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  • Gigantic Class Action Lawsuit at Death's Door

    July 17, 2007
    Earlier, I wrote about the gigantic class action lawsuit in Schwab v. Philip Morris, in which the tobacco companies are being sued for selling "light" cigarettes. That suit includes 30 million smokers as members of its class of plaintiffs. I wrote about how it could be used to funnel billions of dollars to left-wing groups (rather than those who smoked light cigarettes) under a radical concept known as "fluid recovery." I also explained why it was an abuse of discretion for the trial judge, Jack Weinstein, to certify the case as a class action. Now, Anthony Sebok writes that an appeals court will overturn Judge Weinstein's decision in the case, whose name has changed to McLaughlin v. American Tobacco. Although Sebok is...
  • Plans for the A380

    July 17, 2007
    EADS, the parent of Airbus and the largest heavy industrial company in Europe, yesterday announced that it would no longer have two CEOs and two chairmen but, instead, make do with one of each. For years, EADS, which although publicly traded, is effectively a joint venture between the French and German states, had one French person and one German as its co-chairman and co-CEOs. This, many believe, hampered the company's ability to make good decisions and move forward. I have some doubts as to how much this will solve. By all accounts, the structure itself seemed to work okay for some time. Until this past year, Airbus had led the world in aircraft orders for the better part of a decade and had promised to revolutionize air travel with a...
  • One Step Toward a Tobacco Monopoly

    July 17, 2007
    The New York Times has a story today on the FDA regulation bill, which would place the tobacco industry under FDA regulation. The bill has been amended to permit only two additives to cigarettes that are currently used by the dominant cigarette company, Philip Morris -- specifically, menthol and cloves -- while banning other natural and artificial flavors that other tobacco companies add to their cigarettes as a way of offering a competing product. (Small tobacco companies call the bill the "Philip Morris monopoly bill," since the regulatory costs of being subject to the FDA's jurisdiction would drive many small companies out of business). The bill also would make it harder to offer smokers reduced-risk tobacco products that are less...
  • India Adapts

    July 17, 2007
    Deepak Lal has a typically thoughtful essay in New Delhi's Business-Standard this week. He finds there are many reasons for India to rethink its energy policy, but that global warming is not one of them:
    By contrast, the estimates I made for the Planning Commission in the early 1970s (see Lal: Prices for Planning, HEB, 1980) based on the same methodology as the Stern Review, but with more plausible parameters, yielded a social discount rate of 7 per cent for India. At this discount rate, the present value of Re 1 accruing 75 years from today would be worth nothing, making most of the speculative economic costs and benefits, and the apocalyptic predictions of the Stern Review, irrelevant for India. This does not downgrade the serious current...
  • "We are able to reach less people"--U.N. Food Program

    July 17, 2007
    This pair of articles by Javier Blas and Jenny Wiggins of the Financial Times is of direct relevance to the debate in Washington, D.C. over federal biofuel subsidies and mandates.The director of the U.N.'s World Food Program says rising food prices are already having an impact on the organization's ability to feed the hungry. With donations holding fairly constant, higher prices mean “we are able to reach far less people.” Several factors are at work, but the one of greatest concern is the increased demand for grain,...
  • Why So Shy?

    July 17, 2007
    After Live Earth missed its promised audience of 2 billion by about, oh, 1.9 billion (and that's charitable), one has to wonder how much money it raised. Over a week ago the AP said:
    Live Earth will send proceeds to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit organization chaired by Gore. Figures for the money raised will be available later in the week.
    Anyone seen those figures? Bueller...? Bueller?
  • One Cheer for Singletary

    July 16, 2007
    Christine: Like you, I dislike Singletary's hectoring tone but I think that she inadvertently makes a pretty good point: Market prices can provide a good signal about the value of conservation measures. Certain activities labeled as "conservation" measures (e.g. recycling office paper, implementing Kyoto) do not actually save money. In other words, doing them expends more resources than it saves and, thus, we can safely say that they are not conservation measures at all but, rather, efforts to accomplish other goals in the name of environmentalism. On the other hand, "good" conservation measures actually do conserve resources and thus save money. Installing compact florescent light bulbs, recycling aluminum, and replanting trees after a timber harvest all pay for themselves in time....
  • FDA Regulation of Tobacco Opposed

    July 16, 2007
    Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is opposing a bill to place the tobacco industry under the jurisdiction of the FDA. He cites the fact that the bill would make it harder to sell reduced-risk tobacco products. The harm caused by cigarettes comes largely from the smoke and only in small part from the nicotine. Smokeless tobacco provides the same amount of nicotine that tobacco users crave, without the harmful smoke (although smokeless tobacco does pose some increased risk of oral cancer). The FDA regulation bill would expand regulation of smokeless tobacco and also restrict the sale of reduced-risk tobacco products. The bill's sponsors call it the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act." But small tobacco companies call it the "Philip Morris monopoly bill," arguing that it would further entrench the...
  • How's that? Save money by painting yourself green?

    July 16, 2007
    I'm worried about Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post's personal investment columnist. From her, you would expect to hear advice on how to build personal wealth and trim fat from your household budget, right? But in her July 15 column "Conservation Saves More Than the Environment," we get enviro-scolding, instead. For example, Singletary urges Americans to run out and buy water-efficient fixtures and appliances. She cites the EPA to tell us that a family "could" save about $170 per year. Okay, not a fortune but maybe worth a look-see if one is in need of new appliances anyway. Well, how much do her green fixtures and appliances cost? Surely that would be an important consideration -- one would at least want to know how many years it could take to recoup the cost! Oops...
  • What Lending Crisis?

    July 16, 2007
    Inside Higher Ed carries a very interesting article about how Columbia University's Barnard College cut its volume of student loans by 73 percent. According to author (and Inside Higher Ed editor) Scott Jaschick:
    The only real change in policy the college made was to require a conversation. Before Barnard would certify to a lender that a student was enrolled, the college required students or their parents to talk to an aid counselor. If, after that conversation, the family wanted to proceed, Barnard did not stand in the way. But for many families, the talk revealed risks and options they didn't know about.
    As a result, private loan volume fell 73 percent. (The total was only $1 million and, given that Barnard, all told, costs most students...

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