these are people like Newton, Einstein and Darwin. In technology, like Eli Whitney and Thomas Edison. In art, like the leaders of the Italian Renaissance or the French Impressionist school. In music like Mozart or Stravinsky. In politics, like Jefferson, Franklin and Hamilton. In social movements, people like Gandhi or Martin Luthor King. In religion, these are the great prophets. Here too, there is a need for individual excellence and genius, for organizational capacity, and for this capacity to exist in other institutions.

4. Minds like that of Einstein and Mozart seem to be very rare. But perhaps not. How many such minds has mankind failed to develop and utilize because they belonged to poor people in poor countries? Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan, the Indian mathematician, comes to mind as the counter-example. His was a wonderfully gifted mathematical genius. He was schooled through one year of college, but worked on mathematics on his own. It was only after he began to correspond with G. H. Hardy at Cambridge University that the latter brought helped develop Ramanujan's talent and brought his work to the attention of the international community of professional mathematicians. Had Hardy not been open and alert to his genius, Ramanaujan might well have failed to fully develop his talent, to have worked in obscurity, and his notebooks to have been ultimately lost to the world. How many others failed to develop such talents due to poor nutrition or disabilities stemming from their poverty, died before they could mature, failed to develop their talent due to lack of educational opportunities, failed to find a job that would allow them to work at their most productive level, or failed to find an audience for their work? I don't have a clue to the number, but if it were only one Einstein or one Mozart, the world would be worse for that loss! And there are billions of people in the world who are so deprived.

The Knowledge Is Power Program

Read "High Scores Fail to Clear Obstacles to KIPP Growth: Program Has Struggled to Find Space for Expansion" by Jay Mathews in The Washington Post. (January 31, 2006)

The Knowledge Is Power Program provides a model for teaching fifth- through eighth-graders. Its schools have produced some of the best math and reading scores in low-income neighborhoods in the United States.

Students on average are at the 28th percentile in reading and math on national standardized tests when they enter KIPP. The first five KIPP schools in the country show students rising to the 74th percentile by the end of eighth grade, according to figures supplied by the San Francisco-based KIPP Foundation.

Graduating KIPP eighth-graders are placed in private schools or high-achieving public schools so they won't lose their academic edge.

(KIPP has) fashioned a system of nine-hour school days with extra pay for teachers, an emphasis on character, behavior and students' future in college, and Saturday classes. The program included teacher visits to student homes, mandatory summer school, a requirement for students to call teachers at night if they had homework questions and an elaborate system of student sanctions and rewards, including a year-end trip to some other part of the country.

More than 80 percent of the students in the 47 KIPP schools in 15 states and the District are from low-income families, and 95 percent are black or Hispanic. Almost all schools show significant gains in test scores, but there are some exceptions, such as drops last year in reading score percentiles for sixth-graders at schools in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago.

It will be some time, experts say, before anyone can be sure that KIPP is as good as it seems. The original schools in Houston and New York City are doing well after more than 10 years, and KIPP founders Mike Feinberg, 37, and Dave Levin, 35, are supervising new schools in those cities with impressive initial results. But other highly praised education programs have lost steam over time, and some KIPP critics wonder whether the 320-student middle schools can influence the general low performance of big-city systems.

Looking at four KIPP schools, Columbia University Teachers College researchers Richard Rothstein and Rebecca Jacobsen concluded that students starting the program in fifth grade had more motivated parents and better test scores than their community averages. KIPP officials said their data showed no significant difference in academic skills between their entering students and other nearby children.

This is an impressive report! It seems likely that more time in class and greater availability of teachers would work almost anywhere. Young, enthusiastic principals can't hurt either. If you want teachers to work longer hours, you should expect to pay them more, and better education for the kids is worth that greater pay. As we move further and further into a knowledge society, it becomes more and more important that poor kids and kids from minority communities not be left behind. I hope the right lessons from the KIPP will be widely applied.

The Millennium Challenge Initiative and Corporation

Read the full article by Michael A. Fletcher and Paul Blustein in The Washington Post. (January 31, 2006)

President Bush's signature foreign aid program, the Millennium Challenge Initiative, "has fallen well short of Bush's stated ambition. He envisioned spending $1.7 billion in 2004, $3.3 billion in 2005 and $5 billion per year thereafter.....the corporation has committed or approved just $1.6 billion in development aid since its inception. As of December, $19.5 million of that money had been disbursed, as recipients are given money only as their projects move ahead." The article is relatively optimistic about John J. Danilovich, the former ambassador whom Bush installed as head of the Millennium Challenge Corp. in November.
Danilovich, a smooth-talking manager with long-standing Republican connections, is described by colleagues as much more decisive than Applegarth. But unlike his predecessor, Danilovich came to the job with no experience in development assistance. Although he can rely on his staff -- the agency has about 200 employees -- many of them are not development experts, either. With notable exceptions, they tend to come from the private sector, the diplomatic corps or Capitol Hill.

Global Report on Birth Defects

Go to the March of Dimes website for the report.

Every year an estimated 8 million children—6 percent of total births worldwide—are born with a serious birth defect of genetic or partially genetic origin. Additionally, hundreds of thousands more are born with serious birth defects of post-conception origin due to maternal exposure to environmental agents. At least 3.3 million children less than 5 years of age die annually because of serious birth defects and the majority of those who survive may be mentally and physically disabled for life.

Excerpts from "Global Study Examines Toll of Genetic Defects" by David Brown, The Washington Post, "January 31, 2006):
Although parents everywhere face some risk of having a child with a defect, the risk is much greater in poor and middle-income countries. Reasons include inadequate maternal health and prenatal care, more intermarriage, and a higher frequency of some disease-causing genes.

The experience in rich countries over the past quarter-century, however, suggests that 70 percent of these defects can be prevented or lessened.

Interventions proven to work include genetic counseling for sickle cell anemia, prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, supplementing folic acid in the diet to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, newborn screening for some rare metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria, and surgical repair of heart defects. Most of those strategies are unavailable in low-income countries.

There are about 7,000 known defects caused by genetic errors. The researchers estimated that in 2001, about one-quarter of the defects were of five common types -- heart malformations, defects of the neural tube that develops into the brain and spinal cord, disorders of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in blood, Down syndrome, and an enzyme disorder called G6PD deficiency.

The rate of defects per 1,000 births ranges from 82 in Sudan and 81 in Saudi Arabia at the high end, to 40 in France and 42 in Austria. The United States has the 20th-lowest rate, with 48.

Affluence is a big determinant of the risk. In low-income countries, the average rate is 64; in middle-income countries, 56; and in rich countries, 47.

Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change

A conference by this title was held in Exeter from 1 to 3 February 2005 under the sponsorship of the government of the United Kingdom. Its aim "was to advance scientific understanding of and encourage an international scientific debate on the long term implications of climate change, the relevance of stabilisation goals, and options to reach such goals; and to encourage research on these issues."

Now the results of that conference have been published, and a portion of the book (by the same title) is available online, free.

