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TN: Walmart’s Billion $ Tax Avoidance

TN: Walmart’s Billion $ Tax Avoidance

Walmart avoids $1 billion a year in taxes through federal loopholes. The losers are the working-class consumers who think they’re getting a good deal by elbowing through the mob surrounding the Xbox floor display. An even more convenient source of “savings” for Walmart operates on the retail level, through the pockets of consumers and workers who rely on taxpayer-funded federal welfare programs.

PS: Emissions Reduction Numbers

PS: Emissions Reduction Numbers

A loose system of individual commitments, in which each country unilaterally sets emissions targets, can help build trust and momentum for a more inclusive successor to the Kyoto Protocol. But if such a system is to work, general agreement would need to exist about what constitutes a fair target for each country. Fortunately, a study of the emissions targets to which countries have already agreed allows us to describe, and even quantify, what has historically been considered fair and reasonable.

RS: JP Morgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare

RS: JP Morgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare

Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported) to keep the public from hearing. Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations. This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. “I could be sued into bankruptcy,” she says. “I could lose my license to practice law. I could lose everything. But if we don’t start speaking up, then this really is all we’re going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history.”

TWP: Why Taxation Must Go Global

TWP: Why Taxation Must Go Global

We are witnessing profound changes in the way that the world economy works. As a result of the growing pace and intensity of globalization and digitization, more and more economic processes have an international dimension. As a consequence, an increasing number of businesses are adapting their structures to domestic and foreign legal systems and taxation laws. Tax legislation has not kept pace with these developments. The resulting tensions between national fiscal sovereignty and the borderless scope of today’s business activities can be resolved only through international dialogue and uniform global standards.

NYT: Driving Students Into Default

NYT: Driving Students Into Default

Federal regulators and members of Congress have been pressing private lenders to adopt flexible payment plans like those available through the federal loan system to no avail, according to an alarming report released last month by the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Congress may have to step in and require them to do so.

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

In taking office during two overseas wars and the Great Recession, President Obama set out to restore society’s frayed faith in its public institutions, saying that the question was not whether government was too big or small, “but whether it works.” Six years later, Americans seem more dubious than ever that it really does.

WP: Warren’s Powerful Case

WP: Warren’s Powerful Case

Elizabeth Warren is not running for president apparently because everyone assumes the nomination is Clinton’s. But everyone was making that same assumption eight years ago, and we know what happened. If the choice is between inspiration and inevitability, Warren may be forced to change her plans.

MJ: Bee-Killing Pesticides Useless

MJ: Bee-Killing Pesticides Useless

So, there’s this widely used class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids that have emerged as a prime suspect in honeybee collapse, and may also be harming birds and water-borne critters. But at least they provide benefits to farmers, right? Well, not soybean farmers, according to a blunt economic assessment released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

NYT: Dark Market for Personal Data

NYT: Dark Market for Personal Data

It’s unrealistic to expect individuals to inquire, broker by broker, about their files. Instead, we need to require brokers to make targeted disclosures to consumers. Uncovering problems in Big Data (or decision models based on that data) should not be a burden we expect individuals to solve on their own.

PS: Moral Economy of Debt

PS: Moral Economy of Debt

The creditor-debtor relationship embodies no iron law of morality; rather, it is a social relationship that always must be negotiated. When quantitative precision and an unyielding approach to debt obligations are the rule, conflict and penury soon follow. We need to limit the supply of and demand for credit to what the economy is capable of producing.

RE: Is Civil Society Imperialistic?

RE: Is Civil Society Imperialistic?

The word “imperialism” is still bandied about a good deal. Sometimes its meaning is traditional, Sometimes the meaning is flakier. There’s an entrant in the imperialism lexicon that has picked up a lot of resonance in the past decade and is even becoming a staple in foreign policy discussions. Call it “civil society imperialism.” And the idea behind the term’s rising popularity has spawned lots of big enemies.

AJ: Trade Agreements Kept Secret

AJ: Trade Agreements Kept Secret

In August 2007, then–presidential candidate Barack Obama vowed that, if elected, he would “immediately” amend NAFTA. Six years later, with NAFTA still untouched, Obama faced the decision to appoint the chief U.S. negotiators for the two largest trade agreements in history. And he picked Wall Street bankers for the job. While labor organizations worry about losing leverage, the financial industry seems poised to entrench its influence.

