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.
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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world
Where Did Earth's Water Come From? (IFL Science) Researchers from the University of Hawaii believe they have discovered the origin of Earth’s water. For many years, scientists were uncertain whether water was present when our planet formed or if it was carried by comets and asteroids at a later time. New research has determined that water that came from deep within the earth's mantle has the same compositionas water currently on the surface, whereas water associated with comets and asteroid has a much higher concentration of "heavy water" which contains the dueterium isotope of hydrogen. This suggests that water was included in the planet at time of formation (native water) but does not rule out that some water might have been added later.
Goldman: Decline in Oil Prices boosted GDP by 0.2% in 2015 (Bill McBride, Calculated Risk) How much have lower oil prices helped the economy? That seems to be a murky question as consumer spending on other items has probably been higher than it would have been otherwise, but retail sales have been in the tank and capex in the oil patch has been decimated. McBride has excerpts from a report by Goldman Sachs research economist Daan Struyven: "Shale, States and the Shrinking Oil Stimulus". Struyven submits some admittedly "back of the envelope calculations" which conclude that lower oil prices have resulted in an increase in GDP totalling 0.2% and that another 0.1% will be added in the next 18 months should prices remain in the recent range. These estimates are far below estimates made by others, according to Struyven.
What Parisians Need Are Guns, Trump Says (Bloomberg) Tough gun laws abetted the terorist attack in Paris? The ISIS terrorist attack in Paris might not have happened if French laws allowed for more people to carry guns, Donald Trump suggested at a rally Saturday in Beaumont, Texas.
Paris attacks provoke fresh migrant fears in Europe (Associated Press) The news that one of the assailants in the Paris attacks may have crossed into Europe with refugees fleeing Syria is raising the fierce debate over Europe's immigration policy to a new pitch. Scepticism is growing that admitting large numbers of refugees is a good thing. Chancellor Angela Merkel, already under pressure from political foes and allies, seemed Saturday to hold onto her stance of placing no limits on the number of people Germany is willing to give refuge to — a stance that is increasingly being called into question. In a somber statement hours after the attacks, she urged her countrymen to uphold European values of humanity and compassion in the face of terror.
A Syrian passport found by police at the scene of the mass shooting in a Paris concert hall belonged to an asylum seeker who registered on a Greek island in October, a Greek minister said Saturday.
"We confirm that the Syrian passport holder came through the Greek island of Leros on October 3 where he was registered under EU rules," said a statement issued by Nikos Toskas, the minister for citizen protection.
French police said the document was found "near the body of one of the attackers" in the investigation into the main attack of Friday's carnage, at the Bataclan concert hall, where 82 people were killed.
French president calls Paris attacks ‘act of war’ by Islamic State (The Washington Post) The Islamic State has declared it is responsible for the attacks in Paris. France’s president decried the bloodshed across Paris as an “act of war” Saturday, as authorities across Europe joined forces with raids and investigations after attacks that killed at least 129 people and raised prospects of major escalations in battles against the Islamic State.
France Says Three Teams Led Terror Killing Spree in Paris (Bloomberg) The Paris prosecutor in the terror case has laid out how three teams of assailants managed to kill at least 129 people in and around one of the world’s most heavily policed capitals. Suicide bombers and gunmen linked to the Islamic State group “were behind how the terrorist acts unfolded”, Francois Molins said in a televised press conference late Saturday.
Libya IS head 'killed in US air strike' (BBC News) A US air strike has targeted the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya and probably killed him, the Pentagon says. Iraqi national Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, was a "long-time al-Qaeda operative", it said. The strike took place on Friday and targeted a compound in Derna.
Lebanon arrests five Syrians, one Palestinian suspect in Beirut bombings: security source (Reuters) Lebanese authorities arrested five Syrians and a Palestinian in connection with the twin suicide bombings in central Beirut on Thursday that killed 43 people, a senior security source said on Saturday. The bombings in a busy residential and commercial area that is a stronghold for Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah were claimed by Islamic State.
Syria talks produce election road map after Paris attacks (Reuters) Russia, the United States and powers from Europe and the Middle East outlined a plan on Saturday for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, but differences remained on key issues such as President Bashar al-Assad's fate
Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea
Gene therapies offer dramatic promise but shocking costs (The Washington Post) Gene therapy involves administering corrected genetic material to fix malfunctioning genes at the root of some diseases. None are approved for use in the U.S. yet, but a gene therapy approved in Europe in 2012 costs close to $1 million. These amounts are likely to find insurers balking and few able to afford treatment on their own. Therapies in the pipeline are mostly for rare genetic diseases: sickle cell, hemophilia or immune deficiency. Their likely high prices stem from the expected value; unlike drugs that a person takes regularly, gene therapies are designed to be given once and have lasting effects. There are proposals on how to deal with this which are market based (see excerpt below) but Econintersect wonders if there are much more efficient systems optimization approaches that should be considered. If the cost to the healthcare system over the life of an individual afflicted with a genetic disorder is a large amount like $10,000 a year average over a lifetime, treating a young person, say 20 years old, is worth $600,000 by the time they are 80 (ignoring present value considerations). If elimination of the disease increases the average annual production of such an individual by $10,000, that is another $400,000 by age 60. From a systems analysis point of view the therapy is paid for and the improved quality of life for the individual is a "free" bonus. Finally, if all individuals afflicted with each genetic disorder for which there is a treatment were to receive the therapy, wouldn't there be economies of scale? The cost to provide, if $1,000,000 each for a few should be much less for many. For example, if treating 10 costs $10 million shouldn't treating 1,000 cost much less than 100 times as much? If half of the individual cost is fixed, then the variable cost would scale - the cost for 1,000 would be $505,000 each rather than $1 million.
But everyone involved anticipates the potential backlash against a seven-figure price tag, which is leading to radical proposals. Instead of paying for a treatment all at once, insurers and patients could make installment payments as long as the therapy works, similar to a mortgage on a house. Some researchers are adding up the cost of the traditional treatments that a patient will be able to avoid each year to determine a price that, although high, could lead to savings for the health-care system.
You should think twice before taking advantage of this retirement plan perk (The Washington Post) For people with decent retirement savings, borrowing or withdrawing from a retirement account to augment a nome purchase down payment can be a way to diversify investments by buyingan asset that can add to their total net worth. But people considering the move should take into account all of the costs they might face, including interest, lost investment growth and potential penalties if plans fall apart. There are a number of considerations that could make this a bad choice which are explained in this article.
America's poorest white town: abandoned by coal, swallowed by drugs (The Guardian) Beattyville, Kentucky is blighted by a lack of jobs and addiction to painkillers. Beattyville sits at the northern tip of a belt of the most enduring rural poverty in America. The belt runs from eastern Kentucky through the Mississippi delta to the Texas border with Mexico, taking in two of the other towns – one overwhelmingly African American and the other exclusively Latino – at the bottom of the low income scale. The town at the very bottom of that census list is an outlier far to the west on an Indian reservation in Arizona. The communities share common struggles in grappling with blighted histories and uncertain futures. People in Beattyville are not alone in wondering if their kind of rural town even has a future. To the young, such places can sometimes feel like traps in an age when social mobility in the US is diminishing and they face greater obstacles to a good education than other Americans.
This is how gullible General Mills thinks Americans are (The Washington Post) The consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is suing General Mills for selling a new product called Cheerios Protein, which the company introduced last year, under false pretenses. While General Mills did add 4 grams of protein more than in a serving of regular Cheerios (slightly more than double), the new product has 16 added grams of sugar, a 1600% increase.
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