The report suggests that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed. The UK government is concerned that there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels.

The Executive Summary states:
A regional increase above present levels of 2.7 degrees Centegrade may be a threshold that triggers melting of the Greenland ice-cap, while an increase in global temperatures of about one degree Centegrade is likely to lead to extensive coral bleaching. In general, surveys of the literature suggest increasing damage if the globe warms about 1 to 3 degrees Centegrade above current levels. Serious risk of large scale, irreversible system disruption, such as reversal of the land carbon sink and possible destabilisation of the Antarctic ice sheets is more likely above 3 degrees Centegrade. Such levels are well within the range of climate change projections for the century. While a clear temperature threshold has not been identified for shutdown of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, studies were presented suggesting that a shutdown becomes more likely with increasing temperature. In this context, some felt that it would be useful to agree upon a set of critical thresholds that we should aim not to cross. Others noted it would be difficult to objectively choose such a level.

The impacts of climate change are already being observed in a variety of sectors. Ecosystems are already showing the effects of climate change. Changes to polar ice and glaciers and rainfall regimes have already occurred. While consistent with model projections the links to anthropogenic climate change need to be investigated further.

Many climate impacts, particularly the most damaging ones, will be associated with an increased frequency or intensity of extreme events. This is an important area for further work since many studies do not explicitly take into account the effects of extremes, although it is known that such extremes pose significant risks to human well being. The heat-wave that affected Europe in 2003 is a prime example.

The impacts of climate change are already being observed in a variety of sectors. Ecosystems are already showing the effects of climate change. Changes to polar ice and glaciers and rainfall regimes have already occurred. While consistent with model projections the links to anthropogenic climate change need to be investigated further.

Many climate impacts, particularly the most damaging ones, will be associated with an increased frequency or intensity of extreme events. This is an important area for further work since many studies do not explicitly take into account the effects of extremes, although it is known that such extremes pose significant risks to human well being. The heat-wave that affected Europe in 2003 is a prime example.

Read BBC News coverage of the report.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Study Ties Political Leanings to Hidden Biases

Read the full article by Shankar Vedantam in The Washington Post. (January 30, 2006)

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology had a conference last week that showcased several provocative psychological studies about the nature of political belief.

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated.
Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes -- subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.

That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.
Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said the results matched his own findings in a study he conducted ahead of the 2000 presidential election: Volunteers shown visual images of blacks in contexts that implied they were getting welfare benefits were far more receptive to Republican political ads decrying government waste than volunteers shown ads with the same message but without images of black people.
Here we are getting at a difference between "information" and "knowledge". The same "information" is presented to different people, filtered through their biases, and is internalized as different "knowledge" in those different people.

Findings from the 2005 UNESCO Science Report

Asia 'leads Europe' in science spending
By Wagdy Sawahel, SciDev.Net, 23 January 2006.
China has played a major role in helping Asia overtake Europe in research and development spending, according to a report released last month (December 2005) by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

It says that from 1997 to 2002, Asian funding from public and private sources rose by four per cent, enabling Asia to account for 32 per cent of global research spending.

In those five years, China's share of global spending more than doubled, from four to nine per cent.

Meanwhile, the Latin America and the Caribbean region's share of the global total fell from 3.1 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

"Three countries — Brazil, Mexico and Argentina — account for 85 per cent of the region's [research spending], leaving the remainder with average expenditures of no more than 0.1 per cent of GDP — with the small but notable exception of Cuba, at 0.6 per cent," says the report.

Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa contributed just 0.1 per cent of the global total.
The story is echoed in "China challenging US and Europe in scientific research" (China Educational and Research Network, 2006-01-23).

Sunday, January 29, 2006

"How the US fell out of love with its cars"

The article by Paul Harris in The Observer. (January 29, 2006)
Tail fins and chrome grilles were once the symbols of a superpower. Now, with 36,000 jobs cut in a week and foreign vehicles filling the highways, Paul Harris in New York surveys the collapse of an industry.
Harris' article illustrates a point that has been bothering me. Clearly Ford and General Motors are having grave business problems, while Chrysler is just holding its own after drops in market share from 1998 to 2002. But look at the total vehicle sales in the United States, (see figure below). While the rise in gas prices after Katrina hit vehicle sales, the long term trend is upward. I don't know, but I would suppose that since cars are better built these days and can last longer, the total stock of autos in the United States may be increasing.

Source: Morgan @ Company

I suggest that it is not that "the US has fell out of love with its cars" but that "the US seems to be falling out of love with General Motors and Ford brand cars".

As far as I can see, the auto industry is dominated by multinational firms, with the Big Three having huge international interests and many "foreign" firms having huge interests in U.S. industry. Cars are assembled in the U.S. by the "Big Three" but also by "foreign" manufacturers. Parts are manufactured in an increasingly global system, and I don't know whether a greater portion of the parts of Hondas or Toyotas are manufactured abroad than for Fords and Chryslers.

I further suspect and hope that worker productivity in the auto industry is increasing, and that a decreasing workforce can produce the increasing supply of vehicles that we want and need. Increasing worker productivity is a good thing, which should eventually help consumers get more for their money. Of course society should be sure that other jobs and other careers are available for those who can't get auto manufacturing jobs due to workforce reductions due to increasing productivity. But that is not the problem that is generating headlines.

I gather that Ford and General Motors are closing plants in the rust belt because other companies, with plants further south, are taking away their customers -- not because the automotive workforce in the United States is shrinking that fast.

My point is that we need to understand what the information we receive means! Saying that the recent announcement of financial losses, plant closings, and layoffs by Ford and General Motors means that "the U.S. is falling out of love with its cars" is not helpful. The U.S. does not seem to be falling out of love with cars owned by U.S. citizens. The U.S. does not seem to be falling out of love with cars made in the U.S. The U.S. does seem to be falling out of love with General Motors and Ford brand cars, and with the factory workers who make those cars.

Could it be that other firms are manufacturing cars that the U.S. prefers for reasons such as cost, reliability, covenience, or beauty? Could it be that Ford and General Motors, and the unions of their workers, have created labor conditions that make it hard for themselves to compete with other manufacturers? If so, our approach should not be to subsidize Ford and General Motors, but to encourage them to be more competitive.

Maybe one place we should look for savings is in the executive salaries paid by Ford, General Motors and the automotive unions?

More on the Global Warming Debate

The following is from "Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change: Some Experts on Global Warming Foresee 'Tipping Point' When It Is Too Late to Act" by Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, January 29, 2006.
This tipping point debate has stirred controversy within the administration; Hansen said senior political appointees are trying to block him from sharing his views publicly.

When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record, NASA officials ordered Hansen (James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies) to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation.

"They're trying to control what's getting out to the public," Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. "They're not willing to say much, because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble."

But Mary L. Cleave, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Office of Earth Science, said the agency insists on monitoring interviews with scientists to ensure they are not misquoted.
Who do you believe, the scientist or the political appointee from the Bush Administration?

