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TG: Swearing Responsibly

TG: Swearing Responsibly

In Britain, fear of vulgarity is considered the preserve of the terminally vulgar. Britain leads the world in precious little these days, but it does, undoubtedly, set the standard for swearing, the very definition perhaps of being all mouth and no trousers. For this reason, squeamishness about swearing in the US is perceived by some as a collective expression of social unease.

WRI: Bamboo Secret Weapon

WRI: Bamboo Secret Weapon

We face an urgent need to provide innovative responses to natural resource use. Bamboo could play an important role in forest and landscape restoration. With adequate attention, investment, and the right standards in place, it could become a major renewable and sustainable crop—if we can update our outmoded view of it.

CP: On Academic Labor

CP: On Academic Labor

Noam Chomsky discusses issues related to the breakdown of our educational system, specifically he discusses hiring faculty off the tenure track, how higher education ought to be, “shared governance” and worker control, the alleged need for labor “flexibility”, the purpose of education, and the love of teaching.

BI: State of the Int’l Order

BI: State of the Int’l Order

The State of the International Order report assesses international cooperation in the economic, diplomatic and security realms five years after the global financial crisis and over a decade after the invasion of Iraq. In gauging the state of the order, we ask two questions: What are the material realities shaping the options faced by the great powers? What are the issue-by-issue interactions that are revealing or shaping the content of great power relations, and international order more generally?

NAEP: US 2013 Maths and Reading Results

NAEP: US 2013 Maths and Reading Results

Nationally representative samples of more than 376,000 fourth-graders and 341,000 eighth-graders were assessed in either mathematics or reading in 2013. Average mathematics scores for fourth- and eighth-graders in 2013 were 1 point higher than in 2011, and 28 and 22 points higher respectively in comparison to the first assessment year in 1990.

AP: Feds Move to Save Bees

AP: Feds Move to Save Bees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend three million dollars to help farmers and ranchers improve pastures in five Midwestern states to provide food for the nation’s struggling honeybees. Agricultural production has been threatened by a more than decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins due to habitat loss and pesticide use.

AJ: Shocking Corporate Welfare

AJ: Shocking Corporate Welfare

State and local governments have awarded $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies to business, with 3 of every 4 dollars going to fewer than 1,000 big corporations. The largest five subsidies went to Boeing, ALCOA, Intel, General Motors and Ford. Dow Chemical received 410 separate subsidies worth $1.4 billion. Federal, state and local governments publish exhaustively detailed statistical reports on welfare to the poor, disabled, sick, elderly and other individuals who cannot support themselves. But corporate welfare is not the subject of any comprehensive reporting at the federal level. Disclosures by state and local governments vary greatly, from substantial to nearly nonexistent. Taxpayers who want to understand their burdens should demand that Congress require and pay for detailed annual reports showing every federal, state and local subsidy received by corporations.

NC: Creating the World We Want

NC: Creating the World We Want

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants. Occupy Wall Street issued its Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what will take the place of the current economy?

BBC: California Drought

BBC: California Drought

While historic winter storms have battered much of the US, California is suffering its worst drought on record. So why is America’s most valuable farming state using billions of gallons of water to grow hay – specifically alfalfa – which is then shipped to China? Cheap water rights and America’s trade imbalance with China make this not just viable, but profitable.

TM: Shadows of Liberty

TM: Shadows of Liberty

Ninety percent of American media is controlled by five big, for-profit-conglomerates, creating a media monopoly of informational and social control never before possible. Shadows of Liberty reveals the hidden machinations of the news media, drawing into focus the vast mechanisms of censorship, cover-ups, and corporate control that have been built up over many decades.

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

The idea of being fined for crossing the road at the wrong place can bemuse foreign visitors to the US, where the origins of so-called jaywalking lie in a propaganda campaign by the motor industry in the 1920s. The UK is among those countries where jaywalking is not an offence. But the rate of pedestrian deaths is half that of the US.

PS: Stagnation by Design

PS: Stagnation by Design

The difficulties that we are facing now are not the result of the inexorable laws of economics, to which we simply must adjust, as we would to a natural disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami. They are not even a kind of penance that we have to pay for past sins. Instead, our current difficulties are the result of flawed policies.

