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Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

The Supply Curve of Viking Raids

The new exhibition on the Vikings at the British Museum illustrates behavior along supply curves.  The local Anglo-Saxons decided that the best way to keep Viking raiders at bay was to buy them off—to pay tribute.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this extra payoff merely induced a movement up the supply curve of Viking raids, as more raiding parties realized that there was money to be made by raiding English villages. Perhaps this is a lesson for modernity: don’t negotiate with terrorists!

Why Does the Likelihood of Terrorism Increase After Natural Disasters?

In a new RAND working paper, authors Claude Berrebi and Jordan Ostwald use international data to argue that countries which experience a major natural disaster are more likely to have an increase in terrorism activity afterward. In the abstract they write:

…Using a structured methodology and detailed data on terrorism, disasters, and other relevant controls for 167 countries between 1970 and 2007, we find a strong positive impact of disaster-related deaths on subsequent terrorism deaths and incidence. We find that, on average, an increase in deaths from natural disasters of 25,000 leads to an increase in the following year of approximately 33 percent in the number of deaths from terrorism, an increase of approximately 22 percent in the number of terrorist attacks, and an increase of approximately 16 percent in the number wounded in terrorist attacks, holding all other factors constant.

FREAK-est Links

This week, why being a king is the most dangerous job in history, an etiquette group in Germany wants to ban workplace air-kissing, Jonathan Stark’s social experiment with a Starbucks card, anti-technology terrorists attack in Mexico, and why Google and Wikipedia are bad for our memory.

What to Make of the Unabomber Auction? And What Should I Do With My Own Unabomber Artifacts?

It seems so coincidental that I wonder if indeed it’s a coincidence: the FBI requests a DNA sample from Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. Unabomber, just as the government’s court-ordered auction of Kaczynski’s possessions gets underway (it closes on June 2). The FBI is still trying to solve the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, and Kaczynski is presumably a person of interest.
If nothing else, the news has brought a lot more attention to the auction. It can use it. As of this writing, most of the 58 items could be had for a few hundred dollars. Exceptions are Kaczynski’s Smith-Corona typewriter ($8,025) and his hand-written Manifesto ($16,025).

How Big Will the Osama Halo Effect Be for Obama?

Think back to high school. The quarterback on the football team had a legendary game over the weekend, and made everyone associated with the school so proud they could split their pants. On Monday, he’s treated like a hero.
But, interestingly, people find themselves thinking better of him not only for his athletic exploits. Suddenly, everything about him seems a cut above.

The Latest Terrorist Threat

The best strategy I have found for reducing the aggravation of security screening is to pretend I am a terrorist and think about where the weaknesses are in security, and how I might slip through. I think I figured out a way to get a gun or explosives into the White House during the George W. Bush administration. I only got invited to the White House once, however, so I never got a chance to test my theory for real on a return visit.

Forensic Accounting and Al Qaeda

A new RAND study of captured documents from al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) reveals some interesting facts about the organization. It found that “AQI was a hierarchical organization with decentralized decisionmaking; AQI in Anbar was profitable enough to send substantial revenues out of the province in 2006; AQI relied on extortion, theft, and black market sales to fund its operations in Anbar; AQI needed large, regular revenue sources to fund its operations, but its administrative leaders did not hold much cash on hand.”

Fighting Suicide Bombers: What Works?

Efraim Benmelech, Claude Berrebi and Esteban F. Klor have already argued that a bad economy equals deadlier terrorists. Now, the three economists have turned their attention to the effects of house demolitions on terrorism.

SuperFreakonomics Book Club: Ian Horsley Answers Your Questions About the Terrorist Algorithm

In the SuperFreakonomics Virtual Book Club, we invite readers to ask questions of some of the researchers and other characters in our book. Last week, we opened up the questioning for “Ian Horsley,” a banker who’s been working with Steve Levitt to develop an algorithm to catch terrorists. His answers are below. Thanks to Ian and to all of you for the questions.

How to Improve Intelligence

Robert Jervis writes in the Boston Globe that to improve intelligence, CIA investigators should stop thinking so intuitively, pay more attention to what they see in front of them, make assumptions that can be disproven, and realize that terrorists don’t see the world like they do.

The Unintended Consequences of Secrecy

Washington, D.C., is underlaced by miles of fiber optic cables that carry information for the nation’s intelligence agencies. The exact locations of these cables are kept secret so that terrorists and other enemy agents can’t snip the lines. The secrecy has indeed kept the cables safe from terrorists. Instead, the danger comes from well-meaning construction crews, who occasionally sever these sensitive conduits during the course of an innocuous building project. That’s when the men in the black SUV’s show up.

