IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


  • A new report from Amnesty International documents mass torture and hangings in Syria’s Saydnaya prison. They estimate 13,000 people were hanged between 2011 and 2015, and they are probably continuing:

    “A former judge who witnessed the hangings said: “They kept them [hanging] there for ten to 15 minutes. Some didn’t die because they are light. For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks”.”

More on it from Vox here.

  • Hans Rosling died this week. The doctor and epidemiologist started off as a healthcare provider in Mozambique and then in the DRC, where he worked to identify the source of the paralytic disease Konzo (it was the naturally occurring cyanide in cassava roots, which weren’t being washed enough because of a drought). He later devoted himself to using statistics and creative visualization to show how the world is getting better. There was a nice interview with him in Nature just a few months ago (he refused to let the reporter mention his cancer, fearing it would detract from his message about reducing poverty).
    • In addition to being a pioneer in computer visualization for the general public, he found creative analog ways of showing shifting distributions using Ikea bins, pitchers of water, and dollar bills from his wallet. You can see some of his videos here.
  • A court in Kenya stopped that country’s attempt to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. Judge John Mativo ruled that sending some 200,000 residents to Somalia would put them in danger and would be discriminatory.
  • How to spot data visualization lies and mistakes (h/t David Batcheck).
  • Job designing behavioral interventions in education at the University of Virginia.
  • A guide for non-scientists on how to read a scientific paper (h/t Neela Saldanha). Summarized below, geneticist Jennifer Raff recommends literally drawing out the methodology.