Primary Sources

Another problem for Pakistan; the teachers nobody wants; why you can't trust what you read; unhappier by the dozen?
Foreign Affairs

Unquiet on the Western Front

As if Pakistan doesn't have enough problems in the hinterlandthe ongoing duel with India over Kashmir, the lawless border with Afghanistan—trouble is brewing in its westernmost province, Baluchistan, according to a new study from the Carnegie Endowment. Baluch nationalists, who claim a distinct ethnic identity going back 2,000 years, have clashed with the central government several times over the past fifty years, most recently in the mid-1970s, when a rebellion left nearly 8,000 dead. The province is strategically located (it borders both Iran and Afghanistan) and rich in resources (it provides more than 40 percent of Pakistan's energy), and its stability is crucial to Islamabad. But ire is building over a number of issues. The Baluchs feel inadequately compensated for the country's use of their province's resources and believe they are not benefiting sufficiently from economic development. In addition, they oppose the government-promoted spread of political Islam (though they are largely Muslim themselves). Another insurrection appears to be in the offing: attacks on Pakistani troops and sabotage of oil pipelines are escalating. Although the Carnegie report expresses doubt that the Baluchs could win a war for independence, it warns that "the risk of a prolonged guerrilla movement … is quite real."

"Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism," Frédéric Grare, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Price of Liberty

The end of apartheid, in 1994, not only made black South Africans significantly freer; it also made them significantly poorer, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Average incomes for all races dropped by 40 percent between 1995 and 2000, the last year studied in depth (there's no evidence that they've rebounded since). Blacks and the young saw the greatest declines, and the black-white income gap, which had been gradually shrinking since the 1970s, grew markedly after 1994. This is perhaps not surprising: political liberalization, the authors note, opened South Africa's economy to global competition. And in developed economies the income gap between those with disparate levels of education—a gap that favors South Africa's whites—tends to widen.

"Incomes in South Africa Since the Fall of Apartheid," M. Leibbrandt, J. Levinsohn, and J. McCrary, NBER


Last Rights

Americans overwhelmingly support some form of a "right to die," according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. By more than eight to one, those surveyed favored laws that would let terminally ill patients decide whether to accept medical treatment. Smaller majorities agreed that people have a right to end their lives if they "have an incurable disease" or "suffer great pain with no hope of improvement," and that it is "sometimes justified" to help your spouse commit suicide or to end his or her life yourself. The public was less certain about extending this latitude to doctors, splitting nearly evenly on the question of whether to allow physician-assisted suicide. And only a third supported a right to die for people who merely feel that "living is a burden."

"Strong Public Support for Right to Die," Pew Research Center for the People and the Press


Super Bore?
primary sources chart

If you like your spectator sports unpredictable, it's best to head for the soccer stadium—or so researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory would recommend. They examined nearly every game in the history of the English Football Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League—more than 300,000 games in all. Soccer proved to be the sport in which the underdog (the team with the worse record) did the best, winning a little more than 45 percent of all contests. The most predictable sport seems to be American football: the underdog has won roughly 36 percent of all NFL games.

"What Is the Most Competitive Sport?" E. Ben-Naim, F. Vasquez, and S. Redner, Los Alamos National Laboratory


Error for Error

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia, whose entries can be written and edited by anyone with an Internet connection, has taken a lot of heat for its inaccuracies, most recently when an article claimed that a former aide to Robert F. Kennedy might have been involved in the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers. But it's not much worse than the online version of the legendary Encyclopedia Britannica, according to a study conducted by Nature. The magazine's researchers matched up entries from the two encyclopedias and obtained expert evaluations of forty-two pairs. The experts found a total of eight "serious" errors (defined as mistaken interpretations of important concepts)four in Wikipedia and four in the Britannica. Combined, the Britannica's entries contained 123 "factual errors, omissions, or misleading statements," and Wikipedia's had 162; in other words, the professionally produced encyclopedia had three errors for every four in the amateur one. However, a number of evaluators noted that their assigned Britannica entry was better written than the Wikipedia one, which they found badly structured and difficult to follow.

"Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head," J. Giles et al., Nature

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