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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Can Big Data Stop Wars Before They Happen?
Foreign Policy
It has been almost two decades exactly since conflict prevention shot to the top of the peace-building agenda, as large-scale killings shifted from interstate wars to intrastate and intergroup conflicts. What could we have done to anticipate and prevent the 100 days of genocidal killing in Rwanda that began in April 1994 or the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica just over a year later? The international community recognized that conflict prevention could no longer be limited to diplomatic and military initiatives, but that it also requires earlier intervention to address the causes of violence between nonstate actors, including tribal, religious, economic, and resource-based tensions. For years, even as it was pursued as doggedly as personnel and funding allowed, early intervention remained elusive, a kind of Holy Grail for peace-builders. This might finally be changing. The rise of data on social dynamics and what people think and feel -- obtained through social media, SMS questionnaires, increasingly comprehensive satellite information, news-scraping apps, and more -- has given the peace-building field hope of harnessing a new vision of the world.

The economist who revealed how media bias works
It’s heady company. When he won the John Bates Clark Medal earlier this month, University of Chicago economics professor Matthew Gentzkow suddenly found himself among legends such as Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman. Both are past recipients of the award, which the American Economic Association bestows on the American economist under the age of 40 who “who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” Plenty of past winners have worked in familiar areas, such as wage dynamics or health economics. Gentzkow’s work is less orthodox: an interesting mix of the history and micro-economics of the media world.

World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development
Tectonic shifts in technology and economic models have vastly expanded the opportunities for press freedom and the safety of journalists, opening new avenues for freedom of expression for women and men across the world. Today, more and more people are able to produce, update and share information widely, within and across national borders. All of this is a blessing for creativity, exchange and dialogue. At the same time, new threats are arising. In a context of rapid change, these are combining with older forms of restriction to pose challenges to freedom of expression, in the shape of controls not aligned with international standards for protection of freedom of expression and rising threats against journalists.

Age invaders, Demography and Inequality
The Economist
IN THE 20th century the planet’s population doubled twice. It will not double even once in the current century, because birth rates in much of the world have declined steeply. But the number of people over 65 is set to double within just 25 years. This shift in the structure of the population is not as momentous as the expansion that came before. But it is more than enough to reshape the world economy. According to the UN’s population projections, the standard source for demographic estimates, there are around 600m people aged 65 or older alive today. That is in itself remarkable; the author Fred Pearce claims it is possible that half of all the humans who have ever been over 65 are alive today. But as a share of the total population, at 8%, it is not that different to what it was a few decades ago. By 2035, however, more than 1.1 billion people—13% of the population—will be above the age of 65.

A 3-D Printed high powered microscope for $2 or Rs 120
Times of India
A high powered lens that can be made at home and cost less than a cent is all set to transform your smart phone into a high-resolution microscope. It is a known scientific fact that a droplet of clear liquid can bend light, acting as a lens.  Now, by exploiting this knowledge, researchers have developed a new process to create inexpensive high quality lenses that will cost less than a penny apiece. Because they're so inexpensive, the lenses can be used in a variety of applications, including tools to detect diseases in the field, scientific research in the lab and optical lenses and microscopes for education in classrooms. Researchers say it will be a boon for science and medicine in developing countries and remote areas. Their low cost — low enough to make them disposable — allows for a host of uses.

Improving water supply to improve livelihoods across southern Africa
The Guardian
The strategic development and effective management of water resources is a high priority for southern Africa. Whilst the region is endowed with considerable water resources, there is also substantial variation in availability; a problem compounded by sub-standard and inequitable water supply, which is calculated to cost up to 5% of regional GDP annually. High levels of water insecurity in the region undermine efforts towards climate resilient and sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and regional stability. Moreover, forecasts indicate that population growth coupled with demands from irrigation, energy and economic growth as well as increased vulnerability to climate shocks will further compound the problem.


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