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HKS in the News May 9, 2012

1. What cookstoves tell us about the limits of technology (Hanna) Washington Post

2. China's Soft Power Deficit (Nye) Wall Street Journal

3. We Who Are About to Bug Out Salute You (Walt) Weekly Standard

4. The politics of having faith and serving in government (Graham) Washington Post

What cookstoves tell us about the limits of technology

Washington Post

May 8

Quoted: Rema Hanna

Topic: Hanna's research on new cookstoves in developing countries

...One problem is that having a cheap, clean technology is no guarantee that it will be properly adopted. In a new NBER paper, economists Rema Hanna, Esther Duflo and Michael Greenstone note that there’s been very little evidence on whether these stoves work in the real world. They looked at a randomized control trial that handed out cleaner stoves to 15,000 people in Orissa, one of India’s poorest rural areas, and tracked the results over five years. The stoves were a bargain, costing about $12.50 a pop, and they used a chimney to keep smoke away from the users.

What Hanna and her colleagues found is that in the first year of using the stoves, households saw a serious drop in smoke inhalation. The cleaner cookstoves were working exactly as they did in the laboratory. But in the years after that, the stoves stopped working effectively. “We find no evidence of improvements in lung functioning or health and there is no change in fuel consumption (and presumably greenhouse gas emissions),” the authors write.

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China's Soft Power Deficit

Wall Street Journal

May 8

Commentary by: Joseph Nye

Topic: China's lack of soft power

I was recently invited to lecture at several Chinese universities about "soft power"—the ability to get what one wants by attraction and persuasion rather than coercion or payment. Since the 1990s, thousands of essays and articles have been published in China on the topic, and the lectures drew large crowds.

Over the past decade, China's economic and military might has grown impressively. This has frightened its neighbors into looking for allies to balance China's increase in hard power. But if a country can also increase its soft power of attraction, its neighbors feel less need to balance its power. For example, Canada and Mexico do not seek alliances with China to balance U.S. power the way Asian countries seek a U.S. presence to balance China.

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We Who Are About to Bug Out Salute You

Weekly Standard

May 14

Quoted: Stephen Walt, International Security Program, Belfer Center

Topic: Ending the war in Afghanistan

"Perhaps I’m being overly cynical,” wrote a well-known realist and conspiracy theorist on April 23, “but the new ‘strategic partnership’ agreement between the United States and Afghanistan strikes me as little more than a fig leaf designed to make a U.S. withdrawal (which I support) look like a mutually agreed-upon ‘victory.’ It is already being spun as a signal to the Taliban, Iran, and Pakistan that the United States remains committed, and the agreement will undoubtedly be used as ‘evidence’ that the 2009 surge is a success and that’s now ok for the US to bring its forces home.” But Harvard’s Stephen Walt​—​for it is he​—​avows that the agreement is just a cosmetic gesture that “facilitates doing the right thing,” which Walt, together with Vice President Joe Biden and many others, thinks is to bring the Taliban back into power in some sort of alliance with the elements of Kabul’s government most hostile to the West and least sympathetic to the idea of democracy and women’s rights.

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The politics of having faith and serving in government

Washington Post

May 2

Commentary by: Aaron Graham MPP 2007

Topic: Separating politics from spiritual belief

It breaks my heart today to see how often politics shapes our faith, rather than faith shaping our politics. Over the years the church in America has become so biblically illiterate that we are often being more influenced by cultural and political trends than we are by the Word of God.

As a result when we do come to church or read Scripture, we come with our minds already made up. We interpret the Bible through our own ideological lenses, picking and choosing what we want to believe and leaving the rest. This is dangerous, not only spiritually but politically as well.

When faith is reduced to being a subset of politics, it is often used as a political wedge to divide rather than unite us. Or, on the converse, when a particular faith seeks to overtake politics, both are worse off. God’s kingdom is much bigger than one political party or country and can never be fully reflected in a government institution alone.

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This selection of media appearances is compiled by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

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