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What We Read Today 23 February 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:

  • Time to Buy Emerging Market Debt?

  • More Clinton E-mail

  • States with Largest Foreclosure Problems

  • GOP Senate Leaders Vow to Block SCOTUS Hearings

  • Ferguson:  A Victim of Muni Bonds

  • Public Banking for Public Money

  • London and Frankfurt Exchanges Talk Merger

  • Kurds, Turkey and Islamic State Relationships

  • When Will Saudi Arabia Go Broke?

  • China:  Economy Slows While Banks Expand

  • Keynesian Economics and Europe

  • Truth About Metabolism

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • BlackRock Says It's Time to Consider Buying Emerging-Market Debt (Bloomberg)  The worst may be over for emerging-market bonds, and it’s time to consider adding exposure to local markets, according to BlackRock Inc.  Bond prices already reflect low commodity prices, and the dovishness of major global central banks has made “riskier” assets more attractive, injecting a new life into the search for yield, BlackRock’s emerging-market debt managers wrote in a research note Tuesday. China’s economic slowdown has also stabilized, and policy makers there appear to be “more comfortable with the current level” of the yuan, according to the team led by Pablo Goldberg and Sergio Trigo Paz.  But they also caution they may be early with this call for emerging-market bonds:

“It is premature to say that the weather has totally cleared.  But with many of the market ‘negatives’ accounted for, it is time to concentrate on some of the ‘positives,’ which we see gaining strength as market drivers going forward.”



  • U.S. judge orders discovery to go forward over Clinton’s private email system (The Washington Post)  A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that State Department officials and top aides to Hillary Clinton should be questioned under oath about whether they intentionally thwarted federal open records laws by using or allowing the use of a private email server throughout Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.  The decision by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington came in a lawsuit over public records brought by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog group, regarding its May 2013 request, for information about the employment arrangement of Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide.

  • 10 States With the Biggest Foreclosure Problems (  Foreclosures on U.S. housing units continue to decline, falling to a nearly 10-year low in January, according to real estate data company RealtyTrac. Last month, there were 95,186 homes with a foreclosure filing — notice of default, scheduled auction or bank repossession — down 8% from December 2015 and down 11% from January 2015. Much of the foreclosure activity is concentrated at the end of the process (bank repossession), with completed foreclosures up 32% from the same time last year. Completed foreclosures (which RealtyTrac uses interchangeably with bank repossessions, or REOs), have increased year-over-year for 7 months in a row.  But foreclosure starts (notices of default) were down 18% from January 2015. Foreclosure starts have decreased year-over-year for 7 straight months, as well, and are at pre-recession levels, according to RealtyTrac.  The top three states for foreclosure rates now are (go here for top 10 states with summary data): 

  1. New Jersey

  2. Nevada

  3. Maryland

  • GOP Senators: No hearing, no vote for Obama Court pick (Associated Press)  The Senate will take no action on anyone President Barack Obama nominates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday as nearly all Republicans rallied behind his calls to leave the seat vacant for the next president to fill.  The announcement by McConnell, R-Ky., came after Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee ruled out any hearing for an Obama pick.  See special report from ProPublica tonight on GEI, which discusses the GOP strategy and why this move is such a huge gamble.

  • Ferguson's Fortune 500 Company (The Atlantic)  Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm - Emerson Electric - with more than $20 billion a year in revenue. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars.  Instead, the cash-starved municipality relies on its cops and its courts to extract millions in fines and fees from its poorest residents, issuing thousands of citations each year. Those tickets plug a financial hole created by the ways in which the city, the county, and the state have chosen to apportion the costs of public services. A century or more of public-policy choices protect the wallets of largely white business and property owners and pass the bills along to disproportionately black renters and local residents.  While this article focuses on the social issues involving practices that are best described as racial discrimination, notably in property taxation as well as policing actions, the use of municipal bond issuance to benefit the white corporate establishment (and paid for by the community poor) is also mentioned, buried deep in the article.  See also next article and public banking articles later today, below. 

  • What Wall Street Costs America (Public Banking Institute)  The vast amount of money paid to Wall Street by America’s cities, counties, and states has profound impacts on our lives and local economies. Most citizens don’t know about it – they just pay it. It’s a staggering amount: Hundreds of billions of dollars move from taxpayer pockets into private Wall Street hands each year in the form of interest payments on bonds, loans, fees, and financial product costs for which the people pay money to privateers for the privilege of using what should be the public's own money.  This article claims the results are:

  • School closures

  • Lost jobs

  • Life-long student debt

  • Reduced public services and infrastructure

  • Privatized public assets, and

  • Stymied local businesses who can’t get affordable funding to grow.


  • London Stock Exchange Is in Merger Talks With German Rival (Bloomberg)  London Stock Exchange Group Plc said it was in merger talks with Deutsche Boerse AG, a deal that would create the dominant European exchange operator.  Just three days after British Prime Minister David Cameron set a date for a referendum on leaving the European Union, the London and Frankfurt-based market operators confirmed the discussions to create a business worth more than £20 billion ($28 billion). Shares in both companies soared.


