Digest: 19 November 2014




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In Bill Clinton’s Out of Touch Economically – and That’s a Big Deal, Richard Eskow (for The Huffington Post) discusses how recent remarks by Bill Clinton reinforce the sense that he fails to appreciate the reality of economic life for most Americans.  Clinton’s rosy picture of the future of life in the US is in stark contrast to the picture that most Americans live with everyday – a picture of falling wages, crippling debt, shrinking personal wealth, and rising healthcare costs….” The Clintons and their close associates have by now received too much from Wall Street to be able to relate or accurately empathize – it was, after all, his policies that so heavily contributed to the windfall of profits the banks have made during and since his presidency. Hilary has not distanced herself from her husband’s views, and it can probably be assumed she will support the same policies if she becomes president.


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In The Population Challenge, Bjorn Lomborg (for Project Syndicate) discusses how the major population challenge we face is found in two contrasting trends taking place in developed and developing countries. Birth rates in developed countries are too low to support older generations, and are too high in developing countries which prevents young people from finding work. Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center has engaged in research that shows that a loosening of immigration laws would allow developed countries to benefit from the large underemployed working age populations elsewhere. Further, education and provision of contraception to women in developing countries would have an economic benefit amounting to as much as $145 billion per year.


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In Climate Accord Relies on Environmental Policies Now in Place, Henry Fountain and John Schwartz (for The New York Times) discuss how the climate accord between the US and China is not that groundbreaking, but is an optimistic basis for negotiations of a new climate treaty in Paris next year. Both China and the US have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and should be able to meet the new targets simply by meeting domestic targets already in place. It may be easier under China’s top-down governing structure than it will be in the US where the political system will prove a hurdle. The hope is that it will signal a shift that will help to get other major emitters, such as India and Russia, on board.

In Emissions Reduction by the Numbers, Jeffrey Frankel (for Project Syndicate) discusses the difficulty of setting fair emissions reduction goals for individual countries, and a method to overcome that difficulty. Agreements like the one between the US and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are perhaps the best bet in the absence of a binding global agreement. On that basis they should be welcomed, however, any network of bilateral or multilateral agreements still must take account of what are fair terms. By mapping goals set in previous agreements against income per capita in various countries, Frankel presents what he refers to as a statistical yardstick for judging fairness.


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In Drones and Aerial Surveillance: Considerations for Legislators, Gregory McNeal (for The Brookings Institution) discusses a disconnect between actual efforts to regulate the use of drones and the specific nature of problem that must be regulated.  In every state where laws have been passed to regulate drones, McNeal argues, the laws have been focused on the technology itself, rather than on limiting the risk of pervasive surveillance regardless of how that surveillance is carried out. This is not accidental, rather it is strategic, but it causes costs. In some cases the use of drones may not encroach on privacy concerns, but those uses can be hindered by laws focused on the technology. Meanwhile, the surveillance that gives rise to privacy concerns may still be carried out in another form. McNeal provides five core recommendations.

In Executive Disorder: The Real Problem With Obama’s Announcement, Lauren Carasik (for Foreign Affairs) discusses how the problem with Obama’s immigration order is that it is impermanent and can easily be undone. While criticism has focused on the suggestion that the President has expanded executive powers unconstitutionally, he has not. The President can not modify the legal status of immigrants or provide them with permanent relief – that would be the job of the legislative branch. The best he could do in light of strong legislative opposition was issue an executive order. But, unfortunately, the order will not help the very people who triggered it in the first place.


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In Machine-Learning Algorithm Ranks the World’s Most Notable Authors, MIT Technology Review posits that it is difficult to know which authors to read and claims that Allen Riddell at Dartmouth College might have developed something to help. It is an algorithm that creates an objective “public domain ranking” of all authors appearing on Wikipedia. The ranking is thought to have certain biases as a result of what can reasonably be considered an inadequate source of informational input.

In On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race, James S. Russell (for The New York Times) discusses the massive growth of investment in arts museums and facilities at elite US universities. While hundreds of millions are being spent by universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford on overhauls to their museums, art programs at public institutions are struggling. Russell describes major projects taking place at various campuses. He sets apart and highlights the University of Chicago for its consideration of the poor community to its south when it included an entrance on that side of its new arts building; also, for helping to renovate an arts incubator for the work of local artists.