Aspen Ideas Festival 2014

Five Things You Missed, June 27

The best of the day's events in Aspen.

(Emily Chaplin and Chris Council)

For the previous installment in our series, click here.

The activity on the Aspen Institute campus continued Friday as Spotlight: Health came to a close and the official Ideas Festival began. Here’s what you missed, and how you can catch up:

1. Kathleen Sebelius’ musings on the Affordable Care Act and life outside the public sector. Even though the former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is enjoying the “civilian” life, she still has plenty to say about Obamacare. In the closing session of Spotlight: Health, Sebelius chatted with the Aspen Institute’s Walter Isaacson about her management style, her successor, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and what’s next for the American healthcare system. AtlanticLIVE’s Margaret Barthel has more.

2. Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., opening up about Israeli-Palestinian relations. On Friday morning, the State Department announced that U.S. special Mideast envoy Martin Indyk was resigning amidst continued tensions between Israel and Palestine. The news could not have been timelier for Oren and The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, himself a longtime student of the conflict (Goldberg has covered the region for much of his career). In a wide-ranging conversation, Goldberg drew Oren out on topics as varied as Obama’s relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu and a nuclear Iran. Six months ago, Oren suggested a “Plan B” for the country’s negotiations and was laughed at by the Israeli media: now, it seems like Israel may follow his advice.

3. The “two-degree” effect and what it means for our carbon emissions reduction strategy. According to Cho-Oon Khong, chief political analyst on Shell’s Strategy and Scenarios Team, the relative impact of climate change will be determined by whether the global temperature stays within two critical degrees (Celsius). “Think about when you have the flu,” explained Khong. “It won’t kill you, but it sucks. Two degrees Celsius is like the planet having the flu: you get flooding, the sea levels rise.” Turns out having the flu may be a best case scenario for the planet. Khong didn’t mince words when describing the consequences of crossing the two degree Celsius threshold, saying “going beyond that really puts the world in disaster… temperatures rise, permafrost melts, methane warms [the] climate further.”

4. Atlantic Media owner David Bradley imagines a very different kind of conference. During remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Aspen Ideas Festival, Bradley joked that the festival’s 250 speakers partook in legalized marijuana while rehearsing for their sessions. Bradley described a high Arianna Huffington losing her Greek accent in a cannabis-induced stupor. The audience roared, continuing a long tradition of successful opening night roasts from Bradley.

5. The action's just beginning. While The Atlantic has been in Aspen for almost a week as part of the Spotlight: Health program, the majority of festival attendees have only just arrived. Today, the Aspen Institute campus felt truly alive: attendees walked, biked, and ran from one session to the next; new tents cropped up; installations were launched. On Saturday, we’ll see the first full day of programming for the Ideas Festival properand here at AtlanticLIVE, we can’t wait.