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The world has changed considerably since political leaders from the 44 Allied countries met in 1944 in Bretton Woods to create the institutional framework for the post-World War II economic and monetary order. What has not changed in the last 70 years is the need for strong multilateral institutions. Yet national political support for the Bretton Woods institutions seems to have reached an all-time low, undermining the global economy’s ability to meet its potential and contributing to geopolitical insecurity.
Capitalism is expanding like a tumor in the body of American society, spreading further into vital areas of human need like health and education. Not coincidentally, as inequality has surged since the 1980s, the number of administrators at private universities has doubled. Administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country. As with education, the extremes forced upon us by free-market health care are nearly beyond belief.
Important information relating to economics, health and other things can be extracted from big data given the right tools. But exactly how this should be done accurately and reliably is still the subject of significant debate. Government agencies, companies and almost anyone willing to play with the numbers will be able to extract significant value from search query data in future. But considerable care is needed. Many an economic hangover has been caused by over-indulgence in unreliable data.
A century has passed since the start of World War I, which many people at the time declared was “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, wars just kept happening. And with the headlines from Ukraine getting scarier by the day, this seems like a good time to ask why. One answer is that leaders may not understand the arithmetic. The larger problem, however, is that governments all too often gain politically from war, even if the war in question makes no sense in terms of national interests.
A bitter fight erupted when the School Nutrition Association decided to oppose nutrition improvements to federally subsidized school meals. Michelle Obama has made the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of her top causes. The result is an unfortunate standoff between the White House and the SNA’s current leadership. Why did the SNA reverse its earlier position supporting healthier school meals?
The theory of the six-year itch is well-known phenomenon: American presidents suffer all too often during their second terms from an onslaught of scandals that hobble their ability to act. if you accept the general proposition that scandals tend to pile up over time, that means you’re likely to have a fairly impotent president by year six. And maybe that means a single six-year term would be for the best. The problem with this is that there’s not much evidence for it.
For months, Christie Watch has chronicled Hillary Clinton’s hawkish, even neoconservative-influenced views on foreign policy. During her tenure as secretary of state, from the inside, she argued consistently—usually in alliance with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—for polices that were almost universally more hawkish than President Obama seemed to favor, sometimes succeeding in getting her way and sometimes not.
Making money from water? Is this what Wall Street wants next? Bottled mineral water have always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to the home. This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity. At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.
On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized limited air strikes on militants in Iraq to stop their advance toward Erbil, where a number of U.S. diplomats, civilians, and military personnel reside. He also promised to send aid to refugees fleeing the militants’ advance. Air strikes are undoubtedly necessary for the narrow purposes stipulated by Obama. But they will have a wide range of unintended consequences — some relatively manageable, others less so.
Bryan Jeffries, the chief of Arizona’s firefighters’ association, has been arguing to anyone who will listen that his members — and the state’s police officers, too — should volunteer to cut their own pension benefits. Cutting pensions for firefighters and police officers would help save their woefully underfunded retirement plan and bail out towns and cities that are struggling to keep up with their mandated contributions, he says.
Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.
Financial crises may seem a familiar part of the economic cycle, but they rarely repeat themselves exactly. Now, some worry that the next crisis could occur in the asset-management industry. The industry manages $87 trillion, making it three-quarters the size of banks. In January the Financial Stability Board (FSB) published a consultation paper which asked whether fund managers might need to be designated “systemically important financial institutions” or SIFIs, a step that would involve heavier regulation.
Physics provides the evolving core framework on which other fields of science are built. And now, science can go far beyond any previous expectation and extrapolation. In coming decades, everything will be susceptible to major revision as new cross-disciplines – and undisciplined threads of study – emerge. Quantum engineering teams are already springing up in academic and research institutes all around the world. The merging of computer science and engineering with neuroscience has already produced results that not long ago belonged only to science fiction.