NYT: Is Atheism Irrational?

NYT: Is Atheism Irrational?

To believe in both materialism and evolution requires acceptance that your belief-producing faculties are not reliable, but that is to fall into a total skepticism, which leaves you with no reason to accept any of your beliefs. The only sensible course is to give up the claim leading to this conclusion: that both materialism and evolution are true.

WSJ: Coming Revolution

WSJ: Coming Revolution

As inequality continues to grow, it will trigger more and more rage, war and violence until, as Pope Francis says, capitalism is rejected, because until then “no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

AN: Sordid Tale

AN: Sordid Tale

Just about everything Americans need to know about the surge of income inequality is contained in the 43- page indictment last week of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. It’s a simple and base transaction. For a bit of personal wealth, a politician sells out the people who elected him, the people who trusted him to serve their interests.

TA: The Next New Deal

TA: The Next New Deal

Americans will look back and marvel at what became of our old welfare state–that tangle of inequity and dysfunction once known as federal entitlements. Why did the public tolerate a system that wound up distributing most of its benefits to the well-off? And how did the economy survive its costs? With the vaunted post-Cold War Peace dividend evaporating, the United States found itself unable to invest adequately in either its infrastructure or its children. Eventually people began to talk of another Great Depression, before the coming of the next New Deal. This Atlantic magazine article from 1992 almost could have been written today.

IISS: Strategic Survey 2013

IISS: Strategic Survey 2013

The next year will be a year of living tactically. However, there are developments on the horizon of potential strategic consequence that will call out for larger, more coordinated, designs. In their absence, the sense that we live in a state of sublimated strategic anarchy will persist.

TD: End of History?

TD: End of History?

Climate change exists on a time scale not congenial either to media time or to the individual lifetimes of our short-lived species. If the end of the world doesn’t fit well with “the news,” neither does denial. The idea of a futureless humanity is difficult to take in and that has undoubtedly played a role in suppressing the newsiness of climate change.

NYT: Obama Trade Conundrum

NYT: Obama Trade Conundrum

Obama’s desire for fast-track authority on the TPP and other agreements clashes with reducing income inequality. Data on NAFTA poses a significant challenge for President Obama. He said he wants to battle the plague of income inequality and to expand the NAFTA model with TPP, but he cannot have it both ways.

DN: Bill Moyers on Dark Money

DN: Bill Moyers on Dark Money

Legendary broadcaster Bill Moyers discusses his latest investigation, which explores how the influence of large, untraceable political donations known as “dark money” have become the greatest threat to democracy in the United States.

TD: Myth of Human Progress

TD: Myth of Human Progress

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. We bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite—are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence.

PS: Global Economy 2014

PS: Global Economy 2014

At the dawn of a new year, the world is in the midst of several epic transitions. Economic growth patterns, the geopolitical landscape, the social contract that binds people together, and our planet’s ecosystem are all undergoing radical, simultaneous transformations, generating anxiety and, in many places, turmoil.

NYT: NSA Targets Children

NYT: NSA Targets Children

The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really “kewl,” is pushing the benefits of the National Security Agency.

AN: Obama Gifts Big Coal

AN: Obama Gifts Big Coal

Clean coal is an essential component of the President’s ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy, but on the heels of the West Virginia coal-cleaning chemical disaster, amid record climate disruptions and drought and flooding, Obama’s billion dollar bonus to Big Coal might signal “game over” for clean energy and climate initiatives in Illinois.

TG: Vast Desert Solar Farms

TG: Vast Desert Solar Farms

Utility-sized solar plants are beginning to appear across the US, with 232 under construction, in testing or granted permits, many in the south-west and California. In the west, ample sun, wide-open spaces, financial incentives, falling costs and state mandates have made big solar plants possible.

NYT: Why We Talk About the 1%

NYT: Why We Talk About the 1%

If you look at the bottom 4 percent of the top 5, you see good but not spectacular income gains. These are the kinds of gains that you might be able to explain in terms of skills, assortative mating, and so on. But the top 1 percent is in a different universe altogether.

