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What We Read Today 24 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".).


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Topics today include:

  • Do Friends Affect Your Health?

  • Who is Electable?

  • Giant Megalodon Sharks

  • Would-be Samaritan Europe

  • Australia Job Growth

  • Japan's High Cost of Aging

  • Record Cold, Snow in China

  • McDonald's Comeback

  • High Airline Profits

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Giant monster Megalodon sharks lurking in our oceans: be serious! (The Conversation)  Web pages feature frightening movie clips claiming to show evidence that the gigantic fossil shark, once reaching around 17m in length, is still alive out there, perhaps living in deep seas where they escape detection.  But there is no evidence that "megalodon" actually exists (except inh Hollywood).


  • A perfect day for a snowball fight after massive blizzard (Associated Press)   Brilliant sunshine and gently rising temperatures followed the mammoth blizzard that paralyzed Washington and set a single-day snowfall record in New York City, enabling millions to dig out Sunday and enjoy the winter.  The timing could not have been better: Most people stayed home as the heaviest snow fell Friday evening and all day Saturday, enabling crews to clear roads and rails, then awoke Sunday to see grimy cities blanketed in lovely but unfamiliar terrains.

  • Birinyi More Worried About Markets Than Any Time Since 2009 (Bloomberg)  The difficulty of forecasting outcomes in places like China has left Laszlo Birinyi more worried about stocks than he’s been since 2009, when their recovery from the financial crisis was just beginning.  He is also worried about continued surplus of oil, Apple and the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Video shows a number of short interview snippets from Davos (Birinyi not included).


  • Europe’s a challenging place for would-be Samaritans (The Conversations)  Everyone agrees there’s a humanitarian disaster and that something ought to be done, but no-one knows quite what or by whom. The limits of good intentions have been painfully revealed by Angela Merkel’s now threadbare claim that “we can do this”. Clearly there’s no “we” to do it.


  • Despite patrols, sealing Greek sea border is near impossible (Associated Press)  Hour after hour, by night and by day, Greek coast guard patrols and lifeboats, reinforced by vessels from the European Union's border agency Frontex, ply the waters of the eastern Aegean Sea along the frontier with Turkey. They are on the lookout for people being smuggled onto the shores of Greek islands — the front line of Europe's massive refugee crisis.  Although smugglers are often arrested, the task is mainly a search-and-rescue role. Hours spent on patrol shows the near-impossibility of sealing Europe's sea borders as some have demanded of Greece, whose islands so near to Turkey are the most popular gateway into Europe.



  • India and France pitch for joint fight to wipe out extremism (The Times of India)  French President Francois Hollande is in Induia for three days to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss concern over the growing menace of terrorism in the backdrop of attacks in Paris and Pathankot.  Modi has proposed a  collective fight to defeat the "enemies of humanity".


  • Japan offers us many lessons in embracing longevity (The Conversation)  Japan is famous for the longevity of its citizens. A quarter of its population is older than 65.   In 2000, following a decade of stagnant growth, mounting public debt and skyrocketing hospitalisation, Japan introduced the Long-Term Care Insurance Scheme (LTCIS). This universal and compulsory scheme provides support to assess and deliver care through institutional or community-based services for all people over 65. It provides sufficient funds to allow everyone to age in place – even those in public housing and with late-onset dementia.  The scheme represents one of the boldest social democratic experiments in aged care policy in the last 30 years. Yet with bold experiments come surprises.  To the chagrin of the scheme’s designers the LTCIS has been too successful. Cheaper to implement than the policy it replaced, it is still oversubscribed and contributing to Japan’s public debt (230% of GDP).


  • China Bears Descend on Alibaba as Investors Fret About Economy (Bloomberg)  U.S. short sellers have pushed bets against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to the highest in more than 14 months on concern that China’s deepest economic slowdown since 1990 will only get worse.  Short interest in China’s biggest online retailer surged to 7.5% of shares outstanding on Jan. 21, the highest since November 2014, according to data compiled by Markit and Bloomberg. That is more than double from a Dec. 1 low. Bearish bets on rival Inc. have hovered around 2% since last month.

  • Heavy snowfall and freezing weather hits China (BBC News)  Heavy snowfall and freezing cold temperatures in China, Hong Kong and Japan have been breaking temperature records, as well as causing transport gridlock.  Meanwhile Alaska is much warmer than usual with wide areas lacking snow.  See Snowmageddon 1.

  • China 'Will Not Initiate Military Conflict' Over Island Disputes: Expert (NBC News)   China will not start a war over disputed islands in the South China Sea amid recent muscle-flexing, experts with close links to the country's government told NBC News.  According to Wu Shicun, the former foreign affairs chief of Hainan province, an island in the South China Sea:

"We will not initiate military conflict to recover islands illegally occupied by other countries.  Our stand is to resort to negotiations [with] the countries directly involved, to resolve the territorial and maritime disputes."




Here Are The Candidates Voters Think Can Actually Win In November (The Huffington Post)  This is all interesting but surveys indicate that few are basing their own vote on electability.



  • How your friends affect your health (The Conversation)  Growing evidence suggests disease spreads through social networks. According to a US study which followed 12,000 people for 32 years, if you have a close friend who becomes obese, your chances of becoming obese increase by 171%. And your risk of attempting suicide is four times higher if you have a friend who has tried to kill themselves.  So, if social networks can make you sick, can they also make you healthier? It seems they can, but in one of life’s annoying asymmetries, the health effect doesn’t seem to be as strong as the illness effect.

  • Director Adam McKay reveals how The Big Short can help explain economics (Irish Examiner)  The film, which is also nominated for best picture at the 2016 Oscars, centres on the global financial crisis and the sub-prime mortgage bubble.  Econintersect:  The story is entertaining but a gross over simplification of what actually happened.  Let's hope that, for the general public, a little knowledge does not turn out to be a dangerous thing.  For more in depth discussion see Debunking The Big Short: How Michael Lewis Turned The Real Villains Of The Crisis Into Heros 

  • Alphabet Close to Overtaking Apple as Most Valuable Company (The New York Times)  The Google powerhouse traded on Friday morning with an equity value above $500 billion, less than 10% shy of Apple’s value. Investors value the search firm’s earnings from rapidly growing digital advertising more than twice as highly as Apple’s in a saturating smartphone market. Wall Street, however, may be overlooking Alphabet’s risks.

  • McDonald’s: A Great American McComeback? (WGNO)  The fast food giant will report its fourth quarter sales and earnings on Monday. And Wall Street actually has fairly high hopes for McDonald’s in what seems like the first time in forever.  Analysts are predicting that the company will build on the momentum that began in the third quarter, when McDonald’s reported same-store sales growth of 0.9%. That was its first sales increase in two years.  Expectations for fourth quarter are for growth of 2.1%.

  • Lower fuel prices boost airline profits, but fares to hold steady (Los Angeles Times)  The  nation's airlines are reporting soaring 2015 profits largely because of sinking fuel prices. The record income, however, isn't translating into big cuts in airfares.  In hopes of appeasing travelers, some carriers are buying newer planes and remodeling terminals. One airline has even brought back free snacks for economy-section fliers.  In earnings reports released this week, executives from the country's biggest carriers crowed about profits that have surpassed totals reported before the Great Recession and the 2001 terrorist attacks.

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