Stories by Katie Paul

  • Nate Silver on How to Destroy 5% of Global GDP (and Half the World)

    Today in graphics that should make your palms sweat: Nate Silver, the 538.com numbers nerd who brought the world minute-by-minute election coverage, is now delivering a detailed vision of global climate-induced dystopia. The back story: The American Scene is home to an ongoing debate over the costs and benefits of Waxman-Markey, the climate change bill that recently passed in the House and is now headed for the Senate. In arguing against it, commentator Jim Manzi points to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that warming would decrease global GDP by 5 percent, saying that's pretty marginal compared to the economic impact of the proposed legislation. But a good portion of the world's countries register mere blips on counts of total global GDP, even though they account for much of its population. How much, exactly? Into the fray jumps Mr. Silver and his map: I'm not sure how or why Somalia survives the cut, but that's just quibbling. The point...
  • Confessions of an Econoholic

    Building models one does not really believe to be useful or relevant. Making simplifications that obscure or omit important things. Using data one does not really believe in. Focusing on the statistical significance of one’s findings while quietly doubting economic significance. Engaging in data mining. Drawing “policy implications” that one knows are inappropriate or misleading. Keeping the discourse “between the 40-yard lines” so as to avoid being outspoken; knowingly eliding fundamental issues. Tilting the flavor of policy judgments to make a paper more acceptable to referees, editors, publishers, or funders. Disguising one’s methodological or ideological views, such as by omitting revealing activities or publications from one’s vitae. For government, institute, or corporate economists: Having to significantly play along with things one does not believe in After the year we've had, I will be profoundly disappointed if these essays turn out to be lame.
  • Nigerians 4 Life: Gazprom's Deliciously Unfortunate New Brand

    Once upon a time there was a Russian gas company named Gazprom, which grew fond of a Nigerian state-owned gas company. After an extended courtship, the two resolved to partner up. A joint venture was born. But what to name it? They pondered, and pondered, and then they decided: Nigaz. No joke.
  • Argentina's Next Power Brokers?

    Francisco de Narváez is not the sort of person you'd expect to build a political platform around the idea of normalcy. He’s a Colombian-born businessman with a big black tattoo on his neck who inherited the family supermarket chain back in the '90s, then built it into a business empire, with stakes in agriculture, clothing stores, and even Argentina's leading newspaper, Clarin. Not to mention, in the last four years, he's mysteriously managed to increase his wealth by about 900 percent, prompting authorities to launch an investigation into his business dealings earlier this month (the rumor mill is buzzing about a drug connection)....
  • Economic Recovery? CEOs May Be Selling It, But They Ain't Buying It

    Add this bit to the mounting evidence against the green shoots theory: corporate executives are dumping their share holdings faster than they can say "we've hit bottom and are poised for growth."According to a new report from California-based investment research firm TrimTabs, corporate insiders--the bigwigs required to disclose their personal finances to the SEC--bought less and sold more in April, May and June alike. So far this month, insiders at S&P 500 companies dumped $2.6 billion worth of shares. Even more concerning is how little they're buying: $120m worth. That's noteworthy for two reasons. Not only is the balance way off kilter, it also just so happens that those meager buying numbers are the better indicators of where insiders' heads are at. People sell for a lot of reasons, says strategist Vincent Deluard: they've beengiven free stock, they're looking to buy a house, etc. But buying is more straightforward; it either means...
  • Basta on the Argentine Coin Stories

    I love the story about Argentina's mysterious shortage of coins, or . It's a fun little tale about a bizarre trend, complete with quirky subplots; governments fudging inflation data, coin-rich metro bus companies, which only accept payment in coins, supporting a whole black market. In fact, I love it so much I wrote an article on the matter back when I was reporting out of Reuters' Buenos Aires bureau--and battling with just about every cashier in the city to ensure I had enough coins to take the bus home each day. But that was two years ago. Since then, we've heard from Slate (Yes, We Have No Monedas), Global Post (Where Are Argentina's Coins?), Time (Spare Change? There's None In Buenos Aires), the AP (Argentine Inflation Means Daily Scramble for Coins), and The Wall Street Journal (Argentina Is Short of Cash -- Literally), to name a few. Then last week, The New Yorker's James Surowiecki chimed in (Change We Can't Believe In) on the matter...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, June 18

