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posted on 18 December 2015

Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Dip, Improving Democracy, Fed Ignores Private Debt Bubble, Iran Ballistic Missile, Taliban Fights ISIS, Beijing Red Smog Alert And More

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Early Bird Headlines 18 December 2015

Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.



  • Asian shares dip but on track for weekly gain (Reuters) Asian shares took their cue from Wall Street and slipped on Friday, but were still on track for gains in a week marked by a depreciating yuan in China and the first U.S. interest rate hike in nearly a decade. By contrast, Taiwan's central bank cut interest rates for the second time this year and said it would keep monetary policy loose to shore up growth in the island's trade-dependent economy as the global demand outlook worsened.

  • Democracy is due for an overhaul - could lawmaking-by-jury be the answer? (The Conversation) Many will agree that, in practice, democracy leaves a lot to be desired. The system often falls short of its ideals. The question is, what's the alternative? One option might be to cut out the middle man: instead of electing a representative from a select field every few years, we could let citizens rule themselves. At least, that's what the supporters of sortition suggest. Sortition is a simple yet radical method of self-rule, in which power is given to a randomly selected group of citizens to make decisions. Just like a jury in a legal trial, a panel of citizens are asked to consider a particular issue, reflect on evidence and arguments from both sides of the debate and reach a decision. For more discussions about moving toward a better form of government read what Frank Li writes every week.


  • The Fed By The Numbers -- And Why They Are Wrong (Steve Keen, Forbes) SF has contributed to GEI. Prof. Keen says the U.S.needs to cut in half private sector debt (now 142% of GDP) inorder to establish a base for for a sustainably growing economy. He says:

The Fed will probably hike rates 2 to 4 more times - maybe even get the rate back to 1 per cent - and then suddenly find that the economy "unexpectedly" takes a turn for the worse, and be forced to start cutting rates again.

This is because there are at least two more numbers that need to be factored in to get an adequate handle on the economy: 142 and 6 - the level and the rate of change of private debt. Several other numbers matter too - the current account and the government deficit for starters - but private debt is the most significant omitted variable in The Fed's toy model of the economy.

  • Pharma CEO's arrest a sign of health sector ills (Reuters) Fraud charges against Turing Pharmaceuticals boss Martin Shkreli are a symptom of the sector's ills. Healthcare has been prone to financial finagling, but the recent boom created more opportunities for misconduct. With good times fading, the excesses suddenly stand out like a sore thumb.


  • Migrant crisis: EU to prioritise new border force (BBC News) The EU will move rapidly towards setting up a new joint border and coastguard force over the next six months, EU leaders have said. It would have a stronger mandate than the current Frontex border agency, which suffers from a lack of resources. Record numbers of migrants have reached Italy and Greece by boat this year. Greece is the biggest headache for the EU, as many migrants travel north from there without being registered.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia's 'coalition' is a brazen challenge to Syria, Iran, and the US (The Conversation) Deputy crown prince and minister of defense of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman's announcement of a new Saudi-led counter-terrorism coalition surprised allies like the US, adversaries such as Iran, and other interested parties including Russia. Prince Mohammed said the Saudis had formed a 34-nation "Islamic military coalition" to fight Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups. A headquarters in Riyadh will provide military, intelligence, logistics, and other support to members as needed. This was so surprising that countries in the new coalition said they were unaware they were founding members.



  • Why Taliban special forces are fighting Islamic State (BBC News) The Afghan Taliban say they have unleashed "special forces" in an increasingly bloody battle with fighters from the rival, so-called Islamic State (IS) group. The Taliban's dominance and monopoly on insurgency in a region home to numerous local and foreign militant groups is being challenged by IS, which has been gaining some support.


  • Exclusive: Japan's far-flung island defense plan seeks to turn tables on China (Reuters) Japan is fortifying its far-flung island chain in the East China Sea under an evolving strategy that aims to turn the tables on China's navy and keep it from ever dominating the Western Pacific Ocean, Japanese military and government sources said. The United States, believing its Asian allies - and Japan in particular - must help contain growing Chinese military power, has pushed Japan to abandon its decades-old bare-bones home island defense in favor of exerting its military power in Asia. Tokyo is responding by stringing a line of anti-ship, anti-aircraft missile batteries along 200 islands in the East China Sea stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) from the country's mainland toward Taiwan.


  • Beijing issues 2nd smog red alert (Al Jazeera) China warned residents across a large part of northern China on Friday to prepare for a wave of choking smog arriving over the weekend, the worst of which is expected to over Beijing, prompting the capital city to issue its second ever red alert.

  • China's retail sales growth estimated at 10.7 pct in 2015 (Xinhuanet) Strong retail sales indicate that pro-consumption policies are taking effect. It also offers relief for policymakers as they try to restructure the economy to a more consumption- and service-driven model to sustain growth, albeit at a slower rate. The growth in retail sales for the entire year 2015 is 10.7%. Consumption growth will definitely be a strong component of annual GDP growth.

  • As Fed fog lifts, central bankers keep puzzling over China (Reuters) The world's central banks are scrambling to assess the risk a slowing China poses to their economies and appear to be no closer than most other observers to working out what is going on in the world's second largest economy. While the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of Japan have offices in Beijing, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank appear to rely on the same data - that may be flawed - as everyone else.

  • China Beige Book Shows 'Disturbing' Economic Deterioration (Bloomberg) China's economic conditions deteriorated across the board in the fourth quarter, according to a private survey from a New York-based research group that contrasted with recent official indicators that signaled some stabilization in the country's slowdown.

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