FA: Truth About Taxes

FA: Truth About Taxes

Governments worldwide increasingly share the sentiment: perhaps, like the pinched middle classes, they feel that corporations are taking too much of the profits for themselves. And so, at a June 2012 summit, G-20 leaders resolved to get multinational corporations to pay more taxes. They asked another international organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, to investigate and suggest what might be done.

TN: Student Debt Sentence

TN: Student Debt Sentence

Public funds in the form of federal student loans has been called the “lifeblood” of the for-profit system, providing on average 86 percent of revenues. Such schools now enroll around 10 percent of America’s college students, but take in more than a quarter of all federal financial aid—as much as $33 billion in a single year. By some estimates it would cost less than half that amount to directly fund free higher education at all currently existing two- and four-year public colleges.

PS: Democracy in the 21st Century

PS: Democracy in the 21st Century

There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. If we get the rules of the game right, we might be able to restore the rapid and shared economic growth that characterized the middle-class societies of the mid-twentieth century. The main question confronting us today is not really about capital in the twenty-first century. It is about democracy in the twenty-first century.

BBC: One Third US Birds in Decline

BBC: One Third US Birds in Decline

The State of the Birds report, the most comprehensive review of bird trends and data ever undertaken in the US, makes clear that birds across the US are in deep trouble. Almost half of all shorebird species, such as ruddy turnstones, red knots and piping plovers, are either endangered or at risk of becoming endangered. In Hawaii the situation is even worse. “Hawaii is the extinction capital of the world,” says Pete Marra, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center.

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington and it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom. The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments and have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, perhaps in violation of federal law.

AJA: Emotion Driven Economy

AJA: Emotion Driven Economy

Economic predictions depend on figuring out what generates economic activity. Since the turn of the 20th century, economists have struggled to grasp what drives various parts of the economy, from consumer goods to commodities to housing. Recent research suggests financial markets and economic growth are supported mainly by animal spirits, not rational calculation

MIT: Weaknesses of Big Data

MIT: Weaknesses of Big Data

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.

TE: Fund Managers

TE: Fund Managers

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.

NYT: What Science Says About Marijuana

NYT: What Science Says About Marijuana

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.

NYT: Repeal Prohibition, Again

NYT: Repeal Prohibition, Again

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.

TG: Internet a Big Human Experiment

TG: Internet a Big Human Experiment

If you thought the internet industry was chastened by the public firestorm after Facebook revealed it had manipulated the news feeds of its own users to affect their emotions, think again: OKCupid.com, the dating site, is now bragging that it deliberately arranged matches between people whom its algorithms determined were not compatible – just to get data on how well the site was working.

BI: US Can Learn from Brazil and Germany

BI: US Can Learn from Brazil and Germany

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.

PS: Taking Systemic Risk Seriously

PS: Taking Systemic Risk Seriously

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.

WW: A Hachette Job

WW: A Hachette Job

It is true that the big publishers buckling under Amazon’s thumb today are themselves tightly consolidated and have used their power in the past in ways that didn’t promote the best interest of writers and readers. But to champion as the antidote to their power an even bigger and consolidated power like Amazon ignores the lessons of the past – and sets up writers, publishers, and readers for fewer avenues and hence greater risks ahead.

PS: The World Cup’s Sickening Message

PS: The World Cup’s Sickening Message

One billion people watched the opening match of the FIFA World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil, and hundreds of millions more will tune in at some point during the month-long tournament. For FIFA’s six major partners and the event’s eight official sponsors, this audience is nothing short of a gold mine. Indeed, they pay tens of millions of dollars in the hope that some of the magic of the “beautiful game” will rub off on their brands. For viewers, that is probably not a good thing. Sponsorship by companies like Budweiser, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and the food giant Moy Park brings millions of dollars to the game. But what message does it send to the global audience? Promoting alcohol, sugary drinks, and fast food may mean massive profits for corporations, but it also means worse health for individuals and a costly burden on countries’ health-care systems.

BBC: Honeybee Loss Task Force

BBC: Honeybee Loss Task Force

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.

WP: Pacific Marine Sanctuary

WP: Pacific Marine Sanctuary

President Obama on Tuesday will announce his intent to make a broad swath of the central Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities. The proposal, slated to go into effect later this year after a comment period, could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected. The announcement is part of a broader push on maritime issues by an administration that has generally favored other environmental priorities. On Capitol Hill, some Republicans have sought to limit the administration’s ability to influence offshore activities, viewing it as another attempt by the president to test the limits of White House power.