    To Devalue or Not to Devalue: That is the question in Latvia, which is facing the worst recession in the former Eastern bloc. So far they're not devaluing their currency; it's risky, but if it works, it could set a powerful precedent for other small, struggling economies.Uncle Sam $68 Billion Richer: Ten of the nation's largest banks paid back portions of their TARP money yesterday.BRICs Still Down with Dollars: Remember that whole spat about the demise of the dollar as the global reserve currency? Whole lotta nothing. BRIC leaders met in Russia this week, but were unable to come to an agreement on a call for a shift away from the greenback.The Warm Cozy Capitalist Manifesto: Did you like NEWSWEEK's cover story this week? The Atlantic's Derek Thompson was not so into it, arguing Fareed Zakaria should rationalize less and criticize more when it comes to financial follies. In the name of the free exchange of ideas, we at the WON blog encourage you to weigh...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, June 17

    Circling Above Wall Street: Could foreign banks do to Wall Street what Japan once did to Detroit? They're busy buying up lots of assets, but questions remain as to whether they can sustain the expansion, given how frequently past efforts to grab business from their US rivals have fizzled.Brave New Banking World: The Obama administration is set to announce new rules for the banking system today. Simon Johnson has some insights on who's pulling the strings.Carrots, the New Treasuries: A joint OECD-UN report says agriculture is proving more resilient than other sectors in the economic downturn, predicting that prices will rise 10-20 percent over the next 10 years. Looks like Jim Rogers was onto something...The Revolution Will Be Twitterized: Social networking just picked up more street cred. President Obama told CNBC that he was "not meddling" in the dispute over Iran's election, but news came out yesterday that the State Department asked Twitter to postpone a...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, June 10

    It's the Economy, Mahmoud: As Iran gears up for its presidential election, the economy--not Israel, the nuclear program, or social freedom--is taking center stage. Critics say Ahmedinejad has focused on distributing wealth rather than creating it, and accuse him of fudging the numbers to make his record look better.More Stress, Please: So you thought it was good news when you heard yesterday that 10 banks would be allowed to repay their TARP bailout money? Wrong, according to Elizabeth Warren. She released a simultaneous report questioning the government's figures and calling for new stress tests.Going, Going, Gone: Russian central bank officials say they may move some of the country's reserves out of U.S. treasuries and into the brand new IMF bonds.Remote No More: International brands are determined to tap into India's vast--and vastly undeveloped--rural market, even if they have to send out live entertainers to do their infomercials. 
  • Aging Flight Attendants and a Changing America

    Store this one away in your data bank of random trivia: flight attendants are getting older. Between 1980 and 2007, the median age of flight attendants jumped up 14 years--from 30 to 2004--according to a new study by two Texas A&M researchers.Why? Civil rights laws made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, sex, or race, which meant the airline industry's historical predilection for hiring young, slim, attractive, unmarried ladies had to go by the wayside (there were actually weight and marital requirements back in the day). In subsequent years, which brought rounds of layoffs and hiring freezes, the youngest employees with the lowest seniority levels were often the first to get the boot.It bears all the markers of bigger trends in the American workforce, albeit on an extreme scale (in the same time period, the median age of all U.S. workers rose six years). While the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the flight attendant population diversified, inflation...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Monday, June 8

    Not Out of the Woods: So much for the green shoots theory. This weekend was full of forebodingabout the future of the American economy, most pointedly with thisTimes op-ed critiquing Obama's confidence-restoring efforts as"dangerously misguided." (It's a must-read). This comes on the heels ofnews that PPIP, behind schedule and losing steam, might be doomed.  Left in the Dust: The center-right got a big boost in Europe today, winning major victories in the European parliamentary elections. Far-right and anti-immigrant groups also picked up seats. Turnout was at a three-decade low.An Economical Mideast Peace Plan: Elsewhere in elections, moderates in Lebanon eked out a victory over Hezbollah in Sunday's parliamentary elections. To shore up support for moderation in the region, says one Al-Jazeera columnist, the West should allow Lebanon to join the WTO. Extremism's economic roots, he argues, should not be underestimated. In related news, the EU agreed...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Friday, June 5