Recent advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital. Some have argued that the current era of rapid technological progress serves labor, and some have argued that it serves capital. The real winners of the future will not be the providers of cheap labor or the owners of ordinary capital, both of whom will be increasingly squeezed by automation. Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models.
Hoping in part to expand U.S. business presence in African markets, the Obama administration is hosting a three-day summit this week attended by nearly 50 African heads of state, the first gathering of its kind. Fueled by the consumption demands of a growing young middle-class, the African private sector is, unevenly yet surely, on the rise. But although the United States is still the leader in foreign direct investment in African economies, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009.
Marijuana is far less harmful to human health than most other banned drugs and is less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco. That doesn’t mean marijuana is harmless; but, on balance, its downsides are not reasons to impose criminal penalties on its possession, particularly not in a society that permits nicotine use and celebrates drinking. Marijuana’s negative health effects are arguments for the same strong regulation that has been effective in curbing abuse of legal substances.
A few months ago, the international food manufacturing giant General Mills was branded a “clear laggard” by climate activists for not doing enough to cut its carbon footprint. Today, Oxfam International is claiming big victory: General Mills has released a new set of climate policies that Oxfam says makes it “the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions.”
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
A new Pew Research Center poll is the second in the past week to show a huge generational split on the current conflict in Gaza. Just because young Americans are more suspect of what Israel is doing today doesn’t mean they will be as suspect in a decade or two. Young people are paying the least attention to what’s happening in Gaza. And even as young Americans question Israel in this instance, they are still much more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others have used open sources – media reports, court affidavits, NGO reports and independent field investigations – to piece together a strike-by-strike picture of more than 450 strikes in the US’s covert campaigns, revealing at least 2,681 reported deaths, including 480 people or more who are described as civilians.
Putin has fanned the flames of war in Ukraine, first by invading and annexing the Crimean peninsula, and then by supporting Donetsk and Luhansk separatists by directly providing them with weapons and military advisers at worst, or, at best, letting Russian “war tourists” cross the Russian-Ukrainian border. While the Kremlin provoked the war in Ukraine, and threw fuel on the fire, the rest of the world gave Vladimir Putin very little reason to change his course of action.
Over the last decade, the United States has provided hundreds of thousands of small arms to the Afghan security forces. But the US and its Afghan counterparts are doing an inadequate job of tracking these weapons increasing the likelihood that they could wind up in the hands of the resurgent Taliban, which has recently made key military advances that are threatening Afghanistan’s fragile stability.
Predicting global surface temperature changes in the short-term is a challenge for climate models. Temperature changes over periods of a decade or two can be dominated by influences from ocean cycles like El Niño and La Niña. We can’t yet predict ahead of time how these cycles will change. A new paper led by James Risbey just out in Nature Climate Change takes a clever approach to evaluating how accurate climate model temperature predictions have been while getting around the noise caused by natural cycles.
As Germany basks in its World Cup victory, it’s easy to forget that one of the most telling geopolitical moments of the tournament came during the Germany-U.S. game. As American fans chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” the Germans countered with, “N-S-A! N-S-A! N-S-A!”. All the “friendly spying” scandals are just one piece of the puzzle. There are even deeper fissures causing a lot of the bad blood — and suggesting more of it to come.
Aid group Oxfam has called on other rich nations to follow the example of Germany, which has promised €750m ($1bn) for the UN’s fledgling Green Climate Fund. The announcement by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, where some 35 ministers from around the world are meeting to discuss international climate action, is the only large pledge of money for the Green Climate Fund so far.
Revelations about the scope of American electronic surveillance efforts have generated headlines around the world over the past year. And a new Pew Research Center survey finds widespread global opposition to U.S. eavesdropping and a decline in the view that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its people. But in most countries there is little evidence this opposition has severely harmed America’s overall image.
Climate change poses a significant risk to national security. The U.S. has multiple tools at its disposal to mitigate the impacts of energy supply disruptions, help countries enhance their own energy security and mitigate global climate change. We will need to use all the tools in our tool kit to meet the energy and security challenges we face today. Congress can support the State Department’s role in energy diplomacy, expand our technical assistance programs, and consider energy exports in advancing energy security and promoting lower carbon fuels.