USNWR: How Google Could End Democracy

USNWR: How Google Could End Democracy

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.

FPIF: Participatory Totalitarianism

FPIF: Participatory Totalitarianism

If surveillance was monaural during the Cold War and became stereophonic in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it is now quadrophonic. It can’t be reduced to the activity of a single state or even a particular government-industrial complex. We are all now embedded in a veritable matrix of surveillance. It has become surround sound. In the Communist era, Hungarian writer Miklos Haraszti wrote about what he called the “velvet prison.” We are at home in the new surveillance state, for we barely register all the cameras, all the targeted advertising, all the intrusions into what had previously been considered sacred private space. We are not passive objects of observation. We are active subjects of our own YouTube channels.

TE: Obama’s Green Gamble

TE: Obama’s Green Gamble

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.

BI: Obama’s Clean Power Plan

BI: Obama’s Clean Power Plan

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.

MIT: Robots Running This Way

MIT: Robots Running This Way

If their mobility can be improved, then these robots, and others like them, might stride out of research laboratories and populate the world with smart mobile machines. That helps explain why a few days before the DARPA Challenge, Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google.

NYT: Democrats in Coal Country

NYT: Democrats in Coal Country

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.

TI: Soap Causing Infertility?

TI: Soap Causing Infertility?

Chemicals in common household products such as toothpaste, soap and plastic toys have a direct impact on human sperm which could help explain rising levels of male infertility, scientists have found. The findings will raise further concerns about the hidden toxicity of chemicals deemed safe by toxicology tests.

BR: US Climate Assessment

BR: US Climate Assessment

The recently released third National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a collaborative effort by federal agencies and hundreds of experts, that focuses on the science of climate change impacts in the United States that are happening now, and those that are expected throughout this century.

AJA: US Industrialized Chicken

AJA: US Industrialized Chicken

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed to increase the speed of kill lines for poultry in slaughterhouses. But with testing from Consumer Reports last year revealing that 97 percent of raw chicken breasts purchased at retailers are contaminated with harmful bacteria, and with poultry workers already suffering from numerous job-related injuries, advocacy groups are vigorously opposed to the idea.

NC: Chemical Apples

NC: Chemical Apples

A chemical widely used on non-organic American apples was banned in the European Union in 2012 because its makers could not show it did not pose a risk to human health, according to a new analysis by Environmental Working Group (EWG). Even low levels of nitrosamines on raw apples, or in apple juice and applesauce could potentially pose a risk to human health.

R: Apple and Google Wage Conspiracy

R: Apple and Google Wage Conspiracy

Four major tech companies including Apple and Google have agreed to pay a total of $324 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to hold down salaries in Silicon Valley. The case was based largely on emails in which Silicon Valley rivals hatched plans to avoid poaching each other’s prized engineers.

DS: Central Banks’ Eroding Power

DS: Central Banks’ Eroding Power

Since the financial crisis, central banks have slashed interest rates, purchased vast quantities of sovereign bonds and bailed out banks. Now, though, their influence appears to be on the wane with measures producing paltry results. Do they still have control? Governments must exert tighter control over banks and financial institutions, but monetary policy experts also have a role to play. They shouldn’t just focus on the economy, but also pay attention to the financial cycle.

PS: The West’s Financial Arsenal

PS: The West’s Financial Arsenal

The revolution in Ukraine and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea have generated a serious security crisis in Europe. But, with Western leaders testing a new kind of financial warfare, the situation could become even more dangerous. In 1911, instead of being an alternative to war, the financial arms race made war more likely – as it may well be doing with Russia today.

BBC: Millions Wasted on Tamiflu

BBC: Millions Wasted on Tamiflu

Hundreds of millions of pounds may have been wasted on a drug for flu that works no better than paracetamol, a landmark analysis has said. The Cochrane Collaboration claimed the drug did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms. The report is the result of a colossal fight for the previously hidden data into the effectiveness and side-effects of Tamiflu.

NYT: Climate Risk

NYT: Climate Risk

Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

TD: The Data Snatchers

TD: The Data Snatchers

By 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online. Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces: the Internet of Things. With the rise of the networked device, what people do in their homes, in their cars, in stores, and within their communities will be monitored and analyzed in ever more intrusive ways by corporations. Yes, imagine it. Welcome to a world where everything you do is collected, stored, analyzed, and, more often than not, packaged and sold to strangers — including government agencies.

