Barany, Zoltan. 2016. How Armies Respond to Revolutions and Why. Princeton: Princeton University Press (248 pages, £24.95 cloth, ISBN: 9780691157368).
Grawert, Elke and Zeinab Abul-Magd. 2016. Businessmen in Arms: How the Military and Other Armed Groups Profit in the MENA Region. New York: Rowman and Littlefield (334 pages, £54.95, ISBN: 9781442254558).
Albrecht, Holger. 2016. Raging Against the Machine: Political Opposition Under Authoritarianism in Egypt. Syracuse University Press (248 pages, £32.34 cloth, ISBN: 9780815633204).
Recent scholarship finds that new democracies are more likely than established democracies to make binding commitments to international human rights institutions. Are new democracies also better at following through on these commitments? Stated differently, does their greater willingness to join international institutions reflect a genuine commitment to human rights reform or is it just “cheap talk?” We analyze this question using a new data set of more than 1,000 leading European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) cases. Since new democracies face judgments that are more difficult to implement than established democracies, we employ a genetic matching algorithm to balance the data set. After controlling for bureaucratic and judicial capacity, we find that new democracies do implement similar ECtHR judgments initially more quickly than established democracies, but this effect reverses the longer a judgment remains pending. Although new democracies have incentives to implement judgments quickly, they sometimes lack checks and balances that help ensure implementation should an executive resist.
Modern cities almost exclusively rely on the import of resources to meet their daily basic needs. Food and other essential materials and goods are transported from long distances, often across continents, which results in the emission of harmful greenhouse gases. As more people now live in cities than rural areas and all future population growth is expected to occur in cities, the potential for local self-reliance in food for a typical post-industrial North American city was determined. Given current policies and bylaws and available area, crop yields, and human intake, three distinct scenarios were developed to determine the potential level of food self-reliance for the City of Cleveland, which has been plagued with home foreclosures and resulting vacant land, lack of access to healthy food, hunger, and obesity particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Scenario I, which utilizes 80% of every vacant lot, can generate between 22% and 48% of Cleveland’s demand for fresh produce (vegetables and fruits) depending on the vegetable production practice used (conventional gardening, intensive gardening, or hydroponics), 25% of both poultry and shell eggs, and 100% of honey. Scenario II, which uses 80% of every vacant lot and 9% of every occupied residential lot, can generate between 31% and 68% of the needed fresh produce, 94% of both poultry and shell eggs, and 100% of honey. Finally, scenario III, which adds 62% of every industrial and commercial rooftop in addition to the land area used in scenario II, can meet between 46% and 100% of Cleveland’s fresh produce need, and 94% of poultry and shell eggs and 100% of honey. The three scenarios can attain overall levels of self-reliance between 4.2% and 17.7% by weight and 1.8% and 7.3% by expenditure in total food and beverage consumption, compared to the current level of 0.1% self-reliance in total food and beverage by expenditure. The analysis also reveals that the enhanced food self-reliance would result in $29 M to $115 M being retained in Cleveland annually depending upon the scenario employed. This study provides support to the hypothesis that significant levels of local self-reliance in food, the most basic need, is possible in post-industrial North American cities. It is concluded that while high levels of local self-reliance would require an active role of city governments and planners, public commitment, financial investment, and labor, the benefits to human health, the local and global environment, and the local economy and community may outweigh the cost.
In the midst of the current economic crisis, there is renewed interest in transforming vacant lots into food-producing gardens. This study analyzed whether vacant lots are suitable for food production, by comparing the soil nematode food webs and nutrient pools of vacant lots and community gardens in two post-industrial U.S. cities, Akron and Cleveland, Ohio. Twelve vacant lots and 12 community gardens were examined in the two cities. All six Akron community gardens were established just prior to the initiation of this study, whereas the six in Cleveland were 15–30 years old. Soil pH, texture, moisture, organic matter, mineral nitrogen content, microbial biomass, and nematode communities were measured in both cities. Soil decomposition rate was also measured in Cleveland. Results show that the soils of vacant lots surpassed those of the newly-established Akron gardens and were equal to the soils of the well-established Cleveland gardens in the amount of ammonium-nitrogen, total nematode population, genus diversity, and maturity and structure indices. The soils of the vacant lots were lower than the community gardens in the amounts of soil moisture, organic matter, and nitrate-nitrogen, which we associate with the addition of water, compost, fertilizer, and tilling in the gardens. No significant difference was found between community gardens and vacant lots in microbial biomass, decomposition rate, or nematode enrichment index, which seems to indicate that vacant lots are equal to community gardens in nutrient availability and nutrient cycling. We conclude that barring any contamination, the soil in vacant lots maybe suitable for the establishment of food gardens, which can provide many desirable ecosystem services and enhance human well-being. We also find that the disturbance associated with tillage and conversion of a vacant lot into a community garden has short-term ramifications for both nematode food webs and mineral-nitrogen content.