The EPA’s plan to curb carbon-dioxide emissions lets each state figure out how its going to reach its goal.
There are already big differences among states in one area: the cost of electricity for their residents.
In March, folks in Wyoming were paying ten cents per kilowatt hour, but people in Massachusetts paid nearly double.
“The biggest factor here is that there’s just a lot of different generation mixes across the states," said Harrison Fell, a professor with the Colorado School of Mines.
Wyoming gets almost all of its energy from coal, while in Massachusetts it’s mostly natural gas, according to the Georgetown Climate Center.
“The more coal intensive you are, the bigger impact the rules will be,” said Andrew Kleit is a professor of energy and environmental economics at Penn State.
Health privacy can, at times, be at odds with a major cultural shift happening in healthcare: a demand for greater transparency.
The Health Data Exploration project is another example where sharing trumps privacy.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – in collaboration with several California schools – aims to convince consumers to share the personal health data that’s being generated from an avalanche of apps and wearable devices like Fitbit.
The question behind the Health Data Exploration project is how to harness that data, and do something other than make money off of it.
“With these technologies, we can get to a space where we are getting more realistic data. It’s capturing that everydayness of heatlh," says Matthew Bietz with the University of California Irvine, and one of the project’s lead investigators.
Bietz says the data would allow researchers to look at how stress affects eating, or how caffeine impacts sleep, on a scale that’s currently impossible.
This project will launch a research network that helps link businesses and their consumers with researchers.
University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Anita Allen says before consumers share their data to help solve some of healthcare’s most pressing questions, consumers must know they will be protected.
“Like it or not, some employers might find out information about us and use it against us when it comes to making hiring decisions,” she says.
“Are you a smoker? Are you overweight? Do you have diabetes? Do you have an irregular heart beat? These kinds of things might be used to our disadvantage.”
Bietz agrees that one of the trickiest tasks ahead is figuring out how to best protect consumer privacy.
Though, if done correctly, Bietz is convinced that “we could actually say new things about connections between the way we live and our well being.”
A new documentary from the director of "An Inconvenient Truth" is called "Spent: Looking For Change." It’s about people living on the margins of the American financial system. And it has an unlikely sponsor: American Express.
"Spent" profiles several families as they navigate check cashing services, payday lenders and, of course, the fees that come with low balances and overdrafts.
About one in three Americans has no relationship with a bank at all, or a tenuous one. All told, this segment of the population spends around $90 billion a year on fees. AmEx wants a piece of that pie. The company, which has traditionally focused on the wealthy, is redirecting that focus to low income consumers.
"We really want to move our brand from being an exclusive brand to being a welcoming and inclusive brand," says Dan Schulman, president of enterprise growth at American Express.
Amex teamed up with Walmart to offer an all-mobile banking service called Bluebird. They've also rolled out a line of pre-paid cards. The services don’t rely on steep fees that usually come with financial products targeted at low-income customers.
"We’re trying to reimagine the consumer financial services landscape in a way that’s very different from traditional bank branches," explains Schulman.
Thanks to the ubiquity of smart phones and internet access, there’s currently a race to the bottom in financial services.
"We’re talking about tens of millions of people," says Andrew Zolli, author of "Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back." "Not all of them with lots of money, but if you put them together, it’s real money."
Case in point: last year, venture capitalists put almost $1 billion into financial start-ups, mostly catering to low and middle income Americans.
"We're talking about new kinds of accounts that provide the same kinds of functions of a traditional financial services relationship without the same kind of high cost," says Zolli.
American Express is the first major financial institution to aggressively target lower income consumers in this way, but Zolli expects other big players will soon follow suit.
Twenty-five years ago today, Chinese troops and tanks cleared protesters from Tiananmen square, shooting and killing hundreds – some say thousands – of unarmed civilians. The violence capped weeks of student protests demanding a better government.
But Tiananmen was more than just students and democracy. There were also hundreds of thousands of blue collar urban workers who were involved in the Tiananmen demonstrations. Some of these workers may have been interested in democracy and the other demands students were making on China’s leaders, but most of them were more concerned with their own economic status and future economic opportunity for their children in an economy that was moving away from socialism.
