Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"News War"

Go to the Frontlines website devoted to this four part series on the future of the news developed for U.S. audiences and broadcast on U.S. public television. You can watch the programs online, and there is supporting information.

I can't do justice to this series in a blog posting, but I want to underline its importance relative to the subject of this blog -- knowledge for development.

News is current information. There are many kinds of news, but here we are mainly concerned with the information needed for social and economic development. That information is primarily collected by journalists, organized by editorial staffs, and disseminated by media. Journalists and editors are employed by newspapers, television networks, news agencies, magazines, etc.

With the rise of the World Wide Web, we also have "citizen journalists". Their role is evolving. I would note, however, that on the one hand few of these have the skills, training, connections, support, or legitimacy of professional news men. On the other hand, systems would not work if anyone with an Internet connection could feel free at any time to take the time of any news-maker to answer questions.

News gathering and dissemination requires resources. Journalists and editors must be paid, and the costs of dissemination -- printing and distributing newspapers and magazines, broadcasting TV and radio programs, even distributing information via the Internet -- must be covered. We find a wide variety of means used to provide these resources:
* fees (e.g. newspaper subscriptions and news stand prices)
* sale of advertizing
* public subsidies financed out of general taxes
* public subsidies financed through taxes on the medium (e.g. TV receiver tades)
* donations (donations to public radio, in kind services on university stations)
I note that foundations provide support, which by law has to be of a kind consistent with the philanthropic purposes of the organizations, which is free from governmental control. Moreover, some of the best newspapers in the nation have been privately owned, often by families which were strongly motivated by a sense of public responsibility. Typically news is bundled with other information services, and the bundle is financed. The result is complex.

When television first became popular, TV news was not self-financed but seen as a public service, required by broadcast regulators in return for the license to utilize broadcast spectrum. The overall revenues from the complete portfolio of entertainment and news broadcasts were used to finance the overall costs of the portfolio; that is there was a cross subsidy from the profitable entertainment programs to the required news programs. Later it was found that the magazine format could be profitable, and more recently that the nightly news could be made profitable.

Newspapers, too, bundle many kinds of information, and use the total flow of revenue to finance the total cost. The average consumer makes a decision that the benefits obtained by the purchase of the bundle justifies the expenditure, as the average advertiser judges that the benefits obtained justify the cost of place the ad.

New technology changes the balance. The situation is not new. The development of better presses and railroads made national magazines a force. The rise of radio news affected newspapers, as later the rise of television news affected radio news and newspapers. Now the rise of the WWW is affecting other news media. Importantly, as the Internet becomes the medium of choice for classified advertising, the technological change is eating away at the traditional revenue sources for newspapers.

The stock market is dubious about the long term earnings potential of newspapers, and so investors are requiring large current returns on investments. While newspapers are very profitable at the moment, the demand for ever increasing profit margins is resulting in cutbacks, including cutbacks on journalistic and editorial staff. Many newspapers are, in addition to moving into broadcast journalism and Internet journalism, focusing more on local news. TV journalism in the United States, too, is changing focus and searching for appropriate responses to changes in audience, audience preference, and resource bases.

Of particular interest in last night's program was the discussion of the "national papers". Only a few newspapers in the United States seek to have a nation-wide audience, and to cover in depth the news most needed by those interested in the great issues of national policy -- the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today come to mind. The Los Angeles Times, which had been aspiring to that role, is currently (according to Frontline) in danger of being dropped back to a local or regional focus. (There are of course other good papers in the United States. The Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor and the Miami Herald come to mind. Moreover, it is now possible to read news from other countries and continents online, and to access foreign radio via streaming audio and television via cable and streaming video.)

Still, the series raises critical questions. How are we to reorganize our institutions to be sure that journalists in sufficient numbers are doing the investigative reporting needed to uncover the information, in the face of newsroom cutbacks? How are we to institutionalize to assure the quality and relevance of the information we utilize in the face of editorial cutbacks on mainstream media, and in moving to new and untested media? How are we to re-institutionalize the packaging of news, especially news related to social and economic development, with other information into useful bundles? What balance of different sources of financing are we to institutionalize in order to pay for it all, while assuring fair and accurate reporting?

The MacBride Report, published by UNESCO in 1980, addresses many of these questions. As I understand its history, the wire services were especially upset that an analysis of these issues in different nations might challenge their role and authority, and united in opposition to the report. The Reagan administration in the United States and the Thatcher government in the United Kingdom, encouraged by the Heritage Foundation, quit UNESCO in part as a response to the MacBride Report.

Perhaps it is time to dust off the product of a committee that included a couple of Nobel Prize winners, and reread it. It is certainly a time that this issue be considered in depth, through a national dialog.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

US to join Iran, Syria at meeting on Iraq

Read the full article by David Gollust on ReliefWeb, 27 Feb 2007.

Lead: "The State Department said Tuesday that U.S. diplomats will take part along with those from Iran and Syria, among others, in a meeting in Baghdad next month on Iraqi security. Meetings that include U.S. and Iranian diplomats are infrequent but not unprecedented."

Iraq will apparently invite officials from bordering countries, other key Muslim states, and the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries. The United States is to be represented by outgoing Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad or his designated successor Ryan Crocker, if the changeover has occurred by then. David Satterfield, Condoleezza Rice's special advisor for Iraq, might also attend.

Comment: A small step, but it is hard to see how the conflict in the region can be resolved without people talking with each other! JAD

Monday, February 26, 2007

"Older Eyewitnesses Less Reliable"

Read the full story by Christopher Lee in The Washington Post, February 26, 2007.

A recent study indicated that older (60 to 80 years of age) subjects and younger (college age) subjects were both comparably likely to believe that they recalled seeing something in a video that was not there but was suggested to be there in a question asked by the researcher. "But older people were much more likely to be confident that they had the details right when in fact they were wrong."

Comment: The quality of information on which decisions are made is obviously very important. What someone tells you is simply what they tell you, not fact. Indeed, what people remember is also not necessarily what happened. It can be useful to ask about the confidence that a person has in what they tell you, but this research suggests that the confidence reading may itself be inaccurate. JAD

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Investing in science: a cautionary tale

Read David Dickson's editorial in SciDev.Net

Lead: "A growing consensus on the need for more science and technology in development policies must not lead to excessive expectations."

Dickson writes, quite correctly:
Rash investments could create a backlash similar to that which occurred 25 years ago, after the promises made for S&T during the 1960s and 1970s failed to materialise. The sight of expensive laboratories and equipment lying unused across the developing world led to disenchantment among donors, many of whom felt their investments had been wasted.

The current danger lies in promoting policies that see S&T as drivers of social progress and economic development, rather than components of innovation programmes in which other factors — from regulatory policy to education and training — are just as important.

The scientific community is particularly prone to this one-dimensional approach. Arguing that heavy investment in research and development is enough to promote economic growth naturally appeals to those keen to see scientific laboratories flourish across the developing world.

But experience has shown that such investment is only part of the solution. The real challenge lies in embedding science in all spheres of government policy, and introducing educational, regulatory and fiscal measures to enable innovation to flourish across the economy.

Iran-Contra Redux?

