Digest: 18 March 2014
In Cosmic Inflation: ‘Spectacular’ Discovery Hailed, Jonathan Amos (for BBC News) discusses new evidence of the big bang. US scientists believe they have identified what cosmic inflation has long supposed, that a ‘big bang’ beginning would leave behind waves of gravitational energy in the universe’s cosmic microwave background. If the discovery can be replicated and confirmed, the find is likely to result in a Nobel Prize and more importantly may prove to be a significant step in the development of a ‘Theory of Everything’, a theory that can describe all physical aspects of the universe.
In Cool Response: The SEC & Climate Change Reporting, Ceres presents its report into corporate reporting of risks associated with climate change in their disclosures to investors. Climate change and related regulatory risks are increasing for companies and investors are responding by seeking more information about the exposure of their investments to these threats. The SEC is the key regulator in this area. Ceres’ report analyses the state of corporate reporting and provides recommendations on improving the quality of that reporting.
In The Unhealthy Meat Market, Nicholas Kristof (for The New York Times) discusses factory animal farming. Most of the meat eaten in the US is factory farmed, and while this means that it is cheap to purchase, it has significant costs such as cruelty to animals, human health risks resulting from vast quantities of animal waste, and the over-use of antibiotics resulting in resistant bacterial strains. Factory farming also undermines the socio-economics of rural America by concentrating market share into the hands of large enterprises.
In Spying is Bad for Business, Antonio Regalado (for MIT Technology Review) discusses the effects of cyber spying on business. As a result of Edward Snowden’s disclosures people are more aware of how insecure the internet is and how dominated it is by the US. As a direct result of revelations regarding NSA spying, the internet is at risk of becoming increasingly fragmented and less efficient.
In Straight Talk on the U.S. and Ukraine, Stephen Zunes (for Nation of Change) discusses some misconceptions regarding the US’s position in relation to Ukraine. He argues that it cannot accurately be said that the US is financially or ideologically responsible for the recent revolution, but that Russian moves into Ukraine may be in response to a perceived encroachment by NATO too close to Russia’s borders. The question is how to respond without provoking further problems, but that leads to the second point, that the US is hardly in a position to take leadership role when its own recent land-grab record is taken into account.
In Putin’s Own Goal: The Invasion of Crimea and Putin’s Political Future, Brian D. Taylor (for Foreign Affairs) discusses Putin’s view of the West and its repercussions for Russian policy. While in the West some of Putin’s comments seem remarkable, it is necessary to understand his perspective if he is to be usefully engaged. Putin, along with much of Russia’s political elite, sees the West as a steadily and aggressively encroaching threat that must be checked. But by responding so vehemently to the Ukrainian revolution he risks upsetting an already delicate domestic socio-economic outlook for Russia. He is not all-powerful in Russia, and his weakness may be behind his recent perhaps reckless volatility.
In America Needs a 21st Century Church Committee, Al Jazeera America presents a letter from fifteen members of the Church Committee – a Senate body charged with the investigation of intelligence community practices in the 1970s. The letter is addressed to Congress, the President and the American public. It discusses how the original Church Committee uncovered sweeping illegal domestic surveillance programs “conducted under the guise of foreign intelligence collection”, and resulted in the creation of permanent intelligence oversight committees in Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The issues uncovered by Edward Snowden’s disclosures make it clear the privacy offenses are much the same today, only larger and more severe. The authors propose that a similar investigation must be established now.
In Power Inequality Dwarfs Income Inequality, Nomi Prins (for Nation of Change) discusses how behind the income inequality scenes there exists an even deeper inequality, that of power. Prins argues that a few families hold the reins of both financial and political power in the US, and that we are in a period during which the notion of public good has receded as an important factor in those families’ policy considerations.
In The Innovation Enigma, Joseph E. Stiglitz (for Project Syndicate) discusses the question of the why technological innovation fails to materially show up in GDP statistics. Stiglitz argues that the profitability of an innovation may not be a good measure of its net contribution to our standard of living, and that the profitability of firms likely does not take into account the economic loss suffered by society as a result of innovation-related unemployment.