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What We Read Today 08 September 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


  • Kim Davis released from jail in dispute over gay marriage (BBC News)  A US judge has released a Kentucky official from jail so long as she does not interfere with her deputies when they issue marriage licences to gay couples.  Kim Davis, an elected official, has said that her Christian faith should exempt her from signing the licences.  If she interferes with her deputies, federal Judge David Bunning said she could be jailed for defying the court.  The US Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal in June.  Mat Staver, Ms Davis' lawyer, said on Tuesday she would return to work this week and would not say whether Ms Davis would interfere with her deputies but said "she would not violate her conscience".
  • Shares rally on China stimulus hopes, strong European data (Reuters)  For full report see GEI Market Close by Gary.
  • Baltimore to pay Freddie Gray family over his death (BBC News)  The city of Baltimore says it has reached a proposed $6.4 million wrongful death settlement with the family of Freddie Gray.  Six Baltimore police officers face criminal charges for the death of Gray, who died of a critical spine injury while in police custody in April.
  • Amid US-Russia chill, Natives struggle to connect across Maritime border (Al Jazeera)  Russian fur traders first arrived in the Aleutians in the 1700s, effectively enslaving the Unangax — whom they called Aleuts — and forcing some to settle in the Pribilof and Komandorski islands. When Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, the Komandorski Islands were kept as part of Russia, while the Aleutians and Pribilofs went to the United States.  The two branches of the Unangax were effectively isolated from each other by U.S. Soviet tensions (so-called "Ice Curtain") in the years following World War II until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989.  Now Russian - U.S. relations have cooled again and access across the border is restricted.



  • Migrant crisis: Germany's Merkel says EU quotas are a 'first step' (BBC News)  Germany, which has waived EU rules to welcome thousands of Syrian migrants, expects more than 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015 alone - four times the 2014 figure.  German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, speaking alongside the visiting Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, said Germany "can cope with more in the future but wants the burden shared". Sweden and Germany have so far taken in the most Syrian asylum seekers.  Earlier, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Germany could cope with "at least 500,000 asylum seekers a year for several years".


  • What Hungary Can Teach Europe About Absorbing Immigrants (Bloomberg)  As refugees pour into Europe in historic numbers, one of the fears is that they will become wards of the state, unemployed and living on the dole. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has led the fight to restrict the flow of refugees and migrants into what he has called the "Christian welfare states."  Far from becoming welfare cases, foreign-born workers are likelier to be employed than native-born Hungarians. Or is that the problem?


  • Stop Bribery by Legalizing It (Bloomberg View)  The first step toward getting rid of bribery may be to legalize it. Romania, one of the most corrupt countries in the EU, could soon try that controversial approach with its underfunded health care system. For the many countries without the money to finance modern public services, or the political will to privatize them, it will be an important case to watch.


  • New Approach in Southern Syria (International Crisis Group)  This report argues that preventing the regime’s aerial attacks could improve chances of a political settlement.


  • Bulgaria denies air access to Syria-bound Russia planes (Al Jazeera)  Disclosure comes a day after Athens said it was asked by Washington to deny airspace to Russian supply flights.  The U.S. has exxpressed growing concern that Russia is boosting military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


  • China Just Killed the World's Biggest Stock-Index Futures Market (Bloomberg)  Volumes in the country’s CSI 300 Index and CSI 500 Index futures sank to record lows on Tuesday after falling 99% from their June highs. Ranked by the World Federation of Exchanges as the most active market for index futures as recently as July, liquidity in China has dried up as authorities raised margin requirements, tightened position limits and started a police probe into bearish wagers.
  • Misinterpreting Chinese Intervention In Financial Markets (Jeffrey Frankel, Seeking Alpha)  JF has contributed to GEI.  Prof. Frankel says that currency and stock market actions by the Chinese government have been widely misunderstood.  Rather than "driving markets" the actions have been "the sort of counter-cyclical macro prudential regulatory policy that we economists often call for, but less often see in practice among advanced economies".


  • Myanmar's diving scavengers and other working lives (BBC News)  With Myanmar's first credible general election in 25 years just weeks away, our Myanmar correspondent Jonah Fisher met five people in Yangon to find out how the country's reforms have affected their working lives.  Some have done very well since the lifting of international sanctions and the opening up of Myanmar's economy. But what about those at the bottom of the pile?  This article presents cases studies of several individuals. 


  • The Venezuelan President’s Birther Problem (Foreign Policy)  Venzuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused Columbia of being "a net exporter of poverty to Venezuela".  Maduro sealed the border between the two countries last month, declaring a "state of emergency".  Over the past two weeks, the Venezuelan government has expelled 1,000 Colombian migrants back to their homeland.  The exiles give heartbreaking accounts of families separated, personal belongings seized, and of wanton physical abuse. Venezuelan National Guardsmen have even taken to spray-painting the homes of the soon-to be-banished, marking their dwellings with an “R” for reviewed, or else a “D” for demolition.  Nearly 5,000 other Colombians, hoping to salvage some of their property and avoid the brutal treatment befalling their compatriots, have fled preemptively, wading across the shallow river marking the porous border between the two countries with whatever possessions they can carry.  There is great irony here:  There is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Maduro was born in Colombia himself which would make him ineligible to hold the office of president in Venezuela.

Walter Murphy's Insights (  Here are two of the 95 charts.  There are many interesting charts in the collection.



Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Anti-austerity reunited: Varoufakis to debate Corbyn (City A.M.)  Anti-austerity fans have something to look forward to next week, when the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Labour leader hopeful Jeremy Corbyn will share a platform to discuss alternatives to spending cuts.  The two men will debate "austerity, humanitarian disaster and [the] market meltdown" - though of course, Corbyn may be leader by then, so his attendance is “subject to commitments following Labour leadership election”, the event organisation said.

  • 3 ideas that could reshape the U.S. retirement system (Employee Benefit News)  Bob Collie, chief research strategist for Russell Investments’ Americas Institutional business, recently polled retirement plan sponsors about three big areas of potential change to the U.S. retirement system: (1) risk sharing, (2) mandatory saving and (3) getting employers out of sponsoring the plan themselves.  See The Future of Retirement (Russell Investments)
  • Inside the Fight Over Productivity and Wages (The Wall Street Journal)  Readers of this column haven't missed what's going on here.  More and more attention is being paid to the nature of the relationship between productivity and wages.  The first chart below (been on these pages more than once) is the widely distributed one showing thee failure of median wage growth to keep up with productivity growth over the past 35 years.  The second chart below shows a different breakdown of the data to include average wage growth as well as median and net productivity growth, all adjusted for inflation and starting from a later benchmark date (1975).  While the average wage growth has also not kept up with productivity growth, the average is much higher than the median, a result of some very high "wage" growth numbers at the top of the income distribution.  This comes back to the point made in previous days:  The biggest change in wages over the past 35 (or 40) years has been in the distribution and not in the wage share of growth. 



  • SpaceX gets set to launch the most powerful operational rocket (City A.M.)  Not one to be perturbed by a couple of missed landings, SpaceX - the space company founded by Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk - has announced plans to attempt one of its boldest rocket launches yet: sending the Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket, into space for the first time.  The launch is scheduled for the spring 2016, nearly three years after the launch was originally planned.

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