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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.”

DS: Monetary Fallacy?

DS: Monetary Fallacy?

To prevent dangerous deflation, the ECB is discussing a massive program to purchase government bonds. Monetary watchdogs are divided over the measure, with some alleging that central bankers are being held hostage by politicians. Is it important that the ECB adhere to tried-and-true principles in the crisis, as Weidmann argues? Or can it resort to unusual measures in an emergency situation, as Draghi is demanding?

NYT: Starkest Warning Yet

NYT: Starkest Warning Yet

The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. In the starkest language the IPCC has ever used, the expert panel made clear how far society remains from having any serious policy to limit global warming.

DS: The Zombie System

DS: The Zombie System

Six years after the Lehman disaster, the industrialized world is suffering from Japan Syndrome. Growth is minimal, another crash may be brewing and the gulf between rich and poor continues to widen. Can the global economy reinvent itself?

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.

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.

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power.

RE: Holder Another Brick in the Wall

RE: Holder Another Brick in the Wall

Considered in its totality, Holder’s time as attorney general maintained the Bush administration’s legal philosophy on the largest issues, and in a style that Bush’s attorneys general must have admired. Trained to detect and amplify Washington’s marginal political differences, the press sometimes overlooks the obvious continuity of the permanent government.

TG: Google Wants To Control Our Lives

TG: Google Wants To Control Our Lives

Page and Brin were clear from the outset: their mission was “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The crucial thing about that sentence is that there’s no reference to the internet. In some sense, every person, every object, every thought in every brain, everything anyone ever does, is information. Page and Brin told us what Google was up to. We just didn’t take them literally enough.

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

How large-scale US surveillance is harming journalism, law, and American democracy. The 120-page report documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions.

SI: Xbox Controller Controls Giant Laser Cannon

SI: Xbox Controller Controls Giant Laser Cannon

Meet one of the U.S. Army’s newest toys: the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. It’s “basically a high-energy laser mounted on top of a big truck,” says Wired. It has an unusual feature, though: the laser cannon is controlled with an Xbox video game controller. There’s increasingly little distance between war games and actual war, in which drone pilots describe their jobs as “a lot like playing a video game.” ​

AJA: Age of Rentier Capitalism

AJA: Age of Rentier Capitalism

It is well known that globalization has put strong downward pressure on wages and benefits of workers in wealthy countries, as companies have offshored and outsourced labor to lower-wage locations and justified wage cuts to try to stay competitive. But politicians and economists have yet to come to terms with the fact that in the rich world the income distribution system itself has broken down irretrievably.

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

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

The four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, cosmologist Martin Rees, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, economic theorist Sir Partha Desgupta and philosopher Huw Price, are in the business of “horizon scanning” – identifying low-probability-but-high-consequence events – and are concerned mainly with risks we have created ourselves – the consequences of being too clever for our own good. One prominent risk is that artificial intelligence (AI) will outcompete our own for predominance, ultimately allowing AI to relate to humans much as humans currently do to chimpanzees. There is also the risk of the deliberate or accidental release of a virus with a modified genome, the adoption of stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering, and the use of 3-D printers to create military-grade weapons.

NG: The 1,300 Bird Species Facing Extinction Signal Threats to Human Health

NG: The 1,300 Bird Species Facing Extinction Signal Threats to Human Health

For all their superhero powers, birds are in trouble. Globally, one in eight—more than 1,300 species—are threatened with extinction, and many others are in worrying decline, from the tropics to the poles. Much of their decline is driven by the loss of places to live and breed—their marshes, rivers, forests, and plains—or by diminished food supply. But more and more these days, the birds are telling us about new threats to the environment and potentially to human health in the coded language of biochemistry. Birds provide the starkest clues in the animal kingdom about whether humans, too, may be harmed by toxic substances. And they prophesy what might happen to us as the load of carbon-based, planet-warming gases in the atmosphere and oceans climbs ever higher.

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.

