Halterman, Andrew. 2017. Mordecai: Full Text Geoparsing and Event Geocoding. Journal of Statistical Software.

Mordecai is a new full-text geoparsing system that extracts place names from text, resolves them to their correct entries in a gazetteer, and returns structured geographic information for the resolved place name. Geoparsing can be used in a number of tasks, including media monitoring, improved information extraction, document annotation for search, and geolocating text-derived event data, which is the task for which is was built. Mordecai was created to provide provide several features missing in existing geoparsers, including better handling of non-US place names, easy and portable setup and use though a Docker REST architecture, and easy customization with Python and swappable named entity recognition systems. Mordecai’s key technical innovations are in a language-agnostic architecture that uses word2vec (Mikolov et al. 2013) for inferring the correct country for a set of locations in a piece of text and easily changed named entity recognition models. As a gazetteer, it uses Geonames (Geonames 2016) in a custom-build Elasticsearch database.

Tao, Ran, Daniel Strandow, Michael Findley, Jean-Claude Thill, and James Igoe Walsh. 2016. A Hybrid Approach to Modeling Territorial Control in Violent Armed Conflicts. Transactions in GIS 20:3, 413-425.

Territorial control is central to the understanding of violent armed conflicts, yet reliable and valid measures of this concept do not exist. We argue that geospatial analysis provides an important perspective to measure the concept. In particular, measuring territorial control can be seen as an application of calculating service areas around points of control. The modeling challenge is acute for areas with limited road infrastructure, where no complete network is available to perform the analysis, and movements largely occur off road. We present a new geospatial approach that applies network analysis on a hybrid transportation network with both actual road data and hexagon-fishnet-based artificial road data representing on-road and off-road movements, respectively. Movement speed or restriction can be readily adjusted using various input data. Simulating off-road movement with hexagon-fishnet-based artificial road data has a number of advantages including scalability to small or large study areas and flexibility to allow all-directional travel. We apply this method to measuring territorial control of armed groups in Sub-Saharan Africa where inferior transport infrastructure is the norm. Based on the Uppsala Conflict Data Program’s (UCDP) Georeferenced Event Data (GED) as well as spatial data on terrain, population locations, and limited transportation networks, we enhance the delineation of the specific areas directly controlled by each warring party during civil wars within a given travel time.

Victor Asal, Michael Findley, James A. Piazza, and James Igoe Walsh. Forthcoming. Political Exclusion, Oil, and Ethnic Armed Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Why do members of some ethnic groups rebel against the state? One approach holds that groups subject to exclusion from national politics engage in armed conflict. We theorize that the presence of resource wealth moderates the effect of political exclusion. Ethnic groups subject to exclusion whose settlement area includes oil wealth are more likely to experience the onset of armed conflict than groups experiencing exclusion alone. We depart from the convention of cross-national analysis to examine subnational, geocoded units of analysis—ethnic group settlement areas—to better capture the impact of natural resource distribution. Using data on ethnic group political exclusion derived from the Ethnic Power Relations database and geo-coded indicators, we conduct a series of logistic regression analyses for the years 1946 to 2005. We find that exclusion alone increase the likelihood of conflict, while the presence of oil wealth further raises the risk of war.

Piazza, James A. Forthcoming. Oil and Terrorism: An Investigation of Mediators. Public Choice.

Do states with oil wealth experience more terrorism and, if so, why? Drawing from the intrastate war literature, this study considers several factors that prospectively mediate the relationship between oil wealth and terrorism: state weakness; rentier state authoritarianism; corruption of government officials; income inequality; human rights violations; foreign military intervention; and heightened separatist activity. Based on structural equation modeling on a sample of 130 non-OECD countries for the period 1970–2012, the paper produces two main empirical findings. First, while onshore oil production increases terrorist attacks in countries, on- and offshore production and oil revenues from exports do not increase such attacks. Second, the impact of oil on terrorism is mediated through increased human rights abuses. Exploitation of oil is found to be associated with a worsening of physical integrity rights abuses that, in turn, lead to popular grievances that help to fuel terrorist campaigns.

Findley, Michael G., and Josiah F. Marineau. 2015. Lootable Resources and Third-Party Intervention into Civil Wars. Conflict Management and Peace Science 32:5, 465-486.

Third parties intervene in ongoing civil wars frequently and at times with nefarious intentions. In this paper, we consider the possibility that lootable natural resources motivate third parties to intervene in wars on the side of the opposition. Such resources offer a host of benefits to the intervener, including resource extraction and greater likelihood of rebel success. When rebels have access to lootable resources, we hypothesize that third parties will be more likely to intervene on the side of the rebels and simultaneously less likely to intervene on behalf of the government. Rare-events logit and split population (mixture-cure) survival models, in conjunction with close attention to the mechanisms found in individual cases, offer support for the theoretical argument. This paper advances our understanding of the motivations for intervention into civil war by highlighting the largely neglected role of economic factors in motivating opposition-biased interventions. It further adds insights into the role of natural resources in civil wars by shifting emphasis away from domestic combatants towards the motives of outside states.

Piazza, James A. 2012. The Opium Trade and Patterns of Terrorism in the Provinces of Afghanistan: An Empirical AnalysisTerrorism and Political Violence 24:2, 213-234.

Contemporary terrorist movements in Afghanistan are frequently alleged to be fueled, in part, by the country’s voluminous opium trade. Experts argue that terrorist groups currently active in Afghanistan, like the Afghan Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizbul Islami, and various al-Qaeda affiliates, use drug tradeprofits to recruit and pay cadres, acquire weapons and equipment, and bribe officials while becoming more powerful, and deadly, in the process. This study empirically examines the relationship between the opium trade and terrorism in Afghanistan by conducting a series of negative binomial regression estimations on terrorist attacks and casualties in the 34 Afghan provinces for the period 1996 to 2008. The analysis also considers various economic development, infrastructure, geographic, security, and cultural factors when examining causes of terrorism in the provinces. The study determines that, across all model specifications, provinces that produce more opium feature higher levels of terrorist attacks and casualties due to
terrorism, and that opium production is a more robust predictor of terrorism than nearly all other province features. Furthermore, tests indicate that the direction of causation runs from opium production to higher rates of terrorism, not otherwise. The study concludes with a brief discussion of the policy implications of the findings.

Piazza, James A. 2011. Illicit Drugs, Counternarcotics and TerrorismPublic Choice 149(3-4), 297-314.

Abstract Conventional wisdom indicates that international trade in illicit drugs helps to fuel terrorism. Since 2001, counter-narcotics policy increasingly has been used to fight terrorism. This study investigates empirically the relationship between the drug trade and terrorism and examines whether or not interdiction and eradication efforts reduce domestic and transnational terrorist activity. The study finds that illicit drug production and opiate and cocaine wholesale prices are significant positive predictors of transnational and domestic terrorist attacks, while drug crop eradication and drug interdiction are significant negative predictors of terrorism. The study concludes with the policy implications of the findings.