Many years ago, I was the government officer responsible for a workshop on the health effects of global warming. I came out of the meeting convinced that the public health professionals don't understand the situation.

I think the impact of Hurricane Katrina is an example. Current estimates suggest both that global warming will raise sea level and increase the strength of hurricanes (and perhaps in some areas their frequency). We saw what happened when parts of New Orleans below current sea level were inundated by water flowing through levies broken by the force of a large storm. More than 1,000 people died in the event, and hundreds of thousands were displaced, having lost much of what they owned. Were that to have happened in a country with no social safety net, and a more dense population, more might well have died in the aftermath of the storm from hunger and disease than actually perished directly.

We worry about a flu pandemic, as well we might. I point out that the worst flu pandemic in human history occurred at the end of World War I. Certainly there seemed to be a strain of flu causing that pandemic that unusually combined elements that allowed its rapid transmission with those that made it especially lethal. But surely the impact was increased by the fact that it occurred during wartime, when many social and health systems were already stressed. I would expect transmissible diseases to be much more of a threat in a world stressed by the need to respond to major climate change. Today, it has been estimated, 17 million people die each year because they are too poor to live. They die of preventable or treatable diseases, because there was no money to prevent or treat their eventually fatal disease. How many more would die each year if the societies of developing nations are overstressed by the effects of global climate change?

Famine is not caused by the lack of food in the world, but by the inability of societies to move food from where it exists to where hungry people live. If we start seeing major shifts in rainfall patterns and temperature patterns, it seems likely to me that there will be crop failures, and indeed some agricultural lands that will no longer support agriculture. If our food distributions continue to fail to get food to the hungry, and there are more people hungry due to the effects of climate change, there will be more famine.

Migration may be expected from newly inundated areas, and a lot of the world's population lives in low lands near the coasts. More migration is to be expected from agricultural areas where the climate changes, and existing agricultural technologies are unable to meet the demands of the new climates. If these kinds of changes also encourage war and civil strife, those will in turn entrain more migration. Migrants are often at high risk of poor health, and increase migration may entrain still more death and disease.

The rich avoided Katrina, driving their luxury cars to expensive hotels during the storm, and using their wealth to cushion the after effects of the catastrophe. So too, I don't expect the rich to suffer the worst consequences of global climate change. It is the poor I worry about. But the poor outnumber the rich by a huge margin! And, I suspect, they will suffer greatly in the coming century because we are not taking adequate steps now to reduce green house gas emissions.

Keeping leading government scientists from effectively warning the public of the dangers that research is uncovering is not a good idea!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Evaluating Capacity Development in Research & Development Organizations

Go to the ISNAR/IDRC website for this project.

"This site, managed by the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), promotes the use of evaluation in capacity development. The focus is on developing the capacities and improving the performance of individuals and organizations engaged in rural research and development activities. The main purpose of the site is to support managers and evaluators who are working to improve their own capacity and performance and that of their organizations.

"The site was originally set up to support the global team that implemented an ISNAR-coordinated project on Evaluating Capacity Development in Research and Development Organizations (the "ECD Project").

"The site features ISNAR publications and reports on capacity development and evaluation, a glossary of important terms used in the evaluation of capacity development, useful bibliographic references on the subject, and links to other Internet resources that managers and evaluators concerned with capacity development will find useful."

The IDRC Networks Study

Go to the study website.

Networking has been at the core of the Canadian International Development Research Center's (IDRC) activities. IDRC research efforts are co-operative undertakings between North and South and South to South. Both formal and informal networking of projects and researchers through workshops, site visits, shared technical assistance and document exchange are a mechanism of choice across all sectors of IDRC activity. This review was intended to improved IDRC's networing by deepening understanding of networks and their functioning. It has resulted in a wide variety of specific, project-based descriptions of network purposes, outputs and administrative elements. The review has focused expressly on interactive research and capacity development networks, as distinct from those electronic and data exchange arrangements which are more simply concerned with facilitating the storage and movement of information. It "integrated data from several sources: 8 commissioned papers on specific aspects of networking (see summaries appendix 1); 84 interviews with network coordinators, IDRC programme staff and other donors (see list appendix 2); file reviews of 30 IDRC network projects; and a literature review (Rowan and Bernard 1993) undertaken to place the questions and issues in a wider context. Its design and methodology have been qualitative, with data collected and analyzed in terms of a series of interpretive questions: why and how networks work; for whose benefit; under what conditions; and with what effect. The review argues that networks are more or less effective on the basis of how well they accommodate the different motivations, needs and capacities of members, donors and participating organizations; and how well they respond to their environments in doing so." IDRC, 2004.

The Global Risk Report: 2006

Go to the PDF file with the full 26 page report by the Global Risk Network of the Global Economic Forum.

Four key risk scenarios are highlighted:
* Oil Price Shock – price spike above US$ 80-100/bl
* Influenza pandemic
* Terrorism
* Climate Change
The geopolitical risk landscape is still dominated by the risk (real and perceived) of terrorism.

A summary of 25 global risk scenarios generated by the Global Risks Programme can be found in the appendix to this document.

"Study doubles avian flu genetic data: Genomic analysis of database might point to deadly mutations"

Read the full article by Susan Brown in The Scientist. (January 27, 2006.)

"By sequencing genes from a large and historic sample of avian influenza viruses, scientists say they have found a genetic marker that may determine which strains of bird flu are mild and which are deadly. The study, published online in this week’s Science, nearly doubles the amount of genetic information about the viruses, and introduces what the authors claim is a new approach to comparing genetic variation.......

"During the study, Clayton Naeve and colleagues at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee looked at 336 viral samples from wild birds and domestic poultry. The group sequenced more than 2,000 influenza genes and deposited the data -- including 168 complete genomes -- in GenBank."

The authors of the Science paper have suggested on gene that "may help explain why avian flu can be so lethal when it first infects humans." It seems likely that virologists will soon study the gene and its protein to confirm or reject the suggestion. The group "also found large variation in viral surface proteins – an expected finding, they said, given that influenza virus mutates rapidly to evade detection by the immune system."

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Economic Lead of the United States

Source: The Economist

Read the full article "Climbing back" in The Economist. (January 19, 2006; Subscription required.)
The economies of what used to be called the “third world” are regaining their ancient pre-eminence

"According to estimates by The Economist, in 2005 the combined output of emerging (or developing) economies rose above half of the global total.

"This figure has been calculated from the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook database. We have adjusted the IMF's numbers in two ways. First, we have taken account of China's recent upward revision of its GDP by 17%. Second, we include the newly industrialised Asian economies (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore). These countries might well now be classed as developed, but should surely be counted in any estimate of the long-term success of developing countries. If you exclude countries once they prosper, developing economies' share will never increase.

