TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 1

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Screenings can identify a suicidal person, but the actions taken after the screening to decrease stigma and deliver help have a better chance of averting disaster.

By Christopher and Jennifer Gandin Le at Reuters

2. Only five percent of Americans who study abroad are black. That deepens other cultural divisions.

By Brandon Tensley in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

3. Game theory holds that cooperation in nature is essential to survival. But new research asks if the game can be rigged.

By Emily Singer in Quanta

4. Most of us believe we can achieve the American Dream if we just work hard. Today’s equality gap shows we’re dead wrong.

By Nicholas Fitz in Scientific American

5. Learning from the past: A thousand year-old Anglo Saxon remedy was just proven effective against hospital superbug MRSA.

By Clare Wilson in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 31

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is the sharing economy opening the door for big business to abuse contract workers?

By Jon Evans in TechCrunch

2. With fins off many menus, scientists see a glimmer of hope for sharks.

By Ted Williams in Yale Environment 360

3. The Houthi rebels in Yemen are following the ISIS playbook and crowdfunding their revolt online.

By Vladi Vovchuk in Vocativ

4. It might be possible to create a non-meat burger that helps the environment and improves your health. But will it taste good enough to win over the masses?

By Corby Kummer in MIT Technology Review

5. Medicaid may not be a slam dunk for physical health, but it yields huge returns in quality of life.

By the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 30

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Blue-collar jobs are coming back, and pay well. But women are missing out.

By Mitchell Hartman in Marketplace

2. Ikea is known for affordable, flat-pack furniture. Now they’re selling the U.N. flat-pack refugee housing.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

3. With an eye on the White House, politicians won’t admit it, but the ethanol mandate is terrible policy.

By Josiah Neeley in the American Conservative

4. With billions in profits, tech giants must lead the charge against inequality in Silicon Valley.

By John D. Sutter in CNN

5. Can better customer service make primary medical care affordable and sustainable?

By Margot Sanger-Katz in the Upshot

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Television

Watch President Obama Interview The Wire Creator David Simon

“Omar, by the way, is my favorite character”

A television writer couldn’t have scripted it better.

President Barack Obama, a longtime fan of the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire, sat down with the show’s creator David Simon this week to speak frankly about America’s war on drugs and the perils of law enforcement.

Simon, a vociferous critic of the federal government’s drug policies, pulled no punches as he spoke with the President.

“What the drugs don’t destroy, the war against them tears apart,” said Simon.

Obama appeared receptive to Simon’s criticism and insisted that things were slowly improving in the country.

“The fact that we’ve got people talking about it in a smarter way, gives me a little [encouragement],” he said.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Take a data dive to see how a ring of suburban poverty is appearing around America’s revived cities.

By Luke Juday at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia

2. Don’t worry about Russia giving up on nuclear cooperation and the International Space Station.

By Lisa Saum-Manning in U.S. News & World Report

3. Scientists reverse-engineered social networks to learn how to fight HIV among homeless youth by word of mouth.

By Jessica Leber in Fast Co.Exist

4. A Pyrenees pipeline could weaken Putin’s grip on European energy.

By Paul Ames in Global Post

5. For developmentally disabled kids, the benefits of organized sports are huge.

By Darrin Steele in Quartz

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 4

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. We’re measuring family poverty wrong. We should measure access to opportunity to find out what’s really working.

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

2. Anxiety, depression and more: “Four to five times more” high school athletes struggle with mental health issues than concussions.

By Gary Mihoces in USA Today

3. They provide social order and an economic structure. What if prison gangs actually make life better behind bars?

By Shannon Mizzi in Wilson Quarterly

4. Scientists have released the genetic sequence of the 2014 Ebola virus to crowdsource solutions to future outbreaks.

By Fathom Information Design

5. If new technology really cut jobs, we’d all be out of work by now.

By Walter Isaacson in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 12

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Proprietary tech under the hood means farmers can’t service their own equipment. Time for open source tractors.

By Kyle Wiens in Wired

2. These grassroots efforts to improve life are glimmers of hope for Guatemala.

By Shannon K. O’Neill at the Council on Foreign Relations

3. Secular Americans aren’t morally adrift. For many, altruism is their moral compass.

By Nick Street in Al Jazeera America

4. It takes a package of policies to substantially reduce poverty.

By Linda Giannarelli, Kye Lippold, Sarah Minton and Laura Wheaton in MetroTrends

5. “Ultimately, the most effective way to create shareholder value is to serve the interests of all stakeholders.”

