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What We Read Today 09 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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Due to technical difficulties today's "What We Read Today" some content has been lost.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • Pentagon Insiders: ISIS War Plan is ‘Not Working’ (The Daily Beast)  It’s not just Obama’s critics in Congress who think he can’t defeat the Islamic State. Defense officials also say his plan will fail.  Calls are ringing out for "boots on the ground".

  • Blocking the Sun Is No Plan B for Global Warming (Scientific American)   Planet-wide geoengineering schemes might work—or backfire. Either way, there is no getting around the need to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere according to this article. 

  • The lethally high price of cheap oil (Al Jazeera)  Consumers may be saving now, but we’ll pay huge costs down the line without better policies.  David Kay Johnson (who has contributed to GEI) says policies are needed now to discourage energy waste in order to avoid much higher prices later.

  • New draft of climate accord leaves big issues unresolved (Associated Press)  With just two days left to reach a deal, negotiators at the world climate talks released a new draft Wednesday that drops the most radical ideas — including an international tribunal to punish polluters — but leaves major issues unresolved, such as who should pay to help the most vulnerable nations cope with global warming.

U.S.

  • America’s Education Bubble (Project Syndicate)  Mohamed El-Erian says the future of America's education finance system could parallel two recent other bubbles:  (1) the sub-prime morgtage/housing bubble which burts in 2008-2009 and (2) Chinese stock bubble which popped this year.  Some excerpts:

America’s effort to expand access to student loans – a fundamentally good initiative, aimed at enabling more people to pursue higher education – carries similar risks. Fortunately, there is still time to do something about it.

... though some 10% of borrowers already face repayment problems, the macroeconomic and financial tipping points remain some way off. But this is no excuse for complacency; it merely provides time for a concerted effort to implement measures that will ameliorate the destructive trends stemming from student loans.

...a broader move in the direction of non-debt financing of higher education is needed.

Afghanistan

  • Afghan Taliban kill dozens at Kandahar airport (BBC News)  Dozens of people have been killed in a Taliban attack on a heavily fortified civilian and military airfield in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.  The defence ministry said that at least 37 people, including many children, had been killed in the clashes. At least nine militants were also killed.  A number of hostages were seized in the 26-hour attack before Afghan forces retook the airport.  Final "mopping up operations" were now under way, military officials said.   An unspecified number of suicide bombers joined other attackers.


“Distress” in US Corporate Debt Spikes to 2009 Level (Wolf Richter, Wolf Street)  The $1.7 trillion junk bond market is in trouble.  

Standard & Poor’s “distress ratio” for bonds, which started rising a year ago, reached 20.1% by the end of November, up from 19.1% in October. It was its worst level since September 2009.

It engulfed 228 companies at the end of November, with $180 billion of distressed debt, up from 225 companies in October with $166 billion of distressed debt, S&P Capital IQ reported.

Bonds are “distressed” when prices have dropped so low that yields are 1,000 basis points (10 percentage points) above Treasury yields. The “distress ratio” is the number of non-defaulted distressed junk-bond issues divided by the total number of junk-bond issues. Once bonds take the next step and default, they’re pulled out of the “distress ratio” and added to the “default rate.”

US-SP-Distress-ratio2009_2015-11 

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Einstein is the most famous and beloved scientist of all time. We revere him not only as a scientific genius but also as a moral and even spiritual sage. Abraham Pais, Einstein's friend and biographer, called him "the divine man of the 20th century." To New York Times physics reporter Dennis Overbye, Einstein was an “icon" of "humanity in the face of the unknown."


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