"We have used the IMF's method of converting national GDPs into dollars using purchasing-power parities (PPPs) instead of market exchange rates."
The growing clout of emerging economies is in fact returning them to the position they held for most of history. Before the steam engine and the power loom gave Britain its industrial lead, today's emerging economies dominated world output. Estimates by Angus Maddison, an economic historian, suggest that in the 18 centuries until 1820 they produced, on average, around 80% of the total. But they were then left behind by Europe's technological revolution. By the early 20th century their share had fallen to 40%.
(see chart above)

The UN Economic Commission for Europe notes:
There had already been unexpectedly strong growth in western Europe in the five years following the end of the war, such that the large real income gaps which existed among most countries in 1945 had been reduced to their pre-war levels by 1950. On this criterion, 1950 can be said to mark the end of reconstruction and the start of a new era in western European economic history. But the real income gap vis-à-vis the United States, the technological leader, was very large in 1950, amounting, on average, to some 55 per cent (table 5.3.2). This gap indicates the large potential for technological catch-up growth which existed at that time. Real GDP per capita in western Europe rose by some 4 per cent per annum between 1950 and 1973. In contrast, it rose by only 2.4 per cent a year in the United States, while in Japan the average annual increase was some 8 per cent.
I also want to quote from one of the many papers on whether the incomes of nations are converging or diverging: "Growing apart: global divergence characterising the evolution of cross-country incomes" by David Mayer-Foulkes:
The discussion of convergence has occupied a prominent place in the study of economic growth across countries for over a decade. The finding of a significant, negative 'convergence coefficient' has been one of the most robust in cross-country growth regressions......Evans (1995) confirms convergence in a large group of medium- to high-income countries, at least to parallel growth paths.
He summarizes his results as follows:
the sample of non-mainly-petroleum-exporting countries having market economies during the period 1960-1997 is divided into five clusters of countries by a regression clustering algorithm according to the levels and rates of change of income and life expectancy. The five clusters correspond to advanced countries, especially fast growing countries, and three tiers of less developed countries with qualitatively different development paths.......the five-club convergence model is much more significant than the one-club model, and the distributions of countryspecific convergence regression coefficients are significantly different across groups of countries.
The US still has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $41,800; in 2004 (using World Bank figures) its GDP was more than 28 percent of the world's total. However, at the end of World War II, the United States held an unprecedented economic position; its GDP exceeded that of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, the USSR and Japan combined (source). The post-war period, which has been described as "club convergence" saw the developed nations regain economic power, as compared with the United States. The current rapid economic growth of India and China, and the earlier growth of the various Tigers, suggests the club is growing.

During the Cold War, the United States and Russia were seen as two super powers. Today the military power of the United States seems unmatched, and it is seen as the one remaining super power. But today the economy of Europe is considerably larger than that of the United States, and one would hope that the European Union will increase its role in international peacekeeping accordingly. As India and China grow economically, one might expect their power to grow in other ways as well.

"African UNESCO' gets go-ahead"

Read the full atricle by Wagdy Sawahel in SciDev.Net. (27 January 2006)

"The African Union (AU) has backed plans to create a scientific and cultural branch modelled on the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"The AU council gave the proposal, from Sudan, the green light at its summit last week (21 January) in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

"Among its aims, the proposed African Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (AFESCO) intends to boost the continent's scientific capacity, promote international cooperation and protect African cultures."

Newsletters from the World Bank's K4D Program

Go to the webpage to read the online newsletters.

A quarterly newsletter providing updates on the activities of the Bank's Knowledge for Development program. Each issue presents synopsis of the Bank's latest knowledge economy assessments, reports, policy studies and other publications. Highlights from policy dialogues are also frequently included. Subscriptions are available free.

IDRC in the Public Policy Process: A Strategic Evaluation of the Influence of Research on Public Policy

Evaluators are studying how to make sure research reaches the policymakers who can most use it. (IDRC Photo: Y. Beaulieu)

Go to the study website.

This study aims to examine the extent to which and the ways in which the research supported by the IDRC influences policy; and to examine the factors which affect the extent of policy influence resulting from IDRC projects. Two elements were central to the study's methodology: 1. case studies using a common methodology and questions designed to allow depth and richness in each qualitative case, but also to lend themselves to cross-case analysis; 2. the engagement of staff and partners in the analysis including a series of workshops to carry out preliminary analysis of the findings. The website provides: Design Documents, Background Studies, Case Studies, and Workshops and Findings. The 22 case studies are grouped as follows: Poverty Monitoring, Trade and Finance, Resource Management, Water Management, Health and Education Reform, Network and Innovation, and Information and Communication Technologies for Development. Eight papers available online, published from 2003 to 2005, give results from the study. International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Freedom House: Global Survey 2006

Go to the survey home page.

The people of the Arab Middle East experienced a modest but potentially significant increase in political rights and civil liberties in 2005, Freedom House announced in a major survey of global freedom released today.

The global survey, "Freedom in the World," shows that although the Middle East continues to lag behind other regions, a measurable improvement can be seen in freedom in several key Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian Authority. In another key finding, the number of countries rated by Freedom House as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in over a decade. In noteworthy country developments, Ukraine and Indonesia saw their status improve from Partly Free to Free; Afghanistan moved from Not Free to Partly Free; and the Philippines saw its status decline from Free to Partly Free.

Global Warming

Source: Mongabay.com

This morning I found Calvin Jones blog, Climate Change Action.

In WaPo today, there is an article about a new film documenting Al Gore's efforts to raise consciousness about global climate change.
Al Gore, Sundance's Leading Man: 'An Inconvenient Truth' Documents His Efforts To Raise Alarm on Effects of Global Warming
Global Climate Change is a topic worth discussing in the context of K4D. Conservatives (as opposed to conservationists -- isn't language strange) have in the past challenged the evidence that climate change is occurring. President Bush, the most prominent of the conservatives, has acknowledged that global warming is taking place. Indeed, he has promised to devote resources to research on the topic, to monitoring, and even to reduction of green house gas emissions. However, the Bush Administration has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and its participation in the United Nations climate change conference (held from November 28 to December 9, 2005 in Montreal) was less than I had hoped. Even the huge price increase in gasoline and heating oil, and the dismal prospects for increasing world oil supplies, have not resulted in efforts by this Administration to encourage automotive fuel economy.

Other conservatives have used the term "junk science" as part of what Robert Kennedy has called "a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition." Their's is a campaign generally against environmental regulation, including regulation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emisions.

I would note that the international community has taken an impressive step to vet information in the creation by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
In its Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, the IPCC stated:
The Earth’s climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities.
A NASA study finds last year, 2005, was the warmest worldwide on record. The Precautionary Priciple suggests that we not wait for more complete knowledge, but act forcefully now to reduce the anthropogenic aspects of global warming, as well as to help ameliorate the social and economic impacts of the climate change that seems sure to come.

The focus of this blog has been to encourage building knowledge systems to support social and economic development and the aleviation of poverty. I have emphasized often the need for more and better knowledge for development. But, as in the case of global warming, there is a significant danger in delaying appropriate action in the search for more and better knowledge on which to guide action!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AAAS Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is to take place on 16–20 February 2006 in St. Louis, Missouri. There will be more than 200 symposia, plenary lectures, topical lectures, seminars and other sessions. It looks like a meeting that will greatly interest people who visit this blog. (I wish I could go!)