When Was the Last Time Someone Answered "Yes" to One of These Questions?

In order to become a U.S. citizen, one has to complete the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Form N-400. How long do you think it has been since someone answered “yes” to question 12(c) in part 10(b): Between March 23, 1933, and May 8, 1945, did you work for or associate in any way (either directly or indirectly) with any German, . . .

After Google Earth Is Banned, What's Next?

For all the good that Google Earth has brought to the world, it’s been a boon for ne’er-do-wells and mischief-makers as well. In the U.K., teenage hooligans allegedly use it to scope out private pools they can crash for impromptu parties. On a darker note, insurgents in Iraq used images from Google Maps to guide their attacks. And the terrorists who killed 170 people in Mumbai last November supposedly used Google Maps images for help navigating the city.

The Cost of Fearing Strangers

What do Bruce Pardo and Atif Irfan have in common? In case you’re not familiar with their names, let me rephrase: What do the white guy who dressed up as Santa and killed his ex-wife and her family (and then committed suicide) and the Muslim guy who got thrown off a recent AirTran flight on suspicion of terrorism have in . . .

Did Anti-Terror Enforcement Help Fuel the Financial Meltdown?

The Times (of London) recently reported that “The F.B.I. has been forced to transfer agents from its counter-terrorism divisions to work on Bernard Madoff‘s alleged $50 billion fraud scheme.” This might lead you to ask an obvious counter-question: Has the anti-terror enforcement since 9/11 in the U.S. helped fuel the financial meltdown? That is, has the diversion of resources, personnel, . . .

Torture Royalties

We’ve tackled the future of music distribution and we’ve taken on the War on Terror. But what happens when the two intersect? Apparently, guards at Guantanamo Bay have been playing David Gray‘s “Babylon” at all hours of the day and night, to distress detainees and soften them up for interrogation. Since this arguably constitutes a public performance of Gray’s song . . .

Are Pirates the Key to Understanding the World?

We can learn a lot about the evolution of democracy by studying pirates in history, says George Mason University economist Peter T. Leeson. As early as the 1670’s, pirates were experimenting with elected leadership, worker’s compensation and checks on executive power, the Boston Globe reports in this preview of Leeson’s forthcoming book The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates. . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Player similarities in the NBA: a network diagram. A “Who’s Who” of modern physicists. How accurate are most psychology experiments?. Military experts fear “robotic terrorism.”

Vegans Thwart FBI’s Anti-Terror Program

Of all places, San Francisco must be one of the worst in which to try a “following the falafel” strategy for catching terrorists. Still, I like the creativity. (Hat tip: Alon Nir.)

Middle-Class Suicide Bombers

Economist Alan Krueger‘s excellent work on terrorism — which we’ve discussed before — comes to the conclusion that suicide bombers tend to be surprisingly well-educated. They are not generally the poorest of the poor; in fact, they are more likely to be middle class members of society. Now it turns out that further support for Krueger’s assertions is coming from . . .

Terrorist Forest Fires?

I caught a lot of flak a few months back when I speculated about why terrorists don’t carry out a wide array of simple but devastating terrorist plots. (For fear of another flood of hate mail, I don’t dare link to those earlier posts, but if you are interested you can easily find them.) I’m pretty sure that forest fires . . .

The FREAK-est Links

L.A., New York have most expensive traffic. (Earlier) U.S. hand washing on the decline. (Earlier) Homeland Security explores Russian mind-control techniques. (HT: BoingBoing) “Virtual fence” flops at the border.

The FREAK-est Links

Attack of the killer text message spam. (Hat tip: Consumerist) Local businesses lagging in online markets. Jogging near traffic can harm your heart. (Earlier) Why do terrorists restrict their business to illegal drugs?

Here’s Why You Haven’t Been Reading Any Prisoners’ Tales From the Colorado ‘Supermax’ Prison

The U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum in Florence, Colorado, widely known as the “Supermax” prison, houses many of the nation’s most notorious and violent criminals. But you probably haven’t read any interviews with any of those prisoners — including Sammy Gravano, John Walker Lindh, and Ramzi Yousef — in the last several years. Why not? According to this article by Alan . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Home sales hit five-year low. (Earlier) Second Life’s future: “bigger than the Web“?(Earlier) Delta starts a blog. (Earlier) Risk analyst sets next year’s median of U.S. terrorism deaths at zero. (Earlier)

Detecting Illegal Arms Trading

I always love it when I see a paper that only an economist could write. An ingenious new study by Stefano DellaVigna and Eliana La Ferrara definitely fits that description. The issue they tackled is detection of illegal arms trades that defy United Nations embargoes. Their idea was to use the information embedded in stock markets to tease out indirect . . .