TG: Geo-Engineering is Insane

TG: Geo-Engineering is Insane

We are already engaged in a planet-wide experiment with consequences we can already tell are unpleasant for the future of humanity. So the hubris involved in thinking we can come up with a second planet-wide experiment that would exactly counteract the first experiment is delusional in the extreme.

FA: Good Enough Global Governance

FA: Good Enough Global Governance

The future will see not the renovation or the construction of a glistening new international architecture but the continued spread of an unattractive but adaptable multilateral sprawl that delivers a partial measure of international cooperation through a welter of informal arrangements and piecemeal approaches. The furious pace of technological change risks leaving global governance in the dust.

AN: Economic Exploitation

AN: Economic Exploitation

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that democracy was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair. Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

AN: Major Social Transformation Close

AN: Major Social Transformation Close

Moyer’s work is heartening for social justice activists because it shows how movements grow, recede and change their functions at different stages. By understanding the current stage of development we can better define the work that must be done to achieve success and predict how the power structure and public will react to our actions.

AJA: Coming Stock Market Collapse

AJA: Coming Stock Market Collapse

Irrational exuberance is back on Wall Street, encouraged by cheap credit lavished on heavily leveraged speculators, lax accounting rules and the unfortunate tendency to confuse the true value of stocks. Sky-high valuations get little skeptical coverage in the financial press, which has acted more as lapdog than watchdog in the past decade.

NYT: Pope’s Popular Voice

NYT: Pope’s Popular Voice

From 4,500 miles away at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has captivated the world with a message of economic justice and tolerance, has become a presence in Washington’s policy debate. Francis’ denunciation of an “economy of exclusion” goes to the heart of the debate between the two parties over the role of government.

PS: Age of Sustainable Development

PS: Age of Sustainable Development

Our generation can end the ancient scourge of extreme poverty, but it can also destroy the earth’s life-support system through human-induced environmental devastation. By necessity, then, we have entered The Age of Sustainable Development. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University is launching a free, global, online university course by the same name in January 2014. Sustainable development is both a way of understanding the world and a way to help save it, it will become the organizing principle for our politics, economics, and even ethics in the years ahead.

MIT: Decline of Wikipedia

MIT: Decline of Wikipedia

The sixth most widely used website in the world is not run anything like the others in the top 10. It is not operated by a sophisticated corporation but by a leaderless collection of volunteers who generally work under pseudonyms and habitually bicker with each other. It rarely tries new things in the hope of luring visitors; in fact, it has changed little in a decade. And yet every month 10 billion pages are viewed on the English version of Wikipedia alone.

DS: Putin War of Images

DS: Putin War of Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has created an anti-CNN for Western audiences with the international satellite news network Russia Today. With its recipe of smart propaganda, sex appeal and unlimited cash, it is outperforming its peers worldwide.

NYT: Surveillance Cosy or Chilling

NYT: Surveillance Cosy or Chilling

Last year, two literal-minded Supreme Court justices were considering whether police officers needed a warrant before placing a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s S.U.V. when they ended up having a rather fanciful argument: What would the founding fathers make of a GPS device, anyway?

DS: US Bipolar Climate Future

DS: US Bipolar Climate Future

In the United States, two very different worlds have come into existence along the same coastline.New York City and New Bern, North Carolina both face the same projected rise in sea levels, but while one is preparing for the worst, the other is doing nothing on principle. A glimpse into America’s contradictory climate change planning.

NYT: NSA Actions Probably Unconstitutional

NYT: NSA Actions Probably Unconstitutional

A federal district judge ruled on Monday that the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, describing its technology as “almost Orwellian” and suggesting that James Madison would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way. District Judge Leon wrote that he could not “imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval… Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment,” which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. He also wrote that the government had failed to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive.”

AN: American Inhumanity

AN: American Inhumanity

What would it be like if people in the United States knew they had rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and demanded to have them realized? We believe it would be a very different world – the economy would be a more equitable with full employment, healthcare for all, no people without housing and more humane on every front. Instead, this week an annual report of Credit Suisse ranked the US as the most unequal of all advanced countries.

