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Chris Blattman

Chris Blattman is an Associate Professor at Columbia University. Through his blog, Chris explores statistics and cultural trends to examine poverty and political participation. His weekly links capture some of the best content on the web.

The terrible trade-off: Why governments must choose between more violence or stronger gangs

Nearly every neighborhood in Medellín, Colombia, has a combo, or local street gang—almost four hundred in all. They earn most of their money from local drug sales. Some also run protection rackets, while others market legal goods—arepas, eggs, and even cooking gas—to locals. All these revenues make each Medellín neighborhood a valuable prize for combos to control. That competition for prime territory should be a recipe for violence. Yet the city has an annual homicide rate far...

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The work habits of highly successful mathematicians, mostly to make you feel bad about your day today

On any given day, Huh does about three hours of focused work. He might think about a math problem, or prepare to lecture a classroom of students, or schedule doctor’s appointments for his two sons. “Then I’m exhausted,” he said. “Doing something that’s valuable, meaningful, creative” — or a task that he doesn’t particularly want to do, like scheduling those appointments — “takes away a lot of your energy.” To hear him tell it, he doesn’t usually have much control over what he decides to focus...

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Russian soldier gangsterism, cricket scams, optical illusions, and other links I liked

1. Scam of the day (Indian cricket edition): “I have never seen a scam like this. These guys just cleared a patch of land deep inside a village and began playing a match and beaming it on YouTube to make money through gambling. …We know very little about the Russians who were putting bets on this” 2. A good story on Russian repression and Ukrainian resistance inside occupied areas of Ukraine. Some Russian actions look an awful lot like how gangs and militias try to foster civilian...

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America’s path to war with Russia

That’s the title of my feature with RealClearDefense, published this weekend. Full text follows here. The Biden administration has worked hard to keep Russia from treating America as a co-combatant in Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean NATO isn’t deeply embroiled in the fight. The level of support is extraordinary and increasing, including sanctions, intelligence sharing, weapons transfers, and money. Add to that the ever-heightening political rhetoric: “The United States is in this to win...

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Acht Wochen Verhaltenstherapie und 200 Dollar verändern das Leben gewalttätiger Männer in Liberia nachhaltig

Erstmals haben Forscher gezeigt, dass Verhaltenstherapie bei Erwachsenen mit krimineller Vergangenheit auch 10 Jahre später noch wirkt: Im Durchschnitt konnten so 338 Straftaten verhindert werden – pro Person. Strassenverkäufer in Liberia, Juni 2021. Zohra Bensemra / ReutersWer in einem Umfeld von Gewalt aufgewachsen ist, ändert sein eigenes kriminelles Verhalten selten. So lautet die gängige Meinung. Auch Forscher sagen, antisozialem Verhalten sei im Erwachsenenalter schwer...

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Two articles on Russia and Ukraine

Between 1998 and 2003, Ksenia Yudaeva and Konstantin Sonin were colleagues, first at the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy and then at the Center for Economic and Financial Research and Development. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Sonin (now a professor at the University of Chicago) reached out to Yudaeva (who today serves as the first deputy governor of the Central Bank). Fearing data insecurity on Facebook and Telegram, she asked him to install Signal....

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The United States is not headed for civil war

Now, those prophesizing war have a point. If you take civil conflict from recent history, you find a chillingly familiar list of initial conditions: politics hardening along identity lines; a surge of armed groups; an erosion of institutions. Ethnic polarization and democratic backsliding are especially persistent predictors of state collapse. But apply this to the United States with care. The data driving these results comes from predicting massive acts of violence – genocide or...

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Intelligence Squared podcast

59 min PLAY Christopher Blattman is an economist, political scientist and Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at The University of Chicago. His new book is Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace, which explores why societies turn to...

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