By Marc Benioff in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Syria’s own ‘Monuments Men’ are trying to stop antiquities from becoming looted to finance terrorism.

By Joe Parkinson, Ayla Albayrak and Duncan Mavin in the Wall Street Journal

2. Scientists have combined a bionic leaf with a bioengineered bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel.

By Elizabeth Cooney at Harvard Medical School

3. A dozen states are using a smart data center to keep voter information up to date. Meet ERIC.

By the Pew Charitable Trusts on YouTube

4. Deciding to embrace big data is a lot easier than changing your culture to use it well.

By Matt Asay in ReadWrite

5. Fighting malaria is going to take more than just nets.

By Utibe Effiong and Lauretta Ovadje with Andrew Maynard in the Conversation

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME world affairs

Don’t Dismiss Poverty’s Role in Terrorism Yet

The studies are mixed, but our analysis should not be hasty

With the deadly attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris earlier this month, pundits are again questioning a commonly-cited motive for radicalization. Media leaders are outright dismissing the possible role poverty plays in terrorism. On Hardball, Chris Matthews stated, “The world is filled with hundreds and hundreds of millions of poor people who have no prospects at all, but they don’t go around killing people. India is packed with poor people and they don’t go around killing people. Africa the same. These are killers.” The Wall Street Journal opined, “Wednesday’s attack also demonstrates again that violent Islam isn’t a reaction to poverty or Western policies in the Middle East. It is an ideological challenge to Western civilization and principles, including a free press and religious pluralism.”

Are the commentators right to dismiss poverty as a cause of terrorism? Policymakers, for their part, have shown a consistent tendency to name poverty as a primary motivation for terrorist acts. For example, in remarks made after a meeting with the Vatican’s Secretary of State in 2014, John Kerry declared, “We have a huge common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet.”

Scholars, however, have often come to opposite conclusions. A 2006 study on terrorism for 96 countries between 1986 and 2002 found no link between its economic measures and terrorism. In 2002, Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton, and Jitka Malecková, an associate professor at the Institute for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Charles University, made the argument in The New Republic against poverty’s role in terrorism with a wide-ranging presentation of evidence including evidence gathered from Hezbollah and Hamas suggesting that upper class and more educated individuals are slightly over-represented in among terrorists because terror groups actively select for those individuals from large populations of potential recruits.’

This wealth of scholarly evidence is certainly daunting for those who argue that poverty is a cause of terrorism. However, before dismissing poverty out of hand, the pundits ought to show restraint and scholars should continue to update and reanalyze the data.

Why should media critics and academics alike avoid a rush to judgment on poverty and terrorism? For one thing, some scholarly literature documents a relationship though not necessarily a causal one—between poverty and some terrorism. A 2011 study (notably disputed by Krueger and Malecková, among others) found a positive relationship between unemployment and right wing extremist crimes committed in Germany. A 1977 study of terrorist profiles which supported the conclusion that terrorists are generally middle or upper class noted that the Provisional Irish Republican Army constituted an exception both in terms of social class and educational attainment. The Basque terrorist group ETA provides another interesting example: Goldie Shabad and Francisco Ramo point out in the edited anthology Terrorism in Context that over time, membership in ETA grew among working class individuals while it declined among the upper classes.

These examples demonstrate a fundamental structural problem in method and approach. By treating terrorism as a single category that can be examined across multiple countries and decades rather than focusing on particular groups or individuals, we overlook patterns that exist in some but not all cases.

Indeed, it is quite likely there are multiple routes into terrorism, some of which might involve poverty and some of which might not. When this data is aggregated, the poverty-related routes become less visible, but that does not mean they don’t exist. Where scholars are often careful to acknowledge this limitation, pundits have sidelined it in grand pronouncements that poverty does not cause terrorism.

Shifting our thinking on methods used to evaluate relationships between terrorism and poverty may well reveal new dimensions other potential explanations for terrorism, such as mental illness. Recent studies have found that while terrorists involved in terrorist groups are not particularly likely to be mentally ill, those who act alone are far more likely than the general population to be mentally ill. One study found 40% of the 98 lone wolves it examined to have identifiable mental health issues compared to only 1.5% of the general population.