BI: Macroprudential Policy History

BI: Macroprudential Policy History

Since the financial crisis of 2007-2009, policymakers have debated the need for a new toolkit of cyclical “macroprudential” policies to constrain the build-up of risks in financial markets, for example, by dampening creditfueled asset bubbles. These discussions tend to ignore America’s long and varied history with many of the instruments under consideration to smooth the credit cycle, presumably because of their sparse usage in the last three decades.

NYT: Inequality and Hardheartedness

NYT: Inequality and Hardheartedness

Over the course of American history, support for economic redistribution has been the exception, not the rule. The substantial gains of the left on cultural and social issues and recent electoral victories in New York and Boston have created a misleading perception among liberals that the country is moving in the same direction on economic issues. That is not the case: an ethos of self-reliance and individual responsibility continues, as it has for the past 237 years, to grip the American imagination.

DS: Feeding the Next Crash

DS: Feeding the Next Crash

Central banks around the world are pumping trillions into the economy. The goal is to stimulate growth, but their actions are also driving up prices in the real estate and equities markets. The question is no longer whether there will be a crash, but when. Some economists seek to allay fears, by noting that the real estate market still has a long way to go, but who says that you have to reach the most inflated point in the last crisis before a dramatic downturn sets in?

NPR: Easter Island

NPR: Easter Island

Easter Island has been thought of as a clear example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. Two anthropologists now think that may not be what happened, but their alternative view is hardly consoling. On Easter Island, people learned to live with less and forgot what it was like to have more. Maybe that will happen to us. A future in which we continuously degrade our planet, losing plant after plant, animal after animal, forgetting what we once enjoyed, adjusting to lesser circumstances, cannot be called “success.” To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed – that’s when we’ll act – but the new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm. There’s a lesson here and it’s not a happy one.

FA: Defense Austerity Good Strategy

FA: Defense Austerity Good Strategy

The United States is now in a period of austerity, and after years of huge increases, the defense budget is set to be scaled back. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the consequences of past U.S. defense cuts were not bad. A look at five such periods over the past century — following World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War — shows that austerity can be useful in forcing Washington to think strategically, something it rarely does when times are flush.

BI: Incentive of Capital Requirements

BI: Incentive of Capital Requirements

The sophisticated banks that dominate the financial system will directly incorporate the effects of capital regimes into their internal pricing models. This will result in the incentive effects flowing directly through to almost all decisions about business mix and pricing. Thus, incentive effects will be much more than academic constructs, they will play through into actual business decisions via banks’ internal markets.

Center for Int’l Governance Innovation

Center for Int’l Governance Innovation

The Centre for International Governance Innovation is an independent, non-partisan think tank focused on international governance. CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world and its research programs focus on five key themes: global economy; global security; international law; environment and energy; and global development.

LL: Financing Tomorrow’s Cities

LL: Financing Tomorrow’s Cities

Population growth, urbanisation and climate change are presenting significant challenges for cities now and into the future. Resilient cities can pick themselves up after a disaster and rebuild sustainably where necessary. Resilience to climate change will become even more important in the future. Compounding the natural hazard risk is the fact that cities are getting bigger, with denser populations and more assets at risk.

TE: America and the World

TE: America and the World

An American president’s most important power is not the veto pen or the ability to launch missiles. It is the bully pulpit. When a president speaks, the world listens. That is why Barack Obama’s credibility matters. If people do not believe what he says, his power to shape events withers. And recent events have seriously shaken people’s belief in Mr Obama.

FA: Banking Systems

FA: Banking Systems

The same kinds of politics that influence other aspects of society also help explain why some countries, such as the United States, suffer repeated banking crises, while others, such as Canada, avoid them altogether. A country does not choose its banking system; it gets the banking system it deserves, one consistent with the institutions that govern its distribution of political power.

AN: Market for Everything

AN: Market for Everything

The market is our liberation, say the advocates, unshackling us from arbitrary restraints and some other guy’s moral hangups. But hang on a second. Where exactly are we headed with this? It’s been quite a while since we’ve had much serious public discussion about what a market-based mentality costs us.

BI: Changing World Order?

BI: Changing World Order?

