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What We Read Today 25 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".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Notice:  Because of staff vacations (1/2 of our regular staff will be on vacation from now through 02 December) the content of WWRT may vary in quantity from day to day, publication times will vary and some days may be skipped.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Putin sends air-defense missiles to Syria to deter Turkey (Associated Press)  In a move raising the potential potential threat of a Russia-NATO conflict, Russia said Wednesday it will deploy long-range air defense missiles to its base in Syria and destroy any target that may threaten its warplanes following the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey.  The incident was the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane. If Russia responds by downing a Turkish plane, NATO member Turkey could proclaim itself under attack and ask the alliance for military assistance.  Most observers believe that a direct military confrontation is unlikely, but that the shooting down of the plane will further fuel the Syrian conflict and complicate international peace efforts.

  • The Latest: UK envoy: Jet downing must spur end to Syria war (Associated Press)  Britain's U.N. ambassador says  Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet must lead to redoubled efforts to end the Syrian conflict.  Matthew Rycroft told reporters in New York on Wednesday that the longer the conflict goes on, "the more scope there is for these sorts happen  and  York on Wednesday that the longer the conflict goes on, "the more scope there is for these sorts of incidents happen and they are very dangerous.


  • Bombed MSF Kunduz hospital was on US no-strike list before attack (Al Jazeera)  The crew of a U.S. warplane that attacked a medical charity's hospital in northern Afghanistan last month provided its operational headquarters with coordinates for the site — which was on a no-strike list — before the assault, which killed and wounded dozens of civilians, according to an internal Pentagon investigation.  After internal investigation, US Army Gen. John Campbell calls attack ‘human and process error’.


  • Yuan Fixing Near Post-Devaluation Low Is Bearish Sign to SocGen (Bloomberg)  China’s reference rate for the yuan is approaching the weakest level since an August devaluation and a breach of the low would likely fuel speculation that policy makers are prepared to let the currency depreciate, according to Societe Generale SA.


Japanese Department Store May Want to Look Up the Word 'Fucking'

The Myth of Working Your Way Through College (The Atlantic)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  A lot of Internet ink has been spilled over how lazy and entitled Millennials are, but when it comes to paying for a college education, work ethic isn't the limiting factor. The economic cards are stacked such that today’s average college student, without support from financial aid and family resources, would need to complete 48 hours of minimum-wage work a week to pay for his courses—a feat that would require superhuman endurance, or maybe a time machine.  See also The Economics of Higher Education: Why Does It Cost So Much? (GEI Analysis).

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • Flaws in "Economics 101" Arguments Pose Grave Risk to Internet Commenters (Gawker)  As you all know, there is no internet comment more devastating and definitive than saying something is “Economics 101”—thereby proving that you are right, beyond any doubt. Sadly, this important internet commenting device is now threatened.  Scientists working on the cutting edge of statistical research have discove (Bloomberg)red that there may, against all odds, be a level of economic knowledge that exists beyond Econ 101—a sort of “Econ 102,” if you will. Needless to say, the implications for internet commenters are grave indeed.  See next article.

  • Most of What You Learned in Econ 101 Is Wrong (Bloomberg)   Harvard's Greg Mankiw, author of the most popular college introductory economics textbook, is often regarded as America's econ teacher. He famously refers to his "Principles of Economics" as "my favorite textbook," and I must admit that it's also my favorite. It's written in a clear, explanatory style and covers the basics of most important theories in modern economics.  But Mankiw's book, like every introductory econ textbook I know of, has a big problem. Most of what's in it is probably wrong.   In the last three decades, the economics profession has undergone a profound shift. The rise of information technology and new statistical methods has dramatically increased the importance of data and empirics. This means that many professional economists are no longer, as empirical pioneer David Card put it, "mathematical philosophers." Instead, they are more like scientists, digging through mountains of evidence to find precious grains of truth. 

  • Should Treasury Ditch the Penny? It’s Under Review (The Wall Street Journnal)   The Treasury Department, which has already announced plans to put a woman on the $10 bill, is also conducting a review to see if it still makes sense to keep the penny.  Critics have said the penny should be eliminated because it is both a nuisance and a waste, since it costs more to make than it’s worth.  The separate $10 bill proposal, which has generated surprising backlash from devotees of Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury’s founder whose portrait has adorned the note since the 1930s.  Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Monday:

“We’ve been looking at the penny for a long time, because obviously the value of a penny has gotten smaller and smaller as time has gone on. Even with low inflation, it continues to diminish.”

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