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What We Read Today 07 January 2016

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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Today we have included:

  • Humans Change Earth Geology

  • Worst Ever Year Start for Global Stocks

  • Dow Worst Start of Year in Over a Century

  • U.S. December – First Time Ever Record Warmth and Wet in the Same Month

  • GMO Research Shows Illness and Tumors in Rats

  • French Commissioner Guilty of Forging Documents to Discredit GMO Research

  • Saudi Arabia Considering Gigantic IPO for Aramco

  • China Cancels Stock Market Circuit Breaker

  • Illustrated Varoufakis Interview by Jacobin

  • Ten Best Stocks for 2016

  • 50 Best Companies to Work For

  • How Economics Went from Theory to Data

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


Humans are altering the planet, including long-term global geologic processes, at an increasing rate. Any formal recognition of an Anthropocene epoch in the geological time scale hinges on whether humans have changed the Earth system sufficiently to produce a stratigraphic signature in sediments and ice that is distinct from that of the Holocene epoch. Proposals for marking the start of the Anthropocene include an “early Anthropocene” beginning with the spread of agriculture and deforestation; the Columbian Exchange of Old World and New World species; the Industrial Revolution at ~1800 CE; and the mid-20th century “Great Acceleration” of population growth and industrialization.

Recent anthropogenic deposits contain new minerals and rock types, reflecting rapid global dissemination of novel materials including elemental aluminum, concrete, and plastics that form abundant, rapidly evolving “technofossils.” Fossil fuel combustion has disseminated black carbon, inorganic ash spheres, and spherical carbonaceous particles worldwide, with a near-synchronous global increase around 1950. Anthropogenic sedimentary fluxes have intensified, including enhanced erosion caused by deforestation and road construction. Widespread sediment retention behind dams has amplified delta subsidence.

Recent anthropogenic deposits contain new minerals and rock types, reflecting rapid global dissemination of novel materials including elemental aluminum, concrete, and plastics that form abundant, rapidly evolving “technofossils.” Fossil fuel combustion has disseminated black carbon, inorganic ash spheres, and spherical carbonaceous particles worldwide, with a near-synchronous global increase around 1950. Anthropogenic sedimentary fluxes have intensified, including enhanced erosion caused by deforestation and road construction. Widespread sediment retention behind dams has amplified delta subsidence.

Detonation of the Trinity atomic device at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on 16 July 1945 initiated local nuclear fallout from 1945 to 1951, whereas thermonuclear weapons tests generated a clear global signal from 1952 to 1980, the so-called “bomb spike” of excess 14C, 239Pu, and other artificial radionuclides that peaks in 1964.

Atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentrations depart from Holocene and even Quaternary patterns starting at ~1850, and more markedly at ~1950, with an associated steep fall in δ13C that is captured by tree rings and calcareous fossils. An average global temperature increase of 0.6o to 0.9oC from 1900 to the present, occurring predominantly in the past 50 years, is now rising beyond the Holocene variation of the past 14,000 years, accompanied by a modest enrichment of δ18O in Greenland ice starting at ~1900. Global sea levels increased at 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/year from 1993 to 2010 and are now rising above Late Holocene rates.

Biologic changes also have been pronounced. Extinction rates have been far above background rates since 1500 and increased further in the 19th century and later; in addition, species assemblages have been altered worldwide by geologically unprecedented transglobal species invasions and changes associated with farming and fishing, permanently reconfiguring Earth’s biological trajectory. 



  • 2015 was the second warmest and third wettest year on record for US (Al Jazeera)  The year 2015 was the second warmest and third wettest year in the United States since recordkeeping began 121 years ago, according to a new federal report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The worst month of the year was the last. In December, when floods and tornadoes battered large swaths of the South and Midwest, temperatures were the warmest ever for the month — 6 degrees above the average for the 20th century.  According to Jake Crouch, an NOAA climate scientist:

“This is the first time that a month has been both the wettest and the warmest month on record.” 


European powers have learned the virtues of peace at home. But, as the UK vote shows, the curse of waging war in faraway lands continues.  

Lest we forget: European colonial powers subjugated vast territories and populations in Africa and Asia through duplicity and force; they departed amidst extensive violence. The French scorched earth conquest of Algeria in 1830 featured massacres and mass rapes. A century later, the Algerian war of independence left about a million dead. Scores of wars and the suppression of a rebellion in which British troops executed rebels trussed to the muzzles of cannons secured British rule in India. A chaotic partition that came with Indian independence in 1947 left at least half a million dead and twelve million homeless.


  • Major Court Victory for Scientists Who Proved the Real Truth about GMOs (EWAO)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  There are two court decisions covered in this article.  In the first, the research team headed by French Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini won a defamation lawsuit (06 November 2015) against French Marianne magazine which categorized the Séralini team published research as “scientific fraud (you can read more about the case here).”  Seralini had published research (peer-reviewed) showing that scientific feeding experiments past 90 days with GMO food and rats can cause serious health problems including tumors.  A second case for libel, against Marc Fallous, the former chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission, alleged “forgery” and the “use of forgery” in producing documents cited by the French Marianne article, has found M. Fallous criminally guilty.  The details of the case have not been officially released.

