Environment and Sustainable Development
November 12th – The Economist – An Uneven Deal
Five years after the Copenhagen conference’s failure, China and the U.S. have put an end to their environmental disagreements, by reaching a non-binding deal on carbon emissions. U.S. green-house gas emissions are slated to go down 26 to 28% below their 2005 levels by 2025, while Chinese leaders have agreed to start capping emission levels from 2030 on. Xi Jinping also committed to a 20% increase in non-fossil fuels consumption by the same year.
As promising as it sounds, The Economist considers the deal rather tepid and uneven: “That in itself is an achievement, but it may not be all it is cracked up to be since China has not conceded much, and Congress will do its best to prevent America from delivering what it has promised.”
November 14th – USA Today – Lower Crude Prices Challenge Keystone Pipeline
The constant decline of crude oil prices since the end of the summer could turn the Keystone pipeline project into an economical non-sense. Priced around $74 a barrel on Thursday, the cost of oil has experienced its sharpest decline since last summer, where it had reached triple-digit highs.
Why should lawmakers care? Because the phenomenon is taking its toll on the Keystone pipeline project, as lower lower oil price reduce investors’ incentive to develop the infrastructure. In simple terms, if the oil barrel was steadily priced around $65, that is only $9 away from its current level, the project would become economically irrelevant.
Human Rights & Individual Liberties
November 17th – Salon – College Kids’ Homeless Hell
Over 56,000 college students were homeless in 2013. According to officials from the Department of Education, that number could be much higher. While more and more students are struggling to pay for a room and make ends meet, U.S. colleges have doubled their investment in the student housing sector since 2007.
Reviewing all sorts of lavish projects recently undertaken by American universities, Salon notes that “the superfluous student housing developments are increasing room and board costs.” Investment in college housing is set to grow for 2014. So is the number of homeless students. As of early August, almost 46,000 of them declared homelessness for this year.
November 14th – The New York Times – Cost of Coverage Under Affordable Care Act to Increase in 2015
The cost of some health insurance contracts bought under Obamacare will substantially rise next year, official data show. The New York Times reports that in some cases, the increase could reach 20%. As a compensation, cheaper plans will be made available in 2015, and Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, advises consumers to “shop around”.
If ratepayers accept to quit their current plans for the new ones, the “price increases will be modest”, she adds. But the New York Times notes that different plans would cover different doctors, hospitals and drugs. The bill may grow bigger anyway and, at a time where federal subsidies are decreasing, it is no good news for the frail reputation of America’s universal healthcare program.
November 14th – ThinkProgress.org – Walmart Workers Promise Biggest Black Friday Strike Ever
As Black Friday nears (27th of November), retail giants get ready for the busiest day of the year. But at Walmart, where workers from 1,600 stores have planned to go on strike, the situation has become difficult to handle. Not that Walmart employees are walking off the job for the first time, but the 2014 edition of the Black Friday demonstration is set to be the biggest ever.
Unionized workers with the “OUR Walmart” are asking for higher wages, better working conditions and the right to go on strike without risking to lose their jobs. Indeed, the company has an important track-record of cracking down on demonstrators, while not considering workers’ long-time demand. Although Walmart has recently made some changes, employee Barabar Gertz notes that “associates are still struggling and stores are still understaffed.”