WoodrowWilsonCenterPublished on 12 May 2015
Most people assume that a Google search can identify most of the information available on a given subject. But beyond the capabilities of Google or any other search engine, there is another online world. In fact, the number of non-indexed internet sites is estimated to be 500 times larger than what a search engine can reveal. And where the sun doesn’t shine, there exists a dark side of the Internet that is a conduit for all types of illegal and often dangerous activity. Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow, Daniel Sui is attempting to uncover the web’s dark underbelly and begin the process of charting the uncharted. That’s the focus of this edition of Wilson Center NOW.
Daniel Sui is a Public Policy Fellow with the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program. He is also a Distinguished Professor of Social and Behavioral Science and Chair of the Department of Geography at The Ohio State University. His research focuses include volunteered geographic information and the use of social media as a new data source for geographic research as well as the legal and ethical issues of using geospatial technologies in society.
John Milewski is the executive producer and managing editor of Wilson Center NOW and also serves as director of Wilson Center ON DEMAND digital programming. Previously he served as host and producer of Dialogue at the Wilson Center and Close Up on C-SPAN. He also teaches a course on politics and media for Penn State’s Washington Program.
- Standard YouTube Licence
WEDNESDAY, JUL 8, 2015
The oil industry has been spreading climate denial for years — and there’s proof it knew better
LINDSAY ABRAMSWhile evaluating the potential impact of developing a gas field it was interested in off Indonesia, ExxonMobil found one major reason for concern: the field in question was 70 percent carbon dioxide. If the field were developed, and that gas vented into the atmosphere, it could become the “largest point source of CO2 in the world,” accounting for a full one percent of climate change-causing emissions.According to Leonard S. Bernstein, a former chemical engineer at the company, Exxon recognized the potential for global warming concerns to lead to regulations that would impact the project and others like it.
The year was 1981.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has brought to light Bernstein’s claims, which he first made in an email posted online last October, as part of a new report. Called the Climate Deception Dossiers, it uses internal memos to trace the denial and deception practiced by Big Oil over the nearly three decades since 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before Congress that man-made global warming had begun. And if Bernstein is to believed, then Exxon, at least, knew about it years earlier.
“Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations,” Bernstein wrote in the email. And while it did question some of the science being floated at the time, he added, “Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system.”
We can consider that the start of a long-standing pattern. While none of the documents released by UCS are new, taken together they show that the world’s oil giants — ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Peabody Energy and Royal Dutch Shell – have been fully aware of their contributions to climate change and the danger that can result, and has at the same time been spending tens of millions to convince the public that that’s not at all the case.
In one more well-known example, experts wrote an internal report for an industry coalition acknowledging that the science of man-made climate change “is well established and cannot be denied.” Yet just three years later, the American Petroleum Institute drafted a strategy to sow misinformation: “Victory will be achieved,” a memo read, when “[a]verage citizens ’understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”
The end result of such public-facing climate denial, of course, has been to allow these companies to continue to pollute the atmosphere. And according to the UCS, more than half of all industrial CO2 emissions have been released since what should have been the watershed year of 1988:
All of this represents more than just shady business practices, argues UCS president Ken Kimmell in a blog post. With its chilling parallels to the strategies used by the tobacco industry to obscure the link between smoking and cancer, the oil industry’s morally corrupt conduct over the past decades should be more than enough for us to revoke its “social license” — there’s no reason for the public, or the government, to assume Big Oil is acting in good faith.
And it’s time, Kimmell contends, for the industry to start earning some of that trust back — not just by ceasing to actively disinform the public and block regulations, but also by taking an active role in working toward solutions. Some have (kind of) started to get on board with that: BP dumped the notorious climate deniers at ALEC; Shell and BP passed shareholder resolutions to factor climate change into the cost of doing business (Exxon and Chevron did not, and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson decided to stay the course by continuing to question the legitimacy of climate models).
