Posts Tagged ‘United States’
In one of the biggest ever bank heists, a global cyber crime ring stole $45 million from two Middle Eastern banks by hacking into credit card processing firms and withdrawing money from ATMs in 27 countries, U.S….
The U.S. Justice Department accused eight men of allegedly forming the New York-based cell of the organization, and said seven of them have been arrested. The eighth, allegedly a leader of the cell, was reported to have been murdered in the Dominican Republic on April 27.
The ringleaders are believed to be outside the United States but prosecutors declined to give details, citing the ongoing investigation. What’s clear is the sheer scope and speed of the crimes: in one of the attacks, in just over 10 hours, $40 million was raided from ATMs in 24 countries involving 36,000 transactions…
The case demonstrates the major threat that cyber crime poses to banks around the world. It also shows how increasingly international and sophisticated criminal gangs have become, particularly those using the Internet.
Illustrating the universality of poor practices and incompetent security.
At 7.7%, China’s annual GDP growth in the first quarter of this year was slower than many expected. While the data were hardly devastating relative to a consensus forecast of 8.2%, many (including me) expected a second consecutive quarterly rebound from the slowdown that appeared to have ended in the third quarter of 2012. China doubters around the world were quick to pounce on the number, expressing fears of a stall, or even a dreaded double dip.
But slower GDP growth is actually good for China, provided that it reflects the long-awaited structural transformation of the world’s most dynamic economy. The broad outlines of this transformation are well known – a shift from export- and investment-led growth to an economic structure that draws greater support from domestic private consumption. Less well known is that a rebalanced China should have a slower growth rate – the first hints of which may now be evident.
A rebalanced China can grow more slowly for one simple reason: By drawing increased support from services-led consumer demand, China’s new model will embrace a more labor-intensive growth recipe. The numbers seem to bear that out. China’s services sector requires about 35% more jobs per unit of GDP than do manufacturing and construction – the primary drivers of the old model.
That number has potentially huge implications, because it means that China could grow at an annual rate in the 7-8% range and still achieve its objectives with respect to employment and poverty reduction…
…Capital-labor substitution is at the heart of modern productivity strategies for manufacturing-based economies. But it left China in a deepening hole: increasingly deficient in jobs per unit of output, it needed more units of output to absorb its surplus labor. Ultimately, that became more of a problem than a solution…
It is premature, of course, to conclude that a services-led transformation to slower growth is now at hand. The latest data hint at such a possibility, with the tertiary sector (services) expanding at an 8.3% annual rate in the first quarter of this year – the third consecutive quarter of acceleration and a half-percentage point faster than the 7.8% first-quarter gain recorded by the secondary sector (manufacturing and construction). But it will take more than a few quarters of mildly encouraging data to validate such an important shift in the Chinese economy’s underlying structure…
Financial markets, as well as growth-starved developed economies, are not thrilled with the natural rhythm of slower growth that a rebalanced Chinese economy is likely to experience. Resource industries – indeed, resource-based economies like Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Russia – have become addicted to China’s old strain of unsustainable hyper-growth. Yet China knows that it is time to break that dangerous habit.
Uncle Sugar and agitprop flunkies like the NY TIMES have a problem with consumer-led growth in China. It defies Cold Warrior slander. And China’s surplus saving will stay home instead of being stuffed into dollar-based assets such as US Treasury bills.
As China embraces slower growth as a natural consequence of its rebalancing, Stephen Roach notes that “the rest of the world will need to figure out how to cope when it does”.
Children are every country’s most vital resource. This is true not just morally, but also economically. Investing in the health, education, and skills of children offers the highest economic returns to a country. A new study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows which high-income countries are doing well when it comes to making these investments – and which are doing poorly.
The report, Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, takes a holistic view of the conditions of children in the United States, Canada, and Europe – 29 countries in all. The top-ranked countries, where children are best off, are the social democracies of Western Europe. The Netherlands heads the list, followed by Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Germany.
At the bottom one finds a major surprise: the US, the richest large economy in the world, is in 26th place, followed by three much poorer countries: Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania. France and the United Kingdom are ranked in the middle.