Some of the sessions that I think would be especially interesting are listed below:

The "International Challenges" Track:
Whither UNESCO? Science, Poverty, and Peace
Friday, February 17, 2006, 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Science and the End of Poverty
Friday, February 17, 2006, 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Research on Global Desertification and the Reclamation of Arid Lands
Friday, February 17, 2006, 1:45 PM - 4:45 PM

Mobilizing Science To End Poverty in the Developing World
Friday, February 17, 2006, 1:45 PM - 4:45 PM

Climate Change, Risk Management, and the Next 100 Years
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Management and Leadership of Multi-Institutional and Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 1:45 PM - 3:15 PM

Agricultural Biotechnology in the Public Sector: Overcoming Challenges To Reach Developing Country Markets
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 1:45 PM - 4:45 PM

Disasters and Development: Natural Disaster Mitigation and Developing Countries
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Science and Technology for Economic and Social Development: What Works, and How Do We Know It?
Monday, February 20, 2006, 9:45 AM - 12:45 PM

Microbial Resistance: A Threat to Global Health
Monday, February 20, 2006, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

The "Science Policy" Track:
Evaluating the Evaluators: A Critical Self-Assessment of R&D Evaluation Practices
Friday, February 17, 2006, 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Scientists, the Public, and Policy-Makers in Dialogue: Principles and Applications
Friday, February 17, 2006, 10:30 AM - 12:00 Noon

Stem Cells and Society: Assessing a Grand Challenge
Friday, February 17, 2006, 1:45 PM - 4:45 PM

Radical Innovation in Science and Technology: Management and Measures
Friday, February 17, 2006, 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Constitutional Principles and Legal Strategies in the Creation and Evolution Debates
Saturday, February 18, 2006, 9:45 AM - 11:15 AM

Challenges from Risk-Risk Trade-Offs
Saturday, February 18, 2006, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Shaping Public Policy: A Case Study on Stem Cell Legislation
Saturday, February 18, 2006, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

The Dichotomy of Intellectual Property as Both an Incentive and an Impediment to Innovation: Are There Better Alternatives?
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Risk and Society
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 10:30 AM - 12:00 Noon

Particles, Policy, and Public Health
Sunday, February 19, 2006, 1:45 PM - 4:45 PM

How Basic Research in the Social Sciences Improves Public Policy
Monday, February 20, 2006, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

A window of opportunity for USAID

Read the full editorial by David Dickson in SciDev.Net. (24 January 2006.)

A decision to reorganise the US Agency for International Development (USAID) — and to appoint the former head of a major pharmaceutical company as its new administrator — could boost the role of science and technology in the agency's efforts.

SciDev'Net's editor expresses cautious optimism that the newly announced reorganization of U.S. foreign assistance and the appointment of Randall Tobias as both Administrator of USAID and Tzar for development assistance (with rank equivalent to that of the Deputy Secretary of State) will lead to needed improvements in U.S. foreign assistance. He hopes that the improvements will include a strengthening of science and technology within U.S. foreign assistance, as do I.

I hear from Pat Koshel that the long-awaited National Academies of Science report on S&T in foreign assistance has just been approved for publication. She is hoping to the publication will be out soon!

Global Land Use Database

Go to the project website.

The Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) has been developing global databases of land use and land cover by combining satellite data and census data. This website provides access to its datasets of the distribution of the world's natural vegetation, croplands, grazing lands, major crops, etc.

The Center has recently published new maps, made by Navin Ramankutty and other SAGE researchers, tracking the changing patterns of agricultural land use around the world. (See examples above and below.)
The exercise is already beginning to cast light on some emerging trends. Countries such as Argentina and Brazil, for instance, have increasingly cleared forests to grow soybean, a legume that has never been a traditional crop of Latin America. Scientists say the surge in soybean production there has a lot to do with the booming demand for soy all the way at the other end of the world - in China. Meanwhile, Monfreda notes, long-time soybean farmers in the U.S. - the world's top soybean producer - are growing increasingly insecure about their place in the global market.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How good is the Washington Post?

Deborah Howell, Ombudsman for the Washington Post, wrote an article last week on the Abramoff affair. She wrote:
he (Abramoff) had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties.
Several stories, including one on June 3 by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, a Post business reporter, have mentioned that a number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), have gotten Abramoff campaign money.
On Sunday, January 22, 2006, her column stated:
I wrote that he gave campaign money to both parties and their members of Congress. He didn't. I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.
On Saturday, January 21, 2006, Paul Farhi wrote in the Washington Post
Howell wrote in a column published Sunday that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." That is incorrect.
His article was in fact titled, "Deluge Shuts Down Post Blog:
Ombudsman's Column Had Sparked Profane Responses". It stated:
The newspaper company has temporarily shut down Post.blog -- a section of Washingtonpost.com that invites reader comments -- after receiving hundreds of posts, many using profane or sexist language, responding to columns by The Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell......readers had begun flooding Post.blog with comments, most of them criticizing Howell. Many of them used language unsuitable for a public forum. Unable to keep up with a stream of more than 1,500 postings, editors of the Web site decided to close it down until order could be restored.
The same story was apparently spread by Bill O'Reilly on Fox News. According to Media Matters:
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly modified a false claim he made three days before that former lobbyist Jack Abramoff donated money to both Democrats and Republicans, saying: "His personal donations were to Republicans." In modifying his claim, however, O'Reilly made no admission of his previous error, nor did he apologize for having berated a caller to his nationally syndicated radio show for correctly noting that Democrats received no money directly from Abramoff.
That an error published by the Washington Post is comparable to that of the Fox News is surprising! In an earlier post on this blog today, an anonymous comment questioned the relative merits of The Financial Times (UK) versus the Washington Post -- and not to the advantage of the WaPo. Not long ago, following the Judy Miller affair, the Jayson Blair affair, and the Times coverage of Wen Ho Lee, some observers suggested that the Washington Post had now replaced the New York Times as the most trustworthy paper in the United States. Perhaps that was too early a judgment. I would further note that the stories on why the Washington Post blog was shut down seemed different to me in the broadcase of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (Tuesday, January 24, 2006) and that published by the WaPo.

I am impressed by the power of the Internet, as demonstrated in this case. Stories such as that in The Daily Kos clarified the facts in the case. I am equally impressed that thousands of feedback emails poured in to the Washington Post blog, that they had an effect, and that the blog comments themselves became a story! While the original error, coming as it did from the Ombudsman, was very disappointing, the willingness of the Post to open itself to criticism is commendable. Too bad it blotted the copybook by handling the comments badly.

So why am I addressing this matter in a blog dedicated to discussions of knowledge for development? So much of our knowledge of key current events has in the past come from the media, and especially from newspapers, that it is important to recognize that the papers can get it wrong. Moreover, the story suggests that free discussion in cyberspace has the potential to improve the quality of knowledge on important matters that becomes available to the public.

