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What We Read Today 29 June 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Supreme Court: EPA erred in rule on toxic emissions from power plants (The Washington Post)  In a 5-4 decsision the Supreme Court appeared to deal a major blow on Monday to the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce emissions of toxic mercury from coal-burning power plants, saying federal regulators failed to properly consider the costs of pollution controls.  The decision halts further implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule, the landmark 2011 regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency that required hundreds of coal-burning plants to install equipment to control mercury, a substance linked in multiple studies to respiratory illnesses as well as birth defects and developmental problems in children.  The decision did not invalidate the rule but said better costs assessment was needed and remanded that issue to a lower court for further review. Legal experts said the decision’s immediate impact could be muted, as many of the country’s electricity utilities had already taken steps to comply with the rule ahead of a deadline next year.
  • U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocks Texas abortion restrictions (Reuters)  The court granted a request by women’s health providers, which had asked it to put a temporary hold on a June 9 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The groups had asked the high court to put the provisions on hold until they can file a formal petition asking the justices to take the case.  At issue are two provisions of the 2013 Texas abortion law. One is a requirement that mandates clinics have certain hospital-grade facilities. The other requires that physicians have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the facility. Critics said both provisions are designed to force abortion providers to shut down.  The lower court ruled that the provisions are intended to protect women's health.
  • Recent East Coast shark attacks puzzle experts, scare beachgoers (The Washington Post, MSN News)  Nobody seems sure why there have been more than the usual number of shark attacks in the Carolinas this summer. But the simple fact is that there are both more sharks and more swimmers, according to tourism experts and shark experts. And that’s a recipe for a cross-species surf war.


  • The Day The Euro Died (Frances Coppola, Forbes)  FC has contributed to GEI.  Coppola outlines a series of facts that indicate duplicity all around in this matter.  Widely represented in the media is the view that the Greek's will be voting Sunday on EU membership, The EU is claiming the Greek government walked out on a "new" proposal from the Troika, the IMF has said the vote is invalid since the deadline on the offer is Tuesday and innumerable "unnamed sources" are issuing all sorts of statements.  Coppola says the entire process has revealed that eurogroup membership has been revealed to have no flexibility but is instead a "system of hard currency pegs [which] is fragile".

The question that will be put to the Greek people is only about the creditors’ proposal, not about Greece’s membership of the Euro. But this referendum has huge historical and emotional resonances, deliberately created by the Greek government in a manner reminiscent of Alex Salmond’s linking of the Scottish independence referendum to the historic victory of the Scots over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Salmond’s move nearly worked – but in the end the economics won and the Scots rejected independence. Similarly, Tsipras’s subtle attempt to link this referendum to Greece’s rejection of Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum in October 1940 may not be enough to overcome Greek fears. Opinion polls so far suggest that a “Yes” vote is likely, though exactly how the question was framed in these polls is unclear.

Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rico Governor Warning That Public Debt Unpayable (The New York Times)  The economy is struggling (GDP growth -1%), the population is shrinking ( down 12% in ten years) and the labor force participation rate is only 40%, down from a sickly 50% eight years ago.  More discussion later below.

One chart shows why the Greek economy is a mess (Shane Ferro, Business Insider)  The graphic is updated only to mid-2014 and some degradation has occurred since then.  For example, Finland has declined and is now below Spain.  The dramatic depression for Greece takes attention away from the six other other depressed European countries which have yet to recover (even come close to recovering) pre-crisis real GDP levels.  Note:  (1) The strongest economies (UK and Germany) have real GDP levels only about 3% above the pre-crisis values.  The U.S., which has a generally agreed very weak recovery, is up 8% from the pre-crisis peak. 


Things in Puerto Rico are getting really bad: What you need to know (The Washington Post)  The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is not a state.  It's a Carribean island that has been under the control of the United States (as a territory) since the Spanish-American war in 1898.  It has been discussed as possible 51st state and the people of Puerto Rico voted to pursue that end in 2012 but little has since transpired in that regard. Since then Puerto Rico has been on a different economic glide path than the U.S.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Our model depicts an economy with capital and credit in which different types of agents locally interact on different markets. We provide a detailed representation of individual agents' balance sheets, ensuring the model accounting consistency at the micro, meso, and macro levels. We analyze the properties of our simulated economy under different configurations of agent heuristics, focusing in particular on the role of credit and investment.

  • Brandon Park Sold To Chinese Conservationist (Adirondack Almanack)   Brandon Park, the 28,100-acre former estate of William A. Rockefeller, Jr. (a co-founder of Standard Oil with his brother John D. Rockefeller), has been purchased by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma of China for $23 million according to the Wall Street JournalAlibaba is the world’s largest e-commerce company. He reportedly bought the property principally for conservation purposes, but may also use it as a personal retreat.  Ma is chairman of the China board of the Nature Conservancy and is a member of the global board. The Nature Conservancy introduced Ma to the property, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Ma has extensive experience in conservation projects in China, including co-founding the Sichuan Nature Conservation Foundation and the Laohegou Nature Reserve in Sichuan, which protects giant panda habitat and is the first protected area managed by a non-governmental organization in China.  This is his first conservation project outside of China.
  • The 25 richest self-made billionaires (Business Insider)  No. 25 is Len Blavatnik; No. 24 is Li Ka-Shing; ....  Go to the article, we promise you will find somem more familiar names.
  • In the Southwest, exploring the mysteries of the ancient Pueblo people (Sacramento Bee)  Who were the Anasazi ("ancient people") who built marvelous cliff dwellings in the U.S. southwest 1,000 and more years ago?  Fact is the ancestors of today's Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo are still much of a mystery.  Not much more is known than was the case when your Econintersect Managing Editor first saw the Mesa Verde ruins more than 50 years ago.

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