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News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.wired.com

Beware the lurking variable. Even if you didn’t suffer through a semester of college statistics, you’re probably familiar with the adage “correlation doesn’t imply causation.” But if you haven’t had the pleasure, it’s a fairly easy concept to grasp. Take a classic example: When ice cream sales rise significantly, the number of shark attacks escalates as well. But ice cream probably doesn’t cause shark attacks. The two things are correlated because they tend to occur at the same time of year but the relationship is not causal: Summer, in this case, is what’s called a lurking variable. While for ice cream and shark attacks the common cause is relatively easy to spot, in more complex analyses myriad lurkers and their confounding cousins can cause all kinds of mischief. Herein lies the problem with much of the current rhetoric claiming that the automation of industry is leading to the annihilation of jobs and/or the enslavement of humanity. Consider a recent report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), an advocacy group for community-rooted enterprise, that has made quite a splash in the media recently. Cobbling together statistics, anecdotes, and assumptions, the report formulates logical fallacies about Amazon’s effect on the retail job market. The title itself, “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities,” conjures a dystopian fever dream. (Full disclosure: Our organization has received funding from Amazon as well as its competitors.) The ILSR report claims that “Amazon’s tightening hold on our economy…, increasing dominance…, and ability to crush smaller rivals and block new firms from entering markets… is hobbling job growth [and] propelling economic inequality.” It even suggests that the decline in new firms is “a trend many economists say is owed to the increasing dominance of big companies like Amazon.” In fact, the authority it references to show that new firm creation is declining—a 2011 Brookings Institution report—pointedly notes that “the reasons explaining this decline are still unknown.” And, it is worth noting, new firm creation has actually increased sharply in the last two years, returning to a rate higher than before the Great Recession—suggesting that the recession, and not “big companies,” was the cause of the slowdown.1 Equally troubling, the report ignores how efficiencies provided by Amazon’s e-commerce platform may actually have beneficial effects on employment—and it fails to address whether, when retail jobs are negatively affected, there might be offsetting gains in other areas, like lower prices. The authors conclude with a call for antitrust authorities to step in and impose draconian remedies (including breaking up Amazon) in order to protect traditional retailers, retail workers, and local communities from… well, the future. The diverse and interconnected variables that shape our economy and affect job markets are often unseen and difficult to evaluate, especially without the perspective of history. For example, during the time of Amazon’s ascent, China experienced stunning annual growth rates of as much as 14 percent, while US imports from China increased tenfold. The financial markets collapsed, and credit for small businesses, in particular, tightened severely and still hasn’t fully recovered. Health care expenditures as a percent of GDP also rose above 17 percent. As gas prices increased precipitously, reaching an all-time high in 2012, people (especially young people) started driving less, and the number of internet users in the US skyrocketed, from 14 to 87 percent of the adult population. Twenty-nine states adopted minimum wages above the federal level, raising salaries for a significant number of retail jobs. Even so, by 2016 e-commerce comprised just 8.3 percent ($102.7 billion) of the total retail market ($1.2 trillion). While that’s a big number in absolute dollars, it’s also less than the amount that retail sales regularly fluctuate due to changes in the weather. It hardly represents a “dominant” market share, nor one that portends the inevitable end of offline retail. Of course, no one disputes that e-commerce in general, and Amazon in particular, is capturing an increasing share of retail sales: E-commerce is growing at over 14 percent per year compared to just 4.1 percent for all retail sales, and Amazon leads the pack. It’s also true that automation, robots, logistics software, payment technologies, and fulfillment innovations that are deployed to enhance efficiency and reduce labor costs tend to have their intended effect. As online commerce increasingly substitutes for physical retail sales, providing more choice and convenience at lower cost, the retail industry may well experience job losses. But the opposite may also be true. For example, the proliferation of ATMs between 1990 and 2010 meant that bank branches needed fewer human tellers, raising fears of pervasive job loss. But as costs dropped, banks were able to open more branches, and the job market for tellers experienced a net increase from its 1999 level. Throughout history, technological innovations like the ATM have led to organizational and process efficiencies that have upended outdated ways of doing business. Inventions like the loom, printing press, radio, automobile, television, computer, mobile phone, and so many others displaced some workers, but also increased productivity and ushered in wholesale—and wholly unanticipated—economic transformations. If e-commerce platforms continue to appeal to buyers and sellers, this may mean fewer traditional retail jobs —or it could simply mean a shift in the types of activities performed by people in retail occupations. It might also mean more jobs in manufacturing, transportation, advertising, coding, and logistics, to name a few. And while online distribution and automation may present certain challenges to traditional retailers, they also create significant opportunities. In fact, almost half of retail sales on Amazon’s platform are from third-party merchants who have chosen to sell their wares online instead of (or often, in addition to) through brick-and-mortar stores. Indeed, the democratizing effect of online platforms (and of technology writ large) should not be underestimated. While many are quick to disparage Amazon’s effect on local communities, these arguments fail to recognize that by reducing the costs associated with physical distance between sellers and consumers, e-commerce enables even the smallest merchant on Main Street, and the entrepreneur in her garage, to compete in the global marketplace. Today, Amazon hosts 2 million such merchants—in 2016, 100,000 of these sellers generated more than $100,000 each. While this certainly benefits Amazon, it also benefits small retailers and the workers they employ. Indeed, e-commerce may enable some retailers keep their doors open in struggling communities that couldn’t otherwise support them. And while the majority of us aren’t retail workers, all of us are consumers. If innovations in e-commerce are accompanied by lower prices, expanded consumer choice, and new product innovations, these benefits accrue to all of us, not just the relatively few who work in retail—and help to ameliorate whatever job losses might occur in the short term. Of course, technological and organizational change can disrupt people’s lives and livelihoods in unwelcome ways. But hasty regulatory “fixes,” which are among the most significant causes of sluggish growth (and thus job loss), are not the answer. Imposing laws and regulations to punish innovators and protect traditional jobs from the perceived threats of the future would stifle productivity, mandate inefficiency, and restrain progress just as readily (and just as sensibly) as would hiring laborers to dig a canal with spoons instead of backhoes. Instead, we need sound, compassionate policies targeted at empowering the displaced to acquire the education and skills to succeed in ever-shifting job markets—retail and otherwise. Business accelerators, for example, are among the initiatives that have proven successful in stimulating employment. A host of other ideas, ranging from some form of universal basic income to Trade Adjustment Assistance, may offer the potential for transitional aid aimed not at thwarting economic dynamism, but at helping the human workforce to adapt and evolve. Whatever the right answer, one thing is certain: Banning ice cream cones is a terrible way to stave off shark attacks. 1 Correction appended 3/3/2017, 2:15 pm EST: This story has been modified from the original in order to clarify a reference to a Brookings Institution report.