Read "THE REDIRECTION: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?" by SEYMOUR M. HERSH in The New Yorker (Issue of 2007-03-05. Posted 2007-02-25)

This is an important article. "In the past few months," according to Seymour Hersh, "the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy." I think people in the United States have tended to consider decision in separate frames for the war in Iraq, the fighting in Lebanon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Little attention seems to have been paid to the competition for power and influence in the oil-rich gulf region between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and less to Turkey's and Iran's concerns with Kurdish nationalism. Hersh's article suggests a framing that places these conflicts, and others, into a larger frame for consideration and decisions. The article suggests, in this larger context, that the Bush administration is consciously prosecuting a set of policies to wrench a wide region of the Middle East and Central Asia out of the previously existing balance of powers, unleashing huge and unpredictable forces in the process, in the hope of establishing a new balance more favorable to U.S. interests. Such a change in balance of power would necessarily affect the interests and probably draw the involvement not only of western Europe and Japan, but of Russia, many republics of the former Soviet Union, and China.

The thrust of Hersh's overall argument is beyond my competence, but I have extracted text from the article relating to a secondary theme:
To undermine Iran......the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah........The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda......

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.......

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser......

The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government (in Lebanon), according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. "We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can," the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.......

The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.....

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.).....

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’.....

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.
I also quote from an article from a couple of years ago in The Washington Post:
When Elliott Abrams stood in front of a federal judge in October 1991 and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress, few imagined he would ever return to government. At age 43, he had become one of the casualties of the Iran-contra scandal, detested by Democrats for his combative political style and mistrusted by human rights activists for playing down the crimes of right-wing dictatorships in Central America......

Abrams also had problems with Congress over the Iran-contra scandal. In 1991, he was forced to admit in court that he had not disclosed his knowledge of a secret contra supply network and his solicitation of a $10 million contribution for the contras from the sultan of Brunei. He received a pardon from President George H.W. Bush in December 1992.
Comment: This story seems to provide a very important advance in our understanding of the Bush administration. Hersh is a very highly respected journalist, who has broken several important stories in the past. I hope that a horde of investigative reporters join Seymour Hersh in investigating this story, and that they keep the heat on the Congress. Congress in turn should act vigorously to investigate the situation and take corrective actions for any infractions they discover. JAD

Flooding in the Bene Region of Bolivia

An aerial view of the floded outskirts of Trinidad, Beni
Source: Reuters, 24 Feb 2007
Read "Bolivia floods isolate city and more rain expected" on Reuters AlertNet.

The most devastating floods in 25 years have hit Bolivia, and officials fear that more rains are likely, worsening the situation. According to reports, "some 350,000 Bolivians are suffering the hardships of extreme weather triggered by El Nino." Most of the Bani is under water, and Trinidad it capital, will be in very serious danger if the dikes fail. In the Santa Cruz region, the most productive agricultural area of Bolivia, "nearly 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of crops -- including 155,000 hectares (383,000 acres) of soy, the country's main agricultural export -- have been destroyed by flooding."

Comment: What do you bet your local newspaper doesn't provide any information on this disaster? JAD

How much has globalization progressed?

Source: "Why the World Isn’t Flat" by Pankaj Ghemawat, Foreign Policy, March/April 2007. (Subscription required.)

What Foreign Policy Academic Experts Say

Read "Inside the Ivory Tower" by Daniel Maliniak, Amy Oakes, Susan Peterson and Michael J. Tierney in Foreign Policy, March/April 2007. (subscription required.)

"For the survey, we attempted to contact all international relations faculty at 1,199 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. The schools include all national research universities, master’s-granting institutions, and liberal arts colleges identified by U.S. News & World Report, as well as seven military colleges. When the results were tallied, 1,112 scholars, more than 41 percent of all international relations professors in the United States, participated in our study."
the overwhelming majority of international relations scholars (66 percent) agree that the Israel lobby has too much influence over U.S. foreign policy. Just 20 percent of respondents disagree. But their beliefs about the Israel lobby do not appear to trickle down to their students. Our concurrent survey of nearly 700 students in introductory international relations courses at a dozen universities reveals that students were less likely to believe that the Israel lobby exerts too much influence over U.S. foreign policy after taking the course than before.
Ninety percent of the respondents thought it unlikely or very unlikely that Iraq would have established a democracy in 10 to 15 years without the war, and 85 percent thought it still unlikely in spite of the war.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A thought about mobilizing citizen participation via the Internet

A friend called from Moscow the other day, expressing concern about how to mobilize public demand for e-government services in Russia. In the United States, we expect civil society -- non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- to do that work. U.S. citizens have traditionally organized at the drop of a hat, and each organization can efficiently represent the opinions of its members before legislators and the executive branch of government.

My friend suggested that due to the unfortunate history of the Communism in Russia, Russian citizens do not like to affiliate with non-governmental organizations. What then is the alternative?

Again, in the United States, these days organizations often mobilize citizens to action via the Internet. Petitions are posted online, where they can be signed electronically by thousands of people. Mass emails are sent out to encourage recipients to in turn email their representatives in government. Some websites allow one to plug in a zip code, and automatically generate communications to one's representatives, and even to send them automatically. The blogosphere also allows people to vent their concerns, and indeed to network about those concerns; and influentials pay attention to the rumble in the blogosphere. These all appear to be cost effective means of allowing voters to express their demands to government officials.

It occurred to me that perhaps the Internet could serve in Russia as a virtual space for civil society. In cyberspace, Russians could more easily express their demands for government service. Indeed, they might network in cyberspace and thus build some of the trust needed to improve the interface between citizens and government. I thought of the model of the online lending organization, Prosper, which forms virtual groups of lenders and borrowers to establish trust in online transactions; perhaps that model might be somehow extrapolated to the build trust in government-citizen interfaces institutionalized by e-government.

Still, there are resource costs -- even if they are modest -- for organizing in cyberspace. Perhaps those resources could be covered by in kind donations and volunteer services, as open source software is developed on donated server time by volunteers who are not paid (at least by the open source central authority).

I also remember Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers by Mary Douglas Aaron Wildavsky. The book made the point (in 1983), that the rise of advocacy NGOs was in part the result of advances in technology such as copy machines and mass mailing technology. Using the technology, a small core cadre of committed members could reach out to a large community for support. The members of the larger community only have to be sufficiently committed to the purposes of the organization to send a few dollars each to participate. Organizations such as the Sierra Club, which can draw upon millions of supporters, can raise large amounts of funding from such small individual contributions, while making their contributers feel they are taking action in an important cause.

So I ask the question, can Russia find a financial model that will allow a few leaders to build the infrastructure in cyberspace that will allow citizens to express their demand for better government services through e-government?

This is a posting for which I would welcome comment and suggestions!

The Spread of Wiki Technology

Read "A Brave New Wikiworld" by Cass R. Sunstein in The Washington Post, Saturday, February 24, 2007. Sunstein teaches at the University of Chicago and is the author of "Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge."

Lead: "
In the past year, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that "anyone can edit," has been cited four times as often as the Encyclopedia Britannica in judicial opinions, and the number is rapidly growing." The article continues, "(i)n just two years, YouTube has become a household word and one of the world's most successful Web sites."

The Central Intelligence Agency disclosed the existence of its top-secret Intellipedia project, based on Wikipedia software (and now containing more than 28,000 pages), in late October. The agency hopes to use dispersed information to reduce the risk of intelligence failures. NASA officials have adopted a wiki site to program NASA software, allowing many participants to make improvements.

