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What We Read Today 05 July 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," the saying goes. There are plenty of good intentions with the EU's Right To Be Forgotten mandate, as well as Google's attempt to meet new obligations under it. Things are still going to hell regardless.

Thanks to the new right, the EU has helped enable convicted pedophiles to ask that their actions be forgotten. It has ensured that businesses convicted of fraudulent activities can seek to have these hidden from the public. And it led this week to censorship of content from at least three major EU news publications.

  • How 9/11 Made The Global Helium Shortage Worse (Douglas Main, Popular Science) The rapid increase in the number of radiation detectors using helium-3 following 9/11 produced a new demand for the rare isotope of the second lightest element. The more common helium-4 isotope is facing future shortages as well but that is because the supply for the last eight years has been supplemented by selling of the government's helium stockpile reserve. The reserve will be depleted by the end of next year. Uses for helium-4 are shown below:


  • The Disruption Machine (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker) In this take-down of the disruptive innovation hypothesis of Clayton M. Christensen (discussed in previous days of WWRT), Lepore asserts that Christensen's results are a consequence of how he arbitrarily defines failure. As her discussion unfolds Econintersect is reminded that when trying to understand what someone is presenting in an economic argument, it is less important to understand the argument that in is to dissect and pin down the assumptions. As in building a house, the superstructure has little bearing on durability if the footings are unsound.
  • No Way to Treat a Criminal (The Economist) The Economist asks: What is an appropriate penalty for a bank that aids and abets genocide? Their answer is that it should be more than the sacking of a few employees and paying out an amount equal to a year's profit. That is what the U.S. assessed the French bank BNP Paribas for its banking activities for the Sudanese government during a time that U.S. sanctions prohibited the activity because of genocide conducted by that African government. Econintersect note: After-tax the penalty is far less than one year's profit. The Economist observes that the way the U.S. handles bank crimes looks less like criminal justice and more like extortion. If the year-to-date settlements total in annualized 2014 will break the 2013 record of more than $50 billion. But no criminals go to jail! And there may be other consequences: Zero Hedge says "By "Punishing" France, The US Just Accelerated The Demise Of The Dollar".


There are 7 articles discussed today 'behind the wall'.

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  • The USA of I.O.U. (Banker's anonymous) The U.S. has a history of too-big-to-fail. In the early years of the 19th century the TBTF were the stockbrokers, traders and financiers of the day.
  • Five Decades of Middle Class Wages: Not an Encouraging Perspective (Doug Short, Advisor Perspectives Doug Short contributes to GEI. Doug has constructed a hypothetical real weekly wage over the past 50 years by multiplying the median real hourly wage times the median hours worked per week. This "median" weekly income for Joe Sixpack has fallen more than 14% since 1972.


  • Correcting WSJ Graph Error on Wages (Bill McBride, Calculated Risk) Bill McBride catches The Wall Street Journal with an arithmetic error. Has the WSJ hired one of Fox News graphics designers?
  • Construction activity contracts at sharpest rate in 15 months (Markit) The downturn in Germany's construction sector intensified further in June. Building activity declined at the sharpest rate in 15 months with a steep fall in new orders. Companies reduced employment in construction for the first time since March last year.


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