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What We Read Today 22 August 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


What’s so bad about an economy growing better than 2 percent a quarter to warrant the biggest stock selloff since 2011? It’s a question that interests Savita Subramanian of Bank of America and Jonathan Golub of RBC Capital Markets.

  • EPA knew of 'blowout' risk for tainted water at gold mine (Associated Press)   U.S. officials knew of the potential for a catastrophic "blowout" of toxic wastewater from an inactive gold mine, yet appeared to have only a cursory plan to deal with such an event when government contractors triggered a 3-million-gallon spill, according to internal documents released by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The Aug. 5 spill came as workers excavated the entrance to the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, accidentally unleashing a torrent of pent-up, toxic water that fouled rivers in three states.  The flow from the Gold King mine release was into the Cement Creek, then the Animas River, then the San Juan which flows through the Navajo Nation near the "Four Corners" before emptying into the dammed (no, there is no "n") Colorado River at Lake Powell, Arizona.  But this was just the latest in a long, toxic history.  See the next article.
  • When our river turned orange (High Country News)  This local paper in Durango, CO is one of the best sources we have found for news and information about the toxic spill and local environment.

While the spill occurred just a few miles above Silverton, the impacts hit Durango the hardest. The Animas River courses through the middle of Durango, provides a portion of its drinking and irrigation water, and over the last few decades has become the recreational and aesthetic, wild, green heart of the city. The spill essentially stopped the heart’s beat. Officials closed the river for public health reasons, shutting down hundreds of recreational boaters and tubers, not to mention the local rafting industry. No one yet knows what will happen to the fish, the birds, the bugs and other wildlife that call the river home.


Really, though, the EPA wasn't the root cause of the emergency. It was, most likely, a disaster waiting to happen and the most visible manifestation of an emergency that's been going on in the Upper Animas River Watershed for decades. Here’s nine items to help you understand the big picture:

Here is the list, get details by following the title link above (it's worth reading the details):

  1. Pollution in the Animas is not new
  2. Superfund has long been on the table, and long been swept off
  3. The problem is massive and complex, but not hopeless
  4. Then it got even more complex
  5. In the meantime, a piecemeal approach continues
  6. This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened, nor is it the worst
  7. Short-term impacts aren’t as bad as the water looks
  8. Long-term impacts are still unknown
  9. The EPA messed up, but they’re not the root cause


  • Shoreham plane crash: Seven dead after Hawker Hunter hits cars (BBC News)  Seven people have died after a Hawker Hunter jet crashed into several vehicles during Shoreham Airshow, on the coast south of London.  The fatalities are believed to all be people driving on the A27 highway and none of the spectators at the annual airshow were injured.


  • 3 Americans praised for subduing gunman on European train (Associated Press)  One serves in the Air Force, another recently served in Afghanistan in the National Guard, another is studying physical therapy in California — and all three Americans are being hailed as heroes for disarming a gunman on a high-speed train who was known to intelligence services in three countries.  The three Americcns were childhood friends traveling together:  Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone, of Carmichael, California, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon.  The effort was international, though, as Chris Norman, a 62 year old British businessman helped the Americans subdue the gunman and French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade activated the train's emergency alarm. Anglade told Paris Match magazine he had felt certain he, his two children and family were doomed.  An unnamed French citizen also unsuccessfully made the initial attempt to subdue the gunman before Stone tackled him to the floor.  Stone, Anglade and an unnamed passenger who is a dual French-American citizen were the only persons, other than the gunman, who were injured, none seriously.
  • Profile Emerges of Suspect in Attack on Train to Paris (The New York Times)  With the man under interrogation by French antiterrorism authorities, who can hold him without charge for up to 96 hours, French officials cautioned that many details of his life, and even his identity, had yet to be confirmed.  He is reportedly a Moroccan citizen named Ayoub El Kahzani, 26.  he had already been identified by officials as a potential threat, the case may once again underscore the challenges European authorities face as they try to keep track of several thousand people in Europe who have circulated to and from Iraq and Syria to join jihadist groups.


  • Greece’s ‘left-wing parenthesis’ (Al Jazeera)  Tsipras’ mismanagement of his mandate condemned Greece to decades of further austerity, according to this Op Ed.  The author is grim in his outlook:

The failure of Greece’s left-wing government may boost the far right as voters flail for any anti-austerity alternative. But it will also radicalize leftists and those driven to desperation by a seemingly unsolvable economic riddle. With the country faced with multiple crises — including a mounting uncontrolled refugee problem, fears of infiltration by Islamists and unrest in Turkey, Libya, Egypt and Syria — time is running out on an ideological approach to politics. 