News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.nature.com

As the Arctic slipped into the half-darkness of autumn last year, it seemed to enter the Twilight Zone. In the span of a few months, all manner of strange things happened. The cap of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean started to shrink when it should have been growing. Temperatures at the North Pole soared more than 20 °C above normal at times. And polar bears prowling the shorelines of Hudson Bay had a record number of run-ins with people while waiting for the water to freeze over. It was a stark illustration of just how quickly climate change is reshaping the far north. And if last autumn was bizarre, it's the summers that have really got scientists worried. As early as 2030, researchers say, the Arctic Ocean could lose essentially all of its ice during the warmest months of the year — a radical transformation that would upend Arctic ecosystems and disrupt many northern communities. Change will spill beyond the region, too. An increasingly blue Arctic Ocean could amplify warming trends and even scramble weather patterns around the globe. “It’s not just that we’re talking about polar bears or seals,” says Julienne Stroeve, a sea-ice researcher at University College London. “We all are ice-dependent species.” With the prospect of ice-free Arctic summers on the horizon, scientists are striving to understand how residents of the north will fare, which animals face the biggest risks and whether nations could save them by protecting small icy refuges. But as some researchers look even further into the future, they see reasons to preserve hope. If society ever manages to reverse the surge in greenhouse-gas concentrations — as some suspect it ultimately will — then the same physics that makes it easy for Arctic sea ice to melt rapidly may also allow it to regrow, says Stephanie Pfirman, a sea-ice researcher at Barnard College in New York City. She and other scientists say that it’s time to look beyond the Arctic’s decline and start thinking about what it would take to restore sea ice. That raises controversial questions about how quickly summer ice could return and whether it could regrow fast enough to spare Arctic species. Could nations even cool the climate quickly through geoengineering, to reverse the most drastic changes up north? Pfirman and her colleagues published a paper1 last year designed to kick-start a broader conversation about how countries might plan for the regrowth of ice, and whether they would welcome it. Only by considering all the possibilities for the far future can the world stay one step ahead of the ever-changing Arctic, say scientists. “We’ve committed to the Arctic of the next generation,” Pfirman says. “What comes next?” Pfirman remembers the first time she realized just how fast the Arctic was unravelling. It was September 2007, and she was preparing to give a talk. She went online to download the latest sea-ice maps and discovered something disturbing: the extent of Arctic ice had shrunk past the record minimum and was still dropping. “Oh, no! It’s happening,” she thought. Although Pfirman and others knew that Arctic sea ice was shrinking, they hadn’t expected to see such extreme ice losses until the middle of the twenty-first century. “It was a wake-up call that we had basically run out of time,” she says. In theory, there’s still a chance that the world could prevent the total loss of summer sea ice. Global climate models suggest that about 3 million square kilometres — roughly half of the minimum summer coverage in recent decades — could survive if countries fulfil their commitments to the newly ratified Paris climate agreement, which limits global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. But sea-ice researchers aren’t counting on that. Models have consistently underestimated ice losses in the past, causing scientists to worry that the declines in the next few decades will outpace projections2. And given the limited commitments that countries have made so far to address climate change, many researchers suspect the world will overshoot the 2 °C target, all but guaranteeing essentially ice-free summers (winter ice is projected to persist for much longer). In the best-case scenario, the Arctic is in for a 4–5 °C temperature rise, thanks to processes that amplify warming at high latitudes, says James Overland, an oceanographer at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, Washington. “We really don’t have any clue about how disruptive that’s going to be.” The Arctic’s 4 million residents — including 400,000 indigenous people — will feel the most direct effects of ice loss. Entire coastal communities, such as many in Alaska, will be forced to relocate as permafrost melts and shorelines crumble without sea ice to buffer them from violent storms, according to a 2013 report3 by the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. Residents in Greenland will find it hard to travel on sea ice, and reindeer herders in Siberia could struggle to feed their animals. At