Like the heralding of “American decline,” warnings about “the coming global disorder” have often proved premature. But with Americans and others rethinking the U.S. role in the world, and with no other nation, group of nations or international institutions willing or able to take its place, global disorder seems a more distinct possibility than it has since the 1930s.

AN: Dickensian Nightmare

AN: Dickensian Nightmare

Can art do anything for the 99%? The case of Charles Dickens argues that yes—when genius, perseverance, activism, and admittedly, luck, combine, artistic creations can spark fires that burn through encrusted layers of human wrongs. It doesn’t happen overnight, and not as often as we wish. But it happens.

SA: Smartphones Killing Us

SA: Smartphones Killing Us

What permanent connectivity does to our minds is the subject of great debate. What it does to public space is less often acknowledged. Some restaurants, bars and coffee shops have banned smartphones and computers for their corrosive social effects. Anti-technology zoning for cognitive health to protect us from our own worst instincts is a more complex challenge.

PS: Is Economics a Science?

PS: Is Economics a Science?

One problem with economics is that it is necessarily focused on policy, rather than discovery of fundamentals. Nobody really cares much about economic data except as a guide to policy: economic phenomena do not have the same intrinsic fascination for us as the internal resonances of the atom or the functioning of the vesicles and other organelles of a living cell. Critics of “economic sciences” sometimes refer to the development of a “pseudoscience” of economics, arguing that it uses the trappings of science, like dense mathematics, but only for show. As economics develops, it will broaden its repertory of methods and sources of evidence, the science will become stronger, and the charlatans will be exposed.

NYT: Childhood Obesity

NYT: Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity, at long last, may have peaked — even among the poor, where the problem is most prevalent. So how has this small bit of success been achieved? One factor is an extensive behavior-change campaign; another is the provision of healthier food to poor neighborhoods. But there may be a more direct reason for the progress against child obesity.

TE: Catastrophe Bonds

TE: Catastrophe Bonds

The rise of cat bonds and other “insurance-linked securities” is starting to affect the price of insurance, particularly on the reinsurance side. Some weathered insurance executives are warning that naive investors are distorting prices, creating a frothy “shadow insurance” sector with systemic implications.

FA: Devolution of the Seas

FA: Devolution of the Seas

Of all the threats looming over the planet today, one of the most alarming is the seemingly inexorable descent of the world’s oceans into ecological perdition. Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now returning to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago. The world faces a choice. We do not have to return to an oceanic Stone Age. Whether we can summon the political will and moral courage to restore the seas to health before it is too late is an open question. The challenge and the opportunity are there.

FA: End of (Easy) Hypocrisy

FA: End of (Easy) Hypocrisy

One of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

FA: Privacy Pretense

FA: Privacy Pretense

For years, U.S. information technology firms have actively backed weak privacy rules that let them collect massive amounts of personal data. The strategy enabled the companies to work their way into every corner of consumers’ lives and gave them a competitive edge internationally. Those same policies, however, have come back to haunt them.

TE: Time is Not Money

TE: Time is Not Money

Dozens of psychological studies have shown that people primed to think about money before an experiment are more likely to lie, cheat and steal during the course of that experiment. Thinking about time, by contrast, makes people more honest than normal rather than less so and the more reflective they are the more honest they become.

Reuters: White House, Optimistically

Reuters: White House, Optimistically

Democrats have watched as one calamity after another has befallen what was once the most promising Democratic administration since John F. Kennedy’s. Yet all is not lost. The Obama administration has not exactly bungled its way through five years of power.

NYT: Plutocrats vs Populists

NYT: Plutocrats vs Populists

Voters on both the right and the left are suspicious of whether the plutocrats and the technocrats they employ understand their real needs, and whether they truly have their best interests at heart. Where does that leave smart centrists with their clever, fact-based policies designed to fine-tune 21st century capitalism and make it work better for everyone?

TE: Unreliable Research

TE: Unreliable Research

The idea that there are a lot of uncorrected flaws in published studies may seem hard to square with the fact that almost all of them will have been through peer-review. This sort of scrutiny by disinterested experts is often said to make the scientific literature particularly reliable. In practice it is poor at detecting many types of error.

