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What We Read Today 26 April 2015

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.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • If Greece falls, no one wants their prints on the murder weapon (Reuters)  The game of chicken between Greece and its international creditors is turning into a vicious blame game as Athens lurches closer to bankruptcy with no cash-for-reform agreement in sight.
  • The Rumble in Riga:  How the EU Lost Patience with Varoufakis (Bloomberg)  When Yanis Varoufakis warned his fellow euro-area finance chiefs of the dangers of pushing his government in Athens too far, Peter Kazimir snapped.  Kazimir, Slovakia’s finance minister, launched a volley of criticism at his Greek counterpart, releasing months of pent-up frustrations among the group at the political novice. They’d had enough of what they called the economics professor’s lecturing style and his failure to make good on his pledges.  Then everyone else piled on, accusing Varoufakis of being a time waster and worse.  After the meeting eight of the finance ministers "broke decorum" to describe what went on.  Talk about "kiss and tell" - what about "beat and tell"?



  • ‘How I Saved My Kids From ISIS’ (The Daily Beast)  When ISIS came knocking on Huda Alrawi’s door, looking to marry off her daughter and draft her son, the Iraqi schoolteacher knew she had to flee.  When Huda Alrawi fled Iraq it was almost exactly 10 years after al Qaeda militants killed her husband for owning a barbershop that practiced hair threading—a beauty routine they considered anti-Islamic.  She has managed to escape with her children to Jordan.  But that is the end of her rope.


  • Putin accuses U.S. of supporting separatists in Russia (Associated Press, MSN News)  In a new documentary, Russian President Vladimir Putin says intercepted calls showed that the U.S. helped separatists in Russia's North Caucasus in the early 2000s, underscoring his suspicions of the West.  Putin's interview has revealed the depth of his disappointment in the West.  The West, in Putin's words, is friendly to Russia only when it is on its knees.  "The so-calling ruling classes, political and economic elites like us only when we are wretched and poor and stand with a begging hand," he said.  Whenever Russia begins to grow economically and politically, the West, according to Putin, begins to punish it.  "This is a policy we have been familiar with for centuries."  Econintersect:  Headline could be:  Putin Plays the Victim Card.
  • Russia's Putin says taking Crimea righted historical injustice (Reuters)  More from the documentary marking Putin's 15 years in power.


Economic Inequality: If the wealthiest 1% of Americans shouldn't own 40% of the country's financial wealth, what is a more appropriate breakdown? (Quora Discussion)  There are many good graphics.  Here are three of them:


Click for larger image.

The "Subpar" Recovery:  A Longstanding Misunderstanding (Lakshman Achuthan, 24th Annual Hyman P. Minsky Conference)  Another treasure trove of graphs.  The following show that the GDP trends experienced by the U.S. have really been global, at least as far as the other two largest developed economies are concerned.




Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

The Scholars And Lawyers Who Believe Gay Marriage Causes Abortion (The Daily Beast)  An amicus brief filed by conservatives opposing gay marriage is ridiculous, but there is a link between same-sex nuptials and abortion.  The brief says that where same-sex marriage is allowed traditional mariage has declined.  Then the brief points out that abortions are inversely correlated to the number of traditional marriages.  Ergo, same sex marriage should not be allowed because it will increase the number of abortions (by 900,000 over ten years, according to the brief).  Econintersect:  What could possibly be wrong with this "perfect" logic?  See the next four items; all apply.

Pitfalls when trying to analyze economics (Stevens Point Journal)  Repeated from yesterday and expanded with the three notes following.  A discussion of three economic faux pas written in the language of the non-economist.  Read about "the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of division, and the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy."  These are problems that we find frequently in economic discussion and analysis, although the expression of these may be hidden without careful dissection by the reader (of those other works, not this article).

The fallacy of composition:  This is the assumption that if something is true for one element of a group then it is true for the entire group.  This fallacy is the basis of police profiling

The fallacy of division: This is the assumption that if something is true for the whole then it must be true for its parts. While this can be true in special situations (fractals, holograms) it is demonstrably not true for most situations.  The absolutely worst abuse here involves inferring from an average that all elements are average.

The post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy:  This is the assumption that correlation proves causation.  This is related to the concept in law of circumstantial evidence.  This is sometimes abbreviated to post hoc fallacy.  A closely related fallacy is cum hoc ergo propter hoc (cum hoc fallacy)which refers to simultaneous correlations while post hoc refers to sequential correlations.  Wikipedia gives the following example of the post hoc fallacy:

The rooster crows immediately before sunrise, therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.

Some other examples (with persons we remember using them):

Wet streets cause rain.  (cum hoc, John Mauldin)

Loss of income causes unemployment. (cum hoc)

Deciduous leaf loss causes winter.  (post hoc)

Real World Economics: Surplus in funds, deficit in prudence (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)  An argument is presented against spending projected state surpluses before they actually occur.

HAROLD SARE: Inequality: The politics of economics (Stillwater News Press)  Good discussion:  Does might make right?

I’ve Just Seen a (DNA-Generated) Face (The New York Times)

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