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. Liking is an economic act. I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages…

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: Bee Colony Collapse

NYT: Bee Colony Collapse

Around the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade. For bees and the plants they pollinate this is a catastrophe. But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.

PD: Google’s Monopoly Over What We Know

PD: Google’s Monopoly Over What We Know

Google’s monopoly power to discriminate information, to decide what we know and what we won’t know, and how accessible or inaccessible that information is, is the real relevant story to the EU controversy over the right to be forgotten. This sort of power goes well beyond abstract principles about freedom of speech, and into the mundane, existential power over businesses, industries, jobs, and the political economy.

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.

TG: Best of Capitalism Over

TG: Best of Capitalism Over

The OECD has a clear message for the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa.

PD: Smart Homes Are Creepy

PD: Smart Homes Are Creepy

“The dwellings of the future will make you calmer, safer, richer and healthier,” Time’s cover assured me, soothingly. But taking my head out of the tech press and reading such a broad, consumer level cover-all of the smarter home, I was nagged by the thought that a modern surveillance state isn’t so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit. Today, where we live, work and shop, who we know and communicate with and what we watch is already in play. With the smart home and its inevitable link into whatever wearable technology eventually becomes popular, we’ll be giving over data on what time we get home, what the climate is inside and outside our home, our diet, weight and hygiene habits, where we are in the house at any given moment, the actual time we go to bed, what lights we like to have turned on and what resources we consume. Calmer, safer, richer and healthier? Try, quantified, coddled, surveilled, and monetized.

PM: Pitchforks Coming for Plutocrats

PM: Pitchforks Coming for Plutocrats

Zillionaire Plutocrat Nick Hanauer calls for higher minimum wage: Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now? I see pitchforks. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

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.

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. Large numbers of refugees and IDPs fleeing to new areas inevitably put a strain on resources, and can even destabilise a host country and the burden of caring for refugees is increasingly falling on the countries with the least resources.

TG: Legal Mass Surveillance

TG: Legal Mass Surveillance

The UK government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, detailed how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, can be monitored by the security services because they are deemed to be “external communications”. It is the first time that the government has admitted that UK citizens, talking via supposedly private channels in social media such as Twitter direct messages, are deemed by the British government to be legitimate legal targets that do not require a warrant before intercepting.

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.

TG: Student Loans Executive Order

TG: Student Loans Executive Order

In another attempt to stem the economic threat of high student debt and win favor for his party before November’s election, President Obama on Monday signed an executive order that will limit federal student loan payments for 5 million more people.

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter? Not very much, according to many educators. But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters but how – printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns and each results in a distinct end product. Researchers have found that when children compose text by hand, they not only consistently produce more words more quickly than they on a keyboard, but express more ideas. There may even be a difference between printing and cursive writing – a distinction of particular importance as the teaching of cursive disappears in curriculum after curriculum.

AN: Obama Enemy of Press Freedom

AN: Obama Enemy of Press Freedom

While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted.

AN: US Surveillance State

AN: US Surveillance State

Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.

NYT: Faking Cultural Literacy

NYT: Faking Cultural Literacy

It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and regurgitate them. What matters to us is not necessarily having actually consumed content but having a position on it. We come perilously close to knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness.

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.

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

Stopping the government from holding onto of all Americans’ phone metadata would undoubtedly be a good thing for American privacy, but if you read between the legislative lines in the recent reform bills, the government might not be curtailing mass surveillance so much as permanently entrenching it in American law.

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.

NYT: Lego Meta-Marketing

NYT: Lego Meta-Marketing

The brilliance of “The Lego Movie” lies in providing every piece to the modern branding puzzle, including the surface-level subversion. In this way, “The Lego Movie” graduates to a new skill level in the game of branding, an approach that’s at once more grandiose and more pernicious than ever. It should probably be a red flag that the most memorable line from “The Lego Movie” is pretty much the central message of any great marketing campaign: This product will deliver you from averageness. But somehow it still works. In the movie’s final moments, big tears stream down my face. I am weeping over a 90-minute infomercial. With enough cleverness and induced vertigo, the mad geniuses of branding never have to be the bad guys again. All they have to say is: You are special.

