This week’s Top 5 comes from Ben Davies, Sophie Hale, Bronwyn Bruce-Brand, Ceridwyn Roberts, and Shaan Badenhorst of economic research institute Motu.
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Some risky but practical proposals to harness a superpower that has clearly lost control. This is an eloquent, well-presented piece on the intricacies of sanctioning one of the world’s most powerful nations. There is no doubt that the USA is a global power, but the current political leadership and its relations with other nations over the last three years has forced leaders, political commentators, political scientists and others to do something that has never occurred before. They are carefully considering options regarding trade exposure, national defense, climate action and the feasibility of punishing a developed, Western democracy. America’s entrenched financial structure, which roots itself in virtually all of the world’s financial systems is a key barrier to any serious sanctioning while weaknesses in lack of action over climate change and relations with China may point to soft spots for potential action by concerned nation states.
“Gerrymandering” occurs when political boundaries are redrawn to deliver vote outcomes different than majority preferences. Stewart et al. (2019, Nature) describe a similar issue in the context of social networks used to share information about voters’ preferences. The authors show that “information gerrymandering” can bias the outcome of otherwise split votes, and that the incentive to introduce this bias can lead to political deadlock.
This article highlights that the focus on the mental wellbeing of New Zealanders is well-founded. The authors highlight that anti-depressant prescriptions have increased significantly over the 2006-2017 period for young New Zealanders and that this was concentrated in the 13-17-year-old group. Of concern, however, is the disparity highlighted between young people of different ethnic groups, with Māori and Pasifika less likely to have used anti-depressants, despite generally having higher rates of mental health problems compared to Pākehā. It is important to note that the diagnoses associated with the prescriptions were not investigated. And given the concern for young people to become dependent on these drugs, more work should be done to investigate the reasons for the increase in prescriptions and should look at other forms of treatment and their utilisation over time.
Biting flies are responsible for more than US$2 billion of annual economic losses in cattle production in the United States alone. Insecticide use is widespread, however given the resistance insects evolve within about a decade, some researchers in Japan tested another, more creative approach: they painted cows like zebras to test whether this reduced rates of biting fly attacks. Of the three treatment groups (black and white stripes, black stripes only and no stripes), black and white striped cows were significantly less affected by biting flies, both in terms of the number of biting flies and the frequencies of fly-repelling behaviours observed. This approach has the potential to minimise costs and improve animal welfare – a good moo-ove forward! Full research article is available here.
Visual communication designer Deniz Cem Önduygu created a visual summary of some key ideas in the history of Western philosophy. By clicking on an idea, readers can see other linked arguments, read what’s been said on a particular subject, and find different perspectives. If a statement agrees with or expands on an old one, they’re connected with a green line. If it disagrees with or refutes an old statement, they’re connected with a red line. One warning from the designer: These sentences are dry summaries of long, intricate argumentations and some of them are not even comprehensible if you’re not already familiar with the subject/philosopher.