Peters: Don’t Increase Democracy Aid to Egypt Now

In an opinion piece for Foreign Policy, Anne M. Peters, assistant professor of government, says that though the Obama administration has cut democracy aid during the last two years, this is decidedly not the time to increase it. “If nothing else, the past three weeks demonstrate that Egyptians do not need foreign money, consultants, or democracy and governance programs to collectively organize and exert their demands; they simply needed a pooled set of grievances, digital and print media for communication purposes, and a big push from the ‘Tunisia effect.’ ” Her piece expands on the rationale behind these points.

Burke: ‘Finger’ Links Birds and Dinosaurs

In recent articles in Live Science and Science Ann Burke, chair and professor of biology, comments on a new study links the “wing fingers” of baby chicks with the digits of a particular group of dinosaurs. The study lends evidence to the theory that birds evolved from a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that roamed the earth 150 million years ago. Burke had been co-author of a previous study in 1997 that established the hypothesis and provided early evidence to support it.

President Roth Reviews “Twin” by Allen Shawn

Writing for The Washington Post, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth reviewed the new memoir Twin by Allen Shawn, who is the son of former New Yorker editor Wallace Shawn.  The book, which chronicles Shawn’s relationship and perceptions of his twin sister Mary, as well as Shawn’s own struggle with panic attacks and Mary’s autism. Roth says “Shawn writes beautifully, with an elegance, candor and tact that are remarkable. He is personal without ever being gossipy…’Twin’ is an extraordinary book – quiet, patient, moving. While acknowledging our separation from one another, Allen Shawn has made a brotherly gift that recalls the possibilities of connection through memory and love that just might be shared.”

Yohe on Predicting Human-Driven Global Warming

In The New York Times “Dot Earth” blog, author Andrew Rivkin enlisted the help of Gary Yohe, Huffington Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, to answer some very specific questions by a reader on the imprecision associated with trying to predict the effects of human-driven global warming. Yohe offers information on “specificity in efforts to cut risks of regrettable outcomes,” among other issues.

Installation Inspired by American Philosophical Society

A discussion with Jeffrey Schiff, professor of art, on his new art installation, “Double Vision: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,” was recently featured on WNPR’s ‘Where We Live.‘ “Double Vision” will be on view in Wesleyan University’s Zilkha Gallery from Friday, Jan. 21 through Sunday, Feb. 27. The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Tuesday, Jan. 25, from 5–7pm, with a gallery talk at 5:30 p.m. Gallery Hours are Tuesday–Sunday, noon–4 p.m. The Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is located at 283 Washington Terr. in Middletown, Conn. For more information see the website or call 860-685-3355.

Fowler: Negativity Ruled 2010 Election Ads

A recent report in The Washington Post cites a new study by The Wesleyan Media project that, among other things, found that 2010 campaign season was the most negative in recent years. The study, “Advertising Trends in 2010,” by Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government and director of The Wesleyan Media Project, and Travis Ridout, associate professor of political science, Washington State University and co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project, was published in The Forum, a Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics. While a lot of discussion about the negative tone of the ads and campaigns occurred during and after the election, Fowler and Ridout point out in their study that negative ads are not necessarily a bad thing with regards to elections:

“One nontrivial benefit of record spending and record airings this cycle is that many voters, whether they liked it or not, were undoubtedly exposed to more campaign information than in previous election cycles and therefore were more likely to make informed choices at the ballot box…The unprecedented negativity in 2010 may also have some good consequences. For instance, Geer (2006) shows that negative ads are actually more likely to talk about policy issues, and thus negative ads may be informative ads. Negative ads may also raise the stakes, motivating people to get out and vote.”

Additional reports on the research were done by Politico, NPR, The News Hour (second item), Forbes, The Daily Caller, and Fox News, among several others.

A second study by Michael Franz, co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College, found that the effect of the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations, unions and outside interest groups more direct participation in political ads, was not as widespread or pervasive as intimated by many reports.

Kilgard Unveils Starburst Galaxy X-Ray Images

Wired reports that, at a press conference at the gathering American Astronomical Society, Roy Kilgard, research assistant professor of astronomy, presented a new series of X-ray images of M82, a star burst galaxy that may have been triggered by “a close encounter with another galaxy.” M82 is 12 million light years from the Milky Way Galaxy.

Dupuy: Foreign Aid Mismanagement Holds Haiti Back

Writing for The Sunday Washington Post, Alex Dupuy, chair of African American Studies, professor of sociology, says that Haiti’s “tiny but wealthy elite” that runs the small island nation, and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which is co-chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, have mismanaged the more than $9 billion in aid that was sent to the country after last year’s earthquake, distributing only 10% of it. Worse, the vast bulk of the money that has been spent has gone to foreign contractors and foreign NGOs that “reinforce the country’s dependence on foreign aid and further sap the capacity and responsibility of the government to meet the basic needs of its citizens.”