AN: 1st Amendment Train Wreck

AN: 1st Amendment Train Wreck

Without protections for new media and nontraditional journalists, the Freedom Flow of Information Act may very well end up doing little more than anointing a new set of gatekeepers—established traditional media organizations who call the shots about what leaks are published and what aren’t, instead of the relatively open social media and blog spheres.

Ceres: SEC Climate Reporting

Ceres: SEC Climate Reporting

Climate change and its regulation pose significant risks and opportunities to investors and corporations. The key regulator that leads federal efforts to provide investors with information about corporate risks and opportunities is the SEC. This report examines the state of such corporate reporting and associated SEC comment letters.

PS: A New Progressive Political Economy

PS: A New Progressive Political Economy

The 2008 financial crash revealed major flaws in the neoliberal view of capitalism, and an objective view of the last 35 years shows that the neoliberal model has not performed well relative to the previous 30 years in terms of economic growth, financial stability, and social justice. But a credible progressive alternative has yet to take shape. First, a progressive political economy must be based on a firm belief in capitalism. Second, institutions do not evolve spontaneously, as neoliberals believe. Third the neoliberal view that a country’s economic performance should be assessed solely in terms of GDP growth and freedom must be rejected. Western countries that do not adopt this framework, and instead cling to a neoliberal political economy, will find it increasingly difficult to innovate and grow.

NYT: CA Plastic Bag Ban

NYT: CA Plastic Bag Ban

A companion to shoppers for a half-century, the plastic bag is now under siege in California, where a growing number of policy makers have come to regard it as a symbol of environmental wastefulness. Lawmakers in Sacramento are trying to make California the first state to approve a blanket ban on this most ubiquitous of consumer products.

TE: Global Banking

TE: Global Banking

The economics of international banking are straightforward enough: raise funds in countries where they are cheap, lend where they are dear. Done right, this is both lucrative for bankers and good for the world, by channelling savings to their most productive use. Those economics have begun to come apart over the past five years.

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.

PS: Financial Regulators’ Mess

PS: Financial Regulators’ Mess

The recent $13 billion settlement between the US Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase appears significant, but the message is clear: There will be no change to business as usual. JPM has a total balance sheet of around $4 trillion, the penalty is to be paid largely by its shareholders, and $7 billion of the fine is likely to be tax deductible, implying a tax break worth around $2.2 billion.

PS: American Inequality

PS: American Inequality

Unless something goes unexpectedly wrong in 2014, the level of real per capita GDP in the United States will match and exceed its 2007 level. That is not good news. US output is now seven years – 14% – below the level that was reasonably expected back in 2007. If we combine the costs of idle workers and capital during the downturn and the harm done to the US economy’s future growth path, the losses reach 3.5-10 years of total output. That is a higher share of America’s productive capabilities than the Great Depression subtracted.

PD: Google Surveillance Problem

PD: Google Surveillance Problem

Private sector companies like Google run hi-tech spying operations that vacuum up private information and use it to compile detailed dossiers on hundreds of millions of people around the world — and that’s on top of their work colluding and contracting with government intelligence agencies. Silicon Valley runs on for-profit surveillance that dwarfs anything being run by the NSA.

NYT: Obama’s Inequality Speech

NYT: Obama’s Inequality Speech

President Obama’s speech on inequality was important in several respects, but there’s a crucial dimension the president left out: the revival, since the mid-1970s, of the laissez-faire ideology that prevailed in the Gilded Age. It’s no coincidence that this laissez-faire revival has unfolded over the very period in which inequality has soared to levels not seen since the Gilded Age.

DT: Insurance Modernization Report

DT: Insurance Modernization Report

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO) has released its report on how to modernize and improve the system of insurance regulation in the United States. The report concludes that in some circumstances, policy goals of uniformity, efficiency, and consumer protection make continued federal involvement necessary to improve insurance regulation. However, the report concludes that insurance regulation in the United States is best viewed in terms of a hybrid federal/state model.

BI: Finance in the Economy

BI: Finance in the Economy

U.S. commercial banks and their affiliates have always faced limitations on the business they are allowed to undertake, in order to reduce the risk of business disasters that would endanger their ability to fulfill their critical role at the heart of the economic system, but we do not favor any of the major proposals for further structural divisions between commercial banking and securities and derivatives activities.