The study assesses children’s well-being in terms of material conditions (related to household-income levels); health and safety; education; risky behavior (such as excessive alcohol consumption); and physical environment, including housing conditions. Although the study is limited to high-income countries, national governments – and even cities – in other parts of the world should replicate it to analyze their own children’s well-being…
The differences between the social democracies and the US show up strongly in category after category. In the social democracies, less than 10% of children grow up in relative poverty (meaning households with less than half of the country’s median income). In the US, the rate of relative poverty exceeds 20%.
The costs to the US of allowing so many of its children to grow up in poverty, poor health, poor schools, and poor housing are staggering. A shocking proportion ends up serving time in prison – especially in the case of non-white poor children. Even those fortunate not to fall into the trap of America’s vast prison system often end up unemployed and even unemployable, without the skills needed to obtain and keep a decent job.
The UNICEF findings are powerful. High national incomes are not enough to ensure children’s well-being. Societies that have a strong commitment to equal opportunity for all of their children – and that are prepared to invest public funds on their behalf – end up with much better outcomes.
American conservatives used to consider educating our children an asset. That conservative ethos has shriveled into elitism, contempt for everyone and anything that doesn’t muster enough dollars to catch the eye of corporate princes.
The footmen for the moneyed class assigned the task of keeping this nation’s politics tidy – see little need to educate the poor. After all, we can just just hire folks from other countries to fill necessary tasks. Or move the jobs closer to a supply of wage earners educated at some other nation’s expense.
Hybrid sales have grown rapidly in the US during the past couple of years – well outpacing the overall automotive market – and it looks like diesel sales are beginning to follow that trajectory as well.
US hybrid light-duty vehicle registrations have jumped 34 percent from 2010 through the end of 2012 and diesel sales are up 24 percent to about 797,000 from about 641,000 two years earlier, diesel advocate Diesel Technology Forum says (citing a study conducted by R.L. Polk at the DLF’s request). The important thing to note is that, during the same period, total vehicle registrations were up less than three percent, indicating that more consumers are turning to green vehicles in order to address rising gas prices. It will likely not surprise anyone that California, Massachusetts and New York had the fastest growth rates for diesel sales.
Anyone following parallel questions about education ain’t surprised either. We can argue all day about education methodology; but, when it comes to basics of turning out graduates – the comparison to states that prefer ignorant citizens is dramatic. Educated folks making educated decisions is what it’s about.
Folks interested in quality of life generally extend that interest to their fellow human beings on the planet. It’s only the greediest of owners and power brokers who ignore life on the planet outside the boundaries of their McMansions.
New Norris house, Tennessee
The American Institute of Architects announced its top ten green buildings in the US for 2013 on Monday (Earth Day, uncoincidentally). It’s a diverse list, containing a cheese factory, senior citizens’ apartments, school buildings, and a smattering of LEED certificates. There’s only one net zero building on the list, though it’s worth remembering that it’s much easier to build a net zero home than it is a net zero office or factory.
I love this stuff. In most cases there is little premium added to the cost of construction – and sensible design can more than compensate.
The two of us live in 1200 sq.ft. designed and built on a tiny budget – and don’t use all the space we have.
No swoopy-looking aero – just stuff that works for production transport
Cummins and Peterbilt have created a new demonstration tractor trailer that boasts a 54-percent increase in fuel economy over current trucks. This particular Class 8 Peterbilt 587 uses a high-efficiency Cummins ISX15 engine and managed to average 9.9 miles per gallon over 11 runs over the 312-mile route between Fort Worth and Vernon, TX with a gross combined weight of 65,000 pounds. For comparison’s sake, most modern trucks manage between 5.5 and 6.5 mpg. For most long-haul truck drivers, an increase in fuel economy of 54 percent would equate to a savings of around $25,000 per year at current diesel prices.
That 5.5 to 6.5 mpg actually is about 5 mpg day in and day out.
The SuperTruck uses lightweight materials, an efficient engine and aerodynamic improvements to net its fuel economy increase. Peterbilt also worked with Eaton to develop a special driveline with fewer parasitic losses and better gearing, and the truck manufacturer says many of the features demonstrated on this particular truck may show up on production models in the near future.
