Monday, July 8, 2013

June 2013 Progress Report

I will be taking a leave of absence from the PhD program at Boston University during 2013-2014, and I promised professors and friends that I would keep them updated with my activities. So I will provide a monthly posting in which I will briefly summarize my progress on profession-related items over the previous month.

Outline of Post:
  • Recap To-Date
  • May 2013
  • June 2014
  • Plans for July 2014
Recap To-Date:
This May, I finished my first two years of my Economics PhD program at Boston University. I chose to take a 1-year leave of absence before my 3rd year, primarily to focus on accelerated language-learning methods (link1 link2). I have also been working with a small youth group called OJEPAC in Gisenyi City, Rwanda coordinated by Elisee Hakuzweyezu. I took a more personal role with this group in developing its Early Learning pilot program, which currently includes five mothers (link3). Depending on its progress, I may also continue to follow up with this EL pilot.

May 2013:
  • Finals week formally ended May 11.
  • Wrote and coordinated summaries for papers in the IED Discussion Paper Series.
  • Finished up my end-of-year tasks related to the Graduate Student Organization's initiatives on Academic Open Access.
  • Worked on Rwanda projects, prepared for trip to Rwanda.
June 2013:
  • Prepared for Rwanda trip.
  • Completed my work for the Spring 2013 IED Research Review deadline (link4).
  • Visited OJEPAC in Rwanda for 2.5 weeks and worked with Elisee to determine a program for the organization that will work for all stakeholders.

Plans for July 2013:

  • Follow-through with pending Rwanda items.
  • Ramp-up study of memory techniques.
  • Continue with routine work in Economics: 
    • Read theoretical and empirical papers.
    • Review portions of Davidson and Mckenna's Econometric Theory and Methods.
    • Improve my Stata toolbox.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Early Learning on-the-cheap: Guide Document

Check out the current Guide Document! It's a manual for Early Learning that should be achievable for a $4/day households, or even less.

Guide Document in English, and Kinyarwanda.

For more background, read the packaged information from Brillkids, and the forum posts like this one about notable Early Learners, and documentation of our Rwanda pilot project with OJEPAC.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

End Stop-and-Frisk

First, the music video.

Second, my discussion of the issue.
After 9-11, people were wearing NYPD hats and shirts. Everywhere. Now that windfall of goodwill is nearly depreciated and gone.

Check out this link to a Slate article. Police in Toronto were buddy/buddy with local imams and this is how they caught the "alleged" bombers.

Is some guy who got stop-and-frisked on his way to prom, going to go back to the same police to rat-out his cousin who raped somebody? Unfortunately, even for a rape, it's much less likely.

The same age-old lesson applies to crime in NYC as it does to bombers in Toronto. I've lived in different neighborhoods in Bushwick for four years, and it doesn't make me feel safer to see stop-and-frisk happening everywhere. It makes me feel much less safe.

Kudos to John Liu and Bill DeBlasio for bringing this up.

Third, action items.
Online Petition:

Mayoral Candidate John Liu (current NYC Comptroller) has an Online Vote:

Mayoral Candidate Bill DiBlasio's Petition to Mayor Bloomberg:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

RPF cashing in on Crystal Ventures?

Looks to me like the Rwandan ruling coalition (the RPF) is liquidating a lot of assets.  I wonder why.

First, note that the finances of the RPF are inseparable from the finances of Crystal Ventures.  Then, check out this article detailing the RPF's sale of more than half its former 45% stake in MTN-Rwanda to the umbrella South African MTN.  RPF is poised to sell more than half of its share in Inyange Industries, the country's leading food processing company.  Some of Crystal Ventures' other investments may also be on the chopping block.

On the other side of the income statement, I can't find many new investments like this granite factory which opened mid-2012.

To further drive the point home, it seems that the RPF is calling in $9 million in debts from the Rwandan government itself.

Why is this happening? I suspect two reasons.
 - Rwanda's government is heavily dependent on foreign aid, which has comprised more than half its national budget in direct aid alone, in recent years. But, following the M23 scandal, many donor governments have shut off the spigot, including Britain,
 - In order to weather the coming storm, the RPF may be saving up a "war chest," for maintaining both political allegiances, as well as covering military contingencies.