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.

TE: Legislative Verbosity

TE: Legislative Verbosity

The most consequential laws go on for thousands of pages. Greater length is partly a consequence of the increases in computing power that have made it easier for people to produce interminable documents. But it is mainly a result of gridlock in Congress. If longer bills were merely a byproduct of cleaner government, that would be a reason to celebrate. But they also reflect a more open form of corruption.

FA: Policing Synthetic Biology

FA: Policing Synthetic Biology

Ongoing research and discoveries in the life sciences — the latest and most promising involving synthetic biology — have led to extraordinary advances that will benefit society. But criminals and terrorists could manipulate such advances to disrupt public safety and national security.

TN: Obama’s War on Pot

TN: Obama’s War on Pot

Ultimately, what stands in the way of meaningful change is the Controlled Substances Act. As long as it is in place, the Justice Department will bring forward marijuana prosecutions. President Obama is unlikely to spend political capital pushing to change federal law. The man marijuana reformers elected in 2008 will likely leave office in January 2017 having changed as little as possible.

BI: National Suspicions

BI: National Suspicions

The terrible global financial crisis of 2007-9, and the ensuing “Great Recession,” concentrated the minds of national leaders on the need for cooperation. But more recently mistrust and narrow conceptions of short-term national interests have undermined the global cooperation necessary to repair the damage of the financial crisis and build the safe and efficient financial sector that we need going forward. In Europe, and in the wider world, it is critical that leaders recognize that the gains from cross-border cooperation in finance are large and the risks from playing games to protect narrow national interests are also big. Complacency is dangerous with the job of reform still so far from finished.

TE: The Recorded World

TE: The Recorded World

A huge, looming issue is the growing sophistication of face-recognition technologies. We may not be far from a world in which your movements could be tracked all the time, where a stranger walking down the street can immediately identify exactly who you are. The fight should start now. Otherwise, in the blink of an eye, privacy could be gone.

AN: Subsidizing Vacation Homes

AN: Subsidizing Vacation Homes

Flood insurance rates will have to rise quite a bit to reflect the actual risks of flood damage. At some point, America will have to manage these costs. They cannot just constantly rebuild every flood-prone area, especially if it becomes increasingly unlivable. Sadly, Congress is preparing to make the politically expedient choice of doing nothing.

GAO: Pesticide Registration Problems

GAO: Pesticide Registration Problems

EPA does not have a reliable system, such as an automated data system, to track key information related to conditional registrations of pesticides, including whether companies have submitted additional data within required time frames. As a result, pesticides with conditional registrations could be marketed for years without EPA’s receipt and review of these data.

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.

PS: Five Years in Limbo

PS: Five Years in Limbo

While some are congratulating themselves on avoiding another depression, no one in Europe or the United States can claim that prosperity has returned. We have done some things to improve financial markets, but other problems have gone unaddressed and some have worsened. The financial system may be more stable than it was five years ago, but that is a low bar – back then, it was teetering on the edge of a precipice.

AN: Financial Armageddon

AN: Financial Armageddon

Increased regulation and low interest rates are driving lending from the regulated commercial banking system into the unregulated shadow banking system. The shadow banks, although free of government regulation, are propped up by a hidden government guarantee in the form of safe harbor status under the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act pushed through by Wall Street. The result is to create perverse incentives for the financial system to self-destruct.

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.

FA: Stealth Multilateralism

FA: Stealth Multilateralism

The US Senate rejects multilateral treaties as if it were sport. The US still wields influence in the UN Security Council and in international financial and trade institutions, but when it comes to solving global problems beyond the old centers of diplomatic and economic power, the United States suffers the self-inflicted wound of diminishing relevance.

NoC: An Explosive Fall

NoC: An Explosive Fall

The culmination of faux regulation, debt ceiling debates, derivatives growth and the ever-expanding Federal Reserve books will provide lots of volatility for which the White House will be caught unprepared. We need banking reform ala Glass-Steagall. Anything less is an exercise in political posturing and regulatory futility.

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.

NoC: GM Insects

NoC: GM Insects

Just when you thought genetically modified mosquitoes and mutated dinner entrees were the extent of biotech’s hunger to manipulate the genetic coding of the planet, scientists have now unleashed a plan to launch thousands of ‘frankenfly’ style insects into the wild in order to combat pests.