DS: Factory Farming

DS: Factory Farming

Germany slaughters 58 million pigs a year and has built an efficient meat industry second only to the US in pork exports. Its optimized breeding, feeding and killing system churns out wondrously cheap cutlets — but at a hidden cost to the environment and our health.

TE: The Next Frontier

TE: The Next Frontier

Mainstream economics divorces the short term from the long term. There may be big problems ahead but macroeconomists prefer to improvise today and worry about the future later. That approach also suits politicians, aligning the policy cycle with the electoral cycle. But it is not a recipe for producing robust, inclusive growth.

Oxford Martin: Unstable Future

Oxford Martin: Unstable Future

A diverse group of highly respected global leaders is calling for a radical shake-up in politics and business to deliver progress on climate change, reduce economic inequality, improve corporate practices and address the chronic burden of disease.

NYT: White House on Spying

NYT: White House on Spying

The White House response on Monday to the expanding disclosures of American spying on foreign leaders, their governments and millions of their citizens was a pathetic mix of unsatisfying assurances about reviews under way, platitudes about the need for security in an insecure age, and the odd defense that the president didn’t know that American spies had tapped the German chancellor’s cellphone for 10 years. There has long been an understanding that international spying was done in pursuit of a concrete threat to national security. That Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations could fall under that umbrella is an outgrowth of the post-9/11 decision by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that everyone is the enemy, and that anyone’s rights may be degraded in the name of national security.

HP: Denmark Happiest on Earth

HP: Denmark Happiest on Earth

Last month, Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control over: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.

GAO: Federal Data Transparency

GAO: Federal Data Transparency

The federal government spends more than $3.7 trillion annually, with more than $1 trillion awarded through contracts, grants, and loans. Improving transparency of this spending is essential to improve accountability. GAO recommends the development of a long-term plan to implement comprehensive transparency reform, and increased efforts for obtaining stakeholder input to ensure reporting challenges are addressed.

TE: Biodiversity Special Report

TE: Biodiversity Special Report

Ever since man first picked up a spear, other species have suffered. As his technology improved, so his destructive power increased. In a sense, this orgy of destruction was natural. In the wild, different species compete for resources, and man proved a highly successful competitor. Religion sanctioned his ascendancy. But in recent times attitudes have changed.

WEF: Global Risks 2013

WEF: Global Risks 2013

The Global Risks Report 2013 analyses 50 global risks in terms of impact, likelihood and interconnections, based on a survey of over 1000 experts from industry, government and academia. This year’s findings show that the world is more at risk as persistent economic weakness saps our ability to tackle environmental challenges.

TE: Origins of the Financial Crisis

TE: Origins of the Financial Crisis

The collapse of Lehman Brothers, a sprawling global bank, in September 2008 almost brought down the world’s financial system. It took huge taxpayer-financed bail-outs to shore up the industry. Even so, the ensuing credit crunch turned what was already a nasty downturn into the worst recession in 80 years. Massive monetary and fiscal stimulus prevented a buddy-can-you-spare-a-dime depression, but the recovery remains feeble compared with previous post-war upturns.

TE: Multiplexed Metropolis

TE: Multiplexed Metropolis

As they go about their business of producing most of the world’s wealth, novelty and human interaction, cities also produce a vast amount of data. The people who run cities are ever more keen on putting those data to work. Hardly a week passes without a mayor somewhere in the world unveiling a “smart-city” project—often at one of the many conferences hailing the concept.

NYT: Viewing US in Fear and Dismay

NYT: Viewing US in Fear and Dismay

The word many Mexicans now use to describe Washington reflects a familiar mix of outrage and exasperation: berrinche. Technically defined as a tantrum, berrinches are also spoiled little rich kids, blind to their privilege and the effects of their misbehavior. A common question crossing continents remains quite simple: The Americans aren’t really that unreasonable and self-destructive, are they?

PS: Climate Change Knowns

PS: Climate Change Knowns

The latest IPCC report describes our current predicament with disturbing clarity. The details near the top of the knowledge pyramid can and should be intensely debated. But our solid understanding of the fundamentals of global warming – the base of our knowledge of climate science – should provide reason enough to press on with the implementation of carbon-free energy technologies.