the same time, new economic opportunities will beckon as open water allows greater access to fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits, and other sources of revenue. People living at mid-latitudes may not be immune, either. Emerging research4 suggests that open water in the Arctic might have helped to amplify weather events, such as cold snaps in the United States, Europe and Asia in recent winters. Indeed, the impacts could reach around the globe. That’s because sea ice helps to cool the planet by reflecting sunlight and preventing the Arctic Ocean from absorbing heat. Keeping local air and water temperatures low, in turn, limits melting of the Greenland ice sheet and permafrost. With summer ice gone, Greenland’s glaciers could contribute more to sea-level rise, and permafrost could release its stores of greenhouse gases such as methane. Such is the vast influence of Arctic ice. “It is really the tail that wags the dog of global climate,” says Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Arctic ecosystems will take the biggest hit. In 2007, for example, biologists in Alaska noticed something odd: vast numbers of walruses had clambered ashore on the coast of the Chukchi Sea. From above, it looked like the Woodstock music festival — with tusks — as thousands of plump pinnipeds crowded swathes of ice-free shoreline. Normally, walruses rest atop sea ice while foraging on the shallow sea floor. But that year, and almost every year since, sea-ice retreat made that impossible by late summer. Pacific walruses have adapted by hauling out on land, but scientists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service worry that their numbers will continue to decline. Here and across the region, the effects of Arctic thawing will ripple through ecosystems. In the ocean, photosynthetic plankton that thrive in open water will replace algae that grow on ice. Some models5 suggest that biological productivity in a seasonally ice-free Arctic could increase by up to 70% by 2100, which could boost revenue from Arctic fisheries even more. (To prevent a seafood gold rush, five Arctic nations have agreed to refrain from unregulated fishing in international waters for now.) Many whales already seem to be benefiting from the bounty of food, says Sue Moore, an Arctic mammal specialist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. But the changing Arctic will pose a challenge for species whose life cycles are intimately linked to sea ice, such as walruses and Arctic seals — as well as polar bears, which don’t have much to eat on land. Research6 suggests that many will starve if the ice-free season gets too long in much of the Arctic. “Basically, you can write off most of the southern populations,” says Andrew Derocher, a biologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Such findings spurred the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list polar bears as threatened in 2008. Ice-dependent ecosystems may survive for longest along the rugged north shores of Greenland and Canada, where models suggest that about half a million square kilometres of summer sea ice will linger after the rest of the Arctic opens up (see ‘Going, going …’). Wind patterns cause ice to pile up there, and the thickness of the ice — along with the high latitude — helps prevent it from melting. “The Siberian coastlines are the ice factory, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is the ice graveyard,” says Robert Newton, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. Groups such as the wildlife charity WWF have proposed protecting this ‘last ice area’ as a World Heritage Site in the hope that it will serve as a life preserver for many Arctic species. Last December, Canada announced that it would at least consider setting the area aside for conservation, and indigenous groups have expressed interest in helping to manage it. (Before he left office, then-US president Barack Obama joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in pledging to protect 17% of the countries’ Arctic lands and 10% of marine areas by 2020.) But the last ice area has limitations as an Arctic Noah’s ark. Some species don’t live in the region, and those that do are there in only small numbers. Derocher estimates that there are less than 2,000 polar bears in that last ice area today — a fraction of the total Arctic population of roughly 25,000. How many bears will live there in the future depends on how the ecosystem evolves with warming. The area may also be more vulnerable than global climate models suggest. Bruno Tremblay, a sea-ice researcher at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and David Huard, an independent climate consultant based in Quebec, Canada, studied the fate of the refuge with a high-resolution sea-ice and ocean model that better represented the narrow channels between the islands of the Canadian archipelago. In a report7 commissioned by the WWF, they found that ice might actually be able to sneak between the islands and flow south to latitudes where it would melt. According