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In a lofty address that at times resembled a campaign speech, the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores, H. Lee Scott, said that “we live in a time when people are losing confidence in the ability of government to solve problems.” But Wal-Mart, he said, “does not wait for someone else to solve problems.” Mr. Horowitz said Wal-Mart had room to improve, however. Its next goal, he said, should be to stop selling the least energy-efficient products, rather than simply introducing better models.
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Greenback Intervention Ideas Inspired by NyQuil
Written by Eben Esterhuizen   
"Since our last meeting, there have been at times sharp fluctuations in major currencies, and we are concerned about their possible implications for economic and financial stability," says the statement from this weekend's G7 meeting.

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Male Hormones Blamed for Stock Market Bubbles and Crashes
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Written by Deborah Evans   
Men have endlessly enjoyed making nasty remarks about women’s hormonal cycles. But a recently published study concludes that male traders are to blame for stock market bubbles and their subsequent crashes. The findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recommend that “you could stabilize financial markets by hiring more women and older men.”

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Initial Thoughts: G7 Meeting Signals Wall Street's Next Bailout
Written by Eben Esterhuizen   

"Since our last meeting, there have been at times sharp fluctuations in major currencies, and we are concerned about their possible implications for economic and financial stability," says the statement from this weekend's G7 meeting. It was the first time since the Prague meeting of 2000 that the G7 have united to voice explicit concern about moves in major currencies. Does this signal the bottom for the U.S. dollar? Probably not.

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Greenspan: The Maestro is Mad
Written by Deborah Evans   
Greenspan
Photo:trackrecord, Creative Commons, Flickr
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has become extremely concerned that his legacy is being tarnished by the loud chorus of critics who blame him for engineering the housing bubble. After being criticized by several economists for his March 17 op-ed piece in the Financial Times, Greenspan was back Monday morning, defending his actions in “The fed is blameless on the property bubble.”

Here are the Maestro’s key arguments of why the Fed, under his leadership, did not contribute to the housing bubble:

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3 Reasons Why the U.S. Will Avoid a Recession
Written by Eben Esterhuizen   
It was refreshing to read Anatole Kaletsky's contrarian piece in Sunday's London Times, and it should be required reading for all investors. "I am probably the only economist left in the world who still believes that a U.S. recession is likely to be avoided," says Kaletsky. Given the massive amount of doom and gloom in the financial press, it's important to try to understand the contrarian argument.
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Bill Clinton Calls Jay-Z
Written by Jack Hudson   
Bill Clinton calling Jay-Z is the third of my three aspirational and fictional ideas that are (relatively) cheap, that would make concrete environmental gains, that could be accomplished almost instantaneously by motivated people in positions of power (by phone calls, in two cases), and that would immediately set an agenda for the next election.

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Conde Nast Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is
Written by Jack Hudson   
A policy shift at Conde Nast is the second of my three aspirational and fictional ideas that are (relatively) cheap, that would make concrete environmental gains, that could be accomplished almost instantaneously by motivated people in positions of power (by phone calls, in two cases), and that would immediately set an agenda for the next election.

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The University Consortium
Written by Jack Hudson   

The University Consortium is one of my three aspirational and fictional ideas that are (relatively) cheap, that would make concrete environmental gains, that could be accomplished almost instantaneously by motivated people in positions of power (by phone calls, in two cases), and that would immediately set an agenda for the next election.


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Three Immediate Ways to End Global Warming
Written by Jack Hudson   
Image
Photo:refractionless, Creative Commons, Flickr

Welcome to April.

On Sunday night, 3/30, Al Gore announced his new $300 million public service ad campaign on "60 Minutes." The hopefulness of the moment was undercut by the Toyota (TM - $102.90) dealer ad that preceded the segment.

The Toyota spot featured good deals on the Sequoia and the FJ Cruiser. The existence of the FJ Cruiser, in particular, can tell you more about the entire global warming conundrum than Al Gore can, because what's interesting about the FJ -- a toy S.U.V. gas guzzler that gets 16-18 mpg -- is that it was designed by Toyota years after the Prius.

The Toyota spot, the types of vehicles on sale, and Gore's new strategy, all combine to underline a theme: not much is happening, not much progress is made.

This is like a dream where your feet are stuck in mud.


The SUV
Photo:sreejibabu, Creative Commons, Flickr
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Islamic Bonds Rescue James Bond’s Favorite Car
Written by Deborah Evans   

Aston Martin DB 9 Volante
Photo:Jeronimo's Eye, Creative Commons, Flickr

Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or a Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the D.B.III. Either of the cars would have suited his cover – a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life. But the D.B.III had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque, an inconspicuous colour – battleship grey – and certain extras which might or might not come in handy.