It is important in the upcoming election for the public to know whether the Abramoff scandle is a Republican scandle or a generalized Congressional scandle. Perhaps the public will have a better chance "to throw the (right) bums out" as a result of the Washington Post blog and the furror in cyberspace.


Mohamed Muhsen in a happier moment

Read the full article titled "World Bank Staffers Protest Appointments" by Paul Blustein in The Washington Post. (January 24, 2006.)

In defending recent appointments (including that of Suzanne Rich Folsom to head the unit that investigates misconduct and corruption at the bank), World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz told an interviewer
"that staffers had grown too 'comfortable' with the laxness of the Institutional Integrity Department, which he said had been run with 'very puzzling negligence' until Folsom took over as its acting director in October. Although he emphasized that the overwhelming majority of bank staffers are honest, he said, 'I'm aware of a particularly serious set of allegations' involving a senior bank official."
The article further states:
Wolfowitz declined to name the individual under suspicion, because the investigation is continuing. But internal bank documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the watchdog unit is investigating Mohamed Muhsin, who retired three months ago as the bank's chief information technology officer. Sources familiar with the investigation said it involves alleged improprieties in the bank's procurement of technology services.

Muhsin's attorney, Joshua Hochberg, said Muhsin "is shocked, as are his colleagues, that unfounded rumors have circulated at the end of his 17 years of dedicated service during which his integrity was never questioned." He added that Muhsin expects "full exoneration."

I believe Mohamed Muhsin has played an important role in making the World Bank a leader in use of ICT in the community of donor agencies, and a leader in the dissemination and utilization of ICT in developing nations. I find it really distasteful that the President of the World Bank would make comments that would lead to the publication of Muhsin's name in the context of this investigation. I believe in the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. I regret that some will believe the worst of Mr. Muhsin due to this publicity without waiting for the conclusion of the investigation, and that his reputation will be damaged even if and when he is fully exonorated.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

"The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet"

Read the full opinion piece By Christopher Stern in the Outlook Section of The Washington Post. (January 22, 2006.)

"Public interest groups, including the Consumer Federation and Consumers Union, have been lobbying the (U.S.) Congress and the (U.S.) Federal Communications Commission to write the concept called 'network neutrality' into law and regulation. Google and Yahoo have joined their lobbying efforts. And online retailers, Internet travel services, news media and hundreds of other companies that do business on the Web also have a lot at stake.

"Meanwhile, on the other side, companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth are lobbying just as hard, saying that they need to find new ways to pay for the expense of building faster, better communication networks. And, they add, because these new networks will compete with those belonging to Comcast, Time Warner and oth er cable companies -- which currently have about 55 percent of the residential broadband market -- this will eventually bring down the price of your high-speed Internet service and television access."

The U.S. "Congress is taking first steps toward updating and rewriting the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a key legal underpinning for media, telecommunications and Internet activity. This process, required by technological advances, will probably take a year to complete."

Public Knowledge, a consumer rights NGO focusing on the digital world, "had been having trouble convincing members of Congress that there was a network neutrality problem. Legislators and staffers repeatedly had noted to Sohn that no major telephone company had ever used its network to discriminate against other companies."

However, recently "AT&T Chairman Edward E. Whitacre Jr. complained that Internet content providers were getting a free ride: 'They don't have any fiber out there. They don't have any wires. . . . They use my lines for free -- and that's bull,' he said. 'For a Google or a Yahoo or a Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes for free is nuts!'"

Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge is quoted: "Whitacre just made the case for regulation. This was as good as it can get."

USAID "Invisible Conduit" Supporting the Palestinian Authority Incumbents

Read the article by Scott Wilson and Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post. (January 22, 2006.)

According to this article, approximately $2 million is being used by a division of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) "to increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas......no U.S. government logos appear with the projects or events being undertaken as part of the campaign, which bears no evidence of U.S. involvement and does not fall within the definitions of traditional development work."

I assume that the purpose is not to increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority as such, but to support the incumbents running the PA in the election.

The article states:
Elements of the U.S.-funded program include a street-cleaning campaign, distributing free food and water to Palestinians at border crossings, donating computers to community centers and sponsoring a national youth soccer tournament....Plans called for roughly 40 small projects or events, ranging in cost from $5,000 to $50,000 each, that would benefit the Palestinian Authority. No USAID logos would be used......The point man in Abbas's office was his chief of staff, Husseini, a member of a prominent Jerusalem family. In an interview last week, Husseini said U.S. officials told him they had about $2 million to spend on 30 or so projects before the elections. He said his office provided them with "names of people who could do this best."

The article states that the program was controversial in USAID. I bet it was!

On the one hand, creating a fund to support small, "bottom-up" projects seems well within USAID's charter, and something the Agency could do well. Setting a deadline so that such funds would be dispersed in a timely fashion might be a good precedent to set for other donor programs.

On the other hand, the effort could easily be seen as a covert approach to influencing an election, and using USAID as a cover for the program.

I think long-term nation building is an ethical imperative to attack poverty. Long-term nation building is also needed if we are to really reduce the numbers of people who so dislike the United States that they are willing to support terrorists. Our bilateral assistance programs should be a valuable tool in such nation building, since bilaterally we can allocate the resources where they will most serve priority interests of the United States. If, however, bilateral assistance is perceived as a cover for fixing elections and interfering in the affairs of other nations, it will be much less effective at nation building!

If there really is a need to spend a couple of million dollars to shore up the election of Abbas and his party, surely there are other, better ways to channel the money than through USAID! Doing this in so clumsy a manner that it hits the front page of the Washington Post just before the election is just dumb.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

CommInit: "Avian Influenza Public Information and Guidance/Instruction"

Go to the Communications Initiative website for "Core Bird Flu Messages".

The site provides links to the primary
Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),
Hong Kong Government,
World Health Organization (WHO) and
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

communication messages related to Avian Influenza.

It also extracts the core messages from longer and more detailed documents on the original websites.

Diagnostic Decision-Support Software

Read the full article, featuring Larry Weed, in the December 8, 2005 Technology Quarterly published in The Economist. (Subscription required.)

Dr. Larry Weed M.D. is a real pioneer in the area of medical knowledge systems. He developed the patient oriented medical record, and eventually started the PKC corporation to develop diagnostic software for doctors to use. This is part of what the Economist says about his software:

"There is simply too much new (medical) information (for doctors) to absorb and retain. Medline, a medical database, indexed 3,672 articles about adult coronary heart-disease studies in 2004, notes Elizabeth McGlynn, of RAND Health, part of the RAND think-tank......

"The PKC software stands apart within the little-known niche of “diagnostic decision-support” software: with other diagnostic aids, doctors generally use software on an as-needed basis, such as during a complex case. But PKC takes patients and health-care providers through a thorough—and documented—question-and-answer routine at each encounter. PKC engages patients, who enter information about symptoms, family medical history and so forth. During or after the medical exam, the health professional enters physical findings and test results. PKC then returns a list of diagnoses and care options to consider, with links to journal articles on which the recommendations are based.