But compared to the deceitful actions these companies have taken in the past, it’s all way too little — and it’s coming decades too late.
I know here in Pennsylvania, our Blues hide the for-profit subsidiaries in a vast array of “independent” spin-offs. I’m sure the same thing is going on in every state, not just California:
In a scathing audit, state tax officials slammed nonprofit health insurer Blue Shield of California for stockpiling “extraordinarily high surpluses” — more than $4 billion —and for failing to offer more affordable coverage or other public benefits.
The California Franchise Tax Board cited those reasons, among others, for revoking Blue Shield’s state tax exemption last year, according to documents related to the audit that were reviewed by The Times. These details have remained secret until now because the insurer and tax board have refused to make public the audit and related records.
Sealed Air, which introduced Bubble Wrap in 1960, says it will inflate with an air pump.
By: Michael d’Estries – July 2, 2015
Since 1960, Bubble Wrap has provided a mindless, if not completely necessary, distraction from the world’s problems. So popular is this reigning champion of the packing world that it has inspired such marvels as a love song from singing vegetables, portraits of famous people, and even a Facebook fan page with nearly 2 million likes. Hand someone a sheet of Bubble Wrap and chances are — no matter how young or old — you’ll hear that unmistakable “pop” at least once.
Which is why this latest news is so disturbing.
Sealed Air, the company behind Bubble Wrap, has announced a new version that literally takes the air out of the original’s fun. Called iBubble Wrap (no, really), this new take ships flat and can be inflated via a custom pump. According to the company, iBubble will take up up one-50th as much space when loaded into delivery trucks. While the cost savings are tremendous, the real price paid is the loss of that classic noise. Once inflated, iBubble will simply feature pockets of air. Poke one and the whole row deflates. Bummer. RIP pop.
As you would expect, the world of social media welcomed this new and improved bubble wrap without about as much joy as a Portuguese man-of-war showing up to a beach party.
Might want to stock up just in case. You never know when you might need to throw a Bubble Wrap birthday for the kids.
BY ESTHER YU-HSI LEE POSTED ON JULY 1, 2015
The retail clothing giant Macy’s became the latest company to cut ties with 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, following his campaign launch speech in which he claimed that some Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers.
In its announcement on Wednesday, Macy’s made a strong statement in support of immigrants — saying that “respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture” and that Trump’s remarks “are inconsistent with Macy’s values” and that his “disparaging characterizations” aren’t an accurate portrayal of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Latinos.
“Macy’s is a company that stands for diversity and inclusion,” a statement released to CNN reads. “We have no tolerance for discrimination in any form. We welcome customers, and respect for the dignity of all people is a cornerstone of our culture. We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico. We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation.”
“In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump menswear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004,” the company concluded.
There was already momentum for Macy’s to end its business relationship with Trump. Over 700,000 people have signed a longstanding moveon.org petition for the company to cut ties with Trump, a petition that gained steam after his nativist remarks. The petition was initially created in the wake of Trump’s involvement in questioning the president’s birth certificate and his stance on climate change, KTLA reported.
Macy’s move to sever its decade-long tie with Trump comes after Univision and NBC canceled their business partnerships with Trump, saying the NBC reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” will no longer support him as host. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slims’ Ora TV has also ended a projectwith the real estate mogul. And in the fallout of Trump’s statement, Miss Mexico has declined to be in the Miss Universe pageant.
In response to the upheaval, Trump stated on Wednesday that “clearly NBC and Macy’s support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country.”
06/30/2015 William E. Spriggs
Yesterday and today, the world watches, slacked jawed at the endgame of the Greek government’s debt negotiations. The stakes are higher than many Americans understand. So far, the U.S. financial press has viewed this as isolated to the Eurozone. That is in large part because, having endured the Great Recession, there is a view that things are only bad if they threaten the “too big to fail” American banks that can create systemic risks for the U.S. financial sector. But, that view of the world that only bank stability matters is what is so incredulous.