PS: Best Brightest Least Productive

PS: Best Brightest Least Productive

Are too many of our most talented people choosing careers in finance – and, more specifically, in trading, speculating, and other allegedly “unproductive” activities? We surely need some people in trading and speculation. But how do we know whether we have too many? As economists like to point out, traders and speculators provide a useful service, but these people’s activities also impose costs on the rest of us.

NoC: Plot Against Pensions

NoC: Plot Against Pensions

As state legislatures prepare for their upcoming sessions, you will no doubt hear a lot about public pensions. More specifically, you will hear allegations that states are going bankrupt because of their pension obligations to public employees and that states must renege on their pension promises to retirees. A plot that uses pension money to enrich the already rich should be called what it is: not just tragic or unacceptable, but downright immoral and inhumane.

MIT: Data Discrimination

MIT: Data Discrimination

Data analytics are being used to implement a subtle form of discrimination, while anonymous data sets can be mined to reveal health data and other private information. Principle Microsoft researcher, Kate Crawford, and a colleague propose a system of “due process” that would give people more legal rights to understand how data analytics are used in determinations made against them, such as denial of health insurance or a job.

PS: In Defense of World Government

PS: In Defense of World Government

A world “government” could never have democratic legitimacy, but the idea of world government can illuminate a sensible path for capturing the benefits of a more effective global polity. Given a fully interdependent global market, we should worry less about the risk of bad rules and policies from imperfect global institutions and more about how to exploit these institutions’ potential to lock in policies at home and abroad that minimize risks and maximize opportunities for people everywhere.

NYT: Business Influence on House GOP

NYT: Business Influence on House GOP

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain. To some extent, the Chamber of Commerce itself, along with other lobbying groups, helped create the conditions for Washington’s impasse.

TG: The Snowden Files

TG: The Snowden Files

Novelist John Lancaster, given access to the Snowden Files, discusses his impressions. At a moment of austerity and with a general sense that our state’s ability to guarantee prosperity for its citizens is in retreat, that same state is about to make the biggest advance ever in its security powers. Our spies and security services can, for the first time, monitor everything about us, and they can do so with a few clicks of a mouse and – to placate the lawyers – a drop-down menu of justifications. Looking at the GCHQ papers, it is clear that there is an ambition to get access to everything digital. And yet nobody, at least in Britain, seems to care. Snowden’s revelations are not just interesting or important but vital, because the state is about to get powers that no state has ever had, and we need to have a public debate about those powers and what their limits are to be.

NYT: When Wealth Disappears

NYT: When Wealth Disappears

As bad as things in Washington are — the federal government shutdown since Tuesday, the slim but real potential for a debt default, a political system that seems increasingly ungovernable — they are going to get much worse, for the United States and other advanced economies, in the years ahead. We are reaching end times for Western affluence. The underlying reason for the stagnation is that a half-century of remarkable one-off developments in the industrialized world will not be repeated. Policy makers simply pray for a strong recovery. They opt for the illusion because the reality is too bleak to bear.

Brookings: Ending Starvation by 2015

Brookings: Ending Starvation by 2015

December 31, 2015 is the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the global anti-poverty targets for tackling extreme poverty around the world. We are now facing the final moment to bend the relevant curves of progress. For decision makers, 2013 is the real 2015.

NYT: NSA Mapping Social Connections

NYT: NSA Mapping Social Connections

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials. The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

Guardian: Obama’s Bad Economic Advice

Guardian: Obama’s Bad Economic Advice

The president’s economic initiatives – food stamps, manufacturing, infrastructure, raising the debt ceiling, appointing a new chairman of the Federal Reserve – have mostly ended in either neglect or shambles. After five years, the Obama Administration’s stated intentions to improve the fortunes of the middle class, boost manufacturing, reduce income inequality, and promote the recovery of the economy have come up severely short.

HP: Exceptionalism and California

HP: Exceptionalism and California

Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid — very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about.