    Welcome Back to Work?: Job losses slow! Job losses slow! Unemployment in the U.S. grew to a staggering 9.4 percent, but the number of job losses--345,000--was the smallest since last September. Could the glimmers of hope be on the horizon? Er, nope, says Felix Salmon. Another Reuters guy, Christopher Swann, sees a double-edged sword in all the pay cuts.The Bears and the Bulls: Why do markets continue to rally? Ed Harrison at RGE Monitor has three theories, two bearish and one bullish.Lord of the Flies: Today brings us a new development in the UK expenses scandal meltdown. Finance minister Alistair Darling has apparently fought off Gordon Brown's attempts at an ouster, further weakening the prime minister's position amid a bold cabinet reshuffling and rising calls for his resignation.Igor of Arabia: Russia has set its sights on the Arab world, positioning itself as a key trading partner with states eager to rekindle Soviet-era alliances. Russian and Arab banks are in talks...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, June 4

    New Worry of the Day: Interest: What happens when governments around the world spend themselves silly to fight recession? Interest rates go up, potentially tacking hundreds of billions dollars onto already swollen public debt. According to the Congressional Budget office, a decade from now America's outstanding debt could equal 82 percent of G.D.P., or just over $17 trillion. But the Asian tigers are apparently being much more responsible. "China, for example, is in a very strong position to pay for its stimulus,” said one IMF official....
  • The Mergers and Acquisitions of America's Towns

    Soul-searching has become standard fare these days, but apparently it's taking on a particularly existential tone in certain corners of America. Weighed down by the...
  • Economics + Comics = Ecocomics

    If you lived in a world where exploding buildings, crashing cars, and robbed banks were regular fixtures of everyday life, which type of insurance system would function best?...
  • Today in Casualties of the Recession: Human Rights

    The Amnesty International annual report that came out today has some sobering revelations about those bearing the brunt of the global recession. That's why NEWSWEEK'S Rebecca Shabad flipped through it and chatted with Amnesty's Secretary General about her findings. Here's a briefing:...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, May 28

    No Go on the Opel Deal: Emergency talks between German and American negotiators failed to produce a deal for GM's ailing European branch, despite lasting into the wee hours of the morning. But they did manage to slim down the competition among potential buyers: either Fiat or Magna will get the prize, once everyone can figure out who will foot the bankruptcy bill. (By the way, um, Happy Birthday Germany!)The Retirement Chronicles: Worried about that 401K? Explore FT's interactive feature on the past, present, and future of pension plans.Golden Parachutes, Back in Style: The CEO of one Virginia bank that accepted government moneyd has decided to retire early for $1.3 million in consulting fees. He'll be spending his newfound leisure time at the local country club, where his membership dues will be paid by--you guessed it--the bank. So much for TARP regulations.Petrobras Not Quite Slick Enough: Brazil's giant national oil and gas company is under investigation for...
  • Dan Gross: Wherefore Sovereign Wealth Funds?

    Newsweek biz columnist Dan Gross wonders what the deal is with sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), those enticing, terrifying state-owned investment funds that came into vogue in Asia and Arabia about two years ago. Why enticing? Why terrifying?The global financial class viewed them with a mix of fear (Oh no! The Arabs and Chinese are going to buy all our strategically important companies!) and optimism (Holy cash cow! A new source of financing and clients for investment banks!). The fact that SWFs operated with all the transparency of a sheet of tinfoil only enhanced their appeal and apparent power. In January 2008, SWFs were the talk of the World Economic Forum at Davos. After all, if the potent economic trends that had made them powers in the first place were to continue, SWFs would only get bigger. (This was another example what I've dubbed "pro forma" disease, the tendency to extrapolate a few years of impressive growth endlessly into the future-i.e., since housing...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Monday, May 26

    As Goes California So Goes the Nation?: Paul Krugman, optimistic as always, worries that it might be so. He points to the shrinking and increasingly extreme ranks of the Republican party to explain why it will be especially difficult for the state to climb out of the fiscal hole--a scenario he can easily foresee playing out at the national level....
  • Breakfast Buffet, Friday, May 22

