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What We Read Today 15 March 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:

  • Why Someone Thinks the Last Thing We Need is a Brilliant President

  • Trickle Up Economics

  • Oil Execs Move to Clean Energy

  • Does Education Level Relate to Probability of Becoming a Billionaire?

  • Does Astrology Relate to Your Chances of Becoming Rich?

  • What Percentage of Non-U.S. Sovereign Bonds Now Pat Negative Interest?

  • What Is Happening to the Arctic?

  • February 2016 Temperature Records

  • First U.S. Shale Gas Exports

  • House GOP Committee Passes Budget Proposal

  • Subprime Car Loan Delinquencies Higher than in the Great Recession

  • Chinese Corporations Getting Money out of the Country

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world




  • February Temperature (Arctic News) The biggest climate risk from warming of the arctic is for accelerated releases of frozen methane.  While release from thawing permafrost is a concern, the biggest effects could come from methane hydrates trapped for ages on the Arctic Ocean floor.  The 135-year history of global warming data is displayed in one of the many graphics in this excellent review article.  The base line of zero is based on the average temperature 1951-1980.

Click for large image.


  • Tanker Carrying First U.S. Shale Gas Export Entering Brazil Port (Bloomberg)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.   The tanker carrying the first cargo of natural gas from U.S. shale formations was entering Brazil on Tuesday after leaving Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana on Feb. 24.  The liquefied natural gas tanker Asia Vision was arriving at port in Rio de Janeiro, according to shipping data compiled by Bloomberg. Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-owned energy company, bought the cargo of 3 billion cubic feet at a “market price,” Cheniere said last month.  The shipment comes as a glut of gas flowing out of shale formations led producers to explore foreign markets. It arrives as the global market is dealing with its own surplus of fuel, depressing global prices.  While rising supplies and weakening demand threaten to limit future gas exports from the U.S., Cheniere has told U.S. regulators it expects to have shipped as many as eight cargoes from its Sabine Pass terminal by May.  Econintersect:  Is this being sold at a profit or is the U.S. simply dumping excess production it cannot use?

  • House GOP unveils budget to conservative opposition (The Hill)  The House Budget Committee on Tuesday unveiled a GOP spending vision for 2017 that promises to cut $7 trillion from the national deficit over a decade — the sharpest cuts ever proposed by the committee.  But conservatives don't like it.  Why?  The 155-page budget resolution retains the spending ceilings included in last year’s spending deal between the White House and former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).  The budget also includes repeal of ObamaCare, shrinking the Commerce Department, stripping funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, creating a pay-in structure for Medicare and giving states control over the food stamps program.  It would add $89 billion more in military funding than what President Obama has proposed.  Econintersect:  Not included in this article is the likelihood it would put the country into a depression.  See also Dems on GOP budget: 'The inmates are running the asylum' (The Hill).

  • Activists demand action against industrial chemical in water (Associated Press)  The suspected cancer-causing chemical PFOA (used for decades in the manufacture of Teflon pans, Gore-Tex jackets, ski wax, carpets and the linings of pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags) is being phased out in the U.S., it is still very much around, turning up in the water in factory towns across the country — most recently in upstate New York and Vermont — where it is blamed by residents for cancers and other maladies.  The latest cases have brought renewed demands that the Environmental Protection Agency regulate PFOA the way it does arsenic, lead and dozens of other contaminants, and set stringent, enforceable limits on how much of the substance can be in drinking water.  Econintersect:  If the Republican budget (see preceding article) which severely cuts EPA funding were to pass, this problem would go away.  (As would many people living in contaminated areas, as well.)

  • Unpaid subprime car loans hit 20-year high (CNN)  The rate of seriously delinquent subprime car loans soared above 5% in February, according to Fitch Ratings. That's worse than during the Great Recession and the highest level since 1996.  It's a surprising development given the relative health of the overall economy. Fitch blames it on a dramatic rise in loans with lax borrowing standards that have helped fuel the recent boom in auto sales. More Americans bought new cars last year than ever before and the amount of auto loans soared beyond $1 trillion.  The oil bust is a strong contributor:  In shale  state North Dakota the late payment rate is 42% of auto loans.

  • VW Whistle-Blower’s Suit Accuses Carmaker of Deleting Data (The New York Times)   A former Volkswagen employee, Daniel Donovan, who according to the lawsuit worked as an information manager in an Auburn Hills, Mich., office overseen by Volkswagen’s in-house lawyer, has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in Michigan, asserting that co-workers illegally deleted electronic data shortly after the United States government accused the carmaker of cheating on emissions tests. He says he was fired in December because his superiors believed that he was about to report the company to the American authorities for obstruction of justice.  In addition to wrongful dismissal, the lawsuit filed last week in Oakland County Circuit Court in Michigan accuses Volkswagen of violating the state’s whistle-blower protection law.



  • Saudi-led air strikes kill 41 civilians in Yemen: health official (Reuters)   Saudi-led air strikes killed 41 civilians and wounded 75 others on Tuesday in Yemen's northwestern province of Haja, a senior provincial health official said, a region largely controlled by the Iran-allied Houthi militia.  Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen's civil war, said it was looking into reports of the attack.



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

  • The Last Thing We Need Is a Brilliant President (Foundation for Economic Education)  The author argues (following the writings of Hayek and others) that the intellectual powers of the most brilliant individual pales in comparison to the wisdom of the market.  Econintersect:  He doesn't discuss how the brilliant individual compares to a society controlled by an oligarchy.  The "market" is related to the economic structure we have in a way the Garden of Eden is related to the current planet earth.

  • Inequality and "Trickle Up" Economics (Gawker)  Another article on the feasibility of running an economy by inserting money at the bottom rather than the at the top as has been done in recent years.  Related article:  The Chilling Math of Inequality (Bloomberg)  which looks at a model of an economy where income distribution inequality keeps increasing.  As inequality gets more pronounced, a larger fraction of the population faces more stringent budget constraints, and the spectrum of possible economic interactions open to them narrows. Fewer people have the wherewithal to engage in economic activity. This mathematical economy actually demonstrates a sharp transition, akin to the abrupt freezing of a liquid, as the level of inequality exceeds a certain threshold. Worryingly, the wealth distribution in the U.S. over the past few decades has been moving ever closer to this critical edge.

  • The executives leaving oil and gas behind for jobs in clean energy (Quartz)  There is a surprising technology overlap between extractive (fossil fuels) energy production and green energy production in such fields as wind farms, ocean tides and currents and solar.  So as oil sheds excess capacity, guess where some of the top people are going?

  • Only 12 per cent of people can answer these economics questions - can you? (The Independent)  We got 5/6 right so we are not in the 12%.  Very sad!

  • 5 strange facts about billionaires (MarketWatch)  Hat tip to Gary.  Two observations which are clearly statistically significant:  (1)  Aquarians have been about twice as likely as those born under Pisces, Virgo, Aries, Libra or Cancer to become billionaires between 1996 and 2015; and (2) education shows a law of diminishing returns for gaining billionaire wealth.  The probability of becoming a billionaire between 1996 and 2015 was greatest for those with masters degrees, more than 16 times greater than dropouts.  Masters degrees were twice a likely to become billionaires than bachelor degrees, but also 1.7 times more likely than Ph.Ds.  While it is tempting to attribute these differences to value of education it is also quite possible that the education levels are important indicators of personality factors such as ability to commit and follow through (bachelor and masters degrees) and relative  commitment to academic achievement over material achievement (Ph.Ds).  



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