to the model, Tremblay says, “even the last ice area gets flushed out much more efficiently”. If the future of the Arctic seems dire, there is one source of optimism: summer sea ice will return whenever the planet cools down again. “It’s not this irreversible process,” Stroeve says. “You could bring it back even if you lose it all.” Unlike land-based ice sheets, which wax and wane over millennia and lag behind climate changes by similar spans, sea ice will regrow as soon as summer temperatures get cold enough. But identifying the exact threshold at which sea ice will return is tricky, says Dirk Notz, a sea-ice researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany. On the basis of model projections, researchers suggest that the threshold hovers around 450 parts per million (p.p.m.) — some 50 p.p.m. higher than today. But greenhouse-gas concentrations are not the only factor that affects ice regrowth; it also depends on how long the region has been ice-free in summer, which determines how much heat can build up in the Arctic Ocean. Notz and his colleagues studied the interplay between greenhouse gases and ocean temperature with a global climate model8. They increased CO from pre-industrial concentrations of 280 p.p.m. to 1,100 p.p.m. — a bit more than the 1,000 p.p.m. projected by 2100 if no major action is taken to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they left it at those levels for millennia. This obliterated both winter and summer sea ice, and allowed the ocean to warm up. The researchers then reduced CO concentrations to levels at which summer ice should have returned, but it did not regrow until the ocean had a chance to cool off, which took centuries. By contrast, if the Arctic experiences ice-free summers for a relatively short time before greenhouse gases drop, then models suggest ice would regrow much sooner. That could theoretically start to happen by the end of the century, assuming that nations take very aggressive steps to reduce carbon dioxide levels1, according to Newton, Pfirman and their colleagues. So even if society cannot forestall the loss of summer sea ice in coming decades, taking action to keep CO concentrations under control could still make it easier to regrow the ice cover later, Notz says. Given the stakes, some researchers have proposed global-scale geoengineering to cool the planet and, by extension, preserve or restore ice. Others argue that it might be possible to chill just the north, for instance by artificially whitening the Arctic Ocean with light-coloured floating particles to reflect sunlight. A study9 this year suggested installing wind-powered pumps to bring water to the surface in winter, where it would freeze, forming thicker ice. But many researchers hesitate to embrace geoengineering. And most agree that regional efforts would take tremendous effort and have limited benefits, given that Earth’s circulation systems could just bring more heat north to compensate. “It’s kind of like walking against a conveyor the wrong way,” Pfirman says. She and others agree that managing greenhouse gases — and local pollutants such as black carbon from shipping — is the only long-term solution. Returning to a world with summer sea ice could have big perks, such as restoring some of the climate services that the Arctic provides to the globe and stabilizing weather patterns. And in the region itself, restoring a white Arctic could offer relief to polar bears and other ice-dependent species, says Pfirman. These creatures might be able to weather a relatively short ice-free window, hunkered down in either the last ice area or other places set aside to preserve biodiversity. When the ice returned, they could spread out again to repopulate the Arctic. That has almost certainly happened during past climate changes. For instance, researchers think the Arctic may have experienced nearly ice-free summers during the last interglacial period, 130,000 years ago10. But, one thing is certain: getting back to a world with Arctic summer sea ice won’t be simple, politically or technically. Not everyone will embrace a return to an ice-covered Arctic, especially if it’s been blue for several generations. Companies and countries are already eyeing the opportunities for oil and gas exploration, mining, shipping, tourism and fishing in a region hungry for economic development. “In many communities, people are split,” Pfirman says. Some researchers also say that the idea of regrowing sea ice seems like wishful thinking, because it would require efforts well beyond what nations must do to meet the Paris agreement. Limiting warming to 2 °C will probably entail converting huge swathes of land into forest and using still-nascent technologies to suck billions of tonnes of CO out of the air. Lowering greenhouse-gas concentrations enough to regrow ice would demand even more. And if summer sea ice ever does come back, it’s hard to know how a remade Arctic would work, Derocher says. “There will be an ecosystem. It will function. It just may not look like the one we currently have.”