- Goldfinger by Ian Fleming


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Remember the Last Time Globalization Collapsed?
Written by Eben Esterhuizen   
"Remember Friday, March, 14 2008: it was the day the dream of global free-market capitalism died," says the Financial Times' Martin Wolf. "For three decades we have moved towards market-driven financial systems. By its decision to rescue Bear Stearns, the Federal Reserve, the institution responsible for monetary policy in the U.S., chief protagonist of free-market capitalism, declared this era over."
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Bear Stearns' Easter Basket
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Written by Deborah Evans   
It seems that the parties involved in JPMorgan’s (JPM - $46.44) takeover of Bear Stearns (BSC - $10.87) like to work on the deal on holidays, Sundays, and when the Moon is Void-of-Course.*

Following are the bear facts about the “amended” deal between JPM and BSC. If The Wall Street Journal timeline is accurate, Bear’s Board of Directors couldn’t possibly have fully read the deal before agreeing to it, since CNBC announced it was approved just after the market opened this morning.
Easter Basket
Photo:Mellie, Creative Commons, Flickr

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Recommended Reading: March 24, 2008
Written by Eben Esterhuizen   

Is the commodity bubble about to pop? Edward Hadas at BreakingViews.com argues that commodities have become the last refuge for speculators as other bubbles have popped. But it looks like the party is now over.

The Economist talks about the biological reasons why so many people believe in God, gods and religion in general.

Still trying to understand last week's Fed rate cut? Joachim Fels at Morgan Stanley rejects the notion that the smaller-than-anticipated rate cut reflects an attempt to save some ammunition. "Back in June 2002, the Fed staff produced a widely circulated study of the Japan deflationary experience of the 1990s, which concluded that policymakers should become more aggressive in reducing the target rate as it approaches zero – not less."

Anatole Kaletsky, a columnist at The New York Times, asks: Did last week mark the beginning of the end of the credit crunch, or merely the end of the beginning? Has the “liquidity crisis” that started last August in the U.S. mortgage market degenerated into a “solvency crisis” for the global banking system as a whole?

Paul Krugman at The New York Times takes a jab at the U.S. presidential candidates. "We’re now in the midst of an epic financial crisis, which ought to be at the center of the election debate. But it isn’t."

 
Bohemian Financial Rhapsody
Written by Eben Esterhuizen   
Is this the real price?
Is this just fantasy?
Financial landslide
No escape from reality
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Shellenberger and Nordhaus
Written by Richard Reiss   
In response to Michelle Haimoff's piece about the environment and religion, here's another example of people mushing religion and environment together (but they usually do it to attack environmentalists). And here's the central argument from Shellenberger and Nordhaus:


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This Week in Citizen Joe - 3/10/08
Written by Citizen Joe   

Budget blueprint: The House and Senate take the first major step in the budget process this week, voting on their respective "budget resolutions" which act as a blueprint for the twelve spending bills Congress will churn out this year. Weighing in at $3 trillion, the current drafts top the president's budget proposal by about $20 billion and could call for politically tricky tax provisions (through a step called "reconciliation").

Earmark roulette: With both parties blustering they're serious about axing earmarks (cash for pet projects), the unthinkable could happen this week: Congress could vote to abolish earmarks outright - at least for this year. It's apparently a game of chicken, with each side hoping they'll call each other's bluff (few lawmakers actually want to get rid of earmarks), but - who knows - it could backfire on the politicians and we could end up with a bridge-to-nowhere-free budget.

Ethics & wiretaps: House members could also give a second go at voting for a quasi-independent ethics commission, which got pulled from the floor two weeks ago, as well as finalizing a surveillance bill that would let feds tap into foreign calls with a warrant and give telecoms immunity from lawsuits stemming from an earlier illegal wiretap program.

 
This Week in Citizen Joe - 2/25/08
Written by Citizen Joe   

Congress busies itself with a couple of dead-end bills this week on energy, housing and Iraq, while long-stalled action - on the Farm Bill, secret intelligence courts, consumer product safety and patent reform - simmers on the side.

The House revives an energy bill that would extend and build out alternative energy incentives. While lawmakers are generally behind the bill's green tax credits, Republicans in the Senate and the president don't like its rollbacks on oil tax breaks that would pay for the green goods - and are almost certain to block final passage.

The Senate tosses a life-line to families on the cusp of home foreclosure with a bill that would funnel money toward rehabilitating ($4 billion) and refinancing ($10 billion) homes hit by subprime mortgages. The deal breaker may be a provision that lets bankruptcy judges restructure the mortgages of families going into foreclosure.

