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New York Times (March 30)

2014/ 03/ 31 by jd in Global News

“In recent years, the government has too often given patent protection to inventions that do not represent real scientific advances.” With patent applications more than tripling during the past 20 years, many of the patents granted “appear to be overly broad and vague.” In an upcoming case, the Supreme Court will have a chance to narrow the scope of what’s patentable. “The Supreme Court should make clear that nobody should be allowed to claim a monopoly over an abstract idea.”


The Economist (March 29)

2014/ 03/ 30 by jd in Global News

“Women’s lowly status in the Japanese workplace has barely improved in decades, and the country suffers as a result.” Though difficult to quantify, the cost of this lost potential is enormous. “Japan educates its women to a higher level than nearly anywhere else in the world…. But when they leave university their potential is often squandered, as far as the economy is concerned.” If Prime Minister Abe and “the country’s policymakers can find the right ways to help them, those women could boost the economy and reform corporate culture.”


Los Angeles Times (March 28)

2014/ 03/ 29 by jd in Global News

“California ought to learn from the experience of Australia, the driest continent on Earth, with a broadly similar economy.” California has been reeling from perpetual water shortages: the result of a flawed water policy. California “uses enough water in an average year to support, in theory, 318 million Californians (and their lawns and dishwashers), more than eight times the actual population of 38 million.”


Financial Times (March 27)

2014/ 03/ 28 by jd in Global News

Abenomics “has been judged a qualified success but there are concerns the effort will peter out.” The upcoming consumption tax increase ranks high among these and an even more fundamental concern, that higher inflation would make the government’s debt burden unsustainable, remains untested. If the latter holds true, however, “it is precisely when Abenomics reaches its stated aim that it will begin to unravel.”


USA Today (March 26)

2014/ 03/ 27 by jd in Global News

“For nearly 50 years, we had a nemesis in the Soviet Union, a rivalry that led to us putting a man on the moon and other remarkable feats.” While Russia’s Crimean aggression creates worries, it should also generate hope. “It could force us, and Europe, to become more energy self-reliant.” In fact, “a good old-fashioned nemesis” might even “help Americans feel better about their country.”

Nemesis, Soviet Union, Rivalry, Moon, Russia, Crimea, Aggression, Worries, Hope, Europe, Energy, Self-reliance


Washington Post (March 25)

2014/ 03/ 26 by jd in Global News

Supplying Europe with nearly a third of its natural gas, Russia seems to give incredible leverage. This is misleading. In 2013, “natural gas represented only 22 percent of Europe’s total energy consumption.” Moreover, Europe currently has significant stores, substitute sources and substitute fuels. “The message here is simpler: The dangers of a cutoff should not intimidate the West. They’re overrated.”


3/25 Issue

2014/ 03/ 25 by jd in IRCWeekly

Crimea, Ukraine and Russia continued to dominate the news. The New York Times questions whether exuberant Crimeans will soon have regrets. Many of the liberated South Ossetians were similarly delighted to be freed by Russia from Georgia only to be eventually let down with unkept promises and neglect.

Forbes suspects it may be Putin who has second thoughts. Success in the short term is likely to shoulder the leader with a costly winner’s curse. A rebellious Ukraine could burden Russia as heavily as its unsuccessful thrust into Afghanistan once did.

The Wall Street Journal hopes that President Obama will have second thoughts about his plan to turn over control of the internet governing body ICANN. The internet could shift from a bastion of freedom as countries like China and Russia seek to silence critics and opponents.

No one has silenced, restrained or much punished the credit ratings agencies. Despite their complicity in the financial crisis, the New York Times questions why regulators can’t make progress on this front.

On the other hand, the Economist notes that governments need to be less restrained and more creative with infrastructure spending. An already yawning gap in basic infrastructure investment is growing. Private public investment may hold some promise.

The Financial Times points out that the government of Japan is trying to encourage greater corporate investment, but questions the wisdom. Japanese corporations already outspend their global competition with a very low return on capital.

But that return shows up in come unusual places. Bloomberg notes that Japan recently bested Scotland at its own game. A 25-year-old Yamazaki was named best single-malt in an international blind tasting.

Combine the dollars that some say should be spent on global infrastructure with the risk that’s being showcased in Russia and Ukraine. Then add lax regulation and a little whiskey… and you just might deduce one of the latest trading phenomenon. Institutional Investor notes that traders are no longer primarily hedging against volatility, increasingly they’re trading volatility. This could be a trend that does not end well, but end we must.


Last week’s Global News highlights appear below and also at where stories for this week will soon appear. As always, links are provided to the original source so you can get further detail, but please note these are frequently updated and links that were valid at publication may later be broken.


Wall Street Journal (March 24)

2014/ 03/ 25 by jd in Global News

The Obama administration announced plans “to give up U.S. control of the Internet to a still-to-be-determined collection of governments and international groups.” It’s hard to imagine this creating a better governing body. “It’s easy to imagine a new Internet oversight body operating like the United Nations, with repressive governments taking turns silencing critics. China could get its wish to remove from the Internet as an affront to its sovereignty. Russia could force Twitter to remove posts by Ukrainian-Americans criticizing Vladimir Putin.” Congress should override President Obama’s decision.


Forbes (March 24)

2014/ 03/ 24 by jd in Global News

“Vladimir Putin has made a strategic blunder that could rival the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Moscow, counting on Western weakness, may, in the short term, succeed in carving up the country or ending the 22-year existence of an independent Ukraine. But it has set in motion forces that will severely damage Russia, as well as Putin’s own reign.”


New York Times (March 23)

2014/ 03/ 23 by jd in Global News

“It’s the one question about the 2008 financial crisis that people still ask me more than any other: Why have regulators done so little to rein in the credit rating agencies?” Despite abuses which helped create the sub-prime crisis and despite numerous resolutions to revise the regulatory environment for firms like S&P and Moody’s, little has been done. “Ratings still loom large, even after they were found to have been so disastrously inaccurate in 2008. It’s yet another example of the glacial pace of regulatory change.”



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