"Doctors who have used PKC for years tell endless tales of improved office efficiencies, better patient involvement and diagnoses that they might otherwise have missed. A study from 2001 validates their experience, indicating that PKC's systematic approach can improve outcomes in chronic conditions such as diabetes. America's Department of Defence has been impressed enough to build PKC into its own Composite Health Care System, called CHCS II, so that Dr Weed's software helps to look after some 9m people. “PKC has a fairly unique capability to bounce a person's health record up against medical literature,” says Colonel Bart Harmon, the army's chief medical information officer. He adds that PKC's list of potential diagnoses and care options are the opposite of the so-called “cookbook” medicine that many doctors fear will result from automation.

"As with POMR, PKC's software has appeal outside America, too. 'I would be very pleased if we could get all the general practitioners in Britain to use his software,' says Brian Jarman, a professor emeritus at London's Imperial College School of Medicine and a former president of the British Medical Association. 'It's virtually impossible for a doctor these days to remember everything. Computers don't let you forget things.'"

In the country of the blind, better rule by the one-eyed than by the apes.

Dick Arndt

Friday, January 20, 2006

"GLOBAL HEALTH: The New World of Global Health"

Read the full article by Jon Cohen in Science. (13 January 2006.) Subscription required.

"A revolution is under way that is fundamentally altering the way the haves of the world assist the have-nots. Over the past 7 years, a cadre of deep-pocketed, impassioned players has committed more than $35 billion to fight the diseases of the world's poor. At the forefront of these efforts is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which since 1999 has pledged $6 billion--roughly the budget of the World Health Organization (WHO) during the same time--to battling HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other long-underfunded diseases.

"Close on the foundation's heels are a half-dozen other massive new efforts, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which has promised $4.8 billion to 128 countries, and the President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from the Bush Administration that has pledged $15 billion to help selected countries. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), with half of the $3 billion in its coffers supplied by the Gates Foundation, is helping 72 countries fortify the immune systems of their children."

New Direction for U.S. Foreign Assistance

Go to the USAID announcement of the proposed reforms. The webpage also provides a transcript of the Secretary's remarks, streaming audio of her meeting with USAID staff, and related material.

U.S. Secretary of State Rice has announced a major change in the way the US government directs foreign assistance. This reorganization is described as intended to:
* Ensure that foreign assistance is used as effectively as possible to meet our broad foreign policy objectives
* More fully align the foreign assistance activities carried out by the Department of State and USAID
* Demonstrate that we are responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

The Secretary announced the intention of creating the new position of Director of Foreign Assistance to serve concurrently as USAID Administrator. She stated that
the Director will also provide overall leadership to foreign assistance that is delivered through other agencies and entities of the U.S. Government. He will coordinate our development efforts, for example, with the Office of Global AIDS Coordinator and with the Millennium Challenge Corporation which operates under unique, conditions-based standards for assistance.
The White House concurrently announced the nomination of Amb. Randall L. Tobias as USAID Administrator.

This change is to be implemented consistent with current law. No new legislation is seen as required at this time. USAID's status as an independent organization with an administrator reporting directly to the Secretary of State is to remain unchanged.

Bradley Graham and Glenn Kessler covered the announcement in today's Washington Post. (January 20, 2006.)
Rice took the unusual step of holding a town-hall-style meeting with hundreds of USAID employees after announcing the creation of a high-level State Department position to oversee all foreign aid programs. Rice said the position -- director of foreign assistance -- is intended to bring greater coherence and efficiency to a broad patchwork of often overlapping assistance programs that now total about $19 billion. Randall L. Tobias, a former pharmaceuticals industry executive who has headed the administration's global AIDS program for the past 2 1/2 years, was named to fill the position and also to serve as the new USAID administrator......Several longtime USAID officials who heard Rice said in brief interviews afterward that her decision to hold the meeting was itself a significant gesture, but they also made clear that they will be withholding final judgment about the revamped management structure.....The choice of Tobias drew some criticism. He has little experience in development issues other than the anti-AIDS effort, and some activists have faulted him for placing less emphasis on condom use than on abstinence to reduce the spread of AIDS, and for moving too slowly to promote inexpensive generic drugs.

The idea of a high-level official to coordinate U.S. foreign assistance is not new, and in fact was enacted into law a quarter century ago -- the last legacy of Hubert Humphrey. However, the implementation of that law was weak to non-existant. The Bush Administration has chosen to implement major foreign assistance initiative outside of USAID, and I am pleased to see that they are now trying to bring the various aid programs of the government together under a combined leadership. I hope that in doing so the Administration does not sacrifice the long term nature of development assistance to the short term objectives of military and economic policy, and that the leaders that they choose have the background and experience to fully understand the nature of development assistance.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Larry Wilkerson on Decision Making in the Bush Administration.

Read the profile of Larry WilKerson by Richard Leiby in The Washington Post. (January 19, 2006.)

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson's discussion of the Bush Administration's National Security Policy at the New America Foundation last October were widely reported. Today he is the subject of a profile article in the Washington Post.

Wilkerson held the title of Chief of Staff in the U.S. Department of State under Secretary Colin Powell. According to his State Department biography:
Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired) Larry Wilkerson joined General Colin L. Powell in March 1989 at the U.S. Army’s Forces Command in Atlanta, Georgia as his Deputy Executive Officer. He followed the General to his next position as Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving as his special assistant. Upon Powell's retirement from active service in 1993, Colonel Wilkerson served as the Deputy Director and Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia. Upon Wilkerson’s retirement from active service in 1997, he began working for General Powell in a private capacity as a consultant and advisor. In December 2000, Secretary of State-designate Powell asked Wilkerson to join him in the Transition Office at the U.S. State Department and, later, upon his confirmation as Secretary of State, Secretary Powell moved Wilkerson to his Policy Planning Staff with responsibilities for East Asia and the Pacific, and legislative and political-military affairs. In June of 2002, the Director for Policy Planning, Ambassador Richard Haass, made Wilkerson the associate director. In August of 2002, Secretary Powell moved Wilkerson to the position of Chief of Staff of the Department.

Wilkerson is a veteran of the Vietnam war as well as a U.S. Army 'Pacific hand,' having served in Korea, Japan, and Hawaii and participated in military exercises throughout the Pacific. Moreover, Wilkerson was Executive Assistant to US Navy Admiral Stewart A. Ring, Director for Strategy and Policy (J5) USCINCPAC, from 1984-87. Wilkerson also served on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College at Newport, RI and holds two advanced degrees, one in International Relations and the other in National Security Studies. He has written extensively on military and national security affairs–especially for college-level curricula--and been published in a number of professional journals, including the Naval Institute’s Proceedings, The Naval War College Review, Military Review, and Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ).
He is quoted in the Post profile as stating:
As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years. You've got to go back and think about that. That includes the Bay of Pigs, that includes -- oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate.
"Wilkerson says he may write an academic text about presidential decision-making. This month he began supplementing his retirement with part-time teaching jobs at George Washington University and the College of William & Mary."