  • Ankara blast: DNA tests suggest bomber born in Turkey (BBC News)  The bomber behind a deadly blast in the Turkish capital Ankara was Turkish-born, security officials say, not from Syria as the government initially said.  However, the government has insisted there is a link between the attack and Syrian Kurdish fighters.  Prosecutors and security officials said DNA tests had identified the bomber as Abdulbaki Somer, born in the eastern Turkish city of Van.  According to Wikipedia, "Van has a Kurdish majority and a sizable Turkish minority."  The relationships between Turkey, the three national Kurd groups and the Islamic State is summarized in the graphic below.


  • Analysis: Despite skepticism, Syrian truce may have a chance (Associated Press)  After five years of carnage, the Syrian civil war can seem poised to go on indefinitely. But the "cessation of hostilities" engineered by the U.S. and Russia may actually stand a chance, in part because of the weakness of the mainstream rebels fighting President Bashar Assad.

  • Kerry issues warning as Syrian parties back halt to fighting (Reuters)  The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups have accepted a plan for a cessation of hostilities to begin on Saturday and the United States warned it would be hard to hold the country together if the fighting does not stop.  With hostilities reported on several fronts, rebels backed by Saudi Arabia expressed doubts about the proposal, which excludes attacks by the Syrian army and its Russian backers on the jihadist groups Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Saudi-backed rebels said Russia had stepped up air strikes since the plan was announced on Monday. 

Saudi Arabia



  • Swedish teen rescued from Islamic State (Reuters)  An unnamed 16 year old from the town of Boras in Sweden was reportedly rescued from Islamic State captivity after a raid by Kurdish special forces near the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq. The Kurdish security council says the girl had been misled into traveling from Sweden to Syria last year with her boyfriend and later crossed into Iraq where she was captured. Now that she's been freed, she'll be handed over to Swedish authorities, and taken home.

China Slowdown (Walter Kurtz, The Daily Shot)  The economic slowdown in China continues as the banking system continues to expand.



Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • Money revolution: making banks public and locally accountable (Ellen Brown, Ecologost)  EB contributes to GEI.  The private banking system that dominates North America and Europe works very well indeed, writes Ellen Brown - for the bankers. As for us, it's a disaster, as the banks use their monopoly over the creation of money itself, at interest, as a tool to extract ever more value from us and the entire economy. But there is another way!  The world is undergoing a populist revival.  Citing the nearly 100-year-old Bank of North Dakota (see next article), she writes:

"We need a banking system that truly serves the needs of the people, and that objective can best be achieved with banks that are owned and operated by and for the people."

Grand Forks became eligible this week for a $15 million loan from the Bank of North Dakota, paving the way for financing a slew of city projects.

City leaders say it's a prime opportunity to pay for work like expanding the city's wastewater system or for building portions of the city's future water treatment plant, especially in an economic climate in which state legislators appear less willing to spend on local infrastructure.

The EU is currently experiencing a modest economic recovery: real GDP growth is expected to rise from by 1.95% in 2016, and in 2015 the unemployment rate slightly decreased to 9.3% in the EU and to 10.8% in the Eurozone. However, what threatens the labor market and growth in Europe is the nature of unemployment. In the EU, half of the unemployed (23 million people) have not been working for more than a year, one-fifth are young, and nearly 40% of the latter are in both conditions, i.e. young and unemployed for more than one year. All those people are more likely to become discouraged and leave the labor market with an erosion of skills, a decline of capacity and a lower, if any, probability to find a new job when the labor market will begin to recover.

  • More on Drug War Economics (Drug War Rant)  Some good sources here on economic of the drug war, from cartel business models to costs in users societies.

  • Smoking v. Obesity: The Economics Of Prevention And Its Dependence On Treatment (Health Affairs Blog)  In 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an in-depth study of the health and budgetary effects of raising the excise tax on cigarettes. We commented on this study in our blog about the complex economics of disease prevention and longevity. CBO has since turned its attention to obesity and recently released a list of issues needing resolution in order for CBO to estimate the effects of federal policies impacting obesity.  This article discusses research on the question:  Do health care savings at younger ages for smoking and obesity reduction get canceled by larger old-age costs arising from the resulting increased longevity?  Econintersect:  What a question!  If it costs more to improve quality of life then we should let people suffer?  Oh, wait a minute ...  That sounds like economic optimization.  Something is seriously wrong here - people aren't important, the economy is?  Back to the middle ages where the serfs were not important, the lords, bishops and kings were.

  • The Truth About Slow Metabolism (AP, HealthGrades)   Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) determines how many calories you burn at rest, such as sitting on the couch. Your BMR is how many calories you need just to make your body function. Each person’s BMR varies a bit.  But ultimately the question of body weight is determined by a combination of diet and activity level - a basic balance between energy in and energy out. The BMR is, for most people, just background music to the primary symphony. (Econintersect metaphor.)  Several factors influence how fast or slow your BMR is including:

  • Your weight—heavier or larger people have higher metabolic rates compared to smaller people.

  • Your body composition—people with more muscle mass have higher metabolic rates than people with less muscles mass.

  • Your gender—men tend to have more muscle mass than women, resulting in higher metabolic rates.

  • Your age—muscle mass tends to decrease with age, which slows your metabolic rate as you get older.

  • Forwarded today by Gary (source unkown): 

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