Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wisdom Of The Week

I always assumed that it's too idealistic to ask an influential politician to take a firm stance against poaching at an international stage; I guess sometimes politicians do surprise us with their noble deeds - Clinton Unites African Leaders in Her Crusade Against Poaching

We're now confronting the possibility of a world without elephants,” Chelsea Clinton said at the Clinton Global Initiative on Thursday in an introduction to a new commitment that has become Hillary Clinton's post-office cause célèbre: ending wildlife poaching. Last year alone, the practice took the lives of 35,000 elephants and more than one thousand rangers.

On stage with presidents from six African nations—Uganda, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Malawi, Cote d'Ivoire, and Tanzania—the former secretary of state made a three-year, $80 million pledge to halt the brutal killing of African elephants, which she said is on track to make the African forest elephant extinct within 10 years.

Warning of the “hidden terrible costs of ivory,” Clinton spoke about groups like al-Shabab, the perpetrators of the Nairobi mall terror attack this past weekend, that get their funding through poaching efforts. The black-market channels which ferry ivory from poachers are often the same used for illegal arms, drugs, and trafficked labor. In July, a few weeks after the White House announced a $10 million fund to combat poaching, it was reported that Clinton had been meeting with environmental groups to discuss initiatives and to unite her contacts in to help with the cause.

"We will not be the generation that allowed for the extinction of the magnificent African elephant," said Cristian Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society. The commitment, made in partnership with the largest conservation foundations and experts like Jane Goodall and Ian Hamilton, brings together a multi-national group to enforce a moratorium on commercial exports, import, and domestic sales of ivory products until the elephant is no longer threatened by poaching. The presidents on stage with Clinton have agreed to support the effort, along with the leaders of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Liberia, and South Sudan.

“This has gone beyond an environmental issue; it threatens the stability of countries and blocks economic development,” said Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba. He declared that last year his country burned its entire stockpile of ivory. “My government has zero tolerance for wildlife crime,” he said.

All the largest markets for illegal ivory, from Australia to Vietnam, have jumped on board to start campaigns to spread awareness. “Many people in Asia don't understand it’s not like losing a tooth, you have to kill the elephant to get the tusk,” Clinton said

Another brilliant piece of this week - Making Juries Better: Some Ideas from Neuroeconomics:

All of that research means, ironically, that if you start with a group of individuals who have differing beliefs, and present them all with the same evidence, they’re more likely to diverge, rather than converge, on a decision. “This polarization can be really bad,” says Isabelle Brocas, an economist at the University of Southern California.

Although the psychological literature is lousy with studies of confirmation bias, nobody really knows its root cause. In an intriguing new paper, Brocas and her colleague Juan Carrillo propose an explanation based on neuroscience. The biases of juries, they say, can be explained by the way that our neurons encode information from the outside world. Their model (and let’s be clear: it’s a mathematical model, rife with assumptions) points to several recommendations for making our justice system more just.

So if the model’s true, it has several interesting implications for real-world trials. The first is related to the order in which evidence is presented. Facts or testimony presented at the beginning of a trial will be weighed more strongly in the jurors’ minds than evidence presented at the end. (And for that matter, the authors say, cases that a judge presides over at the beginning of her career will have a strong influence on those later on.)

It also means that it would be better for everybody if jurors were chosen who didn’t have strong views to begin with. “If you want to have an impartial judgment, you need to have relatively impartial people,” Brocas says.

Jury selection — the process before the trial in which both lawyers have a chance to kick out certain jurors based on their backgrounds and preferences — might be one way to get impartial people. But Brocas notes that lawyers don’t necessarily want impartial people so much as they want people who will be sympathetic with their arguments.

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