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What We Read Today 30 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 (and sometimes longer ones) 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.

  • Aging Water System in U.S. is a Catastrophe Waiting to Happen (Crystal Shepeard, Care2) Much of the metropolitan water for older U.S. cities is brought by water mains that are approaching or already past their life expectancy. There are nearly a quarter of a million water main breaks a year. It sounds like the catastrophe may not be waiting. For more on national water problems see 'behind the wall'.

  • Obama announces expanded sanctions against Russia as E.U. aligns (Griff Witte and Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post) On Tuesday the EU finally agreed on economic sanctions against Russia with sanctions on arms, access for Russian banks to capital markets and banning of technology exports related to energy exploration and drilling. Within hours President Obama by announcing new U.S. sanctions that aligned with those by Europe.
  • Obama mulls large-scale move on immigration (Erica Werner, Associated Press, MSN News) This article reports that the president is considering issuing millions of work permits and Republicans are considering impeachment.
It would be truly ironic if the holdouts' long campaign to extract payment from Argentina, a country with one of the world's worst records of defaults, ended up weakening creditors' rights rather than strengthening them.

There are 11 articles discussed today 'behind the wall'.

The first three articles discuss droughts and water management.

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Click on graphic for larger regional map 22-July-2014.
calif-drought-2014-jul-15-600px

  • Drought, Crop Losses Intensify (GEI News) This report on drought was almost two years ago. And California has normal water - it's the mid-section of the country which is experiencing extreme drought. Compare the drought map from August 2012 (first map below) to the current drought map (second map below). Then read the next article.

drought-map-us-21-August-2012

drought-national-map-2014-jul-22-600px

  • Floods Here, Drought There (William Kurtz, GEI Opinion) This 2013 Op Ed brings us full circle to the article above which calls for a national water grid. Kurtz wrote:

Broad stretches of our Midwest are ravaged by floods every Spring, while crops in the Plains and in the Central Valley of California (the vegetable basket of the country) have not enough to drink, resulting in higher food prices in the supermarket. Every drop of water that goes over Niagara Falls helps to create a beautiful vista, but it goes straightaway to the ocean.

This makes no sense. It is a problem of supreme importance to the well-being of the country, but no one in high places is addressing it on a macro, unified basis. This is Waste, on a monumental scale. There is no one banging the drum to do something about it.

Where is the leadership, the initiative, the drive that produced the Panama Canal, the Erie Canal, the trans-continental railway system, the Interstate Highway System? There are no voices in Congress proposing a remedy, while the President's voice is silent on the matter.

We have too much water too often in too many places; and not enough water all the time in other places. Arguably, there is plenty of water; it just isn't being managed properly - or at all, certainly not on a nationwide basis. The country is in dire need of Attention Being Paid. What is called for is a Master Plan of Water Management...

  • China's corruption crackdown snares a tiger (Peter Cai, China Spectator) Zhou Yongkang, former chief of China's security and law enforcement and member of the ruling 7-man Politburo, the PSC (Central Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China) which essentially rules the country, has been arrested. He is under investigation for corruption. Earlier this year the government seized $15.5 billion from Zhou's relatives and associates. This may be the highest level "purge" in China's Communist history.
  • German borrowing costs reach record low (Elaine Moore, Financial Times) Germany has the world's second lowest interest rates on 10-year government securities, dropping to 1.12% yesterday (29 July), the lowest in 250 years. But Germany still has a way to go to catch Japan where the 10-year yields just over 0.5%. Both the U.S. and UK have lofty rates, both close to 2.5%. All four have been following somewhat similar paths qualitatively, although not matched tightly quantitatively (first graphic below). The Daily Slot email has charts that show the dramatic decline in the 10-year bond rates for both Germany (second chart below) and Spain (third chart below).

10-year-rates-big-4-ft-2014-jul-29

German-Spain-10-year-2014-jul-29

  • IMF warns of potential risks to global growth (Anna Yukhananov, Reuters) The IMF warns that global growth will continue to keep slowing because of conflicts, economic sanctions and weakening emerging markets. But most of all the IMF is worried about rising interest rates. Meanwhile sovereign rates keep falling.
  • If You Can't Lose,You're a Loser (Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg) This is a very amusing description of some of the people we have had discussions with. We have observed that we have learned more from losing "arguments" over the years than from winning.
  • Graduates stuck in jobs mire (Houses and Holes, Macro Business) University graduates in Australia have joined their American counterparts in experiencing employment difficulties following graduation.

australia-grads-employment-mb-2014-jul-30

  • The Gold Standard Was an Accident of History (David Beckworth, Macro and Other Market Musings) The use of gold to back currency was actually continuously in force without challenge for periods of 25 years or less. Beckwith suggests that the desire for price stability may be misdirected. Perhaps what is really needed is monetary stability and he maintains that fiat currency is best suited for that purpose. Click here to read a longer review of the book, Money, Gold and History by Lewis E. Lehrman which Beckwith is discussing in this article.

Click on cartoon for larger image at source (Zach Weinersmith).
hedge-fund-cartoon-ritholtz


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