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What We Read Today 07 November 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 Oil Industry Has Been Put on Notice (Bloomberg)  Keystone rejected, Exxon investigated—this doesn’t end well for oil.  Global oil output and consumption estimates have been falling since the start of the century and are likely to continue lower.  Econintersect:  How ironic that peak oil may not apply for availability, or for limits on production, but for usage.  See also next article.


  • Kuwait Sees Oil Glut of Up to Five Years on Increasing Supply (Bloomberg)  Oil markets will continue to be oversupplied for as long as five years as producers in the Middle East ramp up output, according to Mohammed Al-Shatti, Kuwait’s representative to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.  There is already a surplus of production and both Iran and Libya could add to that.


  • New York Prepares for Up to 6 Feet of Sea Level Rise (Climate Central, MSN News)  LaGuardia Airport is about to be rebuilt in New York City, but by the end of the century, fish could be swimming where airplanes once parked at the terminal. That’s because sea levels in the area could rise by as much as 6 feet over the next 75 years, according to new predictions released by the state of New York.  About 500,000 people live on the 120 square miles of land that lie less than 6 feet above the mean high tide line in the state of New York. More than $100 billion in property value exists in that area.  Econintersect:  This does not mean abandoning this threatened land - nearly 1/3 of the Netherlands is below sea level and in use today.

  • Economics, Not Obama, Killed Keystone (The Weekly Standard)  See the articles under Global above.  As Pete Howard of the Canadian Energy Research Institute told the MIT Technology Review early this year, of oil prices remain around $50 a barrel,

“the necessity for Keystone XL may disappear . . . We’ve got rail [transportation] right now as a safety valve, and if we build up rail capacity to carry three-quarters of a million barrels, that pretty much takes up all the projects that are under construction right now.”

  • A California crab ban reveals trouble in the Pacific Ocean (Al Jazeera)  Crab fishing is delayed, and poisoned sea lions are washing ashore, with a toxic algae to blame - is the Pacific Ocean becoming a polluted scum pond?

  • Donald Trump's SNL Appearance Raises Questions About Media Ethics (Bloomberg)  The chase for ratings and revenue is changing an age-old relationship between candidates and the media.

  • NY attorney general wields powerful weapon in Exxon climate case (Reuters)   A near century-old statute that gives New York state prosecutors unusually broad authority to prosecute securities fraud could prove a powerful weapon as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman probes Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) over whether the oil firm mislead the public and shareholders about the perils of climate change.  The 1921 Martin Act, a wide-reaching state law, was dusted off in the early 2000s by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer who used it to aggressively go after Wall Street firms.  Since then, it has been used to prosecute large-scale Ponzi schemes, major investment banks accused of misleading investors and other cases.  Econintersect:  This is something like prosecuting the Mafia for tax evasion when prosecutors could not get conviction for the crimes that produced the income.


  • Archaeologists uncover 2,300-year-old theatre on Cyprus (AFP, MSN News)  An Australian archaeological team in Cyprus has uncovered a theatre dating from 300 BC, the oldest structure of its kind yet unearthed on the Mediterranean island.  The structure was used for performance and spectacle for 650 years until destroyed by an earthquake in 365 AD.


Sierra Leone

  • Sierra Leone Declared Free of Ebola Transmissions (The New York Times)  After a nerve-racking countdown, Sierra Leone celebrated a national milestone on Saturday that government officials hoped would help the country finally leave behind a grim chapter in its history: It was officially declared free of Ebola transmissions.  The World Health Organization made the announcement at an official ceremony in Freetown, the capital, after the nation had passed 42 days, or two incubation periods for the virus, without an Ebola case.  But continued surveillance is necessary because the virus can remain (perhaps always remains?) in survivors without display symptoms or being transmittable while dormant - only to become active at some future time.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Children from non-religious homes are more generous than their peers, study suggests (The Conversation)  It is certainly true that humans don’t need religion to be moral. But whether religion generally reduces or impedes kindness is less obvious, as the link between religion and morality is a notoriously difficult one to untangle. Although many researchers have tried to provide answers on empirical grounds, these answers often seem to fall predictably along partisan lines.  A new study of more than 1,100 children in six different countries has found that children growing up in non-religious households are better at sharing than those from religious homes. The researchers behind the study, published in Current Biology, conclude that teaching children about morality in some sort of secular setting will therefore increase human kindness.  This particular author disputes that the total of all research evidence is quite equivocal on this and suggests the conclusion of the research paper discussed is questionable.  For more details on the research see The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World (Current Biology).

  • Obama's economy versus The Gipper's (The Baltimore Sun)  Peter Morici says that so much depends on the circumstances in which each president governs.  He then says:

The best apples to apples comparison is among the rather difficult conditions Presidents Reagan and Obama inherited and how the fortunes of America's families then progressed — with Reagan relying on conservative prescriptions and Mr. Obama on activist government to stimulate growth.

Mr. Obama confronted a terrible financial crisis and endured a punishing recession. Unemployment peaked at 10 percent in his first term, but since then, the economy has reclaimed and added 12.6 million jobs and employment is up 9.8 percent.

The Gipper faced tough times too — double-digit unemployment and interest rates and a bruising recession. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent but subsequently the economy added more than 17.2 million jobs and employment rose 19.4 percent.

The reason Reagan was able to create so many more jobs — in a much smaller economy — is quite simple. It wasn't just lower taxes and less spending but rather a reliance on private decisions to guide recovery. He cleared a path for businesses, large and small, to invest as they deemed fit and raise wages as they decided they could afford, and he encouraged the unemployed to get out and look for work.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, has sought to micromanage business through an explosion of regulations, and to pacify a middle class under siege and Americans underemployed or not working at all with giveaways from free contraception to forgiving college debt, from subsidies for solar energy projects and mandatory health insurance to incessant preaching that ordinary folks are victims of racism, sexism and the evil machinations of the well-off.

Again and again, I hear right wing apologists for crony capitalism comparing President Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan in a lame attempt to glorify right wing drivel as "success."

First of all, while he might be politically to the left of these neo-fascist mouthpieces for the extreme right, President Obama is decidedly not, by any stretch of the imagination, a left wing progressive liberal. Mr. Obama represents the Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic party, beholden to (and I daresay in the pocket of) big business. If you need any excuse for the tepid pace of economic recovery since the Bush Depression, it's the fact that President Obama has been hewing this middle of the road approach to economics. By trying to talk a good game of progressivism, while still allowing giant multinationals and big banks to call the shots behind the scenes, you get exactly what is going on right now — an exploding stock market benefiting the 1 percent while leaving ordinary Americans wondering how they're going to make their next mortgage payment, or even to just put food on the table.

If you really want to see what a strong recovery looks like, you only need to look at the one president from the last century that put the Reagan recovery and its "voodoo economics" in proper perspective — Franklin Roosevelt. By any metric, President Roosevelt's presidency put Ronald Reagan's mediocre performance to shame. He took a country that was truly on the brink of collapse and completely turned it around, ushering in an unprecedented golden age of the American middle class that lasted half a century. And to compare the mild recession that President Reagan inherited to the complete economic meltdown that was faced by Mr. Roosevelt (or to a lesser extent President Obama) is nothing short of rewriting history.

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