Senators will also test out another almost-sure-to-lose vote that would stop funding for troop deployments to Iraq in four months.

The House may also vote to set up a quasi-independent ethics office this week, while both chambers okay ongoing special trade status for Andean nations.

In the works - and what could pop up for a floor vote in the upcoming weeks - are a toy consumer protection bill, patent reform, the Farm Bill and a foreign intelligence bill.

 
Welcoming Tax Dodgers
Written by Sheila Killian   
A depressing little story from The Irish Examiner notes that “Ireland Inc is well positioned to benefit from new tax laws aimed at foreigners living and working in Britain, which may result in an exodus of wealthy expatriates.” The background to this story is straightforward. Resident, non-domiciled individuals in Britain pay tax only on income arising within the country and on foreign income only when it is remitted into the UK. Many are extremely wealthy, and keep this wealth offshore, avoiding tax. There has been considerable moral outrage in Britain at the fact that very rich people are enjoying life in London while paying virtually no tax. In response, the government now proposes a levy of £30,000 per year on such individuals, which many consider remarkably low.
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This Week in Citizen Joe - 2/11/2008
Written by Citizen Joe   

Listening In. Congress could wrap up a surveillance bill if all goes well this week. The bill would roughly legalize a secret wiretap program that let feds listen in on foreign phone calls, while at the same time adding a bit of oversight from the courts and Congress and, possibly, giving telecoms immunity from lawsuits over the earlier, illegal, program. With a temporary bill expiring on Friday, Congress will try to get its ducks in line this week, but could buy itself more time by extending the current bill. Standing in its way are disagreements over whether to okay immunity and how much oversight to give the courts and Congress.

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Enbridge, Koch, and Tar Sands Recovery: Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory?
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Written by Jeanne Roberts   
In May of 2008, construction on the Minnesota Pipeline Company's (MPL) MinnCan pipeline will start. In 2009, the first oil from the Athabascan Tar Sands may begin running through the line, connecting the Enbridge Energy Partner's (EEP - $50.70) pipeline and oil-tank farm at Clearbrook, Minnesota to refineries in Rosemount.

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Who's Driving the Getaway Car? Banks and Tax Havens in Corruption in Africa
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Written by Sheila Killian   
Imagine a theft has just been committed. A big one - say billions of dollars. Imagine everyone can see what has been stolen, and from whom. It’s clear who has ended up with the goods, but it’s impossible to prove they stole it. Some people say it was an inside job, that one of the guards let the thieves in, but it’s hard to say for sure, because nobody saw anything. 

 

 

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The Olympic Green Medal
Written by Walker Lunn   
Will McDonald's qualify as an Olympic Sustainability Partner?
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Starwood Hotels’ Element Hotels: The Quintessential Greenwashing
Written by Walker Lunn   
Starwood (HOT - $38.97) has announced the introduction of “element, inspired by Westin,” a new hotel brand with an identity deeply rooted in well-being and environmental sustainability.

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In a Shifting World, Inform Thyself
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
Corporate social responsibility is more than a buzz word.  For better or worse, it has joined mainstream business lingo and is changing the landscape of the private, public, and social sector.  This week's Economist delves into the many facets of CSR in its special report on the issue.  The articles range in topic from the virtues of CSR to managing risks to ethics of consumers to the globalization of CSR.  Some articles are more informative than others, but taken as a whole, the issue gives readers insight into both the promise and the problems of the growth of the industry.

One of the most important statements in the report is the following:

A new, exhaustive academic review of 167 studies over the past 35 years concludes that there is in fact a positive link between companies' social and financial performance—but only a weak one. Firms are not richly rewarded for CSR, it seems, but nor does it typically destroy shareholder value. Might cleverer approaches to CSR in future produce better returns?

If CSR doesn't hurt, does it matter that it might not drastically improve the value of the business?  Isn't the social outcome the value? 
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Beggars, Sovereign Funds and Sharks
Written by Elaine Chan   
An old Chinese tale goes that a scholar traveling to a foreign country has not eaten for days, and is dying of hunger. He comes across a gang in the boondocks, and one of the guys feeds him a bowl of rice. Then he finds out that they are bandits.

"I'd rather die than eat the food of a thief," he says as he vomits and passes out.

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Molossia and its Ban of Incandescents
Written by Jeanne Roberts   
On March 1, 2007, the tiny nation of Molossia became the first to ban incandescent bulbs, beating out even those forward-thinking Californians and Brits, the internationally recognized champions of future (and sometimes failed) causes.

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