Bin Laden dead ?

French Newspaper L’Est Republicain has published a report, citing sources in the French security services who claim that Osama bin Laden is dead of typhoid, having been unable treatment by virtue of his isolation.

« Selon une source habituellement fiable, les services saoudiens auraient désormais acquis la conviction qu’Oussama Ben Laden est mort. Les éléments recueillis par les saoudiens indiquent que le chef d’Al-Qaïda aurait été victime, alors qu’il se trouvait au Pakistan le 23 août 2006, d’une très forte crise de typhoïde ayant entraîné une paralysie partielle de ses membres inférieurs. Son isolement géographique, provoqué par une fuite permanente, aurait rendu impossible toute assistance médicale. Le 4 septembre 2006, les services saoudiens de sécurité ont recueilli les premiers renseignements faisant état de son décès. Ils attendraient, d’obtenir davantage de détails, et notamment le lieu exact de son inhumation, pour annoncer officiellement la nouvelle ».

Via ABC News

A good year

I’ve been checking my publications and I’ve had 15 refereed journal articles published (in print or online) so far this year, which is the most ever for me (though I’ve read that Harry Johnson had 18 articles in press at the time of his death). There are a few more that have been accepted, and might make it through by the end of the year.

Thinking about there are a few factors that contribute to this happy outcome. One is random fluctuation. Last year was a little below average, and some papers that should have been published then slipped into 2006. Similarly, I expect 2007 to be a bit light.

Another is that, with the Federation Fellowship, I’ve tended to do more applied policy stuff, particularly on water. That’s easier to write and publish than theory pieces aimed at international journals (though I’m still doing those).

Finally, I’ve cut back on travel. While some travel is necessary, I think most academics would benefit from less time on the road and more in front of the computer.

What’s really good about this is that it allays the fear that blogging will have a bad long-term effect on my productivity. I think it probably takes time that I might otherwise have put into a book or two, but books are a high-effort, low-payoff exercise for economists, unless you have something you really need to say at book length.

Free the Tripoli Six

This Nature editorial reports the alarming news that six international health workers face execution in Libya on bogus charges of spreading HIV. As the editorial points out, despite the absence of any real improvement in its human rights record, Libya is being treated as a Beacon of Light by both the US and EU because it has backed off its previous support for terrorism and WMDs. It should be made clear to the Gaddafi regime that murdering aid workers is on a par with terrorism as a crime against the international community.

More from ScienceBlogs

War on Science: Science Strikes Back

The war on science driven by a combination of Republican* ideology and corporate cash has been ably documented by Chris Mooney (see the Crooked Timber seminar here). Now, finally, science is striking back at one of the worst corporate enemies of science, ExxonMobil. As evidence of human-caused global warming has accumulated, leading energy companies like BP have seen the need to respond, with the result that industry groups like the Global Climate Coalition have broken down, leaving ExxonMobil to carry on a rearguard action through a network of shills and front groups. Now the company is finally being exposed by a major scientific organisation.

In an apparently unprecedented move, the British Royal Society has written to Exxon, stating that of the organization listed in Exxon’s 2005 WorldWide Giving Report for ‘public information and policy research‘, 39 feature

information on their websites that misrepresented the science on climate change, either by outright denial of the evidence that greenhouse gases are driving climate change, or by overstating the amount and significance of uncertainty in knowledge, or by conveying misleading impression of the potential impacts of climate change

(full copy of the letter here)

Read More »

A view from Bangkok

I’ve been sent the following, which appears to reflect the views of a lot of people in Thailand (or at least among the educated classes in Bangkok), welcoming the coup that displaced PM Thaksin. The author is an academic at Thammasat university, and he is writing a message addressed to foreign students

My own views of Thaksin, whose career I’ve followed reasonably closely, are similar to those of the author – I would have welcomed his removal by constitutional processes. On the other hand, like John Howard, I would have hoped that Thailand, and our region in general, had got past the point where military coups were part of the political process.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs, I hope for a peaceful outcome and a quick return to democracy.
Read More »

Presentation: climate change and the precautionary principle

I’ve uploaded my presentation on climate change and the precautionary principle, which I gave at City Hall on Monday night. It’s here in
Powerpoint (4.9Mb)
PDF (1.9MB)

Finally, here’s a version Zipped Mac Keynote (4.8Mb).

Thanks to everyone who’s given helpful suggestions for the upload, and noted problems with the download.

Sorry for the accidental temporary disappearance of this post. I somehow set it to “private”, which meant that it appeared for me, but for no-one else

Heaven and Hell

Pessimism seems to be a newly popular theme in American cultural discourse. Having written a bit about worst-case scenarios, I was interested to get a review copy of Karen Cerulo’s Never Saw It Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst. Perhaps because I’m naturally optimistic by temperament, I’m finding Cerulo’s relentless pessimism a bit annoying, and, not coincidentally, finding a lot to disagree with in the book.

One point particularly struck me. Cerulo claims that “positive asymmetry” is demonstrated by the fact that, in theology and art, Heaven is given a detailed and appealing description, while hell is described only in vague and non-specific terms. She mentions, as an illustration of the latter point, an etching inspired by Dante’s Inferno.

My recollection of Dante is that the descriptions of Hell, and the various categories of sinners, were detailed and intricate, making the Inferno a fascinating book, while Purgatory was less distinctly graded and the Paradiso was unreadably dull. I haven’t read Paradise Lost or Paradise Regained, but I get the impression that the same is true. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I thought this was one of the standard criticisms of religious art – Hell and the Devil are made much more interesting than Heaven and Hell.

Cerulo focuses mainly on paintings, and maybe she’s right on this score, but even here I’d hazard a guess that the work of Hieronymus Bosch is much more widely reproduced than any detailed representation of Heaven.