National / International News
Pieri joined us to talk about obstacles facing female CEOs; why they suffer higher rates of depression, and how to combat the statistic.
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The global corporate and political elite descend upon Davos once again Wednesday, for the annual economic summit.
This year, much of the talk will focus on the resurgent U.S. economy. The World Bank’s top economist has called it the “single engine” in the global economy.
Still, Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute of International Economics, says this year the American economy is simply winning a global “least ugly contest.”
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Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road — the online marketplace that used bitcoin for transactions — is on trial this week. Ulbricht’s defense: he was set up by the real Dread Pirate Roberts or DPR, the site’s mysterious founder and administrator.
Who would that be? Mark Karpeles, according to the defense. That’s the former owner of Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange that went bankrupt in 2014.
Sarah Jeong, a tech policy journalist who has been writing about the case, says the defense is leaning on the fact that Karpeles had been a prime suspect at one point. She also says Jared Der-Yeghiayan, the agent from the Department of Homeland Security who arrested Ulbricht, is the one who suspected Karpeles.
Ulbricht doesn’t deny that he was involved. In fact, when he was arrested, he was logged into Silk Road on the account “Mastermind,” which showed the site’s finances in detail. But the defense is now claiming Ulbricht founded the site only as “an economic experiment," and that he later “handed it over to others” who lured him back to take the fall.
“The timeline is very odd,” says Jeong. “The same DHS agent who helped arrest Ross, who was undercover as a Silk Road moderator ... less than two months before he participated in arresting Ross Ulbricht, he swore in an affidavit that he had probable cause to believe that Mark Karpeles, the CEO of Mt. Gox was Dread Pirate Roberts. That is really strange.”
Fracking for oil and gas consumes about 100 billion pounds of sand every year, much of it from a few Midwestern states. The sand industry has grown faster than regulators can keep up in Wisconsin, which has more sand mines than any other state. Fines for pollution are modest, many mines have not received full inspections, and the state has failed to update its permit for sand mines, even though the old terms expired last year.
In December 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Justice settled its biggest case involving pollution from a sand mine. A company called Preferred Sands admitted to multiple air and water-pollution violations at a site in Trempealeau County. Most vividly, after a spring storm, discharge from the Preferred site went across a road and into a nearby home.
“This sort of mass of sandy, sludgy stuff literally went through an Amish family’s living room,” recalls Pat Malone, a University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension professor who works with local government. “I mean, it’s like waking up in the middle of the night going, ‘I don’t think I’d like to swim!’”
Six inches of discharge blocked the road. Workers spent three days clearing it. But given sand mining’s scale, the fine doesn’t seem very big: $200,000. Six months after the settlement, an investment firm put $680 million into Preferred Sands.
The pace of inspections appears slow. The state Department of Natural Resources says that at last count, just 37 percent of all active mines had gotten full inspections since mid-2013. It hopes to inspect the rest by July.
State Senator Kathleen Vinehout represents Trempealeau County. Asked if she thinks the state is understaffed, she says, “That is an understatement. The state is woefully understaffed.”
The department has enough people, says Deb Dix, who describes herself as the contact person for industrial sand mining at the DNR. However, she says, the state can’t do everything some people would like.
“We are governed by the authority given to us by the legislature,” she says. “I know, that sounds like trying-to-avoid, but it’s not. We have certain authorities for what we can and can’t do.”
One of the department’s responsibilities is to review the terms of permits for sand mines. The most recent terms predate the frac sand explosion — they were written for gravel pits — and staff decided to rewrite them, says Water Division Administrator Russ Rasmussen.
Meanwhile, the old ones expired last spring. New rules haven’t come out yet, but the department has issued some permits under the old ones; an arrangement that Rasmussen describes as “a gray legal area.”
The U.S. and the U.K. plan to conduct cyber war game exercises with each other later this year with a staged attack on the financial sector. It's the first time the two countries have conducted such an exercise, but simulated attacks are used often in private industry where companies concerned about becoming targets of hackers look to bolster their digital defenses. But the goals of businesses and nations differ.
"The government is more interested in infiltration and defensiveness than it is about process or remediation," says Joe Loomis, CEO of CyberSponse.
Loomis says among the things private companies test when they run cyber attack simulations are: "As soon as you're attacked, what are you going to do first ... what data are you going to collect ... how are we going to communicate ... if the network's compromised."
While cyber security is an industry in growth mode, Loomis says there are still not enough businesses running simulations.
"Companies have been doing terribly because they haven't been testing," says Bruce Schneier, Chief Technology Officer Co3 Systems. "So, I think companies are realizing that this has been a hole in their security."
Global spending on all information security is expected to grow eight percent this year to $77 billion, according to research firm Gartner. The cost of digital crime is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
According to anti-poverty charity Oxfam, the wealthiest 1 percent will soon own more than the rest of the world's population. As the BBC reports, the findings coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos.76 percent
The portion of Americans who count protecting the country from terrorism as a top priority in the new year, according to a new survey from Pew, neck-and-neck with improving the economy. That's a marked change from last year, which pegged job creation and the economy as the top priorities by far.50,000 jobs
Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc. stated that his company would add 50,000 jobs to the European economy this year, taking 400,000 cars off the road in the process. As reported by the WSJ, Kalanick's comments at the Digital Design Life conference come at a time when Uber is facing major obstacles in entering the European market.1928
The year the Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance was created, providing a template for the regulation of roads nationwide. Most notably, the suggested model included laws against jaywalking, which were pushed through by the automotive industry. Vox has the full secret history of the petty law that ceded control of the road.100 billion pounds
That's how many pounds of sand are used for oil and gas fracking every year, much of it from the Midwest. And in states like Wisconsin, mines often go uninspected, fines are modest, and some rules have lapsed.One-fifth
That's about how many U.S. malls have a vacancy over 10 percent, a problem number that turns into an all-out "death spiral" by 40 percent. The New York Times has a fascinating look at the way malls die and the strangely beautiful husks that are becoming more common.$100 million
New York City is notorious for expensive real estate, but the market for pricey apartments just got more ridiculous. A penthouse at One57, a luxury high rise, recently sold for a record breaking $100 million dollars. As Quartz reports, the previous record was held by Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the daughter of a Russian fertilizer billionaire, who paid $88 million for an apartment in 2012.
Iran and six world powers wrapped up their latest round of talks in Geneva over Iran's nuclear program. Negotiations resume in February ahead of a self-imposed July 1 deadline for a deal.