Category Archives: Reports & Working Papers

Life Imitates Art?

I made the mistake of going to my local multiplex last weekend to see "Olympus Has Fallen" — a mistake not just because it wasn't a very good movie, but because now I get all confused when I read the New York Times. The Times seems to have taken a plot point from "Olympus" — North Korea makes a move to destroy the United States with nuclear missiles — and incorporated it into serious news stories. Or are these stories just cleverly written reviews/propaganda pieces for the movie, dumped on the front page, disguised as news? Like I said, I'm confused.

Luckily, the Columbia University Libraries provides me with many resources to help me verify the film/news story conundrum. First, I need some background information, as I'm not as familiar with Korean politics as I should be. The Library of Congress has a great resource for this purpose, North Korea: a Country Study. The Library of Congress also has a component, the Congressional Research Service, which acts as a reference librarian for Congress and issues reports on topics requested by Congress. Ordinarily, these reports are not available to the public, but the Libraries subscribes to a module of ProQuest Congressional, which gives us access to these valuable reports. A search of CRS reports for "North Korea" retrieves 499 reports, but since the database goes back to 1916 I will just sort by date and look at the most recent ones, with titles like North Korea's Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues; North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation; and Foreign Assistance to North Korea. Finally, I do a search on CIAO: Columbia International Affairs Online, to find any research reports written by research institutes and NGOs.

Thanks to these databases, I have achieved clarity on this issue. Now, when did Morgan Freeman become Speaker of the House of Representatives??

The Crowded Satellite Orbits

Go outside the city on a clear night, away from the artificial lights, and look up into the skies. What do you see? Are all of those millions of points of lights stars? Some of them may be reflected light from orbiting satellites. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists Satellite Database, there are currently 1016 operating satellites orbiting the earth: civil, commercial, government and military. But there are an additional 22,000 items of "space junk" large enough to be tracked by NASA and an estimated tens of millions of smaller particles of space debris. The space junk poses significant problems for operational satellites and the International Space Station, as detailed in a report issued in 2001 by the National Research Council, Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft: An Assessment of NASA's Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs.

Space junk is not the only problem facing the U.S. satellite program. Two satellite acquisition programs within the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) programs, are meant to replace current operational satellites, and both are considered critical to the United States’ ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather forecasting. Both programs have been the focus of criticism, including several reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), on June 15, 2012, June 16, 2012, and June 27, 2012. The data obtained by these satellite programs is crucial for weather forecasting, which promises to be as turbulent in the future as it has this year.

The U.S. military satellite program, although highly classified, is also threatened by space debris. The National Security Space Strategy recognizes all of these issues and makes recommendations to "inform future planning, programming, acquisition, operations and analysis guidance." Look up!

Country Reports on Terrorism

The U.S. Department of State has just released the 2011 edition of the Country Reports on Terrorism. U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to provide Congress, by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to those countries and groups meeting criteria set forth in the legislation.The 2011 report is the latest in a series which began in 1994.

National Technical Reports Library

The National Technical Reports Library (NTRL) is a large (2.2 million titles and counting) repository of U.S. government-sponsored technical reports and research. In a sense, it complements the GPO depository library collections, which focus more on policy documents. NTRL subject categories include anyting that can be broadly considered "technical," including agriculture and food, building industry technology, business and economics, communications, health care, military sciences, photography and many others. NTRL is provided by the National Technical Information Service, which also issues a monthly newsletter highlighting new release in the NTRL.

New FAO Publication


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has issued a new publication, The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture. The new publication, scheduled to be updated annually, analyses a variety of options for overcoming constraints and improving resource management for agricultural production systems which are at heightened risk across the world. SOLAW complements other "State of the World" reports published regularly by FAO, and is intended to inform public debate and policy-making at national and international levels.



Corruption — Is It Inevitable?

The World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have just issued a new report, The Puppet Masters: How the Corrupt Use Legal Structures to Hide Stolen Assets and What to Do About It, which examines the corporate and financial structures that form the building blocks of hidden money trails. Corruption is estimated to be at least a $40 billion dollar a year business!

Transparency International(TI) defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks countries according to the perception of corruption in the public sector. The CPI is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries. The Global Corruption Barometer is a survey that assesses general public attitudes toward, and experience of, corruption in dozens of countries around the world.

In 2010, which country ranked as the least corrupt? New Zealand. Which ranked as the most corrupt? Look at the data and find out.


Homeland Security Digital Library and 9/11


As we approach the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, you may want to find research materials related to the attack or to homeland security in general. One excellent source is the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL), which is maintained by the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. The HSDL contains over 92,700 documents related to homeland security policy, strategy, and organizational management from a wide variety of sources including federal, state and local governments; international governments and institutions; nonprofit organizations and private entities. It currently features a number of items commemorating 9/11 as well as key policy and strategy documents, including national strategy documents, presidential directives, key legislation, executive orders and Congressional Research Service reports.


Country Reports on Terrorism 2010


Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 is an annual Congressionally mandated report that provides an assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that transpired from January 1 to December 31, 2010. Besides filling a Congressional requirement, this publication aims to enhance the public’s understanding of the international terrorist threat. The report focuses on policy-related assessments, country-by-country breakdowns of foreign government counterterrorism cooperation, and contains chapters on WMD terrorism, State Sponsors of Terrorism, Terrorist Safe Havens, and Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

The report also includes a statistical annex prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center. The statistics show more than 11,500 terrorist attacks occurred in 72 countries during 2010, resulting in more than 13,200 deaths. Although the number of attacks rose by almost 5 percent from the previous year, the number of deaths declined for a third consecutive year, dropping 12 percent from 2009. For the second consecutive year, the largest number of reported attacks occurred in South Asia and the Near East, with more than 75 percent of the world’s attacks and deaths occurring in these regions.

 This annual report is entitled Country Reports on Terrorism. Beginning with the report for 2004, it replaced the previously published Patterns of Global Terrorism. The 2010 report was released on August 18, 2011.


Turbulence in the Middle East

 The wave of popular uprisings across the Middle East is widely reported in the news media. But what other sources of information are available to provide background, context and analysis of these events? CIAO can be part of the answer.

Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) is the most comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. It publishes a wide range of scholarship from 1991 onward that includes working papers from university research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, proceedings from conferences, books, journals and policy briefs.