While not receiving much press this week because of the the immigration reform talk, quietly the climate change talk has risen to the surface like CO2. Among the many things mentioned in President Obama’s inaugural address, one of which was a renewed focus on the issues of climate change. Senator Barbara Boxer has recently remarked that the EPA has the authority to enact wide-spread change without a congressional bill. This has some in the oil and gas business shaking. The administration has been surprisingly friendly to the industry as of late, coinciding with the natural gas and shale booms; however, will a lame-duck President and administration go back on previous promises? How could this affect the economy moving forward? Only time will tell.
A small but growing number of companies are starting to share with employees all of their financial information, including the salaries of other employees. This is most common among smaller start up companies that start out as open enterprises in hopes that people within the company will better see how the growing business is functioning and how contributions are being put to use. One start-up said a big reason they let their information be open to their employees is because “when it’s a secret you want to know more”. Other employees that worked under a similar open system said it was awkward. Does making employee salaries public help a company or just cause more trouble?
This column by Thomas Friedman explains how the digital revolution is impacting every job and industry in the global economy. With all the new technologies and apps that have been developed that have made it cheaper and easier for the world to become connected. Friedman explains the impacts of the world becoming hyper connected by stating, “alas, every boss now also has cheaper, easier, faster access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. That means the old average is over. Everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value better than the new alternatives.”
Mr. Friedman than argues that to compete in the future every American must first gain an education where they develop skills that are complementary to technology, as opposed to skills that are becoming obsolete due to technology. Friedman concludes that the winners in the future will be those individuals that are not only highly educated, but innovated and prepared to use the new digital tools to create new jobs.
I think that Mr. Friedman has made some excellent points as to how we can best prepare ourselves for the future. However, I wonder how those individuals who are less educated and skilled fit into Mr. Friedman’s vision?
There has been an announcement from the Boy Scouts of America that they are pushing towards making their programs available to all people. This means that they will lift gay bans that they had previously placed. It would be optional to have an all gay troop or have gay troop leaders. Every troop could pick for themselves and decide if that is okay or not.
That is very diplomatic but puts a lot of people on edge. It offers the program to all people but also has the potential to cause a rift between scouters. On a side note the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints is heavily invested in the Boy Scouts of America. Would this have a negative impact on their relationship? Do you feel that this idea is socially correct? Is this idea morally correct?
What impact could this have on the youth of America?
In “Buffett Made a Play for the Big Board”, the WSJ writes that Warren Buffett pitched an offer to acquire the New York Stock Exchange, but lost out to IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE. Insiders said that Mr. Buffett’s costs would have been too high if they were to get into a bid war with the InterContinental Exchange (based in Atlanta GA).
This article is interesting to me, because it illustrates that most of the dominant investing forces in global markets today are still based in the United States. Business moguls like Warren Buffett are what help build the U.S. economy to such great heights, because they are not averse to taking risks they feel will benefit them in the long term.
In addition, it is interesting to note that the value of centralized trade facilitators like the NYSE has increased significantly in the age of computer trading. While the computer has allowed investors to broaden their investment choices exponentially, exchanges like the NYSE provide a strong brand-name that give investors confidence in their long-term investments. However, these centralized trading networks have had both positive and negative effects; they provide an essential gateway for domestic and foreign investment, but they also tie the economies of foreign nations together. The overall performance of large exchanges like the NYSE can now directly impact whether or not a tibetan rice farmer will starve or not.
Dozens of bodies were found outside Aleppo this week, with both sides blaming each other for the collateral damage. I believe that most likely, the deaths were caused by both sides. With the Syrian civil war taking place in the streets of highly populated cities, I believe that both sides are responsible for the carnage caused by the conflict that they both decided to engage in. I accept the fact that there is going to be a lot of collateral damage in such a brutal civil war, but it is disgusting to see the bodies of civilians left in the rivers of Aleppo, with neither side taking responsibility for their actions. Both sides have shown recklessness in their tactics, and this conflict will continue to be a bloody one, I just hope that the rebels and the Assad regime can find a way to minimize the innocent blood.
Many people, myself included, neglect to wear a helmet when they ski. According to this article, the most common excuses for not wearing a helmet are that people never expect to expect to fall, and they do not want to impair their vision with a bulky helmet. I found the studies interesting because they found that the more experienced skiers wore helmets, and that helmets did not significantly impair vision. Reynolds claims that helmets can reduce the risk of head injury up to 60%, however I find that to be a little unlikely, especially with snow sports. I have fallen several times without a helmet, and I have not suffered even a minor injury. I was not fully convinced to wear a helmet after reading this article, but the statistics make it worth pondering.