Jennifer Cooke of the CSIS identifies two potential future narratives for Rwanda, one of rapid development, and another of spiralling political repression, resentment, and alienation of government from population.

Viewing events within this framework, the liquidation of RPF holdings and the OECD's move away from direct aid to Rwanda's government budget can be interpreted in two ways.  Pessimistically and cynically, one could say the RPF is selling its country short, selling off in-country resources to external accounts in a move of calculated capital flight in an environment of declining FDI.  More optimistically, one might say the ruling party is privatizing industries to spur growth.  As usual, both are probably true.

Update:  Now this is called raking in the cash! Hope the big push works.

"Rwanda plans to use half the proceeds from the issue to repay outstanding loans on the Kigali Convention Centre and on a development plan for the national airline, RwandAir.
The remaining funds will be used to pay for the completion of the convention centre and to finance a hydro power project."

Lack of Information about effects of Marijuana?

Article: "Study reveals Colorado family physicians' views on Medical Marijuana."
Incredible that doctors feel like they know so much more about all the other psychoactives than about marijuana, given that marijuana has such a long history of use and ab-use. Eureka!  America needs... marijuana drug reps "empowered" to take our shrinks out to five-star steak dinners to educate them!

Steak with salad on the side?

Marijuana not to "flow across state lines"

Feb 19, 2013: Colorado marijuana regulators sign off on pot tourism Link to story
"Marijuana purchased in Colorado must stay in Colorado," Pabon warned.
"We could attract greater federal scrutiny and displeasure of our neighbors," if marijuana flows across state lines, he said.
(Rep. Dan Pabon is a Denver Democrat who sits on the Colorado marijuana task force.) 
As Colorado's state lines are rather porous, I would hope that marijuana will flow across state lines.  Someone had better do a pot price study to see how much Colorado's reforms depress the black market price of weed in SLC, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Cheyenne, etc.

It could be better than many other Regression Discontinuity empirical designs, as you have the WA reform also.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gorilla park to oilfield...

Hark all ye Westerners! If you don't prioritize human rights, then your much-adored gorillas will suffer!


Oil firms in the Congo are prospecting the Virunga National Forest. Bad idea. Too bad the regional violence prevents the local tourism industry from being a more weighty domestic stakeholder.

(Linked article is in French. Paste the link into

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Radio-Trottoir: North Kivu: DRC-government fueled merry-go-round

DRC national army FARDC refusing to hold North Kivu towns and relinquishing them to rebel M23, even when M23 withdrew due to internal power struggles...
Steven Bhardwaj
[Sent from my Blackberry]

Monday, February 25, 2013

Support FASTR!!

Here is a re-posted explanatory article by Peter Suber, a top Open Access guru. EN-JOY!
And, TAKE ACTION via this super convenient link! 

Second shoe drops: new White House Directive mandates OA

The Obama White House today directed federal agencies to develop open-access policies within the next six months. The directive comes from John Holdren, President Obama's chief Science Advisor. (See previous facebook post for links to directive.)

This is big. It's big in its own right, and even bigger when put together with FASTR <>, the bipartisan OA bill introduced into both houses of Congress just eight days ago. We now have OA mandates coming from both the executive and legislative branches of government.

The two approaches complement one another. FASTR does not make the White House directive unnecessary. FASTR may never be adopted. And if it is adopted, it will be after some time for study, education, lobbying, amendment, negotiation, and debate. By contrast, the White House directive takes effect today. The wheels are already turning. Compared to this executive action, FASTR is slower. (Thanks to Becky Cremona for this good line.)

Similarly, the White House directive does not make FASTR unnecessary. On the contrary, we need legislation to codify federal OA policies. The next president could rescind today's White House directive, but could not rescind legislation. (One lesson: Don't let up on efforts to persuade Congress to pass FASTR.)

The White House directive and FASTR pull in the same general direction, but they are not identical. Here are the key points of similarity and difference:

* Both ask a wide range of federal funding agencies to require OA for the results of the research they fund. But the new directive applies to more agencies. FASTR covers all the agencies spending at least $100 million/year funding extramural research. The directive covers all the agencies spending at least $100 million/year funding extramural research or development. FASTR applies to about 11 agencies and the directive to about 19. Among the agencies omitted by FASTR but covered by the directive are USAid and the Smithsonian Institution.