News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

North Korea had few friends even before the assassination of the leader's half-brother at a Kuala Lumpur airport last week, but the fallout from the killing looks set to further isolate the nuclear-armed state. Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur have enjoyed relatively warm economic ties, with some bilateral trade and citizens from both countries entitled to travel to the other under a unique reciprocal visa-free deal. Malaysia has also provided a channel between Pyongyang officials and the wider world, with Kuala Lumpur in recent years serving as a discreet meeting place for talks between the regime and the United States. But all that could come to an end following a war of words over Malaysia's probe into the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, which has seen Pyongyang's envoy to Kuala Lumpur savage local police, and Malaysia recall its ambassador to the North. Singapore cancelled its visa-free arrangement with Pyongyang last year in protest over the regime's fourth nuclear test. Andray Abrahamian of Choson Exchange, a non-profit that provides economic policy training to North Koreans, believes Malaysia could now make a similar move. "It wouldn't surprise me. The arrangement is already absolutely unique. North Koreans don't need a visa to work in Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. But the Malaysian side is the unusual thing," he told AFP. Malaysia and North Korea are both non-aligned nations and the one-off visa deal was likely hashed out as they sought to develop business ties, he said. Muhammad Fuad Othman, a lecturer in international politics at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said diplomats would need to be seen to respond to the killing -- which Seoul has said was orchestrated by Pyongyang. "In order to pacify the West maybe there is a need to re-evaluate the free visa policy that we accord to North Koreans," he said. Up to 1,000 North Koreans currently work in Malaysia and, like expats from the Stalinist state worldwide, their remittances are a valuable source of foreign currency for the isolated regime. North Korea imports refined oil, natural rubber and palm oil from Malaysia, which buys electrical and electronic items, chemicals as well as iron and steel products from North Korea. On the Malaysian side bilateral trade is negligible, amounting to just 23 million ringgit ($5.2 million) out of the country's total external trade of 1.5 trillion ringgit, according to figures cited in the Malaysian press. The pinch of any tail-off in trade would be felt more keenly in North Korea, especially when combined with the much harder blow of China's snap decision to halt coal imports from the country last week. - With friends like these - In other areas the strain is already beginning to show, with Malaysia's sports minister asking the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to consider safety concerns ahead of the national team's planned match against North Korea in Pyongyang next month. "I will ask the AFC to monitor the situation in Pyongyang because security is our priority. It is a difficult situation now because the diplomatic relationship between North Korea and Malaysia is strained," Khairy Jamaluddin said Tuesday. But officials in the North are unlikely to be losing any sleep over the spat, whatever the economic, diplomatic or sporting repercussions. Evans J.R. Revere of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the US-based Brookings Institution said Pyongyang had a history of sidelining the concerns of allies as it pursued its own aims. In 1983, for example, North Korea bombed a mausoleum in Myanmar during a visit by South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan. He survived but 21 people were killed and once-close ties were torpedoed. "North Korea is even prepared to put at risk relations with a friendly country as it pursues its enemies, and is even willing to damage ties with friends as it commits acts in violation of international norms," Revere told AFP. John Delury from Seoul's Yonsei University said Pyongyang would likely pick up the pieces as it has many times before, and find another venue for its tentative contacts with the world. "It has a good relationship with Malaysia by North Korean standards, but North Korean standards are so appallingly low," he told AFP. "It's always being pinched in one way or another, so this is just another pinch. They have an extraordinary capacity to absorb pain."