The net result of sub-national regulatory action, the Great Recession, and the widespread substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity generation is that US greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 10 percent between 2005 and 2012. But we must enact policies to maintain this progress, even if market forces change. The goals of Sophisticated Interdependence are to light that path domestically and to emphasize the importance of connecting with our global colleagues along the way.
Foreign policy is like gardening, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, more than once remarked. And it begins, he pointed out, by making sure that relations with America’s neighbors, key allies, and friends remain regularly and well-tended. It is an axiom of foreign policy that the Obama administration is ignoring to its own detriment. U.S. relations with Germany – Europe’s economic and political juggernaut – have sunk to an all-time low. The health of U.S. relations with key allies is not much better across the Pacific.
Most Americans don’t think of their government as particularly successful. Some of this mistrust reflects a healthy skepticism that Americans have always had toward centralized authority. But much of the mistrust really does reflect the federal government’s frequent failures. And yet there is some good news in this area, too – a flowering of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
In today’s established and emerging democracies, few people regard government as precious. This cynicism has become commonplace and yet it is actually rather odd. It assumes that the public sector will remain immune from the technological advances and forces of globalization that have ripped apart the private sector. It also ignores the lessons of history: government has changed dramatically over the past few centuries, usually because committed people possessed by big ideas have worked hard to change it.
On July 10, the German government demanded the immediate departure of the head of the CIA mission in Berlin. Such demands are not unusual, even between ostensible allies. What is unusual is that it was publicly announced and with much fanfare. What accounts for what some are already calling an unprecedented breach in relations between the US and Germany? The problem is structural and is not due to the passing mistakes and stupidity of those in power in the United States.
Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren got a rock-star reception during a standing-room-only campaign rally in West Virginia, as hundreds of liberal activists cheered her broadsides against corporate interests. It was the latest in a string of recent Warren appearances where Democratic base voters have embraced her fiery message as an envoy to working-class voters frustrated with both Wall Street and the Obama administration.
In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?
Around the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade. For bees and the plants they pollinate this is a catastrophe. But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.
Welcome to the Everything Boom and, quite possibly, the Everything Bubble. Around the world, nearly every asset class is expensive by historical standards. The big question for the global economy is what happens next. In the most pleasant outcome, global economic growth would pick up, causing today’s expensive assets to begin looking more reasonably priced. But other outcomes are also possible, including busts in one or more markets that could create a new wave of economic ripples in a world economy still not fully recovered from the last crisis.
There are two leading views about the world’s financial system. The first, heard mostly from executives at leading global banks and their allies, is that the system is safer than it has ever been. According to this view, the events that led up to the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 cannot happen again; the reform process has succeeded. By contrast, a growing group of current and former officials continues to express concern about current and potential future risks in the United States, Europe, and globally.
The OECD has a clear message for the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa.
For more than a year now, the revelations disclosed by former American intelligence worker Edward Snowden have fueled an at times fierce debate over the sense and legality of the NSAs sheer greed for data. Der Spiegel conducted two interviews. The first is with two major critics of the NSA’s work — human rights activist and lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who represents Snowden, and former spy Thomas Drake. The second interview is with John Podesta, a special advisor to United States President Barack Obama.
There’s been much to-do in the past month about the “war on coal,” the latest front of which is, supposedly, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants. What all this “war on coal” talk is missing is the fact that while the Obama administration is taking steps to discourage coal consumption at home, it is tacitly promoting coal exports overseas through a decades-long debacle known as the federal coal leasing program, which has cost taxpayers billions and effectively acted as a subsidy for Big Coal.
For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.
Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. The material, provided by Snowden to The Washington Post spans President Obama’s first term, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.
