Author Archives: admin

Disposal of Low- and Intermediate-Level Nuclear Waste (LILNW)

The Joint Review Panel (JRDisposal of Low- and Intermediate-Level Nuclear Waste (LILNW) William Leiss (September 2014) The Joint Review Panel (JRP), a three-member panel appointed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), has … Continue reading

Posted in News | Comments Off

Thinking about Terrorism Risk

Thinking about Terrorism Risk William Leiss Note:  This piece was published in The Ottawa Citizen on 22 April 2013. Terrorism has a special salience for Canadians:  The destruction of Air India Flight 182 in June 1985 by a bomb placed … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged | Comments Off

Looking for trouble

I define risk as the chance of harm, and risk management as the attempt to anticipate and prevent or mitigate harms that may be avoidable. Risk estimation and assessment is the technical tool that can be used to predict both how likely a specific type of harm is to affect us, and how much harm might be done if it comes to pass. This predictive capacity allows us to take precautionary measures, in advance of the harm being inflicted, to lower the anticipated amount of damage, by spending some money in advance – provided we are wise enough. Risk management can, if used correctly, help us either to avoid some harms entirely or otherwise to minimize the damage they may do to us.
Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Comments Off

Embracing Risk, Manipulating Chance: Will it all End Well?

A lecture at the Risk@Humanities Conference, 26-27 October 2012 By William Leiss Senior Invited Fellow (Fall 2012) Society for the Humanities, Cornell University wcl54@cornell.edu Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Once More, Understanding Systemic Financial Risk

William Leiss:  RiskBlog 1 March 2012 Once More, Understanding Systemic Financial Risk Satyajit Das and Systemic Risk [PDF]   Andrew Palmer’s recent essay on financial innovation in The Economist, “Playing with fire” [25.02.12: http://www.economist.com/node/21547999] has received a lot of attention.  Read … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , | Comments Off

Environmental Release of Genetically-Engineered Mosquitoes: The Latest Episode in Frankenstein-Type Scientific Adventures

The subtitle for this essay is merely descriptive – not at all intentionally provocative – and is meant to be taken literally. By “Frankenstein-type” I mean, not the scientific work itself, but rather the arrogant and thoughtless act of a scientist in releasing a novel entity into the environment without adequate notice or prior discussion with the public, whether accidentally (as in the case of Mary Shelley’s story) or deliberately. Should this practice continue, as I suspect it will, almost certainly there will eventually be a very bad ending – for science itself. Only remedial action by other scientists themselves can head it off, and so far such action is noteworthy by its absence. They will regret this omission.
Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , | Comments Off

“Complexity cloaks Catastrophe” William Leiss (17 January 2012) Complexity cloaks Catastrophe – PDF Good risk management is inherently simple; adding too many complexities increases the likelihood of overlooking the obvious. Leiss, “A Short Sermon on Risk Management” (http://leiss.ca/?page_id=467)   The quoted phrase … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged , | Comments Off

Nature is the biggest bioterrorist

“Nature is the biggest bioterrorist”: Scientists, the Risk of Bioterrorism, and the Freedom to Publish William Leiss (22 December 2011) [Nature is the biggest bioterrorist] – PDF The quoted sentence in the title is attributed to R. A. M. Fouchier, … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged , | Comments Off

Germany as Saviour or Demon: Political Risk in the Eurozone and the Burden of History

Germany as Saviour or Demon: Political Risk in the Eurozone and the Burden of History [Germany as Saviour or Demon] – PDF William Leiss (9 December 2011)   Introductory Note: These reflections were inspired by the insightful article published on … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged , | Comments Off

Gutman and Marcuse and Heidegger

In a conversation with Laureano Ralon and Roman Onufrijchuk, I recall the great gift bestowed on me by the opportunity to study with great teachers, in particular the historian Herbert Gutman and the philosopher Herbert Marcuse.  Questions about  the eight … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , | Comments Off

Hoaxes and Hobgoblins

This past September we learned of The University of Calgary’s embarrassment over the discovery that oil industry funds had been moved through its research accounts to carry out non-research activities dealing with climate change issues.[1]  These funds were used to … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged | Comments Off

Death by Debt

Here are extracts from Chapter 3 of my book, The Doom Loop in the Financial Sector, and Other Black Holes of Risk (University of Ottawa Press, 2010), pp. 101-2: Thus, by the middle of 2010 six of the seven largest … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged | Comments Off

European Debt Crisis in three acts

The Online English Edition of Der Spiegel has a brilliant analysis of the European debt crisis that is not to be missed. Read “The Ticking Euro Bomb” (October 5-7, 2011): Act I: Part 1, Section 1:  “How a good idea … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Political Risk in the Middle East: The Emergence of Turkey

In case you missed the important and perceptive article by Doug Saunders, in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (“Why the West quietly cheers Turkey’s Rise,” 17 September 2011, A16: http://tinyurl.com/3sucw5d), here is a short summary: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged | Comments Off

Two United States Government Reports On the Gulf Oil Spill

Summaries – and links back to the originals – on the reports on the oil spill. Gulf Oil Spill Reports copy

Posted in Articles | Tagged , | Comments Off

Prolonging the Agony: Europe’s Sovereign Debt Crisis

When will the senior political and financial leaders in European countries come to their senses? When will they concede that their current policies to contain the debt crisis are not working and cannot be made to work? How long are … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , | Comments Off

Three new papers on Risk

Three papers on risks associated with the long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste in Canada, commissioned by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization: Go to http://www.nwmo.ca/conceptofrisk Paper #1: How should matters of risk and safety be discussed? The first paper addresses … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Risk Blogs – Summer 2011

The following series of short essays was written in the period June – August 2011 and posted on my website: www.leiss.ca. Similar pieces will be added to the series on a regular basis. If you are interested in them you … Continue reading

Posted in Articles | Tagged , | Comments Off

Financial Risk Management: Duping the Rubes

Before 2008 financial industry professionals arranged to deceive local government officials around the world about the risks inherent in their “structured” products, costing the citizens those officials worked for huge losses they could ill afford. Much of this sad story … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Difficult Risk – Risk Tradeoffs: Political vs. Financial Risk in the EU

There was an important article by Jack Ewing and Liz Alderman in the August 10 edition of The New York Times, entitled “Some in Germany want Greece to temporarily exit the Euro Zone.” This article takes up issues that have … Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , , | Comments Off