In the private domain, businesses are adopting wikis to compile information about products, profits and new developments. The Autism Wiki, produced mostly by adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome, contains material on autism and related conditions., founded by dissidents in China and other nations, plans to post secret government documents and to protect them from censorship with coded software.

Outdoor Life Caves to Gun Nuts!

Read "'Terrorist' Remark Puts Outdoorsman's Career in Jeopardy: Zumbo's Criticism of Hunters Who Use Assault Rifles Brings Unforgiving Response From U.S. Gun Culture" by Blaine Harden, The Washington Post, February 24, 2007.

Jim Zumbo has resigned his job with Outdoor Life and his blog has been removed from the blogosphere because of the storm of complaints received when he blogged a message suggesting that assault rifles have no place in hunting.

Comment: Zumbo's point is quite reasonable. Hunting is a regulated sport. In some cases, hunts are restricted to shotguns and in others to bows. We don't allow people to hunt with machine guns. There is no reason why a sportsman should not voice his opinion that there should be restrictions on use of some weapons for hunting.

It would seem that Zumbo is a sportsman, and feels that the sport of hunting should be respected. Quite right too! I doubt that there are any people who both read Outdoor Life and use assault rifles to hunt for economic reasons, but if there are, I acknowledge their right to object to Zumbo's comments. Even those do not have a right to deprive him of the ability to make his preferences known. However, people who hunt for sport should do so in a sportsmanlike manner. They should welcome comments from a noted sportsman as to the proper way to behave in their sport.

I suspect that Zumbo also has an aesthetic appreciation of rifles, and finds assault rifles distasteful. He certainly has a right to that opinion. I see no reason why Outdoor Life and the Outdoor Channel would not wish to stimulate a discussion of the relative merits of different kinds of rifles, and to encourage bloggers to be frank about their preferences.

As I read his posting, he did not begin to suggest that ownership of assault rifles be limited, nor that they not be used in target shooting, for self defense, or in other ways. So why are people upset?

I think it admirable for Zumbo to submit a resignation when it appeared that his continued work might be a problem for his boss. I think it wrong for Outdoor Life to accept that resignation. I hope others will express similar opinions!

Disclaimer: I no longer hunt, being too old and creaky for the sport, but I have nothing against hunting and hunters (excepting people who do it badly). I like firearms, and admire the beautiful ones as among the most interesting of crafted objects.

MP3 Patent Verdict

Read "MP3 Patent Verdict Harmless To Music Fans -- For Now" by Alan Sipress and Mike Musgrove, The Washington Post, February 24, 2007.

A U.S. federal jury found Alcatel-Lucentto, in a dispute with Microsoft, to be the rightful owner of technology used for the MP3 process. Microsoft's lawyers have said they will appeal both the jury's finding that the company infringed on the patents and the amount of its award to Alcatel-Lucent.
Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster who teaches at Stanford University, said he thought there was a good chance that the verdict would be overturned.
One of the patents involved "is for a method of analyzing sound to gauge whether it is more like music or noise, then representing it in digital form based on that determination. The other patent pertains to the process for determining whether the sound is audible to the human ear and then converting only that audible part into digital form." Both were developed at Bell Laboratories, which later became part of Lucent Technologies, which in turn was bought by Alcatel.

"Hundreds of companies that thought they had properly licensed the MP3 format from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, which was also involved in developing the MP3 technology, could be financially liable for infringing on Alcatel-Lucent's patents."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Microsoft v. AT&T

Read "Court Takes on Software Patents: Microsoft Case May Have Global Reach" by Robert Barnes and Alan Sipress in The Washington Post, February 22, 2007.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could have major international repercussions. AT&T holds a patent on technology that condenses speech into computer code. Microsoft admitted it infringed the AT&T patent on computers sold domestically. Microsoft also has used the code in the "golden disk" and related transmission of Windows to be installed in computers in foreign countries. Microsoft's lawyer, argues that since the code is copied outside the United States and installed on computers overseas, U.S. patent laws don't apply. AT&T's lawyer told justices they should uphold two lower courts' rulings in AT&T's favor.
In 1984, Congress amended the patent law to forbid companies from shipping components of patented inventions overseas and having the parts assembled elsewhere in an attempt to skirt patent laws.

So in this case, justices are looking at whether digital software code can be considered a "component" of a patented invention and if so, whether it was "supplied" from the United States......

some of Microsoft's traditional competitors such as Yahoo and have joined to support the company's argument that overseas production should be governed by those countries' laws......

an unfavorable ruling for Microsoft could extend patent liability "to every corner of the world" where a copy of U.S.-developed software is used, including software downloaded over the Internet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why did the North win the war in Vietnam?

I wondered about that question. If you think about the U.S. Civil War, for example, the answer is always given in terms of the larger population and superior industrial might of the North as compared with the South. So I wondered what the difference was in Vietnam during its war. It is surprisingly hard to find an answer on the Internet.

The industrial power of the two regions may not be of much importance, given that the weaponry was supplied in large part by the major powers fighting the cold war.

This interesting reference
, published by the CIA itself, suggests that the forces arrayed against the government of the Republic of Viet Nam may have been equally divided between local insurgents and regular military, and much larger than was acknowledged by the U.S. military or U.S. intelligence at the time. This is a statement of the situation in the major report of 1968:
MACV, DIA, and CINCPAC still held enemy strength in South Vietnam to be between 280,000 and 330,000, he reported, whereas CIA now believed the figure to be somewhere between 450,000 and 600,000. Helms added that, of those totals, CIA accepted some 90,000 to 140,000 enemy irregulars, whereas MACV and CINCPAC still maintained that such forces could not and should not be quantified.
This is a fascinating document on the nature of information on which major decisions were made!

Also very worthwhile is "Revisiting Vietnam: Thoughts Engendered by Robert McNamara's In Retrospect" by Harold P. Ford. These are from his conclusions for intelligence officers:
5. There was no substitute for being immersed in the history, politics, and society of a region, in this case Indochina. The best analytic records were generally registered by those officers who had had considerable such exposure.

6. The ideal combination of such exposure was to have had experience both in the field and in Washington.

7. Those officers who best served CIA's purpose were those who went where the evidence on Vietnam took them, tried to tell it like it is, and did not precensor their judgments in order to sell them to higher authority known or believed to have strong contrary views of the question at hand.

8. Perhaps the central lesson for CIA officers which In Retrospect provides is the differing regard McNamara did or did not pay Agency judgments at different times. In short, his record and his book demonstrate the unhappy, eternal truth that intelligence is of use to decisionmakers primarily when it accords with their own views, or when they can use that intelligence to help sell their own particular policy arguments.

9. In sum, at least in the view of this author, the essence of Mr. McNamara's Vietnam policymaking and of America's fate in that war was captured years ago by a former West Pointer and former CIA Vietnam chief of station, Peer DeSilva: "[McNamara] simply had no comprehension of how the war should be handled. . . . Fundamentally we lost because we were arrogant, prideful, and dumb."
Read also "Unpopular Pessimism: Why CIA Analysts Were So Doubtful About Vietnam" by Harold P. Ford.

While you are at it, read "Limits to Interrogation: The Man in the Snow White Cell" by Merle L. Pribbenow. It bears directly on the interrogation procedures now in use in "the War on Terror".