Saudi Arabia

  • Rupture with Iran may not have been Saudi aim, but Riyadh has no regrets (Reuters)  The diplomatic rupture with Iran triggered by the execution of a Shi'ite cleric was probably a side effect of a decision taken by Saudi Arabia for domestic reasons, rather than the outcome of a deliberate ploy to enrage its regional opponent.  But whether or not they intended to raise the heat in a tense rivalry that already underpins wars across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia's new rulers have shown no sign of regret.  Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defense minister, reassured the world on Thursday the crisis would stop short of an all-out war between the Gulf region's main powers.


  • Syrian government 'to let aid into besieged Madaya' (BBC News)   The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the besieged rebel-held village of Madaya, the UN says, amid reports of residents starving to death.  The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said that if access were secured, trucks could begin to arrive by Monday.  Aid agencies say conditions in Madaya, near Damascus, are "extremely dire".  The UN said it also had government permission for access to Kefraya and Foah in the north but, unlike Madaya, these are besieged by rebel forces.


  • Circuit Breaker Suspension Renews Concern China Lacks Game Plan (Bloomberg)  China pulling the plug on a new stock circuit breaker and weakening its currency less than a week into 2016 revived anxiety that the world’s second largest economy is groping in the policy dark.  The circuit breaker closed markets with a limit down of 7% and that has been triggered twice this week - today less than half an hour after markets opened for the day.

  • Kerry urges China to end 'business as usual' with North Korea (Reuters)  The United States called on China on Thursday to end "business as usual" with its ally North Korea after Pyongyang defied world powers by announcing it had tested a hydrogen bomb.  China is the North's main economic and diplomatic backer although relations between the two Cold War allies have cooled in recent years.  The vast majority of North Korea's business dealings are with China, which bought 90% of the isolated country's exports in 2013, according to data compiled by South Korea's International Trade Association.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he made clear in a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China's approach to North Korea had failed.  Kerry told reporters:

"China had a particular approach that it wanted to make, that we agreed and respected to give them space to implement that.  Today in my conversation with the Chinese I made it very clear that has not worked and we cannot continue business as usual."

North Korea

The Man Who Knew Too Much (Jacobin)  This is an illustrated interview with former Greek Finance Minister (and occasional GEI contributor) Yanis Varoufakis.  Below are two illustration panels.  Several more are in the interview report.

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • The 10 Best Stocks to Buy for 2016 (Investor Place)  The annual Best Stocks contest pits professional money managers, financial experts and business writers against one another, and whoever picks the best-performing stock of 2016 takes the cake at the end of the year.  The 10 Best Stocks for 2016 hail from a variety of industries and sectors, with restaurants, industrial goods, application software, information technology, financials, pipelines and even a paper company making the cut.

  • 2016’s best places to work – Part 1 (Employee Benefit News)  Glassdoor’s annual list of best places to work in 2016 identifies companies that received high marks for pay, perks and for having a work culture that is collaborative, exciting and recognizes its workers’ value.  The data is collected from employee reviews.  This article presents 25 top companies in a slide show.

  • 2016’s best places to work – part 2 (Employee Benefit News)  Here are 25 more companies with incredible perks and a seamless work-life balance, Glassdoor’s list of best places to work in 2016 continues with these top  companies, which were rated based on employee reviews.

  • Why the U.S. Should Never Host Another Olympics (Outside)  It's expensive, demanding, and in the eyes of the many cities that have refused to throw their hats into the five-ring circus, a total scam.  In the run for host of the 2024 Olympics, Hamburg and Boston have already asked that their names be withdrawn from the final list of five cities from which the winning bid will be announced in September 2017.  The list has grown again to four with Los Angeles joining Paris, Rome and Budapest in contention.  But a fifth candidate has not come forward after several months with an incomplete slate.  Almost no one wants the Olympics any more. 

  • How Economics Went From Theory to Data (Bloomberg)  One of the most striking things about attending the annual meeting of the American Economic Association after a long absence is that economics is now really all about the data. Older theorists such as Eric Maskin (who won the 2007 economics Nobel), Jean Tirole (the 2014 Nobelist) and Bengt Holmstrom were still accorded prominent roles as luncheon speakers at this week's gathering in San Francisco, but in the sessions where actual research was being presented most of the activity and excitement surrounded empirical work.

  • Jelly Donut Economics: Are Low Rates Really Hurting The U.S. Economy? (Seeking Alpha)  A lot of theory and data review leads to this conclusion:

Seven years of low rates have virtually disabled the Fed to positively affect domestic output. That said, hiking rates poses significant risk to commodity prices and emerging markets, both of which could drag on the US economy. It is difficult to determine whether or not Americans are saving more because of low rates, but in any case with savings rates in the mid-single digits, they aren't exactly hoarding money that they could otherwise be using to consume. These analyses are all focused on the relative short-term, but regardless of the immediate consequences, hiking rates is ultimately crucial to restoring the power of the Fed to affect the economy.

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