From The Monkey Cage: Google’s New Data Search Tool

Google’s New Data Search Tool

With every passing month, access to social science data becomes easier.

Check out the launch of Google’s new data search tool here.

The Monkey Cage: Google’s New Data Search Tool.

See Here:

We just launched a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data. So for example, when comparing Santa Clara county data to the national unemployment rate, it becomes clear not only that Santa Clara’s peak during 2002-2003 was really dramatic, but also that the recent increase is a bit more drastic than the national rate:

If you go to and type in [unemployment rate] or [population] followed by a U.S. state or county, you will see the most recent estimates:

Once you click the link, you’ll go to an interactive chart that lets you add and remove data for different geographical areas.

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New Ghana Film: Picture Perfect

I’m not usually one for romantic films, but the good reviews make this sound interesting. Hope it makes it to the theaters over here! Thanks to Abena Osseo-Asare, a Berkeley colleague, for sharing this on Facebook!

clipped from

Movie Review: The Perfect Picture

Posted on 19. Apr, 2009 by Oluniyi David Ajao in Ghana, Personal Diary, Showbiz

I had the privilege of watching the latest & hottest Ghanaian movie in town yesterday afternoon at Silverbird Cinema in Accra. Several hours later, I am still catching my breath. The first time I read about this movie via a friend on Facebook, I wondered to myself: “What audacity? How could anyone risk titling a movie THE PERFECT PICTURE?” The producers of the movie by using a title like that are opening their work to a thorough scrutiny from the public and would receive heavy criticism should the movie contain the slightest shade of mediocrity.

A snapshot of The Perfect Picture website

A snapshot of The Perfect Picture website

I had high expectations before watching the movie. Why? There was a special website for the movie: Now, this is uncommon in Africa, and very rare in Ghana.

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Easterly in Ghana

Bill Easterly has been spending some time in Ghana.  In one post on his blog he extolls the virtues of the private sector at keeping lavatories clean. (However, Easterly does seem to fine some signs that aid can work in his visit to a Hunger Project site.) Apparently, a private firm — that also sells cleaning products — has taken on bathroom cleaning contracts in restaurants.  Easterly doesn’t seem to think much of the restaurant he was at. But I do hope he finds some great Ghanaian food.  If he has questions about what can be great, I suggest he take a look at Fran Osseo-Asare’s BetumiBlog.

News and Comment: Paris, China, Kabila, Zuma, and ECOWAS.

The BBC reports that the liberation of Paris in 1944 was carefully orchestrated to be “whites only”.  Apparently, this was an American idea. So when De Gaulle wanted to have a French division lead the liberation, he had to remove the West African soldiers (which reportedly formed 65% of Free French Forces) from the division and even had to rely on some Spanish soldiers to have adequate numbers.

China is reducing its investments in Africa, the New York Times reported last week.  But this news should not be exaggerated.  Deals are still being made and it is unlikely that China will withdraw that much from Africa. Among other activities during the last couple of weeks, Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE increased its ties with Ghana, Nigeria and China signed a pact for cooperation with satellites, brought a trade delegation to Cote d’Ivoire, and promised to build a malaria research center in Cameroon. So, while it is true that China–like just about everywhere else in the world–may be reducing its demand for certain African commodities, it is not at all the case that China will withdraw.

The New York Times also published an interesting portrait of DRC President Joseph Kabila. There was a time when people hoped that his Western-educated background would allow for new and enlightened rule of the DRC. Unfortunately, the DRC remains as troubled as ever.

South African prosecutors have apparently dropped charges against Jacob Zuma.  This should strengthen his hand considerably in the upcoming election. It may also help him if other parties are being intimidated from participating, as the BBC reports.

One random piece of news: Apparently there was a bomb threat at the Italian embassy in Ghana. I would be interested to know more about this if anyone has a clear idea.

And finally, ECOWAS proves it is still alive and attempts to insert its voice in the on-going crisis in Guinea Bissau (BBC: Guinea-Bissau army ‘beats ex-PM’; Reuters: UN urges international help for Guinea-Bissau polls) . ECOWAS has issued a statement expressing its concern about human rights violations there.

News and Comment: the G20 and Africa Part 2

The G20 has a lot of issues on its plate and at the top of the list, obviously, is the on-going financial crisis.  I have already commented on the problems African countries face in getting their voices heard. On that point, Africa may have an ally in Pope Benedict who, recently returned from his Africa travels, noted the problems of adequate representation from those “who suffer most from the harmful effects of a crisis for which they do not bear responsibility”. The Pope suggests states rely on the UN and associated institutions. Jeffrey Sachs has also jumped on this bandwagon, noting that while South Africa will be present “South Africa by itself represents South Africa”.  And we all know that South Africa is not a “typical” African country (if there is such a thing).

On the point of South Africa, it might be useful to remember that President Motlanthe himself may not be in the strongest position to represent his country’s interests, given all the recent upheaval within the South African political system and the temporary nature of his position as President.

NGOs, such as Oxfam, are trying to use their influence to encourage the G20 to commit to aiding Africa as it deals with the crisis. Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam, highlights their main requests of the G20 in a recent blog post. He comments as well on a leaked copy of a G20 communique, obtained by the Financial Times.  Indeed, the way these conferences usually go, it is likely that at least some of the major decisions have already been negotiated ahead of time. Which leaves one to wonder whether adding an African voice at this point could make a difference.

The World Bank has published figures (reported on BBC News) that somewhat echo the gloomy global economic forecasts of the IMF and OECD.

The forecast predicts that developing countries will need $1.3tn in external financing to repay debt and cover balance of payments problems, and may fall short.

The idea that African countries, in particular, could be major losers in this crisis has been underscored by a number of analysts and commentators including Egypt’s finance minister, Oxfam’s Duncan Green (commenting on the case of Zambia), and Kofi Anan (who argues that the crisis “hits Africa twice”).

Other G20 news:

Apparently, protestors see the G20 meeting as an opportunity to demonstrate their unhappiness with a wide range of global issues, from the financial crisis to the “siege of Gaza” to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  While I understand their frustrations with global leadership on these matters, I don’t think it helps their cause to get into fights with the British police.  Apparently, these frustrations are being vented worldwide.

China is trying to exhibit its leadership potential as well.  This has included lobbying for a new “super-sovereign reserve currency to replace the U.S. dollar”, the provision of advice to rich countries, and lobbying to stop states from moving towards trade and investment protectionism.

The Chinese are not the only ones worried about protectionism. Pascal Lamy, head of the WTO, has warned that moves towards protectionism may further impact the already troubled Doha round of trade negotiations.