Monday, February 19, 2007

Invest in science, says World Bank president - SciDev.Net

Invest in science, says World Bank president - SciDev.Net:

"Speaking at a meeting in Washington on Thursday (15 February), Paul Wolfowitz recognized that developing countries faced major resource constraints in their public spending and that, to some, science might appear a lower priority than meeting basic educational or health needs.

"But he said, 'The amount of resources that poor countries devote to science can't be zero. That would condemn poor countries to backwardness'."

Commemorating President's Day

George Washington was an inventor and the only president to hold a trademark.

Thomas Jefferson invented, among other things, the swivel chair, a macaroni machine, the spherical sundial and the cipher wheel. He also is credited with introducing french fries to the United States!

Abraham Lincoln held a patent for "A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals." He was the the only president to hold a patent.
"In 1858 Lincoln called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments 'in the world's history.' The other two, he said, were the discovery of America and the perfection of printing."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A good article on the United Nations system

Read "Is the UN Doomed?" by Tony Judt in The New York Review of Books (Volume 54, Number 2 · February 15, 2007). Subscription or online payment is required to read this.

This is a spirited defense of the United Nations, especially refuting the attack made by one of the three books reviewed by the author.

I was impressed by Judt's very negative comments on the role of the United States in the recent (largely unsuccessful) effort to reform the United Nations.
(U,S. Ambassador John) Bolton didn't merely oppose effective reform at the UN but seized every opportunity to sneer at the institution itself, describing it variously as "incapable" and "irrelevant".....When proposals for a reformed Human Rights Council finally reached the floor of the General Assembly, 188 countries voted to implement them. Four votes were cast against, Israel, the Marshall Islands, the US -- and Belarus.
In a footnote, Judt notes:
Back in 2001, as US under-secretary of state for arms control and international security [sic], Bolton successfully derailed a UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, and was even accompanied to the meeting by members of the National Rifle Association.
Comment: Too bad we don't have better international agreements to help limit the illicit trade, now that we are involved in the "war on terrorism", not to mention fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would also note that there are too many places, like Darfur, where thugs with small arms and light weapons are terrorizing defenseless populations. JAD

Friday, February 16, 2007

U.S. Rejoins UNCSTD

The United States has rejoined the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was established in 1992 to provide the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council with advice on relevant issues. The United States was one of the original members of the Commission. However, the membership rotates among countries, and the United States was not represented on the Commission for several years.

The Commission has been mandated to assist the Economic and Social Council in the system-wide follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Global Forum

Go to the STI Global Forum website.

The Global Forum was, in my opinion a great success. Hundreds of people attended, including people from many countries. The program was interesting, and well received. (The website linked above is to provide streaming video and copies of presentations shortly.) Perhaps most important, there was an opportunity for extensive networking.

Unfortunately, there was an ice storm in Washington D.C., and attendance seemed to be down on Wednesday the 14th. Your reporter was one of those affected, and I didn't get to the meeting until the afternoon.

Comment: There have been other meetings in the past that emphasized science and technology for development, including world conferences on the topic in 1963 and 1979. Those conferences were not adequate to catalyze a global movement, and indeed perhaps that conditions in the world were such that such a movement was not possible at the time.

Geoff Oldham suggested that the addition of "innovation" to the focus may help. I agree that science based, technological innovations have played an important role in development in a number of countries that have successfully made (or at least started) the modernizing transition to industrialization, the creation of knowledge based industries, and rapid economic development. Adding "innovation" to the mix is an advance!

I worry that in the interest in innovation, people will lose track of the importance of good professional practice in the science based professions, especially engineering, applied agricultural sciences, applied social sciences, applied health sciences, etc.

Economic growth and infrastructure development are closely related, and the development and maintenance of the transportation, energy, water, sanitation, and communications networks depends of a cadre of engineers adequate in both number and quality to design and operate the infrastructure. The development of manufacturing depends on the availability of mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineers.

Natural resources have to be identified and managed, and one of the earliest scientific functions embodied in the government of the United States was the geological survey. Today, we have soils scientists, foresters, fishery managers, and other professionals deeply involved in natural resource identification and management, and these trained professionals are needed badly in many developing countries.

Similarly, scientifically trained professionals are needed for problem identification and planning of programs to ameliorate those problems that they identify. These include the experts who deal with emerging public health problems, animal health, crop pests and diseases, etc.

It seems redundant to point out that economists play a key role in development, especially in discussion of a meeting convened by the World Bank. But so too do anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, organizational scientists, and others with professional training based in the social sciences play key roles.

Innovation is important, but there is a huge body of existing knowledge, understanding and technology to be applied and managed for development. I am glad that medical research is going on and new medical technologies are in development, but I recognize that when I need a doctor, he is going to spend by far the greatest part of his time doing routine medical procedures. So too, development is more based on routine professional activities being performed well, than on innovation. JAD

Recent S&T Postings to

* Science & Technology: Building Capacity for Development
WorldBank: Development Outreach, January 2007

* Science & Technology Collaboration: Building Capacity in Developing Countries?
Caroline S. Wagner, Irene T. Brahmakulam, Brian A. Jackson, Anny Wong, Tatsuro Yoda, RAND, 2001.

* USAID and Science and Technology Capacity Building for Development
Anny Wong and Irene Brahmakulam, RAND, 2002

* The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development
NAS, 2006

* "Africa's Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action"

* "Science in Africa: UNESCO's Contributions to Africa's Plan for Science and Technology to 2010"
UNESCO, 2007

* Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa
Calestous Juma, Belfer Center, 2005

These are some S&T resources I recently posted on

Check out the 1,500+ resources I have posted and tagged on

Science and Technology: Building Capacity for Development

Special Issue of Development Outreach (a World Bank publication), January 2007.


* "" by Alfred Watkins, Egbe Osifo-Dawodu, Michael Ehst, and Boubou Cisse

* "Engineering in International Development: Linking with infrastructure investments in Africa" by Calestous Juma

* "Imitation to Internalization to Generation: The case of Korea" by Jungho Sonu

* Science and Technology Education in African Development: Its key role" by Wole Soboyejo

* " by Peter Lindholm

* "Latecomer Strategies for Catching Up: Linkage, leverage, and learning" by John A. Mathews

* "First-Rate Science and Modernization of the National Research System in Chile" by
Claudio Wernli

* "Scaling Up Innovation: The GoForward Plan to Prosperity" by Thomas D. Nastas

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thoughts on Reading Istanbul

Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk.

I am really impressed by this book. It has layer on layer. It is a memoir, but it also seems clear that Orhan Pamuk is a novelist, and that he is deliberately creating a persona for the purposes of this book rather than simply writing a memoir. Still, there is a layer of the book that is simply the story of a boy growing to early manhood. There is a level which is the story of a family fortunate enough to have wealth, and unfortunate enough to be losing that wealth; a family in a secularizing Islamic country. It is a sad and troubled nuclear family, that is part of a larger extended family, Through the boy's and man's eyes we can perceive the changing roles of women in that social milieu. Through his experiences, we can perceive that the family is surrounded by a diverse society -- poor, nouveau riche and pashas and beys; rural immigrant and long established urban; Greek and Turk (while we know that there were also Christians and Jews, and once were Armenians).

Istanbul is the star of the book, and we see it through many illustrations, and through the eyes of the protagonist. But we also see the book through the protagonists readings of foreign visitors and local writers of the past two hundred years.

