These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Researchers identify opportunities to improve quality, reduce cost of global food assistance delivery 
Food assistance delivered to the right people at the right time and in the right place can save lives. In 2016 alone, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) delivered over 1.7 million metric tons of food assistance to over 30 million people in 50 countries around the world. However, USAID estimates that over $10 million of that food never made it to the plates of people in need due to spoilage and infestation. Proper food assistance packaging can be a major contributing factor toward preventing spoilage and infestation. The right kind of packaging can also reduce the need for costly fumigation — which also has the potential to harm human and environmental health if misapplied — and diversify the types of commodities that can be shipped to communities in need, improving recipient satisfaction and nutrition. MIT researchers have just released a new report detailing an experimental study examining how different packaging approaches and technologies can reduce cost and improve quality of food assistance procured in the United States and shipped abroad.
An ad-supported internet isn’t going to be sustainable in emerging markets 
Can you imagine an internet without advertisements? It’s difficult. Since the web’s genesis, advertising has been the reigning business model. The vast majority of online content and services — from entertainment and journalism to search engines and email — are supported by banners, displays, and leaderboards. Today, two of the world’s largest companies—Google and Facebook—earn the bulk of their revenue through advertising. Put simply: The phrase “ad-supported internet” can seem redundant. But as the internet expands into emerging economies like Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda, this may no longer be the case. As billions more digital citizens connect this decade, a critical question arises: Does the internet’s current business model work in newly-connected regions?
A psychologist explains the limits of human compassion 
There are now 65.3 million people displaced from their homes worldwide, the United Nations reports. It’s an all-time high: likely the largest population of refugees and asylum seekers in human history. Think about that number: 65.3 million. Can you even imagine it? Like, really imagine it. When we see one life, we can imagine their hopes and pain. But 65 million? You can’t. That’s just an abstraction. There’s a hard limit to human compassion, and it’s one of the most powerful psychological forces shaping human events. I often report on political psychology. And in my conversations with scientists, I’ll often ask: “What research helps you understand what’s going on in the world?” The answer — whether it’s pegged to the refugee crisis abroad or the health care debate at home — very often involves Paul Slovic. Slovic is a psychologist at the University of Oregon, and for decades he’s been asking the question: Why does the world often ignore mass atrocities, mass suffering? Slovic’s work has shown that the human mind is not very good at thinking about, and empathizing with, millions or billions of individuals.
The lives and times of civil servants in the developing world 
Insights into the lives and experiences of civil servants in developing countries: The characteristics of a nation’s institutions have long been regarded as fundamental to national development. Appropriately designed public institutions are increasingly seen as key to prosperity (North 1990, Finer 1999, Acemoglu et al. 2005, World Bank 2017). But who are the people that work in these institutions? What is their experience of being a public official in a developing country? In recent research, I brought together surveys of civil servants – the professional body of administrators who manage government policy – from across the developing world to provide micro-evidence on life inside government (Rogger 2017).
Results-Based Payments to Reduce Deforestation 
Center for Global Development
If tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank third after China and the United States as a source of emissions. Currently a large part of the problem, forests can be an even bigger part of the solution because trees offer the potential to achieve negative emissions. For example, ending tropical deforestation and allowing damaged forests to recover could reduce global net emissions by up to 30 percent. The 2015 Paris agreement recognises the importance of forests in achieving climate goals. The agreement incorporates a framework of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (Redd+). The “plus” connotes the enhancement of forest carbon stocks. Here are three reasons why Redd+ is a valuable tool in the fight against climate change.
Still an Agenda Setter: Traditional News Media and Public Opinion During the Transition From Low to High Choice Media Environments 
Journal of Communication
This study analyzes whether the agenda-setting influence of traditional news media has become weaker over time—a key argument in the “new era of minimal effects” controversy. Based on media content and public opinion data collected in Sweden over a period of 23 years (1992–2014), we analyze both aggregate and individual-level agenda-setting effects on public opinion concerning 12 different political issues. Taken together, we find very little evidence that the traditional news media has become less influential as agenda setters. Rather, citizens appear as responsive to issue signals from the collective media agenda today as during the low-choice era. We discuss these findings in terms of cross-national differences in media systems and opportunity structures for selective exposure.
Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomit 
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