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.

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.

MIT: Large City CO2

MIT: Large City CO2

More than half the world’s population lives in cities. There is clearly a significant benefit to living in a large permanent settlement with many other humans. But is living in a large city greener than living in a small one? Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Erneson Oliveira and pals at the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil.

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.

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.

SGI: Middle Class and American Power

SGI: Middle Class and American Power

The greatest danger is one that will not be faced for decades but that is lurking out there. If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated.

TE: BlackRock

TE: BlackRock

BlackRock’s Aladdin keeps its eyes on almost 7% of the world’s $225 trillion of financial assets. This is unprecedented—and it means flaws in the system could matter to more than just BlackRock, its investors and its customers. If that much money is being managed by people who all think with the same tools, it may be managed by people all predisposed to the same mistakes. If models are always wrong, as BlackRock posits, it should perhaps be a little worried that so many people are using the ones it offers.

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?

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.

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: 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.

NYT: What Took So Long?

NYT: What Took So Long?

It’s hard to analyze whether the $13 billion is a good deal for the government or for JPMorgan. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with the government recycling well-known facts to drag a bank that behaved badly to the negotiating table. Had the Justice Department aggressively investigated the banks’ practices using its full array of powers, who knows how much more it could have generated?

NYT: Caught in Unemployment

NYT: Caught in Unemployment

Joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists are concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans and for the country, too: lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth.

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.

TG: Universities Watching You

TG: Universities Watching You

It monitors email and social media accounts, uses thousands of surveillance cameras to track behavior and movement, is funded by billions of dollars from the federal government, and has been called “the most authoritarian institution in America”. The National Security Agency? Nope. It’s your average college or university.

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.

TNY: Freedom of Information

TNY: Freedom of Information

Since June 5th, the Guardian had been publishing top-secret digital files provided by Edward Snowden, a former contract employee of the National Security Agency. Such articles have become a trademark of the Guardian – its coverage of Murdoch, WikiLeaks, and Snowden’s files has brought acclaim and an international audience. Despite this success, the Guardian, supported by the Scott Trust which was established nearly eighty years ago to subsidize an “independent” and “liberal” newspaper, has lost money for nine straight years.

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.

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.

Yale Env360: UN Climate Panel

Yale Env360: UN Climate Panel

Since it was created by the UN in 1988, the IPCC has synthesized scientific thinking around climate change and delivered a series of consensus assessments to policymakers. But the question is now being asked: Is the IPCC still fit for its purpose? It may do good science, but does it deliver what policymakers need?

NYT: Rich People Care Less

NYT: Rich People Care Less

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

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.

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.

BBC: Arctic Ice Decline

BBC: Arctic Ice Decline

The volume of sea ice in the Arctic hit a new low this past winter, according to observations from the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Cryosat mission. In its three years of full operations, Cryosat has witnessed a continuing shrinkage of winter ice volume. It underlines, say scientists, the long-term decline of the floes.

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.

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.

Reuters: Facebook Facial Recognition

Reuters: Facebook Facial Recognition

Facebook Inc is considering incorporating most of its 1 billion-plus members’ profile photos into its growing facial recognition database, expanding the scope of the social network’s controversial technology. Facial recognition technology has been a sensitive issue for technology companies, raising concerns among some privacy advocates and government officials.

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.

NYT: NSA Rebuked

NYT: NSA Rebuked

A federal judge sharply rebuked the National Security Agency in 2011 for repeatedly misleading the court that oversees its surveillance on domestic soil, including a program that is collecting tens of thousands of domestic e-mails and other Internet communications of Americans each year.