Orhan Pamuk is aware that his perception of his city is affected how others have portrayed it in words and in pictures, as he is aware that his memories of his life are affected by the stories he has been told about that life by others. He focuses on hüzün -- the special melancholia of Istanbul -- while making us aware that he like others uses the emotion for artistic purposes. If anything, the book is about the complexity of perception; that we see "reality" as if through a dance of the veils, a glimpse here, another there, perhaps of the real flesh and blood, perhaps of an artful contrivance.

I want to focus however on hüzün. Orhan Pamuk portrays it as a mood, special to Istanbul. Brain research is beginning to show us that the brain's function is related to the emotions we are feeling, and that different portions are active for positive and negative feelings. Research on the mind shows us also that individuals tend to return to a level of happiness/sadness again and again, which is the normal level for that person, but that over time people can learn to adjust that level.

I see no reason not to accept that there is a brain condition that people of a certain class and time in Istanbul returned to again and again, that is specific to Istanbul -- a mood for the city. Indeed, I have often found examples in which people in a country characterize one city as having different moods than another -- New York versus Washington versus New Orleans versus San Francisco; Cartagena versus Bogota; Rio versus Sao Paulo. I think it is likely that the weather and climate influence people in a city, and that Geneva's socked-in winters or Stockholm's short winter and long summer days affect moods year after year in their own specific ways. Istanbul depicts people whose mood is affected by their surroundings -- a city in decay -- and by their historical reality of loss of empire (and wealth) and Westernization. Indeed, at least in the past, urban areas were populated by genetically similar people, and there may have been genetic reasons why they felt similarly.

It interests me to think that culture may influence such repeatable moods. I think it is clear that the French are different from the English, Chinese from Indians, Southerners from Northerners in both Europe and the United States. It does seem strange, but perhaps quite possible, that the culture one grows up in leaves a lasting impression not only on the way your mind works, but on the patterns of electrical activity that show up again and again in the brain.

So what. Perhaps this is just a musing after the ice storm that disrupted lives here for the last couple of days. Perhaps it is merely a suggestion that to avoid melancholy, if you chose to do so, you should move to a city with a good climate and a vibrant economy (by all means avoid being poor). Perhaps it is a suggestion that one finds a culture which makes you feel good, and try to adapt to that culture.

I would return to Orhan Pamuk's success as a writer in this book. He conveys to the reader a perception of hüzün, a feeling. This is truly tacit knowledge -- if you don't know it already, you ain't never going to know! Yet through example, image, prose and selection of materials he creates an impression of hüzün, albeit as if through a shifting set of veils.

Mia Farrow's visit to a village in the Central African Republic.

Mia Farrow's visit to a village in the Central African Republic.

Without comment.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

46 countries back group to protect planet -

46 countries back group to protect planet -

"Forty-five nations answered France's call Saturday for a new environmental body to slow inevitable global warming and protect the planet, perhaps with policing powers to punish violators.

Absent were the world's heavyweight polluter, the United States, and booming nations on the same path as the U.S. — China and India."

Washington Research Evaluation Network

WREN is a network of people interested in the evaluation of research, especially research funded by U.S. federal agencies. The website includes some useful resources, as well as a complete list of the members.

A Comment on Framing Decisions

Another comment derived from my reading of Prisoner's Dilemma by William Poundstone.

There are many ways one can frame a decision. For example, one can frame a decision as a "one of a kind" decision. The Cuban missile crisis might be seen in that light, at least at the point in which nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be possible within a few hours. Certainly with huge stockpiles of hydrogen bombs on each side, the likelihood of another similar confrontation following nuclear war could not have seemed of much concern.

Alternatively a decision can be framed as one in a continuing series. It is interesting to watch poker tournaments in part to see how player strategy changes from stage to stage in the game. The decision to bluff or fold differs as to whether the player is one of many in a knockout tournament, or at the final table.

Similarly, a decision can be made in terms of wider or narrower considerations. The decision to go to war in Iraq may have been framed in terms of relations between Iraq and the United States (one surely hopes not) or in terms of the stability of the Middle East and Central Asia. It may have been framed in terms of the immediate response to 9/11, or the long term relationships of the United States with other global powers.

Not only do the factors to be included in the equation differ according to the way the issue is framed, but so should the decision making strategies and tactics.

Good poker players bluff, knowing that sometimes the bluff will be called. When that happens the player loses a lot more money that had he not bluffed, but establishes in the minds of the other players that a big bet does not automatically signal a big hand. The player not only wins when he/she bluffs successfully, but when he/she bets a good hand and is perceived by opponents as (probably, potentially) bluffing. But a really good poker player seldom makes the mistake of bluffing at a really bad moment, nor does he/she continue the bluff beyond a prudent limit.

How important is engineering

A couple of years ago I helped do a study of science and technology in Uganda: "The State of Science and Technology in Uganda." Pages 28-32 of the study were devoted to "Engineering and Construction Industries". We, the authors, noted that nearly 20 percent of the GDP of Uganda was devoted to infrastructure development and services: energy, water and sanitation, construction, transportation and communication, and housing construction. However, in 1998 there were only an estimated 2,105 engineers in Uganda, of a population of some 25 million. The lack of adequate infrastructure caused sever problems for economic development. Transportation costs were high, electrical supply limited to a relatively small portion of the population and unreliable, and communications poor. While the universities were rapidly increasing enrollment in architecture and engineering, the deficit in professional services seemed likely to remain for years.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A U.S. program to make drugs safer for children is up for renewal

Read the full article from the Economist (February 7, 2007).

The U.S. government's Pediatric Exclusivity Program extends patent protection for drugs when the patent holder carries out further studies to determine appropriate dosage for children. According to this article:
It seems to have worked. More than 300 studies have been carried out under the programme's auspices, and 115 products have had their instructions for use changed so that doctors can prescribe them to children with reasonable confidence. Nevertheless, the scheme, which is up for renewal, and will be debated in Congress next month, is being questioned. Some observers think it is too generous, and that the patent extension should be shortened or tailored in some way.
The article goes on to cite a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Jennifer Li, of Duke University. The article confirms that companies have benefited from the patent extensions in a number of examples, and indeed suggests that the benefits have far exceeded the cost of the studies.

Comment: By all means, safe my tax payer dollars rather than using them to inflate the profit margin of pharmaceutical companies. However, don't throw out the baby with the bath water; keep up the pressure to do the research needed to adjust dosages of important medications for pediatric use. Indeed, it would be better to keep a system that works but not perfectly rather than to break it in an attempt to save a few dollars. Put the effort into making the military and other budgets more reasonable! JAD

Programs for Future Intellectual Leaders

Read "Gifted children: Bright sparks" in the Economist, February 8th 2007.

The article states:
In his state-of-the-union address in 2006, President George Bush announced the “American Competitiveness Initiative”, which, among much else, would train 70,000 high-school teachers to lead advanced courses for selected pupils in mathematics and science.....

Teachers are often opposed to separate provision for the best-performing children, saying any extra help should go to stragglers. In 2002, in a bid to help the able while leaving intact the ban on most selection by ability in state schools, the government (of the United Kingdom) set up the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth. This outfit runs summer schools and master classes for children nominated by their schools. To date, though, only seven in ten secondary schools have nominated even a single child. Last year all schools were told they must supply the names of their top 10%.

