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posted on 29 September 2016

Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Up, Oil Surges, OPEC Cuts Production, Student Loan Woes Mount, Trump Still Close, Aleppo Hospitals Bombed, Huge Wind Storm In Oz And More

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Early Bird Headlines 29 September 2016

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.




  • Oil rallies after Opec ministers announce output cut (BBC News) The oil producers cartel Opec has agreed a preliminary deal to cut production for the first time in eight years, sending crude prices surging. The major oil exporting nations struck the deal at talks in Algeria on Wednesday to ease fears of oversupply. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, rose almost 6% to nearly $49 a barrel on the news. Oil ministers said full details of the agreement would be finalized at a formal OPEC meeting in November. Output will fall by up to about 700,000 barrels a day, although the cuts will not be distributed evenly across the cartel, with Iran being allowed to increase production. Disagreements between Iran and its regional rival Saudi Arabia had thwarted earlier attempts to reach a deal.

  • Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index (Arcadis) The index considers factors in three areas: (1) Measures of social performance, including quality of life; (2) Green factors like energy, pollution and emissions; and (3) Business environment and economics health. See also The World's Most Sustainable Cities for the Top 10 list.


  • Relief arrives for U.S. shale firms as OPEC folds in price battle (Reuters) Saudi Arabia wanted to break the shale oil producers in the U.S. Instead the Saudis have broken first. The new OPEC agreement effectively establishes a floor on prices near $50 a barrel - around where many U.S. shale oil companies can make money and drill new wells. The floor is twice as high as where oil languished in the depths of the downturn. The shale revolution, which fracks rock to coax oil from it, lifted U.S. oil production from 4.9 million bpd in 2009 to a peak of 9.6 mln bpd in June 2015. The price plunge has since curbed output by more than 1 million bpd, to 8.5 mln bpd in September, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

  • Student Loan Defaults Drop, but the Numbers Are Rigged (Bloomberg) The good news is that Americans are taking longer to default on their federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday. The bad news is that the overall number of defaults continues to rise. How can this be? Well, defaults fell by a half percentage point, to 11.3%, compared with a year earlier. This measures the number of former students who went 360 consecutive days without making a payment since their first bill came due in fiscal year 2013. About 593,000 former college students out of 5.2 million total borrowers defaulted on their federal debt as of Sept. 30, 2015, the department said. Default rates at public and for-profit colleges dipped, while private, nonprofit schools experienced a slight increase. The default rate doesn't accurately represent the degree to which former students struggle to repay their loans, federal officials and higher education experts have said. This is because of school efforts to push back eventual defaults to later years by persuading students to postpone payments under federally approved programs. The colleges are doing this to avoid losing eligibility for college loan funds.

  • A federal 'loophole' is keeping for-profit colleges alive - and hurting veterans in the process (Business Insider)

For-profit colleges are eligible to receive federal financial aid - just like public and private institutions of higher education.

But unlike public and private schools, for-profits are governed by a federal provision called the "90-10" rule, which mandates that for-profit colleges cannot receive more than 90% of their revenues from federal student aid from the Department of Education (ED).

It may come as a surprise then that funds from the US Veterans Affairs Office (VA), a federal agency, do not count in the 90% category.

Using the post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays varying amounts of tuition for up to 36 months of higher education for former service members. The funds are eligible for tuition at public, private, and for-profit schools nationwide.

In what's often referred to as loophole, GI Bill benefits count as part of the 10%. That means, in theory, if a for-profit receives the full 90% from the ED and the remaining 10% from the VA, it could operate entirely on federal money.

  • Who Will Win the Presidency? (FiveThirtyEight) The forecast shows a slight Clinton debate bounce, but only back to where she was 5 days ago. Trump supporters either think he did well or don't care how he performed in the debate.






  • Two Aleppo hospitals bombed out of service in 'catastrophic' airstrikes (The Guardian) Doctors are overwhelmed after attacks, as UNICEF counts 96 children killed and 223 injured in city since Friday. Airstrikes by forces loyal to the Syrian government have bombed out of service the two largest hospitals in besieged eastern Aleppo, which serve a quarter of a million civilians, in what doctors have described as a catastrophic campaign that is testing the conscience of the world.

