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What We Read Today 30 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:

  • Patty Duke Died of What?

  • Prominent Economist Lester C. Thurlow has Died

  • Libertarians and Government Intervention

  • Economics of Climate Change

  • Natural Gas Flameoffs Waste Energy

  • U.S. Not Prepared for Zika Season

  • Spilling the Beans on Trump, Cruz and Clinton

  • Economics of Brexit

  • Belgium's Failed State and U.S. Nuclear Weapons

  • Rusia's New Secret Weapon

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Natural Gas: The Next Great Energy-Efficiency Opportunity (Scientific American)  In 2014 the U.S. flared about $600 million worth of natural gas. Capturing that gas could produce enough electricity to power 3.5 million households.  There are no practical ways to move natural gas to market without pipeline infrastructure in place. This means that producers in the Eagle Ford and Bakken region are often forced to simply burn any natural gas released as a product of oil production on site. Note that natural gas is flared to prevent the release of methane — a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  The numbers here are for the U.S. only.  Presumably there are many time as much natural gas flared off globally.


  • Yellen Outsources U.S. Monetary Policy to the Financial Markets (Bloomberg)  The Federal Reserve looks to have outsourced monetary policy to the financial markets -- and that may not necessarily be bad.  Fed Chair Janet Yellen told the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday that policy makers had scaled back the number of interest rate increases they expect to carry out this year after investors did the same.


  • US to increase military presence in eastern Europe (BBC News)   The US is stepping up its troop presence in eastern Europe in response to an "aggressive Russia", the military has said.  From next year, three fully manned US combat brigades will be deployed.  The BBC's diplomatic correspondent says it is the most significant US reinforcement of NATO since tensions flared over Russian action in Ukraine.  Last month the Pentagon announced plans to quadruple its budget for European defense in 2017.



  • Belgium’s Failed State Is Guarding America’s Nuclear Weapons (Foreign Policy)  Washington’s traditional nuclear strategy isn’t keeping Europe safe — it’s putting everyone at risk of apocalyptic terrorism.

  • 19th-century Belgian law allowed bombing suspects to go free (USA Today, MSN News)   The brothers El Bakrraoui were common criminals.  Ibrahim El Bakraoui was sentenced to 10 years for shooting at a police officer in 2010. He served four years and nine months before being let go. And Khalid El Bakraoui served three years of a five-year sentence for a 2011 armed robbery before he was set free in 2013.  Both men violated the terms of their conditional release — Khalid was in contact with former criminal associates, while Ibrahim failed to show for appointments with his justice assistant — but police were unable to locate and re-arrest them.  The brothers would still be serving their sentences were it not for the law Lejeune, named for Belgian justice minister Jules Le Jeune, who introduced it in 1888. The law allows inmates to be released from prison after they served a third of their sentence.


  • Russia’s Secret Weapon of the ISIS War (The Daily Beast)  In the battle with ISIS for storied Palmyra, Russian forces unleashed their flying tank.  Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces battling to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra had a lot of help from above. At least one Russian Mi-28 attack helicopter—Moscow’s answer to the U.S. Army’s fearsome Apache gunship—flew top cover as Syrian tanks and infantry stormed the modern city adjacent to the UN World Heritage Site.  Video posted online by a pro-regime group clearly shows an Mi-28 firing a rocket from beneath one of its stubby wings. The battle for Palmyra, which ended this week as ISIS militants fled the city, apparently represented the two-seat, gun- and missile-armed Mi-28’s combat debut.  Econintersect:  All this after Putin said he ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Syria.

Lower prices for fossil fuels has been accompanied by a surprising shift in public opinion about energy.  There has been a slightly greater shift toward support of green energy among Republicans but Democrats are still far more in favor.

Opposition to Fracking Mounts in the U.S. (Art Swift, Gallup)  Opposition to the practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has increased significantly in the past year as environmental concerns, such as earthquakes, have grown, even though the procedure has helped keep oil prices low.



In U.S., 73% Now Prioritize Alternative Energy Over Oil, Gas (Zac Auter, Gallup)

For First Time, Majority in U.S. Oppose Nuclear Energy (Rebecca Rifkin, Gallup

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

  • Lester C. Thurow, Economist Who Seized the Spotlight, Is Dead at 77 (The New York Times)  Lester C. Thurow, a prominent and provocative economist who earned a dedicated following through his long writing and speaking career, and who was known for his prescient warnings about the growing income gap between rich and poor Americans, died on Friday in Westport, Mass. He was 77.  In his writing, he tried to make the dry and difficult-to-grasp intricacies of the American economy accessible to a mass audience.  See also Prominent MIT economist and dean Lester Thurow dies at 77 (MIT News).  This article emphasizes his work on the consequences of an increasingly global economy.

  • Patty Duke Died Of The Most Common Condition You've Never Heard Of (Huffington Post, MSN News)  Patty Duke died from sepsis, a reaction to infection that leads to systemic organ failure, kills more than 258,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the ninth-leading cause of disease-related deaths in the country. While most people can fully recover from sepsis, some survivors are left with permanent organ damage or missing limbs due to amputation. 

  • Astronomers Create First Heat Map of a Super-Earth (Scientific American)  The super-Earth 55 Cancri e may have a magma ocean or windblown clouds of vaporized rock.  55 Cancri e is an exoplanet with an identity crisis.  Following its 2004 discovery in a scorching close orbit around a star 40 light-years away, astronomers dubbed the planet a “super-Earth.” At just under 8 times the mass and twice the size of our own world, 55 Cancri e is a welterweight that straddles the hazy boundary between terrestrial and gas-giant planets. Nothing like it exists in our solar system. For years, researchers have thought the best explanation for its intermediate size is a rocky, Earth-sized core smothered beneath a thick, steamy atmosphere. Now, however, a new map of planet—the first of its kind for such a small world—suggests instead that 55 Cancri e might have no atmosphere at all, and could be an airless, half-molten ball of slag.

  • Why Libertarians Should Support Many Forms of Government Intervention (Evonomics)  A "debate" between a "statist" and a "libertarian" reveals that some of the same issues are troubling to both.  This is very worthwhile reading.  Many things aren't have subtle shades of gray that are simply papered over by mindless slogans that represent the superficial thoughts many of us succumb to.  Econintersect:  Generalization can be the enemy of considered thought.

  • Reframing The Economics Debate Could Lead To More Action To Fight Climate Change (Desmog)  While most Americans agree that climate action is necessary, polls show us that they believe it is very low on the country’s list of priorities, with things like global terrorism, the economy, and income inequality consistently scoring higher on the priority list. The irony is that most of the issues that rank higher than climate change can all be directly related to the state of the environment.  In order to inspire action, perhaps it’s time that the environmental movement changed the way it frames the debate. Rather than speaking mostly in terms of environmental destruction we should be pointing out the economics of environmental action and the benefit that action can bring to the overall economy. And vice versa — plenty of economic actions by the government have a direct, often negative, impact on the environment and the health of American citizens.

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