Primary Sources

The prospects for a united Korea; a new study of old studies; TV dads gain financial ground; AIDS in the Islamic world


One Peninsula, One State?

Will the two Koreas eventually be reunited, and if so, how? A new study by the rand Corporation examines various possible scenarios. If North Korea adopts a more open, Chinese-style economic model, a federalist arrangement with South Korea might result; if continuing economic adversity brings down Kim Jong Il's regime, "appropriate financial inducements," among other things, might persuade North Koreans to cast their lot with the South; if another peninsular war breaks out, the United States and China might negotiate a reunification, which would probably involve the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Of course, as the authors note, some of these scenarios could have darker outcomes: an internal collapse of Kim's regime could lead to the emergence of regional warlords; a peninsular conflict could leave foreign troops occupying the North and facing an insurgency like Iraq's. But they say a united Korea may be likelier than we think. In the mid-1990s, the study points out, many observers confidently predicted reunification and were disappointed; now that fewer are looking to the possibility, "we might be surprised once again—but this time in the reverse direction."

"North Korean Paradoxes: Circumstances, Costs, and Consequences of Korean Unification," Charles Wolf Jr. and Kamil Akramov, RAND Corporation


The Muslim Face of AIDS

A surge in rates of HIV infection may soon join the myriad issues facing the Islamic world. According to a study from the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Seattle-based think tank, the virus threatens to move through Muslim-majority nations along "the same pathways it followed in Sub-Saharan Africa." The report is largely speculative, because few Muslim countries collect systematic data on HIV and AIDS—which, the authors argue, is part of the problem. With the exceptions of Bangladesh and (surprisingly) Iran, Muslim nations have not mounted significant public-health campaigns to combat AIDS, in part because authorities assume that few Muslims engage in behaviors such as premarital sex, homosexuality, prostitution, and drug use. The authors observe that these assumptions did not hold true for Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, and are likely to have tragic consequences in the rest of the Islamic world.

"Behind the Veil of a Public Health Crisis: HIV/AIDS in the Muslim World," Laura M. Kelley and Nicholas Eberstadt, National Bureau of Asian Research

Don't Take Our Word for It, But ...

It will come as no shock to regular readers of this feature that researchers sometimes get things wrong. How frequently they do so is the subject of new, well, research in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which examined several dozen clinical studies that were published in major journals from 1990 to 2003 and subsequently cited more than a thousand times apiece. For 16 percent of these "high-impact" studies, results were contradicted by later research; for another 16 percent they were found to be weaker than originally thought. The report's author acknowledges that "there is no proof that the subsequent studies … were necessarily correct," but adds that in each case the later study was either larger or better controlled.

"Contradicted and Initially Stronger Effects in Highly Cited Clinical Research," John P.A. Ioannidis, JAMA


From Bedrock to the OC
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A half century of television has been good to fathers on TV, according to the Web site, which recently used real-life salaries to estimate the earnings of characters from sixty shows. Nowadays TV dads make an average of $195,000 a year—more than double the pay of their 1950s counterparts, who made about $75,000 in 2005 dollars. The rising standard of living is due to changes in the kinds of jobs held by the fathers, who are increasingly depicted in high-paying professions.

"TV Dads: Real-Life Salaries Nearly $200,000," Dan Malachowski,


Stocks and Blondes

If you're an average Joe looking for a stock tip, you're probably better off asking your mother or your wife than a male relative or friend. So suggests a recent Merrill Lynch survey, which found that women make fewer investment mistakes than men and repeat their mistakes less often—even though women investors, on average, know less about investing than men do (they scored lower on questions about investing) and enjoy it less. Women come out better on just about every count: they are less likely to hold a losing investment too long, and less likely to wait too long to sell a winner; they're also less likely to put too much money into a single investment or to buy a reputedly hot stock without doing sufficient research.

"When It Comes to Investing, Gender a Strong Influence on Behavior," Merrill Lynch