Volume 10 (2013)

China’s Quest for Energy Security: Redefining and Driving Foreign Aid

Andrew Bracken, Christina Hajj, Kristy Hartman & Shivan Sivalingam

China’s pace of development and rapid depletion of its own natural resources are driving forces in its international diplomatic relations. China’s hunger for energy resources, particularly fossil fuels, is prevailing internationally. With its demand expected to expand significantly, China is positioning itself to compete aggressively and diplomatically for energy security.
China is employing its human and monetary resources in the form of foreign aid to developing regions with the implicit objective of advancing its energy security interests. This report explores China’s growing infrastructure aid to countries in Central Asia, also known as China’s periphery, and Africa as a means of procuring energy resources. We also discuss the inner workings of China’s foreign aid policy, its challenges and benefits, and how diplomatic relations and resource exchanges have shaped China’s image and upheld its growing demand for natural resources, particularly fossil fuels.

Health Status-Adjusted Life Expectancy and Health Care Spending for Different Age Groups in the United States

Adam T. Swinburn & Matthew M. Davis

Evaluations of healthcare spending in the United States have considered mortality but not morbidity, thereby potentially inflating estimates of the benefits of spending for older age groups. We estimate health care spending associated with gains in health status-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) for individuals of different ages.
Adjusting for morbidity decreases the value of remaining life expectancy by 5.6 years (8% of unadjusted LE) for those 0-14 years and by 0.9 years (17%) for those 85+ years. Person-level health care expenditures associated with a month of HALE for the youngest age group are $2, versus $224 for those 85 and older.
Our findings suggest that reducing spending on health care for younger populations would impinge on utility in the U.S. population more than would reducing spending on health care for older populations.

Rethinking Prison Reform: Using Decision Science to Improve Prison Effectiveness

Mark Dlugash

Many believe that prison is not worth the cost but are unsure of what to do about it (Codd 2008). Building on the work of Sunstein and Thaler (2008), this article articulates a novel approach to reducing the costs of prison via “nudges” in “prison architecture”, or “moderation-by-nudge”. The main argument is that these nudges are practical and politically viable and they can be used to reduce costs and improve the psychological and emotional experience of prisoners. This article also argues that prisons can be designed in a way that is more contemporary, humane, and effective at helping prisoners reintegrate into society.

Avian Flu Controversies: Lessons for Scientists to Learn from the Public Debate over Mutant H5N1

Joe Labuz

The way in which scientists communicate their work to the general public can have a profound impact on how it is perceived and regulated. As such, there are three specific lessons that both scientists and policymakers should learn from the recent controversy over two lab-engineered strains of H5N1:

  1. Scientists must actively engage with governments in the debate over how to regulate dual use research
  2. A diverse group of scientists, policymakers, and other experts should consider the impact of the research in question
  3. Scientists must responsibly and clearly convey information to the public

This report further analyzes the danger posed by these new flu strains and recommends that at least one strain be consigned to Bio Safety Level-4 facilities until future data proves otherwise. The most important message, however, is that scientists should address questions generated by controversial research in a manner that is proactive, broad, and comprehensive.

Municipal Participation in Environmental Agreements

Aaron Ray

More than 1,000 mayors signed the United States Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement (USMCPA) between 2005 and 2009, committing their cities to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This study identifies factors associated with participation of U.S. cities in the USMCPA. Previous qualitative and quantitative investigations have suggested that the existence of co-benefits, elements of climate change stress, and partisan orientation influence municipal participation in environmental agreements. This study uses an empirical model to assess the relative significance of demographic and regional factors, economic structure, environmental conditions, energy use, and political factors in predicting municipal participation in the USMCPA. The results indicate that population density and educational attainment positively predict participation while the unemployment rate negatively predicts participation. These results suggest that development policies can influence the likelihood of city participation in environmental agreements.

Female Circumcision: The Ethics of Harm Reduction Policies

Rachel Ruderman

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a critical global health issue for millions of girls worldwide. This harmful practice may include partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora, or a combination of cutting techniques, resulting in lasting physical and mental distress. The practice is deeply ingrained in many cultures and has been difficult to eradicate, despite campaigns from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, among others. This paper argues for acceptance of a harm reduction policy, which centers on the promotion of medicalized and safe symbolic female circumcision to fulfill cultural norms while promoting the health of women and girls worldwide. Utilizing Bernheim’s ethical framework, key ethical dimensions of the harm reduction approach are analyzed, illustrating the viability of female circumcision as an intermediate step towards eventual eradication of FGM. Ethical justifications including the efficacy, proportional benefits, and necessity of such programs further elucidate the importance of a harm reduction approach for this particularly sensitive public health issue. The paper concludes with policy and practice recommendations based on the ethical analysis and suggest various methods with which to implement them.