Adapted from “The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire,” by Neil Irwin (The Penguin Press, available April 4).
WASHINGTONO POST: …But in fact, what happened over three days and four nights in May 2010 is essential to understanding the economic predicament in which the world still finds itself. In that moment, the major Western central banks — and their leaders, Ben S. Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and Trichet of the ECB — made a series of decisions that created the world economy we inhabit today, and likely far into the future.
Through half a decade of crisis that spanned every continent on Earth, it was this triumvirate of central bankers who responded on a scale and with a speed that presidents and parliaments could never muster. They deployed trillions of dollars, pounds and euros, often in concert, always trying to contain the damage. They made plenty of mistakes, some of them costly. But they also have kept the world from a disastrous economic collapse of the sort their predecessors had allowed eight decades earlier, setting the stage for the rise of the Nazis and World War II.
This is the inside story— based on dozens of interviews with people involved first-hand along with documents and other resources — of how, at one particularly crucial turning point, the central bankers pulled it off… (more)
FINANCIAL TIMES: Russia is gearing up for an oil boom on the same scale as the US, as the techniques that sparked the shale revolution are applied to Siberia’s deposits of unconventional oil, according to one of the country’s top oil executives.
Leonid Fedun, vice-president of Lukoil, said Russia, the world’s second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, will be able to maintain crude output of 10m barrels a day for years to come as output from western Siberia’s Bazhenov Shale offsets declines in the country’s mature oilfields.
But he said such an outcome hinged on new tax breaks the government has promised for the industry. Ministers have proposed a waiver of Russia’s onerous mineral extraction tax for companies drilling in the Bazhenov… (more)
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER Editorial: …Pennsylvania’s prison halfway houses are a failure. More felons who spent time in halfway houses return to jail than among those released directly from prison to the streets…
Wetzel ordered an in-house study, which showed that 67 percent of inmates released from halfway houses wound up back in jail within three years, compared with 60 percent of inmates released directly from prisons. “Let’s stop continuing to do the same thing the same way and expect a different result,” said Wetzel.
He plans to renegotiate contracts with the 38 private operators of halfway houses to give them incentives to cut down on recidivism or else be put on a path to lose their contracts. Wetzel is giving the operators of all halfway houses, including 13 run by the state, a year to improve. Altogether, the halfway houses cost the state $110 million annually… (more)
EDITORIAL: When treating drug addicts, there is an effort to discourage patients from spending time with others. By placing prisons in an environment surrounded by ex-convicts, how much success can we expect?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE Editorial …With the help of two foundations and strong civic leadership, an unlikely band of energy companies and environmental groups have collaborated to raise operating standards in the Marcellus Shale drilling industry for the benefit of everyone — workers, businesses and people who care about clean air and water.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was introduced on March 20 as an initiative to certify the adoption of higher performance procedures in 15 areas that are protective of air quality, water resources and climate.
The purpose is to encourage energy companies to go above and beyond state and federal regulations and, in the words of Nicholas DeIuliis, president of Consol Energy, “to represent excellence in performance.” Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, said the higher standards should “serve as a model for national policy and practice.” … (more)
POLITICO: …Earlier this month, a top aide to Rep. Allyson Schwartz warned an adviser to state Treasurer Rob McCord – a likely primary opponent – that there could be consequences for his political consulting business if he continues to criticize the Philadelphia-area congresswoman behind closed doors…
“Will you please tell me what the hell you are talking about? Seriously. Because that’s one of the most bizarre emails I’ve ever gotten,” [Mark] Nevins wrote. “When I’m asked for thoughts, I tell people that I think it will be a very competitive primary, but that I think we match up well against the congresswoman.”
Nevins went on at some length about Schwartz’s vulnerabilities as a challenger for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett: “I also tell people that I think we’re a stronger general election candidate, partly because I think Republicans will use Congresswoman Schwartz’s profile against her in very predictable ways.” … (more)
NEWSMAX: …Under the emerging agreement between business and labor, a new “W” visa program would bring tens of thousands of lower-skilled workers a year to the country. The program would be capped at 200,000 a year, but the number of visas would fluctuate, depending on unemployment rates, job openings, employer demand and data collected by a new federal bureau pushed by the labor movement as an objective monitor of the market.