The advanced economies have not recovered from the Great Recession. The United States has done by far the best, because of a very early and large stimulus package that stabilized the real economy—the one where people make things and earn income to buy things, and governments perform basic services. Europe turned quickly to reducing public debt and shrinking government, which has left its real economy with high unemployment and slow growth. And, its reticence to regulate their banking sector has many of its major banks still in poor condition. This stems from accepting the neo-liberal model that the universe revolves around the financial sector as religion. It is a theocracy, but of the most ancient, it is the transformation of the worship of the golden calf; but now money.
At the time of the 2008 financial crisis, various governments were in different positions. Spain’s government was running fiscal surpluses, and was very stable. Greece’s government faced some underlying challenges of rising debt and weak tax collection. These were two extremes of the spectrum. Like financial institutions, governments need a growing and strong real economy. So, both the Spanish and Greek governments ran into difficulty. But, the economy is a system, and strong real economies need financial institutions and governments.
The neo-liberal model dictated that everyone must rescue the financial sector, making what is a system that needs all parts to be healthy, into a machine that only needs an engine. But, a healthy financial sector without government or workers and consumers is an engine disconnected from the wheels and chassis: it will go nowhere. The corollary is that there are banks too big to fail, but governments are not. And, as we saw in the U.S. case, there were those willing to say, “and there are industries, like the American automobile industry, that are not too big to fail.”
The concessions that the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission are trying to force on Greece are steeped in this set of beliefs. The IMF and EC have pushed cuts in the Greek government, threatening its very ability to function, to deliver the basic services that are the chassis holding the economic vehicle together. Of course these cuts have not pushed the Greek economy ahead; instead the economy shrank 25% and unemployment is mired above 25%.
But, beyond fiscal austerity, the IMF and the EC insist that Greece cannot get on the right track unless it institutes “structural” reforms to its economy. Here, the IMF and EC mean creating an unfettered capitalist state. Greece must weaken its collective bargaining structures; lower its labor standards and wages, so that the Greek people must be forced to bow to the will of the market. This is borne of a view that the Greeks are profligates who must be taught the value of hard work and repay their debts. More importantly, this sacrifice of the Greek people is necessary to discourage people in Spain, Portugal and Ireland from staging similar revolts against the neo-liberal order demanding a different reconciling with the debt crisis.
This is religion, because the IMF’s own current research says that inequality hurts economic growth. And, further, it is the IMF’s own current research that says that unions, in particular, are vital to combating inequality. Taking actions based on faith in the unseen and not on empirical evidence is the definition of religion or superstition.
Similar mean-spirited thoughts guided post-World War I policies in dealing with Germany and its allies in handling the financial strain of the costs of that war. Fortunately, at the conclusion of World War II, it was felt that passions that fueled those decisions were not rational. A new set of institutions would be created to handle global government finances to insure the stability of governments, with a realization that at the end, it is the economy that must serve the people and their governments, not the other way around. One of those institutions, oddly, was the IMF.
In the U.S. we must take the side of Greece in this fight. It is in our interest, as the immediate problem of the instability this is causing is a rising dollar that will hurt U.S. exports and jobs. And, we can never be sure of the interrelated nature of financial collapses since so much of the banking sector remains in the shadows; with global derivatives trading at values greater than global output.
More importantly, we must also revolt against this economic order. It is the same order that saved JP Morgan Chase, but let Detroit and now Puerto Rico fail. It is the same religion that would sacrifice the earnings of American students with rising student debt and de-invest in public higher education. It is the same religion that would sacrifice American jobs and labor standards and back the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We must see these as the same struggle to restore sanity and purpose to role of government and its servant, the economy.
And, most importantly, we must remember the lesson of World War I. We cannot predict what the response of people will be to austerity. It is every bit as likely to bring about hostility that is not rational. It might inspire little minds to unimaginable evil.
If you are concerned about the situation, please sign the petition opposing the IMF’s assault on Greek democracy.