On an average day, some 100 million tons of carbon dioxide is liberated from oil and coal by combustion, wafting into the air. Only half of the carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere; the other half falls back to earth. While scientists know what happens to half of that half — it dissolves into the oceans — the rest is a continuing puzzle. Now NASA is launching a satellite to help solve the puzzle.
The Obamians seem bewildered that the country is not more thankful to its government for having prevented another Great Depression. They saved the banks, and in doing so, they saved the economy from a once-in-a-hundred-year storm. And they proudly point out that all the money given to the financial sector has been more than repaid. But in making such claims, they ignore some critical realities.
Given their immense wealth and how they got it — politicized kickbacks from the most powerful political forces in Washington, on Wall Street and around the globe — the Clintons would do well to admit that they are unusually wealthy and stop trying to pass themselves off as ordinary folks. If they don’t, their fate may very well resemble Romney’s.
The United States passed a major milestone last month, having now regained all 8.7 million of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. But many American families, businesses, and communities are still living with the legacy of the most severe contraction in decades. Wages have stagnated, poverty has increased, social mobility has decreased, and too much human potential is being left untapped.
The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.
We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the neoliberal capitalist consensus that has prevailed throughout the West since the 1980s – and that many claim led to the economic disaster of 2008-2009. There is growing discontent among economics students with the university curriculum, which they claim has become merely a branch of mathematics, disconnected from reality.
Taking a transit-oriented development approach can make public transport not just viable, but effective in its implementation. Three key elements of urban design support quality public transport, and can help cities move towards a transit-oriented development model. City leaders must reshape the roadways connecting communities within cities; create density around public transport to fuel demand; and design facilities that ensure safe and user-friendly transport systems.
President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?
Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.
The White House has set up a taskforce to tackle the decline of honey bees. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agriculture department will lead the effort, which includes $8m (£4.7m) for new honey bee habitats. Bee populations saw a 23% decline last winter, a trend blamed on the loss of genetic diversity, exposure to certain pesticides and other factors.
Two major injustices – inequality and climate change – are threatening to undermine the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger. By concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few, inequality robs the poorest people of the support they need to improve their lives. And as climate change devastates crops and livelihoods, it undoes poor people’s efforts to feed their families.
Interview with UN Peace Envoy Brahimi: ‘Syria Will Become Another Somalia’ – For almost two years, Lakhdar Brahimi sought to bring peace to Syria. But in May, the United Nations special envoy stepped down. He speaks with SPIEGEL about the stubbornness of Syrian President Assad, the mistakes of the West and the dangers presented by Islamic radicals.
The UK government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, detailed how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, can be monitored by the security services because they are deemed to be “external communications”. It is the first time that the government has admitted that UK citizens, talking via supposedly private channels in social media such as Twitter direct messages, are deemed by the British government to be legitimate legal targets that do not require a warrant before intercepting.
Cell site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. This sort of invasive surveillance raises serious questions about whether our tax dollars are funding violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
The benefits of the Pentagon’s drive for energy efficiency go well beyond improving the U.S military’s energy security and lowering its costs. Through coordination and technology transfers with the private sector, the effort to create a more energy-efficient and secure fighting force could also stimulate innovation beyond the military and help reduce the carbon footprint of many businesses.
With its virtual monopoly on search, Google has the power to flip the outcomes of close elections easily – and without anyone knowing. Over time, they could change the face of parliaments and congresses worldwide to suit their business needs – keeping regulators at bay, getting favorable tax deals and so on. And because their business is unregulated in most countries at this point, flipping elections in this way would be legal.
It seems only fair and reasonable, therefore, that all fossil-fuel entities, but especially the carbon majors, pay a levy on each ton of coal, barrel of oil, or cubic meter of gas they produce to a new International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which would help to fund efforts to address the worst effects of climate change.
Noncompete clauses are now appearing in far-ranging fields beyond the worlds of technology, sales and corporations with tightly held secrets. From event planners to chefs to investment fund managers to yoga instructors, employees are increasingly required to sign agreements that prohibit them from working for a company’s rivals.