  • Syria: US tells Russia it will end talks if bombing continues (BBC News) US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned his Russian counterpart that Washington will end Syria talks unless Moscow stops the bombing of Aleppo. In a phone call with Sergei Lavrov, Mr Kerry said the US held Russia responsible for the use of incendiary and bunker bombs against the city. The US state department said it was making preparations to suspend talks. Aleppo has come under heavy aerial bombardment since the end of a ceasefire a week ago. In response to Mr Kerry's phone call, the Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Evgeny Zagaynov, said the "trend" of Russia being blamed for the attacks in Syria must stop.


  • Lack of debate over future US policy towards China 'will weaken Washington's role in Asia' (South China Morning Post) Although China has been subjected to relentless criticism in the U.S. presidential election, there has been relatively little debate among the candidates on Washington's future policy towards Beijing, and this will further weaken America's leadership role in Asia, according to a US research report by the East-West Centre in Washington. Broad concerns by the United States and its allies over China's growing assertiveness have been overshadowed by uncertainties over a key regional trade deal and US commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • 'Don't ignore China's economic coercion': former Clinton aide's advice to next US president (South China Morning Post) Washington has focused too much on the military aspect of competition with China, and has overlooked Beijing's economic coercion of its neighbors to reinforce its dominance in the South China Sea, a former top aide to US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says.

  • More Chinese firms under probe for violating sanctions against North Korea: United States (South China Morning Post) The coordinator for US sanctions policy indicated on Wednesday that more Chinese firms were under US investigation for suspected breaches of sanctions on North Korea and Chinese banks and firms should understand that dealing with North Korea was "risky".


  • Vietnam's Economy Remains Outperformer as GDP Climbs 6.4% (Bloomberg) Vietnam's economic growth accelerated this quarter, boosted by foreign investments and rising exports. Gross domestic product rose 6.4% YoY in the third quarter from a year earlier, up from 5.8% in the previous three months, the General Statistics Office said in Hanoi Thursday.


  • Is ABC's Chris Uhlmann the new face of the anti-wind lobby? (REneweconomy) One of the most predictable reactions to the unprecedented blackout in South Australia on Wednesday was that wind energy and renewables would be blamed. What was not expected is how the ABC would lead that charge. The state grid operator and the premier Jay Weatherill had already pointed out before the following broadcast and an interview with a leading politician opponent of wind (not quoted here), the blackout was caused by multiple failures of high voltage transmission infrastructure. Just an hour after the lights went across the state of South Australia on Wednesday afternoon, ABC chief political correspondent Chris Uhlmann was on TV leaving viewers in no doubt about what he thought was the cause of the blackout - wind energy. See also Is this a new low: politicians using a natural disaster to push a fact-free agenda? (The Guardian) and Aus Wind Alliance (Twitter) below. Excerpt of statements by Chris Uhlmann:

"40% of South Australia's power is wind generated, and that has the problem of being intermittent - and what we understand at the moment is that those turbines aren't turning because the wind is blowing too fast. "


  • Carnegie Wave Energy to build wave energy microgrid in WA (Financial Review) Here is an energy solution of ocean islands that are "off the grid". Carnegie Wave Energy will build the world's first renewable energy microgrid involving wave energy on an island off the coast of Western Australia, which chief Michael Ottaviano says will put Australia "streaks ahead" of global rivals. The Perth-based company will begin construction on the project before the end of the year, which will act as a demonstration site for the remote island nations and communities on the fringes of power grids eyeing the self-sufficient technology. ASX-listed Carnegie Energy's CETO technology, which consists of a system of underwater buoys, uses the oscillations of the ocean to generate electricity and produce fresh water. Carnegie plans to combine the latest version of this technology and its existing desalination plant on Garden Island with 2 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity and a battery energy storage system to create a "microgrid", a combination of several renewable energy sources with storage and a control system. Mr Ottaviano said no other company in the world was examining integrating wave energy into a microgrid.


  • Mexico returns remains of US soldiers from 1846 war (BBC News) The remains of 10 US soldiers killed during the Mexican-American war are being returned 170 years after their deaths. The troops are believed to have been volunteers who fought during the Battle of Monterrey in Mexico in 1846. The battle was key in a two-year war which led to the annexation by the US of a large area of territory. The bones are being flown to a US Air Force base in Delaware and will be handed over to scientists for study. The base is home to a military mortuary. Forensic anthropologists hope to determine where the soldiers were from and how they died.

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