* Both put a limit on permissible embargoes, but the directive allows longer embargoes. FASTR caps embargos at six months, and the directive caps them at 12 months. Under the directive, agencies may ask White House permission to allow even longer embargoes, but they must submit data to support their requests.

* Both ask agencies to develop their own policies within certain guidelines. FASTER gives them a year to do so (starting when FASTR is adopted) and the directive gives them half a year to do so (starting today).

If FASTR is eventually adopted, then all the FASTR-covered agencies will already have OA policies under today's directive. Some agencies may have to revise their policies to comply with FASTR guidelines, for example, reducing permissible embargoes to a maximum of six months or tweaking their libre or open-licensing requirements.

* FASTR is silent on data, but the White House directive requires OA for articles (Section 3) and OA for data (Section 4).

* Both FASTR and the directive are solid green mandates, requiring deposit in an OA repository (green OA) and remaining silent about publishing in OA journals (gold OA). In that sense, both initiatives build on the successful green OA mandate at the NIH, and reject the gold-favoring approach adopted by the Research Councils UK.

* Both FASTR and the directive require agency policies to permit libre OA or to license repository deposits for reuse. They use different language to describe the desired type of freedom, and do not specify individual licenses.


The Obama White House has twice collected public comments on federal OA policy. One public consultation ended in January 2010 and the other ended in January 2012. The new directive builds on those comments, which overwhelmingly supported OA. Here are the two sets of comments received.

The White House was also pressured by a May 2012 "We the people" petition that only needed 25k signatures in the first 30 days to elicit an official response. It received that many in 14 days, and today has 65,700+ signatures. While we reached the response threshold eight months ago, I think it's fair to say that today's response is what we were waiting for.

Today's directive is accompanied by a separate, direct response to the petition.

This is another in a series of blog posts on FASTR and other federal actions to support OA to federally-funded research. I'll pull the series of posts together for an article in the March issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Senators on VAWA

Dear Senator (Gillibrand / Schumer),

Thank you for supporting VAWA.  Native communities around the nation deserve this, among many other rights they are not allowed now.  But this is a step in the right directions.

-Steven Bhardwaj


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Letter to Senators on Gun Control

Feb 2, 2013
Dear Senator (Gillibrand and Schumer)

Thank you for cosponsoring S.150.

The gun law status quo in the USA features a broad interpretation of the 2nd amendment.  This allows private individuals in my country to legally carry far more loaded firearms than in any other country. This creates terrible problems in our modern world, including school shootings, organized crime, and the burgeoning prison population.

The only two relevant justifications for this broad interpretation of the 2nd amendment are entirely, obscenely obsolete today.  These are:

1. Insurrectionism.
2. Suppression of slave revolts.

The gun manufacturing lobby plays on the unfortunate fetishes of assault weapons owners to maintain this status quo.

Thanks for cosponsoring this bill.  It's one small step toward a better policy, but extremely important.

Key citations:
Bogus, Carl T. "The Hidden History of the 2nd Amendment."
Bogus, Carl T. "Heller and Insurrectionism"
Wikipedia. "2nd Amendment"

Steven Bhardwaj

Note: Carl T. Bogus is a real historian, despite the unfortunate name!  What's more, his papers are Open Access, which allowed me to read them, appreciate them, and cite them here!

Regarding the strikethrough passage above, I remembered that I'm becoming an economist now, so I have to be chary with my words.  After finishing and sending the FCNL form to the senators, I did a little internet searching. I found that recent growth in the prison population is more directly driven by mandatory sentencing and related policies, so I redacted the email as posted here.  I decided not to research any organized crime link, as the mass killings and the general murder rates are bad enough.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Open Access Candy

Open Access Candy in DevEC 722, 1/31/2013:

Even candy can be a public good... if there's enough of it!

Steven Bhardwaj
(646) 430-1585

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Academic Spring

Just created an Academic Spring group on Facebook.

I posted a dozen links and other information on the Facebook page about academic open-access journals, Aaron Swartz, and Tim Gowers, etc.  This video below is a real tear-jerker.

Watch live streaming video from democracynow at

For a introduction to salient aspects of the issue, see the following articles:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Foreign Aid to Rwanda, up to 2010

Incredible self-explanatory chart...

Search Keywords:  Net ODA, Rwanda Aid, USA Aid to Rwanda, Foreign Aid.