From Divided States, A 'united' Nation — Thanks To These Men

A longtime journalist with The Guardian, Simon Winchester is also the author of The Professor and the Madman.

government on watch for a credit downgrade; Ezra argues that it makes perfect sense to downgrade America’s political system. But how does the United States stack up internationally? For that we turn to the BlackRock Investment Institute, the research arm of the giant money manager. It has created the “BlackRock Sovereign Risk Index” which aims to combine key aspects of creditworthiness of 48 countries around the world. It factors in plenty of things that have to do with the substance of different countries’ finances, such as their current debt and deficit levels, banking system strength, and exposure to debt denominated in foreign currencies. But it also adds an important layer that it calls “Willingness to Pay.” It measures the effectiveness and efficiency of governments to meet their obligations, and counts for 30 percent of the total index. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising after the last couple of weeks of government shutdown and debt ceiling chicanery in Washington, but by BlackRock’s reckoning, the United States is not among the top-tier credit risks by this ranking. Here’s a complete map: You can check the detailed analysis for each country in an interactive graphic here . By BlackRock’s reckoning, the world’s most creditworthy nations–those with both solid finances and solid political systems that ensure bonds will be repaid–are the likes of Norway, Singapore, and Switzerland. The United States, as the map shows, is in the second tier, more similar to South Korea and Austria and Malaysia in its creditworthiness. For anyone who follows the news, it is hard to disagree. Neil Irwin is a Washington Post columnist and the economics editor of Wonkblog. Each weekday morning his Econ Agenda column reports and explains the latest trends in economics, finance, and the policies that shape both. He is the author of The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire. Follow him on Twitter here .

United States Oil Production Beats Saudia Arabia Via Fracking, Why Are Gas Prices High?

United States Oil Production Beats Saudia Arabia Via Fracking, Why Are Gas Prices High

And the conclusion that Eisenhower came to at the end was that America really needs a high-speed road system. To be united this country needs miles and miles of concrete. On radio’s role in bringing the country together Hugely important role. First of all it was Morse, then it was voice transmissions. The first radio station was above a record store, which still exists in Pasadena in Southern California. People loved it. The first proper radio station was in Madison, Wis., and then the rest is history. The national conversation really got going. More On Simon Winchester ‘Vast Ocean Of Stories’ In Biography Of The Atlantic On the regional differences that never really go away I’ve been somewhat involved in this remarkable dictionary produced in Madison, Wis.: The Dictionary of American Regional English, which shows very firmly how the language is very different all over the country. And the food is different. The different types of pie in America are it’s quite extraordinary.

position as the largest oil supplier in the world looks to be secure for many years. To give you an idea how fast this happened, news reports from earlier late last year estimated this wouldnt happen until 2020. And China just recently surpassed the United States as the biggest oil importer. United States oil production should average 12.1 million barrels per day in 2013, but how come US gas prices are still so high? While fracking shale oil has gotten much cheaper and efficient its still more costly than the relatively easy-to-reach Middle East oil. The average fracking rig is mounted on a 18-wheeler truck and has the horsepower of three Formula One racing cars necessary to raise the hydraulic pressure high enough. It takes about 10 days to drill a well while years ago it took over 15 days. Part of the reason fracking is cost effective is because the oil futures markets have pushed the price of crude oil over $100 per barrel on the open market. Plus, only some of the fracking equipment has been shifted over from hunting for natural gas. High Gas Prices: A US Political Problem But you would assume since the United States now exports more oil than it imports that the economic rules of supply and demand should cause US gas prices to drop, right? Unfortunately, thats where localized markets and politics have kept gas prices high. Most of the surge in United States oil product has occurred in North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Oil producers are fighting over limited oil pipeline capacity and are forced to use barges and trains, which increases the cost of domestic US oil by around $17 per barrel. But projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline have been delayed by years due to politics. While the majority of countries have been greatly expanding their oil refining capabilities the United States has lagged behind. The last US oil refinery was built in 2008 , with the previous refinery going back to 1998.