An increasingly important part of today’s banking landscape are payday lenders. These are businesses that offer short-term loans at extremely high rates of interest for small amounts to borrowers who usually earn less than the national average. For instance, one of the leading UK lenders has a top rate of over 5,000% APR. Pay-day lenders have typically located themselves in retail premises in the midst of impoverished communities which have been neglected by banks. More recently, they have taken to the web. Leading online lenders use an impressive range of indicators to calculate the riskiness of potential borrowers. These range from traditional credit scores to more unexpected measures such as the computer you are using, the locale you are logging on from, and even your likes on Facebook. One site takes into account over 8,000 data points when deciding on your rate. To big data nerds, this might sound impressive. To the social critic, it sounds like big brother meets the mob.
By Pacey Foster, Stephan Manning and David Terkla.
Hollywood and New York used to be the centers of movie-making in the U.S. This reality is changing as more and more states now attract ‘run-away’ productions from Hollywood. Massachusetts is one of them. After hosting well-known movies and TV shows in the 1990s, such as Good Will Hunting and Ally McBeal, Massachusetts experienced a drop in productions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. To counteract this trend, and to compete with other states that had begun to offer tax incentives to film and television productions, Massachusetts set up its own tax incentive program in 2006. This program has clearly contributed to an increase in the volume of productions and total employment in this sector. According to a study by HR & Associates, the tax credit in Massachusetts generated in 2011 2,220 full-time equivalent jobs and $375 million in state spending that year.* Movies shot in Boston and Massachusetts since 2006 include The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, The Zookeeper, The Town, and The Social Network. But can Massachusetts really grow into a new film production cluster? Can Massachusetts really become Hollywood East?
David Levy’s bleak analysis of the carbon market is complemented by recent research by Charles-Clemens Rüling, Bettina Wittneben and myself regarding climate conferences as the sites of transnational climate policy making. While climate skepticism has long accompanied climate science and the debate about anthropogenic climate change, fresh skepticism about the structure and outcomes of climate policy processes is growing among those serious about saving our climate. The Kyoto Protocol, the much quoted “only game in town” in transnational climate policy, has failed to commit large industrialized countries and major carbon emitters such as the U.S. (in its first commitment period) and Canada (in its second) to binding targets for emissions reduction; the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, a cornerstone of supposedly ambitious European climate policy, has been written off by many civil society groups as well as by the European Parliament, voting against its reform in April; controversial energy production practices such as large-scale hydro-fracking are slowly but surely becoming more accepted even in countries such as Germany, a stronghold of the green movement. Meanwhile, the detrimental effects of climate change are being felt in both developed and developing countries, exemplified by the recent flood catastrophes in Europe and India. As climate policy is crumbling away, evidence grows to show that global warming and its threat to life on our planet is fact not fiction. Why have the decades of transnational policy efforts not produced better results?