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What We Read Today 02 December 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




  • Can devolution rebalance the UK Economy? (New Economics Foundation)  Over the last few months, you’ll have heard the Chancellor George Osborne outlining his plans to build a strong ‘Northern Powerhouse’ for the UK. This is the government’s attempt to rebalance the UK’s London-centric economy by attracting greater investment and improving transport links between Northern towns and cities, promising to deliver stronger regional growth, and yielding greater returns to the national purse.  It will be carried out through a series of on-going ‘devolution-deals’ – formal negotiations for the transfer of power and resources, in areas such as training and skills and transport planning, from Westminster to local areas. These new areas often cut across existing political boundaries, or regions and bring various local authorities into the mix – in search of ‘functional economic areas’.  This article concludes that, as they stand, ‘devolution deals’ are essentially handing down more control over a smaller pie. The evidence does not demonstrate a meaningful commitment from the government to move beyond a London-centric model of economic growth.  Instead devolution looks set to bring about more uneven development.


  • The 2 Cent Fine India's Telecom Tycoons Say May Cost $8 Billion (Bloomberg)  India is pressing ahead with an unprecedented plan to fine wireless operators one rupee (2 cents) from Jan. 1 for calls that unexpectedly disconnect mid-conversation, rejecting claims the step could cost the industry as much as $8 billion a year.  The levy, limited to three calls -- or 3 rupees -- a day per user, will be credited to customers for poor service, said R.S. Sharma, the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Networks are straining as investment hasn’t kept up with surging voice and especially data traffic, he said.

  • India's Jharia coal field has been burning for 100 years (CNBC)  One of India's largest and most productive coal fields is also home to some of the longest-burning fires in the world.  This is just one of the thousands of coal fires that are burning around the world — a costly and dangerous phenomenon involving a fuel source that has helped power economic development but is under attack in the age of global warming. 


  • Is the IMF Cutting Corners for China? (The Wall Street Journal)  Some IMF watchers say the IMF is giving the Asian powerhouse too much credit for a work that’s still in progress. Instead of encouraging economic liberalization, the fund may be accommodating the world’s second-largest economy as China gains new global clout.


  • Impeachment proceedings opened against Brazil's Rousseff (Al Jazeera)  Brazilian opposition efforts to unseat President Dilma Rousseff advanced on Wednesday when the speaker of lower house of Congress opened impeachment proceedings against her, a move that threatens to mire the government in political wrangling as the economy nosedives.  Opposition parties filed the request in September, accusing the unpopular president of violating Brazil's fiscal laws and manipulating government finances to benefit her reelection campaign last year. Lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha said he had agreed to open proceedings.

86 years of history point to year-end rally (CNBC)  December has never been the worst month of the years for stocks since 1928.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • How to Vet Nonprofits Before You Give (ProPublica)  Charity solicitations are as much a part of the holiday season as decorations. If you give, it’s a good idea to know what the nonprofit organization does with your money. Here’s one way: use ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer, a tool for researching the financial details of nonprofits.

  • Monster fund manager sticks pin in Silicon Valley's unicorn bubble (The Register)  Will Danoff of Contrafund – a retirement fund of Fidelity Investments that boasts $111 billion invested – has warned that his faith in so-called "unicorns" is not high.  "Unicorn" is the recent term given to companies valued at over $1bn. Until recently, the Valley was very excited about the term and there were endless seminars about the magic approaches that these rare companies were adopting.  Danoff has pricked the bubble of Silicon Valley by suggesting that today's enormous tech valuations are not realistic.

  • Obama Administration Targets ‘Unbanked’ Households in New Initiative (The Wall Street Journal) According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, some 26 million consumers in the U.S. didn’t have enough of a financial history in 2010 to get a credit score, meaning that paying rent and utility bills on time wouldn’t be sufficient to gain access to credit. He also said more attention was needed to help boost Americans’ inadequate retirement and rainy-day savings.  The Obama administration launched a new initiative this week to boost banking access for millions of Americans who don’t currently have checking or savings accounts.  The Treasury Department announced plans to partner with nonprofits and companies such J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.PayPal Holdings Inc.Coca-Cola and the Gates Foundation to reach low-income and other underserved populations in the U.S. and emerging countries through a series of pilot programs, grants, and other initiatives.

  • 8 things you need to know about climate economics (Road to Paris)  Very worthwhile quick read.

  • A Nudge In The Right Direction? How We Can Harness Behavioural Economics (Institute of Public Affairs)  There are research findings that don't fit into the traditional economics stories.  Among these,  we tend to rationalise our opinions, looking for evidence to confirm pre-existing views rather than threaten them. We imagine we are more competent - better informed and more skilled - than we actually are. We are loss averse: we fear losing money or status more than we enjoy gaining them.  These quirks are, strictly speaking, cognitive errors. They mean we make worse decisions than we would if we were meticulously rational, profit-maximising algorithms.  Behavioural economists overstate the novelty of these findings. Pre-modern economists knew very well that people were motivated by more than money - what Adam Smith called the "passions". But that sort of "humanomics" was lost when economics got all mathy. Economists are groping back to the earlier, richer picture of human motives and flaws. Behavioural economics is just one of the paths on the return.

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