In another attempt to stem the economic threat of high student debt and win favor for his party before November’s election, President Obama on Monday signed an executive order that will limit federal student loan payments for 5 million more people.
Homeowners can refinance a mortgage at under 4 percent. Car loans are available for under 3 percent. Yet college graduates are paying interest of 7 percent or higher on undergraduate loans, and are unable to refinance. Elizabeth Warren’s goal is passage of a bill that will allow students to refinance their loans at lower rates.
A new rule from the EPA proposes to cut emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, which account for 39% of overall emissions, by 30% from their 2005 level by 2030. To reach that goal, each state has been handed its own target. Lawsuits are inevitable.
A major terrorism trial is set to be held entirely in secret for the first time in British legal history in an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice. The unnamed defendants were arrested in a high-profile police operation last year and have been charged with serious terrorism offences.
Yesterday saw the release of the most important element of the Obama administration’s climate agenda. To some observers, this looks like the culmination of a long struggle to transform America’s rhetoric about the danger of climate change into action. At most, it is the end of the beginning. A quick look at the politics and the law at issue should explain why.
While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted.
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source. The court’s one-line order gave no reasons but effectively sided with the government in a confrontation between what prosecutors said was an imperative to secure evidence in a national security prosecution and what journalists said was an intolerable infringement of press freedom.
Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.
It took little time for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who is challenging Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, in the most high-profile Senate race this year, to distance herself from the Obama administration’s proposal for sharp cuts to emissions from power plants.
The Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote that in wartime “truth” is the first casualty, an observation that was later repeated by Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, and isolationist US Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917 as the United States entered World War I. Modern governments do indeed like to control information, partly to shape the narrative of their activities to influence world opinion, but mostly for the domestic audience to generate popular support for policies that might otherwise prove unsustainable.
Europe’s financial and macroeconomic woes have overshadowed its remarkable, unheralded longer-term success in an area in which it used to lag: job creation. The truth is that European-style welfare states have proved more resilient, more successful at job creation, than is allowed for in America’s prevailing economic philosophy.
Artificial intelligence is guided by the far-off goal of having software match humans at important tasks. After seeing results from a new field called deep learning, which involves processing large quantities of data using simulated networks of millions of interconnected neurons, some experts have come to believe that this goal isn’t so distant after all.
In the quarter-century since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, relations among the “great powers” have never been worse. Their ability to work together on regional or global issues has deteriorated substantially in the last decade. Now Putin seems to want to double down on these trends and create a new Sino-Soviet axis. China, for all of its current problems, will be not interested. The compass for China’s journey still points clearly to international integration.
Putin’s trip to China could mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Russian-Chinese relations, the trilateral relationship that dominated the final decades of the Cold War and is now making a comeback. After Russia’s aggression in Crimea, Moscow and Washington are locked in conflict. Beijing has thus become the new fulcrum, the power most able to play one side off the other.
In what could foreshadow a legal reckoning of who is liable for the costs of climate change, the class actions against nearly 200 Chicago-area communities look to place responsibility on municipalities, perhaps spurring them to take a more forward-looking approach in designing and engineering for a future made different by climate change.
Antarctica is now losing about 160 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean – twice as much as when the continent was last surveyed. The new assessment comes from Europe’s Cryosat spacecraft, which has a radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the ice sheet.
There’s only one country that has been consciously excluded from Glenn Greenwald’s tour – in fact, only one country in the world that he says he absolutely will not visit. It is the UK. The wounds left by the detention under the Terrorism Act of his partner, Miranda, at Heathrow airport last August, are still open and deep.
Offensive “Terminator-style” autonomous robots that are programmed to kill could soon escape Hollywood science fiction and become reality. This actual rise of the machines raises important strategic, moral, and legal questions about whether the international community should empower robots to kill.
The World Health Organization has surveyed the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs around the world and come up with disturbing findings. The organization reports on its finding that antimicrobial resistance in bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites is an increasingly serious threat in every part of the world.