News Article | February 25, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

US Vice President Mike Pence (L) with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, has gone to great lengths to reassure European leaders Washington is not giving up on its allies (AFP Photo/Virginia Mayo) Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump came to the White House promising a radical reset of US-Russia relations after years of rising tensions under his predecessor. But barely one month into office, that plan appears to be on hold, and Trump's White House team has taken on an increasingly Russophobic face. After he repeatedly pledged to reach "a deal" with Vladimir Putin while hinting at downgraded relations with NATO and the European Union, Trump has yet to set a meeting with the Russian leader. Meanwhile Vice President Mike Pence and top cabinet security and defense officials have gone to great lengths to reassure European leaders that Washington is not giving up on its allies. While Trump still holds out the idea of striking up an amicable relationship with Putin, the administration took a distinct turn away from that stance last week with the replacement of pro-Moscow national security advisor Michael Flynn with Lieutenant General HR McMaster, a hawkish army veteran who sees Russia as the primary threat to US interests and global stability. And next week the Senate is expected to approve the appointment of Senator Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence, adding another Putin skeptic to the president's defense and national security team. "There has been a major shift," said Bruce Jones, vice president and director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. "My sense is at least we've seen an evolution to an approach that is more sensitive to the threat Russia poses to Europe and the US." Jake Sullivan, the former national security advisor to vice president Joe Biden, said the White House policy situation is "still unsettled." However, he said, McMaster's arrival in Flynn's place "could tip the balance." Trump has long expressed admiration for Putin and other hard-as-nails Russian autocrats. But his hope of launching into the presidency with a new approach to Russia has been set back by scandals that have allowed critics to paint him as suspiciously soft on Moscow: the intelligence conclusion that Russia interfered in the US election to hurt Trump's rival Hillary Clinton; alleged links between some of his campaign advisors and Russian intelligence; and the need to fire Flynn over his private discussions on sanctions with Russia's ambassador. The seeming slowdown or shift in his stance was most noteworthy, Jones said, with efforts in the past two weeks to assuage nervous European leaders over the new Washington administration's intentions. During the campaign Trump had repeatedly criticized NATO and suggested the core Atlantic Alliance may have passed its expiration date. But last week Pence declared at a high-level Munich security conference, with German leader Angela Merkel in the audience, that the administration remains committed to strong transatlantic ties. "The United States is and will always be your greatest ally. Be assured that President Trump and our people are truly devoted to our transatlantic union," he said. Days earlier new Pentagon chief James Mattis told officials in Brussels that the NATO alliance was a "fundamental bedrock" for the United States. - Trump still wants 'deal' with Putin - Trump's efforts to strike a new footing with Moscow have not gone away, and he and his close advisor Steve Bannon still set the agenda. They have suggested a readiness to lighten tough sanctions placed on Russia by the previous administration over its seizure of Crimea in exchange for cooperation elsewhere, particularly in fighting Islamic extremism. "If we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing," Trump reiterated in a press conference on February 16. "It would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we're not going to make a deal." Taking on anti-Moscow hardliners could help Trump pursue overtures with Putin from a position of strength, analysts say. But Sullivan said that, even with the buildup of hawkish conservatives in the White House, "There is still not a consensus inside the administration." "Trump can still get on the phone with Putin from time to time and do deals."

