In this image, snapped from the International Space Station on Jan. 30, 2014, while South Korea (lower right) and China (upper left) are aglow in lights, poverty-stricken North Korea is really in the dark.
Political favoritism can quite literally be seen from space, according to a new study that finds the home regions of leaders become brighter at night after the person comes to power.
The findings apply mostly to countries with weak political institutions and limited public education. One prominent example was Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) during the reign of Mobuto Sese Seko. Mobuto, who was president between 1971 and 1997, was born near the small town of Gbadolite.
While he was in power, the town flourished.
"Mobuto built a huge palace complex costing millions of dollars, luxury guesthouses, an airport capable of handling Concords, and had the country's best supply of water, electricity and medical services," study researcher Paul Raschky, an economist at Monash University in Australia, said in a statement. Years of satellite data reveal Gbadolite as initially dark at night, brightening under Mobuto and quickly fading again after the authoritarian ruler's exile and death.
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