Reorganization of U.S. Foreign Assistance

Read the full article in the Washington Post by Glenn Kessler and Bradley Graham about State Department reorganization. (January 19, 2006.)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "today plans to unveil a restructuring of U.S. foreign assistance, including announcing the nomination of Randall L. Tobias as the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Officials said Rice plans to elevate the USAID post, giving Tobias -- a former Eli Lilly chief executive who now heads the administration's global AIDS relief program -- an office and a planning staff in the State Department. Rice will designate Tobias as having a rank equivalent of deputy secretary of state. Although the move stops short of merging USAID with State, it is intended to draw the agency closer into the department's fold, the officials said. Additionally, the new director will be given broader authority over a range of foreign assistance accounts now managed by separate entities. 'Effectively, this will allow a single person to have visibility into these various accounts,' a State official said."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, I suppose, is the other founding father of "Knowledge for Development" in the United States of America. He was, in addition to a statesman and diplomat, an architect, naturalist, and linguist. In the Virginia House of Delegates he introduced bills to create a free system of tax-supported elementary education for all except slaves, to create a public library and to modernize the curriculum of the College of William and Mary -- all of which failed to pass into law. He experimented with a new plow and other ingenious inventions on his farm, Monticello. He was one of the founding fathers of the Patent Office, and held the post as examiner of American patents. He conceived University of Virginia at Charlottesville, planned it, designed it, and supervised both its construction and the hiring of faculty. As President, he sponsored the Lewis and Clark expedition, which advanced scientific knowledge of the western United States greatly. By 1814 Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States, which sold to Congress as a replacement for the collection destroyed by the British during the War of 1812. It formed the permanent basis of the Library of Congress. And he was author of the Declaration of American Independence and of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom.


"it (liberty) is the great parent of science & of virtue: and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free."
Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, March 24, 1789

"our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Thomas Jefferson to Dr. James Currie, January 28, 1786

"nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle."
Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 11, 1807

"The expedition of Messrs. Lewis & Clarke for exploring the river Missouri, & the best communication from that to the Pacific ocean, has had all the success which could have been expected."
Thomas Jefferson's Sixth Annual Message to Congress, December 2, 1806

"I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country."
Thomas Jefferson to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823

"I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give."
Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Donald, February 7, 1788

"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, January 8, 1789

"I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time."
Thomas Jefferson to John Wyche, May 19, 1809

"I cannot live without books."
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, June 10, 1815

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody...(letter to Isaac McPherson, 1813 as cited in Kock & Peden, 1972).

"Dying Too Young: Addressing Premature Mortality and Ill Health Due to Non Communicable Diseases and Injuries in the Russian Federation"

Go to the World Bank website for the report.

Despite strong economic growth, Russia is facing an alarming population decline, due in large part to untimely deaths from heart disease, traffic accidents, and alcoholism, says a World Bank report released December 8, 2006. A continuation of current trends means a shrinking adult workforce, destabilization of families, growing regional disparities, and national security risks, warn Bank experts.

Short, brutal lives for Russia’s men are taking a toll on society and families

Russia is one of the few middle-income countries in the world where life expectancy is falling. Life expectancy in Russia is 12 years less than it is in the US, a startling gap for a fellow-member of the G-8. Between 1992 and 2003, the Russian population declined by 6 million people to an estimated 143 million. If current low fertility and high mortality trends continue, the Russian Federation will lose approximately 18 million people by 2025.

Russian men are particularly at risk, they live16 years less on average than men in Western Europe and 14 years less than Russian women. The large difference by sex suggests that specific behavioral factors are implicated, rather than factors related to the external environment or adequacy of health care. If current ill health and disability continue, the healthy life expectancy of Russian males will fall to 53 years. According to Dying Too Young, since the late 1990s, the burden of chronic illness on families is estimated to have contributed to an annual loss of 5.6% of per capita income per year negatively affecting household incomes.

Rusian & European Live Expectancy

Science magazine

"Funds promised to fight bird flu, new deaths probed"

Read the full article by Ben Blanchard on today's Yahoo!News.

" International donors pledged $1.9 billion on Wednesday for a global fund to combat bird flu, while Iraq tested a dead teenage girl for the virus.

"The funding promised at the end of an international conference in Beijing was well in excess of an initial target set by the World Bank to raise at least $1.2 billion.....

"The World Bank has estimated that a pandemic lasting a year could cost the global economy up to $800 billion. Across the globe, millions could die if the H5N1 avian flu virus mutates just enough to pass easily among people.....

"Of the $1.9 billion pledged, about $900 million would be in the form of loans, and the rest in grants.....

"The United States pledged about $334 million, saying in a statement the money would be mainly in the form of grants and technical assistance. The total EU pledge is nearly $250 million."

"AVIAN INFLUENZA: More Cases in Turkey, but No Mutations Found"

Read the full news story in Science magazine. (Science 13 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5758, p. 161; subscription required.)

"The H5N1 avian influenza strain has sprung another surprise on public health experts, infecting at least 14 people in Turkey in the past few weeks. That's a "very high and worrying" number, says virologist Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, given that fewer than 150 people (half of them fatally) are known to have been stricken during its 2-year rampage across large swaths of Asia.

"The slim bit of good news this week is that the virus does not appear to have mutated and become more dangerous to humans, says epidemiologist Guénaël Rodier, who leads a 10-member World Health Organization (WHO) team of experts investigating the incidents and assisting the Turkish government. But the outbreak among birds, first reported in October, is much worse than originally believed, Rodier says, and the lack of control and protection measures has given the virus ample opportunity to cross the species barrier."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The World Values Survey

Go to the website of the Survey.

The World Values Survey is a worldwide investigation of sociocultural and political change. It is conducted by a network of social scientist at leading universities all around world. Interviews have been carried out with nationally representative samples of the publics of more than 80 societies on all six inhabited continents. A total of four waves have been carried out since 1981 making it possible to carry out reliable global cross-cultural analyses and analysis of changes over time.

The survey seems to show that as countries get richer, their values show a shift from "survival" toward "self-expression". The current edition of the Atlantic Monthly however, reprints a figure from Ronald Inglehart's latest book suggesting that the place on the continuum from traditional to secular-rational values remains (to me) surprisingly constant.

The U.S. should pay its dues to the United Nations

On October 1, 2005, a statutory provision went into effect that prohibits the United States from paying in full its UN peacekeeping dues. This is not a time to for the UN to cut back on peacekeeping!

Moroever, it left unchanged the shortfall may well cause the United States to lose influence with other UN member states as the members consider important changes to the organization.

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would lift this prohibition and enable the United States to pay its full UN peacekeeping assessment. It is critical that senators are notified of this problem and are encouraged by their constituents to support S. 2095, which will enable the United States to meet its financial obligations to the United Nations and will ensure that American diplomats negotiating important UN reforms are not undermined by a return to unilateral withholding of US dues.

To quickly send letters to your senators, CLICK HERE.