Picking winners is also the order of the day in ex-communist states, a hangover from the times when talented individuals were plucked from their homes and ruthlessly trained for the glory of the nation. But in many other countries, opposition to the idea of singling out talent and grooming it runs deep. In Scandinavia, a belief in virtues like modesty and social solidarity makes people flinch from the idea of treating brainy children differently.

And in Japan there is a widespread belief that all children are born with the same innate abilities—and should therefore be treated alike. All are taught together, covering the same syllabus at the same rate until they finish compulsory schooling. Those who learn quickest are expected then to teach their classmates.

In China, extra teaching is provided, but to a self-selected bunch. “Children's palaces” in big cities offer a huge range of after-school classes. Anyone can sign up; all that is asked is excellent attendance.
Comment: It seemed pretty clear from my school days that some kids did better than the others in subjects such as science and math, while others stood out in art and music. I am not sure why -- what combination of nature, nurture, opportunity or work -- but it seems that the world agrees with me that some of these kids should be given the opportunity to develop as far as they can in the subjects that interest them. JAD

Overqualification Rates: Native and Foreign Born in 21 OECD Countries

Read the accompanying article titled "Foreign talent".

"Education: Raising ambitions"

a good article by Barbara Ischinger from the OECD Observer No. 257, October 2006

"Quantity, quality, equity and ambition are the four broad challenges facing education in OECD countries today. Here is why.

"Every eight seconds, one student in the OECD area leaves school without completing an upper secondary qualification. That means a gloomy outlook for his or her future: on average, 26% of adults without upper secondary qualifications earn half or less than half the national median earnings. The trouble is, the penalties for not obtaining strong baseline qualifications continue to rise year after year."

Broadband Expansion: Subscribers per 100 population, 2000-2005

Source: OECD Observer No. 257, October 2006.

From "The Week"

* Suddenly Suspicious of Canadians: New travel rules may weaken relations with the neighboring countries.
Until last week, these two neighboring peoples could visit each other with no more ceremony than the flash of a driver’s license. Now, though, the security-conscious U.S. has begun requiring all airplane passengers crossing the U.S.-Canada border to carry a passport. By 2009, the rule will also apply to anyone who crosses the border by land.

* The magazine also notes "Is America closed for business? Middle Man" by Clay Risen from the New Republic Online. The paragraph long article points out the Bush administration travel restrictions are such that foreign business men are increasingly rejecting U.S. venues for business meetings, and U.S. executives are having to travel abroad.

"A Blog's Blast Damage"

The Washington Post newspaper has a website for blogs as part of its general website. The company's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, provides this article in response to complaints occasioned by an article on Achenblog, one of many blogs WP provides. Howell's article, as Joel Achenback (the reporter) had already done, apologizes for the intemperate language in the posting that generated the complaints. She also points out that articles published in the paper publication are edited before publication, which helps to temper injudicious use of language, while the blog postings are often made public before an editor gets a chance to review them. The article illustrates a significant problem for the blogosphere!

Comment: I try very hard to avoid intemperate language, although I am sorely tried on some ocassions. JAD

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Scientists Protested 'Misrepresentation' as Senate Vote Looms

Constance Holden, Science 19 January 2007:
Vol. 315. no. 5810, pp. 315 - 316

According to this article, several leading scientists charged that the White House had misrepresented their research in an attempt to influence the ongoing stem cell debate in Congress. "On 11 January, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to expand the number of human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines available to federally funded researchers. The bill, designated H.R. 3 and considered a top priority in the new Democrat-controlled Congress, passed 253 to 174--a significant jump in support from May 2005 when the same bill passed by 238 to 194. But it still falls more than 30 votes short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto." The Bill went to the Senate.

However, "the White House Domestic Policy Council issued a new report on 10 January to promote methods of getting stem cells that don't harm embryos. The report, Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life, suggests that a variety of "non-embryo-destructive" approaches may prove capable of creating cell lines with all the potential of ES cell lines."

Comment: Human cell lines are either dead or alive, and no one minds much if unneeded human tissue is discarded ("left to die"). What the White House means is that its position is that human embryos at any stage of development are "human beings", that all human beings have the right to life, and that creating stem cells from early stage human embryos is equivalent to killing a human being if the embryo is destroyed in the process. Embryonic stem cells are taken from early stage embryos that would be discarded anyway; they will not survive whether or not they are used to generate stem cells. The attribution of special rights to the fertilized ovum is a religious position, one that is shared by few people. The White House is apparently using flackery to fight science. It is seeking to impose its religiously based policies on a public desperate for the research which offers hope for so many diseases. JAD
SOURCE: EARL HUNT via Science magazine

"Random Samples:, Science magazine, Volume 315, Number 5808, Issue of 05 January 2007.

Many jobs requiring just-above-average cognitive abilities--say, 105 to 125 IQ points--are going begging in the United States, according to a recent analysis by Hunt. Apparently many jobs have reduced content requiring cognitive skills, by embodying those skills in ICT devices. In contrast, there is a surfeit of people with the potential to fill the relatively few jobs, such as Ph.D. physicist, that require very sophisticated professional skills.

Scientific American Special Report: 10 Promising Treatments for World's Biggest Health Threats

Read the full article by Charles Q. Choi on Scientific American online.

Included in the article:
* Dengue--Live attenuated 17D yellow fever and dengue chimera
A disease afflicting half a million people annually requires a special kind of vaccine
* Hepatitis C--E1E2/MF59
The world's first preventative vaccine against Hepatitis C could curb the spread of the disease that killed Allen Ginsberg and thousands of others
* Malaria--RTS,S/AS02A
Killing more than two million people, mostly children, every year, this disease will finally face the first ever commercially available vaccine designed to fight it
* HIV--HPTN 046 and Nevirapine
Preventing the half-million cases of mother to child transmission of HIV every year would go a long way to turning the tide of an epidemic

Resources to Educate the Gifted

Read "Gifted Minds We Need to Nurture," an op-ed piece by Joann DiGennaro in The Washington Post of Saturday, February 10, 2007.

The piece begins:
At an educators' meeting in Washington last fall, conversation turned to whether the federal government should support programming for this nation's most gifted and talented high school students. Educators overwhelmingly said that top students in secondary schools need no assistance, much to my dismay. Priority must be given to those not meeting the minimal standards in science and math, they reasoned.

The ugly secret is that our most talented students are falling through the cracks. Not one program of such major governmental agencies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation or NASA specifically targets the top 5 percent of students who have demonstrated academic excellence and have the greatest potential for becoming our inventors, creators and groundbreaking scientists.
The allocation of educational resources to education, and among education programs is an issue of the most fundamental importance to our society. The "No Child Left Behind" and "Education for All" movements are based on the belief that all children have the right to some educational services, and this country is rich enough to provide a fairly rich educational experience to the vast majority of children,

There is a question of "the last ten percent" -- those children who have special needs and as a consequence are very expensive to educate. I am simply not qualified to recommend where the line should be drawn in educating these kids, except to note that this nation has far too often and for far too long done too little for children with such special needs.

DiGennaro addresses the issue of children with another kind of special needs -- those children who are in the top five percent intellectual ability. She focuses on science and mathematical instruction for the top science and math students, but her point could be made for kids who have potential managerial talent, or talent in other fields that would bring large social and/or economic returns to the nation if fully developed.