This article talks about how French automobile industry is struggling because of its drop in sales after the Europe financial crisis. Besides that oil is more than double the price in France ($7.65/gallon), less people are attracted to buying cars, period. It’s interesting that for the young generation, owning a smart phone or buying a plane ticket to Hawaii is more enticing than owning a nice car. Also, for countries that have good public transportation system, not owning a car is not much of a problem. When cars are not necessities, then people have incentives to substitute away from purchasing cars to using that money for other purposes that are more desirable or necessary. If the reason why the French automobile industry is struggling is not in the cars, then what can it do to survive and grow? Will there come a age where cars will no longer be a necessity just like newspapers are substituted by internet news?
In a generation where women are pushing more and more to be treated as equals, they are finally allowed to fight on the front lines in Afghanistan with men. Personally, I see great things to come from this, and not so great things to come from this. A few of the great things: U.S. women in the military are able to reach out to Afghan women: “The female engagement teams went in, and they were able to sit down, drink tea and talk to Afghan women.” Previously, before women were allowed on the front lines, 50% of the population was out of reach, as Afghanistan sexes are very segregated. Another thing: these women are paving the way for women to do extraordinary things, whether in the military or in life outside the military. These women, according to Lynsey Addario, who has been photographing women in the military as early as 2008, “don’t feel inhibited by their sex…are extremely ambitious, very dedicated…[and] they have a goal, and they want to accomplish it. And they don’t want to be told they can’t do it because they’re women.” And for the most part, these women reach places men cannot. Front line medics, patrols, and other military operations and jobs are being used increasingly more with all-women or mixed-men-and-women squadrons. However, there are a few downsides for allowing women to fight in the front lines. Women are simply not as physically capable – it is a fact, however much women refuse to admit it. For example, “there are times where you need someone who can carry the soldier if he gets shot” or times when the soldiers need to carry a certain poundage of ammunition for an operation, but women cannot physically handle and still function at 100% in these situations. However, Addario sums it up best: “the war we fight now is not the same war that was fought 40 years ago.” So maybe members of the military do not need all the brawn they used to in a war where “the front lines are nebulous.” But for now, let us applaud and be grateful for the strong women who are fighting for our country and our freedoms, rather than putting them down and saying “women cannot be in the front lines in the military – they’re not capable of it”: they’re doing it now, are they not?
Want to change the world? Bill Gates has done it once before and he points out an important insight–that big data and the ability to measure results can decrease poverty, disease, and war if we use these tools smartly.
This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right. Historically, foreign aid has been measured in terms of the total amount of money invested—and during the Cold War, by whether a country stayed on our side—but not by how well it performed in actually helping people. Closer to home, despite innovation in measuring teacher performance world-wide, more than 90% of educators in the U.S. still get zero feedback on how to improve.
An innovation—whether it’s a new vaccine or an improved seed—can’t have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it. We need innovations in measurement to find new, effective ways to deliver those tools and services to the clinics, family farms and classrooms that need them.
For an example of this close to home, consider these three projects that are all based on Gates’s idea, and have opportunities for BYU students to get involved as volunteers, research and teaching assistants:
- PEAT, a project sponsored by the Department of Sociology and International Development Minor at the Kennedy Center focuses on program evaluation, and important part of the way we measure improvement in non-governmental organizations. Professors Ralph Brown, Tim Heaton and Carol Ward have a team of student evaluators who help to improve organizational efforts.
- Aid Data, PLAID from the Political Economy and Development Lab, directed by professors Dan Nielsen, Darren Hawkins, and Sven Wilson of BYU Political Science with Mike Findley of U Texas have received National Science Foundation and other major funding support for building one of the most comprehensive databases of foreign aid in the world. Recommended by development guru William Easterly.
- WomanStats is another big data project based at BYU, led by Professor Valerie Hudson (Bush School chair of security studies and one of FP.com‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers) and Chad Emmett (BYU) that shows the linkages between the status of women and the security of states. In other words, if your nation takes care of women, you prosper. You can read more about the implications of the research in the notable book, Sex and World Peace.
As you read the newspaper, keep in mind that there are linkages all around campus–and throughout the world–and opportunities for you to make a difference.