Hammond R.A.,Brookings Institution | Dube L.,McGill University
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | Year: 2012

We argue that food and nutrition security is driven by complex underlying systems and that both research and policy in this area would benefit from a systems approach. We present a framework for such an approach, examine key underlying systems, and identify transdisciplinary modeling tools that may prove especially useful.

Hammond R.A.,Brookings Institution
Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity | Year: 2010

Purpose of Review: To review a selection of research published in the last 12 months on the role of social influence in the obesity epidemic. Recent Findings: Recent papers add evidence to previous work linking social network structures and obesity. Social norms, both eating norms and body image norms, are identified as one major source of social influence through networks. Social capital and social stress are additional types of social influence. Summary: There is increasing evidence that social influence and social network structures are significant factors in obesity. Deeper understanding of the mechanisms of action and dynamics of social influence, and its link with other factors involved in the obesity epidemic, is an important goal for further research. © 2010 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Rothwell J.T.,Brookings Institution
Urban Studies | Year: 2012

A large body of recent research claims that racial diversity hinders the general trust of others, but these studies rarely consider how racial segregation mediates diversity. This article re-examines the issue by considering how the residential isolation of minorities alters general trust and one manifestation of trust: volunteering in cities. Using data from the US, the results from a regression analysis suggest that metropolitan-level racial segregation decreases trust and volunteering. Diversity has no significant effect. The results are robust to a variety of specifications and assumptions. The use of historical metropolitan and state characteristics improves the fit between segregation and distrust, and political affiliation is explored as a potential link between group distrust and general distrust. High levels of trust have been identified as a source of good governance and economic performance; integration is likely to enhance these attributes regardless of the level of diversity. © 2011 Urban Studies Journal Limited.

Whitehurst G.J.,Brookings Institution
Education Finance and Policy | Year: 2012

One of the major story lines of the growth of civilization is the advance of the experiment. From the food we eat to the diseases we conquer to our understanding of how we think and behave, we have profited enormously from an approach that marries our models of the world with tests of their validity through systematic variation to determine cause and effect. These same tools of thought and action are no less critical to the advance of education than to medicine, agriculture, psychology, or transportation. There has been impressive growth in the use of experimental methods in education over the past decade. As a result, much more is known today about what works and what does not. Future progress will be enhanced by research that better explicates process: linking trials to administrative data; serving the interest of local and state officials in examining the impact of their policies and practices; better preservice training for education practitioners in the logic and value of rigorous research; and more generous federal funding for the research enterprise. © 2012 Association for Education Finance and Policy.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ECONOMICS | Award Amount: 450.00K | Year: 2011

This award provides partial funding for the Brookings Conference on Macroeconomics and the accompanying Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, a conference volume.

The conference is designed to bring together scholars in economics (primary macroeconomics) to focus on the scientific analysis of economic policy issues. The topics include fiscal and monetary policy, asset pricing, labor markets, consumptions and saving behavior, business investment, housing, wage and price setting, business cycles, long-run economic grown, the distribution of income and wealth, intermational capital flows and exchange rates, international trade and development, the macroeconomic implications of health costs, energy supply and demand, environmental issues, and the education system.

The papers presented develop empirical evidence, include real world institutions, and focus on relevance to policy. A wide range of methodological approaches are included. Papers are available online to the general public, and the series has been praised as a key forum for discussion of economic research and policy.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 450.00K | Year: 2015

This award provides partial funding for the Brookings Conference on Macroeconomics and the accompanying conference volume, the Brookings Papers on Macroeconomic Activity. The conference is designed to bring together economic scientists to focus on the scientific analysis of economic policy issues. These issues include the changing labor market, financial institutions, global economic policy, heath care, data improvement, inequality, and long run economic growth. The papers presented at the conference are available online to the public. They develop empirical analysis, employ a wide range of research methods, include real world institutions, and focus on relevance to policy. The award promotes the national interest by improving the quality of the economics used in making policy decisions.

BPEAs work not only adds to the body of economic literature but increases the contributions of economic research to our understanding of public policy. This is in part due to a high degree of interaction among the organizers, researchers, discussants, and attendees. Each researcher invited to present engages in an intensive process of three rounds of review, criticism, discussion and editing. BPEA encourages scientists to apply the best knowledge of the profession to pressing policy issues and uses policy concerns to point the professions way toward new science.

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