I would suggest that it is not only good sense to invest in educating these kids, but it would be worthwhile to grant them a right as citizens of this country to an education that challenges them and offers the opportunity to fully develop their intellectual capabilities.

DiGennaro is perhaps a little disingenuous, not recognizing that in our decentralized educational system, many school districts do have magnet programs, advanced placement programs, and other special programs to help gifted students develop those gifts. However, there are clearly areas where such programs are not offered. I suspect she is right to call for national programs, funded by the federal government, and managed by federal government agencies to enhance the educational opportunities for gifted and talented students in key areas.

She seems to be calling for the effort to take place in high schools, but such efforts can clearly be useful in junior high schools, and indeed in grammar schools. One might well screen students to identify those with unusual talents early on, to begin to develop those talents at a very early age (and keep the kids from being bored in school), if one does not keep "late bloomers" out of the enhanced learning streams.

I would note further that the nation needs for leaders in many fields to understand science and technology, as it needs leaders in science and technology to be educated in the humanities. The two cultures has caused too many problems for us to stovepipe learning opportunities for our future leaders.

Unclassified Executive Summary: "Review of Pre-Iraqi War Activities by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy."

The testimony of the Department of Defense Acting Inspector General on Feith's Office's intelligence activities in the buildup to the Iraq war has been all over the news. Here is the brief, not very informative unclassified Executive Summary of the IG report, for those interested.

Perhaps more interesting, from the IG's website, is the overview of the briefing. It lays out in clear language:
* The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy [OUSD(P)] developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision makers.

* While such actions were not illegal or unauthorized, the actions were, in our opinion, inappropriate given that the products did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the Intelligence Community and were, in some cases, shown as intelligence products.

* This condition occurred because the OUSD(P) expanded its role and mission from formulating Defense Policy to analyzing and disseminating alternative intelligence. As a result, the OUSD(P) did not provide "the most accurate analysis of intelligence" to senior decision makers.
I quote from Senator Carl Levin's Questions and the Acting IG's responses:
1. Did the Office of Under Secretary Feith produce its own intelligence analysis of the relationship between lraq and a1 Qaeda and present its analysis to other offices in the Executive branch (including the Secretary of Defense and the staffs of the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President)?

Yes. In our report we discuss that members of the OUSD(P) produced a briefing on terrorism based on intelligence reports and provided to the Executive Branch.

2. Did the intelligence analysis produced by Under Secretary Feith's office differ from the lntelligence Community analysis on the relationship between lraq and a1 Qaeda?

Yes. The OUSD(P) analysis included some conclusions that differed from that of the Intelligence Community.

3. Was the alternative OSD Policy intelligence analysis supported by the underlying intelligence?

Partially. The alternative intelligence analysis that OUSD(P) produced was not fully supported by underlying intelligence.

6. Did the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy prepare and present
briefing charts concerning the relationship between lraq and a1 Qaeda that went beyond available intelligence by asserting that an alleged meeting between lead 9/77 hijacker Mohammed Atta and lraqi intelligence officer al-Ani in Prague in April 2001 was a 'known' contact?'

Yes. The OUSD(P) produced a briefing, "Assessing the Relationship between lraq and al-Qaida," in which one slide discussed the alleged meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and lraqi Intelligence officer al-Ani as a "known contact."

7. Did the staff of the OUSDP present a briefing on the Iraq-a1 Qaeda relationship to the White House in September 2002 unbeknownst to the Director of Central Intelligence, containing information that was different from the briefing presented to the DCI, not vetted by the lntelligence Community, and that was not supported by the available intelligence (for example, concerning the alleged Atta meeting), without providing the IC notice of the briefing or an opportunity to comment?

Yes. The OUSD(P) presented three different versions of the same briefing, of which some of the information was supported by available intelligence, to the Secretary of Defense, the DCI, the Deputy National Security Advisor and the Chief of Staff, OVP.

8. Did the staff of the OUSDP undercut the lntelligence Community (IC) in its briefing to the White House staff with a slide that said there were 'fundamental problems' with the way the IC was assessing information concerning the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and inaccurately suggesting that the IC was requiring 'juridical evidence to support a finding,' while not providing the IC notice of the briefing or an opportunity to comment.

Yes. We believe that the slide undercuts the Intelligence Community by indicating to the recipient of the briefing that there are "fundamental problems" with the way that the Intelligence Community was assessing information.

9. Did the OSD Policy briefing to the White House draw conclusions (or 'findings') that were not supported by the available intelligence, such as the 'intelligence indicates cooperation in all categories; mature, symbiotic relationship', or that there were 'multiple areas of cooperation,' and shared interest and pursuit of WMD, ' and 'some indications of possible Iraqi coordination with al Qaida specifically related to 9/11 '

Yes. The briefing did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.
Comment: There are a lot of people who will comment more knowledgeably about this than I ever could. I will note however, that there seems to be a generalizable lesson in this. We know that there is mission creep in organizations, as some units seek to take over responsibilities of others. Decision makers would seem well advised to be sure that when that happens, and they get information from subordinates out of the normal organizational flow, they compare carefully that from the authorized sources and the new sources. It is probably desirable to get each to comment on the other's submission for an important decision. JAD

Friday, February 09, 2007

Flacks Hired in Controversy Over Open Content Scientific Results

Read "Research-Result Battle Now Pits PR 'Pit Bull' Against Barbie Blenders" by Rick Weiss in The Washington Post, February 9, 2007.

Advocates of "public access" to scientific information want government rules to require that the results of federally funded research be posted on the Internet within six or 12 months after they are published. Since the public has paid for the research with taxpayers money, they feel they have a right to see the results.

A coalition of scientific publishers, say such a policy would amount to a government taking of their copyrighted material and would undermine their paid subscriber base, making it impossible for them to continue the valuable public service of screening and publishing the very best science.

The Association of American Publishers has apparently hired a well known public relations specialist, Eric Dezenhall, to help make their case. Public access proponents have linked up with to help make theirs.

Comment: This would be fun to watch, were it not so dangerous. The Internet is changing the dissemination of scientific results. One hopes the changes will be for the better. That may not be the result.

I would note that scientists write up their results for journal publication without remuneration from the journals. So too do peer reviewers usually do their work without pay. The Internet distributes materials almost without cost. So what is the problem?

Publishers get a lot of money from subscriptions and advertising. They don't want to lose the revenues. On the other hand, resources are needed for aspects of the dissemination, and they have not been institutionalized. Until they are, we can't depend on systems that need the resources they will eventually generate.

But public relations types and take-no-prisoner true believers are unlikely to advance the public debate.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"Values Play Into Treatment Recommendations, Study Finds"

Read the full article by Rob Stein in The Washington Post, February 8, 2007.

Stein reports on a study lead by Farr A. Curlin, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago, published in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Read the full text of:
"Religion, Conscience, and Controversial Clinical Practices"
Farr A. Curlin, M.D., Ryan E. Lawrence, M.Div., Marshall H. Chin, M.D., M.P.H., and John D. Lantos, M.D.
The study focused on "physicians' judgments about their ethical rights and obligations when patients request a legal medical procedure to which the physician objects for religious or moral reasons. These procedures included administering terminal sedation in dying patients, providing abortion for failed contraception, and prescribing birth control to adolescents without parental approval." The authors of the study state:
On the basis of our results, we estimate that most physicians believe that it is ethically permissible for doctors to explain their moral objections to patients (63%). Most also believe that physicians are obligated to present all options (86%) and to refer the patient to another clinician who does not object to the requested procedure (71%).
Comment: This study focuses importantly on the obligations of physicians to provide information to their patients, and thus fits within the focus of "Knowledge for Development".
* "Present all options": it seems to me that a physician has not only a moral but a legal obligation to inform a patient of his diagnosis, alternative treatment options, the prognosis (including alternative scenarios and their likelihood), and their costs.