HP: Tech is Killing Eye Contact

HP: Tech is Killing Eye Contact

As we spend more and more of our time staring at screens, there’s less time left over to look into people’s eyes. The growth of multitasking on mobile devices and remote working have normalized the experience of having conversations with little or no eye contact. These interactions aren’t just what previous generations would have considered rude, they’re also undermining our ability to connect with the people in our lives.

AN – RIP Middle Class

AN – RIP Middle Class

For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction.

PS: Water Risk on the Rise

PS: Water Risk on the Rise

Water is never far from the news these days. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, experts named water risk as one of the top four risks facing business in the twenty-first century. Major companies are already seizing on water-risk data. The message is clear: water-risk management is shifting into the mainstream of business practices.

PS: Financial Non-Reform

PS: Financial Non-Reform

Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the largest global financial crisis since the Great Depression, outsize banking sectors have left economies shattered. Worse, despite years of debate, no consensus about the nature of the financial system’s problems – much less how to fix them – has emerged. And that appears to reflect the banks’ political power.

MIT: Cryptographers and Ethics

MIT: Cryptographers and Ethics

It looks as if the code-breakers at the National Security Agency—and possibly the academics that often assist them—are in clear, dramatic breach of their own profession’s code of conduct that requires honesty and trustworthiness and respect of others’ privacy. Snowden, the NSA whistleblower made his own “moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects us all.”

AN: School is a Prison

AN: School is a Prison

Peter Gray discusses the repercussions of our approach to schooling, specifically how the school system we maintain is a holdover from another time that we should reform so as to better take into account the need to develop self-motivation in students. The current system is based on a top-down, teach and test, rewards and punishments method derived from the time of the Protestant Reformation and the authority-based scriptural lessons that schools then provided. What is needed now is something different – a system that nurtures critical thought, creativity, self-initiative, and the ability of students to learn on their own. This type of school is not unknown – longstanding examples exist that focus on employing the children’s inherent curiosity, creativity, and zest for learning.

NoC: Beyond Homo Economicus

NoC: Beyond Homo Economicus

Humanity currently faces numerous global challenges, including climate change, resource depletion, financial crisis, deficient education, widespread poverty, and food insecurity. But, despite the devastating consequences implied by a failure to address these issues, we have not risen to the occasion.

NYT: Complexity is Free

NYT: Complexity is Free

It’s easy to be depressed about America these days. We’ve got messes aplenty abroad and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives is totally paralyzed. Fortunately, there is another, still “exceptional,” American reality out there. It’s best found at the research centers of any global American company.

Economist: Government and Innovation

Economist: Government and Innovation

The state has played a central role in producing game-changing breakthroughs, its contribution to the success of technology-based businesses should not be underestimated. There are many reasons why policymakers must modernise the state and bring entitlements under control. But one of the most important is that a well-run state is a vital part of a successful innovation system.

AEA: Democracy and Inequality

AEA: Democracy and Inequality

During the past two generations, new inequalities have primarily benefited the top 1 percent and even the top .01 percent. These groups seem sufficiently small that economic inequality could be held in check by political equality in the form of “one person, one vote.” In this paper, we explore five possible reasons why the US political system has failed to counterbalance rising inequality.

New Yorker: Test in Confidence

New Yorker: Test in Confidence

In American courthouses this summer, a vitally important struggle over the First Amendment’s scope is taking place between the Obama Administration and the press. At issue is whether the Administration will fulfill a recent pledge to end its heavy-handed pursuit of professional journalists’ sources. The ripest case concerns a Times reporter, James Risen.

NYT: NSA War on Encryption

NYT: NSA War on Encryption

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

Economist: Overcrowded Prisons

Economist: Overcrowded Prisons

For decades American politicians have assumed that mass incarceration works, wooing voters with ever-tougher sentencing laws. The dramatic fall in crime since the 1990s has persuaded many that they were right. Prison has diminishing returns, and America long ago passed the point where jailing more people makes sense.

Economist: Praise for Laziness

Economist: Praise for Laziness

There is a never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must, do more. Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little but altogether too much busy-ness. All this “leaning in” is producing an epidemic of overwork, and has been producing negative returns for some time now. It is time to try the far more radical strategy of leaning back.

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