Digest: 8 April 2014

 

 

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In Global Rankings Study Depicts an America in Warp Speed Decline, CJ Werleman (for AlterNet) discusses the results of the Social Progress Index. The index looks at a country’s success not by GDP but by measures such as suicide rates, sustainability, property rights, access to healthcare and education, gender equality, attitudes towards immigration and minorities, religious freedom, nutrition, and infrastructure. The US fares poorly in the results, and is likely to fare even worse in the future unless certain policy changes are made.

Economic

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In Are Secret, Dangerous Ingredients In Your Food?, Kimberly Kindy (for The Washington Post) discusses how the law allows companies to put undisclosed chemicals in food. The chemicals must comply with FDA “Generally Recognized As Safe” requirements. But these requirements allow companies to rely on their own research in determining that their products are safe; they are not required to disclose the use of the chemicals in food even in cases where there may be safety concerns.

In US Wind Power Blows New Records, Again, And Again, Tom Randall (for Bloomberg) discusses how wind power is becoming economically competitive with coal and natural gas. Wind is quickly getting cheaper, but the expiration of a federal wind subsidy puts its competitiveness in jeopardy. Another threat comes from the dropping price of natural gas as a result of fracking. If the price of natural gas drops further, it may further undermine wind power’s ability to compete.

In Ex Govt Advisor: “Global Market Shock” from “Oil Crash” Could Hit in 2015, Nafeez Ahmed (for The Guardian) discusses five global systemic risks directly connected to energy. Identified by Dr. Jeremy Leggett, risks related to oil depletion, carbon emissions, carbon assets, shale gas, and the financial sector, could trigger a global crash as soon as 2015.

Political

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In America’s Energy Edge, Robert D. Blackwell and Meghan L. O’Sullivan (for Foreign Affairs) discuss the geopolitical implications of increasing US natural gas energy production.  US shale gas production has been rising, as has production from hydraulic fracturing. As these industries develop the US’s geopolitical influence will increase on several fronts. Energy competitors such as Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran will lose influence. In Russia the consequences might be so serious as to destabilize its political system. Greater US leverage will likely result in a favorable bargaining positions for it and its allies in responding to global economic and political issues including climate change.

In Why the McCutcheon Decision is Worse than it Looks, Thomas E. Mann (for Brookings Institution) discusses the recent US Supreme Court decision which overturns longstanding aggregate limits on individual political contributions. Mann argues the decision is consistent with past decisions of the Roberts Court on campaign finance in undermining US democracy by increasing the leverage of the wealthy few.

In Why Are Rich Countries Democratic?, Ricardo Hausmann (for Project Syndicate) discusses that it is democratic countries that provide the decentralized decision-making that is necessary to support healthy thriving markets. Hausmann points out that this system, together with a free press, is what generates the information that feeds the markets. Countries that do not have these systems are getting comparatively poorer.

Social

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In Cuba Social Media Project Was No Plot, Agency Says, Ron Nixon (for The New York Times) discusses a social media project created and financed by the US Agency for International Development for use in Cuba. The Cuban Twitter program has been viewed by some in Congress as an effort to undermine the Cuban government. The Agency denies the claim, but Senator Leahy argued that at the least it threatens the well-being of a USAID contractor currently being held prisoner in Cuba.

In Children’s Hyperactivity ‘Is Not a Real Disease’, says US Expert, Daniel Boffey (for The Guardian) discusses the views of neuroscientist Bruce D. Perry that we overprescribe for ADHD. He says that ADHD is not a real disease, it merely outlines various symptoms that can be treated without resort to drugs that may be harmful in the long term. He suggests that to go to the root of the problem may require focusing attention on parents and environments.