* "Refer patients to another physician who does not object to the requested procedure": This seems a complicated issue to me. Certainly if the physician knows that others will perform the procedure, he should convey that information to the patient. Indeed, this is similar to the ethical responsibility of the physician with respect to informing the patient about "second opinion" options. At the other extreme, the physician does not have a responsibility to have encyclopedic knowledge of physicians and their practices. But what about situations, such as where a patient is not likely to have geographic access to an affordable source for a given procedure which they might prefer?
How about "explaining moral objections"? Moral objections may have several different bases:
* Professional judgment of efficacy: physicians differ in their interpretation of evidence, and a physcian may feel that a legally available treatment has a balance of risk and potential benefit such that it is not ethical. Assuming that the physician believes that a patient can comprehend moral objections to a treatment based on such an assessment, of course the physician has the obligation to inform the patient. But does a physician have a responsibility to tell a patient that a treatment is legally available in Mexico or Russia that is not approved in the United States, and that the physician believes to be quackery?

* Philosophical objections: For example, a physician may feel that a patient has not adequately prepared his family or his estate, and that it would be morally incorrect to fully sedate that terminal patient (and reduce lucidity) before adequate preparations had been made. In such a circumstance, it would seem to me that the physician has an obligation to inform the patient or the person acting in the patient's interests of the options.

= Religious objections: The obvious concern of the investigators is the situation in which a physician's religious beliefs are such that he/she believes that a legal and efficacious medical procedure is not morally acceptable. It seems to me that a physician has the right, but not the obligation to tell a patient that he/she has religious objections to a course of treatment that he/she is describing. If, however, the physician is refusing to prescribe or perform the treatment it seems to me there would be an obligation to explain that the refusal is due to the physicians religious beliefs. On the other hand, it does not seem to me that a physician has the obligation to explain to the patient the religious reasons for that objection. Indeed, I would feel that a physician has an obligation not to proselytize patients in the consulting room.
More generally, it seems to me that the argument is much stronger that the physician has a moral obligation to inform the patient of the options than that there is an obligation to prescribe or perform the therapy. I would find it hard to accept on any basis that a physician has a moral obligation to keep a patient in ignorance of professionally accepted, legal medical options that the patient might reasonably choose.

Indeed there may be (or perhaps should be) a legal obligation on the physician to provide such information to the extent that it can be absorbed. Physicians are licensed by the government, and with that licensing should come responsibilities to provide full and accurate information to patients. Perhaps individuals who have religious objections to fully providing medical information should not be licensed, and indeed should not take up space in medical schools that could be used by people who would fully disclose the medical situation to their future patients.

In the United States, there is a deep philosophical commitment to freedom of religion. We tend less and less to legislate morality, focusing instead on protecting the public interest. Even a majority view, much less a minority view, may be left to individual judgment rather than imposed by law. So, in this society, a doctor should provide the information to a patient to allow that patient to make his own moral judgments. Perhaps the situation is different in other cultures or in theocratic states, but here a physician should not impose his/her own religiously-based moral judgment on a patient, who may be of a different religion or who may simply decide to behave immorally, by keeping that patient in ignorance.

I do believe that morality trumps legal responsibility. For example, doctors in Nazi Germany should have refused on moral grounds to do immoral things that were legally required of them by such a government. However, there are moral responsibilities for physicians to inform their patients and to respect the patients right to free choice.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"The Level and Distribution of Economic Well-Being"

Read in full the remarks by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke before the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Omaha, Nebraska, February 6, 2007.

In this speech, the Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board describes the U.S. economic advances in the last half century, while describing the growth of income disparity in recent decades. The speech notes that the disparity of lifetime earnings is a more important issue than the disparity of wages at a specific moment, but that available data do not allow the lifetime disparity to be measured well. He summarizes the results of economic research which attribute the increasing income disparity,among other factors, to the ability of more educated workers to appropriate new information and communications technology more effectively, to the impacts of globalization, to the "superstar" phenomenon, and to the increasing remuneration of corporate executives. Recognizing that the distribution issues involve values and must be made through the political process, he recommends that the nation choose alternatives that retain competitiveness and the flexibility of business and labor markets, but provide a safety net for those disadvantaged by the creative destruction of the free-market system. He especially emphasizes education as a policy instrument, both enabling individuals to help themselves and increasing the competitiveness of the nation.

The presentation is very clear and well organized. It focuses on the United States, but should be of interest in other nations because of the U.S. role in the global economy. The discussion of the economic research on the factors leading to income disparity may generalize to other countries as they move through the information technology revolution.

Panda Videos on YouTube

Whole Lot of Baby Pandas

Hungry Red Pandas

Baby Pandas Playing

5 Baby Pandas (in four parts)

Giant Panda Photos

Photos from Peoples Daily, a great site with many more photos.

"Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa"

Go to the website of the Belfer Center to read this book online.

Calestous Juma, editor. The Smith Institute, London, November 2005.

This collection of essays by key experts in the field of international development looks at the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa. This year has seen an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest. The report of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Our Common Interest, set out the themes that dominated the G8’s discussions at Gleneagles over the summer, while a mass movement, in the form of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, affirmed that the political agenda was matched by a widespread public demand for action. Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies.

"Global Warming and Hot Air"

Read the full op-ed piece by Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post of February 7, 2007.

Samuelson says
The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming......

Nor will existing technologies, aggressively deployed, rescue us. The IEA studied an "alternative scenario" that simulated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce fossil fuel use. Fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles was assumed to increase 30 percent by 2030; the global share of energy from "renewables" (solar, wind, hydropower, biomass) would quadruple, to 8 percent. The result: by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions would rise 31 percent instead of 55 percent. The concentration levels of emissions in the atmosphere (which presumably cause warming) would rise.......

What we really need is a more urgent program of research and development, focusing on nuclear power, electric batteries, alternative fuels and the capture of carbon dioxide. Naturally, there's no guarantee that socially acceptable and cost-competitive technologies will result. But without them, global warming is more or less on automatic pilot. Only new technologies would enable countries -- rich and poor -- to reconcile the immediate imperative of economic growth with the potential hazards of climate change.

Meanwhile, we could temper our energy appetite. I've argued before for a high oil tax to prod Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Comment: I am afraid he is is right that global warming is happening and is going to worsen; that the only question is how much. I also agree that we need to increase R&D, and an aggressive effort to promote fuel efficient transportation should be undertaken in the United States. (I would add stronger requirements on manufacturers for fleet efficiency, such as including SUVs in the fleets.) Newly industrializing countries will be the worst offenders in adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and we should use all our bilateral and multilateral diplomatic influence to encourage them toward better environmental policies. However, the United States is by so far the worst per capita atmospheric polluter, that we must get our own house in order. Until we do so, our diplomatic efforts well be seen as "the pot calling the kettle black". JAD