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What We Read Today 25 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".).


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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


The Associated Press, which many news organizations look to for style guidance, is scrapping the terms climate skeptics and climate deniers. Their reason for the former is that it tarnishes the word skepticism, a trait that's valued in the scientific community, by lumping it in with people who simply deny the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change. Their reason for dropping deniers is the association with the term holocaust deniers.

  • Blatter Engulfed by FIFA Crisis After Swiss Open Criminal Probe (Bloomberg)  Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation against FIFA chief Joseph “Sepp” Blatter as a widening bribery scandal engulfed the man long seen as world soccer’s unassailable kingmaker.  Switzerland’s attorney general, in a statement Friday, said he was looking into suspected criminal mismanagement and misappropriation by Blatter, the 79-year-old who has controlled FIFA for a 17-year span marked by growing allegations of corruption and bribery.  Econintersect:  Maybe Blatter's defense will be that he was functioning as a banker.



  • Europe gets 8,000 refugees daily - UN (BBC News)  A daily flow of about 8,000 refugees to Europe is likely to continue, the United Nations warns.  More than 5,000 refugees, many Syrian or Iraqi, are arriving daily in Greece.  That flow could continue during the winter if the weather remains good and the borders open.  Econintersect:  To avoid having you reach for your calculator, that is an annual rate of almost 3 million.  So the flow might continue for a while but there just aren't that many ready to migrate.  Or are there?  See next article.
  • U.N. sees refugee flow to Europe growing, plans for big Iraq displacement (Reuters)  A significant portion of Iraq's 33 million people could be ready to move.  There are 3.2 million laready officially categorized as displaced.  And there are another 33 million people in Afghanistan.  In Syria, although 10.5 million people are officially displaced (both internally and into neighboring countries, less than 10% of those have actually attempted to migrate to Europe. 


  • Hezbollah welcomes Russian buildup in Syria, says U.S. has failed (Reuters)  The Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah on Friday welcomed Russia's military buildup in Syria in support of common ally President Bashar al-Assad, saying it was the failure of a U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State that had forced Moscow's hand.  Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that a localized ceasefire agreement had been struck in two areas of Syria, where Hezbollah is fighting alongside government forces against an array of insurgent groups including Islamic State and al Qaeda.


  • China's Xi wants 'win-win co-operation' with US (BBC News)  The Chinese and US presidents held informal talks at the White House on Thursday, where they discussed Iran's nuclear programme. Mr Xi's visit has been overshadowed by an ongoing row over cyber security.  China's President Xi Jinping has called for "win-win co-operation" with the US on his first state visit to Washington.  Speaking on the White House lawn, he said the relationship with the US "must adapt to the changing times".


  • Brazilian Bottom (Marketfy)  Tim Biggam suggests that there may be a key reversal in NYSE:EWZ (Brazilian market ETF). It has traded higher today (Friday, 25 September), up to 22.64 in the early am, but has been fading  and is trading at 21.67 at 2:47 pm.  What happens in the last hour will tell a lot about Tim's bottom call.  See also Brazil's successful defense of the real below.  A bottom in stocks coinciding with a bottom in the currency would be a indicate very strong upturn in the Brazilian economy.  Econintersect:  We'll wait and see.

Click for large image.

Brazil Real Turns Around (Walter Kurtz, The Daily Shot)  Brazil's central bank has threatened to use FX reserves to buy the real. Previously Brazil had used "sterilized" interventions (such as FX swaps and dollar repo) - which thus far failed to stem the currency declines. The possibility of outright real purchases (dollar sales) did the trick.  The 5% strengthening of the currency in two days is a huge move.


It's All `Perverted' Now as U.S. Swap Spreads Tumble Below Zero (Bloomberg)  Swap rates are what companies, investors and traders pay to exchange fixed interest payments for floating ones. That rate falling below Treasury yields -- the spread between the two being negative -- is illogical in the eyes of most market observers, because it theoretically signals that traders view the credit of banks as superior to that of the U.S. government.  This week, swap spreads in seven-, 10- and 30-year maturities have traded below zero. The 10-year spread dipped below zero this week for the first time in three years and reached negative 2.44 basis points Friday, its lowest since September 2010. The two-year spread touched 7.56 basis points Friday, the narrowest in almost two years.  If the flip to negative spreads persists, it would signal that its roots are in regulators’ efforts to head off another financial crisis.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Outcomes-based wellness programs see little growth (Employee Benefit News)  the use of outcomes-based wellness plans isn’t growing as fast as some may have predicted. Hindered by more pressing matters and dogged by questions about what happens with the data collected, HR directors report waning enthusiasm for these programs, analysts say.  While 44% of all companies across the U.S. have implemented one of these plans, there has been insignificant growth over the past year - and the number could decline in the future.  According to Jennifer Patel, director of wellness engagement at Kansas City, Mo.-based wellness company Hallmark Business Connections:

“The [laws] have evolved with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. … Employers and organizations find themselves in court, [with employees] questioning, ‘Is it legal for employers to ask me to submit to these biometric screenings or health risk tests?’

  • Planetary Close-Up Reveals Pluto "Snakeskin" (Scientific American)  The latest images of Pluto released by NASA 24 September—the most-detailed colour shots yet downlinked to Earth—show a bizarre 'snakeskin' terrain, wrinkled with ridges and smudged with rust-coloured material.  These are not little "wrinkles" but giant mountainous features that appear to have been "formed by some sort of overarching geological influence—perhaps wind".

Pluto has turned out to be strikingly active for an icy world 5 billion kilometres from the Sun. Nitrogen glaciers swirl around the base of towering mountains, which are held up by the sheer rigidity of ice frozen at about −235 °C, 38 degrees above absolute zero.


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