  • Macedonia migrants: Thousands break through at Greek border (BBC News)  Macedonian police fired stun grenades for the second day in a row as thousands of refugees have been overrunning and by-passing the police lines.  A huge number of migrants - many of them refugees from the war in Syria - has built up in recent days, after Macedonia sealed its southern border and declared a state of emergency.  Most wish to travel through Macedonia and Serbia to reach northern Europe, via Hungary.  Econintersect:  Is this the biggest migration out of Africa and the Middle East since Homo Sapiens overran Neanderthals?  Of coursee that pre-history event occurred over millemia and this is happening on a time scale orders of magnitude shorter.


Click to watch video.

North and South Korea

  • Rival Koreas hold high-level talks to defuse war fears (Associated Press)  The first high-level talks in nearly a year between South Korea and North Korea stretched into the early hours of Sunday, as the rivals looked to defuse mounting tensions that have pushed them to the brink of a possible military confrontation.  The closed-door meeting in the border village of Panmunjom, where the armistice ending fighting in the Korean War was agreed to in 1953, began early Saturday evening, shortly after a deadline set by North Korea for the South to dismantle loudspeakers broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda at their border. North Korea had declared that its front-line troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down.  Econintersect:  It's a war.  The Armistice of 1953 was a cease-fire agreement but no peace treaty was ever signed.  Today the war has one side sending words and the other side returning missles.


  • Ashley Madison faces $578M Canadian class-action lawsuit (Associated Press)  Two Canadian law firms have filed a $578 million class-action lawsuit against the companies that run Ashley Madison after a hacker group's data breach exposed some 39 million memberships in the adultery website earlier this week.  Charney Lawyers and Sutts, Strosberg LLP, both of Ontario, said Friday that they filed the lawsuit on behalf of Canadians who subscribed to Ashley Madison and whose personal information was disclosed to the public. The website, with its slogan "Life is short. Have an affair," is marketed to facilitate extramarital relationships.  The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, targets Avid Dating Life Inc. and Avid Life Media Inc., the Toronto-based companies that run

World Markets Weekend Update: A Global Meltdown (Doug Short, Advisor Perspectives)  Doug Short is a regular contributor to GEI.

All eight indexes on our world watch finished in the red this week ... deep in the red. India's SENSEX was the top performer, down a "mere" -2.50%. The other indexes posted weekly declines ranging from the Nikkei's -5.28% to the Shanghai Composite's -11.54%

Here is an overlay of the eight for a sense of their comparative performance so far in 2015.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Time for an economics of the heart: Salutin (The Toronto Star)  Liberal Justin Trudeau said he wants to “grow the economy not from the top down,” like Stephen Harper, “but from the heart outwards.” Eureka — that’s what we need: an economics of the heart. It’s elementary: either people serve the economy or the economy serves people — and you can find the answer in your heart.  Econintersect:  Well, it's a little more complicated than that.

Economist Adam Smith argued all that is necessary to raise a society to the highest level of opulence is “peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice.” If these conditions prevail then prosperity will emerge “by the natural course of things.” The quote is from the 1755 lecture notes of his student Dugal Stewart.

Unpacking the three conditions reveals Smith’s insight to be as true today as in the mid-18th century. Civil order is necessary for prosperity. Who is going to make an investment in worn-torn Syria? Closer to home, it is unlikely investors will be fronting new businesses in Ferguson, Missouri, anytime soon. Protecting life and property is the first obligation of all governments.

“Easy” taxes also grease the skids. Note the proposition does not say no taxes or even minimal taxes – rather, it suggests a tax burden that has some reasonable relation to the services the government provides.

Unfortunately, this tells us little about what to tax at a local level (property, income) or how to structure the tax (proportional or graduated scale). However, we can surmise that if taxes are used to enrich a privileged class or if they are designed to redistribute income from taxpayers to favored recipients, they are probably not easy taxes for everyone else.

  • Things Humans Do That Dogs Hate (, MSN Lifestyle)  Not all dogs hate all these things.  We know having raised, trained, showed and lived with dogs most of our life.
  • 10 Things Cats Hate (Mom.meMSN Lifestyle)  Pretty much dead on for most cats, but we have a most unusual one who loves four of the things:  playing in water (and getting soaked), tummy rubs, aggressive petting and getting brushed.  He also tolerates being hugged and cuddled although we can sense he does not like it (except occasionally we catch him purring when "squeezed" up in an arm enfolded ball).
  • The best (and worst) technology predictions of all time (MSN News)   When you read these you will immediately reconsider all expert pronouncements uttered today. (But some of the things in this collection that were utterly unbelievable at the time of utterance have turned out brilliantly prophetic.)  Here is a sampling (of the not so prophetic):

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."  -  Thomas J. Watson, chairman and CEO of IBM, c. 1943

"I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."  -  Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, 1995.

"Flight by machines heavier than air is impractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible."  -  Simon Newcomb, mathematician and astronomer, c. 1902. 

"Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."  -  Darryl F. Zanuck, film producer, 1946. 

"By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet's impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine's."  -  Paul Krugman, economist, 1998.

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