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Poised to make decision on regulating foreign swaps, Geithner meets with banks wanting exemption

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In February, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the CEO and two top-level executives from the London-based bank HSBC to discuss the issue of foreign exchange swaps.

The bank, which has a thriving foreign exchange business, wants Geithner to exempt such swaps from new rules designed to bring transparency to the derivatives market. Under the Dodd-Frank financial law, Geithner was given authority to make this decision, which he is expected to announce any day.

Amounting in the trillions of dollars per day, foreign exchange swaps are used in business to hedge bets on transactions involving different currencies. Typically, two parties ...

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Geithner meets with Obama campaign fundraiser

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Penny Pritzker, who served as President Obama’s finance chair during his 2008 campaign and whose name was mentioned as a possible U.S. Commerce Secretary, met with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and several other top government heavyweights to discuss Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), according to meeting logs released by the agency this week.

In 2008, Pritzker who has a stake in several real estate and hotel businesses across the country, came under scrutiny for her role in a failed bank that made subprime loans in the leadup to the financial crisis. Pritzker said at the time that the bank ...

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Better Tools Won’t Save Us

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Sam Smith wrote a post reacting to what I had to say about the Geithner schedule. In it, he argues that pushing for data to be released in better formats may not be the best course of action: tools exist to sidestep the problem.

Sunlight, as an organisation which complains about this often enough, has much better tools at their disposal than complaining about it. As people using computers in 2010, we all have better tools to use on PDFs than we currently use. We often complain about how inaccessible PDFs are, without doing the basic, simple, automatable tasks which can make them readable.

Opening the PDF in acrobat, pressing the "Recognise text using OCR" [button] and then [you'll find that] it's searchable, and Sunlight could republish this for everyone to use (or put up a webservice which adds the OCR text in such a way that when you search, what you get highlighted is the relevant bits of the page where the OCRed text matches). That is possible now.

But, as a community, we prefer to stick to the notion that anything in PDF is utterly locked up in a way which no one can get at.

It's not (really).

It is far from ideal, it's a bugger to use, and it is not the best format for most things, but it's what we've got. And showing how valuable this data is will get us far further than complaining that we can't read a file that most people clearly can in the tools they use. It's the tools we choose to use that are letting us down. And, as a movement, open data has to get better at it, and then it'll be less of a problem for us, and we can spend more time doing what we claim to be wanting to do.

I appreciate the response, but I disagree. Nothing Sam says about what technology makes possible is wrong, per se. And better tools are of course useful and desirable. But the last thing I want is for government to begin thinking that OCR can make up for bad document workflows. It simply can't: even though it happens to work well on the Geithner schedule, OCR remains a fundamentally lossy technology.

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