    The Banality of Tiananmen: Two decades after the protests at Tiananmen Square captured the attention of the world, a new generation of college kids is ambivalent about the grievances that drove Chinese students into the streets demanding democracy. But the flame hasn't been completely extinguished; students are economically satisfied, but they have little love for the Party line.How Do You Solve a Problem Like California?: Nothing stirs a good debate like utter dysfunction. An op-ed writer in the Times thinks we should hold our noses and bail out the defunct Golden State. The WSJ, still celebrating what it sees as a triumph of fiscal conservatism, thinks that would be dumb.Reaping Foreign Rewards: The Economist is getting a bad vibe from the rising tide of Arab and Chinese farmland purchases in dirt-poor countries, especially considering what just happened as a result of one in Madagascar. So am I.All Good in the Hood: Europe's big businesses are in trouble, like...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, May 20

    Capitalism Is Dead; Long Live Capitalism!: We're living through an historic moment, alright, but is it a defining one? FT's Martin Wolf doesn't think so. Part of FT's running series on the future of Capitalism, headquartered here.The No-Work Jobs of Japan: No money for sheet metal? Build a vegetable garden! Make trinkets! In Japan, that's the way it works, since government subsidies keep companies from laying off workers. I say, where do I sign up? Economists say, this might help explain why Japan's economy just shrunk another 4 percent.Off With Commons' Head: The expenses scandal roiling Britain's House of Commons claimed its top prize yesterday with the resignation of Michael Martin, the first speaker of the house to get the boot since 1695. Now comes reckoning time for the rest of the MPs. All the juicy details on the hidden perks of the job can be found here, here, and here.Diamonds, Maybe Not a Russian's Best Friend: The NYT reported...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Tuesday, May 19

    Too Close for Comfort: Has Treasury gotten too cozy with the  firms it's hired to help value and manage bailout assets? The NYT muses on this as it shines the spotlight on BlackRock, which is managing the rescues of Bear Stearns, AIG, and Citi at the same time that it is advising private clients. They could soon get even more on their plate: Treasury may approve them to buy toxic assets, using taxpayer money.Consider It Stimulated: It's been 90 days since the stimulus bill package passed, which means it's time for federal agencies to submit their report cards. So far, only 10 of 17 have made their way over to Congress.Getting Chummy in Sao Paolo: The presidents of China and Brazil are meeting today, strengthening economic ties between the two rising "strategic partners." The powwow caught Hillary Clinton's attention, and with good reason; this spring for the first time, China became Brazil's biggest trading partner, displacing the United States....
  • Geithner Answers to Meacham

    Just in case you missed Jon Meacham chatting up Tim Geithner on Facebook earlier this afternoon, you can watch it in full here. Sadly, they managed to get through the interview with nary a poke or superpoke, but there are plenty of other good--and, you know, legitimate--reasons to tune in.
  • Breakfast Buffet, Friday, May 15

    Check us out, huh? Welcome to the brand spankin' new, snazzy, jazzy, redesigned Newsweek.com. It's business as usual content-wise here at the WON blog, but we'd love to know what you think of our new digs. And while you're at it, let us know if there's anything in particular you'd like to see us cover here in the coming days/weeks/months.Oh No, Not the Cow Palace!: California's governator is threatening to sell off iconic properties to help close the state's $15.4 billion deficit. He's also proposing cuts in education, developmental services, and health care for folks with low income or disabilities. As in, yes, the basic core functions of government.London Calling: FT's Gillian Tett offers her take on Yankees' economic proclivities after concluding her book tour across these United States. Her conclusions: y'all should back off on Geithner, but keep up the pressure on Wall Street. She's also hearing rumors of even...
  • The Curious Case of the Globalized Non-Barbies

     Today in bizarre byproducts of globalization: black Barbies with blue eyes clad in African wraps. OK, this ain't a post about PPIP or renminbi, but I couldn't resist.Here's the back story from the photographer, who snapped this shot at a women's conference in Liberia recently. Turns out, they aren't actual Barbies, but $1 plastic dolls from Japan that the designer buys from a discount chain store in Texas, where she lived during Liberia's long civil war. After she dresses them up in lapa garb, most of which is manufactured in China, she sells them in Monrovia for $25, mostly to NGO types. I don't know what exactly all of that says about the interplay of global and local economic forces, but whatever the case, it sure produces nifty products.By the way, the photographer runs an excellent blog of her own here, in case you're interested in checking out more of her stuff--photos, interviews, etc.