Without major security reforms, Haiti faces growing chaos and political collapse. Lax border control, violent drug runners, and a woeful prison system overburden the corrupt and undertrained police, and riots in April over food prices toppled the prime minister. More ominously, Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike have left 800,000 in dire need.
—“Reforming Haiti’s Security Sector,” International Crisis Group
Religion: revealed truth, or evolutionary vaccine? The diversity of religions in a given country correlates closely with the number of parasites. In regions at greater risk for disease, people limit travel and interaction with outsiders to avoid pathogens. This reduces the flow of ideas and values, creates cultural boundaries, and breeds new religions—presumably further minimizing contact with outsiders. Example: Brazil, which has a poor public-health system and rampant parasites, has 159 religions, while Canada, which has advanced health care and few parasites, has 15.
—“Assortative Sociality, Limited Dispersal, Infectious Disease and the Genesis of the Global Pattern of Religion Diversity,” Proceedings of the Royal Society
Election-wagering sites like Intrade are only the latest version of a centuries-old market in political futures. So many Italians were betting on papal elections in the 16th century that Pope Gregory XIV threatened them with excommunication. In 18th-century Britain, wagering on parliamentary elections became a national pastime. After the American Civil War, pari-mutuel political markets grew wildly popular. But such speculation dwindled as scientific polling improved, creating a lull that persisted until the Internet’s rise.
—“Historical Political Futures Markets: An International Perspective,” National Bureau of Economic Research
Soldiers of Misfortune
Military personnel make easy marks for predatory lenders: they get paid regularly and are concentrated on bases. But soldiers who have access to payday loans pay a steep price, and not just because of interest rates: their performance declines, they severely misbehave more often, and they’re less likely to be eligible to reenlist than those who don’t have access to loan sharks.
—“In Harm’s Way? Payday Loan Access and Military Personnel Performance,” Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
From the confirmed-suspicions file: sitting next to co-workers who bad-mouth the company makes you more cynical, less trustful of your bosses, and more likely to engage in bad-mouthing of your own.
—“A Test of Coworkers’ Influence on Organizational Cynicism, Badmouthing, and Organizational Citizenship Behavior,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology