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What We Read Today 31 May 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


  • New Arrests Coming in Soccer Corruption Probe, Says Investigator (Bloomberg) The U.S. investigation of corruption in soccer’s governing body is moving to a new phase that will bring criminal charges against more people, the Internal Revenue Service’s chief investigator said in an interview.  Richard Webb, chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division said:

“It’s probably hard to say who is on the list for the next phase and the timing of that.  I’m confident in saying that an active case is ongoing, and we anticipate additional arrests, indictments and/or pleas.”


  • Hopes rise for a strong El Niño to ease California drought (LA Times)  There are signs across the American southwest that the elusive, unpredictable El Niño weather phenomenon is gaining strength - and offering a glimmer of hope after more than three years of extreme drought which has been at its worst in California.  This possibly emerging weather pattern is among those followed in the weekly global weather review by GEI weather and climate economist Sig Silber.
  • Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide (The Washington Post)  The total so far this year is close to the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government for an entire year over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete.  These shootings are grossly under reported according to Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement.   The graphic below shows some of the demographics.  Not shown is the fact that 2/3 of the unarmed victims were black or hispanic.




  • Greece open to compromise to seal deal this week: interior minister (Reuters)  Greece's government is confident of reaching a deal with its creditors this week and is open to pushing back parts of its anti-austerity program to make that happen, the country's interior minister said Saturday.  Econintersect:  Mixed signals - see next article.
  • Greece Pins Hopes on Merkel as Rescue Talks Yield Scant Progress (Bloomberg Business)  Greece’s hopes of sealing an accord with its creditors by the end of May dimmed on Sunday, as disagreements between the two sides on budget targets persisted.  Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras might seek the intervention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The three leaders are scheduled to hold a call on Sunday evening in the context of “political negotiation".




The Russian MoD stated at the press conference that the satellite photos show the activities of Ukraine’s air defences on the day that Flight MH17 was shot down. In particular, the position of two Ukrainian Buk missile launchers south of the village Zaroschinskoe were shown to be within firing range of MH17. The Bellingcat investigation has found the following –

– Satellite images presented by the Russian Ministry of Defence claiming to shown Ukrainian Buks linked to the downing of MH17 on July 14th and 17th are in fact older images from June 2014.

– The discrepancies visible in the Russian MoD satellite map imagery which shows they are incorrectly dated are visible in publicly available imagery on Google Earth.

– Error level analysis of the images also reveal the images have been edited.

– This includes a Buk missile launcher that was removed to make it appear the Buk missile launcher was active on July 17th, and imagery where Buk missile launchers were added to make it appear they were within attack range of Flight MH17.


  • India's independent farmers embrace organic (Al Jazeera)  As India's government promotes organic exports, farmers in Punjab have non-economic reasons for avoiding pesticides.  In the past decade farmers have taken matters into their own hands and returned to the chemical-free, organic farming practices they used before fertilizers showed up.  This has happened because they observed rapidly deteriorating health plus degraded water and soil quality following the introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the 1970s and 1980s.

How a trader plans to make $21 million in one week (Amanda Diaz, CNBC)  Hat tip to Marvin Clark.  On Thursday 28 May when the SPY ETF (NYSE:SPY) was trading at $212.25 somebody put up $2.8 million to buy 80,000 put spreads which expire in six trading days on 05 June.  That's a cost of $0.35 per share, which is $35 per contract pair for selling 80,000 contracts at 206 strike and buying 80,000 contracts at 209. (Each contract is a put option on 100 shares of stock.)  If SPY goes down next week and the options expire on Friday with the price below $206 the trader have 8 million shares of SPY "put to him" (he will buy) for $206 and he will "put to sellers" (he will sell) 8 million shares of SPY at $211.  That's a gross of 4 million in his favor.  After subtracting his original premium cost of $2.8 million and commissions, the profit should be close to $21 million.  How is our intrepid trader doing?  At the close on Friday, SPY was 211.14 and the spread was worth $3,680,000 - he was up $880,000 in one day.  See the option table from Yahool Finance below and check the arithmetic.



Inflation Expectations (Pedro da Costa, Twitter)

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch on the Market for $100 Million (Bloomberg)  Prices for coastal California real estate have soared since the housing crash, when Barrack’s Colony Capital Inc. acquired the property at a time Jackson faced financial troubles. A record number of homes around the world have asking prices at $100 million or more as a growing number of global billionaires seek trophy property, according to a report last month by Christie’s International Real Estate.  Michael Jackson's former property is a 2,680-acre (1,085-hectare) estate in the Santa Ynez Valley, known for its wineries. The property, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
  • Loanable Funds (Lars P. Syll)  This review of loanable funds theory shortcomings was prompted by a new analysis by Zoltan Jakab and Michael Kumhof,  For more on the new paper see GEI News.

  • VIDEO: Review of Lyme disease treatment leaves out patients (Poughkeepsie Journal)  The guidelines for treatment of Lyme disease published by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) are being reviewed by a panel selected by the IDSA.  The initial panel included one "consumer advocate" who is from Nebraska (a state with fewer than 10 Lyme disease cases a year) who "knows nothing about Lyme" (  However, in a May 22 letter to a five-member congressional caucus of representatives from districts with high Lyme incidence, officials said her specific lack of experience with the disease would allow her "to approach this topic objectively."  The Poughkeepsie Journal article states that "review of the panel's composition suggests the voices will not be heard of doctors who specialize in treating Lyme outside of the current guidelines and published scientists whose research diverges from mainstream findings."  A recent letter from IDSA indicates that the panel would be changed to include "a current or former patient and a parent of a patient who has had Lyme disease."  But there still is no mention of adding doctors who have experience treating Lyme outside of IDSA guidelines.  GEI has previously posted articles about Lyme disease.    Disclosure:  Econintersect Managing Editor John Lounsbury was first diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1988 (apparently undiagnosed for several years previously) and has been treated for Lyme symptoms six more times in the intervening 26 years.  The following short video includes two interviews with Lyme disease patients:

  • When Palmyra rivaled the Roman Empire (Reuters)  Since Islamic State recently seized control Palmyra’s magnificent ruins have been endangered as never before.  The ancient city even survived brutal sacking by troops of the Roman Empire but its fate today is uncertain.  The site, 120 miles northeast of Damascus, has been occupied for nearly 10,000 years at least - stone tools dating to7,500 BC have been found there.  When the Roman Empire was in its declining years Palmyra ruled what had been the eastern region,as shown in the map below (271 AD).

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