Alternet: Coca-Cola Ads

Alternet: Coca-Cola Ads

It was laughable when Coca-Cola launched a campaign to fight obesity. And even more laughable when the king of soda’s anti-obesity campaign shifted all the blame for those extra pounds to lack of exercise and chairs. But now, the company that donated $1.7 million to defeat last year’s GMO labeling initiative in California has gone from laughable to dangerous.

Foreign Affairs: Business and Climate

Foreign Affairs: Business and Climate

Corporations are authoritative organizations that can channel extraordinary levels of human, technical, and fiscal resources toward specific problems and missions. Multinational corporations dominate markets, trade, investment, research and development, and the spread of technology. To fight climate change, the international community needs to harness this power

NYT: Flood Insurance Disaster

NYT: Flood Insurance Disaster

There was no question that the nation’s troubled flood insurance program needed an overhaul when Congress passed legislation last year to eliminate many of the subsidies that had put the program about $25 billion into debt. But these reforms offered too much tough love and too little compassion for flood-prone homeowners.

Foreign Affairs: Next Economic Bubble

Foreign Affairs: Next Economic Bubble

Occasionally, the object of speculation has been one of those fundamental technological innovations that eventually transforms the economy. In these cases, the prospects of short-term financial gain from riding a bubble mobilizes far more investor capital than prudent professional investors would otherwise dole out.

Economist: Systemic Insurers

Economist: Systemic Insurers

Insurers have long claimed to be the financial world’s shock absorbers, there to contain the carnage periodically unleashed by their banking brethren. Regulators have left them on the fringes of sweeping post-crisis reforms that have reshaped much of the financial sector. Until now.

NoC: Bee-Killing Pesticides

NoC: Bee-Killing Pesticides

It is estimated over 10 million beehives been wiped out since 2007, as part of a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Two Congressional Democrats have co-sponsored new legislation called the Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013 to take emergency action to save the remaining bees in the U.S., and in turn, the U.S. food supply.

UN University: Gross Domestic Problem

UN University: Gross Domestic Problem

Lorenzo Fioramonti is a political scientist and specialist on governance issues who teaches at the University of Pretoria, where he directs the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. GDP was developed in the late 1930s in the US to help governments tackle the Great Depression, and afterwards it was used to plan America’s involvement in the Second World War. GDP is a measure of economic output. It is a market measure. What does not have a price tag is not included in GDP. This leads to the exclusion of important elements of economic performance. It neglects, for instance, the depletion of natural resources used for economic growth, as these are provided free of charge by nature. Nor does it consider the costs associated with economic growth, which include social risks, environmental degradation and the like. What matters is not statistical efficiency but social relevance. We should measure what we want rather than wanting what we measure.

PS: Greening Financial Reform

PS: Greening Financial Reform

Trillions of dollars in “green finance” are needed annually to prevent climate change and natural constraints from stalling the global economy and threatening the livelihoods of billions of people. Policymakers need to develop more effective ways to boost green investment. Limiting regulatory reform to preventing a repetition of past crises is an incomplete, potentially damaging approach. Today’s financial-market reform must also look ahead, in order to avoid the potential crises of tomorrow.

Jerry Mander: Globalization

Jerry Mander: Globalization

Mander draws attention to capitalism’s obsessive need to dominate and undermine democracy, as well as to diminish social and economic equity. Designed to operate free of morality, the system promotes permanent war as a key economic strategy. Worst of all, the problems of capitalism are intrinsic to the form.

PS: Speculative Bubbles

PS: Speculative Bubbles

One problem with the word bubble is that it creates a mental picture of an expanding soap bubble, which is destined to pop suddenly and irrevocably. But speculative bubbles may deflate somewhat, and then reflate. It would seem more accurate to refer to these episodes as speculative epidemics. A new speculative bubble can appear anywhere a new story about the economy appears with the narrative strength to spark a new contagion of investor thinking.

NYT: Aluminium as Gold

NYT: Aluminium as Gold

Hundreds of millions of times a day, thirsty Americans open a can of soda, beer or juice. And every time they do it, they pay a fraction of a penny more because of a shrewd maneuver by Goldman Sachs and other financial players has cost American consumers more than $5 billion over the last three years. Similar practices are taking place in other areas of commodities trading as well.