In 1989, most Chinese urbanites made the same wage, a fact that helped unite the Chinese during the protests that year. If you lived in a city back then, you made a wage set by the state, it was very low, and you belonged to a Danwei - a work unit - which took care of your housing, your kids’ education and pension. Back then, the price of food was set by the state, but in 1988, that changed.
China’s government begin to lift price controls, in favor of the open market, and suddenly prices climbed. Inflation in 1988 and 1989 surpassed 18%. Suddenly, it was hard to afford anything. The pressure workers felt spurred them to join the students to protest. After the government's brutal crackdown of demonstrators on June 4th, 1989, China passed a slate of economic reforms.
“It allowed people who were going to be successful to be successful," says University of Michigan Political Science Professor Mary Gallagher. "It allowed migrants who were desperate and would’ve worked for pennies to squeeze out people in the middle. When you look at people who protested in 1989, the urbanites who protected the students, those people eventually lost out.”
Urban workers in China are still protesting today. Case in point: there are dozens of worker strikes each week in China, and according to labor groups, even as China's economy cools down, the number of strikes this year is up by more than a third.
Google Glass may be the product you've heard most about without ever having been able to try. It's certainly still a hot ticket item: the company is set to unveil new, limited edition frames for Google Glass from fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. But in terms of its actual functionality, not that many people can say they've gotten a chance to really ingrain the technology into their daily life.
That's why Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent for the BBC, has been rocking Google's frames for six weeks, and fielding questions about the device from curious strangers. The most common question: "What's it for?"
Cellan-Jones says it's great for taking pictures, but he found that the Glass's voice command feature - the easiest way to navigate through its interface - had trouble translating from "English English" to "American English":
"I wanted to put a caption on a photo I took of my garden. And I wanted to say, 'Garden looking unusually tidy,' in a rather British way, and it came out as, 'Gordon looking for usual Thai tea.'
Unfortunately, translation issues aren't the only problem Cellan-Jones found with the smart frames. He says that because of its lack of functions, and its generally clunky feel, Google Glass is still a ways off from being the must-have item that everyone will rush to buy.
In the world of real estate, few people are more powerful than Mel Watt, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Together, the two mortgage giants guarantee about 60 percent of all new home loans.
Watt hasn’t made a lot of public appearances since he was appointed head of the FHFA in January. In fact, his first major speech wasn't until May 13, at the Brookings Institution.
“We’re balancing, in a number of instances, contradictory mandates,” he told the audience.
For example, the mandate to protect the taxpayers while trying to get banks to lend more but not make risky loans, which Fannie and Freddie would still have to guarantee. After the speech, Watt hung around outside Brookings and chatted for a while -- Maybe not what you’d expect, but perhaps a throwback to Watt’s previous job. He served in Congress for more than two decades, representing the banking hub of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Senate Banking Committee has passed legislation that would gradually wind down Fannie and Freddie, something Watt’s predecessor also tried to do, but without input from Capitol Hill.
But Congress isn’t likely to act this year, leaving Watt in charge of Fannie and Freddie’s fate.
“I think he’ll work cooperatively with Congress,” says David Stevens, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, who adds that he thinks Watt will let Congress decide what to do with the mortgage giants.
“He gets it. Mel understands his role," Stevens says. "He understands the role of Congress.”
Watt’s role also involves dealing with a lot of money. Since Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government in 2008, their profits have gone to the U.S. Treasury.
“Even in this town, $25 billion a year is a lot of money,” says Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, a homeowner advocacy group.
Sitting in Calhoun's Washington office, I ask him whether all that money led to pressure on Watt, maybe from people in the White House who don’t want to change Fannie and Freddie because they’re afraid of cutting off the spigot of cash. But Calhoun doesn't think that'll happen.
“They know he is going to be independent. He’s in his mid 60s," Calhoun says. "He’s quite comfortable standing his ground.”