Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Free exchange: Poor behaviour | The Economist

Free exchange: Poor behaviour | The Economist: "Conventional economic thinking assumes the poor will want to earn their way out of poverty. But as studies from countries as different as Ethiopia and France show, poverty makes people feel powerless and blunts their aspirations, so they may not even try to improve their lot. When they do, they face obstacles everywhere. They have no margin for error, making them risk averse. If they do not know where their next meal is coming from, saving and investing for the future is hard. George Orwell said, “Within certain limits, the less money you have the less you worry.” He was wrong. The poor are subject to exceptional levels of stress: childhood sickness is more likely to be life-threatening; crop failure can lead to destitution. And stress makes good decision-making harder. Above all, the poor lack the institutional framework which, in the West, improves decisions. Everywhere, people underestimate the benefits of education and save too little for their retirement. But children in the West go to school as a matter of course; pension systems make some savings automatic. Poor countries provide few such props.

All this helps explain why the poor stay poor; why (for example) subsistence farmers do not buy fertiliser or put children into secondary school, though they would benefit from doing so. More important, though, behavioural economics provides a different way of thinking about some of the problems of poverty.

Traditional development programmes stress resources and markets. People are poor, the argument goes, because they lack resources: not just money but roads, clinics, schools and irrigation canals. The job of development is to provide those things. And since resources also need to be allocated properly, prices have to be right. So a lot of development is about freeing prices and making markets more efficient.

A behavioural approach to development is different. It focuses on how decisions are made and how they can be improved. For example, in Bogotá a conditional-cash transfer programme paid mothers a monthly stipend if they took their children to school. Attendance during the school year was good but re-enrolment rates were low. A shift in the timing of the hand-out—withholding a part of the regular payment until just before the start of the school year—boosted enrolment sharply. This makes little sense in conventional economic terms: going to school is so beneficial that families should not need extra incentives and the overall sum available did not change. Yet the pay-off was substantial."

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Impact investing for ocean ecosystems and users: Capital available, but projects needed! | Marine Ecosystems and Management (MEAM)

Impact investing for ocean ecosystems and users: Capital available, but projects needed! | Marine Ecosystems and Management (MEAM): "Capital for marine impact investments appears to be available, and the limitation is the paucity of investor-ready projects. To me this is analogous to the food scarcity dilemma; the world produces enough food to feed the entire population, but nearly one billion people are underfed due to distribution and waste issues. We have growing evidence of the availability of investment capital – including a recent survey of 21 impact investors (publication forthcoming) – but we need to focus on developing and scaling projects to accept the capital."

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why You Don't Realize That You're Probably Eating Endangered Fish | MUNCHIES

Why You Don't Realize That You're Probably Eating Endangered Fish | MUNCHIES: "Nigel Preston—the Director General of WorldFish, an international aquaculture and fisheries nonprofit—said: “Most of the world’s fish comes from small-scale fisheries where access to certification schemes is an expensive luxury. Transparency in supply chains is crucial not only in terms of protecting fish stocks, but also for securing a just space for these small-scale fishers. WorldFish is working with partners including national governments to reduce the burden on these fishers by building capacities to meet international standard requirements and gain a better share of those markets. By doing so, poorer fishers will be less likely to draw on depleted resources.”"

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Dramatic photos show how Shiite Muslims mark Ashura, one of the most emotional events in Islam - The Washington Post

Dramatic photos show how Shiite Muslims mark Ashura, one of the most emotional events in Islam - The Washington Post: "The defeat and death of Hussein, at the hands of forces loyal to Yazid, a caliph from the Arab Omayyad dynasty, was the seminal event that led to the division of Islam into Sunni and Shiite sects, with the major difference relating to the line of succession after the death of the prophet and lesser differences over issues of ritual and prayer. That split has come to divide the Middle East into camps dominated by Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, and it has led to sectarian violence in countries such as Iraq and Pakistan. Sunnis also observe Ashura, but as a day of gratitude and fasting in honor of the prophet Moses, rather than a day of sorrow and public mourning for Hussein."

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Syrian terror suspect Jaber al-Bakr found dead in cell in Germany - BBC News

Syrian terror suspect Jaber al-Bakr found dead in cell in Germany - BBC News: "When police raided the flat in the eastern city of Chemnitz, they found 1.5kg of TATP, a home-made explosive used in the deadly jihadist attacks in Paris last year and in Brussels last March. The explosives were "extremely dangerous", police said.
But al-Bakr managed to slip the net, and made his way to the city of Leipzig where he asked the Syrians for help.
The three told police they had heard about the manhunt and tied him up while one of them knelt on him.
They alerted police who finally managed to arrest him.
Since then there have been calls for authorities to honour the three. Bild newspaper described them as "the Syrian heroes from Leipzig"."

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Russians, lies and WikiLeaks - POLITICO

Russians, lies and WikiLeaks - POLITICO: "Still, security experts of both parties have been warning of potential Russian fakery in the document leaks since late July, shortly after the first huge batch of hacked internal emails from the Democratic National Committee forced the resignation of Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and widened the split between the party’s Clinton and Bernie Sanders factions.

“It is not unthinkable that those responsible will steal and release more files, and even salt the files they release with plausible forgeries,” a bipartisan group of national security experts from the Aspen Institute said in a statement July 28.

More broadly, the spreading of false information by intelligence services “is a technique that goes back to Tsarist times,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an interview Wednesday. Past examples include the Soviet-spread rumor that the U.S. government developed the AIDS virus, as well as a 2014 incident in which hackers modified the reported vote totals for the Ukrainian presidential election — falsely showing a right-wing victory that Russian state television reported almost immediately.

Cyberspace offers Russia both increased opportunities for using faked information to sow chaos and improved chances of doing it convincingly."

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

10 countries host half world's refugees: Amnesty

10 countries host half world's refugees: Amnesty: "Ten countries accounting for 2.5 percent of world GDP are hosting more than half the world's refugees, Amnesty International said Tuesday as it slammed what it called the selfishness of wealthy nations.

In a report on the plight faced by the world's 21 million refugees, the London-based human rights body lamented that countries immediately neighbouring crisis zones bear the brunt of the global refugee problem.

Fifty-six percent of refugees are being sheltered in 10 countries, according to the report, in which Amnesty proposed a solution whereby the world's countries find a home for 10 percent of the planet's refugees every year."

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