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January 2014 - Volume 20, Number 1


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What’s New at PII?
Research Analyst Thornton Changes Locales


Research Analyst Deborah D. Thornton, who has researched and written for PII for the past six years, is now working from Monrovia, Liberia, after moving there with her husband, Edgar Thornton, and their children. Mr. Thornton accepted a Foreign Service Officer position in Liberia with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) last August, and the family joined him in December.


Liberia, a country of about 3.5 million people, is the size of Louisiana, at 43,000 square miles. It was founded in 1822 by the American Colonization Society, who wanted to return freed slaves to Africa, and was encouraged by President James Monroe. Hence the name of the capital city, Monrovia, and Liberia for liberty.


Independence came in 1847 and Liberia was considered a success story of democracy. A military coup in 1980, followed by civil wars – ending only in 2003, with the arrest of Charles Taylor – changed this path. Over 200,000 people were killed, and virtually all infrastructure was destroyed during the fighting.


The country is now considered one of the ten poorest in the world, with average annual incomes of less than $500 U.S. dollars.


There are only 400 miles of paved roads in Liberia, including those in the capital – the equivalent of two round-trips from Iowa City to Des Moines. The May to September rainy season means many parts of the country are inaccessible much of the year.


Even in Monrovia electricity is still a problem, as is running water. Generators provide most of the electricity, and people must carry water.


The people speak English and are mostly Christian, but many are illiterate, as the schools were destroyed during the wars.


There is extensive tropical rain forest (six degrees north latitude), and timber is one of the exports. Major industries also include rubber and mining.


The Thorntons will be based in Liberia until August 2015.


Deborah will continue writing BRIEFS and POLICY STUDIES and editing FACTS & OPINIONS and the IOWA ECONOMIC SCORECARD from Monrovia.


She can be reached at and is posting photos and commentary on their experiences on Facebook, under her name. Deborah will be back in Iowa City in May 2014 and will present on their experiences in Liberia at that time.


FACTS & OPINIONS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in January, April, July, and October. It consists of short articles of public interest with an emphasis on current issues.


FACTS & OPINIONS is published by Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, research and educational institute, whose activities are supported by contributions from private individuals, corporations, companies, and foundations. The Institute does not accept government grants.


Contributions are tax-deductible under sections 501(c)(3) and 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used: "Reprinted by permission from FACTS & OPINIONS, a quarterly newsletter of Public Interest
Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute.


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