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1. A Moscow Show Trial on the Bosphorus (Rodrik) The New York Times
2. MBTA shouldn’t be on board with The Ride (Glaeser) The Boston Globe
3. Gov. Professor Questions Link Between Income and Student Achievement (Peterson) The Harvard Crimson
4. The Unpersuaded (Neustadt) The New Yorker
5. Free expression in China: Opportunities and limits (Kelman) Federal Computer Week
6. Political advisor Yang Jia's blindness hasn't deterred her (Yang) Hindustan Times
7. Pessimism Reigns a Year After Fukushima (Russell) Columbia Journalism Review
A Moscow Show Trial on the Bosphorus
Another post from a colleague, this time about Turkey, from Dani Rodrik at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Dani is a first-rate economist, who has staked out important ground as a critic of conventional wisdom on trade and development; you can read some of his ideas on his blog, where this will be cross-posted. He’s also personally involved in the matters discussed below: his father-in-law is the lead defendant in the case. …
A Moscow show trial on the Bosphorus
In what is probably the country’s most important court case in at least five decades, hundreds of Turkish military officers are in jail and on trial for allegedly having plotted to overthrow the then newly-elected Justice and Development Party back in 2003. The case also happens to be one of the most absurd ever prosecuted in an apparent democracy. The evidence against the defendants is such an obvious forgery that even a child would recognize it as such. Imagine, if you can, something that is a cross between the Moscow show trials and the Salem witchcraft hysteria, and you will not be too far off.
MBTA shouldn’t be on board with The Ride
DUST OFF your banjos, because “Charlie on the MTA,’’ the old song bemoaning Boston-area transit fares, is timely once again. Facing a fearsome budget deficit of about $185 million for 2013, the cash-strapped MBTA is talking about raising fares and restricting routes. The T’s problems have no easy answer, but freeing the agency from the ballooning costs of The Ride -- the paratransit program for the disabled -- will be a big help. Disabled people need a reliable way to get around, but it’s not reasonable to push those costs on, say, bus riders in Somerville.
With some justification, the MBTA partially blames its deficit on a nearly 400 percent increase in costs for The Ride over the last decade. The Ride, which cost slightly over $20 million in 2000 and under $50 million as lately as 2007, now has a price tag of over $100 million a year, about one-tenth of the transit authority’s operating budget.
Gov. Professor Questions Link Between Income and Student Achievement
Though educational achievement often tracks family income, a report released by a Harvard Kennedy School program last week suggested that earning likely does not directly influence students’ classroom performance.
“It is unclear whether or not there is a causal connection, and the best evidence we have says that the causal evidence is very weak,” said Paul E. Peterson, the director of the Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance who wrote the report. “There’s a correlation between the sun rising and roosters crowing, but that does not mean the roosters are causing the sun to rise”
In his report, published by Education Next, Peterson cited a 2011 Brookings Institution study that found that the direct impact of family income on math scores, once factors such as race and parental education are factored out of the equation, is just 6.4 percent of a standard deviation.
Richard Neustadt , who died in 2003, was the most influential scholar of the American Presidency. He was a founder of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an adviser to Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton, and, in his book “Presidential Power” (1960), he wrote the most frequently quoted line in Presidential studies: “The power of the presidency is the power to persuade.” On August 31st of last year, President Barack Obama prepared to exercise that power. Frustrated with the slow recovery of the economy, he wanted to throw the weight of his office behind a major new stimulus package, the American Jobs Act. To this end, the White House announced that the President would deliver a televised speech to a joint session of Congress, and, as is customary, the President sent a letter to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, asking him to schedule the address for September 7th. Boehner, the man Obama needed to persuade above all others, said no.
Free expression in China: Opportunities and limits
One of my favorite sources for Chinese news has become a monthly magazine, published in China but oriented for a Western audience. It's called NewsChina, and is an English-language version of a newsweekly in China called Zhongguo xinwen zhoukan (China Newsweek).
What is amazing to me about the magazine is how critical it often is about today's Chinese society. Every month they run a series of quotes under the rubric, "What They Say," which is filled with amazingly frank statements that Chinese academics, critics, writers, etc. make about China. So the March issue, for example, quotes the novelist Ge Fei as saying, "It is sickening to write of beauty in this filthy society, so I rewrote my first draft." Last month they quoted somebody else saying that the evening TV news broadcast on the government-run CCTV network was like a constant "re-run." I would estimate that in a typical month's issue, probably 90 percent of the articles are critical in one way or another of something going on in China.
I have shown the magazine to a number of American friends, and they are inevitably absolutely amazed that this can be published in China. It is really far away from the image many Americans have of a totalitarian society.
Political advisor Yang Jia's blindness hasn't deterred her
On her graduation day from the prestigious Kennedy School at Harvard, Yang Jia’s dean called her “China’s soft power.” A decade later, Yang, 49, has probably become more than that – in a country which has the largest population of the disabled in the world, visually impaired Yang is now their symbol of hope. (According to a 2010 state media report, more than 83 million people live with disabilities in China.)
At Harvard, she was the first blind student to get a master’s degree in Public Administration. That was just the beginning; she now teaches the course “Art of Communication” in English at the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and is an active member of the top political advisory body of the country, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, currently in session in Beijing; she’s is a member of the Jiu San Society, one among China’s eight non-communist parties.
Pessimism Reigns a Year After Fukushima
The barrage of stories worldwide on the first anniversary of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant provided a largely gloomy forecast for the future of the nuclear industry.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake off the northeastern coast of Japan trigged a massive tsunami that hit the Fukushima plant, causing severe damage and meltdowns in three reactors. A year later, pundits are still debating the fallout, not only for Japan, but also for a world searching for the reliable energy sources of the future. While some anniversary reports struck a note of techno-optimism about major strides in safety, the pendulum swung decidedly toward techno-pessimism about the major obstacles preventing nuclear power from becoming a bigger player in global power production and efforts to mitigate climate change.