NatGeo: Sugar

NatGeo: Sugar

Five million years ago, a cold wind blew. A bridge emerged and a few adventurous apes moved out of Africa to settle in the rain forests of Eurasia. But the cooling continued, replacing tropical groves of fruit with deciduous forests – a famine struck the apes. A mutation occurred in one making it a wildly efficient processor of fructose. Even small amounts were stored as fat, a huge survival advantage when food was scarce. Then one day that ape returned to its home in Africa and begot the apes we see today, including the one that spread its sugar-loving progeny across the globe. Only animals with the mutation survived, today all apes have it, including humans. It got our ancestors through the lean years. Our world is now flooded with fructose, but our bodies have evolved to get by on very, very little of it – the very thing that saved us could kill us in the end.

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.

Ken Robinson: Educationalist

Ken Robinson: Educationalist

Why don’t we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says.

Paddy Ashdown: Politician

Paddy Ashdown: Politician

After service as a Royal Marine and as an intelligence officer for the UK security services, Paddy Ashdown was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1983 to 2001, and leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 until 1999; later he was the international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006.

Guardian: Climate and Violence

Guardian: Climate and Violence

As much of Europe and America swelter under the effects of unusually warm temperatures this summer, it may be cold comfort to learn that climate change affects more than the weather; it also influences our behaviour. A hot-off-the-presses study finds that as global temperatures increase, so does violent human behaviour. Further, thanks to climate change and extremes in rainfall, this study predicts that conflicts may increase between now and 2050.

FP: Best Hope to Stop NSA

FP: Best Hope to Stop NSA

The court may be primed for a reinterpretation of its own rulings on metadata, which can be even more revealing than content. Congress has shown little appetite for clarifying these issues, and has reliably voted to expand, not limit, the surveillance powers of the executive branch. President Barack Obama’s position on the issues is not only a continuation of his predecessor’s, but a change from the views he held as a candidate.

BBC: Arctic Time Bomb

BBC: Arctic Time Bomb

Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. The researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost $60 trillion (£39 trillion), roughly the size of the global economy in 2012.

MIT: Rising Seas

MIT: Rising Seas

A new study finds that if temperatures go up by just one degree Celcius, sea levels will eventually—as ice sheet melt over the next 2,000 years—rise 2.3 meters. If temperature goes up 2 °C, oceans will rise 4.8 meters. If the planet warms by 4 °C, which is within the IPCC range of estimates, they will eventually rise by 9 meters, on average, and up to 12 meters in some parts of the world.

PSE: Wealth Income Ratios

PSE: Wealth Income Ratios

How do aggregate wealth-to-income ratios evolve in the long run and why? We address this question using 1970-2010 national balance sheets recently compiled in the top eight developed economies. For the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France, we are able to extend our analysis as far back as 1700. We find in every country a gradual rise of wealth-income ratios in recent decades, from about 200-300% in 1970 to 400-600% in 2010. In effect, today’s ratios appear to be returning to the high values observed in Europe in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries (600-700%). This can be explained by a long run asset price recovery (itself driven by changes in capital policies since the world wars) and by the slowdown of productivity and population growth. Our results have important implications for capital taxation and regulation and shed new light on the changing nature of wealth, the shape of the production function, and the rise of capital shares.

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.

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.

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.

NoC: 40% of Food Thrown Out

NoC: 40% of Food Thrown Out

Food waste in America is a problem that has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s. Today, as much as 40 percent of food produced in America is thrown away. Decomposing food releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as effective at trapping atmospheric heat than carbon.

NYT: China’s Economic Empire

NYT: China’s Economic Empire

The combination of a strong, rising China and economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly uncomfortable. By buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination.

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.

Richard Haass: CFR President

Richard Haass: CFR President

Dr. Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he was director of policy planning for the Department of State, U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan, and U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process.

BBC: Human Extinction

BBC: Human Extinction

International policymakers must pay serious attention to the reality of species-obliterating risks. The stakes couldn’t be higher, there is a real gap between the speed of technological advance and our understanding of its implications. The significance of existential risk is not, currently, on people’s radars.