Economist: Nature’s Banker

Economist: Nature’s Banker

Mr Tercek is at the forefront of a new, businesslike sort of environmentalism, which is changing the way companies and governments view nature. Regulation is often needed to create markets for nature’s bounty to be traded on, and it may not be forthcoming. But that is no reason to damn the approach. Once the business case for greenery is accepted, the results are often stunning.

NYT: Corporate Tax Avoidance

NYT: Corporate Tax Avoidance

The world’s richest economies endorsed a blueprint to curb widely used tax avoidance strategies that allow some multinational corporations to pay only a pittance in income taxes. However, it could be years before any changes take place in national tax laws, and big corporations and other interest groups are sure to lobby heavily to preserve their tax breaks.

Economist: Obama Climate Measures

Economist: Obama Climate Measures

Obama has promised to deploy almost every green weapon at his disposal, from better insulation in public buildings to loan guarantees for clean energy. To engage the enemy as quickly as possible, he is relying solely on authority already granted to him by Congress, but even if the rules survive in court, a future administration could reverse them.

Foreign Affairs: War of Law

Foreign Affairs: War of Law

If officials are going to make rules for Americans, those officials should be Americans, democratically accountable to voters. Given the recent history of international meddling of this kind, even when a treaty is non-self-executing (that is, its implementation requires the passage of a law), this is not merely a theoretical concern.

NoC: Unaccountable Power

NoC: Unaccountable Power

There are two great centers of unaccountable power in the American political-economic system today – places where decisions that significantly affect large numbers of Americans are made in secret, and are unchecked either by effective democratic oversight or by market competition – the intelligence community, and Wall Street.

TPM: Big Data, Big Brother

TPM: Big Data, Big Brother

The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.

Guardian: Airline GHGs

Guardian: Airline GHGs

International airlines have agreed for the first time to global curbs on their greenhouse gas emissions – but fell well short of the measures to combat climate change that green campaigners had demanded – they did not agree to a global limit on greenhouse gas emissions from air travel, or detail how governments should implement a market-based mechanism to cover all airlines.

BBC: GM Salmon

BBC: GM Salmon

The potential risks of genetically modified fish escaping into the wild have been highlighted in a new study. The hybrid fish that resulted from the study out-compete both GM salmon and wild salmon. The study highlights the potential ecological consequences of genetically modified fish getting into the wild.

NYT: Big Pot

NYT: Big Pot

They assembled on the 40th floor of the tallest building in Seattle last week, the ex-Mexican president and the businessman who wants to be known as the Bill Gates of Bud. On the table: a pie bigger than the sky. It would involve drugs, suppliers and retailers, and laser-targeted marketing for buyers willing to pay a premium.

NoC: Icelandic Revolution

NoC: Icelandic Revolution

The struggle in Iceland is ongoing, but the nation’s people have achieved monumental results in a relatively short amount of time due to the nature of their movement building – five goals should be sought in the US: Strive For Unity, Turn a Few Central Demands into Goals, Be the Banks, Be the Government, Crowdsource a New Constitution.

Brookings: Regulating NonBank SIFIs

Brookings: Regulating NonBank SIFIs

Once a non-bank financial institution has been designated as a SIFI, very real questions arise as to how best to regulate these institutions. The Fed has promised to pay careful attention to the differences between banks and other financial institutions that are designated as SIFIs. Elliott emphasizes it is crucial that they be rigorous in doing so.

NYT: Wandering Data

NYT: Wandering Data

New approaches to privacy for online consumers, even if they eventually go into effect, do not address a larger issue: the thousands of details that third-party data gatherers, who typically don’t interact directly with consumers, have already amassed about a majority of adults in the United States.

The Economist: Tech Regulation

The Economist: Tech Regulation

SILICON VALLEY has long tried to keep Washington, DC, at arm’s length. But as Google, Facebook and other web firms have grown too big for the government to ignore, their executives have been spending more time in the nation’s capital. Among their ports of call are the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

The Economist: Green Wheels

The Economist: Green Wheels

Some carmakers try harder than others to be green. Besides making their models cleaner to run, many carmakers are also trying to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing them. Having been depicted as environmental villains since the 1950s, cars and their makers may soon be able to move out of the spotlight.

The Economist: Green California

The Economist: Green California

Over decades California’s green rules have inspired other states and the federal government to follow. Older rules focused on conservation, newer ones focus on investment, new technologies and development projects.

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