When the OECD released their 2015 Fragility Report I remember looking at the penta-Venn Diagram of the different states of fragility and wondering why Afghanistan was not fragile in institutions, which was supposed to capture corruption among other governance issues. This question eventually led to a Monkey Cage post on my attempt to replicate their measures of fragility.
In mid-November the international community was still seriously concerned about Ebola and its effects on West Africa. Some prominent figures even called Ebola a threat to international peace. My realist/cynical side figured the calls might simply be an attempt to raise awareness and aid, but I was intrigued by the question, has disease ever led to war?
I’m happy to introduce UCDPtools, an R package for accessing data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP). UCDPtools includes UCDPindex that makes it easy to move around the websites and codebooks for the 15 UCDP datasets and the function getUCDP() that loads the datasets into R and fixes obvious errors and variable names.
In exploring the GDELT dataset around disasters, I found an interesting trend around the tragic Typhoon Haiyan. Looking at events geolocated in the Philippines before and after the typhoon, I found a steep rise in the number of optimistic comments, clearly overtaking a rise in the number of pessimistic comments.
Last month the NFPA released several reports on fire losses in 2012. The report Catastrophic Multi-death Fires in 2012 covers the seventeen incidents that had five or more deaths. These incidents make up .001% of the total fires for the year and 2.9% of the total deaths.
I recently attended the PSU GDELT Hackathon where I got a chance to contribute to the R package GDELTtools. The experience inspired me to clean up and share my own explorations of GDELT. My colleague Anna Schrimpf presented a research plan looking at the incentive structure that NGOs like Amnesty International face when choosing which issues to focus on. I found her research agenda fascinating and wondered if it could be applied to different types of conflict.
The title is hyperbolic, but it gets to a shortcoming of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2118 on Syria’s chemical weapons passed last week. It was inspired by reported responses to the resolution.
In the last two weeks a happenstance agreement on Syria's chemical weapons has changed the discussion from 'what should we do' to 'what just happened'. Here's another attempt to break down the underlying questions and arguments. I do not think we will see again the kind of policy debate we saw around possible strikes, so my review of news and events here has more information than arguments.
I’ve been tasked with helping students understand the Syria crisis and US policy options. Below is the outline of basic facts, key questions and arguments, and interesting sources. The goal was to lay out many of the smaller debates that (ideally) contribute to any policy decision on Syria. Of course many points have been simplified as the infamous Afghanistan powerpoint came to mind.
While reading Damon Coppola’s Introduction to International Disaster Management, I was struck by the unequivocal denouncement of cost-benefit analyses of disaster mitigation with respect to human life. In listing three criticisms of the process of determining risk acceptability, number two reads:
Setting a dollar figure (in cost-benefit analyses) on a human life is unethical and unconscionable . . . Because of the controversial nature of placing a value on life, it is rare that a risk assessment study would actually quote a dollar figure for the amount of money that could be saved per human life loss accepted. Post-event studies have calculated the dollar figures spent per life during crisis, but to speculate on how much a company or government is willing to spend to save or risk a life would be extremely unpalatable for most.
The emphasis is not mine. I had two initial reactions. First, setting a dollar figure on human life is common practice in many settings. The EPA is a common example, and currently has their carefully defined value of statistical life set at 7.4 million (in 2006 dollars). In an oft cited article, Viscusi and Aldy review over 100 articles that measure how individuals value morbidity risk.