The workers would be able to change jobs and could seek permanent residency. Under current temporary worker programs, personnel can’t move from employer to employer and have no path to permanent U.S. residence and citizenship. And currently there’s no good way for employers to bring many low-skilled workers to the U.S. An existing visa program for low-wage nonagricultural workers is capped at 66,000 per year and is supposed to apply only to seasonal or temporary jobs.
The Chamber of Commerce said workers would earn actual wages paid to American workers or the prevailing wages for the industry they’re working in, whichever is higher. The Labor Department determines prevailing wage based on customary rates in specific localities, so that it varies from city to city… (more)
USA TODAY: As more telephone customers cut the cord and shift service to wireless or Internet-based options, some major telephone companies have asked the federal government to pull the plug on the old-fashioned service.
They say regulations that require maintenance of outdated, little-used infrastructure hinders progress because it ties up money that could otherwise be invested in technology upgrades. But some small companies question the motivation behind the push, saying it is likely a self-serving effort to allow those major companies to run wild in a relatively new, far-less-regulated Internet-based telephone environment…
Experts say Internet-based telephone will mean faster and higher-quality service for consumers. Former Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher, who visited Des Moines this month to talk about the future of the Internet, said the conversation must now turn toward ensuring that any transition for residents is smooth and that factors such as cost and availability are equitable and fair… (more)
HUFFINGTON POST: As more Republicans give in to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, an opposition bloc remains across the South, including from governors who lead some of the nation’s poorest and unhealthiest states…
Widening Medicaid insurance rolls, a joint federal-state program for low-income Americans, is an anchor of the law Obama signed in 2010. But states get to decide whether to take the deal, and from Virginia to Texas – a region encompassing the old Confederacy and Civil War border states – Florida’s Rick Scott is the only Republican governor to endorse expansion, and he faces opposition from his GOP colleagues in the legislature. Tennessee’s Bill Haslam, the Deep South’s last governor to take a side, added his name to the opposition on Wednesday.
Haley offers the common explanation, saying expansion will “bust our budgets.” But the policy reality is more complicated. The hospital industry and other advocacy groups continue to tell GOP governors that expansion would be a good arrangement, and there are signs that some Republicans are trying to find ways to expand insurance coverage under the law… (more)
THE NATION: … Historically, Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of the use of solitary confinement, and it has continued to experiment with new forms of isolation. In 2000 the Pennsylvania DOC introduced the Long Term Segregation Unit, or LTSU, to house its most dangerous and disobedient inmates. Based on a similar program introduced in 1989 at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, the LTSU held inmates in single cells, isolated for at least twenty-three hours a day bereft of any property, including reading material. The treatment was supposed to last for thirty-six months at the most, with officials vowing to send LTSU prisoners back to the general population when their behavior improved.
A 2004 article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review quoted DOC sources citing the extreme unruliness of LTSU prisoners—“the worst of the worst,” “despicable inmate[s]” who “just seemed to be incorrigible”—and also quoted attorneys and advocates concerned about the effect on vulnerable inmates. “It raises the question of mentally ill [prisoners] in this unit whose conditions are made worse by long-term isolation,” one lawyer said.
As Pennsylvania implemented the LTSU program, mental health experts warned that such sustained isolation could cause significant mental problems. In a 2003 report in Crime and Delinquency, Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, wrote, “There is not a single published study of solitary or supermax–like confinement in which nonvoluntary confinement lasting for longer than 10 days…failed to result in negative psychological effects.” … (more)
EDITOR: The diverse matters covered by this article do not allow for a meaningful three paragraph summary.
DAILY FINANCE / AP: Big depositors at Cyprus’ largest bank may be forced to accept losses of up to 60 percent, far more than initially estimated under the European rescue package to save the country from bankruptcy, officials said Saturday.
Deposits of more than 100,000 euros ($128,000) at the Bank of Cyprus will lose 37.5 percent in money that will be converted into bank shares, according to a central bank statement. In a second raid on these accounts, depositors also could lose up to 22.5 percent more, depending on what experts determine is needed to prop up the bank’s reserves. The experts will have 90 days to figure that out…
The savings converted to bank shares would theoretically allow depositors to eventually recover their losses. But the shares now hold little value and it’s uncertain when — if ever — the shares will regain a value equal to the depositors’ losses… (more)
EDITOR: The ‘swoosh’ one hears in Europe is euros being transferred from deposits in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal to accounts in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France.