Brookings: Bank Equity Rules

Brookings: Bank Equity Rules

There are serious proposals to force banks to fund themselves with considerably less debt and far more money from their shareholders. This would protect the rest of us, by leaving more of the risk with shareholders and reducing the potential need for taxpayer bailouts. However, there is a trade-off for the greater safety; loans would become more expensive and the economy would slow.

Foreign Policy: New Westphalian Web

Foreign Policy: New Westphalian Web

Nearly 365 years ago, more than 100 warring diplomats and princes got together and created the basic framework for territorial sovereignty: nation-states, demarcated by borders. But 30 years ago, humanity gave birth to the internet. With the flip of a switch, three engineers had undone the work of more than 100 princes and diplomats.

Emmanuel Saez: Economist

Emmanuel Saez: Economist

Emmanuel Saez is the Director of the Center for Equitable Growth at the University of California at Berkeley. His main areas of research are centered around taxation, redistribution, and inequality, both from a theoretical and empirical perspective. He recommends much higher taxes on the rich.

NYT: For Two Economists…

NYT: For Two Economists…

Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have tracked the incomes of the poor, the middle class and the rich in countries across the world. Their work shows that the top earners in the United States have taken a bigger and bigger share of overall income over the last three decades, with inequality nearly as acute as it was before the Great Depression.

NYT: Johnson discusses Kaufman

NYT: Johnson discusses Kaufman

To break the grip Wall Street has over political power would take a broad citizens’ movement, a groundswell of educated opinion focused on breaking that power, but the biggest Wall Street firms are larger and probably now more powerful than they were in the run-up to 2008.

CorpWatch

CorpWatch

The actions of private corporations have very real impact on public life. CorpWatch employs investigative research and journalism to expose corporate malfeasance and to advocate for multinational corporate accountability and transparency.

Principles for Responsible Investment

Principles for Responsible Investment

The UN-backed PRI Initiative is a network of international investors working together to incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues into decision-making and ownership practices to better align their objectives with those of society at large.

TEEB

TEEB

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity is an international initiative to draw attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity, the costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

Brian Collins: The Great Shock

Brian Collins: The Great Shock

The global financial system still teeters on the brink of collapse, and virtually nothing has been done to avert another disaster. With the spectacle of “extend and pretend” unfolding, what needs explaining is why even the well-informed and high-minded remain committed to so unpromising a status quo.

NYT: A Facial Theory of Politics

NYT: A Facial Theory of Politics

On April 21, 2012, Leonard Mlodinow published an Op-Ed in the New York Times Sunday Review titled, A Facial Theory of Politics. The article describes studies made into the effect of visual cues on electoral results. “How important is a political candidate’s appearance? We’re all worldly enough to understand that looks matter. You probably know about the famous 1960 presidential debate between an unshaven and tired Richard Nixon and a tanned and rested John F. Kennedy: those who watched on television generally thought Kennedy won the debate, while those who listened over the radio overwhelmingly favored Nixon. Still, even the most jaded politico assumes that appearance is a relatively small factor — and one that we are basically aware of. Everyone knew that part of Kennedy’s appeal was how he looked…”

INET: Controlling Systemic Risk

INET: Controlling Systemic Risk

Professor Ed Kane argues that the common definition of systemic risk leaves out a crucial element – the endogenous role that safety net subsidies to serious risk taking play in incentivizing firms to take action politically and economically to attain and strengthen their status as systemically important firms.

INET: Measuring Systemic Risk

INET: Measuring Systemic Risk

Banks take on excessive risk since they know, in case of failure, the taxpayer will step in to rescue them. That is a form of free insurance, and Ed Kane wants to end it. To do so, he says, we need to put a number on systemic risk, the amount for which the taxpayer is on the hook.

Edward O. Wilson: Professor

Edward O. Wilson: Professor

Biologist Edward O. Wilson is University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and author of the books: The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth; The Future of Life; and The Diversity of Life, which describes how man is in the process of causing the “sixth extinction”.

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