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What We Read Today 22 October 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


  • 2 Indian men accused of conspiring to smuggle people into US (Associated Press)  Two Indian nationals have been charged in New Jersey with conspiring to smuggle people from Thailand into the U.S.  Federal prosecutors say Nileshkumar Patel and Harsad Mehta were arrested Wednesday night at Newark Liberty International Airport. They were remanded into custody after a brief appearance before a judge Thursday on smuggling and conspiracy charges.  Prosecutors say the men met with an undercover Department of Homeland Security agent on multiple occasions in Bangkok starting in April 2014.  The agent says in a criminal complaint that the men paid $35,000 to $50,000 to have six people smuggled into New Jersey.

  • Clinton defends her Benghazi record in face of Republican criticism (Reuters)  Reuters says that Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday deflected harsh Republican criticism of her handling of the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, and urged her questioners in Congress to put U.S. national security ahead of politics.


  • David Cameron and the UK’s ill-timed Chinese pivot (American Enterprise Institute)  At the very time that tensions between the United States and China are rising over China’s naval exercises in the China Sea and over its cyberspace activity, the United Kingdom roles out the reddest of red carpets in London for Chinese President Xi Jinping. It does so in an effort to improve the UK’s export access to China’s large and growing market and to attract increased Chinese investment in the United Kingdom.  In the process, the UK chooses to ignore US disapproval and to shelve its previous concerns about China’s abysmal human rights record.


  • Sweden sword attack: Two killed by masked attacker (BBC News)  No gun required.  A masked man armed with a sword has killed a pupil and a teacher at a school in Sweden.  The suspect, clad in black, apparently posed for photos with students ahead of the attack, in the western town of Trollhattan.  Two further victims, a pupil and a teacher, are seriously injured. The attacker was shot by police and has died of his injuries. He was 21 and resident in Trollhattan, police said.


  • U.S commando killed in raid to free hostages of ISIS in Iraq (Reuters)  One member of a U.S. special operations force was killed during an overnight mission to rescue hostages held by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, the first American to die in ground combat with the militant group, U.S. officials said on Thursday.  Sixty-nine hostages were rescued in the action, which targeted an Islamic State prison around 7 kilometers north of the town of Hawija, according to the security council of the Kurdistan region, whose counterterrorism forces took part.  According to BBC News the US-Iraqi rescue operation 'foils IS mass execution'.





  • Political risk drives Brazil’s markets (Financial Times)  Rumors spread just as traders were going home for the weekend that finance minister Joaquim Levy was quitting. Between the start of the rumour and the government’s official denial one or two hours later, the real depreciated about 3% against the dollar to R$3.92.  That is a gigantic move (the rate of change is 36% per day).


  • Watch out, Australia: a red-hot summer means blue-green algae (The Conversation)  Blue-green algae can form vast “blooms”, some large enough to be seen from space. In the Australian drought summers of 2009 and 2010, for example, hundreds of kilometres of the Murray River suffered major cyanobacterial blooms, which hampered the use of water for drinking, agriculture and recreation.  The current El Nino promises to reinforce the "blooming".


  • Trudeau’s Win in Canada Tests the Notion that Good Economics Is Bad Politics (Centre for International Governance Innovation)  This article makes the case that Justin Trudea's winning campaign was based on bad economics (deficit spending) flies in the face of Canada's historic economic success with "[t]he country’s political commitment to sound fiscal policy created the foundation for solid economic growth for nearly two decades."  (Econintersect:  The "sound fiscal policy" is correct only for a country with a trade surplus, which Canada has traditionally enjoyed, but not since the the Great Financial Crisis.)   The IMF has been urging Canada to increase spending on infrastructure, as the tax revenue from a stronger economy in the future would more than cover short-term deficits.  The previous Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, ignored this advice and he lost.   Econintersect:  Shouldn't the headline be more correctly thus:  Trudeau’s Win in Canada CONFIRMS the Notion that Good Economics Is GOOD Politics?

Payroll Employment and Unemployment Claims (Bill McBride, Calculated Risk)  There is definitely a general relationship between payroll employment and unemployment claims as shown in the first graph below.  Note that unemployment claims are graphed inverted.  Go to Calculated Risk for some detailed discussion.  Also of note is the level of job openings, currently near a recent 21st century high, shown in the second grapoh below.

Click for larger image at Calculated Risk.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • New Study: Adirondack Sugar Maples In Decline (Adirondak Almanack)  The growth rate of sugar maples sampled in the "North Country" of New York State have experienced a growth rate decline for the last 45 years.  Scientists say the reasons for the decline are "unclear".  More work is needed to determine how widespread this phenomenon is and whether it represents a cyclical or permanent change in the prospects for this economically important tree. 

  • New grads may have to work until they're 75: report (CNBC)  As if student-loan debt wasn't enough of a burden for new college graduates. A new report predicts that young workers will need to work until they're 75 on average to save enough for retirement.  The drivers are increasing student loan debt, rising rents and millennials’ approach to money management.  But there are ways this trend could be changed.  For details see NerdWallet’s 2015 New GradRetirement Report.

  • What is the secret to being good at maths? (The Conversation)  Rote learning of arithmetic tables in early education correlates with later high level attainment in mathematics education.  Econintersect:  We are waging a losing battle against the substitution of the word "maths" for (what we consider the correct truncation of mathematics) "math".  If one likes the word "mathematics", then use it.  Note:  We are simply expressing a North American bias.  See Math vs. maths.

  • Economics, The Art Of Deception Vs. Demographics, The Simple (Yet Ugly) Reality (Seeking Alpha)  Population growth is the main driver of economic growth, and population growth is ending in developed nations and slowing in developing nations.  The author suggests that the financial and economic system premised on infinite growth and returns was an absurd concept to begin with. However, the absurdity isn't reached until a finite limit is hit. Many believed it would be a resource-driven limit, such as peak oil or peak fresh water. But alas, the resource limit the world is hitting is consumer growth, also known as population growth.

  • News blog: is economics based on shaky statistics?  (Times Higher Education)  Further discussion here of Papers in economics ‘not reproducible’

  • Larry Summers And Flat-Earth Economics (Forbes)  In an interesting exchange on CNBC’s Squawk Box yesterday morning, Larry Summers told his interviewers, who had suggested the possibility that raising interest rates could make a positive contribution to investment, that they were practicing “flat earth economics.”  The author here (Steve Denning) briefly discusses the diatortions that low interest rates have introduced into the economy.

  • The universe really is weird: a landmark quantum experiment has finally proved it so (The Conversation)  If you think the cause and effect relationships in economics are often a problem, read this about the confusion in physics about causality.            

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