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What We Read Today 31 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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Topics today include:

  • It's the Fed's Fault:  JP Morgan

  • Japan Monetizing Debt

  • Migrants Feeding Slave Trade?

  • Record January Death Toll for Migrants

  • Cyberloafing

  • Irrationality of Pundits?

  • John Stuart Mill:  Where Are You?

  • Eastern Mountain Lions

  • The Catamount - A Poem

  • And More


  • JPMorgan slashes outlook for stocks, citing Fed's 'diverging pressures' (CNBC)   Is growth for U.S. equities in serious jeopardy thanks to the Federal Reserve's interest rate policies? JPMorgan Chase says yes. Among Wall Street's largest banks, the firm now has the most bearish position on the S&P 500 Index. Having previously ended 2015 with an S&P price target of 2,200, JPMorgan recently cut that number to 2,000.  Citing poor earnings, the banks believes stocks will continue to stall in the new year. To date, a third of the S&P 500 has reported negative growth in both earnings and revenue.   


  • More than 10,000 refugee children missing in Europe (Al Jazeera)  More than 10,000 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children have disappeared in Europe, the EU police agency Europol said on Sunday, fearing many have been whisked into sex trafficking rings or the slave trade.

  • Deadliest January on record for refugees raises alarm (Al Jazeera)  The number of refugees who have died while trying to reach Europe has surged to a January record.  As of January 29, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded the deaths of at least 244 refugees and migrants who tried to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, nearly three times the 82 people who died last January, and overwhelmingly more than the 12 people who died in January 2014.  Some 55,528 refugees and migrants have arrived to Europe so far this year, according to the IOM.


  • Dozens killed by bombs in Syria, clouding UN peace session (Associated Press)  There are factions in Syria who do not want a peace process compromise - they want victory.  A triple bombing killed at least 50 people in a predominantly Shiite suburb south of the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday even as a U.N. mediator held his first meeting with members of the main opposition group that seeks progress on humanitarian issues before it will join formal talks on ending the five-year civil war.  The attacks were claimed by militants from the Islamic State group, and Syria's delegate to the U.N.-sponsored peace talks said the violence confirmed the connection between "terrorism" and "some political groups" — a reference to those who oppose President Bashar Assad.  Econintersect:  So one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter?  And vice versa?


Iran’s arrest of US sailors in their waters provides opportunity for our hawks to wave a fake bloody shirt, hoping to make the US public fear and despise Iran. That this daft jingoism is considered acceptable, even routine, fare in our newspapers shows how much we’ve adopted Imperial thinking — and abandoned common sense. 


  • BOJ Market Magician Kuroda Pulls Yet Another Rabbit From His Hat (Bloomberg)  This article says that "the Bank of Japan is falling deeper and deeper down the monetary rabbit hole".  Econintersect:  Could we be about to find out what happens when a central bank monetizes a large percentage of its county's debt?  That has been long considered very bad (resulting in hyperinflation for example).  But is it really bad?  Japan may tell us.

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

  • The economics of cyberloafing at work (The Sydney Morning Herald)  A study by American academics Joseph Ugrin and John Pearson published in 2013 found between 60 and 80 percent of people's time on the internet at work had nothing to do with work. Their survey of American office workers found older employees tended to spend time managing their finances online while younger workers spent more time on social networking sites like Facebook.

  • Why did the Romans decimate? (Quora)  Why does a word which literally should mean to reduce by a tenth or reduce to one-tenth come to mean utterly destroy? Here is the explanation:

Decimation was a military punishment used very rarely as an extreme penalty for a unit which deserted or showed cowardice.  In its most common form the unit was divided into groups of ten and each group then drew lots, with the loser then being executed by stoning or being clubbed to death by the remaining nine.  The survivors then suffered other punishments, such as being given barley rations instead of wheat and being made to sleep outside the ramparts of the camp.

Overheard phrases provide grist for the economic poseur’s apparent familiarity with economic theory. All he needs is a list of the buzz words to explain almost any business news. These handy words, never mind what they mean, are easy to remember -- globalization, emerging markets, risk appetite, investor sentiment, and widespread poverty. More recent possibilities include “hard landing for China”, or “the swan dive of commodities”.

The irritation factor rises when the explanation turns into a long monologue as the pseudo economist starts to convince even himself that he understands concepts he is barely pronouncing correctly.

  • When theory falls short: Leveling economics and law (   All too often, lawyer-economists use economic theory to examine the legal world, and if the theory does not justify and explain what is going on, these scholars quickly declare the world (the legal rules and the behavior that brought them about) to be irrational, and hence in need of change. Sometimes they are right; the law doesn't make much sense. Many times, however, it's the theory that's lacking.  This is the opposite of what John Stuart Milll advised:

"When the theory does not fit, think again."

  • Have You Seen A Mountain Lion? Many Say They Have (Adirondack Almanack)  There have been repeated sightings of mountain lions in the northeastern U.S., completely dismissed by wildlife authorities until one night in June 2011 when one was struck and killed by a car on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut (see next article).  Below are pictures of the last mountain lion (aka catamount, panther, painter, puma) killed by a hunter in Maine in 1938.  Also shown below, a hunter lifting a dead mountain lion and a map of reported but unconfirmed sightings in the Adirondack Park area from 1950 to 2000.  See also next two articles.



  • State: mountain lion came from South Dakota (ctpost)  The mountain lion that was killed in Milford on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in June traveled halfway across the country, state officials said Tuesday.  Below are a roadside photo taken by a state trooper and a "mortuary" photo taken after the body was removed from the roadway.  This occurred just 3 months after the eastern mountain lion was officially declared extinct Econintersect:  This story raises the question of whether the western mountain lion and eastern 'painter' were ever really two completely isolated populations.



  • The Catamount Still Lives (A fantasy poem by John Lounsbury)  This was posted previously in March 2011 when the extinction announcement was made (see article referenced in preceding article discussion):  U.S. Says Eastern Cougar Extinct. GEI Editor Disagrees (GEI News).  The poem was written in 2002.

The Catamount

By John B. Lounsbury

The Catamount most surely lives.
His claw a vicious blemish gives
To Adirondack mountain sides
The famous, open, slashing slides.

The beast remains by man unseen.
But when rain flood comes on the scene,
The cat comes out from hidden lair
To seek a victim for his fare.

His claw digs deep for mountain blood,
The nectar in his thirst for food.
And, when the sun comes out once more,
We see the slide, a brand new score.

On every hike I hope to see,
Behind each rock, in every tree,
A glimpse of the elusive cat
Within his native habitat.

But never once a sighting made,
And hope has long begun to fade
Of ever seeing mountain cat.
It’s just his handiwork looked at.

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