One size will never fit all. Searching for single-category, causal explanations for terrorism and dismissing correlated elements like poverty and mental illness as irrelevant is likely to obscure other patterns that could shed light on extremist behavior. Some Americans involved in terrorism have come from affluent backgrounds: Anwar Awlaki, the American cleric who took on a leadership role in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was the son of a major Yemeni political figure and Zachary Chesser, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trying to join Al Shabaab and threatening the creators of South Park over their depiction of Mohammed, was born to a well off family in the Virginia suburbs. On the other hand, American Somalis—82 percent of whom live near or below the poverty line according to a 2008 Census Bureau study—are the source of the largest groups travelling to fight with jihadist groups abroad. The New York Times referred to the group of Minnesotans—most of whom were of Somali descent—that travelled to fight for Al Shabaab as “the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining an extremist movement affiliated with Al Qaeda.” Since that report, the same communities have wrestled with a new wave of individuals travelling to fight in Syria.

Community members on the ground contend that the economic situation explains the persistence of jihadist recruitment among Minnesota’s Somali community. Fartun Weli, a founder of a nonprofit helping Somali women, told Voice of America that “Kids are being recruited. Yes, this is a fact. What are we going to do about it? We have to talk about the root causes that make Somali kids vulnerable … we have to make sure there are opportunities created for our community to exit poverty.”

This case calls for more study and disaggregation when looking at the potential role of poverty in causing terrorism. It is also important to consider that the argument that terrorists are often middle class and well educated because terrorist groups are capable of selecting their preferred operatives from a large pool of recruits depends on the context. Some groups, particularly well-developed groups have name recognition and screening mechanisms in place, but newer, less well-known outfits usually do not. Others may simply not be interested in screening their recruits or consider it a priority compared to gaining more manpower or the propaganda edge of a large and diverse fighting force.

Indeed, one of the primary characteristics of ISIS’ use of foreign fighters today is that they are not particularly selective about who they accept into their ranks. As Peter Neumann, the director of the International Centre for the Study of Political Violence put it, “The Islamic State is also less selective than a lot of other groups. If you come from the West, don’t speak Arabic, you’re not a particularly good fighter and don’t have a particular skill, IS will probably still accept you.”

Some groups, for example Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have even adopted open source methods publishing bombmaking instructions online to encourage attacks where they have difficulty inserting operatives with close ties to the organization. But in adopting such an open source leaderless strategy they surrender any ability to conduct screening.

None of this is to say that an affirmative case for the role of poverty in causing terrorism is clear. However, it is time for new studies on the subject and a move towards examinations of more specific threat actors using within-case variation and other methods capable of revealing how poverty might have different effects in different contexts. Assuming previous studies still explain the dynamics in the cases we face today could lead to blind spots allowing threats to mature unhindered.

David Sterman is a research associate for New America’s International Security Program and a graduate of Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME activism

Eva Longoria: Helping Women Changes Communities for the Better

Ruth Prieto From PBS's 'A Path Appears'

The activist and actress teamed up with Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn to shed light on teen pregnancy, sex trafficking and other problems facing women

If you’re missing Eva Longoria on the small screen since Desperate Housewives ended, don’t worry: you can see her in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s upcoming PBS documentary, A Path Appears.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning duo of Kristof and WuDunn wrote the book upon which the series is based and recruited celebrity activists like Blake Lively, Ashley Judd, Malin Akerman, Alfre Woodward, Mia Farrow and Jennifer Garner to participate. The documentary aims to not only raise awareness about global poverty facing women and girls, but also present practical solutions that address these problems.

Longoria’s portion of the series is about poverty and teen pregnancy in Colombia, and features the actress and Kristof visiting the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar foundation, run by Catalina Escobar, which provides education, counseling and job training for teenage mothers.

“I’m of the ideology that if you help a woman, she helps her family, and if she changes her family then you start to change communities,” Longoria says. “I always believe the key to breaking the cycle of poverty lies within the women of any community.”

Longoria, who runs an organization for special needs children and an organization to help Latinas break into STEM fields (called Eva’s Heroes and the Eva Longoria Foundation, respectively) says she is grateful to be able to use her fame to give others a voice. “If a celebrity wants to lend their name and share their spotlight so that these people who don’t have a voice can be heard, I recommend it and I commend it,” she says, noting that the world’s fixation on pop culture often obscures the stories of the neediest. “Unfortunately, these stories are put to the bottom of the news cycle, because they’re not sexy and they’re not glamorous.”

Longoria also said she was shocked at some of the problems the documentary uncovered inside the United States, especially when it comes to sex trafficking. “A lot of times we think, ‘oh that happens in Africa, oh that happens in China, that doesn’t happen in America,'” she says. “How could that be the United States of America?”

The third installation of A Path Appears airs on PBS on Feb 9th.

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