Click through to the article at autoblog.com and click the button for the full press release. Lots of interesting bits and pieces about all the things yet to be changed in over-the-road trucking.
At the moment, we’re barely into the beginnings of a couple methods of switching truckers to natural gas, diesel-electric hybrids are growing in numbers – but, the bulk of long distance trucking in the United States is technologically up to about 1982.
Cedar Waxwing: Ben Thomas, 2012 GBBC 1st place photo
From Antarctica to Afghanistan, bird watchers from 101 countries made history in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 15-18.
In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird-watchers set new records, counting more than 25 million birds on 116,000 checklists in four days — and recording 3,138 species, nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species. The data will continue to flow in until March 1.
Building on the success of the GBBC in the United States and Canada for the past 15 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Bird Studies Canada opened the count to the world for the first time this year, powered by eBird, a system that enables people to report birds globally in real time and explore the results online. Bird-watchers are invited to keep counting every day of the year at http://www.eBird.org
Hurricane Sandy: The weather system that caused Sandy’s landfall also blew some European birds to North America, and evidence of this is still showing up in GBBC results. The colorful, crested northern lapwing was reported in Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts during the GBBC.
…A red-flanked bluetail has wintered at Queens Park, Vancouver, and was also reported in the GBBC for the first time. This British Columbia bird has been drawing bird-watchers from all over the United States and Canada hoping to see this rarity. This little thrush is one of the only birds in the world with a striking blue tail and is native to Asia: the other GBBC report of the red-flanked bluetail this year was from Japan.
RTFA for interesting stats. Visit the ebird site.
When you can, join in next year and help build knowledge at the grassroots level about the feathered critters who share this planet with us.
Not many countries nowadays seek a strong exchange rate; a few, including systemically important ones, are already actively weakening their currencies. Yet, because an exchange rate is a relative price, all currencies cannot weaken simultaneously. How the world resolves this basic inconsistency over the next few years will have a major impact on prospects for growth, employment, income distribution, and the functioning of the global economy.
Japan is the latest country to say enough is enough. Having seen its currency appreciate dramatically in recent years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government is taking steps to alter the country’s exchange-rate dynamic – and is succeeding. In just over two months, the yen has weakened by more than 10% against the dollar and close to 20% against the euro.
European leaders have already expressed reservations about Japan’s moves. The US auto industry is up in arms. And, a few days ago, Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank, publicly warned that the world risks a harmful and ultimately futile round of competitive exchange-rate depreciations – or, more bluntly, a “currency war”…
Of course, Japan is not the first country to go down this path. Several advanced and emerging economies preceded it, and I suspect that quite a few will follow it…
One need not be an economist to figure out that, while all currencies can (and do) depreciate against something else (like gold, land, and other real assets), by definition they cannot all weaken against each other. In order for some currencies to depreciate, others must appreciate. Here is where things get interesting, complex, and potentially dangerous…
None of this is unprecedented, and there is a lot of scholarship demonstrating why such beggar-thy-neighbor approaches result in bad collective outcomes. Indeed, multilateral agreements are in place to minimize this risk, including at the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization…
Unlike the old days, the threat of currency wars is not directly related to trade imbalances and balance-of-payments crises. Rather, an important driver is major central banks’ pursuit of experimental measures in order to compensate for policy inadequacies and political dysfunction elsewhere…
The risk is that the phenomenon leads to widespread disruptions, as increasingly difficult national policy challenges stoke regional tensions and the multilateral system proves unable to reconcile imbalances safely. If policymakers are not careful – and lucky – the magnitude of this risk will increase significantly in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of nations like the United States and Japan – manipulating their own currencies counter to each other’s national interests becomes a symphony of xenophobia orchestrated by politicians and mass media, each less interested in truth than enhancing power and profit for the interests they serve. And that ain’t you and me.
Internally, they make legitimate points about liquidity, attempting to nudge the economy into something more than desultory bumps.
For even a broader examination of opinion and analysis on the topic, return to Project Syndicate and wander through their “Currency War Drums” Focal Point.