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What We Read Today 04 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


  • Congress Moves to Sabotage the Paris Climate Summit (The New Yorker)  While President Obama is arguing for carbon emission limits, the Republican Congress is trying to send a message to undermine his efforts. The House has just approved two resolutions aimed at blocking regulations to curb U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. The first would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing rules aimed at cutting emissions from new power plants; the second would prevent the agency from enforcing rules targeted at existing power plants. Together, these rules are known as the Clean Power Plan, and they are crucial to the Americans’ negotiating position in Paris. (The Clean Power Plan is central to the United States’ pledge, made in advance of the summit, to cut its emissions by twenty-six per cent.) The House votes, which followed Senate approval of similar resolutions back in November, were, at least according to some members, explicitly aimed at subverting the talks. Lawmakers want to “send a message to the climate conference in Paris that in America, there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president,” Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, explained.  As long as Obama is president, however, the various bills have no chance of surviving a veto.  The message to the world, though, is that the U.S. will not limit carbon emissions if Republicans retain control of Congress in 2016 and a Republican president is elected.  Al Jazeera says that the Republican statements are "the latest sign Obama may bypass Congress with new climate agreement".

  • Oil Markets Decoupling From Economics Via OPEC Politics? (Seeking Alpha)  If economics are said to be fundamental in the price of oil, a meaningful amount of geopolitical imperatives appears to be underpinning the market as well. This, of course, comes in the form of OPEC. Several of its key members have regionally-oriented political reasons as well as economic necessities to keep pumping, that is to agree to maintain quotas but not strictly abide by them. The irony is that if they did honor the code, prices might firm up a bit. Even after the meeting of December 4th, any movement in earnest by OPEC will likely happen next year after the contours of demand and Iran's path is better understood.  See also next article.

  • OPEC Offers No Hope for End to Oil Slump as Target Removed (Bloomberg)



  • The Latest: Dutch police arrest young asylum-seeker  (Associated Press)  Dutch police have arrested an 18-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker suspected of membership in a terrorist organization.  The national prosecutor's office said Thursday the man was arrested Monday in The Hague after he told other asylum-seekers he was a fighter with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. An investigating judge has ordered the man, whose name was not released, held for two weeks.


Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rico Gets Supreme Court Hearing on Debt Restructuring (Bloomberg)  The U.S. Supreme Court will consider reinstating a Puerto Rico law that would let its debt-ridden public utilities restructure their obligations, agreeing to hear an appeal by the commonwealth as it tries to navigate out of its fiscal crisis.  The disputed law would affect $22 billion of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion in debt. That includes $8.2 billion owed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as Prepa, which is negotiating with its creditors and would gain new leverage from a ruling upholding the law. The high court will decide by June.

Business Investment Cools (Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture)  For all the talk about how investment is lagging during the recovery from the Great Recession, this data indicates investment is quite middle of the road - it has been the consumer holding the recovery back.  What might have caused this?  Econintersect suggests two possibilities:  (1) Slow growth of median household income and (2) household debt deleveraging.  Source:  The Wall Street Journal.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • 'Distress' In The US Bond Market: A Harbinger Of Financial Angst Down The Road? (Michael Haltman, LinkedIn)  MH has contributed to GEI.  Will the Fed or won't the Fed and, in fact, at the end of the day does it even matter when considering the health of lower rated companies?  Read “Distress” in US Corporate Debt Spikes to 2009 Level (Wolf Street)

  • The Magnificent Memory of Norman Lloyd (The New Yorker)  He was close friends with Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir, and Alfred Hitchcock (he played the Nazi spy who falls from the Statue of Liberty in Hitchcock’s “Saboteur”); he befriended Lion Feuchtwanger and Bertolt Brecht (he was the co-manager, alongside John Houseman, of the Coronet Theatre, where Brecht’s “Galileo” had its première); he knew the composers Arnold Schoenberg and Hanns Eisler.  Actor and director Norman Lloyd has just turned 101 and is still physical and mentally sharp.

  • New Publication: Economics and the Social Meaning of Money (Financial Access Initiative - NYU Wagner)  A key concept in economics is fungibility – that a “dollar is a dollar is a dollar.”  However, money also carries cultural and social significance.  In The Social Meaning of Money, Viviana Zelizer argues that people attach different meanings to different income sources.  A new publication from FAI Executive Director Jonathan Morduch reviews Zelizer’s book and applies key lessons to the economic study of poor households.

  • Replication and Transparency in Economic Research (Institute for New Economic Thinking)  In 2003, McCullough and Vinod wrote, “Research that cannot be replicated is not science, and cannot be trusted either as part of the profession’s accumulated body of knowledge or as a basis for policy.”  Twelve years later, the economics profession has made some progress: journals such as the American Economic Review and the Journal of Political Economy have data archives for empirical research and provide material, such as the code of the statistical software, which is necessary to obtain the published results, but these journals are in the minority.  The American Economic Review was leading the initiative for data archives, but it was criticized after the replication of its famous paper  Growth in a Time of Debt drew attention to the fact that the data availability policy was not binding for its papers and proceedings issues, in which short papers based on presentations held at the American Economic Association Annual Meeting are published.

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